Personalia of Germans in South Africa

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Personalia of Germans in South Africa

german-personaliaThis Archives Year Book for South African History is undoubtedly one of the most important publications which have ever been published.

After publishing his monumental History of the Lutheran Church at the Cape, Dr. Hoge set himself the task of searching out the references in the various archives to the Germans who settled at the Cape during the indicated period. Previously the subject has been dealt with by Schmidt and Moritz, but now for the first time exhaustively by Dr. Hoge. Besides the 4,000, whose personalia are given in alphabetical order, followed by a list of women and Swiss immigrants, Dr. Hoge has collected the names of some 10,000 Germans who, during the above mentioned period, did not leave the service of the Company; this brings us to the figure of 14,000 persons of German origin, who individually and collectively must have contributed their share in the formation and the upbuilding of the Cape Colony during the first 150 years of its existence.

Only a small percentage of these 4,000, through continuance in the male line, have become forbears of the Afrikaner nation, a good number, however, though extinct in the male found a continued existence in the female line.

With regard to birth, breeding, occupation and social standing the vast majority belong to the category of the small fry, though some of the well-known names in our history have sprung from these simple illiterate folks, like President Paul Kruger, descended from Jacob Kruger of Sadenbeek, who arriving in 1714 as soldier was subsequently loaned as farm hand; General Botha, descended from Friedrich Botha, of Wangenheim, who worked for Jan Cornelissen of Oud-Beyerland and gained the affection of the latter’s wife Maria Kickers of Amsterdam to the extent that she prided herself in a court of law that all her children in her marriage were not procreated by her official husband, but by Friedrich Botha; General Hertzog, descended from the wainwright Johann Berthold Hertzog, of Brunswick.

Among those who distinguished themselves personally and during their lifetime we find names—to mention a few—like the Company’s gardener and botanist Auge, the carpenter and sculptor Anreith, the apothecary, herbalist and clever draughtsman Claudius, the sculptor and architect Hermann Schütte, the silversmith Matthias Lotter, of Augsburg, and his descendants who pursued the same trade. In this group one would like to mention not the father, but the son of the successful tailor, baker and merchant, Christian Daniel Persoon. This son, Christiaan Hendrik, who was sent to school at Lingen in Germany at the age of twelve, achieved international fame as a botanist and founder of the science of mycology.

Amongst the officials of the Company, besides, inter alia, Christian Ludolph Neethling, and the Rhenius family, the most prominent German was the second Commander of the Cape, Zacharias Wagner (Wagenaar), of Dresden. Before his appointment at the Cape he was active in Brazil. He left a “Thierbuch” on the fauna and flora of this country in 109 coloured drawings, also a work on his experiences during 35 years in Europe, Asia, Africa and America in the service of the East and West India Companies.

A small but interesting group of Cape settlers are those of aristocratic birth, Joachim Nikolaus von Dessin, to whose passion for collecting books we owe the precious Dessinian collection; Baron Carl von Ludwig, whose botanical garden at his property ”Ludwigsburg” in Kloof Street was a delight to the lover of indigenous and exotic plants, and whose daily progress to and from his office in the Heerengracht in his equipage drawn by six white stallions was the event of the day; Ernst Friedrich von Kamptz, who sold his farm “Ravensteyn” behind Lion’s Head to the Company for Rix Dollars 10,000, which has ever since then been known as Kamp’s Baai. In 1786 he went to Europe. The Directors of the Company were asked not to allow him to return, “because he has incessantly caused all sorts of difficulties and disagreeableness and must be considered as a person, in case he returns, who might be the cause of much unrest in this colony”. Another Baron, the local authorities were not too pleased with, was Baron von Buchenröder, who arrived here in 1803 with his friend Baron Knobel, in order to carry out a colonising scheme.

General Janssens declared that “nothing he promised or undertook succeeded, because he was profoundly ignorant in everything”, and a member of the Council of Policy bore witness of “his turbulent and violent nature . . . which most times ascends to an indomitable anger”. After his arrival in Holland he published two dull books on the Colony. The authorities did not prevent his return. He settled at Uitenhage, where he earned a living as a building contractor, and in this line came into contact with Piet Retief. The family is extinct in the male line. His daughter married Baron Knobel, the forbear of the South African family of this name.

