- North West
Lichtenburg is a handsome, modern town. In the spacious central square, shaded by elegant karee trees, stands a superb equestrian statue of Gen Jacobus de la Rey, the Anglo-Boer War leader.
Among the public buildings are a library and a museum displaying relics from the time of the diamond rush and there is a nature reserve on the outskirts of the town.
When President Thomas Burgers named Lichtenburg (town of light) in 1873 he said he hoped that it would be a beacon of progress. More progress than he had dreamed of hit this remote, rural community 33 years later when it became the scene of the greatest diamond rush of all.
It all started on 13 March 1926 when Jacobus Voorendyk, son of the postmaster of Lichtenburg, found a single diamond while digging fence holes on the family farm Elandsputte.
Within 12 months there were 108 000 fortune-hunters on the scene and it became the biggest diamond rush of all.
Claim-pegging races organized by the police sometimes had more than 31 000 participants - a frenzied human flood pouring over the veld to stake their claims.
The Voorendyks made a fortune by claiming 15% on all diamond finds on their farm, taking 50% of claim fees and selling water at 6d a barrel. In the first three months they made 45 000 pounds.
The diamonds of Lichtenburg were excellent gem-stones. Long ago, a river meandered across the plains in this part of the North-West and at some point along its course had picked up diamonds, possibly from a hidden diamond pipe. The river twisted in its course and eventually, with the passing of time, it disappeared, leaving the gravels to be buried by wind beneath a shallow mantle of top soil and grass and so the diamond field was formed.
Though abundant, the diamonds were widely scattered and when the rush came, it quickly spread to neighbouring farms.
So tantalizing and elusive were the deposits that one digger could be throwing a frenzied party celebrating a lucky find while his neighbour on the next plot was starving in complete despair. Some fortunate diggers found that their claims lay over former potholes in the bed of the river. These were filled with gravel and there seemed to be almost as many diamonds as stones. Others, less fortunate, worked hard excavating considerable areas but found nothing.
The Lichtenburg rush lasted for ten years and from east to west the original shallow river valley was excavated.
Remnants from the past include odd little diggers' pubs, trading stations and administrative buildings. Overall there still lingers a romantic atmosphere of a world where men lived on dreams of the magic moment when, half buried in the gravel on the sorting table, a diamond would blaze into their lives.
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