Early Settlers in South Africa from Switzerland
This project is for Early Settlers in South Africa who came from Switzerland.
The Swiss at the Cape of Good Hope 1652-1971 - Adolphe Linder.
Page 29 - 4.11 Their Names live on
Of the estimated 311 Swiss who arrived before the First British Occupation in 1795 and remained permanently at the Cape (including members of the Swiss Regiment Meuron), only 32 contracted legal marriages and of these the names of only 14 live on through their male descendants.
Their names are
- Claas Loubser (1676),
- Michiel Ley (1696), Jan
- Johann Oberholster (1696),
- Jan Vorster (1717),
- Jan Melchior Frick (1721),
- Abraham Matthee (1743)
- Johan Coenraad Gie (1751),
- Jan Christiaan Yselle (1754),
- Jan Caspar Gie (1764),
- George Christoffel Wolhuter (1773),
- Johan Hendrik Stoeder (1773),
- Johan Hendrik Esbag (1774),
- Frederik Furter (1786),
- Charles-Daniel de La Harpe (1783) and
- Jacques-Gideon Tredoux (1787).
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Major source available on line The Swiss in Southern Africa 1652-1970 by Adolphe Linder, well worth reading for loads of background information.
"The Alps were unable to accommodate the growing population and since early times many young Swiss had to find their living abroad. Mostly the men served as mercenary soldiers in foreign armies; they were renowned for their military prowess and much sought after. Those not martially inclined sought work on farms, in households and in industry. After the Thirty Years War (1618-1648) Germany, with its population drastically reduced and vast areas ravaged, offered work and cheap land. Large numbers of Swiss took advantage of the opportunities available there. By the time this vacuum had been filled, the Netherlands had grown prosperous from the spice trade, and good work opportunities could be found there. Later America became the promised land. The first emigrants from Switzerland went there in about 1730 and soon glowing reports filtered back attracting many more. Emigration across the Atlantic Ocean increased steadily and peaked in the 1880’s at nearly 1% per annum of the total Swiss population."
Only 10 Swiss who are known to have served out their contract with the VOC at the Cape, returned home returned to the Cape.
- Jakob Marik of Präz GR in 1710,
- Joseph Coen of Berne in 1746,
- Gabriel Jenny of Ennenda GLin 1757,
- Anthony Castelyn in 1757,
- Heinrich Schwarz of Wülflingen ZH in 1758,
- Coenraad Roets of Appenzell 1763,
- Hans Soeblee of Bougy-Villars VD in 1764,
- Johan Coenraad Wegelien of Diessenhofen TG in 1775,
- Nicolaas Schlaub of Basel in 1785 and
- Thomas Schoenmaker in 1790.
In the above paper we learn that there was a special relationship or sympathetic bond between the Swiss Confederation and the Netherlands. As an example in 1661 the Netherlands gave Geneva money to help her in the defence against her Roman Catholic neighbours France and Savoy. This sympathy was strengthened by the French Huguenots support. Many Huguenots fled to Geneva and Vaud from France and then travelled to Basel and on to the Netherlands. For example the Gauch family (progenitor in South Africa, Steven Gous), was born during the family’s brief sojourn near Geneva.
The Swiss also had a strong tradition of military service in the Netherlands, was formalised by a treaty in 1693. By 1694 over 5 000 Swiss were serving in the Netherlands. In 1702 11 200 Swiss were serving, with numbers peaking in 1748 when 20 400 men were in the Netherlands. After that numbers gradually declined and when Napoleon invaded the Netherlands in 1795, there were 9 000 Swiss in Dutch service. Many Swiss married and settled in the Netherlands and achieved high office, for instance Bartholomeus Eduard Paravicini di Capelli of the Grisons (1724-1810) became General and Weapon-developer in the Dutch army. His grandson served as Aide-de-Camp to General Janssens, Governor of the Cape 1803-1806.
Of the 37 soldiers in Beutler’s expedition, which in 1752 was sent out to explore the Eastern Cape as far as the Great Fish River, five were Swiss. They were
- Pieter Musiet (BE),
- Joseph Gundik (ZH),
- Hilarius Jene (GL),
- Benedict Gootje (BL) and
- Hendrik Frene (BE).
