Graaff Reinet - Encyclopedia

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GRAAFF REINET, a town of South Africa, 185 m. by rail N.W. by N. of Port Elizabeth. Pop. (1904) 10,083, of whom 4 0 55 were whites. The town lies 2463 ft. above the sea and is built on the banks of the Sunday river,which rises a little farther north on the southern slopes of the Sneeuwberg, and here ramifies into several channels. The Dutch church is a handsome stone building with seating accommodation for 150o people. The college is an educational centre of some importance; it was rebuilt in 1906. Graaff Reinet is a flourishing market for agricultural produce, the district being noted for its mohair industry, its orchards and vineyards.

The town was founded by the Cape Dutch in 1786, being named after the then governor of Cape Colony, C. J. van de Graaff, and his wife. In 1795 the burghers, smarting under the exaction of the Dutch East India Company proclaimed a republic. Similar action was taken by the burghers of Swellendam. Before the authorities at Cape Town could take decisive measures against the rebels, they were themselves compelled to capitulate to the British. The burghers having endeavoured, unsuccessfully, to get aid from a French warship at Algoa Bay surrendered to Colonel (afterwards General Sir) J. O. Vandeleur. In January 1 799 Marthinus Prinsloo, the leader of the republicans in 1795, again rebelled, but surrendered in April following. Prinsloo and nineteen others were imprisoned in Cape Town castle. After trial, Prinsloo and another commandant were sentenced to death and others to banishment. The sentences were not carried out and the prisoners were released, March 1803, on the retrocession of the Cape to Holland. In 1801 there had been another revolt in Graaff Reinet, but owing to the conciliatory measures of General F. Dundas (acting governor of the Cape) peace was soon restored. It was this district, where a republican government in South Africa was first proclaimed, which furnished large numbers of the voortrekkers in 1835-1842. It remains a strong Dutch centre.

See J. C. Voight, Fifty Years of the History of the Republic in South Africa 1 795 - z8 45, vol. i. (London, 1899).

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