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Die Groot Trek / The Great Trek

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The Great Trek / Die Groot Trek - South Africa 1835 - 1845

The Boers Probe the Hinterland

Thus was Great Trek born. In secret, 'Commissie (Commission) Treks were established to explore the areas to the north and report back to the Boers. One went west to what is now Namibia and returned with a disappointing report, the others that assessed the Zoutpansberg (Salt Pan Mountains) mountains (in the northern Transvaal) and Natal respectively returned with glowing reports of perennial water, adequate grazing, abundant game and empty land.

The high plateau of TransOrangia (from Bloemfontein through Johannesburg to the northern Transvaal) and the rolling green hills of Natal were empty because of the 'mfecane' - the crushing (or marauding).

The Trek Begins

Eventually, one Hendrik Potgieter decided it was time for action. He and several other families decided it was time to pack wagons, sell farms and write letters to family. The Great Trek was to start with just a few families moving out on their own, only later to rendezvous.

Before this was to happen however, Potgieter decided to send out two parties of voorste mense (people in front) whose job it was to scout for suitable land and make contact with the Portuguese in either Delagoa Bay or Inhambane. To command the two parties he chose his cousin Johannes van Rensburg and one Louis Tregardt, a neighbour.

The Trek Wagon

	 There were several crossing places on the Orange River and once over, there were attacks by Bushmen but thereafter, the going was easier and the wagons resembled ships in a sea of grass. They were lighter and narrower than the wagons of the American west with a load capacity of about a ton.

Each was drawn by a span of sixteen oxen. The wagons moved at walking speed during the morning, rested at midday and covered a few more miles before evening. They were packed both with rough furniture, family heirlooms, farming equipment, seeds, coffee, sugar, gunpowder and other necessities. Hanging underneath were cages of chickens. Each evening, psalms were sung and every Sunday, there was a service - usually two.

Where the grazing permitted the party stopped for several weeks to fatten the stock, tend the wounded and sick animals, make butter and repair the wagons.

The Object of the Project is to give an account of the Great Trek, Identify participants and explore where they went.

In time a number of other projects can be created to explore in more detail different aspects of the subject. For example - the Battle of Bloodriver could be sub project.

To participate in any project......

...... you do need to first be a collaborator - so join the project. Look at the discussion Project Help: How to add Text to a Project - Starter Kit to get you going!

In order to join the project use the drop down menu at the top left of the screen and Join the Project. If this option is not available to you then contact a collaborator and ask to be added to the project. As a collaborator you will be able to edit this page.

How to Participate

  • Please add the relevant profiles of those who participated on the Great Trek (not their entire descendants - only those who were actually involved!) This is easily done from the profile page using the Add to project link.
  • If you have any related queries please start a discussion linked to this project. (See the menu top right).
  • Please add related projects to the menu on the right.
  • If you have links to related web pages that would be of interest to others please add them in the relevant section at the bottom of the page.
  • Add any documents of interest using the menu at the top right of the page, and then add a link to the document in the text under the heading below. If you do not know how to do this please contact one of the other collaborators to assist you.


The Great Trek was a migration eastwards and north-westwards by Boers/farmers away from the Cape Colony which was controlled by the British. The key poarticipants were the Trekboers (farmers who had adopted a nomadic way of life, and had moved away from the south western Cape in search of grazing for their herds were known as the trekboers). and the Grensboere or border farmers. Collectively they were known as The Voortrekkers meaning pioneers.

Key Players

Please add to this list in alphabetical order

Key Resource

Voortrekkerstamouers 1835-1845 (Afrikaans, second edition, 2011); J. C. Visagie; Protea Boekhuis, Pretoria; 752 pp.

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