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Henry-Steyn Trek to Rhodesia - 1895

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Henry-Steyn Trek 1895

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The party consisted of:

John Henry (1829-1900) and Emily Helmore


Johannes Gerhardus Frederick Steyn (1836-1917) and Herculina Johanna Sophia van Heerden (1841-1905)


Johannes Gerhardus Steyn §(1864-1953] and his wife Anna Cornelia Maria Malan (Annie)(1867-1943)


Pieter Willem Steyn § (1868-1910) and his wife Engela Helena Lombard* (1867- .)


Hendrik Willem Steyn § (1869-1929) and Christina Petronella Coetzer (Christiana) (1874-1946)


Hendrik Balthazar Steyn (1832-1912) (brother of leader Johannes G F Steyn) and his wife Anna Susanna van Heerden (Sannie) (1839-1899). Other children of this couple are marked ±


Pieter Willem Johannes Steyn (Willem) ± (1859-1925) and his wife Cornelia Maria Johanna Lombard*


Coenraad Christoffel Steyn ± (1873-1934) (son of Hendrik Balthazar Steyn and Anna Susanna), with his wife Aletta Elizabeth van Heerden (1880-1942) (Coenraad was the nephew of Leader Johannes Steyn's wife Herculina. Coenraad Hendrik's father, Hendrik Bethazar Steyn, was married to Anna Sophia Maria van Heerden, sister of Herculina.)

Wentzel Christoffel Coetzer (1845-1904) and his wife Herculina Johanna Sophia Steyn § (Johanna) (1859-1948)


Jan Harm Coetzer and his wife Herculina Johanna Steyn ±


Thomas Ignatius Ferreira (1854-1935) and Maria Magdalena Steyn (1855-1920) She was the niece of joint leader Johannes G F Steyn, the daughter of his brother Johannes and and his wife Margarita Elizabeth van Heerden.


Johannes Gerhardus Frederick Kloppers (c.1850 - 1930) and his wife Anna Sophia Jansen van Vuuren (1865-1898) (Annie).

All the children are from Johannes's previous wife Aletta Elizabeth Kloppers born van Heerden (1847-1888). She was the sister of Herculina, Johannes Gerhardus Frederick Steyn's wife.

Stephanus Johannes Marthinus Lombard (1839-1901) and his wife Anna Cathartina Susana Remerta Bester (Annie) (1831-1910).


Other children on the Trek marked *

Cornelius Hermanus Marais and Catharina Susara Lombard* (1858-1925)


Willem Adrian Prinsloo and his wife Hester Susanna Prinsloo (Hessie) (1846 - 1914)


E. Coetzer.

Ignatius du Pre.

Jaap Hauptfleisch.

Daniel van der Zandt.

Pieter Louwrens Ferreira

There were newspaper articles (see his profile page) about Pieter Louwrens Ferreira who claimed that he went to Southern Rhodesia in 1895 with his first wife Martha Johanna (nee Greef) as part of the 1895 trek. His name does not appear in the lists given in S P Olivier's "Many Treks Made Rhodesia."

His DN can be seen on his profile page. His first wife, Martha, died on March 11 1896 aged 24 of Malaria. He married his 2nd wife Maria Margaretha Magdalena on 3rd Jan 1898 in Enkeldoorn.

Children: (all born in Southern Rhodesia)



J G F Steyn and his sons from "Many Treks Made Rhodesia" S P Olivier


Extract from "Many Treks Made Rhodesia" S P Olivier.

From the Facsimile reproduction of the 1957 edition - Rhodesiana Reprint Library - Silver Series.

Chapter 11


THE THIRD big Trek and one which has opened up the most northern part of Gazaland, was that conducted by Messrs. Henry and Steyn in 1895.

The Trek fever was growing, especially in the Free State where farmers were beginning to realize that their farms were getting smaller and smaller, and where others saw that it was not so easy to obtain land. The idea to move into the “Land of Rhodes” had gripped the Freestaters who by now had lost several hundred emigrants.

In the Kroonstad district various people contemplated trekking to German West Africa, and then again to North West Transvaal, but a decision either way was never made.

The news that farms were available in Rhodesia at the nominal figure of only about £30 caught the imagination of those people who have always grown up with the soil and whose greatest desire was to possess a piece of ground themselves. The news in the press that plentiful and fertile agricultural land was still to be had led some of the local inhabitants to convene a meeting. Here it was decided to appoint a small committee to proceed up to this hinterland of Rhodes and to inspect possible areas of settlement. They were also instructed to take up several farms should they be satisfied with the prospects.

