Historical Colonial Period

This period starts with the arrival of the first Europeans to visit the Soutpansberg Mountain during the early part of the eighteenth century. In 1725 a Dutch expedition made a reconnaissance of the area north of the Crocodile River, which includes the area that is now the Kruger National Park.

Game was plentiful and professional hunters utilized this part of the Limpopo Province. This led to hunters and travelers moving through the area which in turn led to various areas being permanently settled by people of European decent.

Schoemansdal

The next Europeans to reach the Soutpansberg were the Afrikaner pioneers (Voortrekkers) led by Langhans van Rensburg in the 1830’s. They moved eastward during June of 1836 where they were apparently killed by a group of hostile black people (The “Knopneuse”• Shangaan/Tsonga).

Between September 1836 and May 1838 another group of pioneers under the leadership of Louis Trichardt settled in the area, first at the saltpan but later at Zoutpansbergdorp, the site now known as Schoemansdal. Commandant Andries Hendrik Potgieter visited them and it was agreed to build a town. Treghardt left, however, and eventually in 1848 Zoutpansbergdorp was established under the leadership of Commandant Schoeman.

This initial town consisted of a collection of wattle-and-daub structures and it was primarily used as a base for hunting operations. It was decided that the town of Zoutpansbergdorp needed more permanent status and surveyors were sent for to establish the town layout. The Zoutpansbergers systematically moved to the new location about 500m north of the old town and by 1855 the town now called Schoemansdal, was officially occupied. Building materials were brought in and houses were built with the church parsonage and the redoubt forming the center of the town. The remains of these structures can still be seen at Schoemansdal Open Air Museum.

For 19 years this remained the most important trading center and thousands of tons of game skins, horns, whips, wood and salt were exported to Mozambique, Natal, and the Cape Colony. It is estimated that the community consumed annually 10455kg of gunpowder and about 1800kg of lead. It is further calculated that 90900kg of ivory were exported from Schoemansdal.

In 1867 Schoemansdal was vacated for several reasons, habitat destruction and political strife the main culprits. After vacating the town the pioneers moved back to an area south of Polokwane (Pietersburg) called Marabastad (now Eerstegoud).

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