Member Michael Moore sent me some specific questions about my ancestors and the history of South Africa. In our correspondence it became clear to me that at best nothing, but mostly false history of the land of my fathers made its way into the US. So here is a factual summary should there be others interested in the story:
When my ancestors the Huguenots fled from the killings by the Roman Catholic Church in the Lyons area of Southern France in the early 1680s and into Holland they were given sanctuary by kind people in Rotterdam.
The Dutch East India Shipping Company saw a win-win opportunity in this. Their longtime halfway-to-India refreshment stop at The Cape of Storms had been
formally settled in 1652 and Cape Town came into being as a small community stretching towards Tafel Berg (Table Mountain) from the Casteel De Goede Hoop (Castle of Good Hope) -a fortification built by Commander Jan van Riebeeck, formerly of the Dutch Fleet and at thetime governor of the city-colony of the Cape of Good Hope.
The Dutch never settled inland any distance away from the safety of the castle, and keeping sheep was a big hassle as lion and hyena and leopard made it close to impossible.
The Dutch India Company offered the Huguenots free passage to Cape Town, and free settlement as farmers and sheep ranchers and would buy everything they produced to replenish the ships stopping at the Cape. The Huguenots jumped at this opportunity.
On arriving at the Cape the French were
given sustainable tracts of land towards the north and east but this was wild country at the time. They started sheep and horses and wine and wheat and vegetable production.
There was a sermon delivered to them as to their quid pro quo: as part of the title deeds they had to sign there was this caveat: with immediate effect they had to stop speaking French and adopt the Dutch language in their homes and schools. The Dutch authority could not tolerate a Little France enclave of free thinking Frenchies on Dutch soil. The Huguenots simply changed the clause and agreed to not speak French anymore but neither did they agree to speak Dutch. They simply developed a new language, which they called Afrikaans - the only language on this continent which refers to the continent Afrika.
It resembles Flemish in some ways which is spoken in Belgium in the area bordering France, and when either language is spoken slowly Flemish and Afrikaans people can communicate on easy day to day subjects without too much discomfort.
The Dutch were apoplectic and never stopped trying to kill the Afrikaans language. Then in 1806 in a short but fierce naval battle the British Navy overran the Cape, and England established the Cape Colony because their opium peddling ships on the way to China needed food and water, and laden with tea and spices on the way back again.
Immediately both the Dutch and Afrikaans languages were forbidden and English was enforced hard. People and schoolteachers went to jail for speaking Afrikaans. The Afrikaans speaking farmers (the term Boer is Afrikaans for farmer / rancher) packed their ox wagons and trekked east for about 500 miles and started new farms and ranches, away from the British. Very soon the Governor General declared the Fish River as the Eastern border. This river was beyond the furthest Boer ranches; they called these outlying Boers "Border Farmers".
In 1812 the Brits offloaded scores of British prison inmates and and an equal number of whores they gathered off the streets of London on the shores of Algoa Bay and founded the city of Port Elizabeth - the nearest port city to the Border Farmers, and established Grahamstown as the administrative capitol of the Eastern Cape.
The Boers were now already ranching deep inland near the Fish river which was the border with Caffraria where the front runner Amaxhosa cattle rustling marauding bands hid. Every time the cattle ranchers had to send out commandos into Caffraria to retrieve stolen cattle (and of course punish the Amaxhosa raiders) the British South Africa Police went out to arrest the commando leaders and also at the same time arrested those school teachers who refused to teach in English. Many of these gallant policemen got whipped good for their effort. By now the unique Afrikaans language and a unique culture of independence and hatred of any English interference in their lives was firmly established amongst the Boers.
In 1836 the Boers became fed-up with the British calling and treating them as "subjects" and trekked out en masse into the wilderness to establish a self governing nation where England had no influence. This pissed the Brits off no end. The root and proximate reasons for that trek is required reading for anyone who has an interest in understanding the worldwide illogical mindset of the liberal.
As mentioned earlier, "Boer" (pronounced "buhr") is the Afrikaans (my mother tongue) for rancher or farmer. In 1836 after 30 years under British Colonial rule in the Cape Colony the ex French Huguenots - now called Boers - and some Dutch farmers decided to rule themselves in an independent homeland as far away as possible from the Brits and they packed their ox wagons (about 2,500 of them) and trekked north east into an unknown wilderness (in fact trek is the Afrikaans word for "to move out" and became international after this epic excursion).
They went about 1,200 miles and established two Republics - The “Oranje Vrij Staat” (Orange Free State) and the ZAR or “Zuid Afrikaanse Republiek” (South African Republic). During this excursion they were attacked many times by bands and a few times by full armies of the Negroid races who were fleeing south, being driven by stronger Negroid nations from north of the Limpopo and Zambezi rivers. The Amazulu and ‘Matabele were these southern-bound nations who on their part had driven the Amaxhosa south whose forerunners were those the Border Boers had problems with. A number of distinct battles took place after which national boundaries were agreed upon and signed into treaties.
Then gold was found at Johannesburg in 1886 and in 1888 England immediately rode in
with columns from the south west, south and east to annex the ZAR. In six battles the best of Her Majesty’s professional soldiers were annihilated by the farmers and their sons of older than 12 years. The Brits called this the Boer War.
The Boers never had an official army but having had to hunt their meat they could shoot a rifle accurately, even while on horseback - they hardly ever dismounted during a battle.
There was also a law that every boy over the age of 15 had to own a hunting rifle and 50 rounds of ammunition, a horse, saddle, blankets, and have a spare cache of food for five days. Like today, hunting rifle shooting competitions were organised and always well attended.
A Boer section during the Second War of Independence