Loerie

Loerie

Apart from hosting the annual Naartjie Festival the small town of Loerie has an interesting history.

Early Settlers were in the area as early as 1745 and the first farms were awarded in 1817. Floods, droughts and the big fire of 1869 took their toll on the pioneers of the area, but the community expanded rapidly and the first school was opened in 1890. The first bridge across the Gamtoos river opened up the area and eased the lives of the farmers considerably.

The inhospitable terrain with primitive roads was a nightmare with regards to transport to and from the markets in P.E. and Uitenhage. Everything had to be transported by ox wagon and a trip took a few days. In 1899 it was decided in Parliament that a narrow gauge railway line would be built from P.E. to Avontuur. It was completed in 1906 and started new optimism in the whole valley. Farmers only had to bring their produce to Loerie from where it was taken further by train. In 1914 the line was extended to Patensie.

In 1905 the S.A. Kerosene Oil Shale Syndicate started prospecting for oil at Loerie and after favourable finds, options were taken out on 27 farms in the Loerie-Taaiboslaagte area. However, nothing came from it due to financial reasons. For a while coal was mined in the area where the Loerie dam is now. Prospectors also looked for gold in the Loerie River, but only small traces were found.

The pine plantations, Longmore and Otterford were started in 1918. Most of the work force were soldiers who had returned from the first World War and in 1922 their numbers were strengthened by strikers sent here by the Smuts government. The area was densely populated and at least 12 schools existed at one or other time. By the 1930's the Otterford school boasted of more than 300 pupils and a hostel had to be built for the teachers.

In 1933 the Eastern Province Cement Company (later PPC) obtained a farm in the Kleinrivier area and started the construction of a 14 km cable way to Loerie.

Production started in 1934. High quality lime stone was mined here until the late 1990's. Sadly, the cable way that became a landmark was removed after the mine was closed.

The Loerie dam was built as part of the Kouga dam scheme with the purpose of supplying Port Elizabeth with water. The dam includes a filtration and pump system to balance the pressure in the pipelines, controlled by one of the first computer systems in South Africa.

Although the population of the area has shrunk considerably in recent years, the fertile soil and temperate climate ensure that vegetables of a high quality are produced here.

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