The schoolmasters, though not of noble birth, were not amongst the least useful amongst the German colonists. We meet some interesting specimens: Tavenrath, who taught W. A. van der Stel’s children privately; J. G. Kilian, a Franciscan monk, who escaped from the monastery of Brühl. He was refused in 1779 the post of schoolmaster at Stellenbosch, “seeing that he was totally ignorant in the art of teaching singing and his writing not at all that of a schoolmaster”. Johann von Lindenbaum established in 1803 a kind of Select Boarding School at the Paarl in which Nederlands, French and arithmetic were taught “besides all that a decent education demands”. In 1806 he rented the parsonage at Stellenbosch, in which he would teach “the French language and other sciences”. Remkes, after being in the service of Henning Hüsing, became scribe of the Church. He was such a clever arithmetician that he earned up to 50 Rix Dollars a month either as an accountant or by private tuition. Schierke requested De Mist to be looked .after in the Company’s Hospital, being sick and poor. For eighteen years he had been instructing the young colonists. He hoped that on being restored to health, to make a living again since “benevolent Providence had left him with a good eyesight without the need of spectacles as well as various talents”.

Amongst the teachers of the Gospel there were in the Dutch, Reformed Church seven of German origin : Kalden, Aling, Ballot, Meiring, Harders. Borcherds and Von Manger. Physically, Aling must have been one of the most conspicuous amongst all the Germans who ever came to the Cape. Lady Anne Barnard testified that he was “the largest man in height and breadth I ever saw in my life”. It is not generally known that Kalden, like W. A. van der Stel published a “Defence”. It was printed at Utrecht in 1713. (Prof. J. J. Smith of Stellenbosch possesses .a copy). Von Manger is described as “serious in the pulpit, amiable in intercourse . . ..and in his conversations even witty”.

One of the most successful Germans at the Cape, who started at the bottom and became extremely wealthy, was Martin Melck. Amongst his compatriots he seems to have been a model of an ideal husband. Stavorinus tells us that one of his outstanding characteristics was his gratitude to his wife, Anna Hop, the widow of Johann Giebeler. According to his own saying he owed her everything. “He would not allow her to give herself any trouble with anything, however trifling. He wished that she should take her ease and amuse herself. He took care of everything himself, also of household matters, so that his wife did not concern herself with anything”.

It is surprising how relatively few queer and shady characters we find in the course of 150 years amongst these 4,000 German Cape settlers. We shall mention a few. Silberbach slew in 1697 the Frenchman Ary Lecrêvain better known as Ary Lekkerwyn, which designation survives in the name of his farm. He fled, was declared an outlaw and banished for life. Jacob Wemmers, after whom Wernmershoek is called, was banished in 1764 for theft and selling stolen goods. August Wiedemann, schoolmaster at Pieter van Tank at Riebeeck Kasteel, fell in love with his boss’s widow, and tried to murder her, because her preference went to another German servant on the farm. He was sentenced to death and hanged. Gotthilf Leydenberger was tired of life. He thought that the surest way of ridding himself of this burden was to kill somebody else. So he did. He was executed in 1760. Peter Lange was exiled in 1763 for the attempted rape of his stepdaughter Cornelia. Gottlieb Oppermann took to drink and ill-treated his wife and children. Mitchael Otto, who became owner of Vergelegen in 1722, according to Mentzel, also took to drink and treated his slaves with great cruelty.

The most notorious case in this respect was certainly that of Peter Becker of Konigsberg, who was rumoured to have killed his wife’s former husband, the French Huguenot Andre Gauche. After flogging his slave Maria of Ceylon most unmercifully and rubbing certain parts of .her body with pickle, he suspended her above the fire in the chimney with the consequence that bits of flesh detached themselves from her body.

Dealing with criminals we might insert here the account of the death of the forbear of the Cloetes, Jacob Cloete of Cologne. He was found murdered on the 23rd of May, 1693 not far from the Castle. “They found him sorely handled with three cuts across the head and two thrusts in the breast, all five mortal, with 25 lesser wounds. steeped in his blood with his sword still in its sheath, so he must have been treacherously attacked, considering also that he was still as agile and fit as a young man of 25 and courageous”.

