Short History of the Area


The area in which the estate is located is known in general terms as the Bankenveld, a transitional zone separating the rolling plains of the Highveld in the south from the flat land of the Middelveld and Bushveld in the north. The Bankenveld consists of a series of ridges and valleys extending east-west. The major ridge in the region around the development site is the Bronberg, known (from previous archaeological and historical research) to be rich in Stone Age artefacts, Iron Age artefacts and sites and colonial sites such as graves, farmsteads and fortifications.

 

Habitation of the larger geographical area took place since Stone Age times. This is confirmed by the occurrence of stone tools dating to the Middle and Late Stone Age found in a number of places. Stone Age tools associated with the Middle Stone Age are common in the area, especially along the spruits where they cut through poorts and valleys and at the lower parts of the ridges and mountains. These indicate that the area was inhabited and exploited by humans as far back as about 100 000 years ago. Stone Age rock engravings occur on the neighbouring farm Mooiplaats 367 JR.

 

Evidence of the presence of Early Iron Age pastoral communities in the Bankenveld about AD 350 is confined to a few sites, including Broederstroom. The entire Early Iron Age community left the Bankenveld about AD 600. The Bankenveld was again occupied some 400 years later by Middle Iron Age communities and from AD 1200 by Tswana-speaking communities who dominated the Oori (Crocodile River) region. This region prospered due to an abundance of natural resources (water, vegetation, building materials, iron ore) and also served as the interchange between two major trade routes of the time.

 

Many sites dating to the Late Iron Age are found in the larger geographical area. Some of them can be related to the Tswana-speakers, whereas others to the Manala Ndebele-speakers. On Kleinfontein and other farms there used to be a composite Manala settlement known as Embilaleni. Kleinfontein included a group of villages known as Esibayeni, meaning In the cattle kraal. According to the literature, no Manala spokesperson was able to clarify the etymology and possible location of this settlement.

 

The Iron Age sites tend to cluster in the Bronberg as well as on the more open flatlands, especially in areas where outcrops (dolerite, etc.) occur. It is possible, although not yet proven, that this difference can be linked to the settlement difference between the Sotho and Ndebele.

 

This period of relative prosperity ended through environmental degradation, overpopulation, local conflict and widespread upheaval perpetuated by the reign of the Matabele in the 1820s and 1830s and the permanent settlement of the Voortrekkers in the 1840s.

 

The first white colonists who settled in the Bronberg area came for very much the same reasons as the Iron Age groups: water and grazing for cattle, water for crop-farming, trees, thatching grass, clay for making bricks and pots, mild climate, wildlife and the presence of the mountains as shelter and protection.

 

However, the principal goal of the Voortrekkers who ventured over the Vaal River was to establish their independence and security. The area claimed by the Voortrekkers after the conquest of Mzilikazi was demarcated at a public meeting on 16 October 1840 held in Potchefstroom. Initially, the areas of Suikerbosrant (Heidelberg), Schoonspruit (Klerksdorp), Mooirivier (Potchefstroom) and Magaliesberg, all within limits of the original claim of 1840, were the most popular locations for settlements, but by 1855 settlements had been established beyond the originally claimed area.

 

Burghers selected farms (such as Kleinfontein and then provided a description of the farm to the local landdrost, who noted the detail in a registration book and gave the claimant a copy. Claimed land then had to be inspected before a title and deed were issued. Since the registration of land entailed registration costs and annual land taxes, it was often delayed as long as possible. As a result, the registration of land claimed on the basis of burgher rights continued well into the 1890s.

 

The Kleinfontein Ridge was occupied by an advanced Boer force commanded by General Tobias Smuts during the Battle of Diamond Hill (11-12 June 1900). These forces faced the City Imperial Volunteers and the 32nd Infantry Brigade commanded by Maj-Gen Bruce Hamilton. On the first day of this battle these British forces succeeded in driving the Boer forces commanded by Smuts from their positions. 

Dr Robert de Jong

 

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Boschkop, Pretoria, Gauteng, South Africa

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