Diedericus van der Kemp (c.1808 - c.1878)

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Nicknames: "Dirk", "Old Kootje"
Death: Died in East London, South Africa
Cause of death: Murder
Occupation: Master builder, teacher
Managed by: Julia Penaluna
Last Updated:

About Diedericus van der Kemp

About the career of Didericus van der Kemp much less is known. According to Enklaar he was a builder and lived at Uitenhage (Enklaar, p. 2/1); he was married there on 26 December 1832 to Susanna Siebrits, and there were at least four children of this marriage. The eldest is stated by Heese/Lombard to have been baptised at Grahamstown in February 1825, which is obviously incorrect, as the Van der Kemps had not yet returned from England at that time; the two youngest were baptised in 1839 and 1841 respectively, both at Cradock (Heese/Lombard 4, 243). During the Eighth Frontier War he was listed as 'temp. issuer, commissariat, (...) with Maj. Gen. Somerset's first division' (Cape Almanac 1852, p. 117), and a rather rambling note by Theal on the marriage of Dr Van der Kemp and Sarah Jansen may, insofar as it is accurate, refer to him: His son by this woman, a docile and inoffensive man, but fond of a nomad life and not possessed of much ability, was murdered by a party of Xhosas in the district of East London during the war of 1877-78, when he was camping on an unoccupied farm with a few head of cattle, his only property. (...) He was commonly known as 'Old Kootje' (familiar for Jacobus, his given name) [sic]. (Theal I, 69n)

At this time the murder of a man, though a very humble one, took place, which deserves some mention.  It has been stated that the reverend Dr. Vanderkemp, the leader of the first mission party of the London  society in South Africa, purchased a slave girl and married her. By her he had a son, who received as  good an education as was then possible to obtain in this country. The boy, however, was without his  father's ability, and preferred a wandering life to a settled occupation. As a man he was perfectly harmless, and gained an honest living as a schoolmaster among Dutch speaking farmers, with whom, though he was coloured, he was a general favourite. In course of time he acquired a small herd of cattle, with which he wandered about, the owners of land giving him pasture, and when the war broke out in 1877 he was staying temporarily on a farm in the district of East London. Old Kootje, as he was usually called by Europeans, did not fear molestation by the Gaikas, who knew him as the son of Jankana, the first missionary to the Xosas, so he was in no hurry to remove. On the 15th of January 1878 he was surprised by a party who drove off his cattle and murdered the poor old man. 

Named after his uncle Didericus of Leyden. Didericus received some education from German missionary J.G. Ulbricht at Theopolis. Was transferred to the care of the London Missionary Society in England around 1819.

THEOPOLIS, Bathurst, Cape: LMS 1813. The site is today still known locally as Theopolis although the mission is recorded to have closed in 1851. John Campbell visited it in about 1819 and wrote the following:

"Another, founded by the Missionary Society, at Theopolis, near the mouth of the Cowie River, on lands granted to the Society by his Excellency, Sir John Cradock, then Governor of the Cape, from whom also it received its name. "During the Caffre war this settlement was attacked three times by thousands of infuriated Caffres, who were repelled on each occasion; yet they nevertheless succeeded in carrying off upwards of a thousand head of cattle. In consequence of these repeated attacks, the (Khoikhoi), under the direction of the Missionary, Mr Ulbricht, (since dead,) raised with great labour a fortification, composed of strong palisades, eight or nine feet in height, and capable of containing the whole population, with their cattle. The sight of this fortification so discouraged the (Xhosa) that they did not venture to attack them any more.

CRIMINAL CASE. CIRCUIT COURT, UITENHAGE. THE KING VERSUS DIEDERICUS VAN DER KEMP. ASSAULT. 1831

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Diedericus van der Kemp's Timeline

1808
1808
1832
December 26, 1832
Age 24
Uitenhage, Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape, South Africa
1833
1833
Age 25
1839
1839
Age 31
South Africa
1841
September 1, 1841
Age 33
1878
January 15, 1878
Age 70
East London, South Africa
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