The history of Kaapsehoop in Mpumalanga South Africa and information on the 1873 gold rush




Compiled and written by Louis-John Havemann

"I have to a large degree relied on the writing of T.V.Bulpin amongst others for my information
as well as being given permission to utilise the research of Dr Steven Evans of Avitourism Africa and African Photographs.
email lj-tours@iafrica.com "




Where the coastal plains of the Lowveld meet the Drakensberg escarpment between Hoedspruit and Hazyview, the change is quite sudden and dramatic with the ramparts of the Drakensberg Escarpment towering over the Lowveld, providing breathtaking views like Wonderview near Graskop and God's window.


Between Barberton and Swaziland in the south, to White River and Nelspruit in the north, you have a somewhat different transition from the Highveld to the Lowveld. The solid looking escarpment is riven by among others, two rivers, the Crocodile and the Elands.


The Crocodile (Ngwenya or Kwena) descends the escarpment from Lydenburg's side, down Schoemans Kloof and the Elands River falls over the impressive waterfall giving the names to the towns, Waterval Boven (Above the falls) and Waterval Onder (Below the falls).


These two rivers join up at Montrose and flow on as the Crocodile River past Nelspruit through the Crocodile Gorge and on to Komatipoort, then through the Lebombo range to Mozambique. South of the Crocodile River the escarpment juts out in the form of a Cape.

Right at the top of this Cape of the escarpment, lying at 6000 ft above sea level, is perched the picturesque little hamlet of Kaapsche Hoop, on the edge of what is known as the Ngodwana Plateau.


To the south of this cape there is a valley wherein lies the town of Barberton and this valley was given the name De Kaap Valley or more sinister yet “The Valley of Death”.


The Kaap Valley has numerous rivers running through it, like the Ngwenyana (Little Crocodile River), Noordkaap River, Suidkaap River, Queens and others.

These rivers have over the ages eroded the Kaap Valley and formed a kaleidoscope of numerous little ravines all covered by bushveld, harbouring a variety of various mineral and semi precious stone deposits, from as far back as the prehistoric Achaean Age, known as the "Barberton Greenstone Belt".
These eventually all join up and run through the mountains to join the Crocodile River at Kaapmuiden.




There were signs of diggings by the Ancients in this whole area. They are attributed to originally having been the work of the Karanga tribe, later followed by a Sotho tribe, thought to have been an offshoot of the Kangonane tribe. The Sothos were later wiped out, or driven out, by Swazi raiding parties who eventually established a military base on the banks of the Ngwenyana River, named Mjindini.


The well known digger Tom McLachlan, after finding payable gold at Mac Mac, found traces of gold in the Valley of Death and surrounding areas including Kaapsehoop, although this has not been fully substantiated, but nothing he found was a payable proposition.


This name"Valley of Death" was given to it because of the very high deadly incidence of Malaria occurring there in the early days of the Diggers, as well as the presence of the dreaded Tsetse fly which brought death to livestock and people caused by the parasitic disease, Trypanasomiasis, known as "Nagana" in livestock or "Sleeping Sickness" in humans.


When David Benjamin bought and obtained the concessions at Pilgrims Rest in 1881, preventing the Diggers from prospecting on his concession lands, the angry and frustrated diggers eventually moved towards The Valley of Death and Kaapsehoop, in the hopes of finding gold there.


It is told that Charlie the Reefer was the first prospector to find traces of the "Rotten Reef" or Banket reef, which was the gold bearing reef, so named because it resembled a caramelized Dutch dessert of the same name, on the farm Berlyn, adjacent to what is now Kaapsehoop.


There is another story that gives a digger named Bernard Chomse, the credit for being the first to find gold in 1881, in a stream bed near to Kaapsehoop which was then named "Duiwel's Kantoor".

The name "Duiwels Kantoor" or "Devil's Waiting Room" came from the outcrop of strangely formed rocks said to look like monsters waiting for the devil (See photo above left).

This name did not last very long.


The name Kaapsche Hoop has been spelt in various ways, like Kaapsehoop or
Kaapse Hoop but it is accepted that the official name given to this village is spelt Kaapsche Hoop.


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