Johannes Petrus Meyer (1842 - 1919) MP

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Nicknames: "Jan"
Birthplace: Prins Albert, Cape, South Africa, Kaap, South Africa
Death: Died in Klipriviersberg, Transvaal, South Africa
Occupation: Farmer, Transport rider, Fieldcornet, mining magnate, MP, founding member of the Witwatersrand Agricultural Society
Managed by: Donovan Paul Penaluna
Last Updated:

About Johannes Petrus Meyer

Farmer, Transport rider, Field Cornet, Mining Magnate, Member of Parliament, founding member of the Witwatersrand Agricultural Society, Businessman and first Mining Commissioner of the ZAR

When settling here, there was absolutely no wood in the area. On their quest to find some near the Jukskei River, one of the brothers -Cornelius Floris Johann Meyer perished in a snow storm from exposure in 1851 aged 10. Jan's mother brought some Acacia Karoo with from Prince Albert to settle here especially for firewood. That caused the great Acacia population that can currently be seen on the Meyer farm.

In 1855 the Voortrekker family travelled back to Prins Albert to visit with family. On the way back at Colesburg, Jan's father Voortrekker Meyer died from ”vuur in die maag” which was assumed to be appendicitis. His grave has never been found. The responsibility now fell to young Johannes Petrus Meyer and only 13 at the time , to bring his three brothers as well as his mother and five sisters back to the Transvaal.

At the age of 12 or 13 Johannes Petrus (Jan) Meyer bought 11 hectare of his fathers farm, Elandsfontein (now Alberton). He built a house next to the beautiful Alberton stream close to where the current civic centre is today.

After his first wife passed away in 1870 with the birth of their fourth daughter, (Johannes Petrus Meyer 1870 - 1871) he decided to start a general store.

In those early days, there were only five families from Heidelberg to Pretoria. All of that changed though with the discovery of gold in 1884. Jan Meyer had the only store in die Transvaal and the 'highway' for ox wagons travelling between Kimberley and Johannesburg, ran right past it. It is told that over 40 sheep had to be butchered every weekend to cater for all the travellers .

In 1885, Jan Meyer pegged off a claim that later became the Meyer-Charlton Mine. It was a very rich mine and also won the prize for the richest one in the world in Paris.

Jan Meyer commissioned J M Kirton to build the original Meyer farm farmhouse in 1891. He was the same master builder that built the church in Heidelberg. Two pieces of ore from his mine were built in next to the front door of the big farmhouse. This spectacular mansion was miraculously left unharmed during the Boer war and can still be seen today.

An accident with a rifle ended his life on 2nd Dec 1919. Not much is known about his personal life and at his death he was simply called '...the first government official on the Goldfields...'

The naming of Johannesburg

The generally accepted origin of 'Johannesburg' is that it was named after Johann Friedrich Rissik and Christiaan Johannes Joubert. But there is also a strong lobby behind a third claimant to the title, veldkornet Johannes Petrus Meyer, the first government official in the area, and the first to attempt to bring order to the area with a system to peg out mine claims. Smith quotes early digger John Burrows, who said that 'everybody at that time was under the impression that the suggestion to name the town after Johannes Meyer had been carried out.'

Early historians of Johannesburg, James and Ethel Gray, opted to support Meyer's claim, noting that the veldkornet was intimately associated with the area for many years before gold was discovered, and was the government official in charge until more formal structures were set up. They are supported by historian GA Leyds, nephew of Kruger's State Attorney Dr WJ Leyds, who says his uncle told him that it was decided to name the town after Meyer, but President Paul Kruger was first asked his opinion. Kruger had no objection, and noted that he himself was a Johannes, as was Leyds, as were Joubert and Rissik, so why not?

James and Ethell Gray , 'Payable Gold' concluded that Johannesburg was named after Veldkornet Johannes Petrus Meyer whose '….duties were carried out so efficiently over such an extensive area which called for many long days to be spent in the saddle that it is possible only to come to one conclusion, that the naming of Johannesburg after Johannes Meyer was a recognition of his willing, able and ungrudging service.'

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Johannes Petrus Meyer's Timeline

1842
June 26, 1842
Kaap, South Africa
September 4, 1842
Beaufort West, Cape, South Africa,
1865
August 26, 1865
Age 23
1867
March 24, 1867
Age 24
1868
December 14, 1868
Age 26
1870
July 19, 1870
Age 28
1871
April 1, 1871
Age 28
Transvaal, South Africa
1872
June 17, 1872
Age 29
1877
February 23, 1877
Age 34
Klipriviersberg, Transvaal, South Africa
1882
May 19, 1882
Age 39