Pilgrim's Rest

By September 1901 the war had been raging for two years and General Ben Viljoen took his commando consisting of about 900 exhausted men to Pilgrim's Rest. This mining town7, deep in the mountains, was almost untouched by the war. About 40 families lived there and the telephone connection to Graskop, Mac Mac, Sabie, and Krugerspost8 still functioned. There the battered Boer warriors could erect shelters with material from the mine. Women of the town made clothes for the Boers from curtains and the linen ceilings of their houses. Food supplies could be bought from the black people in the area for which the war commissioner9 Willy Barter, required money.

While spying on the British forces, in the mountains, Michael J Cooney, an Irish born American, discovered gold amalgam10 at the deserted mines. He shared this information with his Irish compatriot Willy Barter. General Viljoen was informed about the possibility of recovering and purifying the gold and gave orders to scrape the plates at the mines. Willy Barter11 , GE Waldeck, Fritz Rothmann and Cooney were among the men who scraped the plates. General Ben Viljoen signed the permission granted to Fritz Rothmann on 11 January 1902:

Orde wordt mits deze verleend aan den hr Rothman om die Batteryen en huizen te en rondom Pelgrimsrust te onderzoeken en de goud af te halen van deze verkrygbare plekken12.

For this Rothmann and Waldeck received 150 ounces raw gold. Cooney received 5 pounds of amalgam, which was 1/3 of what he scraped as payment. 13General Ben Viljoen reported in later years, that neutral persons purified the amalgam in the workshop of the mine.

It is interesting to note, that shortly after the occupation of Pretoria, the ZAR state-secretary FW Reitz mentioned the possibility of getting the reduction works at Barberton and Pilgrim's Rest operational again.14

When the mine bosses left the country, they had put Alex Marshall (also known as Sandy)15 , the carpenter of Transvaal Gold Mining Estate (TGME), in control of the mining assets at Pilgrim's Rest. Marshall16 was a Scotsman who supported the Boers in using the mining facilities.

Marshall in front with the white suit, Willy Barter (left)
and president MT Steyn on the chair in the middle
Photo taken at Pilgrim's Rest during September 1900 17

The battery of TGME at Pilgrim's Rest on the far right of the photo 18

7 Gold had been discovered in this area in 1872/73..

8 Schultz, JO. Pilgrim's Rest and the Anglo-Boer War 1899-1902:38.

9 The War Commissioner was responsible for the supplies of the commando.

10 A compound of  gold and mercury.

11 Smith,  Anna Africana Notes and News.  March 1976 volume 22 No 1.

12 MER. Die Pelgrimsponde in Die Huisgenoot 5 February 1943.

13 National Archive Pretoria. TAB SS R331/1900.

14 Rosenthal, Eric. The Best of Eric Rosenthal 1975:173.

15 Schultz, JO.  Pilgrim's Rest and the Anglo-Boer War 1899-1902 1999:23.

16 MHG 89024 Alexander Marshall (1861 Scotland † 30-06-1935 Pilgrim's Rest).

17 Marshall, Alex. Photos of Boer Commandos. 1902. Plate 10.

18 Marshall, Alex. Photos of Boer Commandos. 1902. Plate 1

1. Introduction
2. Background
3. Pilgrim's rest
4. Contemplating the making of gold pounds
5. Permission for establishing a government mint
6. ZAR field mint at pilgrim's rest
7. Workshop and machines
8. Process of making veldpond
9. Cabinet ministers visited pilgrim's rest
10. The mint commission
11. Final product
12. Medals awarded
13. Veldpond as a reminder
14. How many veldpond were minted?
15. Mining property left behind in excellent condition
16. The last time the dies were used
17. Marshall's book
18. Diorama of the field mint at the empire exhibition 1936
19. Conclusion
20. References