Welkom is the second-largest city in the Free State province of South Africa, located about 140 kilometres northeast of Bloemfontein which is the provincial capital.
Welkom is also known as Circle City, City Within A Garden, Mvela and Matjhabeng. The city’s Sotho name, Matjhabeng means ‘where nations meet’, derived from the migrant labour system, where people of various countries such as Lesotho, Malawi and Mozambique etc. met to work in the mines of the goldfields.
A settlement was laid out on a farm named “Welkom” (which is the Afrikaans and Dutch word for “welcome“) after gold was discovered in the region, and it was officially proclaimed a town in 1948. The town became a municipality in 1961. It now falls in the Matjhabeng Municipality, part of the Lejweleputswa District. Welkom was officially declared a city on 14 February 1968.
The first prospecting in the area was done by the Englishmen Mr Donaldson and Mr Hinds on a portion of the farm Zoeten-Inval in 1896. The men discovered a small outcrop which seemed to be a conglomerate pebble reef, but they failed to raise interest among mining companies who at that stage did not believe that there was gold to be discovered south of the Vaal River. They returned to England to test the samples they had extracted, but died before reaching their destination when their ship sank in the Bay of Biscay.
Prospector Arthur Megson heard of their venture and decided to investigate near the town of Odendaalsrus in 1904. He gathered samples of exposed strata near an outcrop, which by then was part of Hendrik Petrus Klopper’s farm Aandenk. He too did not succeed in obtaining any interest from companies until October 1932, when he presented his findings to Allan Roberts and Mannie Jacobs. The area needed to be tested by drilling, and the first borehole was started on 5 May 1933. Jacobs managed to interest two men, Fritz Marx and Peter Woolf, in the venture and the Wit Extensions Company was formed later that year. Although the borehole, which by then penetrated more than 1200 metres, yielded 120-inch pennyweights of gold (roughly 480 centimetre grams per ton), it was not enough to garner financial assistance and the operation had to close due to depleted finances. (For gold ores to be payable in South Africa, the grade must typically exceed 960 cengrams – the equivalent of 8 grams per ton over a 120 cm stope width, which after dilution will yield 4g/t in the mill).
Welkom officially came into being on 15 April 1947, six years after the first mining lease in the area was awarded to the St Helena Gold Mining Company, and was proclaimed a town on 23 July 1948. On 14 February 1968, after 21 years of existence, Welkom received city status, and celebrated this event with the opening of the Civic Centre by Mrs Martie du Plessis. The construction of this building commenced in 1964.
On 20 March 1990, Welkom was struck by a multi-vortex tornado which went through the suburbs. This tornado was part of a 240 km long storm front and had a width of up to 1.7 km. This weather event proved to be the most devastating recorded, from the financial and insurance point of view, in South Africa to date, destroying 4,000 homes.
On 26 September 1990, Welkom experienced a seismic event with a magnitude of 4.2, which resulted in two deaths and five injuries.
- Mark Richard Shuttleworth – entrepreneur, cosmonaut, and founder of Canonical Ltd.
- Judy Croome (née Heinemann) – author and poet, matriculated Welkom High School (1975)
- Lieschen Vieira (Botes) – international model, who matriculated at Goudveld Hoërskool
- Neo Pitso – hip hop recording artist
- Donnie Black – Recording Artist & Producer
- Rev Stephen Brislin – Roman Catholic Archbishop of Cape Town, born in Welkom on 24 September 1956.
- Joani Johnson (Podbielski)- Mrs South Africa 2009 and the CEO of Mrs South Africa PTY LTD since 2011, who matriculated at Welkom- Gimnasium
- Louis Loock- Afrikaans singer (previously part of the band “Romanz”)
- George Meiring- Afrikaans singer (2006 SABC2’s Supersterre runner up), who matriculated at Welkom- Gimnasium
- Mmusa Moleli – Molmad Ark Agency Founder since 2017, who matriculated at Welkom Gimnasium.
- Edgar Maduna – Molmad Ark Agency Founder since 2017, who matriculated at Unitas Secondary School.
- Jan Hendrik de Beer (Jannie)- Springbok rugby player
- Wynand Olivier – Springbok rugby player
- Lehlohonolo Motseke – rugby player
- Khwezi Mkhafu-rugby player
- Victor ‘Strand’ Kruger-rugby player
- Hannes Strydom- Springbok rugby player
- Bradley Moolman- rugby player
- C.J. van der Linde- Springbok rugby player
- Joubert Horn- rugby player
- Jandré Marais- rugby player, who matriculated at Welkom- Gimnasium
- Peet Marais- rugby player, who matriculated at Welkom- Gimnasium
- Dewald Pretorius- rugby player
- Franco Mostert- Springbok rugby player
- Louis Strydom- rugby player
- Tobie Kirkham – rugby player,who matriculated at Welkom- Gimnasium
- Liaan Kirkham- rugby player
- Eric Herbert-rugby player,who matriculated at THS Welkom
- Lourens Prinsloo -rugby player, who matriculated at Welkom- Gimnasium
- Whestley Moolman-rugby player
- Inus Kritzinger- rugby player
- Lerato Manzini – professional footballer for Bloemfontein Celtic in the Premier Soccer League.
- Mosa Lebusa – professional footballer for Ajax Cape Town in the Premier Soccer League.
- Paseka Sekese – professional footballer for Bidvest Wits in the Premier Soccer League.
- Gerard Louis Brophy- cricketer
- Brian Mervin McMillan – won South African Cricket Annual Cricketer of the Year awards in 1991 and 1996
- Dean Elgar- Protea cricketer. On 11 March 2017, against New Zealand he became the first South African opener to face 200 or more ball in both innings of a Test.
- Thandi Tshabalala
- Seabelo Senatla – professional rugby player
- Nick Schoonwinkel – [[International Precision Shooter and President of the World Rimfire and Air Rifle Benchrest Federation
- Mornè Buys – Professional Golfer
- Elinda Vorster(Rademeyer)- South African athlete who competed for South Africa to reach the semi-finals of the Women’s 200 metres event at the 1992 Summer Olympics inside the Estadi Olimpic de Montjuic in Barcelona, Spain in August 1992, who matriculated at Welkom- Gimnasium
- Bennie Greyling- 2nd youngest boy in the world to run a dream mile in 1982,who matriculated at Welkom- Gimnasium
- Linda Olivier- South African women cricketer and golfer, who matriculated at Welkom- Gimnasium
- Jacques Olivier- cricket,who matriculated at Welkom- Gimnasium
- Gerrie Sonnekus- Springbok rugby player, who matriculated at Welkom- Gimnasium
- Lukas van Biljon- Springbok rugby player, who matriculated at Welkom- Gimnasium
- Zarck Visser- South African long jumper (Athletics)- silver medal at 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland, who matriculated at Welkom- Gimnasium
- Christo Ferreira- Springbok rugby player, who matriculated at Welkom- Gimnasium
- Jaco van Zyl- South African golfer, who matriculated at Welkom- Gimnasium
- Thomas Liversage – ATP Tennis Player, who matriculated at Welkom- Gimnasium
- Daan Liversage – rugby player, who matriculated at Welkom- Gimnasium
- Franko de Klerk – actor and entertainer, who completed school at Naudeville.
- Pedrie de Klerk – Hockey player completed school at Naudeville