Pilgrims Rest - My recent visit to Mpumalanga - by Brian Roff by sdsdfqw21

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									 September                     My recent visit to Mpumalanga - by Brian Roff


                      I
   2010                     have had a compulsion to                    President Burgers, who visited the
                           travel extensively in the ‘Old            site, named the camp “Mac Mac” and
 Number 179                Transvaal’ which I left in the            declared the area the New Caledonia
                           mid 60’s for the green hills of           Gold Fields. (Apparently the majority
                      Natal when still a child                       of the diggers were of Scottish de-
                                                                     scent and the President’s wife was a
                          The schoolboy memories of my               Scot, hence the name)
                      first visit to ‘The Old Transvaal’ in
                      1971 had such an impact that I re-                The most famous of the Mac Mac
                      cently decided to re-visit the little          diggers was Alec “Wheelbarrow” Pat-
                      town of Pilgrims Rest. The Eastern             terson. He prospected across the low-
                      Transvaal has been renamed Mpu-                veld from Barberton to Pilgrims Rest,
                      malanga. Roughly translated the                carrying all his worldly goods in a
                      name means: “that part of our land             wheelbarrow, hence his name. He
                      which sees the rising sun first”. I            found the gold nugget which started
                      made my base at the charming                   the gold rush to Pilgrims Creek. He
1. Visit to Mpuma-    mountain lodge called “Crystal                 was able to keep his secret quiet for
   langa              Springs” which is situated at the top          only a short while before a second
                      of Robbers pass. Nearby lies the               prospector, William Trafford, discov-
2. Visit to Mpuma-    town of Pilgrims Rest which has                ered the same deposit of gold
   langa (Cont)       been managed as a living museum
                      since 1974                                         Pilgrims Rest was declared a gold
3. Bergendal 110                                                     field on 22 September 1873. The Gold
   years later
                         I now want to share some of the             Commissioner hastily relocated his of-
                      historical background on this de-              fice from Barberton to Pilgrims Rest &
4. Diary of Events
                      lightful little town which I learnt            by the end of that very same year,
                      from Michelle Van Wyk who is a                 there were some 1500 diggers work-
                      tour guide for Brummer Tours                   ing some 4000 claims in & around Pil-
                                                                     grims Rest. (Records show that the
                         A number of insignificant gold              biggest claim allowed was 49 x 49 sq
                      deposits were discovered in the                meters). I saw evidence of excava-
                      north eastern parts of South Africa            tions made by a female digger (page
                      between 1840 and 1875. The first               2). Diggers could work their claims in
         Boksburg     Gold Rush in SA took place in 1873             whatever manner they wished
         Historical   when payable gold was discovered
       Association    on the farm Geelhoutboom near the                 By 1896 many of the tents had
    P O Box 18242     town of Sabie on the Mpumalanga                been replaced by more permanent
     Sunward Park     escarpment                                     buildings, many of which are still
             1470                                                    standing today (page 2)

                                                     Executive Committee 2010-2011
                      Chairman & Webmaster          Phil Beck                        082 467-7805
                      Deputy Chairman & Secretary   Carole Doig                      011 896-2633
                      Treasurer                     Lesley Smith                     011 892-5168
                      Member                        Peter Wood                       011 893-1046
                      Archivist                     Pam Beck                         011 896-3742/084 504 0450
                      Member                        David Stirling                   083 263-3899
               Boksburg & East Rand Historical Association - September 2010 Newsletter

                    My recent visit to Mpumalanga (Continued)
                                                               Cross over the Joubert Bridge in downtown
                                                           Pilgrims Rest & follow the R533 up to the top of
                                                           Robber Pass, about 10 km from town. This road
                                                           follows the same route as the stage coaches and
                                                           transport wagons of yesterday. The road to Rob-
                                                           bers Pass offers some breathtaking views and is
                                                           steeped in history

                                                              In 1899, two masked men held up a Zeeder-
                                                           berg stage coach and robbed it of an estimated
                                                           10,000 pounds worth of gold. These two gents
                                                           were never brought to justice. A second robbery
                                                           took place in exactly the same spot 13 years
                                                           later. The number 13 was an unlucky one for the
                                                           robber, Tommy Dennison, for, not only was his



