Barber brothers and their cousin, Graham, were prospecting in a rift at the foot
of the Ingudu mountains where they came upon a rich gold reef and proceeded to
peg a claim. Just the next day the Umvoti Reef, next to the Barbers claim,
On June 21, 1884, Graham Barber wrote a letter to the State Secretary to inform him
that payable gold had been found on State-owned land. The State Secretary asked
the Magistrate in Lydenburg to investigate the matter and for David Wilson, the
Gold Commissioner, to submit a report.
Wilson made his investigation on July 24, 1884, and found that Barber had indeed found
payable gold. In his book Behind the scenes in the Transvaal Wilson writes
that he decided to declare a township at the base of the hills where the Umvoti
Creek entered the De Kaap valley, broke a bottle of gin on the Barber Reef,
champagne was not available, and named it Barberton.
Hundreds of people converged on Barberton to share in the prosperity envisaging a
paradise where money was to be made.
Edwin Brays discovery of the Golden
Quarry in 1885, so named because it looked as if the rock was formed entirely of
gold, resulted in the mine becoming well known throughout the world.
Sheba mine is today one of the oldest, and richest, working gold mines in the world
having been in production for more than a century and it is estimated that
production will continue for several decades to come.
Large amounts of money flowed into Barberton and several stock exchanges operated
here. More buildings were erected, billiard saloons and music halls established.
The Criterion and Royal Standard hotels were opened. Bartenders vied with each
other to attract customers from the sidewalks and played the popular songs of
Inside barmaids relieved thirsty customers of their money by providing suitable
refreshments, the most well known barmaid being Cockney Liz who, it was said,
granted her favors to the highest bidder. Barberton flourished for only a brief
period and soon the inhabitants began to move away to the newly discovered
goldfields on the Reef.