Hans Dons de Lange

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About Hans Dons de Lange

Neem deel aan die Slag van Bloedrivier, saam met sy seun Adriaan Dirk en sy broer Robertus Burnet


JOHAN HENDRIK DE LANGE (HANS DONS) Biographical Information Johan Hendrik (Hans Dons) de Lange (born at Noutoe (currently Table Farm), district. Grahamstad. Baptized in Graaff-Reinet. 8.12.1799 - died Ladysmith. 26.3.1861). Voortrekker commander en scout, was the oldest son of Adriaan de Lange and Gesina Nel.. De Lange spent his youth in the tradition of a border farmer pioneer on the farm Noutoe in the Suurveld whilst his father was serving as a field cornet during the years 1809 – 1813. Around 1815, the loan farm Wilgerfontein located on the banks of the Fish river, was awarded to his father, but in 1821, he sold half of his share in the farm to his son in law, later a Voortrekker leader, Lucas Johannes Meyer. During the founding of the district Somerset in 1825, De Lange joined his father in the field cornetship of Oos Rietrivier on their two farms Klein Leeufontein and Brakfontein. These two bordering farms in the present day district of Bedford, was only registered in their names on 31/1/1836 and 1/8/1837, after they moved away. .

Family and Neighbours

De Lange’s family and neighbours in the Oos-Rietrivier area played an important part in his hunting expeditions and scouting of the interior as well as his decision to become a Voortrekker. Amongst them was the influential field commander of Albanie, Cornelis Meyer (whom was married to a cousin of De Lange), and his brothers Lucas Johannes and Willem Petrus. Abraham Greyling, Cornelis Meyer’s son in law, was also a stepson of Piet Retief, and Cornelis Meyer’s own son. Lucas Petrus Johannes, was married to Retief’s daughter, Deborah Jacoba. Another stepson of Retief, Piet Greyling, was also a companion of De Lange, which meant that Retief was well informed about the hinterland, before the Great Trek started. Two brother in laws of De Lange, the brothers Willem Abraham and Paul Dirk Bester was also amongst his companions. The Voortrekker leaders Louis Tregardt and Louis Jacobus Nel was De Lange’s neighbours at Oos-Rietrivier.

Scouting – and hunting expeditions.

Before the start of the Great Trek, De Lange already made three hunting trips into the interior. The first one was around March of 1830, when a second group also went in around the same time to trade with the natives and to hunt elephants. Due to the fact that there is family ties between the two groups, it can be assumed that they were either aware of each other, or probably made up one hunting party. The one group’s destination was the Thlaping village, New Lithako (Maruping, near Kuruman), but they traveled futher North-East. Both groups entered the interior at least a few days north of present day Mafikeng. There is also evidence (by JC Steyn) that De Lange and his companions traveled further north east from Mafikeng, and visited Mzilikazi in the Magalies mountains. From there the they traveled west and North West to the area of the Hurutshe (just north of present day Groot Marico) and the Ngakwetse (40km north of present day Gabarone in Botswana) to go hunting Even if the statement by JC Steyn was a flight of fancy that De Lange and his hunting party visited the Ndebele, Hurutshe and Ngawetse, they were still by 1830 the first Afrikaner farmers who hunted and scouted as far north as Mafikeng. Any daytrips north of Setlagole, united the two groups, the return trip was started and by October 1830 they were back home in Oos-Rietrivier. De Lange probably made his second trip in November 1832 with WP Meyer to Natal. Apparently this was more of a scouting expedition that a hunting trip. However, they also had the goal of collecting examples of antelope species, birds and insects for the German Naturalist Ludwig Krebs, who lived near De Lange in the bordering area of Baviaansrivier. De Lange’s scouting trips during 1830 played an important part in the birth of the idea of the Great Trek. Information about the interior which the expedition members brought back to the districts of Somerset, Albanie and Uitenhage, had the result that a list for signatures was circulated for all those who would be interested in settling in the unoccupied north. Reasons for De Lange’s trek to the interior. The dangerous life on the Eastern border, the scarcity of more and cheap land, the shortage of reliable labour and other grievances was why Louis Treghardt , De Lange, his father and three of his brothers, together with about 25 other families moved out to Gcalekaland in the first half of 1834. Probably De Lange did not plan to break all ties with the Cape Colony just yet. An extremely handsome opportunity was nonetheless the vast stretches of land on the banks of the Indwe rivier which was leased to them by Hintsa, the availability of water, labourers and game, as well as the isolated location for undisturbed hunting in and scouting of the interior. In Gcalekaland De Lange and his son Adriaan joined Piet Uys’ famous scouting commission to Natal in September 1834. De Lange’s and WP Meyer’s knowledge of interior routes was of immeasurable value to the Uys Commision. While they were still in Natal, the Sixth Border War (1834-1835) broke out and De Lange’s family who stayed behind in Gcalekaland had to flee to be in the protection of Tarka field cornetship. At De Lange’s return from Natal in March 1835, he probably followed his brothers’ example and helped the Tarka commandos with the patrolling of the north east border. Relocating to Hans Donsiekraal After the War, De Lange moved to a place next to the Klaas Smits river. The name of the farm Hans Donsieskraal (presently Hazelmere, district Sterkstoom), at the foot of the Salpeterberg. (Saltpeter mountains) and very close to the Stormberge at Penhoekpas, very strongly suggests that De Lange took up residence there. As bearer of the Trek idea and information source about routes as well as the excellent agricultural opportunities in the north and north east, his position on the other side of the northeastern border could barely have been better. Hans Donsieskraal was afterall, in the immediate neighbourhood as the later Trek leaders, JC Potgieter (Koos Grootvoet(Bigfoot)) and Jan du Plessis from the Tarka. It was also in the same area as Louis Tregardt’s and Andries Hendrik Potgieter’s trek companies which respectively stood at the ready at the Bamboesberg and Tarka river. One of the popular Transoranje routes also went across his farm..

