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UPDATED: 29/06/2023

29 June 1882, A 120 carat diamond and a 78 carat diamond found in the Elma Mining Company claims in the De Beers mine.

The Elma Mining Company

The Elma Mining Company, one of myriad such in the four open pits when the various amalgamations began in the late 1870s and early 1880s, was situated in the De Beers mine, Thomas Shiels being the majority shareholder in the “Elma” company when it was absorbed into the De Beers Mining Company in 1886. Charles Ansell was a partner in this company.

A Director of the De Beers Mining Company, Shiels remained on the Board upon formation of De Beers Consolidated Mines in March 1888, but resigned due to ill-health in 1903.

He died in Edinburgh Scotland on 10 March 1904, two days short of his 70th birthday. He left £750 000 in his estate – today (2019) about £90 437 260.

For the record, the Directors of the De Beers Mining Company from formation in 1880 until amalgamation in 1888, were:

Robert Dundas Graham (1880–85)
Charles D. Rudd (1880–)
Robert English (1881–) 
George W. Compton (1881–)
Cecil J. Rhodes (1880–) 
Fredric S. P. Stow (1881–)
William Alderson (1880–83) 
Henry W. H. Dunsmure (1880–83) 
Thomas Shiels (1886–) 
Harry Mosenthal (1886–)
John Morrogh (1886–)
Charles E. Nind (1887–) 
Alfred Beit (1888–)
R. Hinrichsen (1888–)
E. Bruch (1888–) 
and Francis Oats (1888–)

Nothing yet discovered that happened this very day in Kimberley’s history. Research is ongoing…


Dr Hans Sauer was born on 11 June 1857 in Smithfield OFS and died in Dinant Belgium on 28 August 1939. A forgotten man in South Africa’s history he had much to do with both early Kimberley and Johannesburg, as well as many dealings with Cecil Rhodes.

Johannes (Hans) Sauer, medical practitioner and businessman, was the son of Johannes J. Sauer, landdrost of Smithfield, and his wife Elizabeth W.S.M. Kotzé. Hans junior grew up in Aliwal North and Burghersdorp. He left South Africa for Britain in 1876 and qualified as Bachelor of Medicine (MB) and Master of Surgery (CM) in Edinburgh in 1881. Upon his return to the Cape he was licensed to practice in April 1882 and settled in Kimberley. In May that year a minor epidemic of smallpox broke out in the Cape Peninsula.

Cecil J. Rhodes and his associates in Kimberley were afraid that the disease would spread to the diamond fields and cause labourers to flee the area. To avoid the resulting financial loss a quarantine depot was established on the main road at a drift in the Modder River, some 30 km south of Kimberley, where Sauer was stationed in September 1882. (This drift is close to where the road and railway bridges on the N12 cross the Riet river).

Without any legal authority he closed the other routes to Kimberley from the south and demanded proof of vaccination against smallpox from all travellers, had them fumigated with burning sulphur, and put suspect cases in quarantine. The operation, during which he found 14 cases of smallpox, continued for more than twelve months. Many cases of illegal detention and assault were brought against Sauer and his assistants, but Rhodes and various diamond mining companies smoothed matters over and bore the cost.

In October 1883 a small group of labourers from Mozambique arrived ill near Kimberley. The civil commissioner of the town sent a team of six or seven medical practitioners to investigate the disease. Although they appear to have initially diagnosed smallpox, several of them soon afterwards claimed publicly that it was pemphigus (a rare skin condition). On account of Sauer’s previous experience at the Modder River he was recalled by the government of the Cape Colony from a visit to the eastern Transvaal (now Mpumalanga) and asked to look into the matter. He satisfied himself that the disease was indeed smallpox and proceeded to Cape Town, where he was appointed medical officer of health for Kimberley. Upon his return the disease had reached epidemic proportions. A vaccination campaign was launched, but the mining community refused to cooperate.

A number of doctors, including Dr L.S. Jameson, continued to refuse to diagnose or report cases of smallpox and the resulting split in the medical community became known as the “smallpox war”. Sauer requested help from his brother, a prominent Cape politician, and members of the government, and as a result the Public Health Act of 1883 was passed by the Cape legislature, making vaccination and the notification of infectious diseases compulsory and granting extensive emergency powers to local authorities. Promulgation of the Act made Sauer unpopular, but enabled the local Kimberley authority to bring the epidemic under control by the end of 1884. The diagnosis of smallpox was confirmed by an independent medical officer from Cape Town.

As early as 1883 Sauer had been admitted to practice medicine in the South African Republic. In 1886 he visited the Witwatersrand to inspect the earliest discoveries of gold there. After showing some ore samples to Rhodes the latter sent him back to the gold fields to buy claims, offering him a share of the profits. By the end of 1886 most of the gold-bearing properties had been bought by big financiers, with the result that Sauer ended his agreement with Rhodes’s syndicate and was paid out in shares. Meanwhile in November 1886 he had been elected a member of the Diggers’ Committee, which was charged with overseeing the orderly development of Johannesburg. Effective sanitary arrangements were a priority and at the Committee’s first meeting Sauer and two other members formed a sub-committee to report on this matter. In March 1887 he was appointed as the first district surgeon for the Witwatersrand.

