THE DEVIL’S ROUTE INTO THE KAROO
The story of Duiwelskop, the first north to south pass over the Outeniqua mountains, has been captured in a full-colour book, just released by Dick Metcalf. He lives in Prince Albert and studies pioneer routes into the interior. Dick is currently engaged in an on-going programme of recording the old wagon passes of the Cape and the tracks that linked them. Duiwelskop was an extremely rugged route and it terrified early travellers. It runs from Louvain farm in the Klein Karoo to Woodville Store on the Seven Passes Road in the Garden Route. Today it is popular among 4×4 enthusiasts and mountain bikers. The route lies in unhospitable terrain. “The path was so densely forested and the gorges so steep that even the forest elephants were forced to take the circuitous route via the old ox wagon route, Attaquaskloof, the Lange Kloof and Keerbooms River Valley to reach their alternate habitats,” said Dick. “Getting wagons over the Duiwelskop (Devil’s Head), in the early years was no easy task. There were places where the oxen could not drag the wagons, and pack oxen had to carry the goods. At other places, wagons had to be man-handled up high rock ‘steps’. This inhospitable area was only mastered after a major fire in 1869 (see page 2) burnt enough of the bush to allow surveyors in.”
FIRST FARMERS ARRIVE
Louvain farm, at the foot of Schoonberg mountain, was originally granted to Petrus Hendrik Ferreira in 1762. It was later occupied by Jacobus van Beulen and it is thought that he and fellow farmer, Stephanus Terblanche, opened this route in 1772. The public, however, only started using this pass in 1776. Discovering the history of this route resulted in Dick having to study old maps and read many old journals and reports dating back to the 1600 and 1700s in order to produce Duiwelskop Pioneer Pass From Karoo to Coast. He walked for hours following “hidden” bits and was rewarded by finding the “steps” the wagons had to climb and tracks cut into the rocks by their metal-rimmed wheels. He also found the improved and re-aligned route laid out by Thomas Bain in 1864, and modern-day rough and overgrown Jeep track.
WHAT THE TRAVELLERS SAID
Early travellers did not like this route. In 1775, Anders Spaarman called it “a very bad road” and a “troublesome footpath”. Hendrik Swellengrebel, passing in 1776, (the year in which the woodcutters post was established) said: ”It is so difficult that our wagon driver, who went to survey the route, saw no chance of getting over it without accident or breaking something on the wagons.” In February 1778, Robert Jacob Gordon remarked that people came over the mountain from Widow Bulle’s (Beulen) farm on a wagon path named De Duiwels Kop or Nannidouw, the “finger path” (as it was known to the local Khoi Khoi people). On November 3, 1778, Governor Joachim von Plettenberg and his party crossed and reported that a team of men was needed to help. Wagons could hardly move a hundred paces without encountering extremely steep sections, sharp corners or big rock ledges. French author, explorer, naturalist and acclaimed ornithologist, François Levaillant, falsely claimed to be the first to cross here. He left a detailed report and said “the view gave me a fright”. Sir John Barrow passed in 1797 and commented: “There is but one passage for wagons over the south chain of mountains and this is seldom used – it is the Duivels Kop and among the most formidable and difficult roads in the Colony.” Barrow added that the road was dreadfully steep and stony with a portion which was “like a flight of stairs” with steps were about 4ft (121,92cm) high and there it was necessary to lift the wagons.” In 1813 Scottish missionary John Campbell, wrote: “It’s almost impossible to prevent the wagons being turned over the precipice and dashed to atoms. The remains of two wagons were lying at the bottom and this warned us to beware of the danger.” In 1835 adventurer Andrew Steedman called it “ one of the most frightful passes in the Colony.” This is an exciting story. And Dick has captured it in a 72-page full-colour book. Copies cost R200 each plus courier, Pep Stores or Postnet fees, can be ordered directly from Dick at email@example.com
THE DAY THE WORLD WENT UP IN FLAMES
A series of disasters to hit the southern Cape in the late 1800s. In 1866 horse sickness killed almost all the horses. Then, the George Divisional Bank, that had only opened in 1860, crashed in January, 1869, ruining its shareholders and many prominent men. And finally, at sunrise on Tuesday, February 9, 1869, the area was hit by the worst fire anyone had ever seen. Driven by “the hottest berg wind in living memory” this “intensely hot hurricane” caused fires to break out across a 450 km area. Some said it felt as if the world just suddenly “went up in flames”. The devastation was enormous. Fires could be seen from kilometers away. Flames could be seen on Spitzkop in the Prince Alfred’s Pass. At least 41 lives were lost. Pets, livestock – poultry, pigs, goats, sheep, cattle, oxen, mules and horses – game and birds were all horribly disfigured, burnt to death or overcome by the smoke. Some tried to save their livestock by immersing them in rivers and dams. Homes, cottages, huts, farms and kraals were destroyed, along with crops, fruit trees and fodder. Many people were ruined. Newspapers, such as the George Advertiser, George and Knysna Herald and Grahamstown Journal carried reports of horror and devastation stating that resinous odours filled the hot, dry, suffocating, dust-laden air during this “terrible hurricane”. Great sheets of flame, snatched by the wind, were flung from bush to bush and sparks showered down like rain. The sun burned red. The smoke was so dense that candles had to be lit. Terrified families fled from the approaching inferno, in wagons and on foot, through choking smoke and heat, states Lynne Thompson, a volunteer working at the George Museum, who researched the incident.
