Catharina "Groote Catrijn" van Paliacatta, SM/PROG

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Catharina "Groote Catrijn" van Paliacatta, SM/PROG

Also Known As: "Groote Catrijn", "Catharina van Bengale"
Birthplace: Pulicat, Coromandel Coast, Tamil Nadu, India
Death: between December 1682 and February 1683
Cape Town, Cape, South Africa
Immediate Family:

Wife of Anthonij Jansz van Bengale, SV/PROG
Partner of Hans Christoffel Snijder, SV/PROG and Claes van Malabar
Mother of Catharina van de Caab; (No Name); Christoffel Snijman, SV/PROG1; Marritie Pieterz; Petronella Everardsz, SM and 1 other

Occupation: Slave, VOC company slave
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Catharina "Groote Catrijn" van Paliacatta, SM/PROG

Mansell Upham's comprehensive histories of Catrijn and her son Christoffel Snyman form the basis for this summary . See inter alia: First Fifty Years & [ ; [].

Groot Catrijn (c. 1631 – 1683), also known as Catharina van Bengale, was born into an indigenous slave-owning society in Pulicat, a VOC trading post on a lake north of Madras, in what is now Tamil Nadu, India. Pulicat was the VOC headquarters on the Coromandel Coast from 1610-1687. The VOC monopolized the lucrative trade in local cotton textiles that were highly sought after in the Moluccas, where they were profitably exchanged for spies. Pulicat was the chief center on the coast for various textiles, such as indigo, cotton yarn and ‘Guinees lijnwaad’ (Guinea cloth). The Dutch controlled the local producers to manufacture only what the VOC ordered.

She was taken to Batavia (Jakarta today), where she was the slave of a freed woman, Maria Magdalena (we don't know whether her owner had a surname).

On the 8 October 1656 she got into a fight at Fort Rijswijck with her lover, Claes van Malabar, after he spurned the lunch she had brought him to the stable, where he worked. It devolved into a vicious struggle. He threw her to the ground and raped her. She fought back, hitting him repeatedly with sharp-cornered cobblestone, which ruptured his bladder and led to his death during the night of 11/12 Oct 1656. On 16 Nov 1656, she was found guilty of murder and condemned to be garroted at the stake. In a twist of fate—one of many that characterize her extraordinary life—the Governor-General, Johan Maetsuyker, reviewed the case on 18 Nov 1656. Finding that Groote Catrijn had been sexually abused by Claes, he commuted her sentence, but she was banned from Batavia and sentenced to work as a company slave in the Cape of Good Hope for the rest of her natural life. On 21 Feb 1657 she arrived in the Cape on the ship Prince Willem, which was part of the return fleet that left Batavia on 4 December 1656. Sailing in the same fleet was her life-long friend Mooij Ansela van Bengale, who was sold to Commander van Riebeeck after she arrived at the Cape.

Catrijn was the first recorded female slave convict at the Cape, a bandiet.

She entered her lifelong servitude as washerwoman to the Company commander at the Fort in Cape Town, where she had a room under the staircase. As one of the settlement’s 15 imported women, seven of whom were already married and legally free, Catrijn was in high demand, and had several relationships. "The other seven were all slave women, and like Groote Catrijn, in the ironic and precarious position of being sexually free, yet still in bondage." Patchy records obscure her actions and the number of children she bore until her potential to climb the social ladder was boosted upon the arrival at the Cape on 17 November 1658 of a new ensign and chief of the garrison, Pieter Everaerts from Bruijsaert (born c.1631). He was a high Company official; he served in both the Council of Policy and the Council of Justice. Everaerts died 15 March 1664, leaving provision in his will dated 13 March 1664 for his unborn child with Catrijn. On 6 September 1665 there are two separate entries for Company slave Catrijn baptising two children, Petronella and Anthony—there is greater certainty that Petronella was Groote Catrijn's child. This daughter, Petronella, in turn gave birth to a child also named Petronella— fathered by a soldier, Willem Jansen.

