Smithfield, Free State
Smithfield Town Hall
|• Mayor||Motshewa Julia Sehanka (ANC)|
|• Total||35.5 km2 (13.7 sq mi)|
|• Density||130/km2 (350/sq mi)|
|Racial makeup (2011)|
|• Black African||91.4%|
|First languages (2011)|
|Postal code (street)||9966|
Smithfield is a small town in the Free State province of South Africa. It was founded in 1848 when the then Cape Colony governor, Sir Harry Smith (1847–1852), required a settlement north of the Orange River. Smithfield is the third oldest village in the Free State.
Waterval farm was the original site chosen in 1848 for settlement as a Dutch Reformed (NG) church centre. However, when plots were offered for sale, there were no takers. Farmers were dissatisfied with the site (24 km west of present-day Smithfield). They then opted for Rietpoort, where there was abundant water. The new town was named New Smithfield (the "New" soon fell away), named after Sir Harry Smith - the old Smithfield referred to Smithfield in London. In the fifty years after establishment the Dutch Reformed Church was prominent there and one of the dominees who served there was the famous Rev Andrew Murray.The famous Second Boer War General Christiaan de Wet was born on the nearby farm Leeukop in 1854.
It constituted a village board in 1860 but only became a municipality in 1948. In the 1870s the town was on one of the main routes to the Diamond Fields from the coast via Aliwal North, and trade was brisk in that period.
In the period 1907 to 1939, the MP for Smithfield was General Hertzog who represented the constituency for the Oranje Unie, the South African Party, the National Party and the United Party. He was the leader of the National Party from 1914 to 1939 and Prime Minister of SA from 1924 to 1929. Before entering politics he had been appointed a judge on the Orange Free State Bench in 1895 before the age of 30 and then became a successful Boer General with his own commando in the Anglo-Boer War.
The town is tucked into a horseshoe of hills, some 132 km southeast of Bloemfontein along the N6 national road to East London, Eastern Cape. The Caledon River bounds Smithfield on the east and south. The district is drained by various tributaries of this river, the Vinkel and Wilgeboom Spruits being the largest. As the town lies 13 km west of the river, water has to be obtained from boreholes around the town dam.
Demographics and economy
Smithfield has a small population of approximately 4,500. It is a prosperous wool-growing district, in addition to cattle farming. Originally an important wool-growing area, in recent times its position astride major tourist routes, has lent impetus to growing tourism.
Places of interest
Ou Grietjie, a cannon used by the Free State in the Basuto wars, has been mounted in front of the magistrate's office. It was named after Margaret (Grietjie), wife of the gunner Robert Finlay.
The Caledon River museum is located in town. The Carmel and Beersheba missionary posts are experiencing some revival, with houses increasingly renovated. The well-maintained local golf course dates back more than 100 years. Its facilities are open to guests, as are local tennis and bowls clubs.
Hills surrounding the town are considered well-suited to hiking, walking, horse-riding and birdwatching in relative isolation. Local secondary roads are suitable for mountain biking.
Archaeologically, the name Smithfield is well known as an important Stone Age culture was named after the town. Renowned scientist George Stow excavated a cave near Smithfield in 1877 and found tools from the Late Stone Age which he described in the book, "Native races of South Africa". Bushman paintings are present in nearby hills.
- "Chronological order of town establishment in South Africa based on Floyd (1960:20-26)". pp. xlv–lii.
- Free State Tourism.org
- Sum of the Main Places Smithfield and Mofulatshepe from Census 2011.
- National Dictionary of Biography I
- Pula House website
- Media related to Smithfield, Free State at Wikimedia Commons
- Slideshow with pictures of Smithfield on www.southernfreestate.co.za
- Info on Smithfield
- Smithfield.co.za site
- 3 Countrylife magazine articles on Smithfield