“LIQUID” FIRE POURED OVER THE MOUNTAIN
At the time there were only about 3 000 people living in the area. People fled to local gaols, large stone buildings or leapt into ponds for safety. Every available blanket was requisitioned, soaked in water and spread over the thatched roofs to save them from the sparks. When the wind dropped George Row, his wife and two children decided to try and reach Victoria Bay, but a fire suddenly broke out on both sides of their Cape cart on the narrow road. The family were saved, but the cart was completely destroyed, the horses perished and Scholtz, the cart driver’s hands were so severely burnt that he lost the use of them for the rest of his life. The fire poured over the great wooded krantzes like liquid and surged through the dry grass in the valleys below. Barnard Vermaak’s money melted. He had been keeping it in a chest because he didn’t trust the bank. His silver spoons and forks also melted, and he lost his feather beds. A passenger on the Knysna Belle about 5 miles out at sea watched the blaze. He saw birds and insects flying towards the ship and flocking on board for safety. Over the mountains in Oudtshoorn, Mr Le Roux lost horses, a mule, goats and 488 sheep. His cattle escaped. Another farmer lost his full shed of tobacco. Near Meiringspoort, “homesteads were threatened and people were running in all directions with blankets and bundles trying to make their way to Oliphant’s River for protection. At the Moravian Mission, at Clarkson, 14 lives and 27 houses were lost
REWARDING TRIP INTO HISTORY
Dru Danford embarked on an incredible journey when he decided to research the history of his maternal grandmother’s ancestors – the Simpsons. “Putting this international ‘jigsaw’ puzzle of names, countries, dates and places together, took years to complete, and then I decided to write a book. Soon after I started, I discovered that there was much more to this project than simply collecting names, dates, births, marriages and deaths. These were brave, resilient, courageous, daring and adventurous people who trekked into a hard dryland, the Karoo, and there found love and happiness. They made lives for themselves. They farmed in rough rugged conditions, they built churches, towns and businesses. I found myself drawn into their stories and I needed to understand how and why they moved from place to place. I needed each individual to emerge from the pages of history as a ‘real’ person,” said Dru. He said he had expected to find evidence of an old English family, but to his amazement he found a true South African tale, a complex story intertwined with several other European nationalities. It developed into a kaleidoscope of English, French, Dutch, Swedish and German people with roots reaching back to when this country was first colonized. Totally captivated by his research Dru mapped out where his ancestors had lived on farms and in various Karoo villages and then took his grandmother, Leonora Simpson (born in Cape Town, 1925) to visit all these locations. He shares some of his research with readers in asupplement to this issue of Round up.
In an effort to capture the now sometimes rapidly disappearing histories of small Karoo towns, The Karoo Development Foundation (KDF) is attempting to capture these in a special section of its website. VISIT https://karoofoundation.co.za/karoo-cameos/ for more on Adendorp, Kendrew, Klaarstroom, Leeu Gamka, Murraysburg, Noupoort, Three Sisters and Wolwefontein. More will be added soon.
