WILLEM JANSE VAN RENSBURG (b4 c2 d1 e6)

Author: A.M. van Rensburg (b4 c2 d1 e6 f5 g5 h3 i2)

Web master: M.A. van Rensburg (b4 c2 d1 e6 f5 g5 h3 i2 j1)

Claas Jansz b4 Willem c2 Nicolaas d1 Willem e6 Willem f5 Nicolaas Jacobus

Back to home

Page 1 Page 2 Footnotes

Children born to this Family

They had seven children, from the baptismal and wedding entries we can determine where the family was living and roaming. One of Maria's daughter by her first marriage was Martha Hester Jooste (*15 July 1843, baptised at Tulbagh 30 Nov 1843) got married at Victoria West October 16, 1864 (at this time she was a minor and her mother gave consent) she was from the farm Klipbankfontein she married Thomas Casparus Fraser he was from the farm Klipplaatsfontein.

f1 Elsie Johanna *29 Oct 1845, = 9 Nov 1845, Cold Bokkeveld, got married Vic West, Apr 2, 1866 (she is a minor, and consent by father Willem) she was from farm Vlokswerwend, meaning 'flock roaming', to husband Hendrik Johannes Jacobus Fraser (he is a brother to the above Fraser) from farm Kalkfontein (note at the next wedding the family is living on this farm Kalkfontein, as if the families have a commonality.)

f2 Maria Sophia Sussana *28 May 1848, = 5 Nov 1848, Cold Bokkeveld, married at Vic West Aug 12, 1867 (she is a minor, father Willem signs as witness) she is from farm Kalkfontein, husband Hendrik Jacobus Albertus Smit from farm Schimmelfontein.

f3 Willem Francois Johannes *26 Aug 1850, =6 Nov 1850 at Tulbagh church, from Bokkeveld, married at Carnarvon 31 Oct 1881 he was from farm Celeryfontein wife Cecilia Sussana Burger, she from the farm Klipbankfontein.

f4 Anna Magdalena * 14 Feb 1853, =24 April 1853 at Tulbagh church, from Bokkeveld, married at Victoria West 6 May 1871 (she is a minor, father Willem gives consent) from farm Klipbank, husband Andries Marthinus Bruyns (b1 c5 d6 e5 f5) he was from Tygervlei farm.

f5 Nicolaas Jacobus *7 June 1855, =14 Oct 1855 at Ceres church (witnesses Jan Petrus Jooste, Johanna Charletta Jooste), married at Carnarvon 21 Feb 1881. He was from the farm Leeuwkranz. While his wife Magdalena Johanna Maria Bruyns (e5 f2 g1). Married again Gertruida Magaretha Le Roux

f6 Petrus Coenraad Johannes *5 Aug 1859, =11 Sept 1859 Victoria West (witnesses Hendrik Johannes Louis, Wilhelmina Jacoba La Kok, Joseph Adriaan Jooste, Sussan Sophia Barendina Jooste), married Elizabeth Gertruida Bruyns(e5 f1 g2) He lived on the farm Phesantfontein (the town Loxton was later established here) when he became a member of Carnarvon church on 1 Sept 1882. He died 11 Aug 1905 Carnarvon.

f7 Wilhelmina Jacoba Hester *18 May 1862, =15 Aug 1862 Victoria West (witnesses Jan Abraham Gerhardus Jacobs, Carolina Elizabeth Nel, Hendrik Johannes Fraser, Martha Hester Johanna Jooste, Elsje Johanna Janse van Rensburg), married at Carnarvon, 8 June 1884 ( 22 years old) from farm Rondefontein, husband Johannes Willem Bruyns (d6 e5 f10) he from Nauwte, Griqualand.

When the daughter Anna Magdalena married at Victoria West on 6 May 1871, there must have been a lot of conversation with regards to the big flood that killed well over 60 people in Victoria West just a matter of weeks earlier on 27 Feb 1871. A total of 30 houses collapsed in this flood. Lawrence Green in his book Karoo gives a very descriptive account of this flood.

The family was living at the edges of civilization, since they were present in the records of the establishment of new churches (Even when Tulbagh church was established they were there). The Ceres church was established 6 May 1855. The Victoria West church was established in 1844. Dominee H.C.V. Leibbrandt, photo (14k), was the minister of Victoria West between 6 May 1860 and 25 June 1877. The Carnarvon church was established in 1874 and Dominee W.P. de Villiers was the pastor till 12 June 1904 (When he was called to serve in this barren area he said "Ek sal gaan, want as ek dit nie doen nie, hoe kan ek verwag dat iemand anders dit moet doen" translated "I will go , since if I do not go, how can I expect someone else to go").(23) During this time they came under the local government District of Victoria West.

