Extracts from William John Burchell's books:
"Travel in the interior of South Africa"
Note: These observations and notes were made by Burchell (see 1854 image right) in October 1811 about eighteen months to two years before Rev John Campbell visited Klaarwater / Griquatown in 1813.
In September 1811 Burchell travelled inland to Griquatown with the Missionaries, Anderson and Kramer after their absence from the village for many years. Mr Jansz had acted as missionary in their absence (pp 328 vol one).
The Koranas, a Hottentot tribe in the Griqua Town area originally called themselves Koraqua (very similar to Griqua) pp 345 vol one, another local tribe was called the "Briquas" or Goat-men (in the Hottentot language) pp 364 vol one. The origin of the name Griqua has always been ascribed to a Cape based Hottentot tribe called the Guririqua... but perhaps Campbell picked up on a derivation of the local Koraqua or Briqua name.
The state of Klaarwater / Griqua Town (pp 350 to 352, vol one)
Not far from here, is the spot where these missionaries first established themselves in 1801, at a place called Aakaap by the Hottentots, or Rietfontein (Reed Fountain) in Dutch. They afterwards removed to The Kloof, but finally fixed their head-quarters at Klaarwater, as being a situation more central with respect to the different out-posts, or kraals, occupied by this race of Hottentots.
I accompanied the three missionaries round the village, to take a cursory view of the different parts of it; the huts of the Hottentots, their own dwellings; the house for religious meeting and school instruction, their storehouse, and their garden. When I considered that this little community, and the spot on which I stood, were nearly eight hundred miles deep in the interior of Africa, I could not but look upon every object of their labors with double interest; and received, at that moment a pleasure, unalloyed by the knowledge of a single untoward circumstance. The Hottentots peeped out of their huts to have a look at me; and I fancied they appeared glad at having one more white man amongst them..... (skip two paras)
The engraving on the right is a view of the Church. The furthest building is the dwelling-house of one of the missionaries; and the intermediate hut is a storehouse. Beyond these is shown a part of the ridge, which is represented at the head of Chapter 20.
From the moment when I decided on making Klaarwater in my way to the Interior, I naturally endeavoured to form, in my own mind, some picture of it; and I know not by what mistake it arose, that I should conceive the idea of its being a picturesque spot surrounded by trees and gardens, with a river running through a neat village, where a tall church stood, a distant beacon to mark that Christianity had advanced thus far into the wilds of Africa. But the first glance now convinced me how false may oftentimes be the notions which men form of what they have not seen. The trees of my imagination vanished, leaving nothing in reality but a few which the missionaries themselves had planted; the church sunk to a barn-like building of reeds and mud; the village was merely a row of half a dozen reed cottages; the river was but a rill; and the situation an open, bare, and exposed place, without any appearance of a garden, excepting that of the missionaries.
It would be very unfair towards those who have devoted themselves to a residence in a country, where they are cut off from communication with civilized society, and deprived of all its comforts, to attribute this low state of civilization and outward improvement, to a want of solicitude on their part. Their continual complaint, indeed, was of the laziness of the Hottentots, and of the great difficulty there had always been in persuading them to work, either on the buildings or in the garden; and in this complaint there was too much truth.
My disappointment in the appearance of the plae arose from expecting, perhaps, too much.....
page 355 to 356, vol one
This being Sunday, I attended the service in the church, or meeting-house. The building which they call so was rudely built of rough unhewn timber and reeds, covered with a thatched roof, and having a smooth, hard earthen floor, kept in order by being frequently smeared with cow-dung, in the manner practised by the colonists. Within, the sides were plastered with mud; and, being whitewashed with a kind of clay, which is found near the river, they looked tolerably clean; but the rafters and thatch constituted the only ceiling. The eaves were about six feet from the ground. The upright posts, the beams and rafters, were either of Acacia or Willow, and tied together with strips of Acacia-bark. The space within the building was a long parallelogram, which, when quite filled, might perhaps contain a congregation of three hundred persons, in the way in which them Hottentots squat on the ground; for there were no seats, excepting about a dozen, which some of the more civilized of the auditors had provided themselves with. On one of the longer sides the door-way was placed, and opposite to it, a pulpit raised a step above the floor.
page 357 to 358, vol one
This is the ordinary routine of the business of the mission as I observed it during the four months which, at different times, I spent at Klaarwater. And, with respect to its effects in forwarding the object of it, I cannot say that they appeared to me very evident: certainly, I saw nothing that would sanction me in making such favorable reports as have been laid before the public.
