Haenertsburg lies between Polokwane and Tzaneen on the enchanting misty Limpopo escarpment.
Turn off the R71 60km from Polokwane and turn into the village which nestles under the granite massif of the Iron Crown Mountain, which is part of the Wolkberg range in the northern Drakensberg.
Here you will find a little piece of heaven. Haenertsburg was born in the Gold Rush days and is now more than 120 years old but it has certainly not been left off the map. The village, named after Carl Ferdinand Haenert who hailed from Eisenach in Germany has seen its fair share of excitement and romance, including the Makgoba War and the Anglo Boer War. The township of Haenertsburg was proclaimed on September 13, 1887 and was measured out in Cape Feet with each erf being only 50 sq feet – enough space to put up a tent or a small shack.
In 1890 a census showed that Haenertsburg had 186 inhabitants of which 16 were adult women and 131 adult men.
Today Haenertsburg has a population of about 500. It has three churches – the Mount Carmel Catholic Church, St Paul's Church (inter-denominational) and the Haenertsburg Christian Church.
Haenertsburg has a colorful history Visitors can visit the open-air museum in Mare Street above the Municipal Offices. Various books has been written by local historian Louis Changuion and are available at the memory Hold-the-door book shop in Rissik street.
Descriptive plaques tell the history of the area dating from the Makgoba War to the Anglo-Boer War and the more recent involvement in the Border Wars of the 1970s? There are also remains of the last Long Tom gun.
A collection of memorabilia including items from the Anglo Boer-War can be seen in the hall of the municipal offices.
For the energetic the Louis Changuion Hiking Trail offers an exhilarating walk through the unique Haenertsburg Grasslands.
The cemetery above the village is also worth a visit. Not only is the view of the surrounding area spectacular but there are many historic graves to be seen.
Below are some articles submitted by Prof Louis Changuion on the history of the area.
Under the Iron Crown
Extract Mountain Getaways August 2007
The discovery of gold in the Transvaal in the 1870s led to the proclamation by the ZAR (South African Republic) of the Houtboschberg (Woodbush) goldfields in 1887. Two years before, the Executive Council of the ZAR had decided to establish a town for the large number of miners that had arrived in the Houtboschberg following the discovery of the gold here. The instruction to survey and plan a township was given the same year (1885) to the Surveyor-General (acting), Johann Rissik. The surveyor, Fred Rissik (brother to the S.G.), completed his task in September 1887 and submitted his town plan to the government. President Paul Kruger signed the proclamation on the 13 September 1887. Before the end of that month the government's representative, Mining Commissioner, Louis Biccard, assumed his duties in the new town. 13 September 1887 can therefore be regarded as the founding date of the new town. It was also decided by the government to name the town after CF Haenert, the man who did the actual discovery of gold based on the knowledge left by the German geologist, Karl Mauch, of auriferous deposits in the area.
Carl Ferdinand Haenert was born on 3 June 1831 in Eisenach in the Thuringian Forest near Erfurt in Germany. He came to South Africa in 1857 to hunt big game and fell in love with the country and never returned to Germany. For a while he rode transport from Pietermaritzburg to the north. In 1863 he married Helen Hodgson, who had come from England with her parents in 1850. The newly married couple decided to move to the Soutpansberg, where the village of Schoemansdal was established. Shortly after their arrival there, in 1865, their first child was born.
Before long Haenert with his 'modern' ideas in farming, became one of the leaders in this field. He was the first person to plant coffee on his farm 'Laaste Hoop' (today between Mara and Vivo). When Schoemansdal was evacuated in 1867, because of the clashes between the white people and the Venda, Haenert remained behind for a while on his farm, but with increased hostilities of the Venda and after they had destroyed his coffee plantations, he abandoned his farm and moved southwards to where the whites had gathered near present-day Pietersburg (now known as Polokwane).
For a while Haenert was the proprietor of a trading store at Fort Klipdam (Rita or Rhenosterpoort). He was also the postal agent there. When Pietersburg was surveyed in 1884, all the ex-inhabitants of Schoemansdal, were compensated for their losses by being given stands in the new town, which was proclaimed in 1886. Haenert was given stands nos. 22, 23 and 24. Stand no. 24 is on the corner of Joubert and Marshall
Ever since the discovery of gold in the northern Transvaal, Haenert began prospecting. He criss-crossed the northern Transvaal and in 1880 made his discoveries in the Houtboschberg, which led to the proclamations and founding of the village.
