Tourist Attractions in Williston

South African and Australia are the only two countries remaining on the shortlist to site the SKA – the largest and most sensitive radio telescope ever. A final decision on the site is expected by 2010 and construction should start in 2014. If built in South Africa, the core of the SKA will be in the Karoo region of the Northern Cape Province. So the Karoo Hoogland will be accommodating this important telescope! See SKA and meerKAT.

Tombstone Route

Unique tombstones, a form of folk art, were chiselled out of local sandstone by James Wright and Cornelius de Waal by hand with stencils and chisels. Sandstone from the area was used. When a piece of sandstone were identified and earmarked to be used for a tombstone, it was broken loose from the surrounds as follows: holes were made into the sides and wet wooden sticks were stuck into these holes. Due to the wetness, the sticks swelled and thus the sandstone piece were broken loose. Then it was carted by donkey cart to where it would be crafted into magnificent artworks (many times this took place next to the grave). The top side was normally chiselled to a flat surface and levelled with a rough stone. With a variety of chisels and stencils the decorated sides as well as the wording and patterns were made.

On the farms Koega, Oest and Dassiekloof are beautiful examples. This route is about 50 km long. 9 km on the Carnarvon road and left at the Van Wyksvlei indicator. (Gravel rd). 15 km to Brownslaagte – Corbelled house; 19 km to Koega – tombstones; 10 km to Oest – tombstones; 5 km to Dassiekloof – tombstone.

Corbel houses

These houses were built by pioneer farmers who settled and lived here between 1811 and 1815. The corbel houses are unique to this region, which include Fraserburg, Williston and Carnarvon.

Usual building material such as wood was not available in the area, and the farmers had to look for an alternative. Flat stones were, however, very common and thus was used to build the stone ‘huts’. As binding material the farmers mixed wheat chaff and sand with water, then kneed it to the correct texture that was usually needed for plasterwork. Whenever ant hills was available, the sand it was made of, were used because of its excellent binding properties.

Most of the time the corbel structures were round, with various diameters. It had only one door opening and one window opening. Furthermore the house had a domed roof with ventilation openings at the top. This hole was covered with a stone to keep out rain water. In the domed part of the house there were stones that stuck out more than the rest – these were used as stilts/steps to climb on to build the top, and also during maintenance of the building.

The floor area was made of sand which was mixed with animal fat and blood, and afterwards polished with a flat stone until it shone like glass!

Food was usually cooked in a nearby shelter, mostly made of “asbos”. (See the Asbosskerm)

There are quite a few corbel houses still to be seen in this region. Some examples even consist of two or three of the huts attached to each other.

The Zakriver Meander

The route is Eco-Cultural; wide variety of flora and fauna; Interesting remains of the Anglo-Boer War and historical sights are indicated on a map that is available at the point of departure; Horse-cart and wagon drives; sight seeing of farming activities. The route is accessible to: 4×4 vehicles; Hikers and mountain bikers; The point of departure is at Williston B&B and distance of route is 38 km.

Sak River


The Sak River is the longest river in this dry region. Its water source is high in the Nuweveld Mountains, near Beaufort West in the Karoo National Park. The Sak River is a fast flowing river. The river beds are the main habitat for the scarce Riverine Rabit, which predominantly occurs in the local region.

MIKRO – Christoffel Hermanus Kühn

The writer Christoffel Hermanus Kühn was born on Van Reenens Farm, in the district of Williston, on 8th October 1903. His longing and love for his birthplace and surroundings runs like a silver thread through many of his books i,e. “Waar die Bokmakierie fluit”. He was married twice and his eldest daughter is the well-known author Corlia Fourie. He held a BSc degree in agriculture and a Teacher Diploma. He was head teacher at Kuilsrivier school and lecturer at the Oudtshoorn Training College. He also was national leader of the Land Service Organisation until 1964.

Mikro was the pseudonyme of C H Kühn. He received this nickname at the campus of the University of Stellenbosch after his excuse for coming late was that he mislaid his mikroflea. He was summarily asked to leave the lecture hall. The nickname stuck and later he used it as a pseudonyme for the hundred books written by him. He received the Hertzog prize for the books Toiings and Pelgrims. His novels Gonnakolk and Soetwater was translated for the theatre by PG du Plessis, as was the TV series Matewis and Meraai. His adventure stories from the Anglo Boer war were extremely popular, especially “Ruiter in die nag” which was made into a film. On 29th October 1957 he received the Scheepers prize for youth work.

