Van der Riet family history

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Frederick Johannes Perryn van der Riet's account of his family, 1889.

This family history document was provided to me (Tracy Frayne) by T. Moore in August 2021 and I share it here almost exactly as I received it (only small changes to edit now-inappropriate old-fashioned words, and the inclusion of links to appropriate profiles). The original unedited document is attached as a PDF.

Foreword by Frank van der Riet

My grandfather, Frederick Johannes Perryn van der Riet was born at George on 28.11.1821 and died at Stellenbosch on 22.8.1896. His father, Johannes Werndly van der Riet was for some years Landdrost of George and in 1827 was appointed Civil Commissioner of Uitenhage and George, including Port Elizabeth (then a small seaport town) and my grandfather spent most of his youth in the Uitenhage area. A sheep-farming venture in partnership with his younger brother Henry came to an abrupt end with the outbreak of the 1846 Frontier War, in which he was actively involved. At the conclusion of the war he decided to accept a post in the Civil Service and in August 1848 (shortly after his father's death) he was appointed "Second Clerk to the Civil Commissioner and Resident Magistrate of Swellendam". On 8th August 1850 he married Mary Ann Barry, a member of a well-known Cape family with roots especially in the South-western districts.

My grandfather was well-known in public life and held in high esteem by his contemporaries. Indeed, in October 1859 he received a "numerously signed requisition" from Bloemfontein to allow himself to be nominated for the office of President of the Orange Free State! For various reasons he declined this request. His career in the Service brought him back to the Eastern Cape, as magistrate or civil commissioner in Coles­berg, Uitenhage and Graaff-Reinet. My father, who was born at Swellendam in 1867, retained a vivid memory from his early childhood of the family's journey by ox-waggon from Uitenhage to Graaff-Reinet in 1871. In 1874 he was appointed "Inspector-General of Chests" for the purpose of visiting the several seats of magistracies in the Colony (a kind of Colonial Auditor and Inspector of Public Works rolled into one, at any rate an important office).

In July 1875 he became Assistant Treasurer-General, was a member of the “Stamping Commission” (27 April 1876) and ex officio a member of the “Tender Board”. On May 20th 1876 he received the final appointment of his career, that of Resident Magistrate of Simonstown where he remained, occupying the famous old Residency, until his retirement in 1888, after which he went to live at Stellenbosch.

My grandfather left a 24-page manuscript bearing no title but containing an account of the history of his family at the Cape, written for the benefit of his descendants. A chance reference to a date in the text indicates that the document was written in 1889. It is this document which I have reproduced in the following pages, in a somewhat amended form.

The manuscript bears many alterations and is in places very difficult to decipher, which suggests that the document, as we have it, was a preliminary draft and not in its final form. In copying it I have felt free to make a few changes in the wording where they seemed necessary, and to normalise the spelling and punctuation. My grandfather's draft includes one or two fairly long extracts from church baptismal registers, in Nederlands, which I have translated and abridged.

My grandfather’s list of the “stamvader” Johannes van der Riet’s children is inaccurate and probably based on incomplete information supplied to him. I have redrafted this section completely, with a note explaining what went wrong.

My grandfather does not include any information about his own “numerous offspring”; I have supplied a full list of his sons and daughters in an appendix, followed by a list of my own father’s family.

Frank Geoffrey van der Riet
July 1981

My Grandfather's account of his family

BEING desirous of preserving for the benefit of my descendants as far as I am able and as the best legacy I can leave them, an authentic history of my family in the Colony of the Cape of Good Hope, I here record the information I have collected from oral and written sources up to the present time; premising that I know positively nothing of the history of my forefathers previous to their arrival in this Colony. Excepting that my father, Johannes Werndly van der Riet, more than once told his children that the name, Van der Riet was changed from “Von Reth”, originally a Swiss family. Through circumstances unknown to him they had to leave Switzerland at some remote period.

The first Van der Riet came to this Colony in 1752. He was employed by the Dutch East India Company as “2de Opperste Chirurgyn” [2nd Chief Surgeon] at least from 1746, and with his third voyage out (in the ship "De Snoek") he remained at the Cape in 1752, “om als zodanig dienst te doen in de Baai Fals” (Simon's Bay). In 1753 he was appointed to the Government Hospital in Cape Town as 2nd Chief Surgeon, and on the 13th May 1753 he married Maria Berthault, daughter of Renault Berthault de St Jean, the 1st Chief Surgeon of the Government (Eerste Opperste). In order to point out the connection between our family and the Huguenots at the Cape, I shall trace back the family of my great-grandmother Maria Berthault from the year 1700, from the information received from Mr C.C. de Villiers and other authentic sources.

