Francolin Creek finds itself situated in the heart of the area known as the Riemland; which derives its name from a time gone by when game roamed the Free State grasslands freely. European hunters have been active in this area long before the battle of Vechtkop. Francolin Creek in the Heilbron district forms part of the Riemland (Place of Thongs) and the first law on game was already published in 1858. News about this game rich area travelled very fast and it became a mecca for the legendary hunters.
The early settlers in the area hunted the game for food and used the animal hides for various day to day practicalities; one of which was to cut the leather into thin strips, known as Rieme in Afrikaans, to build furniture, tools, clothing and other useful items. These skins later became the main export of the area at the time and thus the name Riemland.
Evidence of the first farmers that cultivated and settled on the farm can be found down at the bush camp under the huge Oak trees where the foundations of one of the initial homestead still remain. The family graves dating back to 1882 can also be found hidden under the thick bushes at the entrance to the camp.
Over the years, the farm has become a typical Free State farm, with the beautiful Brahman cattle and sheep grazing lazily in the veld. The odd tractor or combine harvester can also be viewed hard at work during sowing and harvesting times.
We are proud to have been able to contribute towards returning the game that is indigenous to the area and guests can expect to spot small herds of Springbok, Gemsbok, Zebras, Blesbuck, Wildebeest, Waterbuck, Hartebeest and even the odd Ostrich or two.
The battle of Vechtkop took place during October 1836. W.C. Harris who had been on the hunt at that stage, put the date at 29 October 1836. This confirms that hunters were active in the area around this time and historians claim that shiploads of skins were exported to Britain and Europe in this period.
Dissatisfied farmers (voortrekkers) from the Eastern Cape formed different parties and headed either to Natal or further north. Mzilikazi, chief of the Ndebele (Matabelies) was very strict and punishment was harsh for those who did not follow his rules. He was also very ambitious and raided cattle from all and sundry. When word came of white people trekking north, he knew that his way of life was under threat. He gave orders to his impis to annihilate any group that they came up against. Several small groups of trekkers were killed under these orders - fortunately some managed to escape and could warn others. The party at Vechtkop had about 34 able-bodied men and were able to prepare for an attack.
Visit the Vechtkop battle site and museum 20km south of Heilbron
Farmers settled in the area after the retaliation of Mzilikazi and the farm Rietfontein was bought for £800 to establish a town. The nearest towns for supplies were Kroonstad and Potchefstroom. Heilbron was established on the banks of a strong creek fed from a perennial fountain. The name Heilbron was given as a symbol that the fountain would be a source of welfare (heil) for the whole community.
ANGLO-BOER WAR 1899 – 1902
The Heilbron district has a rich history featuring back to the Anglo-Boer war. Many battles took place in the region. There were also black and white concentration camps in Heilbron. The town was the seat of Parliament for a few days during the war from 13 May to 20 May 1900.
PROMINENT FIGURES IN HEILBRON DURING THE ANGLO-BOER WAR
General Christiaan De Wet was a legend with his guerrilla warfare methods. The British feared his tactics and could not catch him. The block houses stretching between Wolwehoek, Heilbron, Frankfort and Tafelkop were used in the offensive to catch his commandos.
Winston Churchill visited the farm Leeuwpoort of the Weilbachs. It was used as a base for the British officers during the Anglo-Boer war.
Emily Hobhouse visited Heilbron and her reports of the horrendous state in the concentration camps, improved life.
Visit the historical sites in Heilbron: Riemland Museum in the old Jewish Synagogue, monument of British Soldiers who died in the Anglo-Boer warand monument of Boers who died in the Anglo-Boer war.
HISTORY AFTER - 1900
Apart from the already established Afrikaans, English and Ethnic communities several other cultures played a role in Heilbron’s history.
THE JEWISH ARRIVAL - 1902
Mr. Imber arrived in Helbron during 1902. Mr. Wenezeki and Shmeul Lotzof soon followed. The cornerstone of the Synagogue was laid in 1912 by Mr. Festenstein – the president of the congregation. At a stage 48 Jewish families resided in Heilbron.
THE GREEK ARRIVAL - 1910
Nick Catsamas was the owner of the Heilbron Café and his nephews followed him to South Africa. Koos (Costas) and Dennis Galatis left their mark on the Heilbron community.
THE GERMAN ARRIVAL - BEFORE 1913
In the year 1913 a religious service was held on the farm of Wilhelm Krause. This was the cradle of the Deutshe Evangelische Lutherische Kirche – GROENVLEI.
The church was officially founded in 1918, and a church building was erected on 6 morgen of property received from Friedrich Krause, with the name of Krauses Gift. The church initially had 120 members, who came from East London and settled in the Greenlands area.
THE PORTUGUESE ARRIVAL - 1965
The Heilbron community got their own proper ‘fish and chips’ café in 1965 when Manuel Filipe opened his shop.
Manuel Filipe was born in 1931 in Madeira as the second youngest of four children. In 1952 he immigrated to South Africa and worked for R1.00 a day. It took him 13 years of hard work before he could open his shop in Heilbron and in 1969 he married Maria Nobrega in Madeira.