Historical buildings on the farm site

Posted on Thu February 25, 2021.

Round threshing floor, chaff cage and the rectangular enclosure

After the wheat was cut down with sickles and then bound into bundles, it is transported with a horse wagon to the threshing floor. After a while a cutting machine was used to cut the wheat and to bind the bundles.

The bundles were laid out on the threshing floor, the ropes cut and after that the animals were brought on. Horses, donkeys or mules were used for these purposes. When there were trampled to fine straw, the animals were chased out. When the west wind usually started blowing in the afternoon it was time to begin the winnowing. The straw was, with the aid of the pitchfork, thrown to wind so that the chaff could be swept away while the wheat seeds fell right down.

After that the wheat was thrown again to the wind with shovels and the jointed grass was chased out with the broom. The broom’s cattle section was articulated to form a range. To use such a broom effectively takes a lot of skill.

The wheat was then, with the aid of a wooden spade, put into bags. Four bundles were usually thrown into a bag. This was equal to a mud (a dry weight measure). Eight buckets of wheat was also a mud. After this the chaff was swept into the chaff cage with a special broom. The chaff was then stuffed into a bags and taken to the stables as needed to feed the animals.

The combination where the threshing floor, chaff cage and enclosure is bordering, can be seen in the Bokkeveld. The animals that stamped the wheat is held in the enclosure so that they could be easily accessed and that time could be saved.

The sandstone Help Church / Die Sandsteen Hulpkerk

Alexander McGregor, who donated the two morg land where the Help Church was built, is according to accounts one of the McGregor’s who came on foot from Citrusdal to Nieuwoudtville.

In 1874 the Calvinia congregation broke away from Clanwilliam and this included

Nieuwoudtville as well.

Already in October 1975 the Commission for increasing the congregations by the Ring of Tulbagh recommended that a new congregation should be formed out of the Calvinia one. The case was brought to the attention of the Ring repeatedly, but the location for a suitable farm church could not be found.

In 1885 the total number of members hit the two thousand mark and representatives from Calvinia were sent to investigate the founding of a congregation in Nieuwoudtville. On April 1885 the start of construction began on a church which became known as the “Help Church from the Calvinia congregation to service the Northern Under Bokkeveld”.

At that point the residents of Loeriesfontein also went to the Willemsrivier Help Church. The church was built with sandstone rocks which was sourced locally. It was dragged with unbraided horse skins to building site. In later years a consistory, mother’s room and a stable for the church member’s horses were built on the side of the church.

From 1890 there was a conscious effort to form a new congregation, but the farm Willemsrivier wasn’t for sale at a low enough price. It wasn’t suitable as the site for a town either because there wasn’t enough water. Today the church is owned by Mr Japie Nel and it is being used as a storage place. The church needs some attention to restore it to its former glory.

Approximately 400 meters from the church, there is a presbytery which was built from sandstone. It also used as a storage facility now.

The Mill House / Die Meulhuis

In the mill house there was a wheat mill that was driven by donkeys, but during the Anglo-Boer war in 1901 English soldiers arrived at Willemsrivier and gave the order that the mill had to be disposed of.

Orders were also given that all the bread wheat in the house should be carried out and thrown on wood from the mill. Thereafter everything would be burnt. Two of the soldiers would stay behind to ensure that everything would burn.

The two soldiers saw that the farmer’s wife, Mieta Kotzé, had eleven children. They beckoned her and said that she should come and get some of the wheat, and to store it in a safe place, so that she could have food for her children.

After the war Paul Kotzé, who was then the owner of the farm, summoned a carpenter from Clanwilliam to build a new mill. In those years there were good carpenters in Clanwilliam because there was a lot of cedar wood to work with.

In 1947 Willemsrivier bought its first tractor. Because people then didn’t regard cultural history as very important, the mill was taken out, and the different parts were lost over time. Today the mill house is used for tractor storage.

The Stable / Die Stal

The stable was next to the mill house where the wheat was ground. When the flour was finally ground, the horses were brought to the stable and fed. Today this building is known as the “Blomhuis”. It is used as a guest house and is especially popular during flower season.

Grandpa Paul and Grandma Mieta’s house / Oupa Paul en Ouma Mieta se huis

This building was formerly used as the wine room and the milk room and is today known as “Kantoor”.

Oom Willie’s house

Today the building is referred to as oubaas Willem’s house. A lot of the seed that is bought for the new season is stored here.

Jew’s shop: Fisher and Vogelman

The one half of one of the established guest houses was formerly a Jewish shop. The two traders were Mr’s Fisher and Vogelman. Colloquially they were known as Fister and Voëlman.


The other half of the established guest house was the school. There were always a variety of kids attending of various ages.

Teacher’s Room

Approximately 250 meters away from the little school, there is a building known as “Juffrou se kamer” (Teacher’s Room). This was the home of the teachers who were responsible for giving the kids an education. The roof of the Teacher’s Room was built from Spanish reeds and poplar wooden beams, which can still be viewed today.

The tale is that the teacher always sprained her ankle on the steps. The school kids had to help her from her room to the school by pushing her on a wheelbarrow so that she could complete her work. When the bell struck in the afternoon, the whole spectacle was repeated.


The prisoners helping with the building of the road and pass on the Bokkeveld Berg, came to sleep here in the evening. Bars were placed in front of the windows to stop anyone from escaping.

Smuts and Maritz’s Office

This building was erected in 1745 and was the first building on Willemsrivier. During the Anglo Boer war (1899-1902) generals Smuts and Manie Maritz stayed in the building on separate occasions. Of course they didn’t agree most of the time, and were never at the house at the same time.

The little building has a wolf’s nose gable and the lower parts is built from stone, while the rest of the wall was made with a mix of clay and straw. With the exception of the “Tin house”, Smuts and Maritz Office was, just like the rest of the buildings on Willemsrivier, built with a reed roof. The “tin house” was James MacGregor’s house and had a corrugated roof from the beginning.

According to accounts Maritz did, on one occasion, ask grandma Mieta to heat him some water and bring soda so that he could wash himself. He then summoned her husband, Paul Kotzé. He had to look at a wound and had to hear how Maritz said “he got himself shot for the Afrikaner”.

The story goes that Maritz was so badly wounded on the farm Tontelbos, between Calvinia and Brandvlei, that a person could see “his lungs move through his body”. Apparently he was only a couple of days out of the saddle before he went back to the road.