Durand Sollier and Gilles Sollier, two brothers, were living at the Cape in the early part of 1700. Neither of their names is mentioned in the lists of emigrants who arrived in the Voorschoten (1687), the China (1688), De Oosterlandt (1688), Wapen van Alkmaar (1689) or the Sion (1689), but they probably came to the Cape from Holland at a later period. But in 1706 Gilles Sollier was living in Cape Town, and he was then requested by the Governor to use his influence to call back certain persons who had fled from the oppression exercised over them by the Governor Van der Stel (whom they had reported to the home government). This characteristic letter of Gilles Sollier, an old soldier, dated 3rd June 1706, persuading those exiles to return, is published in the Cape Monthly Magazine by John Noble in 1860. Gilles Sollier returned to Holland in 1718, Durand Sollier remained in this Colony. He was married to Marta Petel. In 1715 she died leaving an only minor daughter named Martha or Marton. Durand Sollier again married Elizabeth de Villiers, but they had no children. Renault Berthault de Saint Jean, before-mentioned as 1st Chief Surgeon, married Martha Sollier, daughter and heiress of Durand Sollier and Marta Petel. The Estate “Orange-Zigt” belonged to this reputedly rich Frenchman as I was informed, by my grandmother, Mrs. R.J. van der Riet. From the same source I heard that Berthault de St. Jean was a French refugee of noble birth, and that he was her late husband's grandfather from his mother's side.

Renault Berthault de St. Jean arrived at the Cape of Good Hope on the Meynden [?] in 1719 and was in the employ of the Dutch India Company, on his way to Batavia. He was at first provisionally appointed to the Hospital at the Cape. He had been in the Company's service since 1712, serving at Batavia until 1717, when he returned to Holland for a couple of years. In that year he made a joint will (in French) with his first wife Anna Fourdrinier at Amsterdam. In 1719 as above he was again employed in the Company's service and in 1720 his wife and one son (Renault Berthault) came to the Cape.[1] His wife died in 1721, and the will was filed in the Master's Office where it now is. On the 14th Dec. 1721 Renault Berthault de St. Jean married [i.e. 2nd marriage] Martha Sollier, the daughter as beforesaid of Durand Sollier and Marta Petel. Dr. Berthault retired in 1761, and Dr. Johannes van der Riet, then 2nd Chief Surgeon, was appointed in his stead.

Continuing the history of my family from Dr. Johannes van der Riet, from his marriage with Maria Berthault in 1753.

[There is an obvious error in my grandfather' s account of the children of Dr. Johannes and Maria Berthault: there were ten children, not five as he stated, but of the ten no fewer than six died in infancy; some of the names of those who died were again, for children born later, which would account for the confusion. The following list is based on information, given in Geslagsregister van ou Kaapse famielies, by C.C. de Villiers, revised by C. Pana, 1966:


Johannes van der Riet, born 20.7.1722 at Bergen op Zoom, son of Johannes van der Riet and Catharina Stemstavva, 2nd Surgeon in the Dutch East India Company, married 13.5.1753 to Maria Berthault de St. Jean, born 16.6.1726.


  1. Martha Cornelia, b.3.5.1754, d.15.2.1760
  2. Pieter Albertus, b.1.12.1755, married 23.7.1775 to Helena Emmerentia Krynauw (they had 10 children, but it is possible that the family returned to the Netherlands).
  3. Catharina Alida, b.10.8.1757, d.9.12.1757
  4. Ryno Johannes (our ancestor), b.3.12.1758, died in 1828
  5. Maria Johanna, b.6.2.1760, d.12.2.1760
  6. Martha Cornelia, b.25.7.1761, date of death not stated; married 12.8.1782 to Willem Stephanus van Ryneveld (b.24.3.1765, d.14.8.1812) who became Chief Justice of the Cape Colony.
  7. Johannes, b.18.5.1763, d.12.5.1764
  8. Johannes, b.23.8.1765, d.10.6.1769
  9. Maria Johanna, b.28.11.1767, married to Ds. Helperus Ritzema van Lier van Assen (no descendants. Maria became married a second time after Van Lier's death to Willem Cornelis Kuys, and “had numerous offspring” according to my grandfather).
  10. Catharina Hester, b.13.8.1769, d.24.4.1771

End of insertion]

I now proceed with the history of my grandfather, Ryno Johannes van der Riet, and must mention first that the name “Ryno” was corrupted from the French “Renault”, retaining the sound only phonetically. Indeed the French descendants in the first generation began to alter the spelling of their names very soon, so as to conform to the Dutch language which they made their own. Thus Berthault was soon changed to Barto.

Ryno Johannes van der Riet was born in Cape Town in December 1758. Of his early training and education nothing is known to me further than that he was not sent to Europe, but he entered the Company's service at a very early age (1776) and before he was of age [on 11th April 1779] he married Johanna Sophia Werndly, of Batavia.