S
        hortly after the First Boer War, concessions       horse recognised, but he had in the interim paid
        were granted to individuals & companies in         off his debts in town with the previous loot! He
        an effort to stimulate the local economy           was arrested and sentenced to jail for 5 years.
                                                           After serving his time, he returned to Pilgrims
         In 1881, an Englishman named David Ben-           Rest where he was feted as a local celebrity and
jamin obtained the mining rights to Pilgrims Rest          started    a    business   aptly   named     the
and the surrounding areas. He compensated the              “Highwayman’s Garage”
remaining miners for their claims which he then
consolidated into the Transvaal Gold Exploration                                      I linked up with a
Company. Fifteen years later there was second                                     group of tourists to visit
amalgamation and the Transvaal Gold Mining Es-                                    the site of the original
tates Ltd was formed. The original signposting is                                 diggings on the banks of
well preserved                                                                    the creek where, 137
                                                                                  years ago, the old pros-
   Pilgrims Rest had its own independent hydro-                                   pectors dug and panned
electric power supply, well before London. This                                   for gold, hoping to find
plant was situated where the Blyde River and Bel-                                 Utopia – some did and
vedere Stream converge. Sadly the plant has been                                  others didn’t. It is inter-
stripped almost bare. I was told that it is quite                                 esting to recall that most
magnificent in the summer time when the rivers                                    of    the   Witwatersrand
are in full spate                                                                 mining magnates first
                                                                                  tried their luck on the
    The cemetery on the hillock above the village          banks of this creek. In comparison to the open
reflects the cosmopolitan nationalities of the char-       veldt of 137 years ago “the diggings” are now
acters that lived and died on Pilgrims Rest’s gold         surrounded by shady trees. The museum has
fields. Life on the diggings was tough with acci-          erected tents of the period and displays the
dents and diseases being the most common cause             original steam boilers which supplied power to
of death. Some poor unfortunates died from starva-         the conveyors, drive belts and water wheels on
tion, alcoholism, snake bites and others committed         the Gold Commissioner’s digs. They have even
suicide. Health services and safe work practices           erected a facsimile of the gaol tent complete
were non-existent                                          with the original stocks. The visitor can see the
                                                           famous Royal Hotel up the hill where one can
                     An interesting grave in the old       imagine the prospectors celebrating or drowning
                  cemetery is that of the ‘Robber’s        their disappointment
                  Grave’ where an unknown man
                  is interred. He was convicted of            I am informed that there is still ‘plentsch gold
                  robbing tents on the diggings            in dem dar hills’ but the steep slope of the val-
                  and banished. A few days later           leys & concomitant rock formation make it a fi-
                  the thief was spotted on Ceme-           nancially unviable enterprise – this perhaps ex-
                  tery Hill. He was shot and buried        plains why after ‘open-cast’ mining ceased, the
                  facing      north-south     which        shaft sinking practices never took off. Thank
                  branded him as a thief forever           goodness, as the serenity of the area has
                  instead of the normal east-west          thereby been preserved
                  mode of burials

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                Boksburg & East Rand Historical Association - September 2010 Newsletter

                                    Bergendal 110 years later


O
          n Saturday 28th August, five BHA mem-              Monday 27th August saw the conclusion of the
          bers joined up with the Friends of the          Battle. There was no way that Botha’s comman-
          War Museum for an enjoyable bus tour of         dos numbering 4,000 could overcome 19,000
          Bergendal and surrounding areas                 British troops and 60 heavy guns. The ZARPS in
                                                          particular fought gallantly, only abandoning their
                                    We missed by one      positions when overwhelming forces were upon
                                 day the 110th anni-      them
                                 versary of the climac-
                                 tic battle on the Ber-      Bergendal was a watershed event in the Anglo
                                 gendal farm, where       -Boer War, because it finally convinced the Boer
                                 74 Z.A.R. police (the    leadership that conventional warfare tactics could
                                 ZARPS) under the         not prevail: from then on, hit-and-run raid tac-
                                 command of Com-          tics were developed, which kept the War going
                                 mandant Oosthuizen       for another 20 months!
                                 faced a 3-hour artil-
                                 lery bombardment by                                  We were fortunate to have
40 guns dropping 19 shells a minute on the ex-                                     Huffy Pott as our Tour Guide
posed koppie where they sheltered. This was fol-                                   for the day. Huffy is extremely
lowed by an assault carried out by over 1500 Brit-                                 knowledgeable and made the
ish infantry. In spite of this, the ZARPS lost only 12                             entire outing highly interest-
men!                                                                               ing, historically relevant and
                                                                                   enjoyable for us
   There were ac-
tually seven days
of fighting, from
the 21st to the
27th August. On
the 21st Buller’s
Natal Army en-
gaged the Bethal &
Carolina comman-
dos on the farms
Van Wyk’s Vlei &                                                       Wreath-laying at Bergendal Monument
Frishgewaagd. On the following day, the Frishge-
waagd ridges were attacked again & taken