ANCIENT SKULL A LINK TO THE MODERN WORLD
In 1952 a skull was found in a dry erosion gully of the Vlekpoort River, near the tiny town of Hofmeyr. There was no immediate excitement, it was simply sent to the Port Elizabeth Museum. Then, in the 1990s, Professor Alan Morris, forensic anthropologist in the Department of Human Biology at the University of Cape Town, noticed it and brought it to the attention of American paleo-anthropologist and anatomist. Dr Frederick Edward Grine, at the State University of New York, at Stony Brook. Grine then undertook to lead an international team of research scientists who dated the skull by measuring the amount of radiation that had been absorbed by sand grains that filled the inside of its braincase. This revealed that it was 36 000 years old. This excited the scientific community because this date provided the first fossil indicator that modern humans evolved in sub-Saharan Africa. “Reliably dated fossils are critical to understanding the course of human evolution” said Prof Grine. In Science of January 12, 2007, he said “This was the first fossil to support the genetics-based ‘Out of Africa’ theory, which proposed that humans, like those that inhabited Eurasia in the Upper Paleolithic, were also found in sub-Saharan Africa around 36,000 years ago.”
A WORLD OF INNOVATION
Petrus Strydom, a well-known, entrepreneurial farmer, land owner and innovator in the Baviaanskloof area in the late 1800s, established many businesses in the Gamtoos Valley. His Johannes Gerhardus (known as JG or Hans), who was born on Klipfontein, near Willowmore, on July 4, 1893, became the fifth Prime Minister of South Africa. He served from November 30, 1954, until his death on August 24, 1958. Visitors said the Strydoms were very formal people and that guests were required to “dress” for dinner. On Zandvlakte and Klipfontein Petrus established a schools, little churches and shops. He farmed with ostriches and had factories which produced ostrich leather products. Other factories on his farm produced fat, soap and products made from baboon skin and fur. He also had a profitable chewing tobacco factory. Around 1900 Zandvlakte was the first farm to have a telephone exchange and hydro-generated electric power, states Somerset Playne in History, Commerce, Industries and Resources. The system provided electricity to the house, offices, shops and factories. They also had one of the first solariums in SA. This was a room fitted with vast areas of glass to admit maximum sunlight. It had its own water circulation system and a bath big enough for ten men.
In 1939 Raimund H Marloth of the Subtropical Horticultural Research Station, in Nelspruit, tried to locate the oldest citrus tree in South Africa. He called for information in the December issue of the SA Journal of Science. “The first citrus seedlings, probably from St Helena, were planted at the Cape on June 11, 1654,” he said. Van Riebeeck in his Journal mentions picking the first oranges in the Company’s gardens in 1661. No one knows how long these trees lived. Marloth mentions a 150 to 160 year old tree on the Polly Visser’s farm Hex River near Clanwillian that burnt almost to the ground in 1925, but by 1930 had strong new suckers growing out above the crown roots. A resident of the area stated that his father had a 130 years old tree to which early Khoi Khoi, tied their cattle at night. One farmer, C J Mouton, told him of trees that were well over 100 years old. “Forty years ago one orchard had to be cut down to stumps to get rid of Australian bug, yet, the orchard rapidly recovered.” In this orchard was a naartje tree which had also been planted a century before. Trees of similar age were found on Klaver Vlei and at The Baths near Citrusdal. Old productive trees were also to be found in the Graaff-Reinet and Fort Beaufort areas as well as on some farms in the Great Karoo.
LARGEST FRUIT GROWER IN SA
In his day, Joseph Sarembock was the largest deciduous fruit grower in South Africa. He once owned a huge citrus farm in Beaufort West. Born in Wilkomia, Russia, on December 31, 1874, he was the eldest son of Aaron and Ethel Sarembock. Hailed as an entrepreneur and far-sighted marketing agent he emigrated to South Africa with his brothers, Louis and Jack, acquired land in the Ceres area and planted apple and pear trees. Joseph pioneered the scientific fruit growing and imported trees from New Zealand, Australia, Canada and California. Within half a century Ceres had more acres under fruit trees than any other district in the country. Two thirds of the town’s income was derived from fruit. In the early1900s Joseph married Jane, the daughter of Nathan and Bertha Clare. They had four children. Their eldest son, Nathan, who was injured in WWII, was lost on the hospital ship HM Ramb IV on May10, 1942. This converted cargo carrier, was en-route from Tobruk to Alexandria when she was attacked by a German JH-88 aircraft and damaged. A severe fire broke and she had to be abandoned. She was carrying 360 staff and injured men – 155 of the wounded and 10 crewmen were lost.