[Note by my Grandfather on the verso of one of the pages]:
“In 1755 the Revd. Johannes Werndlij was married to Petronella van Rheede van Oudtshoorn. He was minister of the Dutch Reformed Church at Batavia. Before 1758 he died at Batavia and his wife and one daughter, Johanna Sophia Werndlij returned to the Cape. On 12 March 1758 Mrs. Werndlij remarried the Revd. Remerus Harders, minister at Tulbagh. Mrs. Werndlij was our maternal ancestor and great-grandmother. Revd. R. Harders calls at the Cape and is appointed clergyman at Roodezand (Tulbagh) about January 1758. On the 12 March 1758 he married my great-grandmother, the widow Werndlij, so that my grandmother Johanna Werndlij was about 2 years old when she came to the Cape Colony from Batavia.
[Continuation of note]: Pieter van Reede van Oudtshoorn, Independent Fiscal at the Cape, arrived 1741, name of wife Sophia Boesses. In 1760 appointed Secunde. He proceeded to the Netherlands on leave, 1772, and was appointed Governor of the Cape, and on his way back died at sea 23 Jan. 1773, and was buried under the pavement of the Dutch Refd. Church, Cape Town. His gravestone is still lying within the enclosure of the Church (1889)[2]. (Vide Theal's Hist. of S.A., vol.2, pages 139, 143, 221).
[End of note]

At the first taking of the Cape by the English my grandfather [i.e. Ryno Johannes, born 1758] was employed as Pay­ master of the Pennisten Corps, but after the Cape was taken he was appointed in 1796 as Landdrost of Stellenbosch, and he there occupied the Drostdy and lands adjoining (now the Theological Seminary). My father, Johannes Werndly van der Riet was born on the 14 December 1789. His two sisters were

  1. Maria Sophia Petronella, baptised 18.6.1780, married 22.1.1798 to Rynhard Perryn, “Kapteinluitenant ter zee”
  2. Catharina Helena, baptised 20.8.1786, Married 19.3.1822 to Johann Christian August von Wetzlar.

His brothers (2) were Ryno Petrus Johannes, baptised 26.1.1794 married to Engela Maria Karnspek, and Lieve Wilhelmus Nicolai baptised 21.2.1796, who married first Cornelia Sophia van Schoor and afterwards Catharina van Reenen by whom he had numerous offspring. [Note. According to the Geslagsregister there were three other children born in 1782, 1784 and 1800 respectively who presumably died in infancy. This same source makes no mention of Lieve Wilhelmus Nicolai' s second marriage, to Catharina van Reenen, and of the “numerous offspring”]

My grandmother Johanna Sophia [born Werndly] died at Stellenbosch at the beginning of the present [19th] century. My grandfather was married again, not long after, [12.4.1801] to Johanna Herold, daughter of Johan Wilhelm Herold, a German by birth, whose history will follow as my mother, Maria Sophia Hendrina Herold was also one of his daughters. In 1812 my grandfather resigned the office of Landdrost in favour of W.S. Andringa and he was again appointed as Secretary of the Board for Regulating Insolvent Estates, and in 1818 when that Board was discontinued he became Sequestrator. This office he held until 1825, when he retired. The following Government Notice appeared in the Gazette for January 1825: “His Excellency the Governor has been pleased to appoint V.A. Schonnberg Esq. to be Sequestrator vice R.J. van der Riet Esq., who retires after an honourable service of upwards of 49 years.”[3]

In January 1825 he was nominated by the Government as Commissaris Politiek “for church affairs”. He closed his career in 1827.

His residence in Cape Town was the present Normal College of the D.R. Church. I have the most vivid remembrance of the grand old mansion though I was still very young.

My grandmother (step-grandmother) lived in comparative retirement with her cousin Mrs. Bresler where I often visited her and she departed this life at a ripe old age in 1859.

My father, Johannes Werndly van der Riet, was born, as I have mentioned before, on the 14 December 1788. I have a cyphering book in my possession dated 28 January 1801 commencing with “Den Regel van Drijen in 't Gebruiken” and ending with the following “Aime toujours la paix”.

