Hartbeesfontein, situated some thirty kilometres west of Klerksdorp, is the oldest settlement in the Transvaal, with the exception of some mission stations. The story surrounding the founding of this small town is that one of the original trekkers who moved into the former western Transvaal under the leadership of Hendrik Potgieter, was on a commando against Mzilikazi in 1837, when he absconded temporarily and went hunting. He wounded a Hartebees (antelope), and whilst tracking it, discovered a spring. He liked the area and subsequently requested that Potgieter grant him a farm there. Later, this man, whose name is unknown, exchanged the farm for two oxen with a Mr. Grobler. Grobler erected a house where the current police station now stands.
Map showing Potchefstroom and Klerksdorp Districts.
The original farm underwent several sub-divisions so that a closely-knit rural Afrikaner community emerged and the farm was transformed into a village. The farms produced the usual crops of the area -- maize, sunflower and ground-nuts, but Hartebeesfontein has a sub-tropical climate which enabled residents to grow citrus, avocados and other sub-tropical fruits.
The town is the centre of a prosperous rural community. Thus agriculture is the mainstay of the settlement.
It has a modern mass barn with a capacity to store 1, 25 million bags. Cattle farming is also a large-scale activity around the town. In addition to this, however, the village is situated on a geological feature known as the Hartbeesfontein basin, which is gold bearing. However, like many gold deposits in this region, the abundance of underground water, makes it difficult to keep the mining tunnels free of water. Neighbouring mines, such as the Buffelsfontein mine, assisted in pumping the water from the tunnels, but gold mining never really became an option.
During the South African War (1899-1902) a skirmish took place at Hartbesfontein Poort, on 17 February 1901. A British contingent under the overall command of Lord Methuen were confronted by entrenched Boer forces defending the site, which because of its height, was considered a strategic position. A fierce half-day battle ensued, after which the British contingent drove the Boers out of their positions, capturing a significant number of men, and Boer supplies of cattle and maize.