Stoep Stories No 16
Friday, 16th May 2014
DROUGHT, DEPRESSION AND DIAMONDS
STOEP STORIES - TALES FROM THE KAROO
Published by the Graaff-Reinet Heritage Society
In 1865 there was a drought in the Karoo nothing new for this part of the world but with it had come oidium the vine disease and income from wine growing and brandy distilling fell to unexpected lows. The wool price had also declined and all in all the state of the town and district became desperate. Taking advantage of this situation merchants and leading financiers in the town becoming greedy were profiteering and charging such very high rates of interest that bankruptcies were an everyday occurrence. Swindlers abounded.
Then in 1867 came the dramatic news that diamonds had been discovered between Hope Town and Kimberley. Large diamonds were found and most Graaff – Reinetters flocked to the diamond fields to seek their fortunes. Mostly unsuccessful they soon returned and found that the Cape economy had revived. The world looked to the diamond fields and diggers came from all over the world traveling to Kimberley via Port Elizabeth and Graaff – Reinet. Business in the town became so brisk that shops opened for twelve hours a day. Wine growers were slow to accept the application of sulphur to combat the vine disease but once they had done so and their vines had recovered they were selling brandy to the thirsty travellers to Kimberley at very high prices.
One man’s thirst is another man’s gold!