This town near the Free State’s western border with the Northern Cape, was established in 1859 on the farm Kalkfontein belonging to a Mr CJ Jacobs. Although situated in a semidesert area, four major rivers converge in the vicinity of the town namely the Modder, Riet, Vaal and Orange (Xhariep) rivers. The water from these rivers was harnessed via the Riet River with the help of the Sarel Hayward Irrigation Scheme. The Scheme, referred to as the “Oranje Riet”, provided life-giving water to crops such as grapes, grain, potatoes and lucerne, fruit, nuts and olives. In the ensuing years the community became the first outside the then Cape Province, to have its own wine cellar. The more recent establishment of large diary farming concerns in the district has added to the town’s stability and prosperity. However, Jacobsdal also has a rich historical and cultural heritage. The town is situated in close proximity to the place where the Anglo-Boer war started and was the first town in the Free State to be occupied by the British. Many historic battles took place near the town.
Adventure And Sport
Angling: Holpan, Balanseer and Springbokkamp Dams are popular local angling spots.
Golf: The Magersfontein Memorial Golf Club and Estate next to the Modder River has a golf course built to international standards. It is also very near to the Magersfontein Anglo-Boer War Battlefield, just over the provincial boundary, in the Northern Cape.
Hiking: Travel on the Paardeberg Road outside the town to reach the Van Zyl Boerdery Hiking Trail.
Water sport: Contact the Jacobsdal Power Boat Club for more information about power boating and windsurfing activities on the Balanseer Dam and the Information Centre for “bareback” rides down one of the irrigation canals.
Diamond and Wine Route: Jacobsdal is one of the towns earmarked as stopovers on the Diamond and Wine Tourism Route that passes through Jacobsdal, Jagersfontein, Koffiefontein and Fauresmith. Wine tasting and many other interesting activities are offered along the route.
Wine Cellars: Jacobsdal has two private wine cellars, the Wilreza Private Wine Cellar and Restaurant and the Landzicht Wine Cellar that offers wine tours that will allow you to taste and buy. Wilreza sells white wines such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Grand Cru and Late Harvest and red wines such as Pinotage and Wilrouge, as well as sweet wines and grape juice.
Fauna And Flora
Birdwatching: The Springbokkamp Dam area is a birdwatcher’s paradise. Be on the look out for the elusive blue crane.
Grootfontein Private Nature Reserve: The reserve provides opportunities for hiking, hunting, game-viewing and birdwatching in a semi-desert area classified as Savannah Karoo where sweet thorn and camel thorn trees abound. Comfortable accommodation is available in the reserve.
Entertainment And Shopping
African pots: A local pottery concern in the town produces pots with African designs.
Phutamagae: Visit Phutamagae to buy handmade articles, such as dresses designed in unique African style.
History And Architecture
British Blockhouse: This 1900 British Blockhouse, situated on the road to Paardeberg, is yet another memento of the Anglo-Boer War that raged in the district. The rectangular blockhouse, a National monument, is one of only 12 built in this shape to have survived totally intact.
Dutch Reformed Church: The Dutch Reformed Church, in Voortrekker Street, was built in 1879 and has a bullet hole in one of its front doors dating from the Anglo-Boer War. The building was used as a hospital during the war. All those wounded at the Battles of Belmont, Graspan, Modderrivier/Tweerivieren, Magersfontein and Paardeberg were nursed here. The beautiful trellis fence around the church dates from 1883. The old Vicarage on the corner of Voortrekker and Sarel Cilliers Streets was built in1866, even before the church was erected.
Historic buildings: The very first dwelling to be built in the town belonged to a local farmer who built his Tuishuisie (town house), a house for use during visits to the town, opposite the southern entrance of the Dutch Reformed Church. The well-preserved building, to which the town owes its name, is being restored for use as an Information Centre.
Historic Market Square: The Old Market Square used to be the site of the Town Hall. In October 1900 a major battle between the Boers and the British took place here, the Boers firing at the British from behind a stone wall that still stands.
Jacobsdal Cemetery: Casualties from the Anglo-Boer War were buried in the Jacobsdal Cemetery, in de Villiers Street. The oldest grave dates back to 1859. However, some of the Boer dead were later exhumed and re-interred at the Magersfontein Battle Site.
Magersfontein Battlefield: The famous Magersfontein Battlefield, site of a conclusive Boer victory by the Boer General, Piet Cronje, and his men, over the British forces of Lord Methuen, lies approximately 20 km north-west of Jacobsdal. Lord Methuen was attempting to free Kimberley when the Boers engaged him in battle at Magersfontein. He made a dreadful mistake when he wrongly calculated that the Boers were entrenched in the hills. The Boers were, in fact, well camouflaged in trenches at the foot of the hills, from where they were able to inflict a great number of casualties on the British. The 482-ha battlefield has been marked with monuments, lookout points, trenches and a museum and is considered to be one of the ten best open-air museums/battle sites in the country.
Paardeberg Battlefield site: The Paardeberg Battlefield, on the banks of the Modder River, was the scene of heavy fighting during the Anglo-Boer War when 40 000 British soldiers besieged a Boer force of 4 000. The Boers surrendered after ten days of bombardment causing a severe blow to Boer logistics and morale. A museum at the Paardeberg station commemorates this battle.
Stone Cairn: Before local Boer men left to fight in the Battle of Roodelaagte on 11 November 1899, they put together a cairn of stones, each stone carrying the name or initials of an individual Boer soldier. This stone monument is still standing and is accessible from the Agricultural School.