When the village was surveyed, Haenert was one of the first people to acquire stands. He built a house on the corner of Kerk and Kantoor Streets. He was not only involved with mining of gold, he also had a trading store in the village. The licence for this store was issued on the 7 February 1887 by Landdros Maré of Pietersburg even before the village had official status. In the same year he was nominated by the Government to the Divisional Council for the ward Houtboschberg and he was appointed as Postal Agent for Haenertsburg. But, Haenert did not stay long in the village that was named after him. In 1891 he moved to Pietersburg where he obtained a house in Bok Street close to the corner of Vorster Street. He died soon afterwards, on 28 December 1894 and was buried in the old Pietersburg cemetery where his grave can still be seen.
Under The Iron Crown
Extract Mountain Getaways March 2008.
Karl (also Carl) Mauch was born on 7 May 1837 in Stetten, in the state of Württemberg, Germany. He went to school at Ludwigsburg, where his father was the 'storeman' of the garrison. After school he studied to become a teacher but after a short spell of teaching he gave it up and took classes in the natural sciences to prepare himself to become an explorer in the remote parts of the world. Although he studied geology, botany, mathematics, foreign languages and medicine for three years he never received any formal certificates to prove his qualifications.
Mauch left Germany in 1863, spent some time in London to improve his scientific knowledge and arrived in Durban in January 1865. In June of that year he was in the Transvaal and decided on Potchefstroom as his base from where he soon set off on the first of many expeditions to the interior of the still unknown Africa. No explorer before or after him have traveled so extensively in Southern Africa and suffered more in doing this than he did. He did most of his travels on foot because he did not have the money to pay for proper equipment.
Mauch's expeditions into the northern parts of the Transvaal making careful geological and geographical surveys and noting down his routes cartographically later proved to be of enormous scientific value to people who came after him. Many of his travels also took him far into today's Zambia. On one of these travels he 'discovered' the Zimbabwe ruins in the country today known as Zimbabwe. Because of the hard life he led and often contracting malaria his health failed him at an early age. On a visit to his home country to recuperate he died at the age of 38 in Stuttgart on 4 April 1875.
Mauch hardly received the recognition he was due. Because of his obsessed interest in minerals and because he was mostly dressed in clothes he made from animal skins and looked very eccentric he was seen by many people as insane. Apart from the little bit of recognition he received for his discoveries from his mother country, in South Africa the mountain peak near Lydenburg that carries his name is the only acknowledgement for his achievements. His discoveries in the Transvaal in the 1870s of gold led to the government's declaration of various goldfields. This caused an influx of foreigners from all over the world and the founding of new towns at the sites of the 'diggings'.
The Woodbush Goldfields (eleven state owned farms) was declared on 6 October 1887 and that same year Haenertsburg was founded to serve the mining community of this area.
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What is so special about the grasslands?
The grasslands around Haenertsburg are officially known as the 'Woodbush Granite Grasslands'. They are the most threatened vegetation type in Limpopo Province, and the highest conservation priority, according to SANBI (South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria). What this means is that no forest, no tract of bushveld, no wetland in Limpopo is more important botanically, or more threatened, than these grasslands. They have an amazing diversity of plants and animals, with many medicinal plants which are used by traditional healers. Rare birds, mammals, amphibians and insects are found here too.
Friends of the Haenertsburg Grasslands
Friends of the Haenertsburg Grasslands (FROHG) is a group of volunteers dedicated to conserving the grasslands around Haenertsburg. We are also interested in related ecosystems such as forests, wetlands and rivers in this area, but the grasslands are our main focus.
What does FROHG do?
FROHG members help to maintain the Louis Changuion Hiking Trail, which is frequently used by tourists. We have begun rehabilitation work, with the support of Haenertsburg Rotary, on a large donga which periodically gushes mud into Georges Valley Road and which is steadily eating back into the grasslands, with loss of plants and topsoil. We remove alien invasive plants and litter from the grasslands. We engage with traditional healers in matters concerning plant extraction and utilization. And we are investigating ways to place plant utilization on a more sustainable footing. This may involve building a greenhouse/ nursery, with the help of the Agricultural Research Council (ARC). More information on: www. haenertsburg.co.za/FrOHG.