Life as Trekboer and where they Roamed

Looking at the farms that we know they lived on, the area is west of the present town Victoria West and Southeast of the town Carnarvon:

Oct 1864 on farm Klipbankfontein. It is about 20 miles south of Loxton on the road to Beaufort West on the western side of the road

The next three farms are adjacent to one another and five miles apart on the road between Carnarvon and Loxton.

April 1866 on farm Vlokswerwen

Aug 1867 on farm Kalkfontein

May 1871 on farm Klipbank

This area had slightly more summer rains than other Karoo areas, since they lived amongst the Karree mountains. Yet they suffered severe droughts, thus being forced to trek after pastures and water for their flock. Here it was the summer drought, not winter that forced them to trek. One thing you were sure of and that was that the drought will come again. Two opposing poles; drought and rain controlled their lives. Living a life filled with hope that there will come divine intervention in the form of rain. Always hoping that tomorrow it will be better.

One writer described these trekboers: "They are feckless, courageous folk. They dare the desert crossings in their wagons like sailors in an open boat. Indeed, ....seeing the trekking wagons with their dusty hoods: 'God - they're like tanned sails - tanned sails on a hot brown ocean."(24) The wagons were like a dessert chameleon changing its colour and taking on the dusty khaki appearance of the surrounding. Many a wagon would pierce the silence of the Karoo with its squealing and screeching greaseless axles.

Social Interaction

Some times you would stay at one spot for a number of years other times you had to trek every year. Those who possessed land didn't mind others farming on their land. It provided mutual protection, against attack from either man or beast, having company for social interaction and taking care of one another in times of emergency or sickness were mutually beneficial. Extra manpower also came in handy with the digging of wells or labouring at bringing the water to the surface.(25) To bring water to the surface they made big canvas bags and sowed into the bottom of the side a sleeve. The sleeve was folded and tied closed, higher than the water level. With manpower they would pull up the canvas container full of water, then releasing the sleeve the water was channelled out of the bag. It was only in the later part of the nineteenth century that the Noria (bakkiespomp came into use). This was followed by the aeromotors windmill that was imported from America by Lloyd and Co.(26) The arrival of the windmill totally changed the Karoo and its inhabitants.

There were little difference socially between those who possessed land and those who didn't. In fact it was felt that one was better of without land, why pay for land and taxes? Becoming a slave to one piece of land, was believed to be unwise, when droughts in any case forced you to move. They had to follow the rain for the sake of survival. The person who had no land was much freer and could trek around without being tied down to a particular piece of land. They reasoned that money could run out but land was plentiful and will never run out. Some said that they would be willing to purchase land if the land was on wheels so that one is able to move it to where the rain has fallen.(27) It was customary to look at the thunder and lightning and then calculate how far away it was raining and then trek with your animals there. This method of calculating how far away the rain were, must have been past down the family since the writer was taught by his father that if the lightning flashed then one counts until you hear the thunder and then you know how many miles away it is. The drought at times could be broken by ear shattering thunder with torrents of rain. The karoo then came with its trump card with lush grass and flowers. According to van der Merwe "they trekked from one vlei, kolk and waterkuil, to another".(28) There were other challenges to the spirit of these pioneers. This was a land with the threat of Bushmen, a land of snakes, spiders, and scorpions. Good rains produced green veld and joy. However often after the fall of rain and the growth of plants, they encountered plagues of locust, these plagues when they came would leave the veld as if it was burned by a veld fire. The locusts ate the grass and crops, the caterpillars ate the bushes.

Natures wonder of Millions of Migratory Trekbokke

There was also still nature's wonder of the trekbokke. Millions of migrating springbok. The beautiful springbok has the capacity to jump very high, one moment they are part of the veld and the next moment they are part of the sky. These springbok herds that numbered in their hundreds of thousands; what they did not eat up, they would trample to dust. In the stampede any domestic animals were carried along with the mass. There was a massive trek in 1860. Between 1887 and 1895 there were still four big treks. Another interesting behaviour of the wild animals, during times of extreme droughts, is that they would become 'tame thirst'. They then would venture right to man in search of water, then the greatest enemy was not man but thirst.

Wagon and Tent serving as Home

They lived in stone houses or in their wagons. For some the wagon was where they had to live, cook, sleep and have children and they were successful at the latter. Those who were better off also possessed a tent, twelve feet by twelve feet square, at the sides it was four and a halve feet high and in the center ten feet high. The children would sleep in one big bed, under 'karosse' animal skin blankets in or under the wagon. It was cold at night but hot during the day. Many of these farmers didn't want a 'walled' house. With a walled house you could not hear your animals nor feel close to nature. They became like pilgrims, with regular 'oppakkery en afpakkery' packing up or unpacking, 'inspan en uitspan' harness and unharness. This led to a spirit of restlessness and adventure. 'Trekgees' adventure spirit and 'drang om te trek', the urge to want to trek, became part of their psyche. Even an ache in the back would be taken as a sign that somewhere it had rained and one must trek, following the rain. The only other comparative race could be the nomadic Arab. The environment made them self-reliant and no one was their boss, if there were a disagreement they could just pack their wagon and move on. Time was not a problem since tomorrow was another day. They were the gypsy of the desert, some have referred to the karoo as dehydrated land. Often these thirstland trekker's possessions consisted of: one bed, two chests, riempies fold up chairs, fold up table, little food cupboard, and wagon chest. These folks did not wear socks either, and the children would get around bear feet. The women folk would sit with their feet on a little komfoor, a little wooden box that would be filled with coals to keep their feet warm. Below is a drawing by Charles Bell from 1835 of the inside of a Trekboer tent.