As to marriage, cases of miscegenation were pretty prevalent amongst the Germans. The greater majority of these emancipated slaves or their daughters, who became the wives in wedlock of some of the settlers, were of Dutch or British-Indian origin. In the course of time this blood, toned down by subsequent white marriages, must have contributed to the physical and intellectual virility of the stock. These coloured spouses were moreover not necessarily of low birth. Dorothea Sultania, the daughter of the exiled Rajah of Tambora, married Christiaan van den Bosch and subsequently the German Harmen Rouwers. Several of these marriages as well as “con-cubinages” seem to have been perfectly happy. Of Spacie of the Cape, the mother of four illegitimate children by Michael Lesch, it was testified “that she had always shown an exemplary conduct, and that she as well as her children, who were recognised by Lesch as his own, had always sat down at the same table with their master”. Johann Volmer left 5,000 guilders to his children by Kaatje of Ceylon and the interest of 12,000 guilders for the support of Kaatje, this sum to be divided amongst her children after her death.

Of the women immigrants who came out on their own hook the most interesting ones are certainly Catharina listings and Lumke Thoole. The former arrived as a widow in 1662 and here at the Cape married and buried four husbands. The first one was Hans Ras, hence she was generally known as Tryn Ras.

Schouten tells us all about her. She used to gallop bareback astride on her horse to the Cape. Hatless and sunburnt she looked like a Red Indian.

Lumke Thoole came disguised as a soldier under the name of Johan Theunis to the Cape in 1724. Reassuming her feminine attire and identity, she married Abraham Hartog under the name of Johanna Theunis Switters of Norden. It turned out that she was already married to the sailor Thys Geertz. The Company obliged her to return to Europe, together with her daughter.

Detailed references to the wives of the settlers are necessarily few and far between. Having given an example of an ideal husband in Martin Melck, I should like to quote a testimony concerning the exemplary German wife of Johann Sieberhagen. In 1805 he was employed by Leopold Heuser on his sheep-farm in the Roggeveld. This is what the “Commissie van Veeteelt en Landbouw” said about .his wife : “with pleasure the Commission observed the industriousness and diligence of this woman. Besides looking carefully after her small children and keeping them in trim, she kept herself at the same time busy at her outspanned wagon by spinning ‘sajette’ from the wool which, shorn from the Spanish sheep of Mr. Huizer in the Carro, she had brought with her. She had a whole box full of various skeins, all spun during her journey”.

I can still select and add, before putting 1) Hoge’s book aside, a few eases, interesting for some reason or other, amongst the men.

The most outstanding one and of the greatest historical importance —for it points to the birth of a nation and the ensuing national sentiment—is that of the son of Detlef Biebow of Mecklenburg. Hendrik Biebow (or Bibault, which made me presume at first that he was of French origin), elated by the defeat of W. A. van der Stel, galloped on horseback on the 7th of March, 1707 with three of his pals down to the Old Mill at Stellenbosch, where they kicked up a terrible shindy. Starrenberg, the landdrost, who came along, threatened Hendrik with his whip. The autocrat and supporter of the Governor was met by the proud and defiant statement: “You dare to touch me ! I am an Afrikaner”

Another son of a German, Johann John, who was substitute-landdrost of Stellenbosch from 1768-79, took objection to his father’s living with a slave-girl, by whom he had five children, “who strutted about in the household of their master clad in civil clothes with silver clasps on their shoes”.

Christian Miet, in 1780 employed in the service of Adriaan van Schoor as gardener, was praised as “a citizen who does not after the example of others adorned with a cane, pass his time in stinking leisure, but is very diligent in his endeavours to obtain in all honour as an old respectable man a morsel of bread for a living”.

Johann Meintjes became impoverished. He was granted “the usual clothing as being old and decrepit and incapable of earning anything”. In 1752 Eva Coetsee was engaged to look after him for 4 lids. a month, which, however, at her -request, was increased to 8 lids., “seeing that she has daily much trouble with the old man in keeping him clean from vermin as also in other respects”.

