(picture taken in 2012 by Dewald from a book he found in Hermannsburg Germany Missionary Behrens with his brass ensemble - what a handsome man!)
Introducing the Diary of A.H.W. Behrens
I found this diary amongst the Theo Behrens archives in July 2020. A. H. Wilhelm
Behrens is my great grandfather. In his diary he expresses the hope that his grandson,
Theo, will be interested in his story. Thankfully, the diary found its way to his intended
As I am growing older, the need to understand my family history grows. We can only
know who we are if we know where we came from. It is also easier to understand how
our parents raised us if we know where they came from and how they grew up. Us
Behrens siblings found wonderful stories about our father after his death. Although he
told us many stories, I am sad that I missed the opportunity to remain curious when
he was still alive. It should be a lesson for all parents and children. Parents should
tell their children the stories of their lives and children must remain curious and keep
asking questions. It enriches lives.
After my father’s death in 2011, my next injection about the Behrens history came
in 2012, when my brother, Dewald, sent us pictures from the missionary museum in
Hermannsburg, Germany. Soon thereafter the two of us were given the opportunity
to contribute to the English translation of Dr Bammann’s epic work on the birth
and rise of the Bethanie community1 where Behrens (snr) and Behrens (jnr) feature
prominently. This diary is that of Behrens (jnr).
This diary is a refreshing addition to my ability to share Behrens stories with my
children and grandchildren.
I started reading the diary with my smattering of German and when I came to the story
of the mamba and the Zulu procession, I knew that I had to have it translated. I was
extremely excited but also a little fearful about what I would find. The diary spans the
Anglo/Boer War and the First World War and ends well into the Second World War.
What would I find? I decided to proceed; however, I would manage circulation after
considering the final translated result.
1 The Bakwena ba Mogopa of Bethanie – Heinrich Bammann. Ludwig-Harms-Haus GmbH,
Hermannsburg, Germany, 2015. ISBN 978 3 937301 97 2.
The translation journey was a welcome distraction during a depressing period in our
country with Covid-19, a sharply declining economy, increasing unemployment, crime and
corruption and extremist noises raising the temperature. It is a period in our history where I
am increasingly concerned for the future of my SA-based children.
I was lucky to find Renate Wolf to do the translation. I met with her in Pretoria during
August 2020. My requests were simple: a) she had to translate the diary “as is”, do not spare
the blushes, b) I only wanted to see the completed work – not piecemeal, and, c) I wanted to
present the finished product to my siblings and children as a Christmas present.
My curiosity overcame me by the end of September. Renate responded to my query on
progress with the statement that her family now had to bear with her with missionary stories
at dinner time. I was elated!
Renate convinced me that the translation should retain the pagination format of the diary
and that I should include the corresponding, originally written pages in the final product.
Very brave for the translator! We also went through the final product to try and clear the
spelling of names. We managed to fix some with reference to Dr Bammann’s book. Her
insights have been invaluable. As a matter of interest, I recommend that the reader does
some research on the ship “Candace”. It tells its own stories. Renate also convinced me to
distribute more widely. She knows people, who know people who will be interested! My
sincere gratitude to Renate for her translation, enthusiasm, and advice. Her insights have
been invaluable. I include her comments.
When entrusted with the translation of a document such as this personal diary of a dedicated
missionary you indeed step into the shoes of the person who penned the events of his days.
You start seeing the world through his eyes, understanding the people of his times on the
basis of his experiences.
In translating these memories and reflections I tried to remain as faithful as possible to the
original text so as to allow readers of the English vervsion the same privilege of drawing
close to the author. It is thus that, for example, terms that during the course of history
became ideologically burdened (“kaffir”, “heathen”) were maintained. Interestingly, upon
careful reading of the diary it will be noticed that these terms were only used in the early
stages after his arrival in South Africa. As he got to know and work with the people of this
initially unfamiliar and somewhat daunting continent, such
terms were soon replaced with the actual names of people that were then fondly described
in very vivid terms. This is most certainly a missionary who was passionate about his work
and the people with whom he worked and had their best interest at heart. This can be seen,
for example, in the multiple cumbersome land purchases that were effected in collaboration
with the members of his congregation and led them to become proud land owners.
Missionary Behrens wrote this diary for his wife and descendants over an extended period
of time – good and healthy years, but also hard and physically challenging years. This is
also reflected in his handwriting. Where certain words, names or passages were difficult
to decipher I decided to indicate these by way of a question mark in square brackets in the
English translation. These can then be compared to the corresponding terms on the relevant
pages in the German original hand-written diary.
I wish the readers of the English version of this remarkable diary an exciting journey
through the turbulent times of the life of the astounding Missionary A.H.W. Behrens.
I must emphasize that this is not a work of history. Historians do extensive research from
various references and interpret. I strongly recommend Dr Bammann’s work for those
who are interested. This diary is simply the story of Missionary August Heinrich Wilhelm
Behrens. He died on 5 July 1948 at the age of 94. He is buried in Kroondal near Rustenburg.
May he rest in peace. I am proud of his contribution to his communities and extremely
proud to be his descendent.
I dedicate this project to my elder brother Wilhelm (Bimmie), my sister Ingrid, and youngest
sibling Dewald (in Australia). Equally also to my children, Liezl (in Vancouver), Ludwig,
Paul and Elène. May you enjoy the step back in time and find wonderful stories, both for
yourself and your families - and especially for my grandchildren, currently Iris, Mieke and
Joel (in Vancouver) and Paul (with Joseph arriving soon). And to my wife Helène – thank
you for your family values, listening to my stories and sharing my excitement as this
I will also distribute to my cousins. To them and all the other readers – enjoy and be safe!
Paul Werner Behrens (“Werner”)
Born on 16 May 1854
Nackend lag ich auf dem Boden
Naked lay I on the ground
Da ich kam, da ich nahm
when I came, when I took
Meinen ersten Odem.
my first breath.
Nackend werd ich auch hinziehen,
Naked shall I go
wenn ich werd von der Erd
when I flee the earth
als ein Schatten fliehen.
as a shadow.
„I am serving!“
The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give life as
a ransom for many. Matthew 20:28
So his servant is to think and act.
Have this mind among yourselves which is yours in Christ Jesus, etc.
16 May 1943
The Lord hath brought me hitherto
by His surpassing favour;
His mercies ev’ry morn were new,
his kindness did not waver.
God hitherto hath been my Guide,
hath pleasures hitherto supplied,
and hitherto hath helped me.
Memories of my life
1854 – 1938 – 1943
I lay on Thee, my God and Saviour blest,
the weight which has my failing strength oppressed,
too ponderous to endure;
My worldly state with trusting faith I place
in Thine o’er-ruling Hand, throughout my race
my tried support and sure,
which, from my youth, has never failed to guide
the changeful course of life’s eventful tide.
These notes were compiled for my beloved Bertha.
In 1943 when I was 89 years old
It has been a long time that my dear wife and many friends
have scolded me for not writing down the experiences of my
long life. I promised to do that one day when I am old and
have fully retired. But “Wer weiß, wie nahe mir mein Ende,
hin geht die Zeit, her kommt der Tod”!! [Who knows how near
my end is, time is running, death is coming] So I do want to
start this in my 84. year of life and start writing down some
notes offhand, little by little, just as I they come to mind. I am
writing all of this down primarily for my beloved wife Bertha
Behrens, née Hess, she may pass it on to one of my grandchildren who has the greatest interest in it and who is worth owning it, perhaps to Theodor, son of my oldest son Th.
Brits A.H.W. Behrens
Started on Missionary
20 November 1938
I. About my childhood, 1854 – 1863
My grandfather and my grandmother lived in Hermannsburg in der
Heide, in the area of Hannover, Germany. He was the owner of a farm by
the name of “Rissmanns Hof”, one of the largest farms in Hermannsburg,
with fields, heathlands and forests, besides the various buildings, located
on the river Ürze, close to the bridge.
I never got to know my grandparents. I only know that my grandfather
had fought in the battle of Waterloo under Wellington against Napoleon
and experienced the entire French period and told my father a lot about
My father was born on 13 February 1827 as the oldest son and heir of
the farm. His siblings were: 1) Uncle Peter who became a teacher and
died as such and left behind a number of children, sons and daughters. 2)
Uncle Christoph who also became a teacher and emigrated to America
and settled in Milwaukee as a teacher at the St John’s church, where his
descendants are still to be found. 3) Uncle Heinrich who became a bricklayer and died as such in Hermannsburg and whose wife and children
then relocated to join us in Africa, where Uncle August and his big family
in Kroondal near Rustenburg are well known.
4) Uncle Fritz who became an innkeeper and settled in
Hamburg where I visited him in 1875 and got to know his firstborn daughter who then married and settled in Lübeck. 5) Aunt
Dorothea who married a certain Heinz in Hermannsburg who
became a heavy drinker. My father married the virgin Christine
Albers, born 18 December 1821, in about 1850 and took over
the farm which he managed to the great satisfaction of his
father and advanced it greatly. In the village he was known
by the name of “Rissmann’s Wilhelm”. He could play the
accordion very well. A son was born to them, but he died soon
thereafter. As a farmer in the Lüneburg Heath my father also
kept bees and learnt smoking.
At the time the old Pastor Christian Harms was pastor in
Hermannsburg. He had two sons, Louis and Theodor, who
both studied. Louis became the assistant of his father and
with him the congregation came to life. He talked about the
mission to the heathens and supported the mission work of the
Brethren Church. Then they started training young people for
missionary work and eventually, in 1849, an own mission was
founded in the Hannover area.
Directly adjacent to our farm, a house and land was purchased
and transformed into the missionary seminar where young
people were trained as missionaries. My father was revived by
the sermons of Louis Harms and wanted to dedicate himself to
missionary work but did not get the consent of his father. But
while the first training course took place, his father died and
- on his deathbed - gave his retrospective consent to his son
becoming a missionary, if he still wanted to do so.
My father, with the full consent of my mother, enrolled with
Pastor Louis Harms for service as a missionary, was accepted,
donated his farm as a running concern to the Hermannsburg
Mission after he had given his mother her old-age share and
all children their inheritance share. He then moved into the
mission house as a trainee and lived in the old mission house
together with my mother from 1853 until he was sent out at the
end of 1857. During those years he enjoyed his training under
Inspector Theodor Harms, brother of Pastor Louis Harms, who
had become the director of the Hermannsburg Mission.
The donation of the farm by my father to the Hermannsburg
Mission, as well as his wish to be sent out to the kaffirs1 in
1The term “kaffir” for “Africans = black people” is Arabic in origin and did not
yet have a negative undertone in the 19th century, but only became a derogatory
term during the apartheid era, and is today no longer acceptable.
attracted quite some attention and he was declared insane. His
brothers were also not satisfied with this, especially the two
teachers Peter and Christof, and turned their backs on him;
especially Christof in America considered my father to be dead
as did the sons of Uncle Peter who are still living in Germany
and who are completely unknown to us. They all think that
they have lost out.
Well, my father, as he told me later, never regretted his
donation, only once, almost, in 1884 when he was treated very
inconsiderately, but more about this later. He had entered the
mission house together with my mother without stipulating any
conditions and without any reservations and he had only kept
100 Taler = ₤ 15. Initially, Louis Harms did not want to accept
the donation, but did so eventually, insisting that a clause be
included in the certificate of donation to the effect that if my
father or his son of first degree would leave the mission at any
time that the mission would then pay them out. The copy of
the certificate of donation is still in my possession. I received it
from my father.
Nasty rumours later had it that the farm had been indebted. My
father told me that when the inheritance shares of the children
were paid out he had wanted to take up a mortgage but had
intended to pay this from the forest that he wanted to cut down
and the yield of which would have been more than enough to
pay for the mortgage. But, unfortunately, Pastor Louis Harms
kept the forest and took over the payment of the mortgage
which amounts to the same. The farm in every respect served
the Hermannsburg Mission well all these years from 1853 until
now 1938 and will continue to do so.
God, our Lord, blessed us abundantly – as stated in Matthew
19 – for the donation made by my father and we never had
any shortage and the promise of our Lord Jesus, as contained
in Matthew 19 literally fulfilled itself, as I will be telling you
later. To him be praise and thanks!!
Now, in the old mission house, while my father was studying,
I was born on 16 May 1854 and was baptised by Pastor Louis
Harms in the old church. Pastor Louis Harms often came to the
mission house, my parents told me, often held me in his arms,
kissed and blessed me. Unfortunately, my mother suffered
from a bad breast so that I grew up on cow’s milk. My sister
Maria was also born in the mission house.
During the studies of my father In 1853 the ship Kandaze
was built in Hamburg and when at the end of 1857 the second
sending of missionaries took place, we went on the journey to
Africa with the Kandaze, a small sail ship. The journey took
3 months from November to February 1858, via Trinidad. On
this long journey, my father kept a diary which is still in my
possession. The journey was monotonous with frequent windstill days, but also had its interesting times. I was 3 ½ years
old and only remember having seen a big road roller drawn
by many horses. Then the big ships in the port of Hamburg
that we passed in our boat. About the journey I only remember
falling onto a fishing rod that pierced through my hand, while
walking on the ship, that the fishing rod then had to be filed off
on the one side and that my hand bled severely. It is interesting
to read in father’s diary what impression the first black kaffir
made on them in Durban and how they provided clothes to the
poor black man.
From Durban the journey continued by ox wagon to New
Hermannsburg in the Umvoti County where we first took a
Then my father, as the second missionary, was sent to the
station Ehlanzeni with Chief Somahashi to learn the Zulu
from Missionary Müller, the “Biggarsberger Müller”, as he
was later called. The two families had to live in one house with
only a few rooms which soon forced my father to build his
own house, even if this was only rather small and primitive.
He had to make and burn his bricks himself. Even the timber
for the roof he had to saw himself and had to cut the grass for
the thatched roof with the kaffirs in the veld, had to do his own
Director Louis Harms had prescribed communism in the
mission, everything had to be obtained from the depot in
Hermannsburg and my father told me that he often did not
have a single sixpence in his bag. No salary was paid and what
you needed had to be obtained from Hermannsburg, clothing
and food, besides that which he harvested from the small
garden that he cultivated. Everything was scarce and this was
often very difficult for a former independent farm owner who
had had own fields, livestock and horses, as well as servants,
and a certain income.
We stayed in Ehlanzeni for about 3 years. Father learnt the
Zulu language and visited the kaffir kraals. There was not a
single baptised person, also no baptism or Sunday school, but
only sermons to heathens. The old Chief Somahashi often
came and visited my father together with other men, but
none of them was converted. There were many snakes at the
station, a wheatfield was cultivated and some wheat, maize and
vegetables could be harvested.
In Ehlangeni my sister Christine was born in 1839 so that we
were then 3 children. The Superintendent of the Hermannsburg
Mission at the time was Hardeland who had already worked as
a missionary on Borneo. He instructed my father to establish
a new station that was called Emhlangane. At that time, the
Hermannsburg Mission had the stations Hermannsburg,
Ehlangeni, Etembeni and Müden in Natal. In 1860
Emhlangane was to be established, from Etembeni. Father had
to travel on foot from Ehlangeni to Etembeni on the paths of
kaffirs together with kaffirs who carried his things, while we
had to remain behind on Ehlanzeni.
From Etembeni, where missionary Kohrs was stationed,
he first had to build a ford together with kaffirs through the
strong river Mooirivier, then a road for wagons, about one
day’s travel through bush and streams, over mountains and
through valleys. Everything that was needed had to be carried
and drinking water had to be fetched from afar and during the
night, father and his workers slept in the next kraal. This took
a few weeks. Then the colonialists from Hermannsburg came
with all the necessary things and they, together with father and
the kaffirs, started burning bricks, cutting wood and grass for
the roof and in a few months a small, makeshift residential
house and one room as a kitchen was built and whitened from
the inside and the outside.
Then father came to fetch us. Two ox wagons were rented from
the boers who drove them themselves and all our goods were
packed on the wagons and we headed off to Hermannsburg
over the highveld and back down into the thorns to Etembeni
and from there on the new road to Emhlangane. In order to get
up Viljoens Hoogte on the Highveld, 24 oxen had to be yoked
before every wagon and down into the valleys to Mooirivier
iron stop blocks had to be put onto the rear wheels.
We arrived in Emhlangane just before sunset. Soon everything
was unpacked and placed into the small living rooms. My
father held the first evening prayer and we all wanted to settle
down for the night when we heard horses’ hooves outside. It
was a messenger from the magistrate in Greytown with a big
letter, we should immediately turn back to Greytown into the
camp because two Zulu legions had crossed the Tugela river
and would certainly murder all whites and blacks and burn
down everything! – We were all very frightened. What should
we do? Pack up everything and turn back?! The boers did not
want to be held back and told father to decide quickly whether
he wanted to remain behind or go with them. Father and
mother consulted, knew that they were following God’s paths
and decided to stay. Probably they did not consider that in
this way they would cut themselves off and could never get
away. The boers immediately yoked the oxen to the wagons
and drove off into the dark night. Not far from there one of
the wagons drove against a tree stump, broke and remained
behind. The boers fled with the other wagon and oxen!
The following days were fearful days! All young people of
Chief Pakade, under whose people the station was established,
were called up by the English government and continuously
young, armed men passed the house, probably also looked
at themselves in the window, danced in front of it and then
moved on to the collection point. Days and weeks passed in
fearful expectation by day and night until we were notified
that the Zulu warriors had again withdrawn over the big
Tugela border river because they had only been hunting! Our
parents were so glad that they had stayed! In Greytown there
was a large square with field stones with loopholes whereto
the whites fled in emergency situations and then defended
it against the storming hordes. The farms were isolated and
far removed from each other and in emergency situations
everybody fled to the collection point in Greytown which was
a small village at the time. amily in Kroondal near Rustenburg
are well known.
At the new station there was much work to do. My father
tried to improve it by building a dam in the river that had very
little water and by laying a water pipe from the dam to a small
agricultural field so that we could plant some vegetables. In
order to protect this garden, we had to pack a wall of stones
around it because at that time there was no wire in the country
yet. But only very little came of it.
As far as animals were concerned, we had a few cows, some
chickens, a dog, a cat, monkeys and a tame black crow. My
father also purchased a short fat mare so that he could visit the
kraals that were located far from each other because that was
his actual work as a missionary. Some of the black women had
never before seen a white woman and marvelled at my mother
and sisters for their long straight hair. The black people there
walked almost completely naked and had had no or only very
rare contact with white people.
My father developed the habit of visiting the kraals every
Saturday morning and to invite everyone to the service at the
station on Sunday. When I was 7 years old, I was often allowed
to accompany him and then we took turns in riding the horse.
That was fun. Sundays more a more people came, especially
when my mother
started making a big jug of coffee every now and then and
my father made tobacco so that the women could get a cup
of coffee and the men a bit of tobacco after the service. Often
there were up to 100 adults that came, they listened well;
particularly one man who could then answer questions well
and later my father asked him to repeat the sermon in his way
in front of the congregation. He was called “umfundisi” –
teacher. But he did not manage to go any further.
