Piet Retief Historical Facts | Piet Retief Tourist Attractions


Piet Retief history as well as the places the town has to offer and the tourist attractions and the things to do in Piet Retief

Piet Retief History

Little Free State

Things To Do

Sports Clubs



Historical facts on the town of Piet Retief, Piet Retief Information

History Of Piet Retief
Piet Retief is located on the Assegai River in the Assegai Valley, and surrounded by forests of indigenous yellowwood and hardwoods, and planted forests of Blue Gum, Pine and Wattle.

The town has a very interesting past and is steeped in history. All around the town is bits of interesting historical facts.The town of Piet Retief was laid out in 1883 on the farms Osloop and Geluk.

It became a municipality in 1932. Many Germans and Scots settled here in the later 1800s. This valley was so called after the Assegai River which runs through the valley, which is formed between the mountains of Swaziland and the Drakensberg escarpment of the highveld that runs between Ermelo and Wakkerstroom. An interesting and little known fact is that the Assegai River is a misnomer that was derived from the Zulu name for this river. In Zulu it is called the Mkonto river. This refers to an animal spoor and signifies how the river runs along a meandering course like the spoor of an animal. White settlers, however, confused the word Mkonto for Mkondo, which means spear. Therefore the word was improperly translated to be Assegai- or Spear River.

In those days, Piet Retief used to be a true frontier district and the whole area was much plagued by Swazi raiders from Swaziland. There was still the plague of tsetse flies and malaria in some areas, but it was for the largest part open and uninhabited country. The settlers that came from the highveld found it to be a region of very mild climatic conditions and high rainfall, with fertile soil. It was not long before they were using the Assegai valley in the winter time for grazing for their stock. The old farmers soon found out that the area was particularly suited for the cultivation of tobacco, and to this very day, the pipe tobacco brand, "Boxer" , is still called "Piet Retief Tobacco".

At first Piet Retief was not a separate district. It used to be part of the Wakkerstroom district, which used to be a very large district indeed. A Scottish settler by the name of Alexander MacCorkindale then managed to acquire a very large area of land which stretched from the region of Carolina through the town of Amsterdam, and includes parts of Piet Retief. For quite some time it used to be known as "New Scotland", because of the fact that the region reminded the settlers so much of Scotland, during summer.

His settlement was part of a plan of the old Transvaal Government to establish a Scottish buffer zone between the marauding Swazi and Zulu tribes, and the Transvaal.


The planned Scottish settlement was never really successful, but even today the Scottish influence can still be seen on farm and place names such as Athole, Roburnia (named after Robert Burns, the Scottish poet), Bonnie Brook and Londina.

About iet retief and the History it holds

After MacCorkindale's death the land was divided and sold off to mostly Afrikaaner families. In later years, many German immigrants also came to this region. At first they came as tradesmen and since the 1870's they had been busy working as woodcutters and carpenters in the mountains between Piet Retief and Wakkerstroom. It is not widely known that there are lush indigenous evergreen forests in this area with magnificent old yellowwood and other precious hardwood trees. These were cut up into planks and beams for the young and growing Transvaal Republic,and much of the wood was transported as far as Lourenco Marques, Kimberley, Warden, Barberton and even Botswana. Over the years the German settlers became successful farmers, and today Piet Retief has a particularly large and thriving German community. After 130 years and more, most German families still speak German as a mother tongue, and the German culture and religion is still strong.

The town was named after the European pioneer (Voortrekker) Piet Retief (1780 - 1838). Retief originally farmed near Grahamstown, but joined pioneers moving to the north when he ran into financial difficulties. He went bankrupt at least twice through gambling and land speculation.

About the little free state

Little Free State

On the way to the Emahlathini Border post that divides Swaziland and South Africa approximately 12km to 15km from Piet Retief in 1886 the Republic of Little Free State was declared, containing a population of only 72 inhabitants.

It existed for 5 years until 1891, when it was incorporated in the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek.

In terms of population, this was probably the smallest republic in the world.Piet Retief is situated 25km from the nearest Swaziland border. We are also situated 45km from the warm springs spa called Natal Spa.

Things To Do

Horse riding, excellent trails in the area including Assegai Hiking Trail, a popular trail through mountain scenery, Phongolo Highlands Hiking Trail System, featuring hikes from one to five days or longer through near pristine countryside, including the Ngcaka and Mpisi Routes. There are several game farms in the area. Sport: tennis, squash, a 9-hole golf course.

Things to do in Piet Retief, Activities in Piet Retief

The southeastern area around Piet Retief offers much for the bird enthusiasts. Fishing: The area has several dams and many rivers with yellowtail and Natal yellowfin. Fly fishing is also available. Magnificent local fauna and flora can be seen here, on the outskirts of town.


Endemic aloe species only found in the Piet Retief area can also be seen. The area features many sad commemorations to the senselessness of war, including the Zulu War Memorial, the Heinrich Filter and Nils Larsen Monument, and the Monument and Gravesites of the many British soldiers who died in the Intombe War. Visit the Candle Factory a charming collection of local designed candles are for viewing and for sale at Röhr's Country Guest House.


Sandstone Bridge: The Paul Kruger Bridge, built by the celebrated architect Sytze Wierde, can be seen on the line between Piet Retief and Ermelo. The bridge, built in 1897, is the longest arched sandstone bridge in the region and has been proclaimed a national monument. Goliaths Foot: S 26° 18.043 E 30° 38.675(WGS-84) Goliath left his footprint here when drinking water from the Mpuluzi river 1km away. Print of his palm is at the river, but this cache is about his foot only. It is virtual cache but logbook is provided, hidden under stones at the above coordinates. At footprint visitors book for general public is also available. Make entries in both books if possible, as visitors book is sometimes removed by unauthorised persons.

South African Tourist attractions, Piet Retief attractions and interesting sights

Sports Clubs


The following is a list of the Sports Clubs we have to offer in Piet Retief:

  • Piet Retief Netball Club
  • Piet Retief Rugby Club
  • Piet Retief Wheelers
  • Piet Retief Marathon Club
  • Piet Retief Country Club


The annual Rainbow Festival is normally held during the first week in October, the events on these days include:

Fun Rides i.e. merry-go-round, go-carts etc, Paintball Arena, 4X4 Track, Jumping castle, Informative Stalls on Industries, Food Stalls, Beer Tent, Stalls selling from sweets to caravans and tractors, Live entertainment, and Much Much More!

Mpumalanga activities and things to do, Annual events in Piet Retief

About Piet Retief, Piet Retief Tourist attractions, Piet Retief Attractions, South African tourist attractions

About Piet Retief, Piet Retief Tourist attractions, Piet Retief Attractions, South African tourist attractions


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