WELL KNOWN ORANGE GROWER
There were some very well-known citrus growers in the hinterland. And, several of these growers planted their trees from seeds. The De Villiers farm, La-de-da, outside Beaufort West, was quite famous for its excellent oranges. Philip Hobbs, an 1820 settler, in the Bathurst district, was also a well-known orange grower. His orangery and its good harvest was known far and wide. The trees ”were in full bearing” when he died at the age of 79 on November 24, 1870. He was one of the oldest inhabitants of Bathurst and widely respected for his quiet, unassuming and industrious ways. A few years before his death he purchased a property known as Drostdy House and lived there until his death. The fertile grounds of this property was said to be responsible for his excellent harvests. Philip was also a popular member of the Wesleyan Church, stated the Grahamstown Journal of December 2, 1870.
THE TRAIN WRECKERS
Dr Tian Schutte and Peet Coetzee have just launched a book called Treinvernielers. Written in Afrikaans, this work covers attacks on trains, the destruction of railway bridges, railway lines and stations in the ZAR (Zuid-Afrikaanse Republiek) during the Anglo-Boer War. The ZAR was an Independent Republic which existed from 1852 until 1902 when it was annexed by the British after the war. The book is well illustrated. It manages to combine a great deal of historical information and facts with diagrams and maps. It contains several colourful stories and underlines the importance of trains during war and the British army’s reliance on this mode of transport. Books cost around R400 each. More from firstname.lastname@example.org
MORE FOR BOER WAR ENTHUSIASTS
Pieter Cloete’s The Anglo-Boer War 963 Days is now available in e-book format. It is available from Amazon Kindle, Google and African Sun Media. Boxed sets are also still available from major booksellers. This set consists of two books – a 410-page main volume and a 50-page addendum of maps, facts and statistics. The main volume gives a concise, day-by-day, blow-by-blow, account of the eleven months preceding the ultimatum and the 963 days of the war from the start of hostilities to the signing of the Peace Treaty. The main book chronologically covers political and military events. For further details and to order contact email@example.com
FOR MILITARY HISTORY BUFFS Tel No 076 315 7713
A new book which will appeal to military history buffs is now available. Entitled Battle for the Cape 1778 – 1806 and written by Ian van Oordt it describes the three battles at the Cape from the perspective of those who fought in them. It also explains how the decisions to fight were reached, tells why Britain wanted the Cape, a land so far from home, so badly. He endeavours to cover the political situation of the day and explain the involvement of Britain, America, Holland, France and even Russia in affairs at the Cape. Researching this book took Ian and his wife, Barbara, 15 years. This 546-page, A4 book has 20chapters, 26 maps and many full-colour illustrations. A limited quantity of numbered and signed books are available at R1500 each excl VAT, handling and delivery. More from firstname.lastname@example.org. While researching this book Ian discovered that his great grandfather wrote the first book on the Battle of Blaauwberg.
ANGLO-BOER WAR IN COLOUR
Volume 1 of Tinus le Roux’s book with colourised images from the Anglo-Boer War has been completed and is currently at the printers. Available in English and Afrikaans, it will be released in April. This first volume covers Conventional War. The book has 264 pages and 411 colour photographs. It will be printed in soft cover on high quality paper. A limited hard cover edition will also be available. Published by Jonathan Ball , the books will be available in all good bookstores e.g. Bargain Books, Exclusive Books, Wordsworths and others. Recommended retail price (soft cover) is R350.
