Governor Simon Adriaans van der Stel, SV/PROG

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Governor Simon Adriaans van der Stel, SV/PROG

Birthplace: At sea en route to Mauritius
Death: June 24, 1712 (72)
Cape Town, Cape, South Africa
Immediate Family:

Son of Adriaan Simons van der Stel, Head of Mauritius and Maria Lievens
Husband of Johanna Jacoba Six
Father of Willem Adriaan van der Stel; Adriaan van der Stel; Catelina van der Stel; Francois van der Stel; Henrico van der Stel, b5 and 2 others
Brother of Maria Angel van der Stel and Adriana van der Stel

Occupation: The last Commander and first Governor of the Cape Colony, the Dutch settlement at the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa.
Managed by: Hester Maria Christina Marx
Last Updated:

About Governor Simon Adriaans van der Stel, SV/PROG

  • "Simon van der Stel (14 October 1639 – 24 June 1712) was the last Commander and first Governor of the Cape Colony, the Dutch settlement at the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa."
  • Dates, family members and links to documents on the First Fifty Years site:
  • All of his 6 legitimate children were born in Holland to his wife Johanna Six before he came to the Cape. She did not accompany him to the Cape, but his sister-in-law Cornelia Six did. "... though he remained devoted to her and frequently sent her money. But he had the comfort that every one of his four sons was at one time or another with him in South Africa. Adrian, his second, became governor of Amboina, and so passes out of our story; the third, Cornelis, was shipwrecked in the Ridderschaap, on the coast of Madagascar, it is said, and was either drowned or killed by the savages or pirates; Franz became a farmer at the Cape; and Willem Adriaan, after being magistrate of Amsterdam, succeeded his father as Governor of the Cape."
  • Much historical information and a view of the man and his administration here: "It is not easy to understand the difficulty of van der Stel's position unless it is kept in mind that neither the garrison nor the settlers could be properly called Dutch. Many were Roman Catholics, as we have seen; and many were Germans, French, Swedish, and English. They were not devoted to the flag of the Netherlands and were mercenaries at heart."
  • He built the original homestead at Groot Constantia estate, although it was subsequently rebuilt in 1790.
  • Questions raised in 1988 regarding some portraits of Simon van der Stel - (PDF)


From- First Fifty Years - collating Cape of Good Hope records added 2 new photos. May 29, 2015 ·

The Governor [Willem Adriaan van der Stel] as Farmer

The colonists allege (§§ 1-6, 15, 16, 19-21, 29-33 of the Memorial) that the farming operations of the Governor and his friends are conducted upon so considerable a scale that the regular farmer, in the essentially restricted market, has no sale for his produce. Was this really the case? Did van der Stel and his friends, in point of fact, own so much land that they were in a position to supply the whole market? The question is capable of easy solution, although it may never be possible to obtain definite figures as to what the officials' holdings in any given year actually produced. The Land Registers in the Surveyor-General's office in Capetown afford conclusive proof that the allegations of the colonists were strictly true. The van der Stel family and the seven or eight head officials owned as much cultivated land between them as enabled them with ease to supply the Cape market with everything, and dispense with any necessity of purchase from the settlers.

Since 1700 the Governor had been in possession of 400 morgen of first-class land at Vergelegen, in the most fertile district of the Colony, a holding which by fraudulent means he speedily extended to 613 morgen. He also occupied in Hottentots Holland three old Company's stations, one of which, the Vishoek, was provided with a properly equipped fishing base, and was called upon to provide fish for his hundreds of workpeople. Across the mountains, in the present district of Caledon, he had 18 cattle stations, where his huge herds of cattle were pastured.

The 600 morgen at Vergelegen were, of course, wilderness when the Governor entered upon possession. As he tells us himself, the land ‘was covered for the most part with undergrowth, bush, and heath, nor might be prepared ... without much cost and trouble.’ Upon the question as to who bore the ‘cost’ and paid for the ‘trouble,’ the Governor does not enlighten us. The answer may be found, however. In order to work his holdings and plantations, van der Stel had a small army of workpeople, consisting of over 60 white men, servants of the Company and paid entirely by the Company, with 200 slaves, his own property, and some 100 others, the property of the Company, but employed by him in his personal service.

The truth of this assertion is supported by abundant evidence of quite unimpeachable character. We have figures furnished upon oath by trusted servants of the Governor's own. Albert Gerritsz of Emmenes, and Jan Jansz. van der Heijden, both of whom worked at Vergelegen for four years, give the names and surnames of over 60 servants of the Company who were there with them. Their evidence is borne out upon every point, and at some points supplemented, by sworn affidavits from twelve other employees likewise in the Governor's service. Depositions by one of the above and by two other serving men, which Tas had procured during the Memorial movement, were suppressed by the Governor after Tas's arrest. All were identical in content. Tas had also obtained from a clerk in the Company's office a list of such employees, compiled from the official registers. I have carefully compared the documents in the Counter Defence both with each other and with such records in the Archives as might establish their truth or falsity, and, so far as my investigation has gone, I have been unable to discover in any of the depositions a single contradiction or misstatement

It appears from these documents that the Governor had in his service over 60 white servants of the Company, 20 of them upon his 18 cattle stations across the mountains. Upon those outside stations he had 18,000 sheep and 1000 head of cattle, besides the stock carried at Vergelegen and elsewhere in Hottentots Holland, as well as at Robben Island, Visser's Hok, Zoutvliet, etc. At Vishoek he had a fishery, with a permanent staff of 6 white men, besides slaves, their duty being to provide his workpeople with fish. Frequently also there were as many as 50 of the Company's servants engaged upon the Governor's behalf in felling timber in the woods, under the oversight of the Company's head woodcutter, Jan Vosloo, who himself gives evidence in the matter.

It is not from any enemies of the Governor that this evidence is derived. On the contrary, the deponents include men like Jan Vosloo, and Vierabend, the Sergeant, who were van der Stel's confidants, and stood high in his favour. The reader will remember how Tas anticipates Vierabend's appointment as Landdrost at Stellenbosch. The sworn depositions of those 16 men constitute evidence which no critical examination has been able to shake, and which must, therefore, be accepted as sufficient and final proof.

Even without these depositions it would still be possible, from the independent data furnished by the Archives, as well as from van der Stel's own admissions, to establish the magnitude of the Governor's interests. In view of the insensibility to argument which characterises his admirers, it may perhaps be advisable to subject these additional data to a brief examination. Should the reader find the task tedious, the blame cannot in fairness rest with me.

[Dagboek Adam Tas - Editie Leo Fouché en Anna Jacoba Böeseken, Vertaald door: J.P. Smuts (Engelse vertaling)]

We have no reliable portrait of him, only a description which tells us that he was short and stocky with very dark hair, oriental eyes, a small flat nose and a yellowish complexion. In the records of the Dutch East India Company, Van der Stel is described as “mestizo” – non-white. His mother was the daughter of captain Hendrick Lievens and a Batavian slave woman Mai Monica da Costa van Java.

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Governor Simon Adriaans van der Stel, SV/PROG's Timeline

October 14, 1639
At sea en route to Mauritius
August 24, 1664
Haarlem, Haarlem, Noord-Holland, The Netherlands
Haarlem, Haarlem, Noord-Holland, The Netherlands
April 12, 1669
October 1670
Amsterdam, Noord-Holland, Nederland (Netherlands)
February 14, 1672
Amsterdam, Noord-Holland, Netherlands
June 24, 1712
Age 72
Cape Town, Cape, South Africa