White River, Mpumalanga

Founded: 1890

Named after the original farm Witrivier.


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After the South African War, Lord Alfred Milner (1852-1925), High Commissioner for South Africa, instituted an investigation into the possibility of finding a suitable area to establish a settlement that would have fertile soil, sufficient water and a healthy climate. The 'Emansimhlope'- a tributary of the Crocodile River whose name translates from the Swazi as 'White Waters' - valley fulfilled all these requirements and experts proclaimed that the area was suitable for the growing of citrus and general farming. An amount of £60 000 was approved for the scheme, which became known as the 'Milner Settlement'. A canal was laid on, 25 km long, from the White River and on both banks of the river 100 acre farms were surveyed. A town, named White River, was established on the farm White River, consisting of a police station, school, and a home for the manager of the scheme. The 'Settlers Bridge' was built over the White River, north of the town, to serve the farms on the north-eastern side. While substantial and high it was only a footbridge. A connecting road was made to Nelspruit and a bridge, constructed of stone, built over the Nels River, then linking up with the Nelspruit-Sabie road, north-west of Nelspruit.

Most of the prospective farmers came from the British Isles and they were provided with wood and iron buildings, wagons, oxen, ploughs and the necessary agricultural equipment. The government paid them each a weekly salary until they were able to support themselves from farming. Meetings were held in the school building. The classroom, apart from being the venue for the Farmers' Association, also functioned as a communal hall and various church denominations made use of it. Apart from the police station and school buildings in the town, there was a business concern named MacDonald, on the corner of Kruger Park and Theo Kleynhans Streets, and a hotel next door that belonged to Cooke, Cooke's Hotel being the place to visit after selling produce at the market. Later a few houses were built.

The settlers planted tobacco, maize and vegetables.

In 1907 the government allowances were withdrawn. Government was requested to re-survey the farms so that larger portions could be allocated for the purpose of cattle farming. By 1909 when the settlers had to renew their contracts, most of them had left.

In 1911 there was only one settler left, named Mac MacDonald who had a citrus orchard known as Mac's Grove. Tom Lawrence finalised the settlement's matters and returned to his farm at Hilltop. Harry Wolhuter, game ranger of the Sabi Game Reserve (later the Kruger National Park) bought the manager's house for his mother and sisters to live in.

In 1909 Henry Thomas Glynn (1856-1928), founder of Sabie, and a few friends, while on a hunting trip, had a discussion round a campfire about the failing Milner Settlement at White River and decided to buy it. They formed a syndicate and named it White River Estates.

The government sold the farm White River to the syndicate in 1914, including the canal, for £10 000, on condition that 60 000 citrus trees were planted. White River Estates became a private company in 1916.

The old layout of the property was scrapped and an entirely new survey done which forms the basis of the existing irrigation farms under the White River Canal as it is known today.

[Extracted and edited and expanded from Hans Bornman. 2006. Pioneers of the Lowveld. s.n.: SA Country Life]

There is a very good site you should visit

List of structures:

Bushman's Rock Hotel: 1954.
Drum Rock Hotel: 1963.
House Bosch: 1960.
Klippekol: 1975.
Pastorie: 1964.
St George's Anglican Church: 1929.
Uplands: 1923.
Uplands School Hall: 1980.
Verlorenkloof: 2008.
White River Gallery: 2007.
Winkler Hotel: n.d..