Elgin

Elgin and Grabouw Dam Image source

Originally called Koffee Kraal, the village of Elgin is a lush land circled with mountains, in the Overberg region. This broad upland valley, lies about 70km southeast of Cape Town, just beyond the Hottentots Holland Mountains. The Elgin region is centered on the town of Grabouw. The Elgin name, was derived from the farm Glen Elgin', a portion of which was given over to the railways for the erection of the local station. The railway line from Sir Lowry's Pass reached Elgin, on 1 August 1902.

Today the town of Grabouw, in the heart of the Elgin Valley is now internationally known as the place in South Africa where apples come from because this area produces 60% of the national apple crop! The Elgin valley is also known for its pears, greenhouse cut flowers, its rose growing and increasingly for the production of high quality cool climate wines.

Vines of Grabouw Image source

The development of the area changed substantially with the arrival of two influential families; the Molteno's and the Viljoen's. Sir Antonie Viljoen, an Afrikaans medical doctor, bought a farm named Oak Valley Estate in the Elgin valley in 1898. Among his farming achievements were the purchase of the first decidous fruit trees. These were initially grown and maintained by his farm labourers, largely as their own seperate concern, however they constituted the first known decidous orchard in the area. In 1903 an Italian South African family named Molteno began farming in the area . These two brothers who were friends with Dr. Viljoen bought a small plot of land named 'Glen Elgin'. Initially they grew vegetables but ventured out to the growing of fruit. They quickly built up a vast friut farming enterprise that spanned the entire valley. Charismatic and ecentric, they long dominated the fruit export industry but later left their enormous network of farms as a trust, for the use and benefit of the farm workers and the region's inhabitants. A portion of the farm of Elgin, was given over to the railways for the erection of the local station. The railway line from Sir Lowry's Pass reached Elgin, on 1 August 1902.

Hottentots Holland Pass Image source

These early farming groups, had a strong liberal effect on Cape politics. Sir Antonie Viljoen and James Molteno were MP's in in the Cape Parliament and launched the first movement to give women of all races the right to vote, in 1907. Another progressive entrepreneur who had an enormous influence on the valley was Kathleen Murray, who was a leader in the Black Sash Movement, among other political activities.

In 1966 on the Applethwaite farm, Edmond Lombardi created and introduced to the market a 100% apple-juice beverage, free of additives and preservatives, known as Appletiser. Appletiser is now owned by SAB Miller and is sold across Europe, Asia and North America.


References:
• New Dictionary of South African Place Names by Peter E. Raper.
• Wikipedia.
• Elgin Valley Information Center - http://www.elginvalley.co.za  ...August 2009
• Appletiser USA website - http://www.appletiser.net/aw/applications/aw/usa/home.html  ....8 December 2009
• Binard, M. Phillipe. "WAPA Releases Southern Hemisphere Apple and Pear Crop Forecasts" ... WAPA Press Release, retrived 24 May 2013
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Last updated : 13-Oct-2016

This article was produced for South African History Online on 16-Mar-2011