Volksrust is situated on the border of the former Transvaal and Natal. The Orange Free State border is only a few kilometres away. The area is predominantly undulating highveld grassland and wetlands, with the added attraction of the Drakensberg escarpment which provides an attractive variety of landscapes and climate. Volksrust experiences mild summers and cold winters where light snowfalls are no strange sight.
This is the closest point from the Transvaal (Mpumalanga) to the Durban harbour, and was the ideal stopover for stage coaches and oxwagons on their way to the goldfields in bygone days. Today it is the southern gateway to Mpumalanga’s game parks and from the north it is the gateway to the Battlefields Route of Natal.
The beautiful and historical town of Volksrust forms the northern gateway to the Battlefields Route. Dorie de Jager, sister of Dirk Uys, who fell in battle on the 28 th of January 1881 at the Battle of Laingsnek, gave the town its name, dutch translation for the people rest, when battle weary Boer soldiers came to rest at the Rooibult during the signing of the peace treaty that followed the First War of Independence.
In 1889 the name Volksrust was officially accepted by President Paul Kruger. In that year there were approximately 150 whites inhabitants. In 1904, when the first census was undertaken, the population figures were given as 1342 white, 906 black, 135 asian and 32 coloured folk.
The earliest inhabitants of this area were the bushmen and their paintings can still be found on rock formations on farms in the serounding area’s.
The first ‘Voortrekkers’ settled in this area during the 1850’s. In 1876, Rowland Meek bought the farm Zandfontein and opened a store on a premises to be called LIanwarne. This gave way to the birth of Volksrust in March 1889.
In April 1891 the railway line reached Charlestown and in October 1894 was lengthened to Volksrust where the station building was completed by Lindsay and Perle in December 1895. The connecting line to the reef was taken into use on 2 January 1896.
On 11 October 1899 the English rejected the Boer ultimatum and the Anglo Boer War started when the Boers invaded Natal. On 11 June 1900, General Buller’s forces broke through the Boer defences at Allemansnek and the Transvaal was open to them.
The town of Volksrust was surrendered to the British on the 13 th June 1900.