Father also built a church with a door, windows and a thatched
roof. He himself burnt the bricks, did the bricklaying and the
thatching. He also started a school with my sister Marie and
myself and he succeeded in one heathen sending him two boys
to be taught. Their names were Dunge and Nyamane. So we
were four children in the school and the classes were given
in two languages: German and Zulu. After school I walked
through the veld with the two boys and we played, herded the
calves, looked after the cattle and the horse. What else should
we have done? There were no toys in those times and nobody
knew about games. The monkey and the crow also were a lot
of fun to us.
Uncle Schütze was the missionary of the Müden station. We
once visited him on foot, father, myself and one of the boys.
It took us about 5 hours. On the way back we were resting
under a large thorn tree and were eating something. I lent back
against the stem but discovered that it was full of black ants.
When I looked up, I saw that there was a big snake lying in the
branches. We looked for stones and threw them at the snake
until it slid down a branch that was hanging down and into the
veld until it got stuck between two tree trunks where we then
killed it. It was a green mamba, boomslang, 9 foot long.
On another occasion father and I were invited by Chief Pakade
to celebrate new year in his kraal that was made up of many
huts in a circle and a large cattle kraal in the middle. He had
brewed much beer and had slaughtered an ox. But the main
thing was a big dance of his regiments, an impressive spectacle
that I can still remember very vividly until today. First, there
was a regiment with weapons, spears and knobkieries, with
white shields made of dry ox skin, with white ox tails around
the knees, body and neck, everything in white, about 100 men,
danced, jumped, sang and praised the chief and then
all lined up on one side of the fence of the cattle kraal, but in
good order. After them, another regiment followed, all with red
shields and tails, then one in black, one in red-coloured, one in
black and white etc. Every regiment displayed its dances and
jumps and sang its war songs and then moved to the side until
they were all there and stood in a big circle. Then they started
singing a song together, waved with their right hands and
called, “Osa nkosi, osa nkosi” until the chief and his daughters
came out of his hut, also dressed with tails, spear and shield
and knobkierie, his daughters with bead jewellery, but almost
They then went and stood at the centre of the circle of warriors
and then the hundreds of warriors danced and jumped and sang
with the chief and his daughters and other girls as well in the
middle that the earth shook. The women of the tribe whistled
and called outside the circle in front of the huts. It was such a
When everything was in full swing, a huge thunderstorm
broke loose that everybody scattered and ran into their huts.
We ran with the chief and his daughters into his hut where it
was completely dark until the thunderstorm had passed. All
warriors, also the chief had long white or black ostrich feathers
on the head.
After the thunderstorm, the chief dismissed us in the company of two
young warriors each of whom carried a big piece of meat for us to the
The two boys Dunge and Nyamane learnt very well and understood well
and were really a part of us so that my father intended baptising them.
When he informed the parents, the mother of the one boy came to us
with some other women and made a dreadful noise in front of our house
– father wanted to take her son away, she would rather kill herself with
a knife etc. This made such an impression on the son that he ran away
during the night and after a few days the other one also disappeared for
good!! One of them, Dunge, I met incidentally in the years 1901 – 1903
at Mr Reiche near Wartburg, Natal, as a man!!
In 1863 Emhlangane and its church and houses were in good order,
my father had spent weeks in the bush near Hermannsburg and had
cut down trees, sawed the wood, laid the bricks and thatched the roof
together with kaffirs and the missionary work under him and the second
missionary, Missionary Röttger, his assistant, was in full swing. In
about September 1863 Superintendent Hardeland came together with
Missionary Karl Hohls from Hermannsburg and took father with them
on an investigative journey to Transvaal. When they returned from
there, Missionary Hohls was deployed in Hermannsburg and was
consecrated for the office of superintendent of the mission in Africa and
my father was consecrated on the same day as president of the mission
in Bechuanaland. I was present.
Hardeland was very strict and unpopular and sickly and travelled back
At the beginning of 1863 father sent me and my sister Marie to the
school in Hermannsburg and he, together with mother and sister
Christine travelled to Transvaal at the end of 1863. Together with them
Kaiser, Lohann and Jensen. It was after Pentecost and they left us
behind at the school.
II. About my school time, 1863 – 1873
So, at the beginning of 1863 my sister and I came to
Hermannsburg for school, the only school for all children of
Hermannsburg missionaries and colonialists. I was almost nine
years old and Marie was seven.
Hermannsburg in Natal is the oldest of the stations and the
first station of the Hermannsburg Mission in Africa. Upon the
first secondment a farm was purchased in the Umvoti County,
near the village of Greytown, from a Mr Behrens in Durban.
All stations in Natal, Zululand and Transvaal were established
The first school was run by Miss Hardeland, but soon it was
placed under the responsibility of Missionary Heinrich Müller
who was a born teacher. He just had the gift of teaching,
although he was a qualified fitter. The school flourished under
him and established a reputation in the whole of South Africa.
Initially there were only German children there and everything
was done in German. But when the British colonialists heard
of the school, they asked whether their children could also be
admitted because in those times there were very few schools
in South Africa. Slowly but surely more and more English
boys (no girls) came and we had boys from Cape Town
(the Harveys), from Durban (Acutts and Addisons), from
Maritzburg (Scott, Pepworth, Erekine, Otto), from Pretoria,
from Bloemfontein etc. so that the English boys were greater
in number than the German boys and we needed English
teachers. From the nearby village of Greytown the children of
the Handleys and Armstrongs etc. joined us. There were 80 –
100 boys at the school.
Our teachers were Müller, Rössler, Reideling, Leisenberg, all
missionaries. Then there were also Schmitt, our music teacher,
the old Scotsman Muirhead and his son John Muirhead, and
governess Miss Robinson who had a glass eye. The finances
were under the “Small Bergmann”. But Müller had great
organisational talent and he managed everything. He was
clever and well educated. He taught us German, English,
Latin, Greek and French, but also geometry and algebra. He
had a good and kind wife and children. His son Heinrich died
of croup, later his good wife died and to the astonishment of
everybody he married the one-eyed Miss Robinson.
The three missionaries only gave elementary classes. Mr
Muirhead and his son were the English teachers. Mr Schmitt
gave good music and singing lessons.
Hermannsburg was a big village. There was a shoemaker, a
tailor, a joiner, a turner, an organ builder, a bricklayer, a tanner,
a carpenter, a miller, a blacksmith, a chef, a farmer and many
more. All trades were represented, so everything could be
produced in Hermannsburg. It was a colony on its own, second
to none. Many Englishmen came to have a look at everything,
once even Mr Keet, the Governor of Natal. Even Pretorius, the
President of Transvaal, came to visit us and the English ladies
were very impressed with our beautiful flowers because every
child had its own flowerbed that it had to take care of.
The school fees paid by the parents of the English boys made
the operation of the school possible because the missionaries
and colonialists could contribute only little, very little because
the Hermannsburg Mission was run according to Communist
principles until 1870: everything for everybody, everyone
got what they needed from what was available. Nobody was
supposed to have any property. No salaries were paid. Invoices
for everything had to be filed and if you wanted something
from the depot, you had to apply for it and prove that you
needed it! And everything happened according to the old
idiom, “He who has the cross blesses himself first”, that is,
when the Kandaze came with the many things from Germany,
then the dear brothers and sisters living in Hermannsburg took
or got the best and the remote stations only got what was left!
This only started changing when every man got a salary
allocated to him so that he could buy what he wanted but
had to manage with what he had received! According to
records kept by my father in 1870, a missionary received a
salary of ₤ 60 per annum, ₤ 4 for a child per year, ₤ 5 for the
maintenance of the station buildings, ₤ 6 for wagon repairs and
oxen. The foreman for his office ₤ 5. The colonialists left the
Hermannsburg Mission in 1870 and most of them moved to
To keep the school in Hermannsburg going was said to have
cost about ₤ 1500 per annum. From 1863 – 1873 I got to
know the entire operation and because I had advanced to
assistant teacher in the last years, I could tell you many a story
about this, but that would be excessive. I need to keep things
brief. This is to where I got in 1941 and then I fell ill from
November 1941 to May 1942 and I never thought that I would
ever be strong and healthy again. But by the grace of God I
got better and am writing this on 3 December 1942. And will
try to record the description of my life completely differently
because I am now 88 ½ years old.
So, differently from 4 December 1942
1866 my dear parents came from Transvaal with multiple
wagons. For the first time I saw my younger brother Hermann.
When my parents had to return to Transvaal after 3 months,
my sister Christine also stayed with us at the school. Father’s
trek back up was made up of ten wagons with many young
missionaries and brides and they attracted much attention on
1867 my younger brother Hermann died and my parents then
decided to let my two sisters come to Transvaal at the end of
1867 with Missionary Lohann who had come to Natal to marry
his second wife. So, I remained behind on my own and was
often very homesick.
1868 In March I was confirmed by Superintendent K. Hohls,
together with Christof Niebuhr, only the two of us; and we
had hard times with Superintendent Hohls because he was
very harsh. My verse for the confirmation was Romans 15:2:
Let each of us please his neighbour for his good, to build
him up. It was Palm Sunday. After the confirmation Christof
Niebuhr walked up and down in the big gum tree promenade
and promised to lead a good life. Christof became a farmer in
Lüneburg and died many years ago of asthma, while I am still
on my pilgrimage and will be turning 89 years in May 1943.
1868 during the winter our teacher H. Müller undertook a
journey on horseback through Zululand. He was accompanied
by Missionary Rösler, Bryant Lindley, son of Missionary
Lindley, first scholar in Hermannsburg and myself. Bryant
was 17 years old, I was 14. Before the journey I had riding
lessons on a fat mare, the foal of which had run away, and I
was flung over the head of the horse into the grass. For the
journey Müller rented a horse with a saddle for me from a
kaffir for 10/- for the entire journey of 26 days. The horse was
called Charly and had a sore back so that I always had to put
some padding under the saddle and then had to wash off the
back with cold water. In front on the saddle each one had a bag
with food and various articles for barter trade – knives, beads,
mirrors, sugar etc. to
buy food and fodder for the horses on the journey because
money was of no value in Zululand at the time. At the back of
the saddle we fastened our blankets.
We rode via Etembeni and farms to Rorke’s Drift to the
Swedish Missionary Witt on the Bushmans River where we
rested and wanted to get some bread. He received us warmly
but had no bread.
From Witt’s station we rode over the Bushmans River, passed
the famous mountain Isandhlwane, where in 1879 a British
legion (about 700 men) was encircled by a large Zulu regiment
and all but two were murdered who then fled by horse to
Rorke’s Drift with the flag. The first night we wanted to
spend in a kaffir kraal, but the men refused us everything and
demanded that we should immediately leave their kraal. We
had to continue our journey through the night on foot paths,
leading our horses by the reigns, until we found shelter at
another kraal, where the residents knew our Missionary Filter
at Inyesane. There we bought a pot of meat that was on the fire
and feasted on it because during the day we only had sour
maize. We slept in a hut, our heads resting on the saddles, that
was one third full of goats. Two billy goats started fighting and
jumped over the low wall to our side in the darkness and it was
a big muddle. We were very glad when dawn came.
The next morning we paid with beads and small mirrors for
our night’s lodging and horse fodder and we were then shown
the path to the mission station of Missionary Filter where we
arrived at noon and were refreshed with food and drinks.
We stayed for a few days and from there we visited the
Missionaries Weber and Wagner at their stations.
No congregations anywhere, just sermons to heathens, so the
very beginning. Then Missionary Filter got himself ready
to ride with us to Mpande’s kraal. He was a tall, heavy man
and had two horses that he rode alternately, because one of
them would not have managed to carry him for the whole
day. At noon we rested at a stream under a large baobab tree
that was full of fruits. In the stream there were many yellow
fish that chased each other for every bit of bread crust that
we threw into the water. In darkness we passed the large
kraal of Umpande and eventually arrived at the station of the
Swedish Missionary Dahl where we were received with great
Missionary Dahl had only been in the country for a short while
and knew no other language than his own and Missionary
Müller conducted rudimentary conversation with him in
Latin (!) to make himself understood. On the next day we
accompanied Missionary Filter on his visit to King Umpande,
where he had announced his visit and where he was well
known because he had rendered him multiple services. It was a
tremendous kraal, it was said to have had about 3000 huts that
were built in a circle around a huge cattle kraal. We walked
through the cattle kraal to a huge pile of wood and sat down
while a subordinate chief announced our visit to the King.
The King had a messenger ask whether we had brought gifts.
We answered in the affirmative and said that we had brought
two large woollen blankets. The answer was that these were
but small gifts and that the King was used to bigger ones.
When we said that we had only come on horseback, we were
eventually granted audience and followed the subordinate
chief. Filter walked in front, then Müller, Rösler, Bryant and
then at the back myself of 14 years. We walked through many
huts and on both sides men and youngsters were sitting. There
was so much to see and I did not notice that everybody in front
of me had taken off their hats.
The men started grumbling about me, the boy who didn’t know
how to behave. As soon as I realised what the reason was, I
quickly pulled off my hat.
We came to a place where many men and women were sitting
and the King was lying under blankets under a shelter of skins
on four poles and was having his hair done by a man, that is,
his hair was finely needled underneath his head ring. Umpande
was a very corpulent, a fat man who could no longer walk, but
had to be carried. He did not move, said everything softly to
his subordinate chief and he then said it loudly to Filter. We
had to respond to everything he said with “baba” (= Father).
The audience was not long and then we were allowed to leave.
He had only spoken with Filter. While we were leaving I
still heard the grumbling of the men about the ill-mannered
“umfana” (= boy).
When we arrived at the cattle kraal next to the pile of wood,
the regiment that was on duty entered from the veld through
the lower gate and every soldier had a dry tree trunk on his
shoulder that he then threw to the others, where we were
sitting, while singing. Then they changed and performed their
dances, about 200 men, and also made attacks to where we
were. We then went to Missionary Dahl and in the afternoon
Bryant Lindley and I went to the river to fish. There was a lot
of fish and we had a very successful catch.
To the east of the great kraal of the King we could see the
military kraals where the regiments had their “barracks” and
were not allowed to marry until the King allowed them to and
then as men they had a ring of wax braided into their hair that
then grew into the hair and that was called “isitsotso”.
The following day Missionary Filter rode back home on his
own and we continued our journey to Missionary Müller (the
Bicker Berg Müller) and on the way we passed through a
beautiful forest of high, slender yellowwood trees, 50-100 feet
high, and higher.
We also wanted to visit Cetschwayo, son of Umpande, and
Müller, as his missionary, sent a messenger to him to announce
our visit. The messenger returned with the answer that the
King’s son was hunting and was not at home. After Umpande’s
death, Cetshwayo became king and was caught by the Britains
after the war and was brought to Cape Town.
From Müller’s station we rode on to the station of Missionary
Fröhling. Along the way we ended up between a few regiments
that were making kraals of felled thorntrees for cattle that
came as a gift from Umpande for his son Cetshwayo, taken
from the Swazis during a
1868 – 1869
war expedition. The hundreds of warriors, as soon as they
saw us whites (“abelungu”), left their work and encircled us
and tried to scare our horses by hitting onto the shields made
of skins. Only seldom did whites come to Zululand in those
days, only travelling merchants. Müller warned us to remain
calm and the commanding “indunas” called to their warriors to
leave us alone, which they eventually did. We were glad that
we could freely continue our journey because even then it was
in no way safe in the free Zululand. We had passed the cattle
the day before, when they were driven from Umpande’s kraal
to Cetshwayo under the protection of warriors. Just as we read
in the Bible, when Jacob sent gifts to his brother Esau, oxen,
cows, heifers etc. each kind on its own. Some warriors even
had Martini Henry rifles.
We rested for a few days at Missionary Fröhling. From there
we could see St Lucia Bay. At Fröhlings we had bananas and
pineapples. From there we came to the big Tugela River where
we had to be helped across by Colenbrander in a boat. The
horses had to swim through the river. Today there is the big
From there we continued along the coast. One evening we
stayed over at the big farmer Hulett and looked at his coffee
and sugar cane plantations.
1869 – 1870
From there we continued via the Swedish station Umpumulo
back to Hermannsburg. We had been away for 26 days and I
had learnt how to ride. It was a very interesting journey, but we
did not see any game and not a single wild animal.
Because my little brother Hermann had died in Bethanie, my
parents let my two sisters Marie and Christine return with Missionary Lohann who had come down from Transvaal with an
ox wagon and so I was all alone and was often homesick.
And so, when at the end of 1869 in December Missionary
Riechelmann and his wife travelled to Transvaal I was allowed
to go with them. That was interesting for me. For the first time
I saw the highveld of Transvaal with many thousands of wild
animals, different species all together: blesbuck, springbuck,
wildebeest, ostriches, zebras, warthogs and many other antelope in big herds, from the Drakensberg to Heidelberg. Koos
Mahuma was our wagon driver. I had to sleep under the katel,
Riechelmanns on top, the driver and foreman under the wagon.
From December 1869 to March 1870 I stayed with my parents
in Bethanie and when Superintendent Karl Hohls and Backeberg, who wanted to look for a wife in Natal, came through
Bethanie I had to go with them, away to the school in Natal,
because up there in Transvaal there were no decent schools
1871 – 1872
The school in Hermannsburg had been taken to new heights
by Mr Müller and had a good reputation so that we had
scholars from Transvaal, Free State, Natal and even some
from Cape Town, the Harveys, amounting to about 80 from
the best families. The school maintained itself and did not
need any support from the Mission. Teacher Müller still
wanted to improve its status and for that reason applied to
Director Harms in Germany for a school teacher who had
studied and who could teach Latin, Greek and Hebrew etc.
properly. Mission Director Th. Harms sent the very young
Pastor Behr who had just married. At the big mission feast in
Hermannsburg in [?]
he said, “I am going to Africa to take over my school there.”
And this was then also printed in the mission paper. That
really hurt our Teacher Müller, Because this was in no way
revoked and the school was simply taken away from him, the
founder and organiser of the school, and a young man without
experience was simply placed over him he resigned and took
over a school in Panmure near East London.
All scholars and their parents were very unsatisfied. The
English scholars collected ₤ 17 and gave Mr Müller a golden
watch as a gift, with their names engraved. Müller left at the
beginning of 1872 with lock, stock and barrel and travelled
via Pietermaritzburg and Durban on two ox wagons and I
accompanied him to Durban and returned with the empty
1872 – 1873
Behr took over the school. I was assistant teacher and still had
Greek lessons and started with Hebrew. I was the top achiever
of the school and Saturday mornings I had to learn the gospel
of the coming Sunday in German, English, Latin and Greek,
as many verses as I could, and then had to write them down
off by heart. I also had to teach in the lower grades. Behr
implemented many changes, in German style.
Then the school revolution took place. Lice were found in
the bed and suitcase of one boer son and Behr ordered that
all boxes and suitcases of all the boys should be opened and
inspected. The big English scholars refused to unlock their
suitcases and said it was an insult to demand this because they
had no lice. Behr stuck to his demands and they stood by their
refusal. The commotion rose and during the night it became
tumultuous, the school bells were rung, straw bags on the
second floor were torn open, the straw was set on fire and then
extinguished with water. Bedsets were piled on top of each
other, much noise was made and who knows what and the next
morning, very early, the big boys left on foot to their parents in
Pietermaritzburg. The whole story ended up in the newspapers
and caused a lot of dust. None of the learners returned and no
new ones joined and the name of the school was ruined. The
learners were sent to Hilton College that started flourishing
from then onwards. Also, the school of Teacher Müller in
Panmure established a name.