Fifteen Swiss served at the various outposts established to protect the settlers against retaliatory actions by the Khoi whose land had been usurped, or to secure the coastline from foreign powers. Besides Thomas Schoenmaker already mentioned, the most notable amongst them were Jacob Swytzer of Basel, a corporal commanding three men at Groenekloof (present day Mamre) for five years (1728-1733), and Johan Smit of Berne, corporal commanding three men at Vissershok 1735-1739. It is possible that Aurelius Probenius of Basel was a member of the garrison at the fort in Saldanha Bay in 1670, when it had to be temporarily vacated during a French incursion.
Simon’s Town appears to have been a favourite station for the Swiss. Between 1747 and 1795 nine Swiss served there: two from Geneva and four each from Cantons Berne and Vaud:
- 1747-1750 Andrea Selsen BE soldier
- 1750 Jacob Coenraad BE soldier
- 1758-1759 Hans Soeblee VD soldier
- 1759-1760 Andries Vieso GE postholder
- 1760-1762 Hans Soeblee VD postholder
- 1761 Jacob Schoon BE postholder
- 1763 Adam Wendschoon ?VD postholder
- 1764 Joseph Jonie VD postholder
- 1764-1774 Hans Soeblee VD postholder
- 1778-1783 Hand Soeblee VD postholder
- 1784 Christiaan Wegeling BE soldier
- 1795 Christiaan Moesbag GE postholder
- Hans Coert Pieken of Appenzell arrived at the Cape in 1747, initially working for four years as a wood-cutter, then held the position of gardener at Muizenberg for two years. He was finally the Company’s dairyman for four years.
- Benedictus Reyser of Berne and Nicolaas Bas of Chur GR were the Governor’s coachmen in 1719-1722 and 1760-1767 respectively and as such received better pay than a sergeant.
Others mentioned in this publicationas working at the Cape -
- Jan Bossert of Schaffhausen in 1737 in an unspecified post as foreman
- Domenicus Steyner of Schwyz,
- Baltus Wiederkehr of “Switzerland” in 1760
- Hendrik Muller of Zurich in 1767-1769,
- Johan Hendrik Esbag of Basel was Chief Wagon-maker at the Cape for 18 years, 1778-1796,
- Christiaan Marik of Klosters GR who commanded various ships from 1719 onward was based at the Cape.
- Hendrik Wolfensberg of Zurich was initially employed as a blacksmith and became the Company’s brass-foundryman in 1741, serving in that capacity for six years,
- Joseph Jonie of Bossy VD who first worked as a labourer and soldier, became the Company’s seal-engraver in 1766 until his retirement in 1787.
- Jacob Baselr of Basel, an assayer, was sent to the Cape in 1669 together with a party of miners to search for minerals. His task was to test ores extracted for their mineral content.
Three Swiss who had served as soldiers were appointed Company hunters:
- Soors Provoost of Solothurn in 1723,
- Joseph Klein of Porchet VD in 1771 and
- Andries Bertram of Grison in 1788.
Only three Swiss were recorded as working in the Company’s offices.
- Roedolf Schitz of Berne was a scribe 1750-1752;
- Rodolphe le Camus, probably of Fribourg, became first clerk to the Council of Policy in 1737 and
- Adolf Juriaanse of Lausanne VD was Secunde to the first magistrate at Graaff-Reinet 1785-1789.
Company servants not needed by the Company could be loaned by burghers in whatever capacity they might want to use them, as domestic servants, shoemakers’ assistants, farm hands, shepherds, etc. Thirty-one Swiss soldiers were thus loaned. A legal contract for one year was drawn up and signed by all parties. After expiry the contract could be extended for a further period. Thus in 1756, after serving in Beutler’s expedition, Hendrik Freene of Berne signed to serve Pieter Jurgens as farm hand and stayed with him for eight years, then took service with Willem van Wyk until 1772 when he applied for and received burgher status.
In 1718, Jan Vorster of Berne, progenitor of the Vorster family in South Africa, was loaned to the church community at Drakenstein to do the masonry work for their new church, and then loaned to former member of the Heemraad (Local Judicial Council) Schalk Willemsz van der Merwe. Eventually he applied for burgher papers with the intention of earning his living as a free mason at the Cape.
- Hans Soeblee (VD) served the Company 1757-1786,
- Jacob Haller (BE) 1760-1795 and
- George Wanner (SH) 1760-1791, was battalion cook when he applied for and received a pension.
