John Daniel Kestell, b4c2

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John Daniel Kestell, b4c2

Death: February 09, 1941 (86)
Bloemfontein, Motheo, Free State, South Africa
Place of Burial: Vrouemonument, Bloemfontein
Immediate Family:

Son of Charles Kestell, b4 and Dorothea Louisa Weyer, b1
Husband of Geertruida Anna Kestell
Father of Louisa Joanna Laurie; Gertruida Anna Kestell; Charles Kestell; Maria Magdalena Kestell and Nicolaas Hofmeyr Kestell
Brother of Cornelius Benjamin Kestell, b4c1; Martha Elizabeth (Bes) Kestell; Susanna Catherine De Haas and Charles Andrew Kestell

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About John Daniel Kestell, b4c2

John Daniel KESTELL the well known son of Charles Kestell is burief at teh VROUEMONUMENT, Bloemfontein, Free State, South Africa.

In his stepmothers will he is named as the person who inherited a diamond ring that must always go to the eldest son.

See biography at Dictionary of African Christian Biography


The town of Kestell is named after the Reverend JD Kestell. Kestell was a descendant from 1820 settler stock, and was born in Pietermaritzburg. After completing his studies in Stellenbosch he took up several posts until in 1893, he came to the Harrismith district. Dr Kestell was the minister of the N G Congregation at Harrismith. Kestell was then part of his congregation. In 1905 it became an own congregation. By 1900 the Boer War had started, and Kestell served with the Harrismith Commando as a chaplain for men serving with the various volunteer corps. Many were foreign nationals and their own churches were discouraged from offering services to them by their home governments' policies of neutrality and the vigilance of the British who ensured that this prohibition was not broken. Similarly, those Boers who changed sides and joined the National Scouts also found themselves without the support of their churches.

In January 1900 JD Kestell again found himself in the middle of a fierce battle during General Botha’s Spioenkop Campaign. On the Sunday morning of 21st January, General Warren resumed the attack on the Boers with heavy artillery support. Botha's burghers were beginning to show signs of wavering as more shells hit the entrenchments, killing and maiming many of them. Kestell would later write about this day in his memoirs.

"I visited the battlefield when the bombardment was at its fiercest", wrote Kestell. "I found that it had often been so intolerable that the burghers were driven out of the earthworks and compelled to seek shelter behind the hill slopes. But they had always returned and kept up a continuous fire on the advancing soldiers. The direction of affairs was, however, in the hands of General Louis Botha, than whom there was no man better qualified to encourage the burghers. Just as at Colenso, so here he rode from position to position, and whenever burghers - as I have related - were losing heart and on the point of giving way under the awful bombardment, he would appear as if from nowhere and contrive to get them back into the positions by 'gentle persuasion', as he expressed it, or by other means." By the 25th of January the British had abandoned Spioenkop and 650 lay dead with many more wounded still lying on the battlefield. The Boer casualties were 59 killed in action, nine died of wounds and 134 wounded.”

At the Battle of Wagon Hill in January 1900 Kestell found himself caught in a running battle between the British and the Boers. The opposing troops were only metres apart and casualties on both sides were high. Kestell proved both his bravery and deep faith by providing assistance to casualties from both sides

The Reverend JD Kestell would be kept very busy seeing to the spiritual needs of the men.

Some months later the Groenkop Battle took place on the 24th and 25th December 1901 when General Christiaan de Wet led an attack on General Rundle's Yeomanry. The Groenkop Battle site is only 20 kms southeast of the village of Kestell.

JD Kestell would become a well known author after the war and wrote several books about his experiences during this time – most notably “Through Shot and Flame” the English translation of “Met die Boere-kommando’s”.

Reverend J.D. Kestell


John Daniel Kestell (February 15, 1854 - February 9, 1941) was a minister of the Dutch Reformed Church (DRC), Bible translator, and Afrikaner cultural leader. His mother was an Afrikaner and his father an 1820 settler from Devonshire, England.

He was born in Bloemfontein. Having studied at the universities of Stellenbosch and Utrecht in the Netherlands, Kestell was admitted as a minister of the DRC in 1881. The next year he was called to Kimberley and in 1894 to Harrismith in the Orange Free State. Here he completely identified himself with the Afrikaner cause. At the outbreak of the South African War of 1899-1902, he accompanied the Harrismith Commando as field chaplain, soon becoming the trusted counselor to President M.T. Steyn and General Christian de Wet. Together this spiritual, political and military triumvirate remained in the field to the bitter end in 1902. Steyn once said that, to him personally, Kestell was worth more than a commando during the war. Kestell recorded his war experiences in “Met de Boeren-kommandoes”, published in Amsterdam in 1903. The English translation was titled: “Through Shot and Flame”, London (1903). In 1909 he and co-recorder Dirk van Velden, published the minutes of the peace negotiations of the war. In 1920 his biography of a beloved friend appeared in Cape Town under the title: Christiaan de Wet.

As a gentle yet steadfast moderator of the DRC in the Orange Free State he prevented the schism in the church that threatened with the Afrikaner rebellion of 1914-15.

Kestell's life was characterized by a willingness to serve. The irresolute were inspired by the magnetic influence he had over them. For his service he gained the affectionate and honorary title of Vader (Father) Kestell, and was awarded three honorary doctorates. He is buried by the side of his trusted friends, M.T. Steyn and Christiaan de Wet at the foot of the National Womens’ Monument in Bfn.

Orphanages all around South Africa were begun by Kestell to give the hundreds of Boer orphans a home after their parents had died in the Concentration Camps or were killed during the Anglo-Boer War 1899-1902. His only son had died in POW (“Tintown”, Ladysmith) camp.

Kestell served with the Boer forces during the Anglo-Boer War, and a monument to his memory was placed on Wagon Hill (Platrand) in Ladysmith by British soldiers, after his selfless acts on 6 January 1900 when he tended to both Boer and British wounded during that particularly fierce battle without regard to his own safety.

A true man of God. (Excerpt from Kimberley history, some provided by Prof Fransjohan Pretorius)

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John Daniel Kestell, b4c2's Timeline

December 15, 1854
February 25, 1889
September 9, 1891
Kimberley, Northern Cape, South Africa
February 9, 1941
Age 86
Bloemfontein, Motheo, Free State, South Africa
February 13, 1941
Age 86
Vrouemonument, Bloemfontein