The schooling be had was the best obtainable at the time at the Cape Town, but that was exceedingly limited. In February 1805 my father was sent to Europe. The occasion which led to this is told in the following anecdote preserved in the family: Tobias Herold, then a lad past 16 years had received a notice from the Burger Commander to provide himself with a horse, gun, saddle and bridle etc., and to join the cavalry at Stellenbosch. He applied to his father Dominy Herold (as he was commonly called) for his outfit. This led to a severe rebuke from his father, who had destined him for the Church. “What!” said the old man, “Horse, saddle and bridle! I shall provide you with a wooden horse at once!” My father was also warned, I suppose, and after discussion it was settled to send both the boys to Europe at once, and on the 26th May 1805 they arrived in Copenhagen, whence they started for Amsterdam on the 10 June and arrived there on the 22nd. Tobias Herold remained in Holland and studied at Leyden, whilst my father travelled about Holland and Germany and arrived at Gravesend 2 September 1806. On the 5 December he left London for Ports­mouth and on the 4 January 1807 left Portsmouth for the Cape, arriving in False Bay (Simon's Town) on the 15 April 1807, after an absence of 2 years and one and a half months. My father entered the Civil Service, of course then under the English Government, and was soon established in the Colonial Office. He was married at Stellenbosch on the 9th July 1809 to Maria Sophia Hendrina Herold. He was afterwards promoted in the Colonial Office to the rank of assistant Colonial Secretary, and on the 20th September 1819 he was appointed Landdrost of George. My father was very fond of sport and he was easily induced to exchange the confinement of town for a country life, especially since my uncle the Revd. Tobias Herold was stationed as clergyman of the Dutch Reformed Church at George.

When the family removed from Cape Town to George six children were already born, but the eldest sons John and Ryno remained in Cape Town for a while for their education. Five more children were, not many years after, added to the already large family. The removal of my uncle Herold to the Paarl made life at George less agreeable to my parents and the burning down of their residence, the Drostdy, not long after, added to the disagreeableness. However my father enjoyed with zest the picnics and sport which George afforded, and he much regretted leaving it afterwards when promoted to Uitenhage in 1827. I have now in my possession the original appointment of Civil Commissioner of the District of George and Uitenhage with salary of £400 a year to be made up to £500 in case the inspection allowances fell short of that amount, dated 16 Nov. 1827, to take effect from 1 January 1828, signed by Richard Plasket, likewise a Commission as Justice of the Peace dated 21 Dec. 1827 which, if not the first commission of a J.P. is certainly one of the first that was issued by the Cape Government when the Ordinance No.32 came into force “For creating Justices of the Peace in the Colony”.

In 1828 my father removed his family to Uitenhage, which was to be the seat of his residence, by ox-waggon, over Nieuwberg, then a rough mountain pass, and we arrived at Uitenhage after several weeks' travelling. For some time we occupied the Drostdy House [now part of the Railway Institute]. When however (Sir) Andries Stockenstrom was appointed Commissioner General he chose Uitenhage as his residence, and my father had to give up his residence for him. We however occupied the premises below the present Dutch Church. My father received £100 a year to pay for the loss of the Drostdy. Two more children were here added and our number now increased to 15, but strange to say my parents never lost a child, and all were born and reared in excellent good health, never so much as a bone or limb being broken; ours was a happy family indeed![4]

When Sir Andries Stockenstrom left, which he did not many years after, the Drostdy was sold, and my father bought it for £450, with all the grounds to the rear of the dwelling. As it had become much dilapidated he had to spend another £400 to make it a comfortable residence.

My father always displayed the most profuse hospitality to all strangers visiting Uitenhage. Governors, judges, civil and military officers, all were welcome. Sir Benjamin D'Urban and his staff, Dr. Murray, Major Beresford, Col. Dutton, Col. Mitchell, William Smith and Major Alexander, were entertained at the Drostdy by my father for six weeks, and at another time Col. Smith and his wife (afterwards Sir Harry and Lady Smith) both on going to and returning from the Frontier War of 1836. At that time my father had more than a dozen slaves, men and women, all well trained for all kinds of work, besides children. The wars on the Frontier made Uitenhage a centre of life and activity. I remember well in 1836 our house was more like a barracks than a private house, as scarcely any burgher of any note proceeding to the frontier failed to make my father's house a rendezvous; while he has in Uitenhage this was again repeated in the Frontier War of 1846-7 but with the disadvantage that all our slaves had been made free!

Oh the wailings and heartrendings which this circumstance created at the time! Ours became a home of mourning. My mother's favourite slave, a boy of 14 became a Malay, following his foster mother who was a Malay. A few months after the emancipation (1st Dec. 1838) we were only left with two apprentices, a boy and a girl, children of a liberated African who had died in our house. The 1st December 1838 will never be forgotten by slaveholders as long as they-live. It was a most crual proceeding on the part of the British Government setting the slaves free at such short notice, and ruined many a colonist. As for ourselves, we were living in a large house with extensive gardens and fields attached thereto. The gardens and fields were never properly cultivated afterwards and our comforts if not completely destroyed were very much curtailed

I shall now treat first in order the history of my mother's family and parentage. My grandfather Johan Hendrik Herold, as I said before, was a German by birth. His father was a clergyman and lived in Hessic Cassel, and he had four sons and one daughter when the Seven Years War broke out towards the end of the 18th century; one was [ambtman? ambtenaar?] another, Hendrik, was married but had no children, one daughter was married to Rosenthal, and Johan Wilhelm Herold was studying for the church. The war completely dispersed and ruined the family. One son was never again heard of and Johan the subject of this memoir went to Holland with a view to finishing his studies, but means failing, he was obliged to accept an offer as supercargo to Batavia for which purpose he embarked, but the “Cape of Storms” compelled him to visit these shores and here he traded and eventually succeeded in making a good living.

