The Prince Albert goldfields, 1891

The first nugget found at the goldfields, 50km from Prince Albert in 1871, was dug up by an aardvark. This nugget, found in an aardvark hole on Spreeuwfontein, a farm belonging to Mr Lodewyk Bothma, weighed 2,5 oz. It was rounded, water worn and had a few crystals adhering to it.   No further finds were made until 1891 when a shepherd picked up a nugget weighing 6 dwt 23 grms on the neighboring farm Klein Waterval.  This news spread like wildfire and on August 4, 1891, 19 050 morgen on the farm Spreeuwfontein were made available for purchase.  Soon 500 people had arrived, 1 042 claims were staked and registered and digging began at a feverish pace.  By September 20, 1891, a further 3 898 morgen were added to the public diggings.  All in all, 504 oz of gold were found at these diggings. The largest quantity found by one man was 100 oz, and this came from the claim of Mr P H du Plessis, the original prospector. Mrs Ruby Muller, mother of Louis Muller, owner of Klein Waterval, wrote in her diary:  “Mr du Plessis sent away samples for which he got a few thousand pounds”.  Du Plessis received £5 000 – an enormous sum in those days. It was an exciting time and Lodewyk Bothma immediately began planning a town on Spreeufontein.  He aimed to call it Gatsplaas because of the first nugget being found in an aardvark hole.  His enthusiasm for the project was shared by N J Gillet, who wrote; “There is no word in our language expressive enough to convey an idea of the richness of the Prince Albert Goldfields.” Gillet was a driving force behind the plans for the town.  It was rapidly created. It had two shops, a hotel and a post office.”  A house in present-day Prince Albert is called The Ark and it was built from wood initially used to build the hotel at Gatsplaas.

© Rose’s Roundup, September 2011 (No 211)

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