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Wesselton Mine in the 1890's

TODAY IN KIMBERLEY’S HISTORY – 16 JANUARY

UPDATED: 16/01/2019

16 January 1889, Kimberley awarded the cricket Currie Cup by England.
16 January 1891, Fabricius has five men working the new Wesselton mine.
16 January 1900, Soup kitchen opened at the Hull St Convict Station.

Pictured is the Wesselton Mine in the 1890s.

DID YOU KNOW

The actual date of discovery of the Wesselton Mine (originally known as the Premier Mine) has not been recorded, although the month of September 1890 has been mooted by both Gardner Williams and Irvine Grimmer. Fabricius and his employer Henry A Ward managed to keep their discovery reasonably quiet, particularly the former as he only came to an agreement with Ward on 29 November 1890 – some two months after the discovery – whereby he was allowed to prospect the farm by sinking shafts. Ward was quite satisfied by December 1890 that Fabricius had actually found a mine and by 16 January 1891 Fabricius had employed at least five men to work the mine for him. These men were Owen Hall, Nott, Cellier, Ranier and McCullum. There may have been another two also working, Jones and Benfield.

Whatever the story, the news was only broken to the public of Kimberley in the Diamond Fields Advertiser in early January 1891 with a paragraph titled “The New Mine”, followed by a slightly longer story titled “The New diamond Mine on Wessels Farm” in mid-January. The newspaper inspected the area of the new mine and described it as being situated a few hundred yards from to the south of Mr Mylchreest’s former floors and compound, and only a short distance from the Orange Free State border. In a note to the De Beers Company on 6 January 1891 a certain F. Starkey describes the mine as being “…on a very slight kopje.”

The newspaper stated that Fabricius and his partner Nott, who were working the land under the agreement with Ward, were riding over the veld “some months ago” and Fabricius observed something glittering in the sand. Alighting from his horse, he picked up some ground that included the glittering stone and returned home to wash the soil. Not only was the glittering stone a diamond but the soil also contained a more than average amount of carbon and garnets.

He returned to the region and did some more prospecting (with the permission of Henry Ward), coming to the conclusion that surface indications were that there was another mine underfoot. Each load washed was producing at least a half-carat diamond.

Irvine Grimmer, who at the time of the discovery was the Assistant Secretary for De Beers, states that Fabricius stumbled upon indications of diamondiferous ground in soil dug up from an ant bear hole, and then followed up his discovery. George Beet, who was in Kimberley at the time, suggests it was a meerkat scrape rather than ant bears. Gardner Williams discounts the rather romantic tale of the ant bear hole by saying Fabricius was wandering around rather aimlessly and at random sunk a prospecting hole and thus discovered the diamondiferous ground rather luckily. Williams at the time was the General Manager for De Beers. However, Grimmer’s tale has a more authentic ring to it than Williams’ version.

There was intense litigation between Ward and Fabricius, as well as between Wessels, Ward and several persons who claimed the latter had given them shares. According to the agreement between Ward and Fabricius, Fabricius was paid £1000 for the discovery of the mine by Ward. As the Diamond Fields Advertiser reported, “Fabricius got just what he asked.”

From Kimberley Calls and Recalls on Facebook By Steve Lunderstedt

Aeon Computer Kimberley

About Steve Lunderstedt

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