It is just likely that our hero traded beyond the confines of the metropolis and made the acquaintance of a well­ to-do Koeberg farmer who had a number of daughters but no sons. That others fell victims to the charms of these ladies, the Van der Byls, Cloetes, Louws, De Villiers, Roux of the Stellenbosch and Paarl valleys sufficiently testify by the extensive family connections which the family of Van Dyk thus created.

Tobias van Dyk, for such was my maternal ancestor's name [born 1711, married Anna Hugo in 1745] had several daughters, two of them Maria and Elizabeth were twins. The first married Andries van der Byl [1776], and the second my grand­father J.W. Herold [3.1.1779]. Both had large families. Johanna van Dyk married Jan de Villiers [1771]. These families afterwards merged into the families of Cloete, Bresler, Hofmeyr, de Jongh, Morkel, Meyburg, Neethling, Roux and a great many others.

My mother's brother, Tobias Johannes Herold, before­mentioned as my father's compagnon de voyage, married in Holland Louisa Hoorn, by whom he had one son William and four daughters:

  1. Cateau married Deneys
  2. Elizabeth married Karel van der Byl
  3. Charlotte married Adrian Louw
  4. Johanna married Philip Myburgh

Excepting the first, all the other children have a numerous offspring alive at this day.

His second marriage with the widow Joubert (advocate), Aletta Reitz, produced two sons, Tobias and Frank, both married to Miss Barry's, with whom they have each several sons and daughters. I shall leave them to write their own family history.

To carry on the story of the fruitfulness of the Van Dyk family as incorporated with my own, I must now proceed to give a detailed list of my brothers and sisters copied from a Register kept by my father, the original whereof is in the possession of my sister Mrs. D.G. de Jongh.

[The list which follows is translated into English and somewhat abridged, omitting for instance the precise hour of birth in each case! But I have thought it of interest to include the names of witnesses]

[Children of Johannes Werndly van der Riet and Maria Sophia Hendrina Herold, married at Stellenbosch on 9th July 1809]:

  1. Johannes Daniel, born at Stellenbosch 3. 7.1810, christened by Rev. M. Borcherds 15.7.1310. Witnesses, Ryno Johannes v.d.R. (senior), Johanna Herold, Dr. J. van Ryneveld and Sister Perreyn.
  2. Johan Wilhelm Herold, born at Stellenbosch 20.3.1813, christened by Rev., M. Borcherds 16.2.1812. Witnesses: (held by Caatje), Johan Wilhelm Herold, Elizabeth van Dyk, Lieve William Nicolai van der Riet, Cath and Helena van der Riet, Willem and Antje Lombarts.
  3. Ryno Johannes, born at Cape Town 20.1.1815, christened by Rev. Mr. Fleck 4.4.1813. Witnesses: Frederick Perreyn*, Johannes van Ryneveld, Ryno Petrus Johannes van der Riet and Wilhelmina Johanna Herold.
  4. Elizabeth Wilhelmina, born at Cape Town 20.1.1815, christened by Rev. Mr. Fleck on 29.1.1815. Witnesses: (held by Elizabeth Herold), Johan Wilhelm Herold, Elizabeth van Dyk and Elizabeth Petronella Herold.
  5. Johanna Sophia, born at Cape Town 28.4.1816, christened by Rev. Mr. Fleck 26.5.1816. Witnesses (held by Caatie) R.J. van der Riet “en beminde”, Jacob Frederick Bunder (?) and wife.
  6. Tobias Johannes, born at Cape Town 15.1.1818, christened by Rev. Mr. Berrangé 15.2.1818. Witnesses (held by Tiet [i.e. Cornelia Sophia] van Schoor), Tobias Johannes Herold, Louisa Hoorn, Lieve William Nicolai van der Riet and his wife.
  7. Maria Sophia Hendrietta, born at Cape Town 8.7.1819, christened by the Rev. Mr. Fleck 8.8.1819. Witnesses (held by her mother) Frederick Johannes Perreyn and his mother.
  8. Charlotte Louise, born at George 25.11.1820, christened in the George Church by Rev. T. Herold 3.12.1820; held by “Zuster” Herold who together with her husband acted as witnesses, likewise “Zuster” Louise Herold.
  9. Frederick Johannes Perreyn[5] [i.e. my grandfather], born at George 28.11.1821, christened by the Rev. T.J. Herold 20.1.1822; held by “Zusje Perreyn”, witnesses R.P.J. van der Riet, Zusje Perreyn and C.M. Zastron.
  10. Anna Pauline, born at Cape Town on 2.1.1823; christened at George by the Rev. T.J. Herold 9.2.1823; held by her mother. Witnesses Paul Roux, Paul “Z. [son?], Anna Elizabeth Herold and Paul John Roux Senior.
  11. Christiana Catharina, born at George 7.3.1824, christened by the Rev. Cornelis Mol in the Drostdy at George 24.7.1824; held by her mother, witnesses: J.C. Rimrod and Catharina and Helena van der Riet.
  12. Henry, born at George 10.1.1825, christened in the Drostdy by Rev. Cornelis Mol on 9.7.1825; witnesses Henry Collison, Predikant, and Margareta Alberta Meyer, who held the child.
  13. Wilhelmina Johanna Rolanda, born 13.9.1827 in Cape Town, christened in the Church at George by the Rev. J.S.S. Ballot on 11.11.1827, held by Niece Kuys, the witnesses: Willem Cornelis Kuys and his wife, together with Johan Wilhelm Roux (Paul's son) and Wilhelmina Johanna Herold.
  14. Engela Maria, born at Uitenhage 11.3.1829, christened by the Rev. Mr. Smith 12.4.1829 held by Jufr. Aspeling; Witnesses, J. G. Aspeling and his wife, likewise Brother Ryno “en zyn weder half” [?]
  15. Emily Mary, born at Uitenhage 24.11.1830, christened by the Rev. Mr. Smith on 23.1.1831; held by Jufr. de Villiers, witnesses: Johan George de Villiers and his wife, Emelia Hildegonda de Kruyf and Johannes Daniel van der Riet.