page 359 to 361, vol one
The village itself is situated close on the eastern side of a low rocky ridge, composed of an argillaceous slate or stone, divisible into thin lamina like that of the Asbestos mountains; between which, however, no asbestos has hitherto been observed. On one side is a long grassy mead of irregular shape, and containing above a hundred acres. This, being the lowest ground, receives the drainings and springs of the whole valley, and is, in some places, of a boggy nature. It is covered with coarse grass, and, by a little trouble and management, might be converted into gardens for the Hottentots, in the same manner as at Genadendal, and seems excellently suited for the purpose. The soil is a dark mould; and springs, rising in different parts of it, yield a never-failing stream of water during the whole year. I found this water clear and wholesome at all times: it is, however, of a calcareous nature, as is evident by the substance deposited on the roots and stems of the reeds and sedge along its course. All these springs, collected into a small rill, take their course through the mountains southward, by an outpost called Leeuwenkuil (Lion's-den), and passing by Grootedoorn (Great-thorn), another outpost, join the Great River, after running a distance of forty miles. The whole substratum of this part of the country, for many leagues northward and eastward, is a hard limestone rock of primitive formation; and on this, rest the laminated argillaceous mountains. This limestone rock in no place rises into mountains, but often forms the surface of a great extent of country. I never saw in it any marks of extraneous fossils. The soil on the higher grounds surrounding the valley, is remarkably red, being a mixture of sand and clay, which produces bushes and a variety of plants; but is subject to great drought during the summer.
The number of Hottentots houses immediately round the church, is not greater than twenty-five; but at a distance, within the same valley, nearly as many more are scattered about; and there are three or four at Leeuwenkuil, a place between the mountains, and about a mile and a half distant. Within fifty miles, in various directions, are nearly a dozen other out-posts; but they are not always inhabited: of these, the largest is the Kloof.
The aggregate number of inhabitants at Klaarwater and the out-stations, amounted in the year 1809, as I was informed, to seven hundred and eighty-four souls; and it was supposed that at this time it had not decreased: for, although some had left them and returned into the Cape colony, others had been added from that quarter in an equal proportion. The Koras and (San) living within the Klaarwater district, cannot be considered as belonging to the establishment, since they show no desire to receive the least instruction from the missionaries, nor do they attend their meetings, but continue to remove from place to place, a wild independent people.
The tribe of Hottentots now at Klaarwater, had its origin from the two families of the Mixed Race, of the name of Kok and Berends, who, about forty years ago, preferring their freedom on the banks of the Great River to a residence within the Cape colony, where they had acquired a few sheep in the service of the farmers, emigrated thither from the Kamiesberg with all their cattle and friends. These were, from time to time, joined by others of the same race, who found their life under the boors not so agreeable as they wished. Thus, their increasing numbers rendered them an object worth the attention of the missionaries; whose station amongst the Bushmen at Zak River, happened to break up about the year 1800. These Hottentots appearing to offer an easier and more promising soil for their labors, the missionaries attached themselves to them, and followed them in all their wanderings along the river, till they were at last persuaded to remain stationary at Aakapp, and finally at Klaarwater; which, at the time they took possession of it, was a (San) kraal.
The existence of this little community of Hottentots, was well known to the colonists under the name of the Bastaards, because the whole of them were at that time, of the Mixed Race. They had always professed, among themselves, the Christian religion; and at one time were the dupes of a religious impostor, named Stephanus.....
page 367 to 368, vol one
The dwellings of the missionaries stand close together in a line with the meeting-house, forming, with two others in a parallel line, a kind of street, in the middle of which stood, at this time, a stuffed camelopard, which, being much weather-beaten and decayed, was soon afterwards taken down. This object, reminding me that I was in the country where these animals were to be beheld alive, added a pleasing and very interesting feature to this little village.
The only piece of masonry was the foundations of a large building, intended to comprise under one roof a meeting-house and the dwellings of the missionaries; but its only use is to prove that a plan of rendering the mission respectable in its appearance was once entertained. It was commenced, I believe, about seven years before my visit to Klaarwater, and was carried on with spirit by the united labor of the whole community, until the walls reached the height of five or six feet; and in this state it has remained ever since, and still continues, without any prospect of being completed. This neglect is attributed to the temper of the Hottentots, who, like children pleased with a new toy, which is soon thrown aside, at first laboured readily at the work, and would not have deserted it if three or four months could have brought it to a conclusion; but finding, after the novelty of the job had worn off, that nothing was left but hard labor, their little stock of exertion and patience became exhausted, and the thing was given up as an undertaking of too great a magnitude. There was no want of materials; since their mortar was obtained close at hand, being merely mud, and the adjoining hill supplied the stone, which was formed by nature of shapes the best adapted for masonry: while timber might easily be procured from the banks of the Gariep, or even much nearer. The business of sawing planks has not yet been introduced here; but two or three people work as blacksmiths, although in a very bungling manner.
