Below is a wonderful article compiled some time ago by the team from the Boksburg and East Rand Historical Association. It looks at the fascinating first decade of Boksburg's existence. [Main image - Boksburg Post Office]
Prior to 1860, the present municipal area of Boksburg and its immediate environs comprised mainly the highveld farms called Leeuwpoort, Klippoortje, Klipfontein and Driefontein. Carl Ziervogel bought the farm Leeuwpoort in 1875 and for 300 morgen of barren, rocky veld he paid £75. In September 1886 Pieter Killian, a young Afrikaans prospector, discovered quartz reefs on Leeuwpoort. He also discovered quartz reefs on the farm Vogelfontein, named after Adolf Vogel.
Samples of the quartz were sent to Pretoria for assaying, which confirmed the presence of gold. Killian advised Dr W.E. Bok, Secretary of State for the Transvaal Republic, of the results of the assay. The result was the proclamation, on the 10th March 1887, of the two farms as public diggings. Carl Ziervogel, who had been trying to sell Leeuwpoort, now opened the first gold mine on the East Rand, the Ziervogel Gold Mining Company. Cornish miners were brought out to work the diggings.
Unfortunately, it soon transpired that heavy expenditure was necessary for development, and as the Directors were unable to finance this, the mine closed down. Mr Abe Bailey of the Barnato Group, which owned the Johannesburg Consolidated Investment Company (JCI), bought the farm Leeuwpoort in 1894 for £100,000. The mynpacht was controlled by JCI. who established E.R.P.M. Ltd. JCI also developed many residential suburbs over the years.
Gold was also found at Elsburg, 8km to the southwest. Elsburg was a recognized stopping point for coaches and wagon traffic. The first Government offices were at Elsburg and what was to become Boksburg was but a suburb of Elsburg. With the real centre of mining being centred on Boksburg, however, soon President Paul Kruger ordered that a new town be laid out to accommodate the miners. Land for the new town was released by having the boundaries of the farms Leeuwpoort, Driefontein and Klipfontein moved back from where they met. The newly-created farm was called Vogelfontein, on which 1000 stands of 50x50 feet each were created. The new town of Boksburg was named after Dr Bok. In 1887 the first auction sale of stands took place, at which prices of £5 to £25 were realized.
Also in 1887 the Republican Government built the Post Office and the Mining Commissioner’s office. Business and residential properties began to be built in the fledgling town in its first year of existence.
In 1888 coal deposits were discovered right on the boundary of the new town, and here coal was first mined in the Transvaal. This started an era of company promotion and syndicate formation, with ground fetching high prices. Enterprises of all kinds were set up and Boksburg began to emerge from a mining camp atmosphere to a fully-fledged town. Coal ensured that the gold mining industry would grow to a formidable size.
The first coal mine was called Gauf’s Mine after the Manager Mr J.L. Gauf. Others were the Good Hope, Ferndale and many more. There now arose a pressing need for a more sophisticated coal distribution system than using teams of ox wagons. The mine owners strongly advocated a railway line between Johannesburg and Boksburg, but this was opposed by the waggoneers. President Kruger managed to persuade the Volksraad to approve the building of a “tram” line, ostensibly to transport passengers only! The Rand Tram (so named as to appease the transport riders) opened in 1890, between Johannesburg’s Park station and Boksburg station. The line was subsequently extended to Brakpan and Springs, where large deposits of superior quality coal had been discovered. Also, deposits of high grade fireclay were discovered in Boksburg, which gave impetus to development of a fireclay manufacturing industry. All this helped the importance of the gold mining industry.
Coal mining came to an end in 1895 after underground fires broke out, rendering the entire mining area unsafe.
Immediately to the north of Boksburg Township was a large muddy vlei fed by a small stream from the North-East. This vlei was the only watering place for stock between Middelburg and Johannesburg and the government received strong representations from transport riders and others for improved watering facilities near the public outspan west of the town. It was accordingly decided to build a small dam at the outlet of the vlei. The work was not proceeding satisfactorily, so Montague White, appointed Mining Commissioner of the Boksburg Goldfields in 1888, was asked by President Kruger to look into the matter. White said soon after arriving in Boksburg that the place was one of the “most uninviting spots” he had ever seen. Two things dear to him were needed: a stream or well-ordered sheet of water and trees, instead of the barren area of muddy pools which he found.
White was able to persuade a reluctant President to build a larger dam than was originally envisaged, because he visualised the ugly vlei being transformed into a beautiful lake fringed with trees. However, after completion, the new lake stood empty for nearly two years and became known as “White’s folly”. In 1891 the rains came, there was a cloudburst north of the dam one night and the next morning the citizens awoke to find a large lake filled and running over. Ever since then, (with the possible exception of the last few years), it has been a popular and attractive feature of Boksburg and an integral part of its central area.
This completed the picture of Boksburg as it was towards the end of the 19th Century - a gold and coal mining town with associated business and residential development, linked by rail with Johannesburg and by road and wagon with the rest of Transvaal, Durban and Delagoa Bay, administered by a Health Committee under the jurisdiction of the government of the Zuid Afrikaansche Republiek based in Pretoria under the Presidency of Stephanus Johannes Paulus Kruger, its citizens little knowing of what lay ahead in the next century soon to be ushered in.