1873 – 1874
In 1873 my parents came to Natal with other wagons to buy
goods and because I was sickly they took me along. So, my
school time that had started in 1863 came to an envd.
In those ten years I had only been home once for a few
months, in 1869/70.
The journey with the ox wagon took very long because the
oxen got redwater disease, some of them died and we had to
buy new oxen at ₤ 15 each. For a couple of weeks we stayed
at Empangweni with Missionary Hansen, then travelled up the
van Reenen’s Pass through Harrysmith back home. There was
From 1873 to March 1875 I stayed with my parents in
Bethanie and helped them in the house and in the school.
During this time, I learnt Setswana and helped my father with
this and that. I painted the old church, doors and windows, cut
thatch grass with many people in the veld and then sewed on
the sheet metal at the top on the ridge. I did a lot of horseriding
and hunted quite a bit.
When I was 20 years old my father expressed the wish that I
should become a missionary and since I also wanted this, and
Director Harms accepted me for June 1875, everything was
prepared for my journey to Germany in 1875. I travelled with
Hermann Hohls by ox wagon to Natal and from Durban by
ship to Europe.
1870 and 1874
In the year 1870 the diamond field was discovered near
Kimberley and that became the market for farmers in
Transvaal and the Free State. But everything had to be brought
there by ox wagon on journeys of one to two weeks. The old
Missionary Backeberg had purchased Berseba near Bethanie
for ₤ 800 and worked as a missionary there.
On this farm he also had the opportunity of large-scale
agricultural activities as an aside and he planted wheat and
tobacco. Because the good prices in Kimberley were tempting
he decided to take two wagons full of wheat and tobacco there
and my father gave me his span of oxen and a wagon to take
one load there against payment. Backeberg was my godfather
and I really wanted to see the diamond field. So, I loaded one
load of tobacco roles and drove along. The journey led us over
Maquassi and Christiane. In Kimberley a bucket of water cost
1/- and to let oxen drink at a rain water dam cost 2/6 per span.
Backeberg got ₤ 3 for every bag of wheat flour and 10/- for
small roles and ₤ 1 for large roles of tobacco, all in all about ₤
300 in gold for the two loads. Eggs 2/6 per dozen. We lost one
ox. The journey took us four weeks. We saw the first big open
hole from which the earth was pulled up on wires by horses
and at the top it was sorted. Kimberley was a large village of
brick houses. At the time one ordinary plough cost ₤ 9, today ₤
1.10 etc. etc.
Father until 1875
What then will there be for us?
That is what Peter asked the Lord in Matthew 19:27-30, “We
have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for
Our Lord Jesus does not punish him because of this question,
but acknowledges that he is entitled to ask the question for “the
worker deserves his wages” and he answers, “Truly I tell you,
at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his
glorious throne, you who have followed me” (verse 28) etc.
etc. and then in verse 29, “And everyone who has left houses
or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or
fields for my sake will receive a hundredfold and will inherit
Yes, Jesus himself, the faithful servant of the Lord left his
throne in heaven, came to us, he humbled himself by becoming
obedient to death – even death on a cross! His soul worked,
that is why God raised him up and gave him a name above all
names, so that in the name of Jesus all knees shall bow etc. etc.
Just as He received his well-deserved wage, He will also give
His faithful servants the promised wage when night comes.
Because “the word of the Lord is right and true; he is faithful
in all he does.” (Ps. 33:4)
My father H.W. Behrens
when he gave the mission all that he possessed and travelled
himself with his wife and his child into the uncertainty of the
heathen world in Africa, did not ask the Mission Director,
“What will my salary be to maintain my wife and my child”,
but he trusted the Lord, just as Louis Harms did, that the Lord
would provide all that they needed. And how wonderfully the
Lord Jesus stood by his word in Matthew 19:29 is what I want
to tell you here to the glory of God!! Praise the Lord, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits! (Ps. 103:1)
Just as Jacob travelled over the Jordan and only had his
stick and then had “two herds” when he returned, my father
had nothing but his wife and two children when he was sent
out over the big sea to Africa and into the uncertainty and
the faithful Lord guided him and blessed him and his house
so richly that 1) he had a big congregation of Christians
(Bethanie) and 2) his descendants wonderfully received “a
hundredfold” in earthly riches!! Did you ever lack anything?
Praise the Lord, my soul!!
A hundredfold and eternal life – all this through grace alone!!
Yes, what He promises, He most certainly fulfils!!
Praise be to His name!!
1857: We left Hamburg onboard the small Kandaze, travelled
for 3 months and arrived in February 1858 in Natal.
1857 – 1860: Father was a missionary with Müller II at
Ehlansesi in the thorns, learnt the language, built himself
a house and visited the kaffirs of Chief Somahashi in their
1861: He established the Emhlangane station and stayed there
until 1863 as a missionary. Missionary Röttcher was with him
for a while, Missionary Schütze became his successor. Father
built his residential house, a church, he built a long trench,
had a big garden with a stone wall, taught at the school, held
services and visited the kraals.
1863: e travelled to Transvaal with Kaiser in order to work as
missionary at Sechele. When they were rejected there, father
came back to Linokane and did not know where to go next.
1864 He heard of the tribe of the Bawane in Mandabule in
the district of Rustenburg who wanted to have a missionary.
He travelled there and arrived on 29 November and was
welcomed with much joy, established Bethanie and was there
as a missionary until he died of malaria on 23 April 1900.
1865 Father built his house and baptised his first baptism
scholar in the large tent that he had, where he also held the
services. He always had more than enough baptism scholars.
Josef Mahuma and Abraham Moroke, the two subordinate
chiefs, the old Petrus Sepeng and Lazarus Thaye and their
wives were among the first.
Father had great joy being in full work. Since the surrounding
tribes also wanted to have a baruti, it was father’s duty as head
to take care of this.
1866 He travelled to Natal with a couple of wagons to fetch
the missionaries who had newly arrived with the Candace.
So, I saw my dear parents again after about three years and
also my younger brother Hermann. Father had brought along
wagon drivers and forerunners and oxen and when everything
was ready he could return to the Transvaal with a big trek of
ten wagons and many people. The trek drew much attention
and the whites wanted to know where “the commando” was
heading, yet they were only missionaries.
Back home, there was much work in the following years with
the establishment of the stations Phalane Matlhare, Kana, Eben
Ezer Saron etc. Everything happened under father’s hands with
the permission of the government. In Bethanie, this is what he
called the former Mandabale, because among the first people
baptised there was a Lazarus, a Martha and a Mary, father
bought the first property of 3000 acres from Tjaart Kruger, the
brother of President Paul Kruger.
Father bought this property for the Hermannsburg Mission, it
cost one ox wagon with tent and ₤ 37. The ox wagon had been
made in Hermannsburg Natal by the colonialists. Thus father
could establish a Christian village on the land of the mission
and he could build a church. He was supported by the young
Missionaries Müller, Wenhold because they were in Bethanie
to learn the language.
For a few head of young cattle, father also had the opportunity
to buy 2 young mares from the boers, not knowing that this
would be the beginning of God fulfilling his promise that
my father, who had left everything behind and had given all
his possessions for the kingdom of God, would receive “a
hundredfold” according to Matthew 19. This is what the Lord
Jesus had promised and He had to fulfil his promise. But
how he wanted and would do this, was still a riddle!! Where
would that come from that father should receive a hundredfold
that which he had given for the Lord?! In Ehlangeni and
Emhlangane father could put aside absolutely nothing! In
addition, the Mission followed Communist principles and
own possessions. For everything you had to submit invoices!!
Here two young mares were offered to father and he bought
them although the district of Rustenburg was very unhealthy
for horses and most of them died during the summers. These
two were of the Bossekop breed, small, unsightly with a thick
mane, short legs, fat bodies etc. But these two “salted”, that is,
they both got and overcame the disease and were thus “salted”,
could be outside during the day and the night and had a value
of ₤ 30 - ₤ 50! And, lo and behold, they both foaled and also
their foals were “salted”, the same with their foals and that
is how it continued, all “salted” and the herd grew and father
could sell the horses in due course at ₤ 30 to ₤ 50 a head, the
only source from which we got a little money. Because in
Communism there was no salary and for everything you used
you had to submit invoices. Father and mother with a child
lived for a full year spending ₤ 22 in cash!! But God’s blessing
rested on the horses and in God’s hand they should serve to
fulfil his word of Matthew 19. How this happened, the readers
will see in due course.
But what He promises, He shall definitely fulfil.
1879 – 1880
But his works are awesome and “my ways are not your ways,
and your thoughts are not my thoughts”, is what God’s word
A Missionary Hoyer, an eccentrical man from America, saw
this herd of horses after 1880 and saw how father sold a horse
now and then and did not understand anything about all of
this, but called father the “biggest horse dealer” of South
Africa. What a huge injustice! Because father was entirely a
missionary, from morning until night when he went to sleep,
he did not “seek” earthly goods and only accepted what God’s
blessing gave him! He did not buy any horses, but, when the
opportunity arose, he sold what had accrued to him without
any effort. And even a missionary may receive and use God’s
blessing with gratefulness.
In order to pre-empt matters, I would like to mention that with
the income from the horses that had accrued to father, he could
buy a property which led to “hundredfold” materialising. There
was no income from the property Losperfontein bought for
the mission. Bethanie is and will forever be a so-called “dry
1867 – 68 My brother Hermann died, my two sisters travelled
to my parents in Transvaal. I was confirmed and did the
journey with Müller and Rösler on horseback through
Zululand and in 1869 I could travel
1866 – 1879
to my parents in Transvaal for the first time and at the
beginning of 1870 I returned back to school.
Father bought another piece of Losperfontein for men from
his congregation, namely the southern part. The indigenous
people called the newly acquired piece of land Mosuntlatlane.
Every father of a family gave one head of cattle, amounting to
a total of 54 animals. A list of this still exists, written by my
father. Then he bought a piece of Welgevonden for a part of
his congregation, the names are known and were registered
in the registration office. A small piece of this he also bought
for the Mission when Letsopane still had water. This piece of
land was bought back from the Mission by the people after
1900. Then he also bought parts of Klipkop for Koos Mahuma,
Petrus Sepeng and Petrus Tshepe who paid with cattle, also
Snymannsdrif for Jakobus Lebethe and Chief Jakobus. Then
Wolvekraal for the people after 1885. So the ownership of
property of the Bethanie congregation expanded. Everything
Then the Farm Waaikraal of Adrian Klopper, to the east of
Sterkstroom, was offered to my father at ₤ 1000 for 2500
acres. He could impossibly pay such an amount, but only half
= ₤ 500. That was in March 1879.
₤ 250 he had saved from horse sales and ₤ 250 my mother
had inherited from an old aunt that had died in Germany. But
where should he get the other ₤ 500 from? The people or the
community had stripped themselves of everything for the
above purchases and my father did not want to own a property
together with the indigenous people, but still wanted to buy a
property for his ₤ 500. Then they found the following solution
at a big meeting: It was found that about 100 men had not
participated in any previous purchase, but were still using the
purchased land as grazing land for cattle, for cutting of wood
and for crops. They were requested to each pay ₤ 5 in order to
cover the missing ₤ 500. This was done. But father wanted to
accept this only as lease for 25 years. This was also accepted
and put down in writing (but it was not notarised). So all the
people of Bethanie had free wood, free grazing land and a
piece of land for crops below the trench and what that meant,
you need to experience for yourself.
The land belonged to father and was registered in his name.
What happened later, can be read up under 1904/05. Father
received ₤ 20 lease per year, about ₤ 1-7-0 per month, not even
1/- per day.
1866 – 1880
Paid ₤ 500 in cash, the other ₤ 500 were collected little by little
in cattle and money. To borrow ₤ 500 at ₤ 8 per cent = ₤ 40 per
year would have been too much for both sides. When father
came to Bethanie in 1864 the people owned not a single piece
of land, but with father’s prudence and help Bethanie soon
owned much land which was still cheap at that time.
The Mission had 3000 acres of Losperfontein for 1 ox wagon
and ₤ 37.
54 families had a share of Losperfontein for 54 heads of cattle
The people had a third share of Losperfontein, the last for ₤
200 (the chief helped)
The people had the Farm Glück to the north of Bethanie.
A share of Welgevonden was purchased from private families
to the east of Sterkstroom and was named Rhehoboth.
To the west of Sterkstroom 3 families, the Batlhapane, bought
a portion of Welgevonden and called it Malibamatsu.
Parts of Klipkop were bought by Petrus Sepeng, Koos
Mahuma and Petrus Sepeng. A doctor from Potchefstroom
bought Kreepoort [?] for the people with cattle and Jakobus
Lebethe and the chief bought Snymansdrift, about 400 acres.
So the people were living on their own land.
With the purchase of the two horses that reproduced without effort
and costs and that were “salted” and made the purchase of the farm
for ₤ 500 possible, father received back from the Lord a hundredfold
what he had given to the Lord, without him having asked for it.
Through God’s guidance he was offered the horses and the farm
and he accepted them with thanks. He had to buy this farm and
specifically this farm so that the Lord Jesus could fully fulfil his
promise. (Read further on what happened 1926 on this farm, which
nobody would ever have thought of!)
So on the dry Bethanie father did full missionary work with a church
and a school. The congregation grew and increased in numbers.
And the small vegetable garden was watered with buckets from the
small river. But when Klopper’s farm had been bought and father let
members of his congregation who had learnt from the boers how to
farm do the crops, he had maize and wheat and vegetables enough
for consumption, also oats and he could even sell some of it!
He himself never worked on the farm! He was a full-time missionary
and Missionary Müller once said to me, “Your father is working
more than all of us!!” God’s blessing was with and on him.
1884 he then leased the agricultural land to cousin August Behrens
who lived there and gave father his share.
When I was at home 1873 and 1874, I saw him at his work and
saw with how much joy and diligence he conducted his work as
a missionary and, in addition, did his work as chairperson of the
1874 the following happened: Mamogale, the Chief of the
Bakwena ba Mogopa, had returned from Basutoland, in
about 1868/70, where he had fled when Moselekatse with
his Zulu hordes enslaved the Bechuana here in Transvaal
and treated them like dogs. He lived on Selikatsnek but was
then driven away by the boers. Genug Mamogale, a very old
man, came and lived on Makolokoe near Bethanie. 1874 I
drove to Makolokoe with my father, where the old Mamogale
wanted to instate his son Raikane as his successor before his
people. Many of the Bakwena were present and after the old
Mamogale instated Raikane as his successor before his people
in a long speech, he took my father by the hand and said, “I
considered this white man to be an enemy, but have found him
to be a fried, he now is your father.”
The old Mamogale did not become a Christian and died
when he was very old. His son Raikane also was no Christian
although he had his son educated and baptised and gave him
a big Bible as a gift. Raikane is said to have been poisoned in
1878/79, he was a tall, strong man and very black. His son was
baptised Jakobus and was a Christian with all his heart and
was hated by the old heathens for this.
1875 – 1880
I had left school in March 1873 and remained at home until
1875, a full two years, and helped my parents wherever I
could, was at various mission stations and mission feasts and
learnt Setswana and went on a journey to the diamond field
with Missionary Backeberg. I was 20 years old and needed
to choose a profession. McLaren & Co. Heidelberg wanted to
have me as a clerk with an initial salary of about ₤ 90, then I
would have become a merchant. Father wanted me to become
a missionary and because I did not want to study further and
because I was permitted to enter the Mission House at the age
of 21, I decided to take this route.
In March 1875, after Hermann Hohls had just brought a
shipment of women to Transvaal, I accompanied him back to
Natal and stayed a few months with my old friend Wilhelm
Ahrens who had the children’s school in Hermannsburg, but
I stayed in the large house with Superintendent Hohls. In the
school I met Miss Rosa Hollard, daughter of Advocate Hollard
in Pretoria. We got to know each other very well and she
stayed my friend as Mrs Keet and later as widow until 1943,
when I was 89 years old and she was 85 years.
In June 1875 Superintendent Karl Hohls took us from
Hermannsburg to Durban, “us” being his son Otto (15 years
at the time) and Georg Moe (12 years at the time), son of
Missionary Moe, who were both to learn something in
Germany. So it was the three of us. Then Missionary Posselt,
from the Berlin Mission, came and brought a young stupid
man, Karl Wesche, and asked that he could travel back to
Germany with us because his brother-in-law Missionary
Wesche wanted it that way. I was 21 years old and an
experienced traveller and had to take care of 3 young people –
a big responsibility!
With a coastal steamer, the Basuto, we travelled from Durban
to Cape Town, experienced a massive storm and were very
sea-sick on the small steamer! From Cape Town we travelled
onboard the ocean steamer Teuton to Plymouth in 28 days and
from there by rail to London to Merchant Behne. During the
sea travels the idiotic Karl caused me much trouble.
At the Waterloo station in London there was nobody to pick
us up, as had been agreed and arranged. We sat on our luggage
as though we were lost until I eventually succeeded in renting
a span to take us to the residence of the merchant. As we were
about to leave, Miss Behne eventually arrived. We experienced
quite a lot on our way, but eventually arrived at a large villa in
the rain and were warmly welcomed.
After a few days the journey continued by ship from London
to Hamburg. We arrived at the Victoria Quay when the steamer
was already on the Themse but was then stopped so that
we could catch up in a boat. We were taken onboard, being
scolded by the crew.
In Hamburg we were supposed to go to Pastor Gleiss in St
Georg. As we left the ship I gave Karl a new hat from his box
and secretly threw his old, dilapidated hat overboard. When
we sat in a cab with all our luggage he suddenly said, “Where
is my hat?” and wanted to get off. Only with great effort could
we hold him back. In front of the house of Pastor Gleiss he
kept on calling, “Where is my hat?” and wanted to run away,
was almost raging and did not want to listen to anything. Three
of the men working there had to hold him so that he could
not run away. He was handed over to the police and brought
to a place of safety, where he is said to have died. During our
sea journey he had often been rather strange and one night
he stood in front of my bed and looked down onto me as
though he wanted to harm me and only returned to his bed
when I gave a loud command and this and that. It was actually
dangerous and not right that I had been burdened with such a
mentally disabled person.
Otto Hohls and Georg Moe were picked up by relatives
and I did not see them again in Germany. I travelled to
Hermannsburg and moved into the Old Mission House as
pupil. The other 21 had already been ceremoniously admitted
a few weeks earlier. I stayed there for 5 years until we had
finished and had been ordained and I went back to South
Africa in 1880 as a missionary. That is what I want to talk
We lived in the Mission House in the first and second floors. In
the room allocation and in the seating arrangements and in the
lessons we were sorted alphabetically. Thus, I was always the
first: Behrens, then Bock, then Burmeister, then Deppe, Dierks,
Kohlmeyer, Lüchow, Meyer, Meyer, Ramme, Rodewald,
Schlager, Schröder, Stielau etc. Bock and I shared a room,
across the passage were Burmeister and Deppe in a room,
the four of us shared a living room between the two rooms.
