A visit to Pilgrims Rest

The history of this small delightful village dates back to 1873 when a miner, Alex Patterson, discovered alluvial gold on the farm named Ponieskrantz.

Though the discovery was kept as a secret, the inevitable happened when a second prospector William Trafford also discovered gold close by.

What they had found in this beautiful valley drew optimistic gold panners and prospectors from all over the country and the World (news of gold strikes of this magnitude travel fast !).

On 22nd September 1873 Pilgrim’s Rest was officially proclaimed a gold field and the scatter of tents and rudimentary shacks soon grew into a flourishing little village complete with sturdy brick houses, church, shops, canteens, a newspaper and the well-known Royal Hotel.

The diggers called it Pilgrim’s Rest because here, at last, after so many false trails and faded dreams they had truly found their home.

In due course the alluvial deposits were depleted and the locals turned to forestry, but their village, whose residents still number in the hundreds, has been painstakingly preserved as a living museum.

I often think of the hardships these pioneers faced. They must have been a special breed to have survived. It took them many, many months to travel through often hostile territory to  get to places like Pilgrims Rest. Today it takes us a few hours to travel the same distance.  There were no roads and  so many time they had to turn back to find a new route, especially when traveling through mountain ranges like the one in which Pilgrims Rest is located.  They had no electricity, refrigeration, or medical assistance and had to deal with horrible diseases and wounds that wouldn’t heal in the humidity and heat.  A visit to the graveyard in Pilgrims Rest shows rows of small children buried after a flu epidemic and the average age of those buried was probably around 35 years old.

It amazes me what people endured for a shiny bit of yellow metal.