Frances John Eager

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Frances John Eager

Also Known As: "Francis John Eagar"
Birthplace: Hoopstad, OFS, South Africa
Death: September 03, 1977 (93)
MASHONALAND EAST, District Chikomba, Chivhu (Enkeldoorn), Zimbabwe
Place of Burial: Old Cemetery, MASHONALAND EAST, District Chikomba, Chivhu (Enkeldoorn), Zimbabwe
Immediate Family:

Son of Frances John Eagar and Susara Jacoba Sophia Eagar
Husband of Hendrina Jacoba Eager and Elizabeth Margaretha Christina Eager
Father of Franciska Joan Eager, b5; Anna Christina Johanna van der Merwe, b3; Sarah Sophia Kieser, b4; Christoffel Johannes Eager, b2 and Raymond Eager
Brother of Dina Margaretha Maree; Elizabeth Magdalena Botha; Johannes Henry Eagar; Florence Sarah van Heerden and Charles James Eagar

Managed by: Anna (Annie) Elizabeth Bekker
Last Updated:

About Frances John Eager

EAGER Francis John (22 December 1883 - 3 September 1997) x Elizabeth Margaretha Erasmus (S.A.) (? - 19 October 1932). They arrived at Enkeldoorn, Southern Rhodesia in 1914.

Francis John Eagar of Irish ancestry and 1820 settlers, was born in the district Hoopstad in the then republic of Orange Free State. Still short of his sixteenth birthday he joined his father and older brother on commando to fight for his country against the invading British. He was one of the approximately 5 000 Boers who felt themselves betrayed when General Cronje surrendered his entire force to the British without even a pretence of resistance, considered by many as the one shameful act by a Boer Commander during the three year war. They spent the rest of the war in a P.O.W. camp in Ceylon.

Back in South Africa, Francis resumed his studies and qualified as a school teacher. His first school was in 1908, a private school along Leeurivier, he boarded with Oom Faan Swanepoel. His experiences at various schools make extremely interesting and frequently, amusing reading but is not a part of the Enkeldoorn history.

Francis gave up teaching to become a farmer but misfortune caused him to decide to move to the wilds of Northern Rhodesia with a load of grain to trade. There followed a life so full with notable experiences, including wild animals and bouts of malaria, that it begs to be told. November 1913 he met up with Rev. Smuts from Bulawayo who was visiting members of his congregation, resident in Northern Rhodesia. By that time Francis had had enough of adventure in the wilds and accepted an offer to negotiate for a teaching post in Southern Rhodesia. He promptly left for the Free State and a visit with his parents. On 7 January 1914 he married Elizabeth Christina Erasmus.

He was offered a teaching post on the farm Mooilaagte in the Charter district. Travelling first class at the Rhodesian Government's expense he arrived at Umvuma. From there to Enkeldoorn with the Zeederberg mule coach. The Sebakwe river was high and when crossing a crocodile attached one of the mules which died on reaching dry ground.

At Enkeldoorn he was not expected and there was nobody to meet him. Mr Bezuidenhout, owner of Mooilaagte, arrived on horseback. A Mr. A. Hoffman who was going courting in the same direction, made his horse available for part of the way and borrowing a cart from Rev. Liebenberg the trio set off. At Mr. Hoffman's destination they had to borrow another horse and it was two days after arriving at Enkeldoorn, before he arrived at his new school, with classes due to start the next morning.

The school inspectors travelled by mule-drawn coaches equipped as a caravan and on arrival at a school would visit overnight, followed by the inspection the next day and another stop-over before continuing to the next school. Out of school, time was taken up by visiting and a hunt in the afternoon was normal practice.On one occasion, intent on looking for game the inspector failed to see a mud filled hole and he fell in. Back at the house, which was as general in those days, without a specific bathroom, Mrs. Eager heated water and prepared a bath under a tree secluded by hessien. Bathed and dressed in dry clothes, the inspector, thanking the lady commented that he had never before so enjoyed a bath.