Resuming my father's history: my father, although a broad-chested, well-developed man suffered for many years from asthma which he contracted from a severe cold on a journey from Cape Town to George. He partially got rid of it at the age of 45 and he ascribed this partial cure to the use of slang houtjes (snake root) in brandy[6].

Shortly after 1836 my father bought, at a valuation, from the Government some eight morgen of land lying in front of the Drostdy at Uitenhage (Sir Benjamin D'Urban offered to make my father a free grant of this land but he declined it as a free gift. The Governor was desirous to make good to him the many expenses he had been put to whilst entertaining him and his staff both in going to and returning from the Frontier.

About the year 1840 [?] the measles passed through the length and breadth of this Colony and a great many persons were victims of that disease. It had not visited the Colony for half a century and most persons then living had never had it before. I was the first to catch it in our household, and I caught it at the farm of my father's and Mauritz Heegers and unwittingly carried the infection home with me. I infected our whole household excepting my mother, who escaped. My father was at death's door and for some while after he was obliged to go on leave. He never afterwards recovered his health and year after year found him worse in the winter season.

Ultimately he was obliged to retire, which he did after a service of 39 years nine months. He did not long enjoy his pension and finally breathed his last on the 4th June 1848, the church bell at the time sounding his funeral knell, most coincidentally. It was a solemn and awful moment to me, the death of my much beloved Father.

[It is worth quoting at this point two contemporary tributes to Johannes Werndly van der Riet:

The first is from Aanteekeningen eener reis door de binnenlanden van Zuid Afrika, van Port Elisabeth naar de Kaap­ stad, gedaan in 1823 door J.B.E. Theunissen. Oostende, 1824. (copy in the Gubbins Collection, Wits. University Library). On p.19, describing his visit to George:

“Ik heb op deze plaats acht daegen vertoefd, en van de vele vriendelijke aanbiedingen des Landdrosts gebruik gemaakt; ik heb ook het genoegen gehad het gastvrije en gulhartige onthaal te ondervinden, waardoor deze Landdrost zoo zeer beroemd is; den Heer van der Riet leerde ik kennen als eenen man, die alle achting en onderscheiding verdient, en nooit vond ik eenen ambtenaar, welke zoo algemeen bemind was, en zich deze belooning in zulk eene ruime mate waardig maakte.”

The second is the obituary notice which appeared in The Graham's Town Journal, 17th June 1848, page 3, col.1:

“The last post from Uitenhage brings intelligence of the demise of J. W. van der Riet, Esq., for nearly twenty years Civil Commissioner for that district, and for forty years in the civil service of the Colony... He was one of the most kind-hearted, benevolent men of this Colony… He was buried on Tuesday the 6th inst. his funeral being attended by all the inhabitants of this town (Uitenhage)…”

My grandfather does not mention a certain remarkable episode in his father's career as Civil Commissioner at Uitenhage: In May 1828 a deputation consisting of eight Zulus accompanied by a Lieut. King arrived in Uitenhage having made a perilous voyage by schooner from Port Natal. They were bearers of a message from Chaka, the Zulu King, offering to make short work of the troublesome population between Pondoland and the Fish River!

