"FLOWER GARDEN (BLOEMFONTEIN)"
Bloemfontein is a small piece of African highveld originally inhabited by Stone Age people and later called Mangaung, or ’place of big cats’. The first white settler was Rudolph Marthinus Brits who left the Garden Route town of Swellendam in the 1820’s and crossed the Orange River in search of better grazing for his cattle. In 1840 he found a favourable site near a strong fountain and bartered a piece of land from the local tribal chief. His nephew joined him and over the years dug an irrigation channel to the orchard and his wife’s flower garden.
Major Warden bought his farm in 1846, and it became a highly prized area among missionaries, hunters, Voortrekkers & settlers on these otherwise dry plains. Pioneers in the area were livid at the occupation of the Orange River Sovereignty by Warden and another Englishman, Sir Harry Smith, and ordered them back to the Cape Colony. The British returned, however, and controlled the Sovereignty until 1854, during which time the newly named Bloemfontein (flower garden), had grown into a small town. It has also been called ’the city of roses’ due to the 5000 rose bushes around the town’s square. The local Sotho tribes called it ’Mangaung’, ’place of the leopard’.
After suffering losses to Moshoeshoe, the Basotho chief, and a change in Imperial policy, the British decided it would be cheaper to return the Free State to the Boer and in so doing allow disputes between them, the Basotho and the Griquas to be settled among themselves.
A wellspring in the aridity of the lowlands, Bloemfontein began as the archetypal frontier town: a land of leopards, black wildebeest and blesbok, a formal rest-stop of wagons and a sustenance of the delicate serenity of an economic centre marooned in a rugged landscape.
Bloemfontein became the capital of the Free State in 1854 as well as the judicial capital of South Africa but the first elected president was accused of treason and forced to resign. It was under the 4th president that the fledgling republic started to develop into a model state. Its growth was boosted by the discovery of diamonds at Kimberley and gold at the Witwatersrand, when it became a major transport centre situated on the major route from Cape Town to Johannesburg.
Approximately a dozen roads radiate in all directions and Bloemfontein boasts the largest railway workshop in the country as well as some of the best schools and places of higher learning making it the 6th biggest city in the country.