Orange Free State



Route: Pretoria - Rustenburg - Zeerust - Lictenberg - Barberspan - Schweizer-Reneke - Christiana - Bloemfontein (Baden Baden) - Welkom - Kroonstad - Sasolberg - Vereeniging

Rustenberg was established in 1851 and the name means "place of rest".

It was the second Dutch Reformed Church parish in the Transvaal. It grew as the church and administrative centre for the farming area which produced citrus, tropical and sub-tropical fruits, cattle, tobacco, groundnuts, maize and wheat.

In 1852 Rustenberg was the scene of a meeting at which two rival Voortrekker leaders, Andries Henrick Potgieter and Andries Pretorius settled their differences.

We probably only passed through this town. But a farm northwest of Rustenberg, Boekenhoutfontein, was a home of President Paul Kruger. A cottage on the farm is Transvaal's oldest pioneer house, dating back to 1841.

Zeerust is a cattle ranching town which apparently looked like something out of the American Wild West back in its heyday. It was established in 1864 when Casper Coetzee had a church and fort built on his farm. Coetzee died before the completion of the buildings and the town which grew around them was called Coetzee's Rest, or Zeerust, in his memory.

I am not sure whether we went to Mafeking which is not far from Zeerust. Mafeking is remembered for the siege that took place in the Anglo-Boer War in 1899-1900 when the Boers held the town.
Colonel RSS Baden-Powell was the British commander and it was during the siege that he came up with the idea of the Boy Scouts, when he noted that the small boys of Mafeking were almost as tough as their fathers. To keep them out of mischief Baden-Powell gave them non-combatant tasks to do and thus his idea of the Boy Scouts was born.

It is also the place where tribal warfare took place amongst the Rolong tribe.

Both sides recruited European mercenaries and some wild individuals, known as free-booters, joined the tribesmen.

Rewards from the tribal chiefs consisted of farms and the result was the creation of a miniature republic named Goshen, with Rooigrond as its capital.

31kms away from Mafeking is a sinkhole known as the Wondergat, meaning "wonder hole". Legend has it that it was used as an execution place by Mzilikazi.

Lichtenburg meaning "town of light" was named by President Thomas Burgers in 1873.

Thirty three years later diamonds were found and the town became the scene of the diamond rush.

In 1926Jacobus Voorendyk found a single diamond while digging fence holes. Within a year over 108,000 fortune hunters appeared on the scene.

The diggers created so much dust that cars had to keep their headlights on during the day. Not everyone made a fortune though.

In days gone past, a river had meandered through the plains and at some point had picked up the diamonds. The river eventually disappeared leaving the diamonds in gravel pits along its course.

In some parts diamonds were as numerous as the riverbed stones, but in others, there was none.

The diamond fields are better known by the nearby town Kimberley.

The "Big Hole" as is it known, is as deep as two heights of the JG Stijdom Tower, and most of the fields are owned by De Beers Consolidated Mines which was set up by Cecil Rhodes.

In 1888 Rhodes bought out his partner Barney Barnato and gave him a cheque for 5,338,650.

At Barberspan there is a lake and a nature reserve. We may have camped here. But in all probability we just passed through the area.

Schweizer-Reneke was named are two soliders, Captain CA Schweizer and Field-cornet GN Reneke, who died in a government skirmish in 1885 on a rustler"s hideout in the hills called Massouskop near the Harts River.

The walls of the rustler"s camp can still be seen on the summit of the hill.

Christiana was named after the daughter of President Marthinus Pretorius. Again diamonds were discovered in the area in 1870.

There are prehistoric rock engravings in the nearby Stowlands area and 6kms out of town there are some mineral springs.

Bloemfontein is the judicial capital of South Africa and the provincial capital of the Orange Free State.

Its name means "flower fountain" from a fountain-like spring which surfaces and where Voortrekkers camped with their wagons.

The tribespeople called it Mangaung which means "place of leopards".

The first European to settle in the area was Johannes Brits in 1840, and in 1846 he sold his farm to the British appointed Major HD Warden who built a small fort.

In 1848 the pioneers became uneasy about submitting to British rule and sent a commando force to the fort. Warden was forced to leave and went back to the Cape with his small group.

Three months later he returned with an army and defeated the Voortrekkers who were being led by Andries Pretorius. He re-established the fort and the British continued to control the Orange River Sovereignty until 1854 when the British became dissatisfied with the territory and handed it back to the Voortrekkers.


The Voortrekkers set up a volksraad (peoples council) and raadzaal (council chamber).

The new state became under constant attack by the Sotho, and the state's president Josias Hoffman was accused of high treason for giving Moshoeshoe, the paramount chief of the Sotho, a gift of a barrel of gunpowder as a token of peace and friendship.

In those days, the plains around Bloemfontein was teeming with wildlife. The sound of lions roaring at night was commonly heard and hyenas and jackals scavenged the streets.

The city has several reminders of the Anglo-Boer War. The British White Regiment had their camp on the hill which overlooks the city and built a replica of the famous White Horse which is in Wiltshire, England.

And the National Women's Memorial was built in memory of the 26,370 South African women and children who died in the British concentration camps during the Anglo-Boer War.

The original Coat of Arms was designed in 1854.

