5 February 1891, Wesselton Mine rushed by diggers.
DID YOU KNOW
Despite common knowledge of Henry Ward having the mineral rights to the land owned by JJ Wessels, as well as negotiations being underway between Ward and De Beers, the diggers of Kimberley and Beaconsfield were most unhappy about the state of affairs at the newly discovered mine. With both the Dutoitspan and Bultfontein mines temporarily closed there were many hundreds of diggers out of work, and these diggers, after several private and public meetings, undertook to have the Wesselton Mine declared a public diggings.
Part of their planning in this regard was to rush the site, which they did in a mass of several hundreds on Thursday 5 February 1891 and, reminiscent of the rushes some twenty years before, laid claim to the land, some 400 claims being pegged. They even petitioned the Government to proclaim the land as a public digging. However, they did not get away with this brave attempt and a court decision upheld the agreement Ward had with the farm owner Wessels, as well as the subsequent agreement between Ward and De Beers Consolidated Mines. In fact it became quite a legal problem as the portion of the farm upon which the diamond mine had been found was in the Cape Colony, which had different laws to “ownership” of diamonds discovered on farms. The Orange Free State law was that diamonds discovered belonged to the farmer, not the digger.
It had always been believed that the ground was diamond bearing as the ground had been proclaimed public diggings in 1871 and subsequently rushed, but no real trace of diamonds had been discovered. In August 1880 there was considerable excitement on the farm with 1000 claims being offered by Wessels. One group of unhappy diggers – who never received a claim, petitioned the Free State Government to open the farm as a public diggings, but it was denied. The Free State sent an armed delegation to the farm to remove the illegal diggers, but they had already left. The other diggers, who had legitimate claims, also left because of the absence of diamonds.
Pictured is Wesselton Mine in the mid 1890s.