This was followed by finds to the south, with the accompanying establishment of raucous settlements. Among the wildest was Eureka City atop a hill near Barberton, which began when Durban businessman J Sherwood opened the Queen of Sheba Hotel named in honour of his famously ugly wife who was jokingly compared to the impossibly beautiful monarch of legend.
Soon there was a racetrack and innumerable saloons that radiated light, music and gunshots by night. Most popular was the Red Light Canteen where Cockney Liz was auctioned every Saturday night.
And ‘gold fever’ was even more evident at Jamestown near Barberton and Steynsdorp in the Umhlondosi valley on the Swaziland border. But the end came quickly, and by 1887 the prospectors had left for the new finds on the Witwatersrand to the west and the Murchison Range to the north.
In 1886 Auguste Robert, known as French Bob, found a rich seam in the Murchison Range round
Schoemansdal was a renegade town
present day Gravelotte. These diggings came to be known as the Selati Gold Fields and a new rush started for French Bob’s Camp, which was changed to Leydsdorp in 1890 after Transvaal state secretary WJ Leyds.
Here the excesses of the other mining towns were magnified as canteens, bars and hotels sprang up overnight. And the swindling was so bad that a new saying emerged: ‘You get a liar, a damn liar, and a prospector of the Murchison Range.’
As the gold petered out so Leydsdorp died and by 1924 it too was a ghost town. Now the busiest part is the well-populated graveyard which is said to come alive at night.
67 mths ago