Seweweekspoort, Zoar, 6656
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The official history of Zoar

Zoar Tourism and Information Centre

The official history of Zoar

As we start this journey of documenting all the unique stories, places, and people of Zoar it is only fitting that we start right at the beginning. A beginning not many of us know and one that shaped Zoar as a community and landscape forever.

Approximately 22 kilometers from Ladismith along the infamous route 62 in the Western Cape Province in South Africa Zoar is situated, on that very same road leading to Calitzdorp and Oudtshoorn where you might or might not have driven before.

We now know that Zoar started as a mission station just like many other small towns across South Africa.If you are reading about this for the first time you might ask yourself. What on earth is a mission station? Historically, missions have been religious communities used to spread belief in Christianity to local indigenous populations. Missions often also had charitable functions like providing medical help, food, shelter and clothing to those who asked for it, and secular as well as religious education. Funding for missions was provided from donations from individuals within the sponsoring denomination, possibly augmented by local, regional, or state government. So, it was missionary “work” that spawned the creation of the town Zoar.

According to a publication by the Western Cape Local Government the missionary station started when two farmers, JL and GC Nel handed the farm Elandsfontein to the government for missionary work (The South African Missionary Society) on 27 March 1817, with the approval of the Governor. It was named after Zoar on the Red Sea, mentioned in the Bible. The name first meant ‘insignificant’, but when Lot fled thither from Sodom, it acquired the meaning of ‘refuge’, ‘haven’.

A list of missionaries who came to South Africa currently exists and can be found here: https://safrika.org/Names/berliner.html

Amongst the long list you will find one missionary BRIEST, August Ferdinand from Schlesien(a historical region of Central Europe mostly in Poland, with small parts in the Czech Republic and Germany) who was married to Caroline Baar.Caroline Baar passed away in Amalienstein and today the guest house in Amalienstein still has the name Tant Carolina .

The society started the work and the first inhabitants were slaves and individuals from places like Cape Town, Zuurbraak and Genadendal. In 1822 the Missionaries informed the Governor that the land allocated was only grazing land and another portion of land for gardening was allocated. On 15 January 1885, the land was formerly transferred to the Berliner Missionary Society, to be held in trust for the locals. The Dutch Reformed Church took over the mission station in 1895 and the government added more portions of land (the farm Vlugt on 31 October 1895 and the farm Koes Karoo on 28 January 1899). The board area proclaimed by proclamation No 198 of 1914. The farm Amalienstein, adjacent to the board area, also started as a Berlin Missionary Society.

The first church service in the church building was held on 17 September 1853. Land was allocated to it for missionary work by Deeds of Grant in 1887 and 1888. The Berlin Missionary Society then sold the land to DR Roux and JH Hofmeyer in November 1937, with a 99 year lease agreement registered in favour of the Berlin Missionary Society in respect of the Graveyard, school site, Teacher’s residence, Church site and land adjoining the church site. Daniël Hofmeyer sold the farm on 12 July 1986 to the state, with the lease agreement included, to be held in trust for the community of Zoar. Today the farm is managed by the state entity Casidra.

Many stories of Zoar/Amalienstein, Opsoek and Sevenweekspoort was captured through the years as many writers, journalists, researchers and even students doing assignments,  travelled to capture what some locals do not even treasure. Many locals do not even see the publications of the beautiful stories where information was obtained and pictures taken of them. Sometimes months or in some cases, years after these publications, people would discover that these stories were actually published in magazines. Only locals who buy newspapers and magazines would cut out these local stories and treasure it. Zoar/Amalienstein, Opsoek and Sevenweekspoort, seems like a place where not much is going on, but pictures tell a different story. Through the eyes of others, much is seen. 

The usual landmarks in the area are the old historical churches, VGK Church (pic 1) and Lutheran Church (pic 2), each with their own school next to it. These churches have their own bells which are used to announce Sunday services but also as a tradition, announce the death right after a church member had died.

Another landmark is Sevenweekspoort with its 18 kilometers road surrounded by the beautiful Swartberg Mountain (pic 3) and vegetation which is enjoyed throughout all seasons.  Snow (pic 4) in the winter on the Swartberg Mountain can be seen from Route 62 which is the famous route for tourists which passes Zoar/Amalienstein, Opsoek, and Sevenweekspoort. Seweweekspoort is also the highest peak in the Western Cape at a high of 2325m above sea level making it one of several must-do hikes in South Africa.  Zoar receives drinking water from the Tierkloofdam (pic 5) in Sevenweekspoort which was completed in 1993/1994.

Zoar has many many many more stories to tell which we will be blogging every Friday starting today. We hope you have learned something new about Zoar today and that when you drive past on Route 62 you definitely pop in for a visit.

For more information or a chat please feel free to contact us at info@zoartourism.co.za or contact us on our Facebook or Instagram page

Stay safe and enjoy some more pictures of Zoar below.

References: Western Cape Local Government , SAfrica.org

Written and edited by : Abdul Khalfe & Caleb Januarie

Pictures by: Laikin Photography and Caleb Jaunarie

Pic 1. VGK Church with R.P. Botha Primary School next to it.

Pic 2. Luthern Church and Amalienstein L.B. Primary School.

Pic 3. View of Swartberg Mountain and R62 from Zoar.

Pic 4. Snow on the Swartberg Mountain.

Pic 5. Tierkloofdam in Sevenweekspoort.

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