All four of us were non-smokers. Bock, a linen weaver by
profession, was a funny guy, this Bock and I often quarrelled
in those five years, I just experienced so much with him, after
his ordination he went to America. Deppe, a short guy, was a
bricklayer, Burmeister, a book binder had an open leg with an
unpleasant smell that never healed. Why he was admitted, I
failed to understand. All three were otherwise good people, had
some prior training, good manners etc. I had to live together
with them for five years. Most of the others had been servants,
Stielau a blacksmith, Dierks a sergeant.
1875 – 1880
Those who were like-minded grouped together, thus Ramme,
Stielau and I. We were given the name The Patricians, thus
the others were The Plebeians etc. Being the youngest, I was
Patrician III. None of us liked Sergeant Hartwig Dierks, his
room mate Kohlmeyer had to get on with him. At one stage
there was a revolution in the house, all of us against Dierks
and we requested that he be dismissed. Director Th. Harms
was very sad but covered up the story. He stayed, was then
sent to Australia and died there. Those that had been servants
had difficulties in getting rid of their poor manners, the others
as well. Because I ate with knife and fork, different from them,
they thought I wanted to be better. Well, I had been brought up
different from them all! Stielau and Ramme were faithful souls
and we were really faithful friends and stayed friends until
death. Ramme went to India and died there after a few years.
Then there was Johannes the Persian in our course, we were all
fond of him. I went on holiday with him a couple of times, the
African with the Persian. He enjoyed smoking, I did not and
so he gladly accepted all cigars that were offered to me. We
had three Meyers in the house, Kohlmeyer, Heinrich Meyer,
Christof Meyer and one Meyer who lived outside the house.
During one visit the three Meyers stood next to each other in
1875 – 1880
The high-ranking visitor shook each of us the hand and asked
us for our names. The first: Meyer, the second: Meyer, the
third: Also Meyer. And from then onward he was only known
as Alsomeyer and it stayed that way.
One pupil, Schlager, did something wrong and was finally
dismissed. Unfortunately, I was the one who had seen what
he did and was bound by my conscience to report it to the
inspector. I couldn’t do anything else. It was a sad case.
Otherwise, all of us endured the lessons and were ordained and
found our sphere of activity in India, Australia, America and
Africa. Ramme, Lüchow and Kohlmeyer went to India and
died there. Stielau, Schröder, Deppe and myself came to South
Africa. Schröder was murdered by the Zulus, Deppe died after
a few years, Stielau turned 93 years, I am still alive and will be
turning 89 years old in May 1943. Of the 22 who started their
service in July 1875 I think I am the last one living!! –
Johannes the Persian also died a few years ago.
When we started, others had just finished in the New
Mission House and were sent out to South Africa, Wickert,
Peters, Hörmann, Grotherr, all have died, and others as well.
Teichmann was part of the course after us, but is no longer
alive. Neither the others. I can survive them all by God’s grace
Our teachers were Mission Inspector Von Lüpke who was
epileptic and lived with us in the house, often suffered his
seizures in class and on the street.
Then Pastor Sültmann and then in particular the old retired
Pastor Ernst, an upright man. Teacher Schuren taught us
singing, geography and astronomy. And others.
In the first two years I had very little to do because I had
already studied Latin, Greek, French, English, German, Bible
catechism, world history etc. etc. in Natal. So, I gave English
classes to the pupils and also to a Miss Kröplin who in turn
taught me more French. And I and Max Harms had a few
Greek lessons with von Lüpke and I had to edit books that
were printed in Zulu and Setswana. When we then started
dogmatics, church history, rhetoric, theology, ecclesiastical
order, exegesis etc. I also had a full schedule. We also had to
write and hold sermons, visit the surrounding villages and
give mission lessons. We also had to travel elsewhere for this
purpose. I often had to talk about Africa and the missionary
work there. The offerings, less the travel costs, we had to
submit upon our return. We had to attend mission feasts and, in
this way, got to know pastors and congregations.
1875 – 1876
I lived in the Mission House but knew more than enough
families and houses in Hermannsburg where I could stop for
a bite to eat and where I was welcome. There was Von der
Lühe, my godfather, and his wife and the two old ladies Von
der Lühe. They invited me in the first days already and at the
table I got to sit next to a young lady, Miss Elisabeth Martins,
second daughter of the economist Th. Martins from Beckedorf.
I liked her a lot and later in 1883 she followed me and became
my wife. A full five years I had to keep my love for her a secret
and in terms of the strict house rules I was not allowed to say
a word. But our eyes spoke of mutual love and the touching of
hands when we met while we were fetching the post, did the
rest. She still had two sisters Käthe and Agnes. I often visited
the Martins’ home in Beckedorf together with Stielau and
played croquet there. The two sisters and their brother Theodor
suspected that we were in love and became part of our pact;
all in secret. We could not even consider getting engaged, one
word of it in public and I would have been sent straight to
Africa, as had happened in the previous course to my friend
Wilhelm Ahrens, whose love that became known had actually
been helped on by the wife of the Inspector. Order is order and
must be followed.
Only a few times had I seen this girl when she then suddenly
disappeared for a full year and I did not know whereto, just
as I had got to know the family. After a year she returned. She
was with a pastor in Braunschweig for a year in order to be retrained. From then on I always saw her. “Nothing burns as hot
as love of which no-one knows,” as the saying goes!!
With this love I forgot my first love of the small Rosa Hollard
in Natal who made the first impression on me. In letters from
Natal I heard that she had got engaged with Advocate Keet
from Pretoria, but she stayed a special friend of mine until
today where I am writing this.
Then I got to know the civil servant Hermann Reicher and
his family in Hermannsburg. I was taken up like a child in
the house and became a brother of the sons Fritz, Georg and
Johannes and the daughter Mariechen. From 1875 to 1878 I
was their child until they emigrated to Natal in South Africa.
Also here in Africa we remained good friends. Now, in 1943,
only Johannes Reicher and his children’s children are still
Then I was a good friend of the baker Albers and his family,
relatives of my dear mother, who was a born Albers. Their
many children Marie, Heinrich, Friedrich, Johannes, Christine
and Auguste remained my intimate friends here in South
Africa until they died. Today, only Auguste is still living in
Port Shepstone in Natal. All others are dead.
1876 – 1877
I became the godfather of the son Hermann. The whole
family emigrated to South Africa in about 1885. When jacket
potatoes, herring and dark rye bread were served in the
Mission House, which was too heavy for my stomach that was
not accustomed to this food, I let the dinner stand and went to
baker Albers and got a lighter meal there: white bread, young
“luffen” and milk or malt beer.
I felt particularly at home at Aunt Marie Behrens, the widow of
Uncle Heinrich Behrens with her children August, Fritz, Georg
and Marie who lived a few hundred yards from the Mission
House. I often visited them. Fritz and Marie died in Germany.
My aunt with August and Georg later came to Bethanie. Today,
only cousin Georg is living near Kroondal. August and Georg
have big families here with children and grandchildren.
Also in the pastor’s home (Theodor Harms and his family), at
Major Ruschenbusch, Schüren and many others I was always
During the 5 years I travelled a lot during the holidays, for
example with Stielau to Vierlanden, with the Persian to the
Harz, with pupil Chr. Johannes to the beautiful Rhine, then
on my own to Hannover, Hamburg, Bremen, Osnabrück,
Braunschweig, Leipzig, Berlin, Lübeck and many other cities
and towns. I enjoyed travelling and travelled cheaply because I
always had too little money.
I was in the Berlin and Bonn [?] Mission Houses, in Dr W.
Schwales Hom. Pharmacy in Leipzig, in the Royal Marshall
[?] in Hannover etc. etc.
I enjoyed travelling to Hamburg to see the ships that would
take me back to Africa for which I always longed and was
then a guest at the merchant Nagel who was a friend of the
But during winter I preferred staying beside the warm oven
at home. Once I dared to go on holiday in January when
everybody was away, but I turned around when I was halfway
to Unterlüss, it was too cold.
In 1878 I was a part of the separation. The whole Mission
Haus left with Pastor Harms, also the old Pastor Ernst
and many other pastors and the Hannover “Freikirche”
was established. Our Inspector von Lüpke stayed in the
“Landeskirche” and left us, and Pastor Th. Harms moved into
the Old Mission House and many things changed. The new
“Freikirche” was built in Hermannsburg and we left the old
church that had already stood there for over 1000 years. We
were also ordained in the new, pretty church.
The five years passed, the classes came to an end, we were
examined, ordained and sent out. Stielau, Deppe, Schwäder
and I were sent to South Africa, the others to India, America,
Australia and New Zealand.
1879 – 1880
After the ordination on 10 May 1880 there was much
excitement in Hermannsburg because the ordained pastors got
engaged and the old ladies felt very important. I got engaged
with Miss Elisabeth Martins who I had secretly loved for five
years already. Aunt Marie was not completely happy about
this, but what could she do? Stielau was turned down, but then
still found the right one.
We had only about three weeks before being sent out and the
entire burden of this lay on my shoulders. In Hermannsburg
nothing had been prepared and I had to do the entire
correspondence with England and the old merchant Nagel
about the ships and the luggage. There were not only the young
missionaries and the brides for the missionaries of the previous
course in Africa, but emigrants also joined us, 36 souls in
numbers, and all their money and luggage passed through my
hands and I was 26 years old. In addition, my own things, and
the very brief time together with my bride for whom I only had
time in the evenings with her parents. There was a tremendous
amount of work to done by me because Major Ruschenbush
had prepared nothing. The luggage had to be ready and had to
get to Hamburg before us.
Our party of travellers consisted of Missionaries Stielau,
Deppe, Schröder and myself and Pastor Hoyer from America;
the brides of Wickert Grotherr, Hörmann and Böhmke and
Hoyer’s bride. Then Otto Harms, son of Pastor Harms, and
Aunt Marie’s son, cousin August, at a mere 16 years. He had
learnt gardening and upon my advice he came along because
he had better chances of getting somewhere here. Missionary
Fuls paid for his journey and in turn August had to work for
him for three years. Then there were 36 emigrants under my
care: Küsel, Bunge, Bruggemann and all the rest of them. We
were a large party. And Missionary Witt. When we arrived in
Hamburg Nagel said that the ship could not go but that he had
obtained two others that would take us to England to the Union
Ocean steamer. So, we had to split the party. Stielau with all
missionaries went on one ship to Southampton, I went on the
other one with all the emigrants to London where we arrived
Saturday afternoon and were accommodated in a hotel. On
Sunday there was no traffic, everything was very quiet, but
on Monday morning everything was all the more lively when
we had to continue our journey on foot amidst the hustle and
bustle in Cheapside Street past London Bridge to Waterloo
Street. The old hotel owner with his long, white beard went
the emigrants followed suit in single file, and I was at the end.
The peasants and women stared at us, the street police battled
to patrol us across the streets and to stop all vehicles coming
from both sides for such a long time. But eventually we sat in
different coupes on the train travelling to Southampton.
I was in a coupe alone with one of the peasants. At one of
the stations, a well-dressed gentleman and a lady joined us.
The peasant then unabashedly lit his German pipe with real
Canaster tobacco, took out his sandwich and sausage and
enjoyed his meal. The lady covered her nose and eyes at such
barbaric behaviour and at the next station ensured that they
left us. So, we were wonderfully alone again. In Southampton
we again joined Stielau and all the others and as soon as I
had accommodated all my people, I took the next train back
to London where I spent a few nice days with family Bösche,
friends of the Martins family, where Käthe Martins, the
oldest sister of my bride, spent some time. Käthe showed me
around London: Crystal Palace, St Paul’s, Westminster, Tower,
Albert Hall, Trafalgar Square, Madame Tussauds, Kensington
Museum, Bank of England and much more. To and fro with
Then I returned to Southampton. We took the Union Castle
Steamer, 2. and 3. class, stopped in the beautiful Madeira, for
those who wanted, then again in Cape Town and eventually
in Durban from where we continued by ox wagon to
Hermannsburg near Greytown. It was a nice journey and very
little to write about. I was so glad to be back in Africa after
five years, nothing held me in Germany except for my dear
bride, the farewell of whom was very hard for me.
In Durban our ways parted. Missionary Witt had just written
something not so pleasant about the South African colonialists
and when they read his name on the passenger list of the
ship, they wanted to attach him and “tar and feather” him!
He had to be smuggled on land secretly and then also came
to Hermannsburg with us missionary brothers and sisters.
The emigrants split up to relatives and acquaintances.
Superintendent Karl Hohls organised accommodation for us in
the Big House and we were told that our journey to Transvaal
could only take place in 3 months when the grass had grown
for the oxen. We had to take turns in holding the sermons on
Sundays. Superintendent Hohls, who had also confirmed me
in 1868, gave me Actorum 15 as a test, the whole chapter, and
probably thought by himself, “let’s see what my Wilhelm will
do with this.” He seemed to be satisfied and when he returned
home he told his wife, “The choir robe looks quite good on
To be stuck in Hermannsburg for three months was boring.
When one day Missionary Witt approached me and asked
whether I would accompany Missionary Wickert’s bride on a
post wagon to Transvaal with him paying the travel expenses,
and when Superintendent Hohls agreed, I soon left with her
from Maritzburg on a two-wheeled post cart to Pretoria. That
cost the Swedish Missionary Witt a full ₤ 30.
Witt had got on very well with Miss Wittrock during the sea
travels and they were like a bride and bridegroom and caused
quite a stir. That is why Witt and Superintendent Hohls wanted
to get rid of her and in this way I returned home a few months
earlier, completely unexpectedly and free of charge!!
From Maritzburg to Hilton we had a wonderful span of horses,
then only donkeys, at times rather lean ones, but we then
entered Pretoria again with beautiful horses. Sitting on a twowheeled post cart was not exactly comfortable. On the front
seat were the driver with the whip, the person holding the
reigns on the streets that were still very poor at the time, and
a policeman. On the rear seat were Missionary John Moffat,
brother of the famous Robert Moffat, Miss Wittrock and
myself. Between the two rows all the post bags and luggage.
Just think of all the stones, trenches and holes and all that we
had to bear while travelling by darkness!
Once we had arrived in Pretoria, I left Miss Wittrock with the
Berlin Missionary Grünberger, borrowed his horse and rode
the 30 miles over Selikatsnek to Bethanie where I arrived
completely unexpectedly. It was dark already and my father
was in the church for his evening prayer. I looked through
the window of our house and saw my mother and my sisters
sitting at the table. I did not disturb them, fastened my horse
and walked up the lane to the church. About halfway to the
church I bumped into father who was coming down from the
church, deep in thought. I hugged him, kissed him and greeted
him. He did not know what to say, with me having arrived
so unexpectedly. When he heard that I had not yet greeted
mother and my sisters, he asked me to keep quiet because
he wanted to tell them. He went inside and said that there
was still a visitor who had arrived and they had to get ready
and had to accommodate someone and he wanted to lead the
visitor inside. That is what he did, and you can just imagine
the amazement and the joyous welcoming. Some people of the
congregation heard of it, rang the school bell and many people
came together, sang and greeted me. It was a happy, joyous
evening. So, after five long years I had eventually returned
home! Our dear God had protected us all and had granted us a
happy reunion and we could simply not stop talking, although
there had been no lack of correspondence by letter during the
five years! –
1880 Back in Bethanie
Now I got straight to work because I had returned to be
father’s adjunct and to help him with his great work. From the
beginning he handed over the baptism classes to me, as well as
the sermons for heathens and a part of the school.
The congregation had grown to about 900 souls and the
Christian village had been built. The old Mamagola had died
as a heathen and so did his son Raikane who had become
“kaptein” in 1874. He was followed by his son Jakobus, a
Christian in Pretoria who had been baptised while he worked
In August my fellow travellers then arrived by ox wagon.
Cousin August came to Fuls for three years in terms of the
contract. The weddings of the brides (Grotherr and Wickert)
took place and Pastor Heuer got the seminary in Bethanie and
Wickert came to Mahanaim [?]. My little shoemaker Küsel did
not come along, he had been told in Natal that there were so
many white ants in Transvaal that if you put your shoes down
on the floor at night, they would be built in and partially eaten
up the next morning. He refused to come along and so my plan
to start a shoemaker’s shop in Bethanie did not materialise.
Hoyer had come unmarried with his bride to Hermannsburg
and also wanted to continue his journey to Transvaal
unmarried. Superintendent Hohls did not want to allow this at
all and so he was still married by Superintendent Hohls before
the journey. He also did not stay for long at the seminary in
Bethanie, a peculiar fellow, and eventually he disappeared
in Africa!! Just as he had wanted. But more about this later.
Grotherr was at Moseke. Köller’s widow lived at Bethanie, her
husband had died at Phalane.
My baptism school did not have many pupils, but it turned
out the following: David More who was a great support
to us until his death, also Willem Matjale [?], teacher and
assistant here until he died, and particularly Koos Segale,
who became a teacher at Makalokoe and then in 1913 he was
taught in Botshabelo and was then ordained by Superintendent
Schloemann and now retired in 1942 and is still alive.
I was given a bedroom in the house of my father and free
meals from my parents and a salary of ₤ 3 per month. My
goods and a bit of furniture arrived in August by ox wagon. A
certain share was paid by the mission, for everything beyond
that I had to pay about 25/- per 100 pounds. In 1880 there was
In December 1880, the war between England and the boers
broke out and battles took place near Bronkhorstspruit and
Majuba. In 1879 England had been at war with the Zulus and
suffered the big unnecessary loss of the entire legion near
In 1879 father had made it possible to buy a Cape cart, but I
started my sermons to heathens in the villages of Makolokoe,
Kipton, Marukane and others by horse and I attended to these
villages for nine years by horse until the ice was broken and
more and more of the people became Christians and could
build me a fairly large church in Makolokoe, the centre. In
Makolokoe I preached under a big Maroela tree every time, in
Kipton under a big fig tree (a wild one that had grown out of a
crevice in the rocks) and in Marukane I always stood under a
My first sermon in Bethanie: During the first five months
I did not yet dare preach because of the language. Then in
November Father suddenly fell ill in the night before Sunday
so that he could impossibly hold the service and told me that
I had to take over the service and the sermon. I postponed the
service until lunchtime and prepared. It was the gospel of the
coming of our Lord and the last judgment: for I was hungry,
and you gave me food etc. This was not that difficult in terms
of language and I managed.
Mission Director Theodor Harms had given me ten wind
instruments for Bethanie as a gift in order to start a brass band
in Bethanie. The box with these instruments got lost and only
arrived months later. I then started practising very diligently
and formed a band that grew and grew so that in 1914 I had
almost 50 well drilled players with drums and pipes and flags
and everybody in uniform, as can be seen
on my photograph of 1914. Father did the singing and I did the
brass band. The congregation sang well and the wind players
played well, but more about this later. – Much work! –
Since I was engaged and my bride would be coming out in
1883, I needed a house and had to build it myself so that it
would be completed in 1883! I had a salary of ₤ 3 per month,
otherwise nothing. The Mission granted and gave me a full ₤
30 on top and Missionary Chr. Müller drew up a plan for me,
but that plan could not be built for ₤ 30. Then Köller’s widow
gave me a gift of ₤ 50 for building and for ₤ 80 I built myself a
house of burnt bricks that I baked and fired with black workers
and then I did the bricklaying etc. Often, I still worked on the
bricks, set them and packed them when the moon was shining.