Not long after the death of Pieter Everaerts, Catrijn gave birth to the child of a colorful German soldier, Hans Christoffel Snijder (born c. 1645), from Heidelberg. (His birth name would have been Schneider. Snijder is the Dutch version of Schneider. Aalso known as Snijman, he was the Progenitor of the Snymans in South Africa). "Snijder is first mentioned in the records as a soldier under the Chamber of Rotterdam in 1665 together with Arnoldus Willemsz. [This] father of the child had recently returned from "banishment to Robben island after being convicted for assault and of a group desertion in which a hostage had been taken, in 1665, for which he was punished with 19 others on 4 December 1665. Disgruntled with unacceptable hard labour and danger in the work place, they had taken one Jan Barentsz hostage [and set out across the dunes of the Cape Flats toward the interior]. They were sentenced to be chained to each other in twos while others were chained to wheelbarrows, condemned to work for 3 months with a daily wage." He was again convicted on 30th July 1667 for 'regular nocturnal activity' with the Fort’s washerwoman, causing neglect of his sentinel duties. His sentence entailed flogging and banishment to Robben Island for two years with the forfeiture of two months’ salary. He seems to have avoided or delayed his banishment, because he was apparently present on 29th April 1668, when Catrijn was baptised in the Cape Church with her friend Mooi Ansela, who had already been freed by that date. Their joint baptism was a signal moment in the racial history of the Cape, demonstrating the possibility of slaves becoming Christians within free society. He is not recorded as witness to the baptism of his son, Christoffel Snyman Jnr., on 9 March 1669. Mooi Ansela is listed as godmother.

On 6 January 1672 a letter was sent to the VOC's Heeren XVII mentioning that Catrijn has been fully pardoned in the matter of Claes van Malabar's death, and that permission had been granted for her to marry a free-black (mardijker) on 20 December 1671. She married Anthonij (Jansz) (de Later) van Bengale. Their marriage produced no children, although it legitimized the position of Catharina from slave to free-burgher and legitimized her son, Christoffel Snijman, who was also adopted by Anthonij van Bengale.

Anthonij Jansz was born circa 1650 in Bengal, and christened on 12 Sep 1670 in Cape Town, preparatory to his impending marriage to Catrijn. He signed his name as AB. He was the first "freed black"—person of color—at the Cape to buy land and farm. "He purchased from the free burgher Cornelisz Roosendael van Amsterdam 100 sheep, a garden plot in Table Valley, and a house with ground in Zeestraat. By 31 May 1673 he was experiencing difficulty in paying the [balance] of the original purchase price and the family had to squat on empty land in Bergdwarsstraat (the present-day St George’s Mall). The land was finally granted to him on 12 February 1675. On 1 June 1767, he was again granted in leen another garden." They struggled financially, but they could afford their own slaves, and derived income from both their garden plot and a distillery.

The family, Catrijn and Antonij, Christoffel and Petronella, lived together, and last appear together in the muster roll of 1862. On 13 December 1682, Petronella's daughter Petronella was baptized but her grandparents were, remarkably, not present as witnesses. A tragedy—perhaps disease—must have taken place since the whole family died between December 1682 and February 1683, except for Christoffel Snijman and the infant who would also die within a few months.

In Anthonij van Bengal’s will of 17 Dec. 1682 he left a sizable estate to his son Christoffel Snijman, aged 14, which provided for the boy’s education, maintenance, and a handsome inheritance. It is likely that the boy went to live with his godmother, Mooi Ansela, who was now married to Arnoldus Willemsz Basson, whose family owned the farms Eensaamheid and Meererust. By 1701, Ansela's family were the wealthiest property owners in the Drakenstein valley, owning over 300 morgen (or 625 acres) of property. This would have made Christoffel an attractive match for Marguerite-Thérèse (Margo) de Savoye, daughter of Jacques de Savoye, one of the wealthiest Huguenot immigrants. They married around 1690 (the Drakenstein church records of this period were burned), and went on to have many children.

In 1692 they purchased Zandvliet, opposite Eensamheid and Meererust, which is known today as Solms-Delta, in Paarl. There, archaeologists made a unique find, remains of the only intact 17th-century floor plan ever found at the Cape, almost certainly where Snyman and Margo lived. Likely built by the farm’s previous owners, Hans Silberbach and Callus Laut, it is sited alongside a prehistoric site with thousands of late-Stone-Age artefacts dating to between 4,000 and 6,000 years old. Both indigenous hunter-gatherers and colonists chose to settle on this same site, a tranquil plateau overlooking the Dwars and Berg Rivers.


