A PICTORIAL HISTORY, GESKIEDENIS IN BEELD
An Exciting Start!
Man’s Love of gold, his ability to extract it from ore and to work this precious metal is as old as his history.
The history of gold in the eastern Transvaal started in 1868, when Carl Mauch, a German teacher and amateur prospector, first discovered gold bearing rocks beyond Lydenburg. His discoveries were verified by prospectors such as Max Lachian, Valentine, Button and others who came later.
Gold was discovered ins the Pilgrim’s Rest valley by Alec ‘Wheelbarrow’ Patterson in 1873. He was a lone wolf digger who roamed through the eastern Transvaal with all his belongings on a wheelbarrow, searching for gold. He was to be richly rewarded for his discovery which would inevitably lead to a rush to the area. Thus Patterson kept his discovery secret. It was only after William Traford had also discovered gold in the area that the news of the discovery spread across the world. An old legend has it that Trafford shouted in his excitement, ‘ The pilgrim is at rest’ His exclamation echoed through the mountains as Prilgrim’s Rest hence the name.
The area was officially proclaimed a gold field on 22 September 1873. It proved to be so rich in alluvial gold that to cope with the number of diggers and claims, the Gold Commissioner’s office moved to Pilgrim’s Rest from Mac Mac in 1874. Only one year after the discovery of gold 1 500 diggers were working their own claims. The Hills surrounding the valley were also rich in gold and the biggest finds were at Jubilee, Ponleskrrantz, Desiree, Brown’s Hill, Bourke’s Luck, Poverty Creek and Starvation Gulch.
For the first decade after the proclamation the mining activities centred mainly on recovering alluvial gold from the streams. Alluvial gold was panned in streams such as the Pilgrim’s Creek, with sluice boxes and cradles. Gold was eventually recovered from even the banks of creeks. Alluvial gold or gold dust and gold nuggets worth an estimated R2 million were mined by this method.
As deposits of alluvial gold petered out the prosperity of the alluvial diggers declined The British annexation of the Transvaal in 1877 and the First War of Independence in 1880 – 1881 brought the recovery of gold virtually to a standstill. The Transvaal regained her independence in 1881 but the war resulted in a depression, in an effort to stimulate industries, the re-instated Republican government instituted a policy of granting exclusive concessions to individuals or companies. In many areas of the economy, including the mining sector, this would mean the end of the small operator, for future enterprises would require capital and sophisticated machinery.