Missionary Müller made the doors and windows; trusses and
caps were sawn from Tambotie blocks that had been dragged
from the fields. With all this work a somewhat run-down
Englishman helped me, Mr Gordon, whom we had taken up
when he was left alone and was in difficulties. It took many
months until the house had been completed. My father helped
me wherever and however he could.
My baptism pupils progressed well with our continued classes
so that I could end my first baptism school in 1881 and could
baptise them all. Among them was Koos Segale, Willem
Matgabe and Davide More. (see church register).
The heathens were absolutely not satisfied that after Mamogale
and Raikane I had now suddenly got a Christian chief Jakobus
and because they were still the majority, they tried to convince
him to return to heathenry by asking him to take the younger
wives of his deceased father as his wives. As a Christian, he
vehemently refused to do this. Then they instructed a heathen
Rasskopi to murder Jakobus. He came one Sunday when
everybody was in church and Jakobus went home because he
was not feeling well. He went to the ill Jakobus and would
almost have killed him with a club, but instead hit the table at
which Jakobus was sitting. Jakobus jumped into his bedroom,
grabbed his revolver that was hanging there and shot down
the murderer. The police took Jakobus, who always reported
everything, to Rustenburg before the judge. Advocate Keet
defended the “kaptein” and Jakobus was acquitted und great
cheering of the many hundreds from all surrounding tribes,
because he had acted in self-defence. The clique of the
murderer then moved far away. Under Jakobus from 1880 until
1903 when he died, the congregation grew a lot, and so did the
village Bethanie because Jakobus was a Christian with all his
heart, married a Christian from the congregation and promoted
Christianity. Jakobus lived in Bethanie with the old Jakobus
Lebethe, his councillor, until he moved into the seminary
building in 1885 and this was moved to Berseba.
At the beginning of 1882 father came and said, “We have a
meagre salary and at Bethanie we are not harvesting anything,
you want to get married next year, you must buy yourself a
farm, the only one left in the area, namely a portion of Klipkop
at the Crocodile River. 660 acres for ₤ 300. I was absolutely
astonished and answered, “I am supposed to get married, build
a house and now still buy a small farm and have nothing.
How am I supposed to do all that?” Father conquered all
my concerns and I entered into the purchase agreement and,
together with this small farm, I also got land where wheat had
already been planted. But I had neither a wagon nor oxen,
plough or anything.
I sold the mare that father had given me as a gift, together with
the foal for ₤ 45 and that was my first payment towards the ₤
300. Then I borrowed ₤ 90 from a merchant (whom my parents
had done good when he was ill) and the first wheat harvest
brought in so much that I could pay off a total of about ₤ 200.
The second wheat harvest was in 1883 and was very good and
I could pay back the ₤ 100 that I had borrowed from Pistorius.
The merchant died and on his deathbed he bequeathed the
₤ 90 to me and so I had paid the ₤ 300 and was glad that I
had listened to father. I made an agreement with Kornelius
Molibane, a man from the Bethanie congregation, who worked
the farm for me for 23 years so that it did not hinder me in
any way in my mission work. I only had to tell him what to do
every week and he did
everything. In this way I had wheat, maize, oats, vegetables
and fruit from the farm for my family, I just needed to fetch
it, until a big flood in 1893 destroyed the dam and water
trenches and we had to build a new dam and trenches at high
costs together with the owners higher up. But then everything
worked again and this small farm supplied me with everything
until in 1916 the Hartebeespoort Dam was built and my small
farm fell into the area that the government needed and the
government bought the property from me for ₤ 2000!!
So this farm had maintained me for a full 32 years and in the
end I still got a good price for it and with the yield I could
pay all my debts that had accrued over ten years for the
maintenance for Theodor in Germany and the building of the
house on Waaikraal!!
So, our merciful God had given me everything that I needed!
He had led everything so wonderfully, that Adriaan Klopper
offered Waaikraal at the right time to father, when he had the
possibility of paying, and offered Barnard Klipkop to me and
then I was provided with everything I needed to buy it! Father
had given his farm to the Mission with everything that was on
it and, behold, this rich Lord led my father to where he could
do big missionary work and guided everything so that he could
afford a farm and his son as well! Praise the Lord, my soul,
and forget not all His benefits!! But He gave us even more!!
So I had a full workload as missionary, a house, even a farm
and so I could confidently look forward to establishing a
household in 1883. In November, my bride arrived with the
young missionaries and on 13 December 1883 my wedding
took place in Bethanie. We had little furniture, but a poet
once said, “Space there is enough even in the smallest hut for
a happy loving couple,” and we coped! Ernst Penzhorn and
August Behrens were my bestmen and the sisters were the
bridesmaids of my bride. My Lisbeth arrived on ox wagons
together with others, von Reiches in Natal, where she had
stayed for a few months until it had rained and there was
enough grass for the oxen on the way.
Father had again given me a young riding horse as a gift.
It was called Hassan and it served me for many years. On
horseback I rode to far-off sermon places and every now and
again also to the farm to give instructions because I had neither
a wagon nor oxen nor a cart. I always had to borrow these. As
a married man I got a salary of ₤ 5 per month, father about ₤ 7.
Wickert had been sent to Mahanaim and Pastor Hoyer
had the seminary in Bethanie. He was Missionary Otte’s
Supt. Vorweser’s spy and he found something wrong with
every missionary, reported to Otte and wrote to magazines
in Germany, also to Pastor Wyneken and to the Hannover
Mission Paper, they believed everything and published
everything. It was a scandal.
1883 – 1884
My father and I were also on the list, father as the biggest
horse tradesman of South Africa and I as a “fraudster” etc.
Pastor Harms recalled two missionaries to Germany, one from
here and one from Natal after a commission that had been sent
up here had done prior investigations and had found nothing
Thus Missionary C. Penzhorn and his wife left from here.
Everything dwindled to nothing, no guilt was proven, no
measures were taken. Also, the deceased Superintendent K.
Hohls had been heavily accused by Otte. Pastor Director
Harms appointed Missionary Fröhling as provost in Natal and
Missionary Penzhorn as provost in Transvaal. Penzhorn came
out with all authorities and books etc. in 1884 and introduced
himself to the missionaries as their superior!! My father, who
had held this office for 18 years, got no letter, was not removed
from this office in honour, but was simply treated as though he
had never been there, although he was known as chairperson
in all congregations, among all missionaries, the chiefs and
he was accredited with the Transvaal government. That was a
shame and a degradation for him, everybody had to think: the
old Behrens must have committed a crime, they just don’t want
to tell us. Father requested a dismissal and I did so together
with him. This was unbearable! Harms did not intervene, tried
to embellish and excuse
his actions and died without having sorted out this matter. His
son Egmond was elected as director and rectified the injustice
in that he granted father and myself and the congregation
Bethanie a special status directly under the director and no
longer under Penzhorn! We maintained this status until father
died in 1900. We did not attend the conferences and also had
a separate salary account. In the event of him leaving the
Mission, father had intended to farm on Waaikraal and during
that time showed me for the first time his document that
contained the donation of his farm and the clause that provided
for a repayment of ₤ 300. He stayed in Bethanie under the
special status and a heavy heart over the undeserved insult.
The three contract years of cousin August with Fuls had come
to an end and he came to us in Bethanie and started trading
with skins with the support of father. He bought dry skins from
blacks and whites and then sold them with a profit to Beckett.
Then he married Dora Wenhold and lived on father’s farm
Waaikraal and worked the farm. Later his mother came from
Germany with Georg and they lived with him and died there.
He lived there until in 1904, after the boer war, he built himself
an own house in Bethanie.
Upon Hoyer’s request the seminary was moved by Penzhorn
from Bethanie to Berseba without asking father, who had
supported it for ten years, for advice. This was done only so
that the pupils could also do agriculture. It stayed there until it
was moved to Bethel on the Highveld. Hoyer left the Mission,
moved to the Soutpansberg, started planting tobacco and then
“went missing in Africa”! I do not know what happened to
his wife and children! Chief Jakobus More moved into the
seminary building in Bethanie when he got married and still
built himself a “town hall” next to it.
In October 1884 our first child was born on a farm along the
Sterkstroom where a Mrs du Plessis, a midwife, lived. The son
was baptised in Bethanie and was given the names Ludwig
Wilhelm Theodor who is now turning 60 in 1944.
In 1884, we had a big drought until Christmas so that there
was green on all standing water and Missionary Kaiser came
with his cattle from Hebron to look for grazing in the Bethanie
area. In 1885 I did a journey with the family by ox wagon via
Pretoria, the Highveld and then back to Rustenburg. There was
still no idea of a gold field or Johannesburg. All blacks still
went to work in the diamond field.
The gold field was discovered along the Witwatersrand.
Nobody had any idea that in the next 50 years a huge city,
Johannesburg, would develop here. But speculation was rife
from the beginning.
In 1886, our little Emmy was born in Pretoria where Dr Crow
was the obstetrician. But our little Emmy died in Eben Ezer
in 1887 from whooping cough together with measles and was
buried in Bethanie.
I bought myself a Spider that cost ₤ 82 for a span of two horses
and it rendered good services for many years.
Sister Marie married an Englishman Gosling [?], a former
teacher on Morgensonn, whom she absolutely wanted. It was
no happy marriage, he drank and also beat his wife. He then
had a small shop near Eben Ezer. She died, had no children,
was buried in Bethanie. Gosling disappeared.
Dr Pronk bought the farm Kreepoort for the Bakwena who
paid with cattle. Kipton is on this farm. The village Kipton
should actually have been Cape Town. In order to avoid
confusion, I suggested that it should be spelled Kipton and that
is how it stayed. This farm Kreepoort went to the government
in 1916 under the West Rand, mainly by way of exchange, and
was then called Sonop.
The village Makolokwe where Mamogale and Raikane had
lived is on the big dry farm Leeuwkop and belonged to a
farmer Smit who lived near Johannesburg. For the use of this
farm the chief had to send a couple of workers to Smit during
the year. I suggested to Jakobus that he should try and buy the
farm of 5000 acres. He, David More, Abraham Moroke and
I travelled there in the horse cart of Jakobus and had ₤ 200
with us. We drove through Johannesburg, at the time still only
shacks and I stayed over one night with Mr Cook, manager of
the small shop of Mr Beckett who had bought these stands at ₤
230 per block.
Smit listened to us and said he first wanted to think about
it and consult his pillow and give us his answer the next
morning. The following morning, he said that the price
was ₤ 2000, payable in one year! Jakobus said that this was
impossible for us and wanted to harness the horses. I took him
aside and presented him with a plan. He approved of it, we
paid ₤ 200, wrote the letter of purchase and drove home. An
assembly of the people approved my plan, Jakobus carried it
out and in that year still the farm Leeuwkop of 5000 acres was
ours and the sending of workers to Smit every year had an end.
Jakobus sent 200 young men to the mines near Johannesburg,
mines that were still very shallow at the time.
1888 – 1889
My agent Mr Charles Cowan saw to the appointment of the
200 workers at ₤ 3 per month, which made ₤ 600 per month.
Payments were made monthly to me by cheque and in three
months we had ₤ 1800 and could pay Smit his money!! Of the
200 workers, those who wanted could continue working in
Johannesburg for their own account, the others returned home.
Since then Leeuwkop has remained the land of the people to
1889 was a year full of events. The Missionary’s Directors
Harms and Haccius came to South Africa for an inspection
and in November the big conference was held in Saron. In
February 1889 two daughters were born to us in Rustenburg
at Miss Zimmermann. The oldest one died 8 days after birth
from a stroke, the second one is our Lissy, today Mrs Roos.
The village where she was born is called Bethlehem and the
building in which she was born was a horse stable, made up
for us. So Lissy was born in Bethlehem in a stable, as we said.
In 1889 there was no business on the “platteland”, but only
in Pretoria and Rustenburg. However, there were “smouse”,
traders, that came to Bethanie and the boer farms with goods
on ox wagons and sold these for money, cattle and produce.
I advised cousin August to open a shop in Bethanie. When I
promised him my help because he had no idea to do something
like this, he agreed.
1888 – 1889
I set up a contract that Director Harms signed and in terms of
which the Mission got a certain percentage but had no risk or
costs. I entered into a credit agreement with Beckett & Co.
Pretoria, a shop was built in Bethanie, goods were ordered,
and August became a merchant, but still continued living on
father’s farm Waaikraal and worked the land. I did his books
and correspondence against remuneration. This shop was the
foundation for the existence of cousin August and his family.
Trade with blacks and whites was doing well and Beckett
faithfully gave support. The Mission earned a total of about
₤ 1500 and more from the percentage for as long as cousin
August had the shop. I had the post agency since 1892 and
whoever fetched his post also bought something from August.
He became a man and wealthy through his shop.
As stated above, I did my mission work among the black
heathens by horse for 9 years. More and more came for
baptism classes in Bethanie so that I always had full baptism
classes until 1890 and small congregations were formed.
Sundays the church in Bethanie was very full and a bigger
church was needed – as we and Chief Jakobus saw. He called
together all the people in Bethanie and the vicinity and told
them, “You are now a big congregation here already, the
baptism school is full of learners and it will come the time
1890 – 1891
all of you and your children are Christians. The church has
become too small, we must have a big church, I want to have
a big church built and I expect you all to help me, Christians
and heathens. The voice of the assembly supported Jakobus
and his suggestion that every man had to look for ₤ 4 for
the construction and would have to help with his span and
his hands was accepted. Everything was accepted and it was
ordered that we should immediately start with the baking and
burning of bricks, taking turns, from the lower tribes for one
week each. That is how it happened. A few 100000 bricks
were formed and fired in a couple of months. Everybody was
willing, also the women were willing to carry water. Now it
was a matter of getting a plan for the church. A plan by an
architect was to cost ₤ 50. Then father and I heard, when we
travelled to Pretoria because of this, that there was a German
architect by the name of Kroll who was currently out of work.
We went to see him and he offered to develop a plan for ₤ 30,
to manage the construction and to help himself for ₤ 1 per day
plus meals and accommodation. We accepted this. I paid the ₤
30 for the plan out of my pocket and Kroll came to Bethanie
with two German bricklayers and the construction work was
1890 – 1892
It took a whole year and the building is still standing today.
German work. This is how we shared the work:
Chief Jakobus was in charge of the workers and
collected the money.
Father had to accommodate the 3 white men and
provide them with meals and pay them their monthly wage.
I had to do all the orders in Pretoria, Durban etc.
according to Kroll’s instructions and had to keep book of
All three of us had our hands full. Kroll himself built the pulpit
and the altar. Cousin Georg and another white man made the
pews. The women of Bethanie made the clay tiles for the
aisle and delivered them as burnt tiles. In the mountains near
Kipton there was enough clay. School children helped to carry
sand and bricks to the construction site. In May 1892 the
building was finished, except for the pews and it was decided
to consecrate the church because Kroll and the bricklayers had
completed their work and wanted to leave. The church had also
been paid, no collection had to be made, the people and paid
and had put together ₤ 3000. The chandeliers and the baptismal
font, the altar chandelier, the communion vessels and a nice
bowl for baptisms I had ordered from the company Herbert in
Berlin. Three large bells were underway.
We invited the Commander-General and Superintendent of
Naturelle Piet Joubert from Pretoria and the farmers around
Bethanie. He gladly came and many farmers came to the
festive occasion. It was a big and very nice feast. Piet Joubert
was very upbeat and he opened the feast and the door with a
big speech. This was on 18 May 1892.
In 1890 it was decided to build the church, construction work
took place in 1891 and the consecration of the church was done
on 18 May 1892. The bells and pews came later.
On 3 July 1891 two sons were born to us in Bethanie, Willi and
Gussi, both healthy and fresh.
1892 I started the Mosupatsele. All missionaries promised
contributions, but these remained promises. I even had to pay in
₤ 15 from my own pocket to kickstart it and on top of that I had
to write every month, collect all monies, in the end from 1200
readers, and keep the books.
After the consecration I decided to travel to Germany with my
wife and the children Theodor (8 years) and Lissy (4 years) after
I had obtained permission, but no travel money. The twins Willie
and Gussie remained with the grandparents and that went quite
well. But where should I get the money for the journey? On my
return journey to Africa in 1880 I got to know an Englishman
Mr Charles Cowan and met him again in 1886 when he settled in
the up-and-coming Johannesburg. And it was through him that I
managed to get the 200 workers’ jobs in the mines. He advised
me to give him money so that he could buy and then sell again
stands for me in Johannesburg in order to improve my income.
I borrowed ₤ 30 from Pistorius with interest and Cowan bought
me a stand in Pritchard Street for ₤ 15 and sold it again for ₤ 150.
With these ₤ 150 we travelled to Europe, the rest was lost
because of the negligence of Cowan’s sons. The journey took
us to Cape Town onto a Union Castle Liner and from there to
Southampton, London, Holland, Hannover, Hermannsburg,
Beckedorf to Lisbeth’s parents. On the ship Theodor fell against
a sharp edge and got a big wound on his head. In London we
lodged with Uncle Bösch, merchant, and spent some pleasant
days there. The journey went well, but we experienced quite a
lot. We left Africa in winter and arrived in the beautiful spring
in England and were then in Germany in summer. We stayed
until the end of October and commenced our return journey on
the Roslin Castle that was then called Rolling Castle because it
rolled over the ocean. Theodor again had a nasty accident and a
wound on his head. Because I had travelled at my own costs, I
only had to hold very few mission feast sermons, also because I
got a nasty throat. We did a short trip to brother-in-law Zahn in
Berlin, then to Bösches in Hamburg, to the Harz and many other
places. The journey to the Harz was particularly nice. I also was
in Leipzig, Osnabrück etc. The stay with Martins in Beckedorf
was ruined by Mrs Martins who had acquired the name “the
weed cook” from the Hermannsburg Mission. We were relieved
when we were in the train, returning to Holland. During the
journey across the Channel to England we got caught in a storm
and it was horrible. We were glad when we eventually returned
well to Bethanie in November after many experiences and could
The twins were well and first had to get used to father and
mother again. Grandmother had taken good care of them.
Then I quickly picked up my work again, also with the
Mosupatsela Newspaper, the school harp and the widows’ fund
besides all my work in the congregation.
In February/March 1893 we had a big rain that continued for
many days and nights and this caused major flooding of the
Crocodile River. The Hartebeespoort Dam did not yet exist
and also no bridges. The Magalies River, the Jukskei River,
the Swartspruit and the Crocodile River poured their water
through the port in the Magaliesberg and rose far beyond their
river beds and swept away houses, harvests, cattle, people,
fertile soil, animals, monkeys and snakes and large trees.
Everything backed up before Vliegpoort and the large plane on
this side of Vliegpoort was under water. The Kemsley family
on Landdrift lost everything and spent the entire night on a tree
that swayed to and fro in the storm and the next day we had
to fetch them out of the dirt to Bethanie. The same with the
Eckhart family. All the farmers along the river suffered great
losses and in Pretoria and Johannesburg clothing and other
goods were collected to help where there was need.
Cousin August was in Pretoria with two wagons and had
unyoked in the evening on a hill between the Magalies and the
1894 – 1895
There he stood as the water rose from both sides until it
reached the wagons and he was in the middle of the huge
water floods and was in great fear and agony during the pitch
dark night. Luckily the floods sank again and he was rescued
with his people and in a few days he and his people were back
home, all healthy, and gave offerings to thank God for saving
And so, in November 1894, 30 years had passed since the
establishment of Bethanie. And what a blessing! From
darkest heathenry to a large Christian congregation with a
big, beautiful church, schools, a village and many farms etc.