SPECIALLY FOR BOOKLOVERS
The Franschhoek Literary Festival scheduled for May 13 to 15 it is designed to “brings together a cross-section of South African and international authors, to inspire, delight, inform and challenge those who attend.” More from HELLO@FLF.CO.CA This festival is preceded by a Book Week for Young Readers
The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see – Winston Churchill
A TRIBUTE TO THE SIMPSONS – A TRULY SOUTH AFRICAN FAMILY
By Dru Danford
The story of the Simpsons in our family starts with the arrival of Henry William Simpson in South Africa in 1820. He was almost 15 years old, yet he sailed across the world to seek his fortune. Henry William was born in Covent Gardens, London, in those days it was a fruit-and-vegetable market, but now it’s a popular shopping and tourist site,
Henry William Simpson (Leonora’s great great grandfather)
Henry William Simpson, the patriarch of our Simpson family in South Africa, was born on June 20, 1805, and baptised at St Martins in the Fields on July 25. He lived with his family in Russell Street, where his father, Arthur Simpson, was an upholsterer. Arthur died at the age of 54 in 1819, leaving his wife, Jane, with several young children. So, 14 ½ -year-old Henry, the youngest son, left England on December 14, 1819, on the Amphitrite, bound for South Africa with a party of settlers. They were led by George, the son of Reverend Thomas Wilkinson. of Bulvan, near Oesett, and his partner John Morton, the son of a steward on Lord Petre’s estates. Both were farmers and most party members came from Essex. (George brought out 25 families – 10 principals and 15 servants – and John Morton 5. In addition to Henry William there were two other teenagers in the party – Michael Madden,13, and Henry Mann, 14.) Henry William’s name appears on the passenger list as an apprentice.
This party’s departure was not without drama. When the ship reached Brixham Harbour, four labourers deserted and another, John Jenkins, died. The ship finally arrived in Table Bay on March 29, 1820. The Colonial authorities then arranged for the Importer to take the settlers to Algoa Bay (later re-named Port Elizabeth, now Gqeberha). From there the party was transported to Albany on the banks of the Blaauwkrantz River. They named the area where they settled “New Essex”. The Government did not provide any provisions and so, like so many others, this party faced many hardships. It did not survive for long and by September, only six months after their arrival, Wilkinson and Morton’s partnership was dissolved and the labourers were released from their contracts. Wilkinson, then 22, died soon afterwards and Morton, 29, returned to England.
Henry William, however, was only released from his apprenticeship by the magistrate of Graaf-Reinet when he turned 21 in 1826. The 1830’s found him in Beaufort, a town between a ridge of hills and two rivers – the Gamka and Kuils – south the Nuweveld Mountains, with rocks that are 230-million years old. The town was founded in 1818 to maintain law and order on the border. It was named by the then governor Lord Charles Henry Somerset in honour of his father, the 5th Duke of Beaufort (To eliminate confusion with other places with similar names, ”West” was added in 1860).
On January 29, 1832, Henry William married Gertruida Elisabeth, the daughter of Zacharias Joseph de Beer, a Dutch settler. She was born in Swellendam. Her ancestors, who arrived in South Africa in 1699, were among the earliest European immigrants. They came from Wasa in Sweden (now Vaasa in Finland). The patriarch, “stamvader”, Matthys Andries de Beer, the first De Beer to arrive in South Africa, was Gertruida Elisabeth’s great grandfather. On October 24, 1705 in Stellenbosch, he married Hilletjie Smit, daughter of Jan and Adriana Smit who had come to the Cape from Maastricht, Netherlands in 1687. Matthys and Hilletjie de Beer lived in Stellenbosch until 1707 and then farmed in the Drakenstein area.
Henry William and Gertruida had five children. All were christened in the Dutch Reformed Church in Beaufort West. His descendants married and mixed with people whose ancestors had come to the Cape from a variety of European countries as early as the 1700. Some married local Khoi Khoi women.
The initial settlement at the Cape was quite small. The town itself was located in and around what is today The Gardens. Within a short time towns like Tulbagh, Stellenbosh and Paarl sprang up. In time the settlers moved eastwards in search of new pastures and to escape the control of the Dutch East India Company. As they roamed into the interior, they were joined by British settlers who had arrived at the Cape in 1806. Along the way they founded towns like Swellendam, Gertruida’s birthplace, by 1743. The settlement, which was eventually named Prince Albert in 1842, grew on the loan farm Queeckvalleij (Kweekvallei) established by Zacharias de Beer, Gertruida’s great uncle and his wife, Dina, in 1762, beneath the Swartberg Mountains. According to early travellers Zacharias was an eccentric man, but he carved out a living in this wilderness environment.