The only means of rendering this mission permanent, is to induce these people to acquire property in immoveable buildings, and in gardens well stocked with fruit-trees. These they would be unwilling to desert, on account of the labor and time that would be required to procure the same advantages on another spot. To persuade them to erect such buildings, had been, as Mr Anderson informed me, his constant endeavour; and it was not without reason that he complained of the laziness of the people, and of their unwillingness to regulate their conduct by his instructions and advice. It is certainly not an easy task to change the customs and prejudices of any people; but still, however, it may in many cases be done; and, whenever improvements more conducive to their happiness can be substituted in the place of their own rude notions, the attempt may conscientiously be made, and, to a certain extent, persevered in.
Burchell also described Captain Dam Kok's homestead as follows (page 351 to 356, vol one):
We also visited Captain Dam, as he is called, the Hottentots chief of Klaarwater, who holds a sort of authority over one-half of this tribe (of mixed Khoikhoi); while Captain Berends is, in like manner, the regulator and commander of the other half. His name was Adam Kok: he appeared to be under the middle age, with a countenance indicative of a quiet disposition. My visit to him required no explanations, as the missionaries had already made him acquainted with every thing respecting me. His hut, which was close behind the missionary's, was not better than those of other Hottentots; but was made of mats, in the usual hemispherical form.
The vignette at the head of Chapter 20 is a representation of Captain Dam's hut (image right), and of his wagon of which mention is made in the following chapter. Behind them are seen some of the trees of the missionary's garden, enclosed by a hedge of dry bushes. The trunk of a tree is fixed up near the hut, for the purpose of preparing (or, as they call it, breyen) leathern reims, and for hanging game and various other things upon. Such an apparatus is called by them, and by the colonists, who also make use of it, a Brey-paal. On the ridge in the distance may be seen, just above the Brey-paal, a part of the road leading to Ongeluk's Fontein".
Upon a subsequent visit, in 1812, Burchell commented upon the increase in size of the settlement at Klaarwater.
At my former visit to this village, the number of mat-huts was twenty, it was now twenty-five. This increase of population was occasioned by the return home of those families who had been residing with their cattle on the banks of the Gariep during the dry season.
In 1812 William Burchell also noted fluctuations in the Khoikhoi population of Klaarwater.
On our road this afternoon, we met a party of men, women, and children, with their huts and all their goods, removing from Klaarwater to the Asbestos mountains. The whole family, with mats, sticks, utensils, and skins, packed all together on the backs of the oxen, and moving along with a steady pace, presented a curious group, which might have been fancied to bear some resemblance to the journeyings of the people of patriarchal days, notwithstanding the dignity, and splendid robes, with which modern painters have thought proper to invest them. At least, their bringing to recollection, a party of Gypsies in England, removing from one county to another, is an idea less fanciful and speculative. We stopped a few minutes to answer each other's questions as to the whence, the whither, the when, and the wherefore of our journeys; nor did I forget to ask the men if they would like a trip to Graafreynet.
In June 1812 Burchell reflects on the work-ethic of the Bastards (page 225 volume two):
I had intended leving Klaarwater in a week after my arrival; judging that that time would be sufficient for putting everything in travelling order, and fror making all those arrangements which circumstances might require. But as I had from no one the least assistance, and as my people were more inclined to loiter among their old acquaintances and smoke their time away, than actively to despatch their work, I found the period of our departure, greatly to my annoyance, prolonged from day to day, by vatious difficulties and obstructions arising in one quarter or another.
In June 1812 Burchell discusses the tiny village of Ongeluks (Unlucky) Fountain (page 237 vol two):
At Ongeluks Fountain, about fifteen huts placed irregularly and dispersed so wide apart that some were out of sight of the others, form a kraal or outpost where many of the Klaarwater Hottentots reside with their cattle, as long as any pasturage can be found in the vicinity. Its size, and the number of its inhabitants, are, like those of all Hottentot outposts, so fluctuating that sometimes the spot is quite deserted: nor does it seem that at any season, the least attempt at cultivation is ever made here; as the ground nowhere appeared to have been broken.