God’s blessing was visible in all directions. This is what
father wanted to celebrate with a feast of thanksgiving and his
grateful congregation also prepared to make him some gifts,
including a new robe, a high, new hat, a nice chair, a large
illustrated documentation of world history and much more. It
was a very nice, happy feast.
Theodor started his schooling at the age of 8 in Morgenson
on the other side of Rustenburg, where Cousin Hesse was a
teacher and so we had to travel to Rustenburg quite often,
which took us five hours there and five hours back. In these
years we were given a still born son and two years later a small
There was much digging in Johannesburg that grew bigger and
bigger. The English demanded a right of vote which Oom Paul
Kruger was not willing to give them. The so-called reformers
had the money and became rebellious and this resulted in the
“Jameson Raid” from Rhodesia that had been well prepared
but still failed. And so it was called, “Burgers! Opsaal!
Opsaal!” and just before Johannesburg the burgers managed to
stop Jameson’s troops just before Johannesburg and shot down
everything that did not want to surrender. The reformers were
accused of treason and they were sentenced to death but were
eventually pardoned against payment of ₤ 20 000 per person.
The whole world was in uproar because of this unexpected
After the Jameson Raid – the start of all evil – came the
horrible rinderpest from central Africa and destroyed
all livestock in Transvaal. When the plague was still in
Bechuanaland a brother (Niebuhr or Fitschen?) wrote to me
from Linokane, “Sell all your livestock quickly, nothing can
stop the plague.” I believed him, my father and the Bethanians
did not. I drove my cattle, about 40 head, to the house of the
Kaptein and said, “I offer you my cattle, come buy it, but the
plague will come and destroy everything.” Nobody believed
me and they bought my cattle. I just kept a few oxen, heifers
and cows on Klipkop, about eight, and dared to save them,
bought salpetre etc. to cleanse their blood and waited. Father
August and the Bethanians lost all their cattle although
they vaccinated repeatedly with the vaccine that had been
developed. All the livestock of about 8 000 head of the
Bethanie Location was destroyed!!
Upon the letter from Fitschen I had sold all my cattle and had
asked Cousin Heinrich Albers in Heidelberg to buy me a span
of donkeys with harness. He bought me ten in the Free State (9
mares and one stallion) for ₤ 60 and a donkey fruit cart. When
they arrived in Bethanie everybody laughed and scorned me.
At the time donkeys were unknown here. But when the cattle
died and all roads were closed, my span of donkeys was the
only means of transport. Everything had to be brought from
Pretoria with it and very soon it was paid off. The 9 mares
foaled and I could sell these foals at ₤ 10 – 15 per head in the
next years when in addition to the rinderpest the East Coast
Fever broke out. I had quite a number of donkeys on Klipkop.
Donkeys were in great demand and you could go everywhere
with them, there were simply no hindrances for them. And in
the war with the Britains that followed in 1899 – 1902 they did
not take away donkeys but only cattle and oxen. The donkeys
were a “paying investment”.
1897 – 1899
In 1897 my dear mother died. She had slipped on a stone in the
stream, had fallen into the water and got a cold. Sister Marie
also died in Eben Ezer and Aunt Marie, the mother of August,
died in Waaikraal. Provost Penzhorn died in Saron and Brother
Yordt in Eben Ezer became superintendent. Cousin August had
built a mill in Bethanie and his trade went well.
In 1899, in Bethanie, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of
the Hermannsburg Mission that had been established in 1849
by Louis Harms. Superintendent Yordt said it would have to
be in Bethanie because this was centrally located, had a big
church and congregation and because father could organise
the feast. Thus all preparations were done. I had thoroughly
drilled my brass band. Many people came together from
Saron, Rustenburg, Kana, Berseba, Eben Ezer, Hebron etc.
the congregations with their missionaries and also the whites
from Kroondal with their brass band. When the very big
congregation came from the West via Berseba with wagons
and on foot from Berseba, my brass band was on the spot and
played for the crowd until they had reached Bethanie. There
were tents and singing and brass bands everywhere. At that
time there were brass bands in Kroondal, Rustenburg, Saron,
Kana, Berseba and Bethanie. And the choirs!
The choirs sang and the brass bands played constantly. We had
organised accommodation and food, as well as services and
speeches. It was great and father was in his element and Chief
Jakobus had organised meat by slaughtering a couple of oxen.
Father never suspected that this would his last feast!
In October 1899 the three-year war erupted between South
Africa, or actually Transvaal and Free State, and England. The
boers marched over the border first. President Paul Kruger
and President Steyn against Millner and Chamberlain. This
thunderstorm had long been on the horizon. Now the British
came from Natal under General Buller and van der Kaap
under General Robberts along the railway lines. The boers
were under Paul Kruger, Steyn, Botha, Smuts, Kemp, De la
Rey, Beyers and others. At Elandslaagte, Colenso, Spioenkop
etc. severe battles took place, also at Modderspruit and other
places. But nothing helped, the British were too strong and in
May 1900 they were in Pretoria and had taken over the other
towns such as Kimberley, Mafeking and Bloemfontein. Then
a guerrilla war started and continued until mid-1902. The
British had the land. It is well known how the war unfolded. I
will rather write about what we experienced in the three years
in 1900, 1901 and 1902. The end was the peace agreement in
1900 started with a severe malaria epidemic under which we all
suffered, white as well as black. My dear father fell ill in March.
He had a very severe fever. Because of his big brother he refused
to take quinine. Nothing helped, he fantasized and died on 22
April and was buried by me on 23 April. Only Br. O. Behrens
from Eben Ezer could come. At the time many were ill with
malaria, even in Berseba. The Bethanie congregation “crawled”
behind the coffin because they were all so weak. My entire family
was well. Because of the war we could not get a doctor or other
medical supplies. When we woke up during the night we were
ice cold. It was horrible with many deaths. Father had always
thought that he was immune against malaria because he was a
smoker. Did not help him. He was 73 years old. Our children
were at school in Morgenson. There diphtheria broke out among
the children. All of them recovered except for our Gussi whom
we took home for the July holidays where he died because of
the consequences of diphtheria. He had simply become too weak
and had grass-green diarrhoea. He was nine years old. In the next
months our two-year old daughter also died. We had to rely fully
on our homeopathic medication. Father, son and daughter and
many members of our congregation in one year! It was difficult!
So, father had worked in Bethanie for 36 years, had always been
healthy and now had to die of malaria! We had all become dull
and weak because of the [fever] attacks.
The commandos of the boers and the British moved through
Bethanie or passed it. De Wet, followed by the British, moved
over the Olifants to the Rustenburg Dish, where they were
divided in the “fat” and the “lean” camps. The former moved
over the Crocodile River to Pretoria District, the lean camp
moved via Bethanie to the salt pan in the Pretoria bushveld
where they rested for a few months and then returned to the
Free State. In Bethanie they behaved well, were hungry and
tired, but did not rob us but bought from us what they wanted.
The boer commandos took oats, maize etc. against “Goodfors”
from commanders and officers. We never got a penny for
In December 1900, a commando under Kemp and Beyers
came through Bethanie during the night and set up camp near
Makolokoe. The next night they moved up the mountains on
this side of Sterkstroom just above Marikana and let a convoy
of 250 wagons from Pretoria to Rustenburg pass peacefully
into the mountains. Then they shot from a hiding place a few
animals of every span and in this way brought chaos into
the entire convoy, shot the accompanying troops and seized
everything. The place is called Moordnek to this day where
there is a small cemetery along the road. We could hear the
canons in Bethanie. The English convoy had travelled from
Jericho along the Olifants to Zoutpansdrift and there they burnt
all my wheat and houses. My entire harvest!
A convoy under a British general suddenly came from
Magaliesberg to Bethanie, threateningly set up his canons
opposite the Bethanie village and said that he had come to
destroy the mill. Upon my request he was satisfied by removing
irreplaceable machine parts and moved off after having mixed
all available wheat with dirt on the street. All weapons had to be
handed over in Bethanie and were brought to Rustenburg on two
wagons. 1900 was a very unsettling year! Every now and again I
hid private, congregation and school money at different places in
the floor and waited to see what the future would hold for us. We
also hid all kinds of food, lights, salt, sugar and other things.
It was on 6 January, Epiphany, the first bells had rung, I wanted
to go to the church, when Theodor came running: “Father, the
English are coming!” Correct, the first horse-riders had just
reached the stream. Nobody had known anything about this. Two
riders, one officer and the regiment’s pastor, stopped in front of
my house and said that they would give me fifteen minutes to get
ready, I would have to come along on foot or on horseback or
with a cart, the son would have to come along. I had my horses
harnessed, took whatever came to my mind and off we went,
out of the village on the top end where the entire convey had
set up camp. There the horses were unharnessed and we were
commanded to stay seated. I asked the officer whether they did
not have a pastor of the regiment to whom I could speak. He was
called and I explained to him the entire situation
and asked him to ask the general for permission to go back to
our home to organise everything before continuing the journey.
The pastor and the officer went with me and I had time to
organise everything with my wife. They gave her a protection
certificate and told her that she could rest assured that nothing
would happen to her. They took my shotgun and a bottle of
wine and I never heard what became of my shotgun. It was not
permitted to have a service. That afternoon half of the convoy
moved to the other side of Kipton and I had to go along. My
cart was always followed by about ten guards.
Soldiers of the convoy that had remained behind thoroughly
plundered all our houses during the night after my wife and
children, sister Christine, August and his family had been
packed onto two wagons together with everything that they
wanted to take along. They were taken to the camp where they
could stay in a tent. My wife, with the help of August, had
acted very wisely and had packed bedsteads, bedding, food,
chairs and tables on the one wagon while everybody travelled
in the small travel wagon. Our cattle, oxen, cows and calves
were taken by the Englishmen and they followed us and the
next morning they arrived where we were.
The morning after the plundering of our houses, the soldiers
gave the order that everything should be carried onto the street,
they wanted to burn down the houses. When everything was
outside, Petrus Sepeng, teacher, showed them the protection
certificate and they
left everything and went. The people carried everything back
inside. When the wagons with the Englishmen arrived where
we were I asked for permission to see my family. An armed
soldier had to accompany me. I asked for milk from my cows
for the children, this was refused although there were 11
cows to be milked. Theodor and I had spent the night sitting
up straight on the cart, guarded by an armed soldier who had
made his bedstead next to a wheel and then checked every now
and again whether the “boers” were still there. It was January
and there was dew and my two unsalted horses ate the wet
grass and within one week one of them had apparently already
We carried on across stones and bumps with no roads across
the plane to Selikatsnek and on the other side of the nek we
again set up camp, from there to Pretoria through Irene, where
we were given tents and where we came to live among many
boer families. On Sunday I held a service for them under
large willow trees and preached on the text, “Be patient in
tribulation, be constant in prayer” etc. (Romans 12).
We were given moist wood to cook and rations, looked for
stones and made a small oven. More and more boer families
were brought, from whom everything had been taken and
whose houses had been burnt down. Our livestock, wagon and
oxen had been kept in Pretoria.
On an (open) wagon Schepmann, Meyer and Friedenthal also
In the second week when the livestock died of a lung epidemic
and was only buried shallowly etc. etc. I went to the captain
in charge of the concentration camp, described our situation to
him and asked him for a letter and permission to go to Pretoria
to the Military Governor Maxwell. He received me friendly
and gave us the permission to settle in Pretoria. There we were
given a house that we first had to clean from all the dirt and
where we were then all accommodated. In the Irene Camp
many people died because all kinds of diseases broke out.
I went to Provost Marshall and asked that we missionaries
would be allowed to return home. Permission was granted. But
when I also asked for sustenance because our houses had been
plundered by the “Australian bushmen” under General Paget,
I was forbidden to take any food! Under these circumstances
I could impossibly return with my family because we were all
still weak from malaria. Schepmann and Meyer accepted to
return to their families in Berseba without food because only
they had been led away. So I asked for our horse cart with
eight oxen that were in Pretoria and the three of us drove to
Bethanie in order to organise our things, to fetch books etc.
and to bring them to Pretoria so that they would be safe. This
We had a military passport and arrived well. I took all
valuable books and money and brought everything to the
National Bank for storage. In Bethanie I was received with
great jubilation and they let me go away again with great
sorrow. I had to return to Pretoria. In the meantime everyone
from Kroondal had also arrived there, whose houses had
been horribly destroyed. Berlin missionaries had also been
brought to Pretoria. Yordt was left on Eben Ezer. Schepmann
and Meyer stayed in Berseba until the end of the war and
Meyer looked after Bethanie. August with his family stayed in
Pretoria and he started a vegetable trade. Missionaries Müller,
Wenhold and Penzhorn, Kahl and others were also prisoners.
My cattle, oxen, three horses, carts and wagons were taxed [?]
at acceptable prices, I was given cash which I brought to the
When they refused to give me food for the journey for my
family I suggested that they should allow me to travel to
my relatives in Natal and to stay there. General Maxwell
requested a written report from me on what had happened to
me. He sent this report to Lord Kitchener. The answer came,
“Give Reverend Behrens and family free railway tickets
to his relatives in Natal, where however they must support
themselves until the end of the war.” So, we left for Natal
as soon as everything had been organised. I had brought
everything for written work from Bethanie.
My God, my Father, whyle I stray
Far from my home, in life’s rough way,
Oh, teach me from my heart to say:
Thy will be done!
We were given 1. class tickets to Umtlalumi on this side of
Port Shepstone. Sister Christine was allowed to go with us.
Near Greylingstad we had to stop for a couple of hours and
were told, “Boers on the line!” We then also reached the place
where the boers had managed to derail a goods train and
robbed it after they had broken the rails. Then new rails had
been laid across the field on the side of the rails and this is
where our train had to go very slowly so that it hardly moved,
but eventually we managed.
That evening we arrived in Standerton where we should
stand for the night. I stood in the door, thinking about
where and how we would get dinner. Then a gentleman in a
major’s uniform walked along the train and greeted, “Hello
Mr Behrens, what are you doing here?” It was a Wesleyan
missionary who had become military pastor. When he had
heard everything, he took us all with him to a hotel and paid
for a lovely dinner for us.
The next day our journey continued across mountains and
through valleys and over emergency bridges alongside bridges
that had been blown up. At all stations many people came
to look at the train that had been shot at by the boers on its
upward journey. The wagons
had bullet holes everywhere, even some of the windows.
However, we got through well without being shot at. In
Umtalumi on the South Coast Br. Deppe’s son fetched us with
an ox wagon and took us to cousin Heinrich Albers in Port
Shepstone where we stayed for about three months before we
moved to Br. Deppe in Marburg, where we were given a small
room and food against payment.
It was good to be at the sea and to swim in the sea. Also
catching herring by the hundreds with a bag. We could see the
ships travelling between Cape Town and Durban and there
were pineapples and bananas aplenty. We could also visit
all relatives and friends, especially all Albers, songmaster
Ringers, Backeberg, Wichmann, Rössler etc. I could go
where I wanted without a passport. But I used my time well
for written work for the Mission. During the 1 ½ years in
Natal I managed to print the book of hymns as well as the
book of chorales. On an ongoing basis, my work went to
Hermannsburg in Germany where both books were printed.
And when the war ended at the end of 1902, thousands of the
printed books arrived in Transvaal where there was lots of
stock. At the time, I was chairperson of the books commission.
I had free hand to work and Aunt Christine often helped me
with linguistic expressions. Only now,
in 1940, was my hymn book revised after multiple editions of
thousands of books had been printed. So I had made good use
of my time.
At the end of 1901 we were invited by Reiches in Noodsberg
Road near New Hannover and we went there. Fritz Reiche
and his wife wanted to go to Germany for six months and
we should live in their house in the meantime and look after
their children. We did that and had free accommodation
and maintenance. We sent Lissy and Willy to the school
in Hermannsburg to Ahrens. We had already sent Theodor
with a befriended family to Hermannsburg in Germany to
Pastor Haccius because he was 16 years old and had to learn
something. He only returned in 1910.
The guerrilla war with the boers took a long time and when it
had eventually ended with the Peace Accord of Vereeniging
and when Reiches had returned from their journey to Germany,
we really longed for our home. But it took quite some time
until we were issued with the necessary passports for our
return to Transvaal. Only sister Christine and I were allowed
to travel, my wife and children remained with Reiches. In
Pretoria we bought household goods and were then received
with great jubilation in Bethanie. August and his family also
returned home and moved into father’s house. For sister
Christine I refurbished the small guest house that father and I
During my absence Missionary Meyer from Berseba visited
Bethanie, as did Br. Schepmann. Kaptein Jakobus had ensured
that order was kept, but unfortunately Petrus Sepeng, the head
teacher, had transgressed twice and had to be dismissed. I
took over all the work again. My dear father and I had worked
together in love and peace for 20 years from 1880 until 1900
and when he died in 1900 I reported to Superintendent Yordt
and fully entered the association again with my congregation.
The exceptional status came to an end.
When I had asked father to change this or that so and so, he
always responded friendly that he would like it to stay as it is
for as long as he lived and I fell silent. When I took up work
on my own in 1902, I immediately changed two things:
During father’s times the girls had to visit the children’s
school until they got married and in this way new children,
seven years of age, always joined but only the big, confirmed
boys left the school, causing the school to be overfilled. In this
way father may have had the virgins under control and at the
time they did not work. I immediately cleaned out the schools
of all confirmed girls and made place for small 7-year-old
Father had an annual meeting for the congregation that
was attended by all men and young boys and where there
were endless unpleasant events. I put an end to these meetings
with the full consent of Chief Jakobus and we asked every
village and every tribe to elect two men as representatives that,
with myself, the church leader, sexton, cantor and teachers
formed a council of 72 men that could be called together
whenever this was necessary. Now we had peace and quiet and
could get our work done. We dealt with reasonable men. The
big girls that had been dismissed, however, often became a
nuisance for the village.
During the war years Jakobus had bricks baked and burnt for
the construction of a new school house. When I returned, we
immediately started building. I used contributions from the
congregation to buy doors, windows and roof trusses and was
scolded for this by Director E. Harms because he said that
we should have collected additional money for this purpose.
But this is how it had been done during father’s times who
considered this to be a need of the congregation. Jakobus on
his side had delivered all bricks.
After the war, the schools were in a poor state and because I
wanted my children to learn proper German, I asked Pastor
Haccius to send me a suitable governess with me paying for
her trip to us and back and a salary of ₤ 5 per month. He found
someone and sent me Miss Schramm who stayed for 3 years
and then travelled back at my expense, got engaged with
teacher Wilhelm Ahrens and was then sent back at the expense
of the Mission to him, gave birth to two sons and returned to
Germany after his death.
In March 1903 Jakobus fell seriously ill because of fatty
degeneration of the heart. He became very fat and died in
Rustenburg at the doctor and his people mourned deeply. They
held Manotse in high esteem. He was relatively young. The two
of us worked together well in the best interest of the people. He
was also a Christian from the bottom of his heart. His twin sons
had been confirmed in 1901 and were now attending school in
The people appointed Daniel Moreit + Radigoapa [?] as regents.
