It is not named (and misspelled) after Heilbronn in Germany. But rather named as such because of the fountains of fresh water found on the banks of the Elandsspruit. Its from Dutch, bron is a fountain and heil meaning healthy. So there you have it, its not a colonial name, so leave it alone. The town was proclaimed as a village in 1873 and laid out according to certain traditions. One of them being that the roads must be wide enough so that an ox-wagon can make a U-turn. The picture on the right (source: Ref 3) taken around 1910 shows an early traffic jam on the main road through town. Municipal status was achieved in 1890
The congregation of Heilbron was first established in 1874, it was seceded from Kroonstad. A beautiful sandstone building of the Dutch Reformed church was inaugurated in 1885, the cornerstone was laid by President Brand in 1880. In its grounds is a monument to the Heilbron burgers killed in the Anglo-Boer war. Unfortunately access to the grounds is restricted by a big fence around it. Something that has become necessary for most churches due to littering and vandalism.
The Methodist church was erected in the same time period as the NG church, which tells something about the cosmopolitan composition of the population. It becomes noticeable when strolling through the cemetery. There are not only Dutch/Afrikaans names, but also English, Irish, Scottish, German, Hollands and Jewish names.
That was a surprise find, because it is on the other side of the stream, that would have been the black area. It actually pre-dates the NG church and was, I presume, built by a black congregation at the time.
The building is not in use, a new, bigger church was built down the hill. We had a look inside the church which unfortunately is in decay. A pity, with a bit of restoration work this church could be a beautiful building.
And now that I am writing this it occurs to me that I am actually not sure about this being a Wesleyan church. Where did I get this information from? Some more research is needed, watch this space.
And just across from the Wesleyan church we found this old building of the Native Presbyterian church, put up in 1910. Judging by the rusty lock and the weeds growing around it this building is not in use. It is a corrugated iron building typical of the early 20th century and I would think would qualify for national monument status.
Otherwise known as the Klipkerkie, it was built in 1913.
It looks like the building is mostly used for functions, twice we went there and twice we saw preparations for a function. And as one person there told us, this is the best and only place to have a wedding in Heilbron. There is a more modern church of the NHK at the other end of town.
Heilbron was connected by rail to Wolwehoek in 1899. Later the line was extended to Petrus Steyn and Lindley. At the time of writing the rail is not in use and in fact some of the tracks south of Wolwehoek have disappeared (stolen). The Heilbron station building has burned out and is only standing as a shell. The picture on the left shows the station in 1899 and the one on the right is the building as we found it in 2010.
During the Anglo Boer war Heilbron was for a few days the capital of the Free State, after that it was tented accommodation at Presidents Koppie about 18 km out of town on the way to Frankford. The Anglo-Boer war also touched the town in that it had a concentration camp at a site just across from the Volkschool at the corner Church- and Luyt street. The concentration camp graves are part of the main cemetery.
The museum, referred to as the Riemland museum, is situated in the former Synagogue. But don't expect to visit the place over a weekend, its closed and only open from Monday to Friday. Its a sad state of affairs, museums should be open on weekends for access to the general public. Well, Pat seems to be in serious discussions with the rabbi about this.
Another museum further out of town is the Vegkop museum. This is about 20 km going south on the R725. This museum belongs to some organisation (can't remember which one) and is at the site where some Voortrekkers had been fighting off some impies of Mzilikazi in 1836.
This museum is better stocked and better looked after than the Riemland museum in Heilbron and is well worth a visit. It actually contains some of the exhibits that used to be in the Heilbron museum. This came about when the curator of the Heilbron museum, who also had her own private exhibits in the museum, was told to pack up to be replaced by a person of different colour, she naturally took her exhibits along and placed them in the Vegkop museum.
p.s.: the museum is closed, I have no information about it re-opening.
The hospital with its attractive facade was build in 1936. We actually went inside, to me it looked very clean and well maintained, but Pat, as a former matron, had some complaints. We weren't supposed to take pictures, thus eventually the security guard showed us the way. The inside picture comes from the internet, source unknown.
The cemetery is at the entrance to town coming in from the north. Interesting to wander through, there is the section dedicated to the British soldiers who died in the area during the Anglo Boer war, there are the concentration camp graves with a central monument and a section for the Jewish dead. Of note are a number of old graves over the fence towards the stream. Judging by the names on the head stones these are graves of black people. An indication that black people lived in the vicinity and occupied the area on the northern side of the stream in the early years of the town.
A historical farm, its official name: 'Leeupoort', not far out of town.I was going to include it in this page, but there is too much to write about, thus a separate web page has been called for.
Yes, there has been progress, the main road through town which has been in a pot holy state for at least 20 years has finally been refurbished. That is what it looks like now, September 2013.
Ref 1.: Standard Encyclopedia of Southern Africa, Nasou Limited, 1974
Ref 2.: Brochure 'Break away to the Riemland', issued by the Heilbron Tourism Forum
Rev 3.: 'The Orange Free State - its pastoral, agricultural and industrial resources', compiled by Somerset Playne, printed by the foreign and colonial, compiling and publishing company, 1912