He also became chairman of the Sanitary Committee and chairman of the Rand Club, while Sauer Street in Johannesburg was named after him. (Sauer Street has been renamed Pixley ka Isaka Seme Street). He was a well-known figure in Johannesburg, partly because of his involvement in professional and social exploits that several times ended in the law courts. Thickset, jovial and adventure-loving, he was a gambler and happiest in dangerous situations.

In 1890 Sauer married Cecile Fitzpatrick, sister of Sir Percy Fitzpatrick. That same year he resigned as district surgeon, gave up medicine, and proceeded to London to study law. However, early in 1891 Rhodes persuaded him to suspend his studies and go to Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) to investigate prospects there for the Zambesia Exploration Syndicate. After an extensive tour through the territory Sauer returned to London, sold his interests in the syndicate, and continued his studies. However, in May 1893, just before his final examination, Rhodes offered him a post as manager of the Rhodesian Exploration Syndicate, a post he held until 1910.

Towards the end of 1895 tension between the English speaking community on the Witwatersrand and the Afrikaner government (Boers) of the South African Republic reached breaking point. Sauer’s sympathy lay with the English immigrants, which led him to join the Reform Committee in Johannesburg just before the ill-fated Jameson raid, aimed at overthrowing the government. He was arrested for treason early in January 1896 and sentenced to two years in prison, but was released on payment of a fine. Upon his return to Rhodesia he participated in quelling the Matabele Rebellion of 1896 and the subsequent political negotiations, and then assisted Rhodes in England during a parliamentary enquiry into the Jameson raid. In 1899 he became a foundation member and the first president (for 1899/1900) of the Rhodesia Scientific Association in Bulawayo. He served as president again in 1901/2. During this time he read a paper on “Malaria” at a meeting in September 1901. He was still a member of the association in 1918. Meanwhile he had settled in England in 1900, returning to Rhodesia for a few months each year. He even served as a member of the territory’s Legislative Council.

Sauer retired in 1910, after which he spent much time on the European continent. His autobiography, Ex Africa (London, 1937) contains a fascinating account of his adventurous life in southern Africa during the latter part of the nineteenth century.

(From: S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science. Story compiled by C. Plug)

Nothing yet found for Today in Kimberley’s history. The research is ongoing.


William Alderson, later the majority shareholder in the fledgling De Beers Mining Company made famous by Cecil Rhodes and Charles Rudd, before losing all his money in some disastrous ventures, at some time “toward the end of 1869 and the beginning of 1870…heard that a farmer named van Wyk was giving out ground to Dutchmen on his farm, and that they were…finding diamonds.” Alderson and his group, including William Delaney, Robert Randall, Rowe (Natal), Salaman, Thomas Short, Hodges and Coffin, made their way to the farm and encamped, mainly as they had been advised that van Wyk would only allow ‘Dutchmen’ to dig on his farm. The group heard a rumour that at least 92 diamonds had been discovered – a false rumour – and rushed the kopje below which the ‘Dutchmen’ were searching for diamonds. The first mention in the South African newspapers on the diamond finds at Dutoitspan was a letter dated 4 November 1869 where it stated that in middle October five diamonds were picked up in 2-3 hours at “Tooispan.” The author Brian Roberts suggests that the first diamonds were discovered in early 1869 at Dutoitspan and by September the same year at Bultfontein. Fred Steytler, a clerk from Hopetown, stated that he had seen at least six diamonds found at Dutoitspan in October 1869 and that “diamonds are to be found in abundance.”

Certainly by December 1869 there were diggers at Dutoitspan, and the “Diamond News”, based at Klipdrift, stated that diamonds were being found at both Dutoitspan and Bultfontein from November 1869. By July 1870 there were a fair number of diggers operating their claims.

Alderson pegged out the first claim on the new diggings of Dutoitspan, the rest of his group following suit, and in his reminiscences, Alderson stated that there were at least 200 ‘Dutchmen’ searching and digging at the base of the kopje. Following the lead of Alderson, they too rushed the kopje and laid their claims. Van Wyk, who was most unhappy about this state of affairs, could not really do anything about it, and after much discussion, was happy to accept 7/6 per claim per month from the diggers.

Van Wyk tried his best to sell his farm towards the end of 1870, even placing advertisements in newspapers proclaiming the value of the land. “For more than six months people have been digging…” stated one such advertisement, and the “…weekly finds average 60 – 100 diamonds…”

Pictured are Dutoitspan Mine (left) and Bultfontein Mine (right).

From Kimberley Calls and Recalls on Facebook By Steve Lunderstedt

Aeon Computer Kimberley

About Steve Lunderstedt


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