Barberton – where it all began.
Barberton is a town in the Mpumalanga province of South Africa, which has its origin in the 1880s gold rush in the region. It is situated in the De Kaap Valley and is fringed by the Makhonjwa Mountains. It is 43 kilometres (27 mi) south of Mbombela and 360 kilometres (220 mi) east of Johannesburg.
The mountains around Barberton are amongst the oldest in the world, dating back 3.5 billion years, and these mountains include some of the oldest exposed rocks on the planet. These volcanic rocks, which scientists call the Barberton Greenstone Belt, have given direct evidence of the conditions of life on the surface of the very early Earth.
In 1881 gold in the Barberton area was discovered by Tom McLachlan who found alluvial gold at Jamestown. However, due to the location (the hot lowveld region was rife with malaria) no one wanted to go there until Auguste Roberts (“French Bob”) discovered gold in Concession Creek on 20 June 1883. This discovery resulted in a gold rush to the area.
On 21 June 1884, Graham Barber wrote a letter to the State Secretary to inform him that he and his two cousins Fred and Harry discovered payable gold on state land where the Umvoti Creek entered the De Kaap valley. The State Secretary then asked the Magistrate in Lydenburg to investigate the matter and for David Wilson, the Gold Commissioner, to submit a report. Wilson investigated on 24 July 1884 and declared the township of Barberton.
The town was named after Graham Hoare Barber (1835-1888) who discovered a rich gold-bearing reef there in 1884. Barberton became a municipality in 1904.