His foster father Ramekoe and Makolokoe said of him, “You will
regret it, he is not upright and will cause much worry to you. I
know him, I raised him.” And that is what happened during the
three years of his reign. He wanted to be something big from
the very beginning and called an educated young man from
Potchefstroom, a certain Isaak Poho, ordered the people to pay
him 2/- per month for every child, haphazardly took children out
of school and let a huge pile of bricks come so that a school could
be built for the people at the house of the chief. What came of it,
can be read further down.
In June 1903 I became very ill with pneumonia. Unconscious and
with wild fantasies, I was taken cross-country to Rustenburg to
Dr von Gernet in whose house I lay for three months, severely ill,
lovingly cared for by my dear wife. And I could no longer walk
when I was eventually able to get up and when I was brought
home. The costs were over ₤ 40 and Dr von Gernet gave me
another three years to live.
But by the grace of God I lived another 40 years!!
In November my dear wife and I travelled to Port Shepstone
and spent a month at the sea. I had taken some writing work
with me in order to do something. Slowly but surely I regained
my strength, but the big work was just a little too much
for me and at the beginning of 1904 I asked for assistance.
The Director and Superintendent Yordt sent me the young
Missionary Siebelts as assistant. But he was so unbearable
that after the period of one year I called him one evening and
told him, “You write to Yordt what you want to and I will also
write that one of us must be transferred, either you or me, I am
tired of working together with you, I cannot continue in this
way!!” We did it and he was transferred to Jericho where he
stayed until 1940 and Brümmerhoff came in his place. When
I wanted to help him he once told me, “I do not want to be
looked after by a school master,” and nothing came of him.
The congregation in Jericho suffered under him. He was my
assistant in 1904.
At the beginning of 1904 the Education Department of the new
government sent Rev. Clark, Inspector of Schools, to me to
Bethanie with the promise to support our school financially if
we would register it.
I did it in order to destroy the counter-school plan of Regent
Raligoapa, alias Daniel More I. He was not allowed to
simply take pupils from the registered schools to his counterschool. His whole plan failed and one day he came and asked
me whether he could take over the Teacher Isaak Poko,
which I allowed him. Isaak became the principal and stayed
principal until he died in 1941 and we stayed dear friends.
He married Ottilde, the daughter of Manotse. The Raligoapa
School disappeared. The other missionaries did not want to
be registered. I received a couple of hundreds of pounds and
could buy everything that was necessary in the schools and the
teachers got their salaries and could do further training through
the courses that the government had organised for teachers.
The other missionaries held it against me that I had taken
this step but followed suit later on when they were put under
pressure by the congregations.
August Behrens built himself a new house in Bethanie under
contract, in which Missionary K. Buhr is now living, and
stayed in Bethanie. Siebelts then lived in father’s house and
from 1905 – 1913 Meyer lived in it and then it became a
When Siebelts was gone, I asked Superintendent Yordt to
give me Brother Meyer who was without work in Berseba. He
came and we shared the work. He took care of the ongoing
congregation work, such as baptisms, funerals, confirmation
classes, confessions, sermons, visiting the sick.
As owner of the station I had to do everything related to the
station, as well as insuring payment of the church and school
fees, the schools and teachers, Mosupatsela, widows’ fund,
bookkeeping as treasurer, representation of the Mission at the
Transvaal Mission Association – General Mission Conference,
station locations, Mosupatsela newspaper with 1200 readers
etc. Director Harms told me that he was not happy with me
doing more negative than positive work. But all of the above
had to be done because in a healthy body lives a healthy soul.
In addition, I also held some Sunday sermons and participated
in and chaired the church board and council meetings. My
time was completely used up. In addition, I had to see to the
collection of the fees for gardens on the land of the Mission
Father had died and his farm Waaikraal had to be transferred to
my name. Daniel More objected and refused to accept father’s
agreement to 25-year lease and wanted half of the farm,
although 25 years had passed since the agreement was reached
in 1879. Since this had not been done notarially and I did not
want to have trouble over earthly goods with my congregation,
I consented to dividing the farm under two conditions: 1)
That they would get the northern half that bordered on their
properties and that I would get the southern half bordering on
Berseba Mission land. 2) That we would also share the arable
land reasonably, that they would pay me money for my half
and would thus become the sole owners of water rights and
1905 – 1906
They agreed with everything and 1200 acres with ditches and
all arable land were transferred to the name of the people and I
got 1200 acres dry land in my name that bordered on Berseba
The people were tired of the reign of Raligoape and demanded
that Johannes from Lovedale would be nominated and
appointed as their king. That happened. He was still young and
married the daughter of the chief of Mabaatstad, Dorothea. He
only had one daughter and reigned from 1906 until he died
in 1942. Abraham was sent to Hebron as sub-chief, did not
do well, was revoked and died before Johnny. Johnny did not
succeed as chief, vaulted like a buck on numerous occasions
and was a heavy drinker. He did not mean a lot and I had much
trouble with him. He was also excluded because of No. 6 and
in Rustenburg jail because of brandy. He was a sorry fellow
and had no authority with his people.
For my sister I built a house from her inheritance portion
on the Mission land with the permission of Superintendent
Yordt. It cost ₤ 250. When Superintendent H. Behrens and
his advisors sold the Mission land in 1916/17 together with
all buildings, the Mission Management refused to repay me
for the house and thus it then belonged to the people and the
Hermannsburg Mission pocketed the money.
1907 – 1908
In 1907 I wrote a report in which I pointed out some
grievances in the field of missionary work. This report
– the official version – neither pleased the Director nor
Superintendent Yordt and I got a nose [?]. The latter wrote
to me, “Those who live in glass houses, should not throw
stones.” I responded that they should gladly throw stones at
my presumed glass house! I had written everything on purpose
so that they would summon me and so that I could argue my
case. This never happened and instead I received a letter in
which I was accused of having used church contributions of
the congregation to build a school and to do small repairs on
the guest house for sister Christine. I was able to justify myself
by saying that this had been usual business for father under his
exceptional state and that I had not received instructions to the
Willy and Lissy were confirmed by Müller in Kroondal. I sent
Willy to agricultural school in Potchefstroom and Lissy to the
Diocesan English College in Pretoria so that they would learn
In 1908 Superintendent Yordt died in Eben Ezer. I held the
funeral sermon in the church. He had been a dear friend of
mine since 1866 when he came from Germany and when I –
still at school at the time – started a friendship with him.
Director Egm. Harms asked every missionary to make a
suggestion for a new superintendent. Such letters should be
secret and confidential. I wrote: none of us missionaries should
be nominated as superintendent, instead an experienced pastor
should be found and nominated in Germany, similar to Pastor
Haccius, who had a heart for the mission and could be an
authority for all of us. Until someone had been found Brother
Chr. Müller should be acting superintendent.
The director and the missionaries met in Kroondal. He offered
the old missionaries Brother Schepmann. Everybody declined
and he then nominated Brother H. Behrens, Eben Ezer, as
superintendent. At the subsequent election of advisors, I
refused to be an advisor to Behrens although I was elected
twice and I also refused to state my reasons for declining.
Müller said the books and everything else was in Eben Ezer
and so it could also be Yordt’s son-in-law. The director hardly
greeted me, I was in his black books. I wrote him a letter,
excused myself with Brother Müller, went home and from
there to the General Missionary Conference in Bloemfontein
as representative of the Hermannsburg Mission. That was a
big and very nice conference of all missionaries. Only the
Anglicans did not attend because all of us other missionaries
called ourselves protestants. The Anglicans do not want to be
seen as protestants.
After the election of the advisors mentioned above, Brother
Ernst Penzhorn told me that he would have acted in exactly
the same way as I had done and would rather close an eye to
matters in his congregation than to call the little superintendent
for assistance. He gave me the advice to see to it that Meyer
would be transferred so that I would be alone in Bethanie
again because otherwise I couldn’t stand being in a doublebind between Meyer and Behrens. That was absolutely my
opinion too. So, when I had returned from Bloemfontein,
I wrote to Director Harms, “Please remove Brother Meyer
from Bethanie and give me my “positive” work again, I
hereby lay down all my “negative” functions and work. You
are not to have any complaints against me, and I shall show
the new superintendent all due honour. But I wish to be on
my own.” But Director Harms denied me this and said that
the congregation in Bethanie was too attached to Meyer etc.
I should wait until he returned from his inspection journey
to India, then he would see what could be done. I insisted on
a decision before then and when nobody responded to this, I
announced from the pulpit on the next Sunday that Missionary
Meyer would be their “moruti” from now on and I would leave
Bethanie. That caused a great stir and the congregation refused
to accept Meyer and to let me go.
Where I would stay, the congregation also wanted to stay
and I should not leave them. I promised to stay if they would
not split but would remain one congregation. Everybody
promised this. And that is what happened. From 1909 to
1928 nobody left and we all stayed together until in 1928 we
voluntarily joined Harms again. A separation occurred and the
congregation became independent. Superintendent Behrens
and his advisor tried in vain to sway the congregation. Meyer
stayed in Bethanie for three years and stayed in father’s house
without work and I discontinued all my “negative” work and
lived fully for my congregation and school.
Then it was demanded that I should leave my house, they
refused to rent it and threatened with legal action. I had to
leave my house and had to pay ₤ 8.10 court fees. Rönnebeck
moved in. It was a big happening when men and women and
children carried all my belongings from the house to a school
where I lived in very cramped conditions for a whole year. I
needed a house and during an assembly it was decided that
I should build on my farm Waaikraal at my own costs, the
congregation wanted to make and burn the bricks and do all
handyman jobs free of charge. I had to take care of the food
and buy everything and that is what happened. In 1910 I
moved in and lived there with my family until the end of 1926
and served the congregation from there, had a bedroom in the
office that was built
in Bethanie, ate with Sister Christine and when necessary stayed in
Bethanie for a couple of days.
During the night at 2 o’clock of 4 April 1943
I am sitting in the chair and am coughing thick phlegm, almost every
night for a full hour and I pray and recite psalms and hymns and thank
my Father in heaven that I can still see and hear and still have a good
memory at 89 years. If your eyes are clear as glass, what a gift this is!!
How grateful can I be!!! May our good God and Lord mercifully grant
me this until my end. Amen. Amen.
When Director Harms returned from India I received a letter from him
that he would be at Beckett on such and such a day and if we had not
returned by then they would take my house from me and the mission
farm Losperfontein from the congregation as arable and grazing land.
I wrote him a letter which he then also received at Beckett on that day
that he would achieve nothing by threatening us, the congregation
could do without that farm. But if he were to come to Bethanie as a
father and bishop of the congregation and would talk kindly and would
also make some concessions, everything could change for the better.
He did not come, took the farm from the congregation and appointed
cousin Georg Behrens to catch all livestock that came onto the farm,
took away the arable land and now everything was a lot worse than
previously. Cousin Georg soon found that this work harmed him and
To my great joy, Lissy got engaged to Johannes Grotherr. He
worked in South-West. My wife and Lissy visited him there in
1913 and from there undertook a journey to Germany. Willy
had finished in Potchefstroom and found work in Tzaneen.
Theodor worked for the government in Pretoria and the Cape.
I looked for and found loose ties to the Berlin Mission.
Superintendent Schloemann accepted, in case Pastor Haccius
would not achieve anything. Pastor Haccius came to Africa
and also to Bethanie and wrote to Captain Johannes – not to
me – that he would be coming to Bethanie in order to visit
Meyer and that he would like to talk to the congregation on
that occasion and that the captain should convene an assembly
of the congregation! The captain answered that he had the right
to call together the people, but not the congregation and that he
would have to talk to Moruti Behrens in this regard!! He then
wrote to me that he would like to talk to the congregation for
an hour on that afternoon. I answered, not just an hour but the
whole day!! I would make this known so that the congregation
would be well represented. (The congregation requested that
he would talk to us together and not separated.) He came from
Berseba. His interpreter was E. Penzhorn. I said from the
onset that I did not want to speak but only wanted to answer
questions that I would be asked. I kept the minutes.
Much was said. The congregation requested that he should
listen to them and all their complaints and should then rectify
what was not right. Haccius said that that was the obligation
of the local authorities, he had only come to see them and to
ask them, “Come back to us!!”- Then the congregation said
that if he had come from so far and now wanted to do nothing,
then they had waited in vain for him to come. And when he
remained with his refusal, he achieved nothing and left with a
saddened heart! Now everything was over, because after him
We maintained our loose ties to Berlin and in November
1913 I visited the first synod of the Berlin Mission in 1913 in
Botshabelo. The two teachers Karl Maboe and Jakobus Segale
did a course in 1912 in Botshabelo and were then ordained in
April 1913 in Bethanie by Superintendent Schloemann.
Meyer was transferred and Mahnke replaced him shortly
afterwards and took away our school bell. I bought a better and
bigger one in Lovedale which was then consecrated with great
participation and it was called “kagiso”. Many participated in
the collection for this.
Now we were 3 pastors. Karl and Jakobus did well, they were
also good teachers. Karl died of diabetes in 1917 already and
Jakobus is still alive but has now retired and is over 80. Both
were of great help to me.
The year 1914 was the 50th year after the establishment
of Bethanie Station and we had planned to hold a great
thanksgiving feast. My brass band practised much and bought
uniforms and instruments, flags etc. for this purpose. 44
players. The feast was to be held on 29 November because
this was the day on which father had arrived in Bethanie.
Then the great World War broke out in July 1914 and all our
plans turned to water! Even here in Transvaal a civil war
broke out and there was a battle at Zoutpansdrift and I had to
bury a fallen boer on our church yard in Bethanie [?]. I was
commanded to hand over my horse and for a whole year I had
to travel to Bethanie with two donkeys before my Spider. But
we could sit in peace on our stations.
In October 1914, in the first battle in South-West on the border
Johannes Grotherr , Lissy’s fiancé, fell. We only heard of this
in March 1915 from Durban, where prisoners talked about
the battle and incidentally someone who heard it and knew
us wrote us about this. Johannes had been commanded on the
German side. That was a hard blow for Grotherrs and for us
(his mother turned 90 in March this year and is in hospital in
Pretoria with a broken hip).
In spite of the World War the construction of the
Hartebeestpoort Dam was started here.
When conveyancing started I received a telegram from the
administrator of Transvaal that I should come to Pretoria
because he had important things to discuss with me. I went
there. Then he told me that the government needed the farms
of Bethanie for the Dam Scheme and wanted to buy them and
relocate the whole of Bethanie to Moretele near Ramakok
[?] and what I had to say about this. I decisively rejected
this as impossible and not right and even to the credit of the
government. I was asked whether I had another plan. I asked for
some time to think about this and drove home. I then developed
an exchange plan according to which the government would
get 16 000 acres of the farms Losperfontein, Wolwekraal
and Kreeport and Geluk right up to Bethanie and should in
exchange buy 16 000 acres to the west of Bethanie and hand
these to the Bakwena. I put this down in writing with all details
and boundaries and then also gave a verbal report in addition to
the written report. Administrator Rissik was pleasved with my
plan, he called the Bakwena Chief Johannes with his advisor to
Pretoria and presented my plan to them without saying that it
came from me and they were satisfied. Neither Rissik nor the
Bakwena changed anything on my plan and it was accepted as I
had developed it.
In the West the government bought the whole of Berseba
(Boshpoort 5000 acres) from the Mission and Losperfontein
(2000 acres) and from Allsis [?] (Manoka) the farms and out
of gratitude that the whole project could thus be resolved with
goodwill, the government gave the Bakwena an additional
2000 acres over and above the 16000 acres. Nobody ever
thanked me or gave me a penny of commission and I was
stupid enough not to ask for it!!!
The Hermannsburg Mission received ₤ 20000 and in the
years of the World War they could do a lot with this money.
But Superintendent H. Behrens and his advisor made the big
mistake that they also sold the rectangular property in the
village of Bethanie with the shop and the missionaries’ houses
so that the mission had no inch of land anymore. In this way,
the house of my sister Christine was lost without me getting a
penny for it from the Mission and it had cost ₤ 250!! – and the
Kaptein earns at least ₤ 60 per year from the shop. From 1916
– 1943 the Mission has lost ₤ 1680 through the loss of the shop
and the missionary is sitting in the house of the Bakwena at
their mercy. Nobody asked me for advice or for my opinion at
the time and nobody thought of the future. Gone is gone and
it cannot be restored. In 1928 I had difficulties in getting the
house for Missionary Buhr.
Mission Director Egmond Harms died in the year 1916. He
was found dead in his bed in the morning. He must have
suffered a stroke. We had been on familiar terms and he had
called me Wilhelm and I had called him Egmond until the
above happened in 1907-09 and I ended up in his bad books
instead of him calling me for a discussion to Natal. I only had
the best interests of the Hermannsburg Mission in mind.
Kroondal recovered after the Boer War and did not suffer
under the World War. It is a beautiful German village with a
church, school and church hall. Everything is moving forward.
Under the Dam Plan, the government also bought my 666
acres of Klipkop at ₤ 3 per acre in 1916 and with this money I
could pay the debt of the construction of my house and others.
This farm had been of great benefit to me from 1882 to 1916.
Bought cheaply and sold at a great advantage and in the 34
years it had supplied me with good harvests of wheat, maize,
oats and vegetables for my household, I never had a failed
harvest or damages under the blessings of the Lord!! So, I was
left with only my share of Waaikraal and lived there. And there
it was wonderfully quiet and in the mornings I could reach my
work in Bethanie within one hour because it was hardly 4 to 5
Father had given his farm to the Mission and the Lord our God
had guided us so that each of us had his own farm, the one at ₤
500 and the other at ₤ 300. Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget
not all his benefits!
In 1917 Moruti Karl Maboe died of diabetes and we all
mourned. The congregation elected the teacher Josef Mogatsi
as his successor. He was sent to the Berlin Pastors’ School
and after the examination he was ordained by myself and
Missionary Gottschling upon instructions by Superintendent
H. Schlöeman in Bethanie and is still alive and is doing good
work. So, until now three indigenous pastors have come from
the congregation in Bethanie and all three of them are good
men. Brother Ernst Penzhorn held the sermon on our mission
feast in 1917.
We were stripped of our superintendency over our schools
because we were Germans. All our protest helped nothing.
It was war after all and you had to comply, although I was
a citizen of the Z.A. Republiek since 1876 and had all my
papers for citizenship rights. The Germans of the Reich were
interned at Fort Napier near Maritzburg. We were not molested
throughout the entire war, even the school inspectors came to
us as before.
The year 1918 brought us the great flu epidemic. The air of
the entire world was simply contaminated. Many died, also in
Bethanie and in the whole of South Africa. My Willie was in
the Free State and was almost infected when Ernst Lüneburg
died there. In Bethanie I had to share the holy communion with
a very ill brother of Moruti Maboe and when I left the house I
felt that I had infected myself. I became rather ill and had to lie
in Waaikraal for many months, but only needed homeopathy
and recovered by the grace of God.
In 1917/18 Theodor was also at home without work and started
chicken breeding. Everything was started big and ended very
small and I suffered a couple of hundred pounds of damages.
In 1917 Dr Bornebusch and his family also spent a whole
year with us on Waaikraal. Of course, he paid for everything,
caught fish and went hunting. Willie was the manager of a
farm in Rhodesia, was dismissed and then got a job in Vrede.