The governor of the Cape, Sir George Grey commissioned a design dominated by a wild olive tree (symbolising liberty) with 3 sheep resting in its shade (symbolising patience), a lion (symbolising courage), and an oxwagon (symbolising the Great Trek).

It was hung in the council chamber until the Anglo-Boer War when it was taken to Britain by Lord Roberts as a souvenier.

It was changed in 1910 when the four colonies (the Cape, Natal, the Transvaal, and the Orange Freestate) joined to form the Union of South Africa and each of the provinces are represented in the corners of the shield.

There are some lakes and mineral springs at Baden Baden where we went on a caravan rally.

Welkom was created in 1947 and lies in an area of gold mining claims.



Kroonstad was a place we just passed through. It was named after a horse called Kroon which means "Crown" which drowned in a pothole in a stream afterwards known as Kroonspruit.

Kroonstad itself stands on the banks of the Vals River which means "deceitful or false".

Sasolberg is a town which sprung up around the petro-chemical industry. Sasol is the abbreviation of South African Coal, Oil and Gas Corporation and stands on a vast coal field.

31 May 1928 - 27 Apr 1994

Route: Vereeniging - Potchefstroom - Klerksdorp - Wolmeranstad - Schweizer-Reneke - Vryburg

Potchefstroom was the former capital of South Africa. It was founded by the Voortrekker leader Andries Hendrick Potgieter after his victory in the Nine Days Battle with the Matabele.

In 1837 the Matabele shocked the Voortrekkers with a mounted cavalry charge using specially trained oxen.

The oxen had been trained to use their horns to rip into the flanks of the Voortrekkers horses.

5 days beforehand Andries Hendrik Potgieter had mustered a force of 330 men and set out to defeat the troublesome Mzilikazi. There were a few bitter battles in which the Matabele suffered heavy losses and their villages were left in flames.

On the 6th day Mzilikazi charged with his cavalry of oxen. The battle was wild but the clamour and the smell of blood was too much for the oxen and they stampeded, goring and trampling their masters in the process.

The Voortrekkers chased the Matabele army northwards and Mzilikazi fled across the Limpopo River where he re-established his tribe.

Thereafter that part of the country was known as Matabeleland; and later, when Cecil Rhodes came, Rhodesia.

In 1867 the German geologist Karl Gottlieb Mauch came to Potchefstroom from a trip into the wilds and claimed he had discovered the legendary golden Ophir of Solomon and Sheba, a vast ancient gold field scarred with abandoned mine workings.


Fortune hunters poured in from all over the world but gold was never found in the area.

Mauch won prizes for his gold and mineral specimens at the agricultural show but he never discovered any payable deposits from his prospects.

He returned to Germany in 1872 penniless where he died in 1875.

A few years later the gold was found - at Witwatersrand.


Gold Rushes

The first shot of the Anglo-Transvaal War was fired at Potchefstroom in 1881 when 500 Republicans rode into the town and occupied the printing works.

The British soldiers tried to throw them out but a gun battle ensued and the British had to retreat to the Old Fort which was besieged for 3 months.

Potchefstroom is near the Mooi River which has a leisure resort with boating, fishing, and a campsite.

Klerksdorp was a quiet rural town until the discovery of gold in 1886.

The diggers and traders came in their thousands.

However the gold needed complex recovery techniques and so most diggers abandoned the field.


Today with modern technology Klerksdorp is a major producer of gold and uranium; and is also an important farming centre with the second largest grain co-operative in the world.

There are pre-historic rock engravings at Bosworth 18kms north of the town.

Wolmaranstad is named after JMA Wolmarans who was a member of the volksraad. The stream that flows through the town is known as the Makwasi which means "wild spearmint".

Vryburg is in the Cape Province and the name means "town of freedom".

It was the capital of a roughneck republic called Stellaland.

Stellaland was a block of ranches that mercenaries had received as payment for their help in the tribal wars between the Tlapin and the Korana in 1882.

The mercenary farmers designed their own flag and printed their own postage stamps (which are collectors pieces).

However, the Transvaal Republic and the British government in the Cape refused to tolerate frontier disturbances and a force was sent to remove the "filibusters" from Bechuanaland (Botswana) and occupied the land in 1885.

The flag was sent to Queen Victoria in England and hung in Windsor Castle until 1934.


 1882 - 1883
In its heyday Vryburg was a roaming ground for cattle rustlers and horse thieves and the jail built at the town saw many of the tough customers.

One of them was Scotty Smith, who was a smuggler, horse, thief and frontier fighter.

Scotty was known as the Robin Hood of South Africa. He came to the country in 1877 and joined the Frontier Armed and Mounted Police and served in the Ninth Frontier War and the Griqua Rebellion.


When peace came Scotty got bored and deserted. He became a gun runner, illicit diamond buyer and horse rustler. Leitland's Pan was his main stronghold. He was respected by the Bushmen, who acted as his trackers and informed him of the movements of the police. Whenever he was caught he always managed to escape.

Scotty fought the Germans when they were trying to subdue the tribes of South West Africa; the Boers in the Anglo-Boer War; and during the First World War he ran an intelligence service against the Germans of South West Africa. Scotty died in 1919 during an influenza epidemic.


Important Boer Men (Anglo Boer War)

Sable Artist Joan Beuche



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