Many out of class experiences warrant repeating. Francis claimed that baboons can count and by experimenting satisfied himself that the animals could count to three. The baboons were a pest in the ripening mealies. Accompanied by the Bezuidenhout father and son, they entered the land and then only two left. For as long as the third member stayed hidden in the land the baboons in the nearby hill did not approach the mealies. With four people entering and three leaving the baboons entered without hesitation. They experimented with a scarecrow made up to appear human, complete with a hat, it was partly carried into the land by two people, they left with the scarecrow hidden in the land. For several days the baboons stayed in the hills, then went in and finding the scarecrow, removed the hat.

Boarding was a problem and the Eagars decided to have their own house. During the school holidays, with the help of neighbours he built a pole and dagga house with thatched roof. They bought an iron bed with a choir mattress and two chairs, all the other furniture had to be made from box planks and bush timber.

Milk was bought at six pennies a bottle, this was considered too costly and Francis bought a cow at a price that was more than a month's salary. He later bought a second cow and they enjoyed home made butter.

The year 1914 was exceptionally wet with persistent rains and the Umniaty river constantly in flood. There were no bridges and because of the crocodiles, attempting to swim was out of the question. Everybody soon ran out of groceries. The Eagars bought wheat from a nearby farmer and had it ground by Oom Willie Steyn who owned an ox-powered mill. It took two days for Francis and a friend to fetch, convey and mill two small bags of wheat, walking, as the road was too wet for normal travel. Sugar was not a problem as they regularly robbed hives for honey. Most farmers had small hand operated grinders and grinding mealies was not a serious problem. They survived.

Travel by wagon became impossible as the wheels sank into the sodden earth and when unavoidable the body of a wagon was placed on poles that served as skid pads. In those early days, general transport was a slow process. Horse-sickness killed many animals and even mules were not immune to the insect borne disease . The few that survived, said to be salted, were out of reach of most people and the normal was a donkey-drawn cart and on occasion oxen were used. Francis placed on record his admiration for the donkey. Throughout the early days the donkey was the main draught animal, it was immune to horse-sickness and also rinderpest. The Eagars used a donkey-cart for six years, travelling where-ever they wished to visit including a hundred mile trip. Francis and Wessel de Klerk took a business trip to Salisbury, mainly to buy themselves each a new rifle. In the Beatrice area they became bogged in the mud and for several days managed less than half a mile a day, going from antheap to antheap where they would rest on the comparatively dry ground. That trip took eight days. The accepted price for a donkey, if one became available was thirty pounds.

Shortly after moving to Change Francis was transferred to Iron Mine Hill School, away from the Enkeldoorn area. There was again the need to create a school from scratch but Francis coped and apart from the 1918 hell of the so-called Spanish flue, that killed thousands of people he recorded a contented five years before being transferred back to Enkeldoorn. At Iron Mine Hill he served on the Church Council and also assisted local people with the wording of official documents. The isolation of the area made it impossible for doctors or ministers to be on call when needed and Francis found himself called out to assist with seriously sick people and also to officiate at funerals.

The move to Ngesi was with his own wagon, built by his young brother-in-law Kosie Erasmus, but he had to buy oxen that were untrained and the seller charged him an extra ten shillings per ox for training. Despite mishaps on the road, it was a pleasure to make the move in one, with his own transport instead of being dependant on others and the problem of a split journey, by road then by train and again by road.

The Government had agreed to the establishment of Ngesi Poort school on condition that a substantial building that will permit reasonable conditions for the children, will be built. Francis convened a meeting of parents, in which category he considered himself as his eldest son was a pupil, and found them eager to assist. In the mean time he decided to personally lay the foundations to ensure that the work is properly done, he also insisted on laying the cement floor himself. His purpose was twofold, the parents inexperience and the need to ensure a termite free structure.

Francis was the Ngesi Poort school principle for 18 years, till he retired in 1939. Details of his participation in the building of a new Dutch Reformed Church in 1927 are mentioned in the chapter dealing with the church. At this point it is mentioned that he volunteered and was accepted as secretary of the Building Committee, a responsibility he carried till the final account for building costs was paid thirteen years later.

