Jacobus Hendrik Louw Nell

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Jacobus Hendrik Louw Nell

Also Known As: "Oupa"
Birthplace: Cape Colony (South Africa)
Death: Died in Joahnnesburg, Union of South Africa
Cause of death: Cancer
Place of Burial: Johannesburg, South Africa
Immediate Family:

Son of Jacobus Willem Adriaan Nel and Anna Maria Nel
Husband of Anna Maria Nell (van Tonder) and Martha Jacoba Nell
Father of Jacobus Willem Adriaan Nell; Jacobus Hendrik (Ouboet) Nell; Maria Magdalena Nell; Anaat Nell; Hans Nell (van Tonder?) and 11 others

Managed by: Lee Alison Francis Cahill
Last Updated:

About Jacobus Hendrik Louw Nell


Source: Lee Cahill, 13 September 2012 (Last updated 3 May 2016)

Collaborators: If you'd like to add to these notes, please do so in a separate section below as I'd like to preserve the integrity of my original notes. Thanks.

  • Jacobus Hendrik Louw Nell (JHLN), my great-grandfather, was born on 21 November 1865 in what was then the Cape Colony (today the Northern Cape province of South Africa).
  • He was baptised in Calvinia on 14 January 1866. The witnesses were Jan Abraham Nel(l), his wife Anna, Jan Johannes Steenkamp and Mara Catharina Elizabeth Nel(l) (Source: eGSSA via Jan Jacob de Klerk, 22 December 2015).
  • He was a farmer in the Kakamas district as a young man, and a photograph I have of him and his 'volk' slaughtering a pig (see Media above) dates from this time (late 1880s/1890s).
  • JHLN experienced a number of severe setbacks during this period, losing most of his livestock in the rinderpest epidemic of 1896 - 1897. The epidemic killed between 80% and 90% of all cattle in southern Africa.
  • Shortly after that, when the Anglo-Boer War (aka Tweede Vreiheidsoorlog or South African War) broke out, he went off 'on commando'. He is recorded as having been a burgher in the Calvinia Commando.
  • He would have been married to his first wife at the time and they apparently had seven children together. Little was known of her until 2015/2016, when both Anton Nell (son of Joseph Benjamin Nell and therefore my mother's cousin) and Jan Jakob de Klerk (grandson of Casper Nell and therefore my third cousin) found documentary evidence giving her name and other important details of her life. She and two of her children died within a month of one another in 1900, victims of the typhoid epidemic spread by the British army during the war. Her name (Anna Maria van Tonder) is now recorded on the family tree and the documentary evidence relating to her is archived on her profile.
  • The death certificates of Anna Maria and her children indicate that they died on the farm Schietpan in the Barkly West district of what was then the Cape Colony, so this must have been the name of the family farm. Anna Maria's occupation on her death certificate is given as 'stock farmer'.
  • According to a report on a fire in the district, published in the Volksblad of 10 September 2010 and accessed by by Jan Jacob de Klerk, the farm - still called Schietpan - was then owned by a Mrs Alwene Ford and her son Arthur.
  • In April 1901, JHLN married his second wife, Martha Jacoba Deetlefs (my great-grandmother), apparently coming into town (Kakamas?) at great risk to do so.
  • The exact events of these years are unclear. According to family tradition, everyone left on the farm after JHLN went back 'on commando' after his second marriage was later interned in a concentration camp, and everything - including buildings, livestock, equipment, crops and stores - was burnt by British forces as part of Kitchener's 'scorched earth policy'.
  • According to both my aunt Hilda Wallace Keyte and my aunt Olive Wallace McGregor, my great-grandmother nearly died in a camp, but I've been unable to trace any information to confirm this. She was later (understandably) very anti-British.
  • What I have been able to confirm is that Martha Jacoba's father, his second wife, all of the children from that marriage, an older child from his first marriage, and everyone else living on the farm Ver Van Hier (Vervanhier) at the time, were interned in the Kimberley concentration camp in 1901 (http://www2.lib.uct.ac.za/mss/bccd/Farm/23238/Ver_van_Hier/). Further Information on the Anglo-Boer War is available online at: http://www.angloboerwar.com/.
  • At some point after the Boer War, JHLN and his family moved to the diamond diggings near Sydney-on-Vaal, where he procured a claim that he called Louw's Koppie. According to Anton Nell, JHNL swopped his farm for a wagon and a case of brandy before going off to become a diamond digger.
  • Louw's Koppie was apparently about fifteen miles from Sydney-on-Vaal, beyond Droogveldt. According to my aunt, Hilda Wallace Keyte, the nearest neighbours were about three miles away.
  • My grandmother, Maria Petronella Nell (later Wallace), the first daughter after two older sons, was born in Sydney-on-Vaal.
  • In addition to the seven children from his first marriage, JHLN had fourteen children with Martha Jacoba, so he had twenty-one children in total. Of the fourteen children born to JHNL and Martha Jacoba, a pair of twins and another child died in infancy. Eleven children survived into adulthood. All of these children grew up on the Louw's Koppie claim.
  • My mother and her sisters visited 'Oupa' and 'Ouma' there often when they were children, frequently taking lunch for 'Oupa' from the house to the claim. At the time, only their youngest child, Elia (Elie) Nell was still living at home.
  • When JHLN became ill with cancer, he and his wife moved to Johannesburg to live with one of their children in Fairlands.
  • JHLN died at the Kensington Sanitorium and is buried at the Fairlands Cemetery.

Note: there is an anomaly related to the location/locations of the family homes that I haven't been able to resolve. Apparently my grandfather, William Edward John Wallace, met my grandmother, Maria Petronella Nell in Sydney-on-Vaal when he was on an errand for the Diamond Fields Advertiser, based in Kimberley. According to my aunt Hilda, Gran had just washed her hair and was drying it in the sun. He went over to talk to her. The Nell house was apparently next to the diamond exchange in Sydney-on-Vaal, just off the main square, but I don't know how this fits into the story.

Research Notes

  • There is some controversy about the spelling of the Nel/Nell family surname. According to my grandmother, the spelling used by her line of the family was 'Nell', and this is the spelling that appears on my great-grandfather's headstone and on all documentation we have that shows his signature. However, the two spellings appear to be used somewhat interchangeably in official records.
  • Apparently the youngest of JHLN's children, Elie, caused an uproar in the family by using the spelling 'Nel' on his mother's headstone (this according to Anton Nell). Elie himself also used the spelling 'Nel' in later life and all of his children use this spelling.

From the Upington Doopregister, supplied by Jan Jacob de Klerk, 1 April 2013: Jacobus Hendrik Louw NELL »» Kinders (1): 4982 x Martha Jacoba DEEDLIFS 4982 b1 Abraham Gert NELL (4981/x), ∗ 01.08.1911, ≈ NG Kerk, Upington 14.01.1912 »≈ gedoop deur: doop getuies en nota’s: Abraham Gert Willem NELL Christina Jacoba KOTZE »α Ouers se name en spelling volgens oorspronklike doopregister: Vader: Jacobus Hendrik Louw NELL Moeder: Martha Jacoba DEEDLIFS



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Jacobus Hendrik Louw Nell's Timeline

November 21, 1865
Cape Colony (South Africa)
January 14, 1866
Cape Colony
Age 21
August 2, 1888
Age 22
Age 25
Age 36
Age 37
September 30, 1904
Age 38
Sydney-on-Vaal, South Africa