A description of the history of Barberton Mpumalanga South Africa, and the history of Barberton, with types of accommodation, restaurants, entertainment and tourist attractions and geological "greenbelt" information
Compiled by Louis-John Havemann
I have used among others the author T.V.Bulpin's writings in no small measure to compile this summary
Barberton is a town in Mpumalanga South Africa that is renowned for its historical significance. Once the scene of a hectic gold rush, it now hosts many tourist attractions of an historical nature.
There are many varied types of accommodation in Barberton, ranging from b & b accommodation, to self catering accommodation, to luxury lodges and hotels, to exclusive game lodges and game reserves. The warm hospitality of Barberton's varied accommodation makes for a rewarding stay.
The Barberton Daisy was discovered in 1884 in Barberton by Robert Jameson, after whom it is named: Gerbera Jamesonii.The legendary barmaid Cockney Liz suggested that it be called the "Barberton Daisy"
Barberton was founded in 1884 by the two Barber brothers Fred and Harry and their cousin Graham Barber, from Natal, who found what they called Barber's Reef - a reef so rich that it glittered with gold. A great rush of diggers arrived on the scene and a hotchpotch of shacks, stores and canteens sprang up. On June 1884 David Wilson, mining commissioner of the De Kaap Valley, broke a bottle of gin, champagne being unavailable, over a lump of rock to christen the town, thus launching it on a lively career.
Tom McLachlan first discovered gold in the Kaap Valley in January 1874. It was not economically viable but he stated that if prospected properly then, he believed rich deposits would be found
The speed with which the town of Barberton grew was astonishing. During 1886 Barberton was at the height of its boom. Two stock exchanges traded night and day. Dozens of canteens, liquor shops and music halls competed with the mines to make the greatest profits in town.
Gold was found on the farms Ameide and Oorschot, three to five miles west of the present town of Barberton, forming part of the block of 13 farms constituting "Moodie's" concession - given to him by the Transvaal government for his work surveying a railway route from Delagoa Bay, now Maputo, to Pretoria. The Transvaal government had no money to pay Moodie so he was given 13 farms for his efforts
Henry (Harry) Mitford Barber
Graham Hoare Barber
Fred H. Barber
Auguste Robert known as "FRENCH BOB", discovered gold on the North Kaap River and pegged the first claims at what became James Town in "The Valley of Death" in 1883, this led to the Barberton gold rush.
James Town was named after Ingram James who was the first person to discover alluvial gold in the Noord Kaap River " French Bob" approached Moodie for the right to mine under special privilege as discoverer, which Moodie had no right to grant. He was willing to trade fairly with "French Bob" , but from the other diggers he claimed high licence fees and royalty on gold won. In terms of the Gold Law any licence's were payable to the state and the owner was entitled to half of such licence moneys.
The diggers rightly refused to pay licence's and royalty to Moodie, and also refused to quit working. An impasse ensued and Moodie commissioned Henry Nourse to act on his behalf.
Nourse arrived, but on his way met Fred and Henry Barber and their cousin Graham, all experienced hunters, with a party en route to the hunting veld. They decided to go with Nourse.
The diggers,under the leadership of Henry Culverwell, refused to pay Moodie anything but also refused to quit. Eventually Culverwell and 28 others were arrested and taken to Pretoria where they were charged and acquitted, but Moodie obtained an interdict against them and they had to cease work. Moodie however, had to realize that he himself had no right to mine or permit mining, and it was not until August 1885 that he got a mining concession.
Eventually all the 13 farms of Moodie's Concession were brought within the Zuidkaap Goldfields on 28th May 1889.
Meanwhile, the Barber brothers tried their hands at prospecting, and found payable gold in a creek close to the northern boundary of the Moodie's Concession farm, Brommers, immediately above the present town of Barberton. A gold rush followed, and Barber's Camp became a hive of activity. A Diggers Committee was formed.
THE ARRIVAL OF THE POST COACH 1890
Other towns sprang up, such as , Eureka City. At the height of the rush, Eureka City had a population of 650 men and a handful of women.It was soon even wilder and more lawless than Barberton! It had three hotels, about a dozen canteens, a race track, music hall and some of the flashiest barmaids in the De Kaap Valley. Too much money was spent with too little profit to show for it.
Fraud abounded as thousands of shares were sold in bogus companies.The very richness of the reefs and the presence of two stock markets carried future doom. Within a matter of months the mining operations were hopelessly overcapitalised. Meanwhile the gold rush in the Witwatersrand started and disappointed prospectors started leaving Barberton and Eureka City for richer fields. One by one the bars, gambling dens, music halls, and the two stock exchanges closed down. Barberton became virtually a ghost town and Eureka City was abandoned.
Some companies like Sheba remained and carried Barberton through this difficult period. Eureka City's ruins lie high in the hills on the north eastern side of the De Kaap Valley. A track from Barberton takes visitors to the site, but there is not a single inhabitant.
The Market Square was the centre of the town's life. Farmers would come to town spend the night, sell their produce the next day and then leave. Their wagons were left unattended when they were in town and it was accepted that anything on the wagons was safe. Goods started disappearing and soon the culprit, a Chinaman, was caught stealing. He was dragged to a Marula tree and hanged by his neck. Pat Murphy the local policeman rushed to the scene and cut him loose. The Chinaman fled and was never seen again in Barberton.