This committee, consisting of John Henry and Johannes G.F. Steyn, took the boat at East London in the winter of 1894 and sailed to Beira. From there they traveled in a river steamboat up the Pungwe River and then by train up to the last stop “Seventy-five!” From there they had to walk or to make use of transport-wagons as far as Chimoyo and the Ruwui River. Here the road to the Moodie’s farm was explained to them and once more they had to travel on foot. The first night the mist arose and they lost their way completely. They wandered around aimlessly and full of fear until one day they stumbled on to the farm of Mr Cripps near Umtali. He gave them directions how to get to the Moodie’s farm along the mail route and sent a native boy as guide.

Two days later they arrived at the kraal of a native chief, Mutambara, who gave them a brand new hut to sleep in, as well as food in two newly carved wooden bowls: in the one, hard-boiled mealie meal and in the other roasted locust.

When they arrived at the Water Fall, Dunbar Moodie said they should move to the extreme south. They thought, however, that an area nearer to the railway line would be more desirable and expressed a wish to settle in the extreme north, past the Martin’s area towards the Umvumvumvu valley. They were granted farms on payment of £30 a piece, and had to be responsible for pegging their own boundaries of the 3000 morgen farm for a married and 1500 for an umarried person. If the farms were too big, they could buy the extra ground, after proper surveying, at one shilling and sixpence per morgen; if they were too small northing more could be done about it, as all farms had to be pegged adjoining one another.

The party was very satisfied, traveled back through the Chimanimani-poort and arrived three days later at Chimoyo from where they journeyed back via Beira to the Free State.

Their report was anxiously awaited by the farmers and others from Kroonstad, and it was decided to start organizing at once so as to move off as soon as it was feasible in the following winter. The Trek would meet formally at Schoemansdrift at the Vaal River on the the May 1895.

Loaded with such diverse items as grass, fruit, seeds, trees, domestic animals, clothing and food for six months, thirteen wagons arrived at the appointed place on this date. From the farthest south was perhaps Mr Thomas I. Ferreira from Tarkastad, whose uncle, Steyn, was one of the delegates. He had come to Cradock and told his relatives what he had discovered, and at least this one family decided to join his party. Thomas Ferreira writes: “My mother was rather sad at our parting, but she told us to load our wagon firstly with Religion, then with Patience, then with Courage and then with Faith, and all would be well.”

At Vaal River a few other wagons joined them so that there were in all 16 wagons and 104 people, about 5000 cattle and about 750 sheep, etc. It was decided to divide the Trek in two parts to facilitate grazing and movement and that Mr Henry would lead one section and Mr J.G. Steyn, acting as general secretary, the other.

Ten more people joined them near Potchefstroom, and so the Trek moved on in the direction of the Crocodile River. It was terribly cold and on one occasion so muddy and sticky that one wagon after the other got stuck. On one occasion they had to use four spans of oxen to pull one of the wagons out. Food supplies were obtained at Rustenburg and from there they had to keep a close watch on the cattle for fear the African would steal some of them. They crossed the Crocodile River and on the road to Palala experienced the first signs of cattle disease (gall-sickness), and many trek-oxen died. One occasion the lions caught four of their horses. What with heat, hook-thorn, thirst and a certain amount of despair, the Trek was heavy-going as far as the Limpopo. Here they met transport-riders and others who encouraged them to go on. The hunters were most interesting, and for about ten days they camped at the Limpopo listening to hunters like Hans Nieman, Jan Terblanche and others. They even arranged a dance on one of the canvas sheets.

The Sunday before trekking through the river, the usual Sunday service was held, and many a heart was sad at the thought of leaving their native country.

The Trek received quite a fright on the road from the Limpopo to Tuli when Thomas Ferreira got lost. He had gone out shooting and after he had killed a kudu, he had no idea which way to go. That evening he found the spot where he had left the wagons that morning. “Suddenly somebody touched my shoulder,” writes Thomas Ferreira, “and asked me if I knew where I was…I got such a shock that I ran wildly into the bush; and till this day I do not know who touched me…..I struck the road again but had no idea which way to go. Fortunately it was north. I ran with the perspiration running down my face. I had only three cartridges left, and all around me I heard the yelping of wild dogs, hyenas and the roaring of lions. That night about one o’clock I heard shot. It was someone sent out along that road to look for me.” It was a case of “all’s well that ends well!”