With the exception of Langenhoven, Mikro did more than any other author to encourage the nation to read.

The artist is gone, but his work lives on.

Williston Museum
The land where this building is situated, was bought in 1879 from Mr P Jacobs for the amount of twenty five pounds sterling. During a meeting on 12 April 1880 chaired by Missionary P Sterrenberg, it was decided to consider the erection of a church building to serve the so-called Coloured community. A committee was formed to raise the necessary funds, building materials and sheep. It was also decided that the church should be fifty feet long, seventeen feet wide and ten feet high inside.

The mission church was dedicated on 29 March 1884.The Minister S H Kühn opened the doors officially after which Missionary P Sterrenberg delivered the dedication sermon. The two wings were added in 1942.

In 1975 a new Mission church was built in the neighbourhood Amandelboom, and the old mission building was used as a school.

Presently this old Mission building serves as a Museum with the theme “Our Mission Inheritance”. The Museum is also used for religious and cultural meetings.

On display are hand made chisels and tin stencils used by Uncle Cornelius de Waal who was the local Sandstone Gravestone maker from the nineteenth century. An example of his handiwork is also on display.

Williston Dutch Reformed Church

The white farmer communities migrated in the Sakriver- Karee mountain area from 1750-1850, Bushman area.

Missionaries J H Lutz and F W Beinecke built a mission station for the Rhenish Mission society, and worked with the so-called Coloured people in the area. They built the first little church in Amandelboom. The Amandelboom congregation was formed 11 December 1878 and they shared the Rhenish mission church. An alter and cups for communion, as well as a baptism font, were ordered. Wooden pews replaced stone benches. Reverend S H Kuhn was the first preacher.

The present sandstone church

The cornerstone was laid 2nd November 1912,it was consecrated 31st October 1913.The cost of the building was £8000-00 (R16 000). There were no debts and members were 450. A Dutch bible, hymn book and other documents were cemented under the cornerstone. The sandstone blocks were chiselled from the hill behind the present hospital. The builder was Mr van der Hoven. According to Mr Van der Hoven the spire was architecturally too low and offered to build it higher at a cost of £100-00 (two hundred rand). The building committee refused the offer.

Gas lamps were installed. The organ, which then was a replica of the organ in the Groote Kerk in Cape Town was donated by the Sisters. The organist’s salary was £2-00 (R4/month). During services school boys operated the bellows by foot.

The oak pews, clock and stained glass windows were ordered from Holland. Only one window survived. The pews and clock are still original.

All the building materials were transported from Matjiesfontein via Sutherland with a donkey cart. Two of the leading donkeys named Bloubok and Herklaas, were put out to pasture at the farm Klipdrift of Mr Danie Theron, their reward for services to the church.

Beautiful stencil patterns were painted on the walls, but were plastered over in restorations during 1930.

Electricity replaced gas lamps, and the organ was electrified.

In 1930 the organ was rebuilt for the first time by Mr Price, and it was agreed that he would tune the organ for the next ten years for the amount of £7 10 shillings (15 Rand).In 1957 it was again rebuilt on advice of professor Dr.G G Cillie of Stellenbosch by the company P Dietman. Mr Kadurr did the restoration and tuned it for years afterwards. In 1957 Professor Dr Hans Maske was the organist.

In 1978 the entire interior of the church was restored. All clay plaster was removed, chicken wire was attached to the wall and plastered over. The acoustics were poor due to small floor space and a high ceiling. Acoustic tiles were applied all round.

In 1912 when the church was built, above the organ a dome was added, which was covered with wire mesh and filled with horse hair and wool. Large coloured letters bordered with gold spelt out “Looft God in Zyn Heiligdom. “This was removed in 1978 when the organ was enlarged. A wooden panel was added behind the pulpit. Practical blinds replaced the old long curtains and electric lights lit up the church. The old chandeliers were removed, unfortunately no trace of them can be found.

