History and Overview of Jagersfontein
Jagersfontein is situated approximately 67 km northwest of Trompsburg. Access to the town is gained from the R704 route between Fauresmith and Trompsburg.
Social and economic functions
Today Jagersfontein/Itumeleng serves as a commercial and social service centre within the Kopanong Municipality and The main social and economic functions of the town include; (a) diamond mining operations, (b) regional social centre for health services, (c) general agricultural service centre to surrounding farming areas, and (d) social functions such as residence, education and social services.
The town was founded in 1871 with the discovery of the first diamond. The town was named after the original farm, Jagersfontein, once the property of a Griqua, Jacobus Jagers. The Cape Government bought the original farmhouse for use as an office and established what must be one of the most unique gaols in the country, right in front of the house – a Eucalyptus tree trunk to which the prisoners were tied. It was the first town in the Free State to have electricity and a piped water supply. The town was famous for the exceptional quality of diamonds produced. The Jagger jewel diamond found at Jagersfontein was famous for the exceptional quality. The Excelsior diamond, at 972 carats one of the ten biggest diamonds ever found in the world, came from this mine (1893). Until the discovery of the Cullinan Diamond near Pretoria (1905), it was also the largest white diamond ever to be found. In present day terms the value of the Excelsior is estimated at R1, 2 billion.
Two years later in 1895 another white of 640 carats and of similar quality was found and named the Reitz. Later this stone was renamed the Jubilee. The Jagersfontein of old was a typical mining town of it’s time and it offered all the pleasures and joys of similar towns elsewhere in the world. It had five big hotels and 34 bars, shops and businesses of all Orange Free State. After 34 years of open pit mining, underground mining by means of a vertical shaft and horizontal tunnels (drifts) started in 1913. During the 100 year life span of the mine, several stoppages occurred for example during the two World Wars and the great depression. During this time Jagersfontein’s mine produced 9,625 million carats of diamonds, mostly of jewel quality. It is estimated that due to inefficient mining methods of the past, a large proportion of diamonds from this pipe were never recovered.
HISTORY AND ARCHITECTURE
The Battle of Boomplaats took place on 29 August 1848 in the vicinity of the town. This battle, fought to reassert British authority in the area known as the Orange River Sovereignty, cost the British dearly even though they did manage to achieve their goal. The British subsequently erected a monument commemorating and naming those who died here. Also visit the Swartkoppies Battlefield site, situated on the Farm Swartkoppies, in the district.
The beautiful old Roman Catholic Church was built in 1881 and features exquisite original paintings depicting the stages of the cross as well as a beautiful baptismal font. Both the Dutch Reformed and Methodist Churches were built in 1881, the Anglican Church being erected ten years later, in 1891.
The town boasts no less than five buildings that were designed by the renowned architect Sir Herbert Baker. These buildings are the Town Hall, the Standard Bank Building and the building next to it, the old Barclays Bank Building and the Dutch Reformed Church. Jagersfontein also has the second oldest Masonic lodge in South Africa.
Old Mine and Mining Village
Although active mining has long since ceased in Jagersfontein the mine that originally heralded in the diamond rush still exists. The historical mining village in Meteor Street bears testimony to the town’s mining history. An interesting recent development is the recovery of diamonds from old mine dumps.
Open Mine: The Open Mine (“Big Hole”) has a handy lookout post nearby, and the Open Mine Museum offers an overview of the town’s origin and mining history. MOTH Museum: This Museum, known as the “Monte Sole Shell Hole”, exhibits memorabilia and other old and precious items from the Boer Wars, the First and Second World Wars and the more recent war waged on the northern borders of the former South West Africa (Namibia). Sun Street: Sun Street, in Itumeleng, is one of the town’s oldest streets. Water pumps: The quaint, original old water pumps, installed in 1913, yielded three gallons of water per penny and are still standing. Jagersfontein was the first town in the province to deliver fresh water to its community via a piped system.