Thursday, March 31, 2016

Mining ancestors in South Africa

Even if your ancestor wasn't a miner per se he may have been involved in one of the many peripheral activities of a mining town like Barberton - running a refreshment or mining equipment store, taking photographs in, perhaps, a travelling studio. Sooner or later every type of person descended on the mining areas, women as well as men. Some famous characters emerged: Cockney Liz, French Bob, Tom McLachlan. 

Natal settler Sydney Turner wrote from Ladysmith to his mother in England:
Everyone here is either on the move or has shares in some Gold Company or other, every man, woman and child seems to me to have gone crazy …I could mention fifty that went up next to penniless twelve months ago and are now millionaires …Of all the motley crews one ever saw or heard of … All the scoundrels of Africa, as well as professional men, soldiers, sailors, tinkers, tailors, poor men, rich men, beggars and thieves are on the march up, and I hear from friends …that Barberton is a Hell-upon-earth …*

After the first rush to Barberton around 1884, richer deposits of gold were found on the Witwatersrand in 1885; Johannesburg was founded. 

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