St Isidor Mill Museum

Early history of ‘Kings Grant’ – St Isidore Farm

wheel-kings-grant-history-conferences-weddings-south-africaGeorgina Adelaide King, daughter of Dick (Richard) King married Edmund Yates Peel in April 1897 and they settled on Murchison Farm next door to where her brother, Frank King (Dick’s youngest son) farmed.
When Dick King died in 1871, the Governor of the colony of Natal decided to grant an extra reward to his estate in appreciation for the role that he played in the history of Natal.

The land chosen for this reward was situated between the farms belonging to his son and daughter and the original title deeds listed it as “King’s Grant”.

st-isidore-kings-grant-history-accommodation-birding-fishing-weddingsIn 1891 German Trappist Monks of the Diocese of Mariannhill in Pinetown decided to build a seminary close to Mariathal Mission and so bought the farm ‘King’s Grant’ (2837 acres) from the Estate of the late Clara King (Dick King’s wife). They divided this land between the Sanatorium farm, a new farm which they named St Isidore and Mariathal Mission.

The farm was renamed ‘St Isidore’ after the patron saint of farming and was established to provide the surrounding Catholic missions with fresh produce, maize meal, milk and meat. It also offered a milling service for any locals who wanted their own maize milled for them at the cost of a 10% portion being kept for payment which later became a fee of 33%.

The building of the St Isidor Mill and Chapel started in 1894, the Pelton Water Turbine or Wheel was delivered in 1896 and the millstones were imported from France with completion of both buildings being in 1899.

st-isidore-history-kings-grant0accommodation-weddings-conferences-birdingThe water for the turbine was diverted further upstream via a canal from the river that runs through the gardens and was then led into a mill pond on the hillside above the Mill. The position of this mill pond ensured that the water was gravity fed to the Millworks through a large pipe which resulted in it having sufficient head to drive or turn the turbine.

In the 1930’s South Africa experienced a severe drought and the stream almost dried up, thereby forcing the Mission workers to install an alternative power source. This was a one piston, Lister Blackstone diesel engine which was imported from Germany, (an English make) to carry on with the milling. Once the drought was over, they alternated the power source depending on the flow of the stream. However, in the 1980’s a decision was made to only use the Lister Blackstone engine making this the sole power source for the mill.

History of St Isidore – excerpt taken from www.stisidore-yubacity.org

st-isidore-photoSt. Isidore was a simple man of the earth, who attended daily Mass and demonstrated love of people and animals by his many acts of kindness and mercy.

St. Isidore was born around 1070 near Madrid, Spain, into a peasant family. He was a laborer employed by a wealthy farmer named Juan de Vargas on a farm close to Madrid. Every morning before going to work he used to attend Mass but was often late in arriving for work. His fellow labourers were not happy about his late arrivals and complained to their employer. When charged with his offense, he did not deny it and explained to his employer: “Sir, it may be true that I am later at my work than some of the other laborers, but I do my utmost to make up for the few minutes snatched for prayer; I pray you compare my work with theirs, and if you find I have defrauded you in the least, gladly will I make amends by paying you out of my private store.” His employer said nothing, but remained suspicious, and, being determined to find out the truth, rose one morning at daybreak and concealed himself outside the church. In due course, Isidore appeared and entered the building, and afterwards, when the service was over, went to his work. Still following him, his employer saw him take the plough into a field, and was about to confront him when, in the pale, misty light of dawn, he saw, as he thought, a second plough drawn by white oxen moving up and down the furrows. Greatly astonished, he ran towards it, but even as he ran it disappeared and he saw only Isidore and his single-plow. When he spoke to Isidore and enquired about the second plough he had seen, Isidore replied in surprise: “Sir, I work alone and know of none save God to whom I look for strength.” Thus the story grew that so great was his sanctity that the angels helped him even in his plowing. It was characteristic of Isidore’s entire life.