Originally called Amandelboom, Williston was renamed after Colonel Willis, one of the British colonial secretaries of the Cape in days gone by.
Williston lies 550 kms from central Cape Town on the other side of the majestic Van Rhyns Pass with its sweeping and lofty vistas.
Mainly servicing the local sheep farming community, the dorp offers a supermarket, a few other small shops, an upmarket restaurant, bed and breakfast establishments and the 26-room Williston Hotel,established in 1886.
Recently the ghosts of Williston have started to come out the shadows as they roam restlessly during the temperate Karoo nights. What sparked this new rise of sightings is unknown but it is speculated that the ghosts may originate from the second Anglo-Boer War days of 1899 to 1902 when town was garrisoned by the British Army.
According to local legend, in 1902, General Gert Maritz and General Jan Smuts rode into the Northern Cape, having taken the long way round from the Transvaal.
They rode in on horseback, at least 300 strong, carrying Mauser rifles and biltong. Bearded and dusty, they arrived in Williston and skirmished with the British forces garrisoned there. A desultory pot shot action took place in 40 degree heat which resulted in a stalemate. A truce was called and the opposing officers met at the hotel. It was decided that the bar bill would be paid by the victorious side after the war. In 1904 the British Crown settled the tab.
Now the colourful characters of the past ride again at night through modern day Williston. The quaint town is well worth the visit and its ghosts seem to be more of the historically entertaining kind than the menacing kind. One thing is for sure though… It can really get very quiet in the Karoo at night…