Two hundred and fifty million years ago, prehistoric plants, such as the Glossopteris, flourished in swamplands that dominated the area around Vereeniging. After a carbonisation period of a few million years, the plants were transformed into coal. Natural processes, such as the Ice Age, time and pressure resulted in the composition of various levels of gravel terraces. Two such terraces occur in the immediate vicinity of Vereeniging where many significant fossil finds have been made of which the LeRouxia Transvaalensis, the seed of the Glossopteris plant, is unique.
Evidence of Early Stone Age implements - the most common tool found being the hand axe from the Achuel culture along the Klip River - and implements from the Middle Stone Age era have been found in the area of the Vaal. These finds show the change and improvements in the making and finishing of these implements. Smaller tools, many mounted to wood, discovered near Taaiboschspruit are indicative of the Late Stone Age period which began approximately 20 000 years. Evidence of the Late Iron Age (1500-1800 AD) is prevalent in the Suikerboschrand and Keyterskloof area. Stone kraals & remnants of stone dwellings of the Sotho -Tswana peoples have been found. As well as Iron Age tools, weapons & decorative beads, manufactured from iron and copper. The Late Iron Age can be linked to rock art found in the district. A variety of petroglyphs (rock engravings) known as the Redan rock art site occur on the farm Waldrift.
With the advent of the Voortrekkers into the interior of Africa in the 1830’s, two provinces – the Orange Free State and Transvaal - were proclaimed. Potchefstroom, established in 1838, was the first town to be established north of the Vaal River and was the original capital of the Transvaal Province. The historical town of Heidelberg was established as a trading station for people travelling from the Province of Natal to Potchefstroom. Although Vereeniging was only established in the 1880’s, after coal was discovered in the area, a significant event that happened more than thirty years earlier in 1857 was the announcement that ‘Hans Viljoen had a ferry on the Vaal River and that he will carry over wagons, horses, large and small stock at very reasonable prices’. This crossing of the Vaal River was later came to be known as Viljoensdrift.
It was, however, the fossilised coal formations that provided the raw material on which the huge Industries on which the Vaal was founded. George William Stow discovered the coalfields along the banks of the Vaal River in 1878. The Government was unimpressed by his discovery and it was left to the diamond magnate, Sammy Marks, to exploit these coalfields. He realised the importance and possibilities of Stow’s coal discovery as the Kimberley diamond rush had led to a shortage of fuel to power their mining operations.
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