According to the Cape Almanac of 1840, Henry William worked in the Beaufort West Sheriff’s office. In 1847 his name appears as a Sheriff’s Messenger. He lived in Beaufort for the rest of his life and never returned to England, so he never saw his mother or siblings again. He died in Beaufort West on October 7, 1861, at the age of 56, leaving assets to the value of about £2,000. His death notice states that he was by then a transporter by profession.
Zacharias Joseph Simpson (Leonora’s great grandfather)
Henry William and Gertruida’s eldest surviving son, Zacharias Joseph, who was born in Beaufort West on August 26, 1838, was Leonora’s great grandfather. (He was named after his maternal grandfather, Zacharias Joseph de Beer). On December 28, 1858, he married Helena Theron in Beaufort West, the 17-year-old daughter of a Samuel Theron, a Salt River farmer. She had been baptized at Christ Church Beaufort West on March 23, 1841,
Helena’s father, Samuel Theron, who was born in Paarl, was a descendant of the French Huguenots who settled in Tulbagh in the early 1700’s. One of their family farms, Montpellier, still exists. The patriarch of this family was Jacques Therond (note the spelling difference) who arrived at the Cape on April 26, 1689, on a ship called Oosterlandt. He came from Nimes in Languedoc, and was the son of Jacques Therond and Elizabeth Isabeau Giel. After completing his military duties for the Dutch East India Company, he was made a free citizen (vrye burger) and became a landdrost (magistrate) and steward of the Drakenstein church until 1713. He then moved to Tulbagh to establish Le Rhone and Montpelier and died on December 2, 1739, at the age of 71. He had married Marie Jeanne des Press (now du Preez) who was born in Bethune, France.
Zacharias and Helena Simpson, together with her brother and father (both called Samuel Theron), owned shares in two farms – Salt Riviers Poort and Salt Riviers Vley (Zoutriviervlei), in Nieuwveld 3, a district of Beaufort West. They had seven children all of whom were either baptised in the Anglican Church or on the farm Salt River Vley. They also owned a house in Bird Street, in Beaufort West. Leonora’s family was involved in the building of Christ Church, the first Anglican Church in Beaufort West and the adjacent little Bishops Lodge. This church, one of the oldest buildings in town, and the lodge, were designed by Sophie Gray, wife of Robert Gray, the first Bishop of Cape Town.
Building work on the church started in 1851 and the completed by 1854. The church, however, was not built entirely to the plans submitted the bishop and his wife. Both buildings are proportionally wrong. The church is higher and wider than Sophie’s other churches. There is a local story that says Beaufort Westers, being used to magnificent Dutch Reformed Churches, thought that a small English church would not suit the needs of the platteland (hinterland), so they altered the plans! The Bishop was quite surprised when he arrived to consecrate the church in 1855. The Bishop’s Lodge has a very steep pitch to its roof and a highly emphasised entrance, yet its small scale makes it particularly picturesque. Both buildings have buttresses to give them a good, sound, solid look.
Zacharias Joseph and his younger brother Henry William Simpson (named after his father) were also on the committee of the first Gentleman’s Club in Beaufort West. Built in 1880, the building still stands today. Zacharias Joseph died on June 28, 1893, at the age of 56. According to his death records he had four surviving children.
Samuel Arthur Simpson (Leonora’s grandfather)
Samuel Arthur Simpson, Zacharias and Helena’s third child was Leonora’s grandfather. He was born on July 1, 1862 on Salt Rivers Vley. He married Annie Catherine Amelia Jacobs from Fraserburg on March 8, 1897, in the local St Augustine’s Anglican church. This church was built by her father, Adam Jacobus Jacobs, a well-known local stone mason who completed the building in 1870. The wedding ceremony was conducted by Bishop William West Jones of Cape Town who travelled to Fraserburg especially for the occasion. Adam, who came from Tafelberg, a farm in the District of Richmond, also built the Pepperbus (Pepper pot) in Fraserburg, in 1861.
The Pepperbus (Pepper pot) is a striking structure (now a National Monument). It was designed by Dominee Bamberger. He intended it to be the market. And thus included a bell tower to house a bell to announce the opening on market day. That plan soon died and the Pepperbus became the magistrate’s office, the town’s first library, the town clerk’s office , the church office, a study for the assistant minister, a voting station and a store.
