THE HISTORY OF WHITE RIVER
At the end of the Anglo-Boer War the then government of Lord Milner decided to establish as an irrigation farming scheme for unemployed British soldiers returning from the war. Though this scheme was as not as successful as expected it paved way for the development of a small farmers township which in turn depicted the birth of White River. This town had two other names in its short history, all meaning the same thing but in different languages. It was known as Mhloppemanzi by its African name ; its Afrikaans name was Wit Rivier. The name White River refers to the colour of the water in the near by river which has a milky appearance caused by the high presence of Kaolin.
The Transvaal Land Department surveyed the valley in 1904 under orders from Lord Milner, who thought it would be a good idea to establish an agricultural settlement in the area. A weir was built over the White River, and a canal constructed. A hundred plots of land were offered up for sale, and a village planned.
A number of Ex-servicemen from the Boer-War attempted citrus farming in this settlement, which would become known as White River. Like many of the Lowveld settlers before them, they sooned experienced the harsh conditions of the region. The new farmers were beaten down by disease, drought, and insects. Despite his best attempts, the Estates Manager, Thomas Holman Lawrence, who had originally come from the Barberton district, was unable to prevent the farmers from leaving. By 1911 a Scot by the name of McDonald was the only remaining member of this development.
It was at this time that five men from the vicinity, who were on a hunting expedition, decided to bid for this failed settlement. Henry Glynn, Clem Merriman, Colonel William Barnard, Reverend Ponsonby and Exley Millar all decided to form a syndicate to raise the necessary capital. Their offer of £10000 for 10000 acres was accepted, and from this White River Estates was established. In 1916 White River Estates became a private company with capital having grown to £30000, but the First World War temporarily delayed development, which resumed in 1919.
The first wattle-and-daub homes were built and citrus was planted. The village of White River consisted of a cottage, the Magistrates residence, an outspan on the site of where the Dutch Reformed Church is today, the White River Hotel, a police station and stables, and the Magisrates court. All of these were connected by a single main street. There were no cars at the time and transport consisted of mule wagon, donkey cart, or horseback. Horses had to be "salted", or made immune to horse sickness.
THE OLDEST HOUSE IN WHITE RIVER;
Between 1885 and 1895 an Angican minister (name unknown). planted a tree,where the old village green was, just over the road from where the original church stood. This tree is still standing and even although it is not indigenous to the area, being a Natal Fig, it is now an historical monument.
A house, which was the "Vicarage", was built near to this tree between 1895 and 1905
and is contended to be the oldest house in White River.
In 1916 the Anglican Church moved to where St Georges now stands on the Plaston Road
and the house was either given or sold to the Dutch Reformed Church and became "Die Pastorie".
The history of ownership becomes vague after this, but after the Church stopped using the pastorie it was used as a boarding house and also converted to into four flats which were seperately let. The house was also used as a post office at some stage.
In the 1970's it was converted into a lawyers office and estate agency.
In the 1980's it became a fine dining restaurant called Timbuctoo, which was run by Mr & Mrs Mike Kay. The building was sold and an increase in rent resulted in the kays moving to where the old Alfresco's was in Allie van Bergen Street, which is now where Dr. van Wyke's surgery is.
Between the years 1995 and the end of 2005, the house was used as a roadhouse, gay nightclub, restaurant, antique shop, nursery and clothing shop.
In February of 2006 the house was bought and restored by Mr Braam Coetzee and his family. Braam and his father did the restoration and the restauarant opened with just six tables during April of 2006. During May 2006 the dining room opened and in June the bar opened.
Today patrons and customers can enjoy the outstandingly fine cuisine offered by Alfresco Restaurant, which if the interesting history is divulged makes the food tastes all the better while remembering the house's chequered past.
Citrus farming became the main source of activity in the region. In 1924, it became apparent that the citrus farmers needed to form some organisation to represent the industry. The White River Fruitgrowers' Co-operative Company was established and the first citrus crop was packed in 1925. By 1926 the railway line from Nelspruit was extended to White River, and allowed for the export of citrus. (Source: White River Remembered, Claire Nevill)
The township spread over an 8 km circumference and presently accommodates about 2500 farmers who live in small holdings. They concentrate mainly in the cultivation of Vegetables, sub-tropical and tropical fruits , flowers and timber.