ORANGE FREE STATE PROVINCE, formerly Orange River Colony, a state of the Union of South Africa. It has Cape Colony on S. and S. W., Bechuana land on N. W., Transvaal Colony on N., Natal on E., Basutoland on S. E.; area estimated at 50,389 square miles, divided into 19 districts; pop. Europeans about 200,900. Native and colored, about 400, 000. Capital, Bloemfontein. Lying about 5,000 feet above the sea-level, the coun try, chiefly vast undulating plains, is cold in winter, with violent thunder storms and long droughts in summer. It is, however, very healthful, and favor able to European constitutions. Agri culturing and pasturing are the chief occupations, and wool, hides, and ostrich feathers the principal exports. Dia monds and other precious stones have been found in paying quantities, rich coal mines exist, and the State is said to abound in other mineral wealth. Gold was discovered in 1887. The Dutch Re formed Church is the dominant religion, and a Dutch dialect the language of the country. The country may now be reached by railway from Port Elizabeth. The colony was founded in 1835-1836 by Dutch settlers from Cape Colony, an nexed by Great Britain in 1848 in order to put a stop to the Boer outrages on natives but in 1854 it was recognized as an independent State.
The great discovery of diamonds on the banks of the Vaal river, in May, 1870, led to conflicting claims by the Orange Free State and the Transvaal Republic but in October, 1871, the Brit ish annexed the disputed territory (See KIMBERLEY) . In the summer of 1899, the relations becoming strained between the South African Republic and the British government, the Orange Free State declared its intention of supporting the latter in the event of war (See TRANSVAAL COLONY). After the defeat of the Boer forces, a military governor was appointed over the Orange Free State (March, 1900). Its annexation to the British empire was formally pro claimed at Bloemfontein, May 28. On Sept. 5, Lord Roberts issued a proclama tion defining the policy of the British government in regard to the conquered State. See BOERS.