Bonnievale is a small village with a lot of history. Unlike many other towns the history is derived from families, relationships, and real people rather than industry, disasters, and wars. It’s a quaint area that continues to live up to the integrity and family oriented traits of its founders.
Christopher Forrest Rigg immigrated with his family to South Africa and lived an interesting life as a traveler and dynamite blaster for mines. After two marriages and the birth of several children he settled into the Bonnievale area. His youngest daughter, Mary Myrtle, was a pretty child and was adored by many. Sadly, she died of meningitis at seven years of age. Her dying wish to her father was that he would build her a small church and so he did.
The young girl was buried in the field where she loved to play as a child and over the years it became the family grave site. The church that he built in her memory is a Norman-style church built in 1921 with marble floors imported from Italy and stained glass windows from England. Little nuances in the design commemorate her life and it is the only church in the world that is known to have been built at the request of a child.
The area was continually developed and a large canal project by Rigg brought water to the area to support farmers. Today the canal serves the east side of Bonnievale and many areas across the west side. Rigg officially purchased all of the land that makes up present day Bonnievale around 1900 and its presence grew until it became a city in 1953.
The name of the town was chosen to honor Rigg’s grandfather’s home back in Scotland and the Rigg legacy remains today with a tombstone erected in his honor though he died and was buried at sea.