A small town in the Southern Free State, geo-position: 29.7618°S, 25.4254°E and 1423m a.m.s.l. The picture takes a look down one of the typical side streets.
It came into being because of the discovery of diamonds here in 1870. Already in August 1870 it was declared a public digging. The emerging settlement got its name from Jagers, a family of Griquas who used to live at the fontaine near the present mine. The farm was sold for 1000 rixdollars (£30) in 1854 by Jacobus Jagers to C.F.Visser.
The town was established in 1878 and proclaimed in 1882 and from 1886 it was under the control of a village management board. In 1904 it was declared a municipality.
As mentioned above, the area was declared a public digging in 1870. The arrangement between the owner of the farm, the widow Visser, was that the diggers had to hand over one-fifth of the diamonds found to her. There were also some rules to be followed, such as no sale of liquor, no 'unseemly jollity' (unacceptable behaviour?) and no digging on Sundays.
The first company to extract the diamonds was formed in 1878. In 1891 one company took over operation of the whole mine by buying out claim holders and smaller companies, that was the New Jagersfontein Mining and Exploration Company. They carried on with the open cast mining until 1910 when the first shaft was sunk down to 1000 feet to start underground mining. Open cast mining completely stopped in 1913. The resulting hole they dug is said to be the biggest hand-dug hole in the world. The diameter is around 45m and depth about xxm.
Mining stopped in 1972, at that time the shaft had been sunk down to 950m. All that is remaining now is the reworking of the dumps to recover some remaining stones. The well known diamonds extracted from the mine were the 971 carat 'Excelsior' in 1893 and the 637 flawless stone named after President Reitz in 1895.
Early on in the history of the diggings there were members of the NG church in the area. They were part of the Fauresmith congregation. There numbers soon became large enough that an assistant preacher was engaged to look after the NG church members in the Jagersfontein area. A church was built in 1888 which is still in use today. The picture shows that church the way it looked in 1900. It was later extended and the wings added so that it could hold 600 worshippers.
Nearby is a house marked as 'ou pastorie 1870' (old rectory). I don't think that is correct. The settlement was only just beginning and the priority of the diggers was to find some diamonds, erecting proper structures was not on their mind at that time. The house could have been occupied by the first assistant preacher, J.W.Daneel. I have no information about when he was appointed.
Time didn't allow us to 'finish' this place, there is still lots more to be discovered and to be written about. Expect another visit.
Ref 1.: Standard Encyclopedia of Southern Africa, Nasou Limited, 1974
Ref 2.: PJ Nienaber, CJP le Roux & Etiene Botha, "Vrystaat Fokus", CUM Boeke, 1982
Ref 3.: "Ons Kerk Album van Hollandsche Kerken en Leeraren", publisher: unknown, printed in the 1920's