Discovery of Gold in Benoni

Excerpt from the Book
“Benoni – A Golden Anniversary For A Golden City”.

he First Anglo-Boer War came and went, much to the relief, happiness and pride of the Boer, but then in 1886, a little piece of our basins’ rim of compressed conglomerate or Banket, as the Dutch later called it, (a slice of the conglomerate often looks like an appetizing slice of Dutch confectionary of this name) was literally stumbled-upon on the widow Oosthuizens’ farm in the Langlaagte valley in modern day Johannesburg by a certain Mr. George Harrison.

He was an Australian handyman/prospector who had just completed some building work on the widow’s farm yet he knew from experience the true glitter of gold when he saw it and the broken lump of rotten conglomerate that he had, through clumsiness, un-earthed with his boot atop a nearby hill glistened indeed!

And so it was that the Witwatersrand gold rush was precipitated and which of course brought in an even larger flood of ‘Uitlanders’ to add to those already there at the Barberton and Pilgrim’s Rest gold rushes and all keen to make a their fortunes from this new, apparent Golden Goose. This was much to the chagrin of the poor old Boer who simply wanted to be left alone in peace and quiet (remember?) and this, for reasons of great jingoism, greed, inflexibility, British Imperialist expansion policies and plain stupidity from both sides, eventually led to the miseries, treacheries, braveries and tragedies that became the Second Anglo-Boer War between 1899 and 1902: a far more serious and wretched affair than the First.

This infamous war brought about some obviously detrimental effects upon Benoni which are mentioned later in this book.

By early 1887 the reef had been followed by prospectors (some attribute this to a Mr. Charles Knox) to outcrops on the Kleinfontein, Vlakfontein and Modderfontein farms and to that same piece of ‘uitvalgrond’ that had been named Benoni by Mr. Rissik. In the meantime, it had been leased, in 1885, to a Mr. Ethelbert W. Noyce by the Republican Government. There was a clause in this lease however that stated that should gold be discovered on the property, Mr. Noyce’s lease would be cancelled; and it was here, ironically, in the North-Eastern corner that gold was discovered early in 1887 after which the Benoni farm was duly proclaimed as public diggings but, due to a dispute, only considerably later on the 9th May 1888. Nevertheless, the intrepid Mr. Noyce became, with backing from Natal, one of the directors the Benoni Gold Mining Company which pegged claims on the farm and which became promulgated as a company in September 1887.

This was the first registered gold mine in the Benoni area.

The ‘Four Farms of Benoni’, namely Rietfontein, and portions of Kleinfontein and Vlakfontein and the Modderfontein farms were soon also proclaimed as public diggings, the first three in 1888 but the latter only in 1894, again due to an Owner/Governmental dispute.