Klerksdorp was founded in 1837 when the Voortrekkers settled on the Shoonspruit (Clean Stream), which flows through the town. It is the oldest European settlement in what used to be known as the Transvaal. Today, Klerksdorp is not only a city, but also an administrative district of the North West Province. It incorporates the towns of Orkney, Kanana, Stilfontein, Khuma, Hartbeesfontein and Tigane to total a population of more than 300,000.
Together with Rustenburg, Klerksdorp forms the economic heart of the North West province, and is a hub of the South African gold mining industry. It is also a major player in South African agriculture, including maize, sorghum, groundnut and sunflower farming. The district is also known for its Sussex cattle herds. Senwes, in Klerksdorp, is the largest agriculture company in the southern hemisphere.