- Thomas Schoemaker served as officer from 1774 until he lost his appointment after the First British occupation of the Cape in 1795.
- Isaac Manget of Geneva was the first Swiss to settle in South Africa in 1658, but he deserted from the Cape after only a few months. The distinction of being the first Swiss to have remained permanently goes to Moses Chubli of Berne, who died and was buried at the Cape in 1667.
Only four Swiss successfully applied to the Company for grants of land:
- Alexander Blanck of Schaffhausen near Klapmuts in 1681,
- Jan Margra of Lutry VD near Stellenbosch in 1686,
- Hendrik Muller of Basel in the Franschhoek Valley in about 1691, and
- Abraham Matthee of Tramelan BE near Pearly Beach in 1750, who may not have been a successful agriculturist. He had to supplement his income by working as a blacksmith, but he is the only one of the four whose name lives on through numerous descendants.
Two of the other Afrikaans families with Swiss origins are descended from men who acqired farms by purchase or marriage.
- Claas Loubser of Fräschels FR bought a small property at the mouth of the Salt River in 1676, who became a wealthy man through good farming and by augmenting his income as wagon builder.
- Jan Oberholster of Zurich acquired several farms near Klapmuts by marriage, and proved himself a successful farmer and businessman, and also died wealthy.
- Jan Sausche of Rougemont VD bought a farm in the Berg River valley below Paarl, but hired out his lands on a share crop basis and continued working as blacksmith. He never married and left no descendants.
- 1773 Hendrik Freene of Canton Berne was recorded as owning 10 head of cattle and 200 sheep
- 1741 Johannes Litseler of Canton Basel had 32 head of cattle.
- 1688 Hans Jurgen Sleyer (SH) became a farmhand
- 1702 Pieter Frene (VD) took service as a shepherd.
- The first Swiss tradesman recorded, in 1688, is Jacob Krebs of Berne, a free shoemaker.
Others to become free shoemakers were
- Johannes Struyk and Johannes Linacker both of Berne, in 1765 and 1795 respecively, the last named living in Stellenbosch.
- Hans Waber (BS) in 1701,
- Jan Vorster of Berne, in 1723,
- and possibly Samuel Cobie (BE) in 1763, became free masons.
- Frederik Furter of Basel worked as a carpenter in the Swartland (present day Malmesbury) after 1800.
- Jan Christiaan Yselle of Hasle BE set up as a tailor in 1760 and no doubt profited from his wife’s connection with the wife of Colonel Gordon, Head of the Military Establishment.
- Pierre Sandoz of Neuchatel, worked as a free silversmith in 1754 but his dishonesty, combined with a deficient knowledge of his trade, led to his downfall.
- Jan Sausche (VD) in 1747 and
- Abraham Matthee of the Bernese Jura acquired farms in 1750, but appear to have made their living mainly as blacksmiths.
The several Swiss recorded as teachers all appear to hail from the northern parts of Switzerland.
- Jan Melchior Frick, sextant and teacher at the Drakenstein church 1733-1741, was from Steckborn TG.
- Henry François Grondeler, a music teacher, was from Basel; he and his son served for over 60 years as the organists of the Groote Kerk in Cape Town.
- Matthias Liedy, a former soldier in the Regiment Wurttemberg was, at the time of the first British Occupation, teacher in the employ of a farmer.
- Johan Jacob Ziegler of Schaffhausen who was specially “imported” by prominent burghers of Cape Town to teach their children, was well educated and even applied for permission to open a Latin school.
The most successful in business were the two butchers
- Michiel Ley of Basel and
- Jan Oberholster of Zurich.
Michiel Ley appears to have been on a good footing with Governor Willem Adriaan Van der Stel, which brought him lucrative Government contracts, notably, together with Obersholster and two others, the monopoly of the meat trade. This sparked the famous protest action by farmers led by Adam Tas.
- Nicolaas Wederkeer of Bremgarten AG also set up business but died only five years later, in 1712.
- Jacob Marik (GR) made an unsuccessful attempt to set himself up as dealer and baker.
- After 1749 Casper Schalker of Winterthur had a general dealer’s shop near Paarl.