I hope that I have given a sufficient idea of the interest of Dr. Hoge’s work. One would be mistaken in thinking, however, that it is mainly of an anecdotic nature. With complete references, he succinctly gives everything found in the archival sources about the German section appertaining to their origin, birth, marriage, occupation and progeny. One thus obtains a comprehensive and truthful account of this section, which ethnically and culturally has gone, for an important share, in so far as they continued through marriage in existence, to make up the Afrikaner nation.

Out of 1,520 forbears Theal gives 494 as hailing from Holland and 806 from Germany. It appears that a certain number of the former according to Dr. Hoge’s findings must be added to the latter.

Due to the fact that the bulk of the Germans arrived in the 18th century, after the Dutch and French section had already increased during a couple of generations, the percentage of German blood in the Afrikaner is roughly speaking not much over 28% against about 50% of Dutch blood.

After the appearance of works like Dr. Hoge’s, the blood percentages will undoubtedly have to be revised.

Mr. Hoge is in the first place a genealogical student. His corrections and additions to the Geslacht-Register of de Villiers are now being partly published in the historical review Historiese Studies. These and his Personalia form an important contribution to the subject of South African genealogy.

Historical students and collectors of Africana should not only procure this latest volume of the Archives Yearbook, but all the thirteen others which have preceded since 1938. The next volume will also partly be of a genealogical nature. It will contain the complete genealogy, with all the references found in the archives to the individual descendants, of the Kruger family, from the forbear Jacob Kruger down to President Paul Kruger, compiled by Dr. E. E. Mossop.

These volumes are in octavo, handsomely printed and bound, limited to 500 copies, which were sold far below cost price at 12s. 6d. a volume by the Government Printer.

The extent of the immigration of Germans to the Cape during the period of the Dutch East-India Company has not yet been satisfactorily dealt with. Colenbrander’s calculations in his “De Afkomst der Boeren” are unreliable. They are based on C. C. de Villiers’ “Geslacht-Register”, a work which, notwithstanding its merit, is incomplete and in many ways inaccurate. The only works which have so far specifically dealt with the Germans at the Cape are those of Schmidt (“Der Kulturanteil der Deutschen am Aufbau des Burenvolkes”, by Werner Schmidt Pretoria ; Hannover, 1938) and of Moritz (“Die Deutschen am Kap unter der holländischen Herrschaft 1652-1806” by Eduard Moritz, Weimar, 1938). They, however, include the personalia of only a limited number of Germans.

In the present publication an attempt is made to give a complete list of those Germans who came to the Cape in the service of the Company during the period 1652 till 1806 and settled here, either remaining in the Company’s service or making a living in one or other capacity after being discharged. Most of the data under each name have been gathered from the various manuscript sources in the Government Archives in Cape Town and the Archives of the Dutch Reformed Church. Relative completeness has been obtained, the researches in connection with the subject covering a great number of years.

The Germans who came from Switzerland have been classified separately, as well as the women immigrants.

A list of Germans who did not leave the service of the Company, neither married or settled here and consequently only appear in the Monsterrolle, has also been compiled. It comprises about 10,000 names. (In some years, especially during the second half of the 18th century, nearly all the members of the garrison and the majority of the artisans, wagon-drivers and stable-boys of the Company were Germans.) This section, however, has been omitted, with a few exceptions, for its addition would have made the present volume too voluminous. We hope to publish it at some future date.

Of the approximately 4,000 Germans whose names are contained in the present volume, only a very limited number – about a hundred, as far as we have been able to ascertain – left the Cape again.

As a definite line of demarcation had to be fixed for determining the national origin, we have chosen the geographical borders of Germany as they existed from 1870 till 1918. (The small number of Germans from the Austrian Empire and from the Baltic provinces have been classified among those who came from Germany.) It must, however, be borne in mind that the linguistic border between Germany and Holland during the 17th and 18th centuries did not exactly coincide with the political one, and that the domain of the Dutch language and culture extended far into German territory, especially in East Friesland and on the lower Rhine, so that men like the Reverends Petrus Kalden, Meent Borcherds and Arnoldus Mauritius Meiring or colonists from places like Wesel, Emmerich, Emden and Lingen can to all intents and purposes be regarded as Hollanders.

2017-04-11T10:44:55+00:00