At one point in its history, Klerksdorp looked set to become another Johannesburg. Gold was discovered in the North West town in 1886, leading to the predictable rush of fortune-seekers. The town soon found itself awash with 70 taverns and its own short-lived stock exchange.
But the reefs in this location were not easy to mine and required expensive equipment. The hopeful millionaires soon left for greener pastures, and it took the arrival of large mining companies in 1932 to revive the gold industry.
Located in the Kenneth Kaunda region, Klerksdorp is one of the province’s oldest Voortrekker towns, founded in 1837 on the banks of the Schoonspruit River. A farmer, CM du Plooy, established a large farm and parcelled out small plots to other Voortrekkers in return for their labour on the construction of a dam and irrigation canal. These smallholdings were the basis of Klerksdorp, which took its name from its first magistrate, Jacob de Clerq.
In the second Anglo-Boer War, Klerksdorp was the scene of famous battles (such as the Battle of Ysterspruit, won by the renowned Boer general, Koos de la Rey) and a large concentration camp. Many Boer and British victims of the clash are buried in the Old War Cemetery outside town.
Klerksdorp is a significant contributor to agriculture, with sorghum, sunflowers, groundnuts and maize cultivated in the area.
It is also the location of substantial breeding of Sussex cattle.
Look out for
The Klerksdorp Museum, originally built of sandstone in 1891, was initially a prison and assumed its present role in 1973. An interesting display is that of the Klerksdorp sphere – disc-like objects of varying geological deposits found in the area. Although there are sound scientific explanations for their formation, some science-fiction myths have arisen around them and added to their intrigue.
About 15 kilometres out town is the Faan Meintjies Nature Reserve, with 30 game species and a rich bird population.
The Klerksdorp Dam (or Johan Neser Dam) on the Ventersdorp Road offers recreational activities with camping and caravan sites.
Hikers can walk the 12-kilometre Oudorp Trail through the older parts of town.
On the farm, Bosworth, there is a large site of archeologically significant San and Khoe rock engravings. A guided tour can be arranged in advance.
Goudkoppie Heritage Hill contains remnants of 19th-century gold mining, replicas of Sotho/Tswana homesteads, a replica of a British blockhouse as used in the second Anglo-Boer War, and Stone Age tools scattered on the hilltop.
The Railway Station was opened by President Paul Kruger in 1897, when the railway line from Krugersdorp reached Klerksdorp. It was proclaimed a national monument in 1983.