- Johan Coenraad Gie of Zurich, on becoming a burgher, married the granddaughter of Michiel Ley. This brought him excellent connections: her father and uncles occupied important positions. As active freemason, co-founder of De Goede Hoop Lodge in 1772, Church elder, Burgher Councillor and Captain in the Burgher Infantry he also became prominent in public life. His name appears in an inscription on the pulpit in the Groote Kerk.
- Jan von Winterthur of Seuzach ZH in 1776 became a burgher of Stellenbosch, owned property and married, but his profession is not recorded.
Freemen probably former Company servants who obtained their freedom include -
- Nicolaas Fuchs of Basel, a naval chief surgeon who took his discharge at the Cape in 1785 to settle down to domestic life.
- Jacob Huben, of unknown origin, in 1684;
- Hendrik Mulder of Basel, farming in the Franschhoek Valley, in 1695,
- Jan Francois David Engel of Canton Berne recorded in the 1770’s.
- Hans Moole of Chur GR, who was left at the Cape in 1772 by an English ship with the Governor’s permission, was granted burgher papers. He was banned seven years later and deported as a useless subject.
Because the VOC hired only male servants and only officials were allowed to bring their families with them, there was a complete lack of marriageable European girls. Many burghers married local women of mixed blood who were usually accepted as equals by the Cape community. Indeed, Governor Simon Van der Stel himself was of mixed blood. (See A.J. Boëseken: Simon van der Stel en sy kinders, p. 4) The VOC did, however, encourage officials departing from Holland to take their maids with them, in the hope that they might find a husband during the brief sojourn at the Cape.
- Alexander Blanck of Schaffhausen and
- Claas Loubser of Fräschels FR married such maids/girls.
In 1780 the VOC granted a passage to Susanne Margaretha Nicolet of Lignerolle NE to travel to the Cape with her Swiss lady companion, Anne Albertine Bienvignon, to marry Colonel Robert Gordon, Head of the Military Establishment. Anne married Jan Christiaan Yselle of Hasle BE.
The presence at the Cape of the following women is unexplained;
- Anna Maria Holthalt of Switzerland at the Cape in 1684 wife of Hans Jacob Huben in 1684
- and Sophia Magdalena Schroeder of Zurich in 1758.
Vilaidaragait would seem that he was a man of wealth. 35 slaves are listed and a number of houses. It would also appear that he did not father any children.
Crime and Punishment -
- In 1697 David Hypze “of Switzerland” was caught picking up goods washed ashore from Company ships wrecked in the bay and sentenced to two years hard labour in chains.
- Jan Jacob Wald of Milde near Berne was condemned to five years hard labour after a boisterous drinking party at a burgher’s house.
- Claas Loubser of Fräschels FR, a burgher of the Cape, was found guilty of defrauding the Company and sentenced to two years hard labour on Robben Island, which was commuted to labour on public works.
- Bartholomeus Jurger of Portels SG, a burgher found guilty of many illegal activities, was branded, scourged and banished to Mauritius.
- Leendert Meynraad of Schaffhausen and Charl Etienne Kiegel of Neuchatel were banned and sent away in 1712 and 1766 respectively.
- In 1733 Adriaan Vermaire of Basel stayed away from work for three days and was sent in chains to labour for six months in the quarry on Robben Island.
- When, in 1705, Jan Jacob Peroude of Neuchatel struck his foreman, he was sentenced to eight years labour in chains on the island.
- In 1702 Willem Soeter of Berne, on loan to a farmer, was whipped and fined for breaking his contract and taking service with another because, he said, of poor treatment.
- Nicolaas Basje of Lucens VD was hanged in 1675 and his body left hanging as a prey for the birds.
- Jacon Boery of Zurich was placed against the execution post and shot in 1748. * * * 23 year old Honore Brune of Nyon VD, took part in a plot to mutiny at sea in 1766 with 3 other young men. They were sent in chains to Robben Island where all appear to have died.
- Jean de Seine from “Griesons”, a freeman, was heard discussing the possibility of a French landing and was sent in chains to Robben Island for ten years.
- Isaac Boshuysen of Geneva, a burgher of Stellenbosch, was convicted to 20 years labour at the public works for a fatal assault.
- Jan Weis of Solothurn was retained as executioner for 18 years, from 1762 to 1781. At about the same time
- The position of head goaler was held by Hendrik Swarts of Winterthur ZH.
Much more in this paper - over 120 pages!