HARRISMITH, a town in the Orange Free State, 60 m. N.W. by rail of Ladysmith, Natal, and 240 m. N.E. of Bloemfontein via Bethlehem. Pop. (1904) 8300 (including troops 1921). It is built on the banks of the Wilge, 5250 ft. above the sea and some 20 m. W. of the Drakensberg. Three miles N. is the Platberg, a table-shaped mountain rising 2000 ft. above the town, whence an excellent supply of water is derived. The town is well laid out and several of the streets are lined with trees. Most of the houses are built of white stone quarried in the neighbourhood. The Kaffirs, who numbered in 1904 3483, live in a separate location. Harrismith has a dry, bracing climate and enjoys a high reputation in South Africa as a health resort. It serves one of the best-watered and most fertile agricultural and pastoral districts of the province, of which it is the chief eastern trading centre. Wool and hides are the principal exports.
Harrismith was founded in 1849, the site first chosen being on the Elands river, where the small town of Aberfeldig now is; but the advantages of the present site soon became apparent and the settlement was removed. The founders were Sir Harry Smith (after whom the town is named), then governor of Cape Colony, and Major Henry D. Warden, at that time British resident at Bloemfontein, whose name is perpetuated in that of the principal street. In a cave about 2 m. from the town are well-preserved Bushman paintings.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)