There are two stories, both related to the early Voortrekkers, to account for the origins of this town 30 km north west of Klerksdorp Ottosdal branch railway line. According to one story, two men by the name of De Clerq went hunting, wounded a Hartebees and found it dead at a spring which they then named Hartebeesfontein.

The second story goes that when in 1837 Voortrekker leader Hendrik Potgieter led a punitive expedition against Mzilikazis impis, some of his men were left behind in a laager near here. Bored, one of the men went hunting. He wounded a Hartebeest gave chase and came upon a bubbling spring. After the campaign had ended he returned to the area where he acquired a farm which he named Hartebeesfontein.

In the Anglo Boer War Hartebeesfontein was the scene of a battle between a Boer commando and Lord Methuens forces on 18 February 1901. Prior to this and later the farm changed hands several times. Eventually owner H F Moller subdivided the land for a village which was proclaimed a town.

Hartbeesfontein is a settlement near Klerksdorp, in the North West province of South Africa. It is situated at the intersection of the R503 and R507 routes.

The town is situated on an ancient geological feature known as the Hartbeesfontein basin (or KOSH basin), which is the source of the gold found on its southern rim. Underground water occurs in abundance dolomitic aquifers of the region. when the water is however allowed to seep into mines it is oxidized and polluted by the exposed iron pyrites. As of 2005 when Buffelsfontein mine went out of business, it became a burden on the remaining mines to keep the interconnected tunnels free of water.

A small pass above town, Hartbeesfontein Poort, was the scene of a Boer War skirmish on February 17, 1901. The British forces, a contingent of Lord Methuen led by Captain Poison, were descending the 500ft escarpment above town, when they were confronted by entrenched Boer forces of about double Methuen ordered tow companies of Major Murrays convoy guard to occupy a strategic position. After some dozens of soldiers were killed on each side, the British secured the pass and captured ample Boer supplies of stock and grain.