Discover Senekal

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Senekal is situated on the the banks of the Sand river on the N5 and lies amidst the panoramic splendor of the Eastern Free State, on the main route between Bloemfontein and Durban. Senekal, with its enviable climate, clean and fresh air, atmospheric scenery and star-studded nights is an agricultural community and is rich in history.

The magnificent Dutch Reformed Mother Church rests in the heart of the town and is “protected” by fascinating prehistoric tree trunks, which were discovered in the area.

Town History

The congregation of the NG church was formed on the 3-July-1879. To be noted is that at that time there already was a church building, it was built 1875/6

Being a new congregation they had to find a preacher. In the reformed churches this is done by calling somebody from another congregation. In this case the call went out seven times before there was an acceptance. And that was from R.H.van de Wall who was preaching in Simonstown (near Cape Town) The offer made to him was £500 per annum plus reimbursement of his travel costs. He was actually not new to the area, two years before he was the preacher at Ficksburg, and interesting there he only earned £100.

His term started on the 19-August-1882 and lasted until 1896 when he resigned. Reading in ref 2, the congregation had some problems with his service and that there was disunity in his marriage.
Senekal NG church organInteresting to read how he and his family had to travel from Simonstown to Senekal. It was not a question of just climbing onto a train. The family took a boat from Simonstown (or Cape Town) to Durban, then a train ride on the newly constructed line to Pietermaritzburg. Here they were collected by an elder from the church to take them to Senekal. I presume that was by horse drawn carriage, it would have taken a number of days to make their way upland to Senekal.

Ds & mev R.H. van de Wall

With time the church became to small and a bigger one had to be constructed, the aim was to seat 800. The ground for this was donated by the municipality and the design done by the architect brothers, JH & AE Till. This was one of their earlier jobs, later they were responsible for the design of the NG church in Winburg, the town hall in Kroonstad and the Presbyterian-, Methodist- and Anglican churches in Kroonstad, amongst many other buildings in the Free State and the Transvaal.

Senekal residents campaigned for the foundation of a town, because Winburg was too far removed from them. Since 1873 various petitions regarding this matter was addressed to the Orange Free State House of Assembly. On 5 June 1877 Senekal was finally acknowledged as a town. The town is named after Commandant Frederik Petrus Senekal who died in 1865 in the skirmishes with the Basotho people. Senekal was founded on the Farm De Put of F Malan

Coordinates for Senekal:
Latitude: 28.32ºS
Longitude: 27.62ºE

Senekal has a 1 km landing strip that lies from east to west.

From Johannesburg, take the N1 to Bloemfontein. Travel through Kroonstad to Winburg. Just before Winburg, you will
see a sign which says ” Senekal / Marquard on the left. Turn left on the N5. Travel about 68 km on the N5 to Senekal.

From Durban, take the Pietermaritzburg N3 to Harrismith. In Harrismith take the N5 to Bethlehem/Bloemfontein. Travel through Bethlehem. Travel about 56 km on the N5 to Senekal.

The picture above shows a view of the town in 1884, indicating that it grew fairly fast to reach this size in only 10 years. An interesting observation in connection with this picture is the hill behind the village. In this picture it is bare of any vegetation more than grass. Nowadays this hill is covered with bushes. A phenomenon which I have observed at many places on the highveld. I am not sure what the reason could be.
When the settlement was first established it was administered by a village management board. But in 1892 that changed to a town council when it was declared a municipality.

Water History & Information

The “Sandrivier” starts south east of Paul Roux and flows north west, passes the N5 national road and then turns south west to Senekal. The river is famous for the under signing of “Sandrivierkonvensie” between the Boere and Brits in 1852.

This river got it’s name after a wagon that got stuck in the sand and it had to be unloaded before they could pull it from the river

During the heavy rainfall in 2010 and again in December 2021 the river provided Senekal with a lot of excitement. The water pushed over the river bank and flooded parts of the park and roads. Big areas of farmland adjacent to the Sand was under water.

Residents became concerned when the water level started to touch the bridge crossing the main road and referred back to the flood of 1988. 

The "Sandrivier" was previously known as "Zand Rivier"
Sandriver 2021