Vaal Triangle History

1889 - 1902


Klip Power Station

William Stow




1939 - 1945

Peace Negotiations



Vereeniging History

  By 1882, there was a large enough population and sufficient development in the area of the coal mines to justify the establishment of a town, and the company applied to the Transvaal Government for permission to lay out a village on the farms Leeuwkuil and Klipplaatdrift.
  The Volksraad's executive council, on July 4, 1882, approved the township plans and the name chosen for the village: "Vereeniging", the last word of the company's title which in Dutch means association or society. In terms of the Volksraad's resolution, which was subsequently expanded, on December 23, 1889, the State Secretary signed the final document which defined in stilted Hollands the Government's share in land and revenue and the company's rights. The plan for the town was drawn up by Johan Rissik and it was surveyed and pegged out by E. Jorissen. Each erf measured 200 feet by 100 feet. Four acres were reserved for a market place in the centre of the village, a thousand morgen for a commonage and three acres for a cemetery.
  Initially, very few stands were sold because, according to Dr. T. N. Leslie, "the public had been bitten too often with widely advertised sales of townships which were duds" when land was offered and bought indiscriminately in Johannesburg and on the Reef during the 'gold rush' on the Witwatersrand. Through the lack of interest the sale was with­drawn. However, in 1892, township erven had been sold by public auction "between the chains", a cordoned-off street area in Johannesburg which was the forerunner of the Stock Exchange. In April of that year, the attorneys representing the Zuid-Afrikaansche en Oranje Vrijstaatsche Steenkool en Minerale Mijn 'Associatie' - the new style the company had adopted to avoid confusion with the town 'Vereeniging' - wrote to State Secretary Leyds:
  "Some days ago between 200 and 300 erven in the newly-established village of Vereeniging were sold, and people are already busy building on them. This fact in itself is sufficient to prove that the village has a fine future, if this were not already made plain by the great expansion which
the village has experienced in a short time."
  The town was laid out on the grid pattern, with wide streets running north to south and avenues east to west. The
avenues were numbered in the American fashion, but later most of them were renamed after an equal number of prominent English and Dutch South Africans.
Leslie described the site chosen in these words: "... the town of Vereeniging is laid out on the filled up bed of an ancient lake which, when full of water, extended from Houtkop to Viljoensdrift Station. It was fed by the Vaal River then at a much lower level. As the river gradually wore away the bar (situated downstream), and carved its bed deeper, the lake filled up and finally left an almost level surface."
  He sketched a pen picture of the surrounding area. "Over the dry, bare veld, only the harsh grating scream of the kiewiet could be heard, and as there were few houses there were no sparrows, but the swallows plastered every available building or rock face with their nests, deserting them, even when they contained young, when the day came for their flight to the north. In secluded places near the pools in the river could be seen the gigantic nests of the hammerkop, the bird itself being not in the least shy. The repulsive bare-headed vultures were common, either soaring on the look-out for a carcass, or at their filthy work of tearing a dead ox or horse to pieces. Of animals, there were warrens of the meerkat ... in profusion; hares were plentiful, and in the dry months troops of buck came to the Vaal River to drink."
  Two events of importance had already occurred in 1890: C. H. L. van Trotsenburg, chief of the telegraphic department in Pretoria, had authorised the opening of a telegraph office in the village and agreement was reached between the Orange Free State and the Cape governments to construct, within two years, a railway extension from Bloemfontein to Viljoensdrift. The station was to be sited just under two miles south of the drift itself which was to feature in numerous events of consequence in the history of Vereeniging and South Africa.
  The importance of Viljoensdrift as a point of entry into the Transvaal from the south had been established much earlier. Hans Viljoen had inserted an announcement in the first "Staats Courant" of the South African Republic, published in the old capital of Potchefstroom on December 18, 1857, stating "that he has a Ferry on the Vaal River, on the farm named Witkop (the property of his father, Stephanus Viljoen)
 Chapter 2: The Township of Vereeniging is Proclaimed.
Page 6