A noteworthy comment by Francis when he wrote his memoirs "The Long Road" was the comparison of the women of early settler stock and their offspring in which he blamed "Fashion" for many ills experienced by the latter, in particular the high heels on their shoes. The Eagar family, together with neighbours held regular church services and organised a yearly Bazaar in accordance with church practice. For Nagmaal (Holy communion) they travelled the 32 miles to Enkeldoorn town by tented ox-wagon, stopping over for a night along the route. Such travel by tented ox-wagon was a particular treat for the children

The Flu epidemic of 1932 was not as severe as that of 1918 but both Francis and his wife Elizabeth fell ill as also two of their children. Elizabeth did not recover, she died on 19 October 1932. Francis was admitted to Enkeldoorn Hospital where he was seriously ill for three weeks, when discharged he was too weak to return to work and was absent on sick leave till February the following year.

On his return he found several changes with new pupils, a new matron, Mrs. Maritz and new servants. He found it difficult to adapt to the changed circumstances. His eldest son had left school and was running his section of the farm, the next two were at senior school and the youngest only six years old.

Francis bought Ngesi Poort farm and his brother-in-law Kosie Erasmus who had come with him and Elizabeth, when they first came to Rhodesia, initially farmed on part of Ngesi Poort. See Kosie Erasmus.

With his son Raymond as manager, Francis developed a wheat irrigation project of 35 Hectare where Raymond reaped 92 bags of wheat from one bag seed.

In 1939 Francis retired from teaching and settled on the farm as a full time farmer. His son Raymond moved to town where he established a business as building contractor. Francis and Kosie together bought Rusfontein, which they subdivided, by paying the owner one hundred pounds and taking over a Landbank bond of one hundred punds that was overdue on rent payments by another one hundred pounds. A Mr. Jordaan grew wheat on the Francis portion which was subsequently bought by Kosie Erasmus thereby owning the full Rusfontein. In 1936 Francis Eagar remarried, the bride was Miss Hendrina van den Berg. In 1948 their first child, a dughter Fransiska, was born.

During a visit to Daisyfield, where Francis was on the management committee, a five year old orphan Margaret Strydom made friends with Francis and his wife. She was a charming little girl and on returning to Enkeldoorn they aked permission from the Orphanage head to take her along. Thereafter she stayed with them as their own child, attending school at Daisyfield but staying with them for the hollidays. She married Marthinus Ferreira.

Six months before retiring Francis sold the farm and with his wife moved to the hostel as boarders.

After retiring Francis decided to move nearer town and obtained Doornkasteel, 4 miles to the north of Enkeldoorn on the Salisbury road, on a hire purchase agreement The farm was 1500 morgan and he bought it for 1500 pounds. It was an excellent cattle farm with the animals putting on weight faster and producing more milk than on the previous farm He sold 40 gallons of milk daily till the Taxman cought up with him and being unwilling to work only to be taxed, he reduced his delivery to 20 gallons

Francis took advantage of an opportunity to buy 32 adjoining plots on the town border at a very low price. Town regulations required that he build a house on the ground and his son Raymond, who was a building contractor, built the house. Raymond then proposed to his father that he Raymond take over the management of the farm and that Francis and his family move to town. Francis agreed and the move took place in 1949.

In 1954 Francis and his wife and two daughters left Enkledoorn for South Africa terminating his 40 years of active participation in the affairs of the area.


Parents Francis John Eagar, Susara Jacoba Sophia Eagar (born Briel)

Siblings: Charles James Eagar, Dina Margritha Maree (born Eagar), Elizabeth Magdalena Hartman (born Eagar), Johannes Henry Eagar, Florence Sarah Van Heerden (born Eagar)

Children: Raymond Eagar, Christoffel Johannes Eagar, Anna Christina Magdalena Van Der Merwe (born Eager), Sarah Sophia Kieser (born Eager), <Private> Eagar

Kind Graf

Old Cemetery, MASHONALAND EAST, District Chikomba, Chivhu (Enkeldoorn), Zimbabwe

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Frances John Eager's Timeline

December 22, 1883
Hoopstad, OFS, South Africa
April 24, 1916
October 2, 1919
Gwelo, Southern Rhodesia
December 9, 1925
May 21, 1948
September 3, 1977
Age 93
MASHONALAND EAST, District Chikomba, Chivhu (Enkeldoorn), Zimbabwe
Old Cemetery, MASHONALAND EAST, District Chikomba, Chivhu (Enkeldoorn), Zimbabwe