Smithfield, Free State

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Smithfield Town Hall
Smithfield Town Hall
Smithfield is located in South Africa
 Smithfield shown within South Africa
Coordinates: 30°12′45″S 26°31′53″E / 30.21250°S 26.53139°E / -30.21250; 26.53139Coordinates: 30°12′45″S 26°31′53″E / 30.21250°S 26.53139°E / -30.21250; 26.53139
Country South Africa
Province Free State
District Xhariep
Municipality Mohokare
Established 1849[1]
 • Type Municipality
 • Mayor Motshewa Julia Sehanka[2] (ANC)
 • Total 35.5 km2 (13.7 sq mi)
Population (2011)[3]
 • Total 4,779
 • Density 130/km2 (350/sq mi)
Racial makeup (2011)[3]
 • Black African 91.4%
 • Coloured 5.0%
 • Indian/Asian 0.3%
 • White 3.1%
 • Other 0.3%
First languages (2011)[3]
 • Sotho 66.9%
 • Xhosa 20.9%
 • Afrikaans 8.4%
 • English 1.3%
 • Other 2.4%
Postal code (street) 9966
PO box 9966
Area code 051

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.

The area was the scene in the 1860s of much fighting between the early Free State settlers and Basotho, as it is not far from the border with Basutoland (now Lesotho).

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.[4]

Come look at some vintage pictures of the town from my archives

Geographic setting[edit]

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[edit]

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.


Smithfield now hosts 9 Guest-houses and bed and breakfast establishments. The town web site provides a full list.

Places of interest[edit]

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 bird-watching in relative isolation. Local secondary roads are suitable for mountain biking. Blesbok and some Zebra are to be found in the open savanna.

What to see in Smithfield .. Including some very old buildings dating back to the 1850s, two very interesting walking trails, art galleries, book shop, a cob house that you may visit by appointment, an historical old church site called Helvetia and lots more!

Article in Grahamstown Newspaper about the interesting places and things to do in Smithfield


Archaeologically, the name Smithfield is well known as an important Stone Age culture was named after the town.[citation needed] 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.


  1. ^ "Chronological order of town establishment in South Africa based on Floyd (1960:20-26)". pp. xlv–lii. 
  2. ^ Free State
  3. ^ a b c d Sum of the Main Places Smithfield and Mofulatshepe from Census 2011.
  4. ^ National Dictionary of Biography I

External links[edit]