The first Voortrekkers in the then northern Transvaal belonged to a religious zealot group called the Jerusalem Trekkers, who wished to migrate to the Christian Holy Land. They found a river flowing northwards and on consulting the maps on the back of their family Bibles concluded that it must be the legendary source of the Nile.
The first town was laid out in 1866 on the farm Rietvallei, owned by Ernest Collins. They called it Nylstroom but in 2002 it was renamed Modimolle and their theories about it seemed to be strengthened by the discovery of what resembled a ruined pyramid near the river . In fact this was a natural hillock, known to the local tribespeople as Modimollo, meaning 'place of spirits' and revered as a burial ground of ancient chiefs.
During the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902), in 1901, a concentration camp was established in Nylstroom where an estimated 550 women and children died. The second-last Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa, J. G. Strydom, practiced law in Nylstroom and was involved in politics from the 1920s until 1958, when he died as Prime Minister.
The town of Modimolle, with its streets shaded by poinciana and jacaranda trees, is the centre of a large groundnut and cattle farming district.
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