Benoni’s early beginnings
Benoni turns 110 years old this November and mining has been at the root of the town’s development.
Benoni’s gold mining history started with a simple prospector’s pit.
The shaft where gold was discovered in 1887 lies within earshot of present-day traffic leaving the east end of the city in Prince’s Avenue.
Gradually, with the escalation of mining activities, a small community established itself with the first pioneers being prospectors, miners and traders.
The first settlement was isolated and roads to other places such as Heidelberg and Boksburg were dust tracks through the veld.
In 1891, the nearest station in Brakpan was five miles (eight km) away.
The situation improved when in 1903 a halt siding known as Kleinfontein junction was established on the main railway line.
The houses were built of sun-dried bricks with stone foundations and corrugated iron roofs.
There were almost no women, few children and therefore no schools.
The black miners were under contract at the mines and lived under strict control in the mine compounds.
In 1895 new Kleinfontein Mines accommodated 1 200 black miners in its compound.
The early white miners were mostly British immigrants, but there were also a few Germans and Australians.
The first store was established by EW Noyce in 1888.
By 1893 there were five businesses.
Life was harsh for these pioneers who had no municipal services, no running water or sanitation.
Most of the food available was obtained in tins and the preservation of fresh food was a major obstacle as there was no ice, although ice chests existed.
The early mines failed, so the community was a bit shaky at first, even with the advent of companies being launched in the mid-1890s, the isolation of the district discouraged permanent settlement.
In 1899 when war was declared between Great Britain and the two Boer Republics, Transvaal and Orange Free State, many miners left the district.
After three years of war, peace was declared in 1902 introducing a new era for Benoni.
– Glynis Cox Millett-Clay