[End of insertion]

Shortly after my father's decease my mother left Uitenhage, and once again returned to live in Cape Town, which had all along been my father's desire to do upon his retirement from the Service; but his children being all scattered about the Frontier and the fact that Henry and I had not quite settled down to his satisfaction delayed his plans. However his death brought everything to a crisis, and we had to do as best we could for ourselves after that event.

With my mother's departure that beautiful old mansion, the Drostdy at Uitenhage, was partitioned off and the land sold in allotments. The land itself realised a fair amount but the buildings were at first not saleable and afterwards sold at a great sacrifice.

My father's estate realised more than £10,000, a very handsome amount considering all the expense he had incurred in bringing up a large family, one of whom, Tobias was in Europe for about 6 years, costing him about £200 a year; besides the frequent calls upon my father's hospitality to entertain the passing travellers and friends. In those days there were no public hotels in the country as now. He had bought several farms very cheaply when the Boers trekked, and they afterwards sold very well. When Heegers and he dissolved partnership he farmed cattle and sheep.

When my mother removed to the Cape her unmarried daughters were Elizabeth, Maria, Kate, Engela and Emily, and Henry and I were also still unmarried. Before her death which happened in December 1858, however, all her children excepting Maria were married. My mother fell a victim to the smallpox which raged virulently in the City in 1858 and carried off a number of people, especially those not vaccinated and she was one of those.

For the information of my children who, owing to my long residence at Swellendam (from 1848 to 1868) know little of their relatives from my side, I add the following:

Johannes Daniel van der Riet, my eldest brother, married Mary Harker, daughter of Captain Harker, resident of Plettenberg Bay. After his death she remarried Alexander van Breda of Boschof, Newlands. John left two sons, John and Ryno, and two daughters; one married William Kuys (Maria), and Julia married the Revd. Wilshere of Robben Island. Ryno married Miss Joubert with whom he had some children (an unhappy marriage which led to a separation). John died at the Fields and met with an unfortunate end. His family are somewhere in the free states.

William [i.e. Johan Wilhelm Herold] married Ellen Burnett (a truly good and pious woman) daughter of Captain Burnett. They have a large family of sons and daughters. Ryno married Maria Kuys and both are now dead (they died childless). Elizabeth married Dirk G. de Jongh (who died about 10 years ago) and she is now living at Claremont [known to my father's family as “Aunt Betta” -- wealthy and very generous, as my father found when he left for studies overseas!]

Johanna married Dr. A.G. Campbell [see footnote[7]]. She is now a widow and lives with my sister Maria (widow of P. Morgenrood). Tobias (the Rev.) married Hannie Le Sueur, both are now dead; they had several sons and daughters living at or near Oudtshoorn where they both died.

Maria, widow of P. Morgenrood, is living at Wynberg [1889]. Charlotte, widow of Dr. A. Roux (late Dutch Reformed Clergyman at Riebeek East near Grahamstown) now lives in Cape Town. Her son Dr. Theo Roux married a Scotch lady and they now live at Malmesbury. Her daughters Maria, Annie, Charlotte and Emily live with their mother.

Your Father follows next. His history I hope you have all written in your hearts and that of your worthy other as well.

Anna married John van Ryneveld and they live at Alexandria near Graham's Town. I do not know enough of their children to venture any description of them.

Wilhelmina married Helperus R. van Ryneveld -- of them you know more having lived at Graaff Reinet with them. Their only son Willie as you know died after he was married to [blank] van Breda, and she gave birth to a little girl after his death, of whom I became sponsor [Wilhelmina also had three daughters].

Annie married Servaas van Breda, and Sophy married Goodwin. Both have children. [I think my grandfather is here referring to two of Wilhelmina's daughters!]

Engela married the Revd. Copeman of Alexandria -- she has several children but I have not met any of them, nor seen their parents since their marriage. Emily married as you know Revd. Arnold Kuys, late Clergyman of George, and he left her a widow with a number of children barely provided for.

[End of my grandfather's manuscript]

Appendix 1: My grandfather's family

Children of Frederick Johannes Perryn VAN DER RIET (1821-1896) and Mary Ann BARRY (1833-1901) whom he married on 8.8.1850

