The Matthee Family History
The Gallic region of Champagne was occupied by the Romans along with most of the rest of France in the 1st century B.C. The name Matthee is believed to have originated in this area.
ANCIENT HISTORY Champagne comprised the regions of Aube, La Marne, Haute Marne, the Ardennes, and the Yonne. In the 10th century Champagne was given to the House of Vernandois which was elevated to a Duchy by Charlemagne for his son Pepin, King of Italy. Philippe August re-united the Vernandois with the French Crown in 1191. The Counts of Champagne became the Kings of Navarre, and lost much of their interest in their country. They were integrated in the Kingdom of France by the marriage of Philippe Le Bel with Jeanne de Champagne. The family name Matthee was found in “Champagne”, where the family goes back in time during the period when it was the Countship of Champaign which includes Blois and Chartres. Later known as as the Countship of Champaign Brie. The family surname grew in prominence and made important contributions to this early society. The Matthee family has been a prominent family for centuries, and held family seat with lands and manor. The family were well established in the region of Ardennes/Marne and several members of the family distinguished themselves through their contributions towards the community in which they lived and were rewarded with lands, titles and letters patent confirming their nobility. They branched into Aragon, Franche Compté, Langue D’Oc, Nuremberg and Neufchatel.
EARLY NOTABLES Notable amongst the family during this period was Jean Baptiste Mathey (1630-1696), a French architect and painter born in Dijon.
SPELLING VARIATIONS Throughout the course of history most surnames have undergone change for many reasons. Some variations in the Matthee name are, Matey, Mateu, Mathy, Mathay, Mathey, Mathei, Mattei, Mathez and Mattheybutt.
THE GREAT MIGRATIONS In the early 16th century French culture and society became the model for all Europe. In an expanding awareness of leadership, New World exploration became a challenge to all European countries. Jacques Cartier made the first of three voyages to New France in 1534. 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.
ARRIVAL IN SOUTH AFRICA In the 143 years from 1652 to 1795 a total of 453 Swiss were recorded, not including the members of the Swiss Regiment Meuron brought to the Cape in 1783. Canton Berne which then included the Cantons of Vaud, Aargau and Jura, supplied the major portion of mercenaries for the Swiss regiments in Dutch service, and has the strongest representation amongst the Company servants, making up 36,8%. 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. Abraham Matthee 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.