Die geskiedenis van Wolmaransstad tot met Uniewording, 1910
Coetzer, Johannes Stephanus
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There are two distinct stages in the history of Wolmaransstad before the establishment of the Union of South Africa, viz one before and the other after the Anglo-Boer War. The first stage brought the development of an established farming community and a viable village community with all basic public services required by the population of the district. White settlement in the district dates back to 1823 when missionaries Broadbent and Hodgson of the Wesleyan Missionary Society settled among the Barolong near the present Witpoort. However, their missionary work was terminated in 1825 when they moved with the tribe to the Orange Free State. The Voortrekkers were the next whites to enter and to settle in the Wolmaransstad district in the forties. From 1845 onward they gradually moved westward from Potchefstroom to settle in the present Wolmaransstad district. This stage of settlement was completed around 1870 when all the farms available in the district had been occupied. The Wolmaransstad district was in demand among the Boers because there were very few Blacks in the area and because the climate and the indigenous vegetation of the district were conducive to stock farming. Initially the Boers practised farming mainly for their own sustenance, but as the subdivision of the farms increased and more scientific and intensive farming methods were introduced because of the discovery of diamonds and gold, dry-land farming became more common and mixed farming was introduced in the district. The history of farming in the Transvaal in the nineteenth century is the story of a long battle against all the problems which beset it. The problems of the pioneer days revolved around the process of taming the land and of settling on it. There was great poverty among the Boers which was brought about by the instability and disruption of the Great Trek. In the course of time some were able to overcome this problem, whilst others became labourers and city dwellers. In the pioneer days beasts of prey were a very real menace to the farmers' stock herds but this problem gradually disappeared as the district became settled. The Blacks created a very real problem from the fifties. This poor relationship was a menace to the Boer and his dear ones as well as to his property and it increasingly disrupted his farming activities. Relations between Boers and Blacks became very tense and came to a climax during the Anglo-Boer War when the Blacks joined the British forces against the Boers. Furthermore farming activities were greatly hampered by a shortage of labour. To solve this problem the Boers turned to the Blacks and eventually came to lean so heavily upon them that black labour became an indispensable element of farming activities. Farmers were at a complete loss when many thousands of farm labourers were enticed away from the farms by higher wages after the establishment of the diamond and gold mines in the seventies and eighties. This problem was aggravated by squatting on unoccupied farms and by the rinderpest through which many Blacks lost all their livestock and were driven from the farms to the cities. By the end of the nineteenth century it was the labour shortage which had the most crippling effect on farming. Initially there was no shortage of water but it was gradually brought about by the subdivision of the farms. This problem was not to be solved within the period covered by this thesis. Windmills were introduced and put to general use only after the advent of the Union. During the first few decades farming was severely hampered by the absence of adequate marketing facilities which prevented the transition from sustenance farming to a more specialised form of farming. The possible advantages of markets created by the discovery of diamonds in Kimberley and of gold on the Witwatersrand were offset by the long distances and the bad roads. This problem was felt throughout the nineteenth century. Nature and its elements also created certain farming problems. The farmers of the time were rather defenceless against and in fact often ruined by factors such as prolonged droughts, locusts and plant and stock diseases. The rinderpest alone mowed down more than 30000 head of cattle in the Wolmaransstad district. Many farmers snapped under these losses and were driven off the farms. Then farmers had to face such problems as unfenced farms, the impoverishment of the soil and the shrinking of farms caused by ill-considered subdivision of land. Farmers in the Wolmaransstad district had to face these problems which were very common in the nineteenth century. Some were solved successfully whilst others seemed to get worse. Towards the end of the nineteenth century the total impact of these problems placed the farming community in a precarious position which eventually brought financial ruin to many farmers when coupled with the crippling effect of the Anglo-Boer War on the agricultural industry. Until 1876 when T.S. Leask opened a trading store at Makwassiespruit, farming was the only economic activity in the district. But this introduced a new era in which trading was practised in addition to farming. In effect the opening of the store was the establishment of the town. The store soon became a venue for traders, hunters, farmers and transport riders. And eventually there grew a settlement around the store which by the outbreak of the Anglo-Boer War had become the town of Wolmaransstad. Among the landmarks in this process of development of the town and district were the proclamation of the town in 1891, the proclamation of Wolmaransstad as a separate magisterial district in 1894, the demarcation of district boundaries in 1895, the appointment of a magistrate in 1896 and the building of a gaol and police station in 1896 and 1897 respectively. The first hotel was erected in 1888 followed by the extension of postal amenities through the introduction of a telegraph office in 1889 and money-order facilities in 1891. A health committee was established in 1896 whilst a lawyer and a medical practitioner opened their practices in 1896 and 1899 respectively. In the religious field the people of the district had to rely upon the services of visiting parsons from the three Afrikaans denominations from Potchefstroom. They conducted religious services in the Makwassie area at least once per year to administer the baptism, the Holy Communion and the confirmation. The Rev. D. van der Hoff of the Hervormde Kerk at Potchefstroom played a prominent role in this connection.
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