Abel Erasmus – The Short History

Abel Erasmus
a Short History

Most people are familiar with the scenic Abel Erasmus pass but very few know anything about the man it was named after. Here is a short biography of Abel Erasmus:

YEARS 1845 - 1877

Abel Jacobus Erasmus was born in Weenan, Natal in 1845. His father died soon after his birth and his mother decided to join the Great Trek under Hendrick Potgieter and eventually settled in Orighstad.

Abel worked on the family farm for much of his early life and by the time he got married at the young age of 19, he was already an excellent hunter and a very capable farmer.

He and his wife moved to Krugerpost after getting married and he soon gained the respect of the locals for his great hunting skills.

He managed to acquire property in the area of Graskop and when gold was found to be on the property he found a buyer in President Burgers, who was the president at the time.

In 1876 he was elected to serve on the Lydenberg council and was appointed the field cornet in a period of  very tense confrontations with the Pedi who were led by the powerful Sekukhuni. Although a peace agreement was finally struck, the events ultimately led to the British annexation of the Transvaal in 1877.

Once the British took over administration of the Transvaal, they arrested Sekukhuni. Not long after that Erasmus was also taken in by the British government after Sekukhuni made accusations against him. Both were eventually released.

1881 +

Following the success of the first Anglo Boer War, the new Transvaal government appointed him to the post of Native Commissioner. He played an important role as a link between the government and the locals, often assisting expeditions like the one which set out to mark the borders between the South African Republic, Portuguese east Africa and Swaziland.

Abel Erasmus was well respected among the local groups of the low veld. He was said to be quite firm but always able to deal with any hostilities among the people. He was a particularly good hunter and was given the nick name of “Dubula Duze” meaning “he who shoots from close up” as he often shot his quarry from a very short distance.

Abel Erasmus was a prominent figure in the early history of the Lowveld and will always be remembered as an invaluable link between the Boer Government, the British and the local African people who called the Lowveld home.

Moholoholo – The great battle


The Blyde Canyon is one of the worlds most beautiful natural features, known to be the largest green canyon in the world and home to an interesting array of wildlife.

Today, the area is a popular tourist destination for overseas visitors who have made the long trek to our shores. It is a popular stop over en-route to the Kruger Park.
Long before the area was on the map, a great battle took place between two opponents : The Mapulana tribe led by Chief Maripe Mashile, and the Swazi soldiers led by King Mswati II.


The Mapulana people had settled in the area surrounding the Blyde Canyon during a time of hostilities among the indigenous tribal groups of Southern Africa in a period known as the “Mfecane”, meaning ”crushing or scattering”. This period led to the displacement of many groups in the region.

King Mswati II had just come to power after succeeding his father in 1845 and began a series of raids that sent fear into the minds of people near and far.

In 1864, a group of raiding Swazis attacked the Mapulana living beside the Blyde River. The Mapulana retreated to the top of a nearby mountain and began gathering large rocks at its peak, in readiness for the imminent attack.

The Swazi raiders realized the dangers of attacking the mountain without cover and retreated close-by, where they would wait for the mist to cover the peak and use that as cover to attack the unsuspecting Mapulanas on the summit.

They didn’t have to wait long when, one night, a layer of mist took the mountain and the Swazi soldiers moved up to the peak, approaching from the South. The Mapulana were ready and waiting, and when the first Swazi was spotted they unleashed the large pile of boulders and sent them crashing down the path. The unsuspecting Swazi soldiers were dealt heavy casualties as a result.

It is said you can still see the bones of those Swazi soldiers among the inaccessible rock crevices of the mountain.


The mountain where the battle took place was named Mariepskop, after the Mapulana chief Maripe Mashile who so effectively led his people that day. 

The location where the Swazi party set up camp while waiting to attack was along the Blyde River next to a large buttress. This was later given the name Swatini meaning ‘place of the Swazis’. Today a holiday resort is located here, incorrectly named Swadini.

The river where the Swazis were defeated was named ‘Motlasedi’ meaning ‘where the battle took place’. Today the river is also known as Klaserie which is an Afrikaans distortion of the word Motlasedi.

The battle became knows as Moholoholo meaning ‘the great battle’.

The surviving Swazi people feared returning to their king, believing they would be killed as a result of their failed mission. They chose instead to settle in other parts of the region, where they are still found today.

Around the same time, small groups of Voortrekkers were moving through the area in search of a way down the great escarpment to reach the port of Laurenco Marques, in what is known today as Mozambique. This eventually led to the establishment of the town of Orighstad and Lydenberg nearby.

Pilgrims Rest – A History

pilgrims rest
a Short History

YEARS 1845 - 1877

The town was born during the gold rush period in what was then the Transvaal province during the 1870’s. Payable gold was first discovered at a site 5 km away from where the town was to be located. Alec ‘wheelbarrow’ Patterson decided to leave the crowded diggings site, so he set off with his old wheelbarrow and went in search of alluvial gold in the surrounding hills.

He was in luck as he struck it rich in a small stream now called Pilgrims Creek. He kept the find a secret and worked the site for as long as he could before a man named William Trafford found gold nearby – and the rest is history! Soon people from all over the world flocked to the site and in 1873 the site was officially proclaimed a gold field. About 1500 diggers were working 4000 claims in and around the creek and soon more permanent structures were erected and the town was open for business.

Several large nuggets were found in Pilgrims Rest, such as the Breda nugget which weighed at more than 6 kg. The alluvial gold deposits began to dwindle from 1880 and most diggers moved to other sites in the region making way for mining companies who used machinery to go deeper in search of gold. They soon realised that electricity was needed to handle the workload of crushing the ever-increasing gold ore and a plan was put in place to construct a hydro plant in the Blyde River Canyon. Power was turned on in 1911 and Pilgrims Rest was the second town in South Africa to be provided with electricity at the time.

As time went on, the gold deposits steadily declined, and the gold mining companies began to pull out. The town was fast becoming a ghost town as the mining companies had no use for the land. Finally, it was sold to the local government where it would eventually be declared a national Monument in 1986.

Today the town looks very much the same as it did back in the early days. The old buildings are still up, the Royal Hotel still welcomes guests from all over the world, and the old Church Pub still serves fine South African beer. While the dusty roads and horse-drawn highwaymen of the past are gone, the old charm and the legend of Pilgrims Rest lives on.