                               At Geluk on the
                               23rd a brisk artil-
                               lery clash took
                               place. A company
                               of Liverpool Regi-
                               ment were deci-
                               mated    by    the
                               Heidelberg Com-            Rifle Brigade memorial                British graves
                               mando. On Friday
                               24th four of the
company were buried here by the Heidelbergers

   All that day fierce fighting took place around
Geluk, with General Buller’s camp coming under
attack from Boer artillery, including a Long Tom

   On Saturday the 25th, Lord Roberts met up with
Buller and decided on strategy. Much shelling and
skirmishes took place. There was also, most un-
usually, an earthquake at midday

   On the 26th, the British Army advanced just
south of Bergendal, under heavy Boer fire
                                                                  Historic farm house behind Monument
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                 Boksburg & East Rand Historical Association - September 2010 Newsletter

                                          Diary of Events
              OUR NEXT MEETING                     and/or weekend tours, please give the Committee
                                                   details of your suggestions. The Committee will
Date:     02 October 2010                          discuss your ideas and, if they have merit, will
Time:     8.30am for 9.00am                        communicate them to the Members. However, the
Venue: The A G Visser House, 35 Van der            Committee will look to the membership to get
          Westhuizen Street, Heidelberg            involved with the planning and execution of
Theme: A G Visser House is now home to the these tours. The Committee will assist where
Tourism, Information and Community Develop- they can, but they can only act as facilitators, not
ment Centre for Lesedi and Heidelberg. It is man- as “gofers”
aged by a young and vibrant couple who are pas-
sionate about preserving our heritage and history.            BIRTHDAYS IN SEPTEMBER
         The idea is for members of the BHA to
meet up and network with members of a newly Congratulations to you all & many happy returns
formed Historical and Heritage Association in Hei-
delberg. Time permitting Leon will be happy to                      CONDOLENCES
take us to a few places in the area which we have
never visited.                                     Our deepest sympathy is extended to Barry de
        There is a coffee bar on the premises. The Villiers on the untimely and tragic demise of his
refreshments will be for your own account          life partner, Rembrandt Strydom

NB: Heidelberg is actually about 30 minutes away Rembrandt played a major role in fostering the
so we will not be travelling in convoy. Please ad- Arts in Boksburg over many years, especially the
vise the Committee members with numbers               Performing Arts. See the next issue of the Boks-
                                                      burg Advertiser for a full article on Rembrandt
               NOVEMBER MEETING
                                                                     GET WELL WISHES
Date:       6th November 2010
Time:       9.00am for 9.30am                            A number of our members have had spells in
Venue: Boksburg High School                           hospital or have had to undergo some very un-
Theme: Tess Uren has arranged for a Belgian pleasant medication and/or have suffered from
Gypsy Lady to relate some stories of her life as a various illnesses. To all of you we wish you a
gypsy, her family’s efforts trying to escape Nazi speedy and full recovery
persecution during WW2 and her account of the
Nuremberg Trials.                                                THE BOKSBURG LAKE DAY
           Jeannette recently addressed BHS pupils
and held them spellbound with her stories                A year ago, at enormous cost, a dredger was
                                                      purchased by the council to clean our Lake. Noth-
                CHRISTMAS FUNCTION                    ing has happened and the machine is lying, possi-
                                                      bly stuck in the water hyacinth, at Kleinfontein
Date:       4th December 2010                         Dam in Benoni.
Time:       To be advised                                Despite the stinky water approximately 260
Venue: Beyers Bungalow                                local school children met at our lake on 17th Sep-
Theme: A Shipwreck Evening                            tember. They tested the water, took samples to
            Peter Wood is liaising with a numisma- test in their laboratories and then with banners
tist to join us and relate the story of a treasure of held high, marched around the lake calling for our
15th century gold doubloons which resurfaced off civic fathers to get a wake up and save our envi-
the coast of Namibia a couple of years ago            ronment and our lake.
                                                       They also planted a number of Fever Trees, ably
                MEETINGS FOR 2011                     assisted by finalists in the Miss Earth competition.
                                                      Our grateful thanks to all who participated in the
Date      Time     Event        Details               day

05 Feb    9:30    Meeting      Members to advise                  COMET MINE ENVIRONS
05 Mar    9:30    Meeting      AGM
                                                          A development company has plans for the
   As you know, the BHA does not currently enjoy        Comet 14 area to become an industrial park. The
the services of a Tour Organiser and all the Com-       Committee were asked for comments and on the
mittee have joined forces to the end of the year.       14th September we toured the area. We will sub-
If you believe that we ought to have more local         mit our comments by the 5th October

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