Page 10 – ‘Notes of a trip’ by Robert Jameson

Ladysmith to Allen’s 5,5       Hours =     33    Miles
AlIen’s to Newcastle 5,75     Hours =     34,5 Miles
Newcastle to Michaelson’s 5,25     Hours =     31,5 Miles
Michaelson’s to Vaal River 7,0       Hours =     42    Miles
Vaal to Lake Chrissie 6,75     Hours =     40,5 Miles
Chrissie to Warm Springs 7         Hours =     42    Miles
Warm Springs to Dunn’s 3         Hours =     18    Miles
Dunn’s to Barberton 8,5      Hours =     51    Miles
         292,5  Miles


Barberton at last! And is this the place we had come so far to see? The place, which of all others in South Africa is attracting, as with an irresistible magnet, the manhood and wealth of the South African colonies. I think it is Sir Philip Sydney who says, “Gold can gild a rotten stick;” and it must indeed be a mighty factor which could induce so many people as we saw around us to make their homes in what was until yesterday the very ultima thule of South African civilisation, the haunt of the zebra, the lion, and eland, known only to the hardy hunter and the nomadic Boer; a solitude whose perennial silence was never broken except by the report of their rifles. “Do you see that stream?” said to me Mr. Cameron; of the Barberton Herald, pointing to the one which runs through the town, “well, but a few months ago I had on passing through here to cut my way through the reeds and tall grass fringing its banks!” A wave of the magic golden wand, and what do we see? A town with an orderly, intelligent, and bustling population, composed of many of the best types and classes of our colonists. Numerous stores, two banks in full swing, several hotels, numberless canteens, a large and commodious stock exchange, steam saw mills, a circus, post and magistrate’s office, a thriving newspaper office, a busy market square, on which were being sold loads of produce. Every evidence of active civilisation except a church; while the sharp ring of the anvil, and the rasp of the saw, the measured thud of the steam quartz crusher, the deep reverberation of the dynamite explosions, and the shrill scream of the steam whistle spoke of the industries being carried on around one. Horses and traps, horsemen and pedestrians kept up an unceasing traffic, and all these sights and, sounds in such a place rather staggered me, for I had come up rather sceptical of the travellers’ tales we had heard below, and shy with the shyness of the proverbial” burnt bairn who dreaded the fire.”

                     Certainly the place has no claim to be called beautiful, nor are the buildings quite after the style of our Town Hall, but the marvel is to find a town at all in such a place, and more especially one of such promise. Of course as usual in settlements of this kind the buildings or shelters are of the most nonc1escriptcharacter. Tents of all shapes and ages, straw huts, mud huts, reed huts, wooden houses, corrugated iron houses, stone houses, and unburnt brick ones, while a good many people seemed to be still living in their wagons and carts; all these were scattered about over a large area, and except in the centre of the town where the streets are properly defined, and the more substantial buildings are erected, are planted about at the fancy of the temporary tenants.

The town is built close to the base of a high range of hills, which frown