Groote Catrijn FROM BENGALS
 Born: Cir 1631, Paliacatta, Dravida, India
 Christened: 29 Apr 1668, Cape Town
 Unmarried (1): Pieter EVERAERTS (Stamvader) 
Unmarried (2): Unknown UNKNOWN 
 Unmarried (3): Hans Christoph SNIJDER (Stamvader) 
 Marriage (4): Anthonij Jansz FROM BENGALS on 20 Dec 1671 in Cape Town 
Died: Between Dec 1682 and Feb 1683, Cape Town about age 51

'n slavin van Paliacatta (vernaamste VOC vesting in Bengale - tans bekend as Pulicat, geleë op die walle van die meer van Pulicat op die Coromandel-kus op die Indiese subkonitent). Ook bekend as Catharina van Bengale en Catharina van Paliacatte. In 1656 is sy die slavin van Maria Magdalena (van onbekend) in Batavië (teenwoordige Jakarta in Indonesië). Op 8 Oktober 1656 was sy seksueel aangerand in 'n perdestal by die Fort Rijswijk deur haar minnaar, die slaaf Claes van Malabar. Sy verdedig haarself en slaan hom met 'n leer oor die bekken, as gevolg waarvan sy blaas bars en hy vier dae later sterf. Sy word tot die dood veroordeel om aan 'n paal vasgemaak en verwurg te word, maar Goewerneur-Generaal Joan Maetsuycker begenadig haar en verban haar lewenslank as bandiet' na die Kaap van Goeie Hoop. Sy arriveer aan die Kaap op 21 Februarie 1657 aan boord van die Prins Willem en werk as wasvrou in die Fort, die eerste slavin aan die Kaap. Sy het twee voorkinders, een by die vaandeldaer en garnisoenhoof Pieter Everaerts van Cruijsaert en een by die soldaat Hans Christoffel Snijder (of Schneider) alias Snijman, van Heidelberg in die Palatinate. Op inststruksies van die Raad van Indië was Groote Catrijn vrygestel en toegelaat om in die huwelik te tree met die vryswarte (mardijker) Antjonij (Jansz) (de Later) van Bengale op 20 Desember 1671. Groote Catrijn, haar eggenoot, haar dogter en kleindogter - met die uitsondering van Christoffel Snijman Jnr - het almal gesterf in 'n gesinstragedie tussen Desember 1682 en Februarie 1683. Anthonij Jansz van Bengale se aansienlike boedel het vir die seun se opvoeding gesorg, asmede 'n aansienlike erflating.

After being freed married: Antonie van Bengale'; vryswarte; ofskoon hy sy naam teken as Anthonij van Japan' word ook na hom verwys as Anthonij de Chinees'; eerste vryswarte aan die Kaap van Goeie Hoop wat grond gekoop en 'n boer geword het. Hy koop 100 skape, 'n stuk tuingrond' in Tafelvallei, en 'n erf in Zeestraat van die vryburger Cornelisz Roosendael van Amsterdam. Vanweë wanbetaling moet hy en sy gesin in Mei 1673 plak op 'n stuk oop grond in Bergdwarsstraat. Dié grond word op 12 Februarie 1675 aan hom toegeken. Oorlede, saam met sy vrou, in 1682; in sy boedel van 17 Des 1682 laat hy 'n boedel ter waarde van f2608 aan sy aangenome seun Christoffel Snijman na

TWO MORE CHILDREN BAPTISED BY GROOTE CATRIJN (Father unknown) Susan = 2 Oct 1667 Anthoni = 13 Nov 1667


14 September 1670: Groote Catrijn van Paliacatta & Anthonij Jansz: van Bengale witness baptism of illegitimate slave-born halfslag Maria Bartels: aka Mosterts Marij & Jan Holtsmit’s Marij , daughter of Elisabeth (Lijsbeth) van Angola - slave belonging to Wouter Cornelisz: Mostaert (from Utrecht) & Hester Weijers: Klim (from Lier). [Mansell Upham] [14] Her patronymic makes the Saldanhaer vaerder Frisian Bartholomeus (Bartel) Borns / Borms (from Leeuwarden) a likely contender as biological father ... [14]

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Catharina "Groote Catrijn" van Paliacatta, SM/PROG's Timeline

Cape Town, South Africa
Cape of Good Hope, South Africa
April 29, 1668
March 9, 1669
Cape of Good Hope, South Africa
December 1682
Cape Town, Cape, South Africa