Adapting and Adopting the Native Lifestyle

For these ancestors in this harsh world, it was a matter of adapt or die. Their food included biltong (jerky), boerbeskuit (dried rusks). Jams with a lot of sugar - it helps to preserve. Sour and butter milk was enjoyed, rather practical since they had no fridge's. Melkkos was made out of milk. They even baked the old bread in order to preserve it. The animals they had were the native fat tail sheep, in the better vegetation areas they acquired the native Nguni cattle, which later breeds like the Afrikander came from. The donkey were ideal for this harsh type of climate, everyone had some of them.

The other forms of dwelling were constructed from the environment, they had to use what was available. Some houses were constructed of stone, see photo of poor white and their home (23k). Other houses were constructed of mud and dung like the natives see photo of house similar to blacks (12k). Here is a photo of a white herder's home (13k). Little hartebees homes were used where reeds and sticks would be covered by mud and dung, see photo of a house (13k). The wagon and tent were the permanent home for some and for all on trek. The housing was at times a cross between all the mentioned and one would find it hard to classify under which category the dwelling did fall, see photo of wagon and conglomerate shelter (9k). Further west in the Namaqualand they had matjies huts, see photo of poor whites matjies house (12k), here is another photo of father and child at their Namaqua matjies home (13k) (these photos come from the Carnegie Report on the Poor Whites from the early twentieth Century which gives an account of the types of housing, which would have existed.). The later thus adopted the Hottentot's form of dwelling, see painting of Hottentot assembling their matjies house (24k). These huts were easy to transport and provided excellent ventilation in the heat. Lastly it is not often recognized that the making of biltong was first practised by the Hottentot, refer to Sparrman. The trekboer's also followed the practise of the Khoikhoi in storing their milk in skin sacks. Both in their manners and appearance they resembled more the Hottentots.

They made their own leather shoes, and leather thongs were used instead of ropes. Karos blankets consisting of sown together animal skins, were part of their bedding. No wonder some outsiders expressed the concern that these people were going native. They even would wear leather clothes. The floor was their bed until some big game was killed and its skin was then fasten to a couple of bars on posts which was driven into the floor. Where there was a lack of feathers they would use club-rushes which was then scraped off and their mattresses were stuffed with it, this was good for two years. With lack of fire wood dried dung was used for fire. A hollowed out termite mound became their oven. All these circumstances contributed to that characterestic of being very independent: " 'n Boer maak 'n plan", thus they were their own carpenter, their own smith, they made their own furniture, making their own clothes and shoes, essentially being self sufficient. They had little and needed little. Their economy was one mainly of, bartering and living of the land. It is interesting to compare these nomads with other nomadic peoples.(29) They became so much part of Africa that they wanted to be called Afrikaners, thus distinguishing themselves from the townspeople of Cape Town. Self reliance became a virtue and they did not want laws imposed on them.

The trekboer society also were rather fluid and people of mix blood were incorporated by some of these folks. The Karoo allowed mixed marriages, to find a haven of isolation. The barren are were a sanctuary for the Bastards, Griquas, Korana's and for other individual families which would have been marginalized.

Account of Victoria West

Edward John Dunn(30) comments upon the farmers who would come to Victoria West "during nachtmaal (communion service) farmers and their heavy halves ... throng the street". He also comments about these farmers "when they leave for their distant and isolated homes their wagons heavier but their purses lighter". When these farmers shopped they also had the habit of pocketing small items. Apparently this was not a case of kleptomania rather a cultural phenomenon. J MacKensie in Ten Years North of the Orange River, tells how the shopowners would handle the situation, rather than confronting the farmer and causing an embarrassment all that they would do is to add to the list of purchased items, the small item that disappeared.

Willem left the western Cape, where the family lived for nearly one hundred and fifty years, which is beautiful and green, with a reliable rainfall, more like Europe. Trekking to live in the barren Karoo. Living life, materially at a minimum. It is very hard to fully comprehend this major relocation. Willem must have still been alive after 6 May 1871 since he gave consent on that date for his daughter to get married.

Page 1 Page 2 Footnotes

Back to home Claas Jansz b4 Willem c2 Nicolaas d1 Willem e6 Willem f5 Nicolaas Jacobus

rensburg@cyberone.com.au