  1. Thomas Francis Barry, b.31.12.1851, d.24.8.1916, married Jessie Dand Hayton (1850-1915) in 1877.
  2. John Werndly, twin of the above, died at 10 months.
  3. Aletta Catharina (Aunt Lettie), b.23.3.1853, d.12.11.1915, married James van Breda (1848-1916) on 8.7.1874.
  4. Frederick Dirk Gysbert, b.4.5.1854, d.20 10.1854.
  5. Maria Johanna (Aunt Mimie), b.14.4.1855, d.30.10.1941, married Charles Duckitt of "The Towers", Darling (1845-1935) on 4.8.1881.
  6. Mary Ann Hester, b.4.12.1856, d.5.10.1357.
  7. Elizabeth Wilhelmina (Aunt Lizzie), b.10.2.1858, d.15.3.1918, married Martinus Melck of "Berg River” (1852-1920) on 26.4.1879.
  8. Johanna Charlotte Louise (Aunt Hannie or Aunt Mill), b.9.4.1859, d.4.4.1942.
  9. Emily Martha, b.19.6.1860, d.22.4.1934, married Stephanus Brink (1850-1908) in January 1884.
  10. Agnes Sophia, b.27.9.1861, d.20.8.1942, married Capt. John Covey, R.N. (1841-1903) on 8.8.1888.
  11. Annie Catherine, b.24.11.1862, d.3.1.1950, married William Thomson (Knighted 1922) (1856-1947) on 11.7.1884.
  12. Susan Josephine (Aunt Susie), b.22.1.66, d.?, married Capt. Arthur Francis Hamilton Cox, Army Pay Dept. (d.1921) on 22.4.1887.
  13. Berthault de St. Jean (my father), b.1.7.1867, d.13.7.1952, married Florence Lily Beamish (18.3.1871 - 3.6.1942) on 5.1.1898. Professor of Chemistry, Victoria College and University of Stellenbosch, 1898-1940. [For children of this marriage see below, Appendix 2]
  14. Frederick John Werndly (Uncle Fred), b.12.10.1868, d.7.11.1929, married Alice Mary Franklin (2.7.1879 - 16.9.1940) on 9.4.1898. M.P. for Albany and Judge of the Supreme Court (E.D.L.D.)
  15. Hester Johanna (Aunt Hetta), b.13.8.1870, d.?, married Dr. Arthur Rogers (5.6.1872 - 23.6.1946) on 12.4.1902. He was for many years Chief of the Geological Survey of the Union.
  16. Julia Marguerite Marian (Aunt Daisy), b.16.7.1872, d 23.10.1944, married Charles Woolley R.N., C.M.G., Rear-Admiral Paymaster (27.2.1863 - 7.7.1940) on 25.4.1893.

Appendix 2: My father's family

Children of Berthault de St. Jean VAN DER RIET (1867 - 1952) and Florence Lily BEAMISH (1871-1942) whom he married on 5th January 1898.

  1. Winifred Anne (Frieda), b.9.10.1898, married James Weston Winter (23.2.1906 - 14.2.1959) on 6.4.1931
  2. Henry Berthault (Harry), b.25.11.1901, d.19.8.1972, married 20.12.1930 Boudine van Braam, b.19.3.1907
  3. Charles Michael, b.22.12.1903, d.30.9.1961, married 9.12.1939 Margaret Jessie Gauldie (Peggy), b.25.11.1907
  4. Elaine Florence, b.12.4.1905
  5. Doreen Louise, b.10.5.1907, married 14.5.1954 Sidney Patterson, b.7.3.1909
  6. Frank Geoffrey, b.17.4.1912, married 6.7.1940 Mavis Morgan, b.5.11.1917


  1. R.B. de St. Jean is believed to have come from Sancerre, a town in the vicinity of Bourges, France, an area noted to-day for its "vins blancs". As far as I know, Renault Berthault junior had no descendants at the Cape.
  2. It is now a plaque on the wall of the Church, facing Adderley Street (1981)
  3. This is the "Landdrost Mynheer Ryno Johannes van der Riet" with whom Lady Anne Barnard stayed in November 1797 and who escorted her in his carriage to Paarl and Waggonmaker's Valley (Wellington). See Lady Anne Barnard at the Cape, 1797-1802 by Dorothea Fairbridge, 1924, p.44-45 and the small portrait of Ryno, presumably by Lady Anne, opposite p.50.
  4. What a contrast when one considers the appalling death-toll in the families of his Grandfather, Dr. Johannes, and his Father, Ryno Johannes: in the one case six children lost out of a family of ten, in the other three out of eight, presumably from what to-day we would call "preventable diseases"!
  5. My grandfather used the spelling "Perryn" (on the rare occasions when he used the name at all). His father always spelt it "Perreyn”.
  6. Pettman's Africanderisms, 1913, refers to "Snake Root" (Garuleum bipinnatum Less.): “In the form of decoction or tincture this root is a great favourite with the colonial farmer, in various diseases of the chest, asthma etc.”
  7. Dr. Ambrose George Campbell (1799-1884), a pioneer medical practitioner and surgeon in Grahamstown, was especially well- known as a “stormy petrel” in colonial and local affairs (see Dictionary of South African Biography, vol.3, p.123). My great-aunt Johanna Sophia was his second wife, whom he married in November 1837.


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