THE MARKET SQUARE WAS THE CENTRE OF BARBERTON'S ACTIVITIES
Places of historical interest in Barberton include the Lewis and Marks Building, the first double storey structure in Transvaal. The Gold Stock exchange 1887), Fernlea House (1893), Belhaven and Stopworth House (1886). The Barberton Museum, on Pilgrim's Street, houses displays excellent exhibits on aspects of early life in Barberton.
THE MARKS AND LEWIS BUILDING
This photo which for many years was thought to be her, is in fact a photo of an actress playing the part of Cockney Liz in a play in 1926.
Barmaid beauties such as Florrie,Trixie the "GOLDEN DANE" and "COCKNEY LIZ" were the centre of a wild and hectic night life. Cockney Liz's favourite trick that brought her fame was to parade on a billiard table before her customers and would then put herself up for auction to the highest bidder.
One successful bidder bid 96 Kimberley Imperial Gold Mining Company shares valued at 805. He over celebrated his good fortune and passed out alone on the bar floor. He did not get his shares back.
Liz was the talk of the town and her hairstyles were copied by many young teenage girls, much to the consternation of their mothers.
The stage carrying pay to the Sheba Mine was robbed of 4000. This was made up of gold and silver coins. The stage was straining up the road in Elephants Kloof when it was held up by two armed men. They tied up the driver and his assistant, cut the horses loose and shot them.
The two robbers then left with the money. They cached the silver and took only the gold. To this day the silver has never been recovered and no trace of it has ever been found. It was not far from this point in 1899, that a certain Mr. Edwards shot the last elephant seen in Elephants Kloof.
BRINGING IN THE GOLD FROM SHEBA MINE
Liz got married to Alfred Scribbens, was forced in to adultery and paying bribes to keep information from her husband. When the truth came out, was divorced and died in Cape Town and was buried in a pauper's grave in Maitland Cemetery.
The small town of Barberton offers a surprising variety of restaurants and entertainment. Well worth a visit are the old mines, the beautiful scenic drives and the museum. Barberton, in Mpumalanga Province of South Africa, is often called the "Jewel of Lowveld". Though surrounded by the Mkonjwa Mountains, the town itself is just 877m above sea level and offers a very beautiful scenic view to all tourists. This town is older than the city of Johannesburg.
There is an interesting museum in Barberton depicting the history, GEOLOGY and archeology of the Barberton area.
The Bulembu Pass, a short distance south of town is one of the most outstanding scenic routes in Mpumalanga. Something of interest in the Barberton area is the Barberton Indigenous Tree Park, where about 100 species of trees grow. The park is traversed by the Fortuna Mine Trail, a circular walk of 2 km, which should not be missed.
Belhaven House, Lee Road. Belhaven, built in 1904, is an example of a pre-fabricated house with corrugated iron outer walls and pressed iron panels on the interior. It is furnished in the style of the late Victorian and early Edwardian periods, and depicts the lifestyle of a wealthy middle class family.
Stopforth House, 18 Bowness Street. The original house and outbuildings were constructed in 1886 by James Stopforth, a Baker and General Dealer, originally from England, and later from Pilgrims Rest. In 1892 the house was rebuilt. It was occupied by the Stopforth family from 1886 until 1983 and is furnished with the original furniture and household articles used by the Stopforth family between 1886 and 1914
Blockhouse, corner of Judge and Lee roads. The fort dates from 1901, and is an example of the earliest design of the blockhouse constructed by the British in South Africa. During the time of the Anglo-Boer war the British built it as a position of defense against the Boer forces. It was manned by the Barberton Town Guard which consisted of local volunteers under the command of J W Winter.
Fernlea House, Lee Road. This wood and iron house was built for Mrs. Emily Fernandez in the early 1890's. She married Mr. Thomas Lee, who had a Photography and Drapery Business in Barberton. The building now houses an exhibition mainly about Rimers Creek and the restoration of the building.
The first stock exchange was built on the corner of Market Square, and was later destroyed by fire.
The De Kaap Exchange, a brick building, the second Stock Exchange in the Transvaal, was built in Pilgrim Street.
Only the facade (Right) remains today and it is a national monument.
Photo left and information by courtesy of www.barberton.info/museum_house.htm and Barberton Museum.
Barberton was for some years, the home of Percy Fitzpatrick, the author of the classic book, "Jock of the Bushveld".
Sir Percy Fitzpatrick wrote Jock of the Bushveld in Europe in 1905 while recuperating from a persistent illness he had first contracted in Pretoria Central Prison, where he had been incarcerated for his role in the Jamison Raid and Reform Committee against the Transvaal Republic.
In front of the town hall of Barberton is a bronze statue of "Jock of the Bushveld".
The lounge of the Impala Hotel has a "Jock of the Bushveld" frieze.
SIR PERCY FITZPATRICK
Sir Percy Fitzpatrick worked as a "Transport Rider" through the Lowveld, along the Old Delagoa Road, which was used between May and September (the dry disease-free winter months) by transport riders from the Lydenburg Goldfields (Spitzkop, Mac Mac, Pilgrim’s Rest and Lydenburg and Barberton) to Delagoa Bay, then Lourenco Marques now Maputo.
It was this route that served as the setting for many of Jock’s adventures.
This road, known as “The Old Transport Road” dated back to 1844 when Andries Potgieter and a party of Boer horseman were tasked with finding a practical route between the Ohrigstad area and the port city of Delagoa Bay.
The book tells of the adventures that immortalised Jock of the Bushveld as a legend of the Lowveld.
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