Annie’s mother, Annie Lea Leonora Kersner, was the daughter of Berlin-born Joseph Kersner, the German police constable in Beaufort West. He served the town for over sixteen years from 1820. Interestingly Joseph Kernser and Henry William Simpson were colleagues in the local Sheriff’s Office. Another of Joseph’s daughters, Sara Maria, married a Baster man named Pieter Jacobs. He was a successful and affluent farmer in the Sak River region near Amandelboom (Williston). Sadly Sara Maria died fairly young. Her inscription on her gravestone reads: “In memory of Sara Maria Kersner, housewife of Peter Jacobs, born at Beaufort 10 February 1835, died at Amandelboom on 20 January 1859 at the age of 28 years 11 months, 20 days.” Joseph must have been a well-respected because he has a street in Beaufort West was named in his honour. He died in Beaufort on March 31, 1859 aged of 73.
At the end Anglo-Boer War, stock losses and droughts had taken their toll and farming in the Karoo had become very difficult. Also, many farmers had significant mortgages on their land and could not service these. This is precisely the situation that faced Leonora’s grandfather Samuel. He found that he was overleveraged and stressed by the poor local economy after the Boer War. So, after struggling for couple of years, on his farm Dassiesfontein, situated north north east of Beaufort West, in the De Jagers Pass area, he lost hope and in 1905 the family moved to Cape Town. Around that time the Jacobs family, from Fraserburg, did the same thing.
Soon after moving to Cape Town, Samuel fell ill and died in Cape Town on December 21, 1906, from stomach cancer. He is buried in Maitland, Cape Town. His estate lost Dassiesfontein to his creditors following a disastrous court case, relating to a dispute involving an adjoining farm called Spitzkop. As a consequence, the family’s finances were severely negatively impacted. At the time of his death, Samuel’s five children were all minors and raised by their mother, Annie, who died on October 5, 1918 in Cape Town during the Spanish Flu epidemic. Following her death her sister, Johanna Leonora Jacobs, took charge of the family.
Leonard Zacharias Adam Simpson (Leonora’s father)
Samuel and Annie’e eldest son, Leonard Zacharias Adam Simpson was Leonora’s father. He was born in Beaufort West on December 10, 1897. On June 20, 1922 he married Johanna Maria Susan Hawks, or Granny Simspon as we called her. Leonard and Granny Simpson had eight children, all born in Cape Town. The eldest of their children is my grandmother, Leonora Simpson. The family lived at 90 Canterbury Street, Cape Town when she was born and later at 4 Queens Road, Woodstock, Cape Town. Leonard died on October 23, 1948 (the year my mother was born) and Granny Simpson died on June 1, 1997 at the age of 92.
Whilst we know that various family members, including my great grandfather Leonard Zacharias Adam Simpson, visited Beaufort West now and then, none of the family ever returned to live there permanently. And so, my Simpson family history in the Karoo came to an end when they relocated in Cape Town, my hometown.
What have I learnt?
The main aim of my research was to find out more about our family history and to better understand my grandmother’s ancestors. This took me on a pilgrimage from England to South Africa. It explained our family association with the Karoo and how and why the Simpson family ended up living in Cape Town from the early 1900’s. During my research I discovered many details about the colonial influences of the Dutch and British on my grandmother’s family and the economic stresses of their early years. I traced their links to other families, nationalities and cultures. These brought new sets of value, culture and traditions into our family.
I felt enriched by “meeting” various key characters in this family saga. And, I gained a great deal of respect for them while learning of the hardships, dangers and challenges of their day-to-day lives. For instance I have the greatest admiration for a man (Samuel Arthur Simpson) who rode on horseback from Beaufort West to Fraserburg to court the girl he loved. Throughout my research I have attempted to tell their story with feeling for their daily life and in the historical context of their time. I learned to better appreciate them. It was an absorbing journey.
To celebrate my grandmother’s family history, we recently followed in her ancestor’s footsteps and traced their paths by visiting towns like Beaufort West, Fraserburg and Williston, as well as farms like Salt Riviers Vley, Salt Riviers Poort, Rietfontein (in Fraserburg) and Dassiesfontein, where the Simpsons lived. They left a proud heritage in the Great Karoo. Then to celebrate the 96th birthday of my gran, or Nana Nora, as we call her, I wrote her family story in a 100-page book. When I presented it to her, she couldn’t have been more delighted.