On the road to Tuli, horse-sickness broke out and killed off most of their horses. At the Nuanetsi, lions caught some of those who were left. At “Sugar Loaf”, a solid, gigantic granite hill, more cattle got ill, and the party was not sure whether they would ever reach Fort Victoria. They were greatly encouraged by the arrival of an invitation from some owners of a mine near this fort to the young people of the party, and by the arrival of two new adventurers, Willem Prinsloo and John Scheffers.

At Fort Victoria – the supply depot of all who traveled to and from South Africa – they took in what supplies they considered necessary, and then moved on to the Sabi. About halfway to this river, most of the members of the Trek developed a kind of dysentery which, however, did not prove too serious.

A few days later a boy, Paul Steyn, was born and the Trek slowed down for a day or two. The only mishap was when the wagon of Cornelius Marais broke down. A few men volunteered to stay behind and do repairs, and while they were away to fetch an axle of a precious wagon skeleton which was discovered there, he tried to jack up his wagon. The wagon toppled down and Marais was pinned to the ground. He and his wife struggled in vain to free his legs, and he was almost dying of pain when a native boy appeared on the scene and helped to pull the poor man out.

The Sabi itself appeared like the Red Sea to them, but after Ferreira, on horseback, had marked a track across, they got through safely, although they had to span two teams in front of some wagons. The condition of these trek-oxen, by this time, was none to good, and at Tanganda a few died – of sheer exhaustion, they thought. With Three Spanberg looming ahead, they were all dubious as to whether they would be able to get across. But by spanning three teams in front of each wagon and forcing all passengers to walk up, there were no incidents. One enormously fat old lady, Sannie Steyn, had to be supported by a girl under each arm and another one in front who pulled at a cloth twisted round the body. A little footstool was carried along to enable her to rest on the journey and then she was duly refreshed with some coffee!

They passed the Ebenhaezer memorial of the Martin Trek and so arrived at the Moodie Settlement towards the end of October. They proceeded in the direction of the Martin Trek and thence to the Myohodi and Elandspunt where Dunbar Moodie had arranged for them to stop. He, together with John Henry, Johannes, Beltsazar and Coenraad Steyn, then went out for a few days to peg the various farms. It was discovered that there was not sufficient land available for the whole party so a number of them went still further northwards into an unknown and unchartered area. The mountains were steep and two span of oxen had to be used regularly. Sannie Steyn had to have her usual escort! At Osaapsnek the chain snapped just as the hind-oxen were pulling the wagon of Hendrik Steyn. The wagon ran backwards and landed at the bottom, crushing every bit of furniture to pieces. The wagon was repaired, and the trek over Osaapsnek continued. Their first view of the lovely range of country stretching before them, inviting occupation, sent a thrill through young and old. The first farm was duly pegged and the others moved on to Paulingnek, where the same mishap occurred as at Osaapsnek – only this time it was Harm Coetzer’s wagon. From there they traveled to Moodiesnek (Moodie’s Pass) a road to Umtali made by the Moodies. For fear the wagons would run backwards again a huge wooden block was fastened at the back in order to stop the wagon from moving backwards. All except one wagon reached the top safely. The block proved most successful.

The farms Weltevrede, Lombardsrust and Johannesrust were pegged. Then the others moved to Thom’s Hope where the rest pegged their farms. Two families moved beyond the Umvumvumvu and discovered that the area there had been occupied. By the summer of 1896 all families had been settled and northern Melsetter occupied.

They had to pay about £15 for the Deeds and about £40 survey costs. Only one farmer, Mr Willem Steyn, sustained a loss when he discovered that 500 morgen of his farm was in Portuguese territory.

For most of them the planting and sowing season was past, and so they had to await the rainy season of 1896 with rather gloomy prospects. It took them a month to complete the distance of 70 miles from Melsetter to Steynsbank – the last farm in the north, and it was realized that communication, even with the older residents further south, was extremely difficult. The first winter gave them ample proof of it. However, through their perseverance, they opened up the new area of North Melsetter; and thus the whole of Gazaland – dream of Moodie, Jameson, and Rhodes – was occupied as British territory.

Other Treks followed the Steyn’s Trek, but they were not, technically, considered Pioneer Treks.

Web Page with info. about Henry-Steyn Trek