The garden wall

In 1953 the old trellis work was replaced with a stone wall. Gravel was placed on the inside around the paths during restoration in 1978 a beautiful garden was created .A remembrance plaque was placed against the pillar at the main entrance.

The graves of Reverend S H Kühn and his wife, as well as Reverend M G Uys, who was preacher for forty years, and his wife are in the garden.
Ministers:(1880) Revs S H Kühn; C F Scheepers; M G Uys (40 years); J A du Randt; J S Marais; H H Volgraaff; P S Bester; W D Olivier; G M Van Vollenhoven; J Prinsloo and J P Jooste.

Anglo Boer War Blockhouse

The aim of having the line of blockhouses from Victoria West to Lamberts Bay (also known as the cross-country line) was to divide the area, then known as the northwest, in two parts. The British believed that this would have hindered the Boers operating freely in the area and also to stop commandos from the Cape to enter the region.

Luitenant LC Jackson wrote in his journal that he arrived with his troops in Williston on 24 April 1902, but that the building of the blockhouse had begun 14 days earlier already.

The diameter of the outer circle is about 12m and the walls were approximately 60cm thick. The inner circle diameter is 5 m and its wall is 70 cm thick. The roof could have been made of steel, canvas or maybe it was a round pitched tent. The wall was fenced in with wire. Four to six soldiers manned a blockhouse. Steel strips were fastened into the ground and on these there were wire. On this the soldiers hung metal objects and cans so that they would hear when the wire was cut. Sometimes dogs were also kept in these blockhouses so that they would make alarm if they spotted the enemy.

These stone blockhouses were built about 1300 feet from each other. The cross-country line were 3700 miles long and the total cost building them amounted to 1 million pounds.

The Williston Tourism Association sponsored the restoration of a blockhouse and Mr John Swart was responsible for the restoration work, which revived the old folk art of building stone structures with local stones.

Rhenish Church

Amandelboom (literally translated as “Almond tree”) Mission station was founded in 1845 at the request of approximately 156 Christians of so-called Coloured people who led a nomadic lifestyle in the Karee mountains, and in the Sakrivier region.

They were descendants from white men and Nama/ Khoisan females. Soon the original church, made of matting, was too small for all the church members and a decision was made to build a larger church.

The corner stone of the Rhenish church was laid in 1855. The Chancel was completed on 12 November 1857. The building cost was eight hundred and fifty Pounds. On 13th November 1857 approximately six hundred people attended the dedication of the church amidst great festivity. The ceremony was conducted by missionary Leipold van Wupperthal.

Twenty thousand bricks used for the building were made on the banks of Sakriver. The bricklayers were recruited from Tulbach. Local girls and women helped with the on and offloading of the bricks.

Missionary J H Lutz was responsible for the dimensions of the church. The building is eighty feet long, twenty seven feet wide and seventeen feet high. The floor was made out of bricks. On the outside the walls were whitewashed with lime and the inside walls made smooth with lime plaster.

In front of the oak pulpit was a stage about six inches higher than the rest of the floor and seventeen feet wide. On this stage was a table covered with a black cloth, this was used as an alter. The chairs for mission families, elders and deacons were also on this stage.

The pews, looking from the pulpit, were on the right side of the men and opposite the women, with an isle in between. Above the isle two chandeliers with twelve candles were suspended from the roof.

The pulpit bible was a gift from Schietfontein (Carnarvon) Congregation. Another pulpit bible together with two decorative twist candlestick holders each holding two candles was received from friends, a Mr and Mrs Vos, all this was used on the pulpit.

The Children’s Mission Society from Barmen in Germany donated the Communion cups and two christening jugs in 1849.

The British government moved the colonial boundaries to the Orange River in 1849. This resulted into the migrating white farmers claiming more and more land and water fountains which were used by the so-called Coloured people. As the migrating farmers did not have a place of worship, the mission congregation invited them to share the Rhenish church with them. As far as is known this was the only congregation where non white and white served on the same parish council during the nineteenth century. After impounding of crown land started in 1862, many members of Amandelboom Mission congregation moved away i.e. De Tuin, from where the mixed race trek to Rehohoth started. In 1882 Rhenish church and other mission buildings were sold to the Dutch Reformed Church in Cape colony.

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