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The Pennefather, Haenertsburg

The stories behind the names on our cottages at The Pennefather Gold Mining Company Limited, Haenertsburg


The man who discovered the gold that led to the founding of HAENERTSBURG.

Karl Mauch was born on 7 May 1837 in Stetten, in the state of Württenburg, Germany. He came to South Africa in 1865. His discoveries of gold in the Transvaal in the 1870’s led to the government’s declaration of various goldfields. This caused an influx of foreigners from all over the world and the founding of new towns at the sites of the ‘diggings’. The Houtbosberg (Woodbush) Goldfields was declared on 6 October, 1887 and that same year Haenertsburg was founded to serve the mining community of this area. Mauch died in Stuttgart on 4 April 1875 at the age of 38.


The man after whom Haenertsburg was named

Carl Ferdinand Haenert was born on 3 June 1831 in Eisenach in the Thuringian Forest near Erfurt in Germany. He came to South Africa in 1857. After the discovery of gold in the Transvaal by Carl Mauch in the 1870’s, Haenert began propecting and soon found gold in the Houtboschberg. This let to the proclamation by the ZAR (Transvaal) government of the Woodbush Goldfields in 1887 and the establishing of a town for the large number of miners that had arrived in the Houtboschberg. It was also decided by the government to name the town after Haenert. He died in Pietersburg on 28 December, 1894.


The man who started the first coach service to Haenertsburg

The discovery of diamonds and gold in South Africa in the 1860’s and 70’s led to a great influx of fortune hunters from al over the world. As their numbers grew at the different mining towns the need for transport and postal services became acute. Soon a number of transport services were established. One of these was the company of the Zeederberg Brothers.

In 1890 Doel Zeederberg started a stagecoach service between Pietersburg and Leydsdorp, via Haenertsburg. He also experimented with Zebras as draught animals, instead of only mules or horses, as they were ostensibly so much hardier than horses and immune to horse-sickness.


The man who was the first to use the folklore and history of this area in many of his books.

Henry Rider Haggard was born in Bradenham, Norfolk, England on 22 June 1856. He was only nineteen years old when he came out to South Africa in 1875. He returned to England in 1881. Although he stayed in South Africa for only seven odd years, he was captivated by what he saw and heard and, after returning home, wrote his first book dealing with his sojourn in South Africa. This was followed by many novels with the setting here. His first big success was King Solomon’s Mines (1885).

Although it cannot be proved that he ever visited Haenertsburg, it is believed that he stayed in Magoebaskloof when he wrote She (1887), his most famous novel, based on the Balobedu Rain Queen, Modjadji.


The heavy Boer artillery piece that was used here for the last time.

In 1897 the old South African Republic had four forts built around their capital, Pretoria. For each fort a 155mm siege gun (nicknamed Long Tom) was bought from France. When the Anglo-Boer Was erupted in 1899, these guns were taken from Pretoria to be used against the British at the sieges of Ladysmith, Mafeking and Kimberley. After the relief of these towns, and especially after the Boers adopted guerilla tactics, the heavy Long Toms became a burden, because they could not easily be moved about. The result was that the Boers systematically destroyed the Long Toms to prevent the guns being taken by the enemy – the first at Komatipoort and another near Lydenburg. Two were destroyed near Haenertsburg – one on the old coach road at Letaba Drift and the last one on Rondebult when the British attacked them there on 30 April 1901.


The title of the book by John Buchan set in this area.

Nobody said nicer things about the Haenertsburg/Wolkberg area in his books than the Scottish author and statesman, John Buchan. Buchan came to South Africa in 1902 at the end of the Anglo-Boer War as a member of the team responsible for the reconstruction of the ex-Boer republics after the devastating three years of war. In this capacity he was sent up North to take charge of the office in Pietersburg. From here he often traveled to Haenertsburg and beyond. His first book after his return to England at the end of 1905, was published under the title The African Colony: Studies in Reconstruction. He pays tribute to the variegated beauty of the Haenertsburg countryside in this book and in many to follow. His best known novel, Prester John, was set in this area and his hero, Richard Hannay, of The Thirty-Nine-Steps and of many other books, was based on a friend he mad in Haenertsburg.

More of this history in a Booklet ‘Thars Gold in Them Thar Hills’ by Louis Changuion, available in our Book Shop.

The Pennefather Gold Mining Company Limited, easy Travellers Online Guide for South Africa

The Pennefather Gold Mining Company Limited, easy Travellers Online Guide for South Africa