In the year 1882 a farmer Petrus Johannes Marais (nicknamed Oom Lang Piet) who owned the farm Varkensfontein in the Heidelberg district made an agreement with a prospector named Johnstone allowing him to prospect for gold on the farm Varkensfontein.
Mr Johnstone' s prospecting operations continued for a considerable time shrouded in secrecy. Then one day a stranger turned up at Oom Lang Piet's home and made an offer to buy the farm. At the time of the offer Oom Lang Piet was by chance busy reading "The Fortunes of Nigel" by Sir Walter Scott, a story about a young man who was the victim of a dishonest intrigue but eventually achieved his goal in life. The stranger's visit immediately aroused Mr Marais's suspicions to the extent that he decided to visit his farm himself.
Once at the farm he found that his suspicions were well founded. With the experiences of Nigel, the character in the novel in mind, he determined not to allow himself to be cheated by cunning fortune seekers and at once set about to establish his own company. In July 1888, two years after the discovery of gold on the Witwatersrand, he achieved his goal. Marais attributed his luck to the novel he had been reading and, therefore, called his company Nigel. In this way, the town of Nigel came into being.
In 1888 the State President Paul Kruger declared Nigel as a public digging under notice no. 331 and since then the history and development of Nigel are inseparable from those of the gold mines. The town was little more than a mining camp until 1923, when the control of the town was passed into the hands of a Dorpvillage. The first meeting of this council was held on 2 January 1923. The Sub Nigel mine had, in the meanwhile, come into existence and proved to be the riches gold mine in the world. As a result of this fact a great influx of people to the town occurred. Within a space of 7 years the local authority was given increased status and in 1930 was elevated to a Town Council. On 24 November 1930 the first meeting of the Town Council was held and Mr. C.L. Mackle was elected the first Mayor. This event also marked the starting point of fast growth of Nigel.
The years 1934 - 1939 saw the most noteworthy development of the town. This was only slowed down by the outbreak of World War II. During those five years, no less than 5 suburbs were proclaimed and speculation in fixed property soared, The railway line between Springs, Nigel and Heidelberg was opened on 18 October 1935. Until then, the nearest railway station had been Kaydale; situated five miles from Nigel on the main line between Johannesburg and Durban, and all transport had been conducted by ox wagon, horses or cars.
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