Graskop History

Posted by Lisbon Hideaway on Thu September 17, 2015 in Our Town.

History of Graskop, Mpumalanga, South Africa.

History of Graskop, Mpumalanga, South Africa as per The Panorama Handbook written by Mr. Fred Southey.  Copyright F.Southey.

"The town of Graskop is perched on a spur of the Mauchsberg at an altitude of 1493m and dates way back to the 1840's, when Andries Potgieter left the womenfolk in the area, while he went down the escarpment in search of a route to Delagoa Bay now Maputo.  

In the 1850's the Graskop area was a farm owned by Abel Erasmus, an adventurous character involved in hunting, prospecting and imposing law and order in the area.  He was known among the local tribesman as Dubala Duzi, "He who shoots at close range".

Following the discovery of gold at Mac Mac and visits to the goldfields by President Thomas Burgers, the farm Graskop was bought, from Abel Erasmus by the Government of the Republic of Transvaal.  The purpose was to establish a Government Township for the newly discovered goldfield of Mac Mac.  

Graskop is also famous for Jock of the Bushveld, which dates between 1885 and 1887.  Paradise berg is where Sir Percy Fitzpatrick established his paradise camp and two chapters in his book, namely "Paradise Camp" and "The Leopard and the Baboons" are set in this area.

In 1910, the newly formed government of the Union of South Africa decided to build a railway line from Nelspruit to the farm Graskop, which was the nearest place to the goldfields of Pilgrim's Rest, at the request of Rand Mines, the owners of Transvaal Gold Mining Company.  This railway line was completed in 1913 and the first train steamed into Graskop station on the 18 May 1914.  Some two hundred residents of Pilgrim's Rest managed to drive to the station to welcome the arrival of the train.

In the meantime, between 1912 and 1914, a break in the communication between the Transvaal Township Board (The Government Body responsible for the development and the naming of Townships) and the Railways occurred.  The Township Board had decided to name their station Graskop.  The Surveyor General and the Department of Lands corrected this, on the 12 September 1914, which is the date of the birth of Graskop town.

R.W. Richardson introduced the first transportation system in this area.  He was the agent for the Zeederberg Coach Service between Graskop railway station and Pilgrim's Rest and later developed the extensive R.W. Richardson transport enterprise.  He opened the first garage and motor agency in Graskop.  Together with his friend Max Liebnitz, he served on the first Health Committee of Graskop.

In his Book "Valley of Gold", A.P.Cartwright refers to the "Gold Rush", in 1908, when the Department of Mines cancelled the concession on the farm Graskop and proclaimed the area as a goldfield, to allow small syndicates and individual diggers the opportunity to peg new claims.

So that everyone would have a fair chance, Mr. W.F. Wagner, the District Registrar of the Mining Titles, positioned himself, at the sunrise on the border between Graskop farm and Driekop to read the proclamation.  On the starting signal, the police fired a volley of shots and five hundred men, some on horeseback, others on foot raced to peg the best claims.

With the proclamation of Graskop in 1914, parents of schoolchildren requested that the Farm Aided School at Malidyke be upgraded to a Government primary school and moved to Graskop itself.  This was approved provided that the school was erected at the parent's expense.  A classroom of "daub and wattle" with a thatch roof and an earth floor was soon constructed.

Apart from the few teething problems, like the original classroom being burnt to the ground by "Arsonists Unknown", approval was given for the official opening of the school in October 1916.  A new wooden building was started and on 7 of January 1917, the building was completed and the school became the Graskop Primary School with Miss M. Steward as principal and Mr. Briers as her assistant.

In 1972, the mining activities in Pilgrim's Rest ground to a halt and today the railway is used to serve the large timber industry in the area.  Graskop has since developed into the focal point of tourism for the escarpment."