De Lange joins the Voortrekkers. De Lange and his family left their farm at the Klaas Smitsriver around mid 1837 to join the Voortrekkers in the north. His most probable route would have been to go through the Penhoekpass northwards past the present Jamestown and through the Somersetdrift at Buffelsvlei (Aliwal-North). The first reference to De Lange north of the Orange is found in the diary of hon. Erasmus Smit on 4/10/1837, where he documented that De Lange’s trek rested at Retief’s Laager. This place was apparently close to Oliviershoekpass in the Drakensberge. In Natal De Lange often played an important role. He was one of the men who accompanied Retief on his first visit to Dingane and its also suspected that he was in the Flee commando in the battle of Italeni in April 1838. He was one of the six delegates who had to annex Port Natal on behalf of the Voortrekkers. De Lange played a leading role in the defence of Veglaer against a Zulu assault which lasted three days. ( 13 – 15/8/1838). As master scout he was probably one of the planners of the route of the wenkommando and it was he who on 15/12/1838 reported to head commander AWJ Pretorius that the Zulu main army was about 20 km from the laager. The next day he witnessed the miraculous victory at Bloodriver and on 27/12/1838 he became the hero of the fight on the banks of the White Mfoloziriver where approximately 1000 Zulu warriors and 11 Voortrekkers were killed in action. On 1/1 and 2/1/1838 De Lange was commanding 140 men who raided at least 4000 cattle and 1000 sheep from the Zulus. In October 1839 he was once again part of the commission serving under judge Frans Roos who investigate the extent of Mpande’s power and sincerity of his friendship. During this event Mpande was appointed the “Ruling Prince of the emigrating Zulus”. Shortly afterwards on 11/11/1839 he was stripped of his commandership due to an accusation that he acquired cattle from the Zulus in an unlawful manner. A request of three field cornets and other persons, whom was requested by the Volksraad (Boer Government) that De Lange accompany the cattlecommando as commander, proved that De Lange was still popular and as a leader he earned respect. Although the Volksraad approved the request, De Lange did not accompany the commando.

Rebellion against British authority. Futhermore, De Lange was also one of the leaders amongst the Klipriver farmers who, in 1847, rebelled against the British authorities. In this episode of the Natal Voortrekker history, he will especially be remembered for his negotiations with Mpande and the so called purchase contract which he and Andries Spies closed with Mpande on 7/1/1847. Thereby Mpande sold the Klipriver area to the Afrikaners for 1000 riksdaalders.

De Lange’s trial and execution. Due to a shooting incident in which a Zulu was killed on 1/12/1860 , not far from De Lange’s farm, Valsfontein (close to present day Newcastle), De Lange was found guilty of murder and executed. During the court proceedings his motive could not be established. The unreliability of the evidence is evident in the fact that the State’s key witness denied in the Traveling Court what he initially said in the preliminary investigation. In his summary to the jury the defense suggested that De Lange did not commit premeditated murder and that he should be released. All things taken into consideration, it was a controversial verdict which to this day, people still debate over.

De Lange as person During the execution phase of the Great Trek, and especially later in Natal, De Lange proved himself as scout, avid hunter, brave soldier and even ‘n military strategist which was openly acknowledged by leaders such as Retief and Pretorius. In the memoirs of his peers he is described as one of the best Voortrekker commanders, and a man who in a time of need inspired the greatest trust and didn’t spare his own energy when the laagers had to be defended. He was ‘n big burly man with reddish complexion and a thinning flaxy beard, which earned him the name “Hans Dons”. His actions generally earned the respect of the men, but it is known that in later years he acted in forceful ways. Eventually his famous career came to a tragic end. De Lange married Catharina Cornelia Lombard on 26/1/1817 (born: 16/9/1798, died: 19/10/1874). He fathered 3 sons and 3 daughters. A copy of a portrait of him and his wife is kept in the Natal Archives. He was buried at Watersmeet, district Ladysmith, where a memorial was also erected in his honour. _________________

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Hans Dons de Lange's Timeline

December 8, 1799
Grahamstad, Kaap de Goedehoop, Suid Afrika
December 8, 1799
Graaff-Reinet, Kaap de Goedehoop, Suid Afrika
Age 6
October 7, 1819
Age 19
Uitenhage, Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape, South Africa
Age 20
April 16, 1824
Age 24
February 22, 1826
Age 26
December 2, 1834
Age 34
Natal, Suid Afrika
March 26, 1861
Age 61
Ladysmith, Natal, Suid Afrika