The golddust dreams were made of…
On 16 August 1886, C J Bornman wrote the magistrate of Kroonstad recording his discovery of gold on his farm” Weltevreden ”…Ik was besig om goud te grawen en ik heb een goud mein gevonden op my plaats, Weltevreden, ik dink ruin so goed als in Transvaal Witwatersrand. Ik heb van de goud die ek uitgewas heef naar Vredefort ter besizteging gestuur en ze verseker dat het goud is en is ook hoogs ingenoomen met de reikheit van het kwarts. Ook self in de zant tusschen de riefte en langers de riefte heb ik stofgoudof vein goud uitgewas…”
Understandably, the Free State Government was very interested and sent the Vredefort Deputy Sheriff, Mr WA Meerholtz, to validate the claim. Although he could not find any gold, he recommended to Mr Bornman that he open his farm to prospectors.
The gold mining activities of the prospectors in the area, captured people’s imaginations in such a way that the then State president, J H Brand decided to pay Vredefort a visit.
On 10 September 1887, Mr DH Marx applied to the Government Secretary to have the farm “ Lindequesfontein” (on the Free State side of the Vaal River) opened as a public digging.
A Mr Johan Hollemans of Potchefstroom investigated the matter and following the completion of a favourable report in this regard, “Lindequesdrift” was proclaimed a public digging on 14 October 1887. Others farms soon followed.
On 1 December 1887 the digging was officially opened and the first claims were hired out ay 10/- per month. Mr H.A. Robinson was named as the first mining inspector.
Right from the start he encountered difficulty in the relations between the landowners and prospectors. This was mainly due to the fact that the majority of the prospectors were foreigners who did not understand the sentimentalities of the landowners. Although these relations only deteriorated, the gold fever ran high. A special postal route was by then justified.
The Official Mail Runner of the Vredefort Dome (1910 -1917)
A weekly official mail runner between Venterskroon ( Transvaal) and Aasvolegrand ( Orange Free State). The contract time to complete the journey on foot across the Vaal River to the Free State was 20 minutes and the Department of Posts and Telegraphs paid the contractor £3 per year. This person, most likely a local inhabitant, had to run with the postal articles from Venterskroon Post Office towards the southeast. He had to cross the Vaal River ( even in flood) and deliver the mail at the Aasvogelrand Postal Agency in the Orange Free State. The rate per round trip amounted to about 1s 2d. The contractor risked being fired by the Department of Posts if the 20 minutes time limit was exceeded.
There are many gold -mining and prospecting sites in the dome area. On the farm in Tygerfontein, near Venterskroon are prospecting holes and trenches, dating to the late 19th century. Sections of exposed gold-bearing reef are visible throughout the area where sites are found.
However, mining in this area did not last long and development ceased within a short period of time. The site contains a number of features spread over a fairly extensive area. They include prospecting holes and trenches, old mine dumps, mine tunnels, refuse middens and the remains of various structures, probably living quarters and other buildings associated with the gold-mining period. These remains are visible on a number of hiking trails in the area.
The small historic town of Venterskroon owe its existence to the gold mining activities in the area. The old mining commissioner’s house which dates back to 1889, today houses a small museum. The Venterskroon site also still contains the Imperial Inn, the schoolmaster’s house, a stable, police station and the jail.