Lissy had a small shop in Waaikraal, her customers came from
the other side of Sterkstroom.
Besides the above flu epidemic, we twice had smallpox in
Bethanie in the early years and constructed a provisional
hospital on the other side of Letsopane near the small round
mountain for the infected. In all those years we never had a
case of diphtheria.
1919 – 1921
But the water often became so bad to drink that especially
the children became ill and died of dysentery and I asked the
government for a borehole. Good water was found near the
mill and since then dysentery stopped.
Lissy got engaged to the young Mr Franz Roos and married
him in 1919. I did the wedding. Initially I was against this
marriage. But Lissy has a good husband and we like him.
A subsidiary of Saron, Monamara distanced itself from the
congregation of E. Penzhorn and asked to be admitted by us.
We rejected this.
Then the residents of a subsidiary of Mosetla could not
reach agreement with Missionary Haske from Mosetla on
church construction and asked to be admitted by us. I sent
the disputing parties to Superintendent Behrens and wrote to
Missionary Haske. We also rejected this request for admission.
Then in 1926 there came a deputation from Rama, subsidiary
of Poloria and told us their entire tale of woe with the young
Missionary Mahnke who had now excommunicated about
50 fathers of families. After we had tried everything to bring
about reconciliation and after everything had failed, we
decided to serve them in Rama from January 1921.
1920 – 1921
We had thoroughly investigated the Rama matter and the Rama
people had often been to Mahnke and H. Behrens and had
asked for readmission in vain and because they were without
fault, we served them from January 1921 to May 1942. upon
instructions by their captain they had only pulled down a wall
in the night from Sunday to Monday which the other party had
built through the small church with the consent of Mahnke
and as a result he did not serve them for two years and banned
them. More on the story of Rama to follow.
In February 1921 we had the Berlin Synod in Potchefstroom.
At the conference of missionaries the matter of Rama was
also raised and the vice-chairperson Missionary Kuschke said
that Missionary W. Behrens had acted incorrectly and was in
the way of the desired approximation and cooperation of the
Berlin and Hermannsburg Mission. He had not investigated the
Rama matter, nor had he requested the matter to be resolved,
but simply gave his judgment. I said that if I was in the way
that could be changed easily by me moving out of the way and
by resolving the loose ties to the Berlin Mission for myself and
my congregation and that is what happened and that is how it
1921 – 1922
Cousin August Behrens had left Bethanie and had bought
property under Magaliesburg near Oorsaak and had established
a trade store in Kroondal and leased out Bethanie.
In 1921 I bought Boshpoort 16 for about 200 Bakwena, each
one of them paid ₤ 36 that had to be paid by 1929 and were
also paid by then. The owners call this farm Makaboma, it
borders on Berseba.
I tried to convince the Bakwena of Bethanie and told them
that it would be to their advantage if the former store of cousin
August would become a shop of the people with shares and
dividends. I put in great effort, but it failed because of the
stupidity of Captain Johnny who had no understanding of a
With Johnny as captain we had not really moved forward.
He drank and did what was not good. Because of unlawfully
purchasing and owning brandy he came into conflict with the
police and ended up in the Rustenburg jail where he even had
to scrub the floors. For example, when he returned home drunk
from Rustenburg one evening, he ordered all young people to
find and kill all village pigs, even the fat ones, in the stable.
There was much commotion that night and it was the evening
before a big confirmation and dampened the entire sense of
festivity. On Sunday morning the
1921 – 1922
women had to take care of their dead pigs so that they
would not rot. This matter ended up in the Rustenburg court.
What good comes from a drunkard? We experienced many
a sad thing with this person. His twin brother Abraham in
Hebron was not much better either. I put in much effort in
implementing a law on beer brewing and selling in Bethanie
and particularly a law on work by the big girls. Everything
failed because of the bad Captain Johnny who was the first to
infringe upon the laws. He did little good because he drank.
He died in 1941 and Daniel More II became the regent because
Johnny had no son.
Because I had cut the loose ties to Berlin in February 1921
in Potchefstroom because I did not want to be in the way
of an approximation between Berlin and Hermannsburg, I
considered ties with the Hannover Freikirche. Everything
seemed to succeed, but then Hermannsburg protested, handed
over the so-called “files”, but refused to sell me a copy and
did not even send me a copy and managed to intimidate the
Freikirche and they declined. The Hermannsburg Mission did
not do anything to get us back, probably thinking that I was
old (70) and that after my death everything would become
1922 – 1925
I will describe now what happened in the years 1922 to 1925
without mentioning exact dates because it would be too much
work to look up everything. In about 1922 I was called to Cape
Town by the Native Affairs Commission and they granted me
the journey free of charge without telling me the reason. When
I reported there, I was asked by the chairperson Reverend Mr
Robertsons about the small church congregations of natives
that had cut their ties to all churches. I was unprepared and
had had no chance to think about this and could thus give few
answers. They should have asked me to come prepared. I had
two weeks of holiday and a free trip and could look at Cape
Town and surrounds.
After a successful hernia operation in the Afrikaans Hospital
in Pretoria sister Christine got an ulcer on the left side and
suffered much pain. It turned out to be a cancerous ulcer and
she died of it in July 1924. She was a good, dear sister and we
were really fond of each other. She had run the household of
our old father from mother’s death in 1897 until April 1900,
she helped in the congregation wherever she could, she gave
sewing classes and I visited her frequently.
After she had died, I moved into her house until I relocated to
Brits in February 1927.
My dear wife got the uncurable shaking palsy, a type of
Huntington’s disease, and was no longer in control of her
limbs that were constantly shaking. Her grandmother was
said to have had the same disease. This carried on for many
years. When I moved to Bethanie after the death of my sister
Christine, I left my wife in Waaikraal with Franz and Lissy
and paid them ₤ 3 per month for food and maintenance. But
when I discovered that Lissy took little care of her mother, I
fetched her to stay with me in Bethanie, built a room next to
sister Christine’s house and hired a young girl Helene Joubert
to take care of my wife and to run our household in Bethanie.
Helene took good care of my wife and I could do the work in
the big congregation. Nothing helped, not even the hot springs
in Warmbad where Helene and I took her in August 1926. She
died suddenly on 12 September 1926, faithfully cared for by
Helene. Lissy now has the same disease as her mother, even a
little worse, and Franz Roos suffers quite a bit.
1919 – 1943
Theodor got engaged in Lydenburg to a Dutch nurse Tiene
van Dyk. I married the couple in Wilhelmsruh, Waaikraal.
They then lived wherever Theodor could find work after the
big World War in Colenso, Durban, Johannesburg etc. until I
bought them a house and an erf in Florida in 1926 and he had
work in Johannesburg. The oldest daughter is called Olga,
the second, Wilhelmine, was born in December 1926 and I
baptised her in the Johannesburg church with the permission
of Pastor Hermann. The third child, a son Theodor junior, is
now 12 years old. Theodor and his family have been living in
Pretoria since 1949 and he does different work.
Willie got married in Vrede to an Afrikaaner Stien Zietsman,
a dear person, they have one son who carries my names. In
1926 Willie bought a farm, had livestock and sheep, but lived
in Vrede where Stien worked in a shop. I was at their wedding.
She still had twin sons but they both died.
Franz Roos and Lissy lived in Waaikraal until 1926 and then
moved to Landdrift on the Crocodile River where they are
still living now in 1943. They had four children, Franz, the
youngest one, died in 1942; Erika, the oldest one, is married
and has two daughters.
In 1925 I was invited to the 50th anniversary of Swiss
Missionaries to Valdesia near Elim outside Louis Trichardt.
The old Brother Creuz, as well as Bovet and Bourging [?] had
often invited me to look at their work in the North. At last I
managed. Rev. Dörnam from the Presbyterians, Rev. Eva from
the Wesleyans and Rev. Daniel from the Dutch Mission were also
invited. We drove there in a convoy and were received in Elim by
Miss Hess, the matron of the hospital and were accommodated
together in the so-called Kuli-House. It was a nice feast.
Everybody from the Swiss colony was there, many black
Christians and many heathens came. There were also delegates
from Switzerland and from Lorenzo Marques. The feast was held
From there I visited Tshakome, Brother Gieseke’s station,
returned to Elim and looked around there and spoke to Miss
Hess on that evening who spoke good German, while everybody
else was speaking English or French. This lady had made
the impression on us four missionaries that she would be a
hardworking missionary’s wife. I drove to Tshakome with a Miss
Rüger. The wife of Brother Gieseke is a sister of Missionary Paul
1924 – 1926
Miss Hess gave me the span of donkeys to get me to the
station. Never in my entire life have I seen such stubborn
mules! They stopped when they wanted and kicked. It was a
One day in 1924-25 Mr Moorcroft Edwards came to me and
asked me whether he could prospect for platinum because it
was assumed that there were platinum deposits along the entire
Magaliesberg, but mainly on the northern side of the so-called
black heads. And he wanted to start with my farm. I gave him
permission and instead of platinum he found a gold mine about
500 paces to the South of my house on Waaikraal and this
was rich. Edwards founded a syndicate and later the Edwards
Waaikraal Gold Mining Company with 60 000 shares and they
bought the farm together with the gold mine for ₤ 16 000 in
cash. I gave Theodor ₤ 3 000, Willie ₤ 3 000, Lissy ₤ 3 000.
I paid all my debt, gave the Berlin Mission ₤ 150, the Swiss
Mission ₤ 50 and built a chapel in 1928 for about ₤ 500 on a
property that cost ₤ 300 and gave this to the Hermannsburg
Mission together with a bell, pews, harmonium etc., totalling
about ₤ 900.
1926 – 1928
I bought 400 acres of Vogelfontein from L. Krüger, found
out too late that the piece was not cut off and in order to be
the boss I had to buy out all other shareholders in Portion
K and then Portion J for myself and Lüneburg so that I then
had a total of 1 200 acres in Vogelfontein and had put all my
money into this, which had not been my intention initially. But
according to everything that I knew and that I had heard and
seen I thought that there would also be minerals and that the
money would be regained in that way. This did not happen and
in 1942 I had to sell everything again at a great loss. Edwards
had given me the syndicate shares as a gift. I sold 10 of these
at ₤ 500 and bought the house that is on four erven in Brits and
where we are still living today. It was not wise of me to put my
money into Vogelfontein and that caused me great loss, worries
and distress because I had to borrow money on this and pay
1924 – 1926
Franz Roos and Lissy bought a part of Landdrif at the
Crocodile River and built a large, beautiful house on it. Willie
bought a farm near Vrede for agriculture, livestock and sheep.
For Theodor I bought a large erf in Florida with a house and
many trees for ₤ 1 250 so that every child had property and
owned land and me too. What an unexpected blessing of
God! What the Lord had promised in Matthew 19 when Peter
asked, “See, we have left everything and followed you. What
then will we have?” was fulfilled. The Lord Jesus promises a
hundredfold reward!!! My father gave his farm for the Lord
and, see, the Lord guided it in such a way that father got
Waaikraal and a large congregation, I got Klipkop, and I and
my children could acquire land tenure from the Waaikraal
gold mine. What He – God – promises, he definitely fulfils!
His word is true, He is a faithful and merciful God! Praise the
Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits! One farm and in
return five people had enough to survive: father, myself and
my three children. Given by God!!
Everything had to come the way it did, so that Jesus’ promises
could be fulfilled!!
Franz and Lissy had to leave Waaikraal in 1926, I moved to
Brits in February 1927 into my new house.
As already stated above, my dear wife died on 12 September
1926 when we had just heard what would become of the gold
mine and had bought ourselves a car. We had also agreed that
we would give every child ₤ 2 000 and, in this way, wanted to
help them stand on their own feet in life. Then she suddenly
fell very ill and died. I had big problems with our estate
because we had married in community of property. Everything
had to be sorted out at great costs by an attorney in terms of
the new laws.
From September to February 1927 I still stayed in Bethanie.
Helene continued to run my household and I could do my
work in the congregation without interruptions. But on
Christmas day I really felt lonely and on Christmas Eve I
took the decision that I wanted to get married again in spite of
my 72 years and my great workload in Bethanie. I could not
expect the young Helene to stay with me forever and I did not
and could not give up my work in the congregation. But alone?
That was impossible.
I felt that I had to get away from Bethanie for a while and
decided to do a journey to Natal to Brother Stielau. I travelled
there by rail. I gave my car to Theo and his family for this
time, so they could use it to travel wherever they wanted to.
The chauffeur was Steffens Ralise [?] from Bethanie. When
I returned from Natal I had the unpleasant story with Otto
Harms and Helene who accused him of No. 6. The matter
ended up in the Brits court, was dealt with unilaterally and
nothing came of it, although O.H. was guilty. And because of
this matter Otto and Bertha Harms and Cousin Georg and his
family avoided me although it had not been me but Helene
Joubert who had laid the charges. Nobody believed her. I sent
her back to Florida to Theodor, and Christine Ratlou cooked
for me in Brits and a Karoline Phatshoam in Bethanie and in
February I moved to Brits with all my things and did my work
in the congregation in Bethanie from there and travelled up
and down by car.
When I thought about the necessary re-marriage, I kept on
thinking of Miss Bertha Hess in Elim whom I had noted during
the anniversary in 1925 in Valdesia. After I had done some
enquiries and had heard that she was still there and was still
free, I wrote a letter to her in
March 1927 and proposed to her. She asked for some time to
think about this but after a brief exchange of letters she agreed
and after 2 months of correspondence she came to Pretoria
in May and we got engaged in Bourging’s house in Pretoria.
I was very happy and we were very happy until now, at the
end of 1943. Not for a single moment did I ever regret having
married again and I thanked God who gave me my Bertha, a
German-speaking Swiss of 35 years who had been in Africa
for 5 years.
After our engagement we did a journey by car to Bergheim,
Rustenburg, Rama, Bethanie and Brits and then wanted to go
to Theodor in Florida, but Tiene, Theodor’s wife, was quite
horrible on the telephone and said that, “she did not want to
have a foreigner under her roof” and that is how it stayed. We
never visited them and have become estranged until today.
Bertha was in no way guilty but I had already experienced
something with Tiene before my engagement in my house in
Brits where I accommodated her with her children for reasons
of friendliness, she hit my girls and Theo then wrote to me that
I had treated his wife “worse than my kaffir girls”.
After the engagement, after the journey and after celebrating
our birthdays on 16 and 18 May my “Schatzi” travelled back
to Elim in order to prepare everything and our wedding was in
Pretoria on 7 July 1927. Pastor Sask married us in the German
church. Cousin August and Hesse were my bestmen, Emma
Behrens and Miss Bera Liegme (Swiss) were the bridesmaids
of Bertha. After the ceremony we had lunch in the Residential
Hotel with 30 invited guests. It was quite nice and cost me ₤
13. Of my children only Lissy was there.
After lunch we left by car to Natal and arrived on the same
evening at the Crown Connection [?] Hotel in Heidelberg.
Our driver was Stephans Raplise. The next day we reached
Volksrust, then continued to Ladysmith where we stayed
for the Sunday. Then we travelled to the Missionary Home
Durban. The evening before we arrived in Durban we had
three punctures shortly after one another. Then we travelled
along the coast to Port Shepstone, Izotsha, Margate and stayed
at Auguste Bense from where we visited all friends. On the
way back we stayed over at Stielaus and Reiches. The return
journey went well and we arrived in good time in Brits for all
the preparations for the confirmation in Bethanie.
After the confirmation in August we travelled to Elim for
a visit. This journey was nice and very pleasant, we were
welcomed everywhere with much love.
So we stayed in Brits and served the congregation in Bethanie.
Then the congregation openly expressed the desire to again
join a missionary association during my lifetime and then also
without me and it was decided to return to Hermannsburg. We
approached Superintendent Jensen who in turn approached
the Mission Director Schomerus who was in Africa at the time
and he then came in August 1828 [1928?] and admitted the
congregation and the congregation got Missionary K. Buhr
from Phalane and got him as a pastor. He first stayed in my old
house, later got the house of Cousin August and his parents
moved into the house of my sister Christine. We lived in love
and friendship with Mr and Mrs Buhr until 1943 and the
congregation had an active man in Buhr. I still held sermons
often in Bethanie and we took Holy Communion there. The
brass band and choir often came to Brits for our birthdays and
contact with Bethanie remained good until 1939.
From Bethanie I had often held services under trees for the
workers in Brits and, since I now lived in Brits, I planned to
build a chapel here and to start regular services and also a
school for the children. In 1927 I had sufficient bricks made
and burned on the erf which I had bought from Friedenthal for
₤ 300 and then built a chapel that cost about ₤ 500 and that
was completed in 1928 and could be consecrated with great
participation from Brits and Bethanie. It was the first church
in Brits. The whole erf was fenced in, I had a bell brought
in from Germany, bought pews here, pulpit and lectern were
bought here etc. I got an indigenous teacher and had up to 50
school children and church attendance on Sunday was good.
On Christmas Eve we handed out gifts and the church was full.
The workers from all congregations came. And this continued
for many years until I handed over everything, worth about
₤ 900, to the Mission Director Wickert of the Hermannsburg
Mission and the whole work was transferred to the missionary
in Eben Ezer. Chapel about ₤ 500, erf ₤ 300, bell ₤ 30, pews ₤
25, harmonium ₤ 15 etc.
So I remained only with Rama because Schomerus and the
congregation could not reach agreement and the latter asked
me in 1928 to remain their pastor and I stayed there until the
end of June 1942. My dear wife learnt driving from Attorney
Wicht and we let Stephans Ralise go because he had started
drinking. Since then she has been driving the car and has now
travelled almost 80 000 miles. We were in Natal and Elim
a couple of times, once in West-Transvaal, once in Lorenzo
Marques, in Vrede and all these years often in Bethanie and
In 1929 we exchanged a Sedan Chev for our open Chevrolet
and have now already travelled over 66 000 miles with the
new Chev and it is still in good condition. Thank God, we have
not had an accident so far. My dear wife drives carefully and
From 1930 until about 1935 there was a great depression
in South Africa. We absolutely could not succeed in selling
Vogelfontein and the interest rates rose and it was hard to make
1932 – 1939
In 1932, in March, we went to Elim and my dear wife had to
undergo an operation but this went well. We were there for one
The government had advanced ₤ 13 000 to the tribe of the
Bakwena ba Mogopa in order for them to pay the money that
they had borrowed from private persons with interest and
to pay back debt that they had on two farms that they had
bought, Nooitgedacht in the Rustenburg District and Klein
Elandsfontein in the Brits District. The Bakwena asked me
to take the matter of the levy on the repayment of the ₤ 13
000 into my hands. I accepted with the consent of the Natives
Affairs Department that gave me free hand but imposed a limit
of ₤ 14 for every Mokwena over the age of 21 years which was
much too much, I had suggested ₤ 10. I had actually suggested
to sell three farms: the two and Olievenpoorts. But they first
wanted to try a levy. I collected over ₤ 5 000 with my helpers,
kept all books and put in much effort and work. But because
the people of Hebron, Jericho and Olievenpoort were very
unwilling to pay and annual interest was payable on ₤ 13 000,
the whole matter made little progress over eight years and
eventually the government
1932 – 1934
had to accept my first suggestion and had to accept the three
farms for the debt but allowed the Bakwena to buy these back
from the government whenever they wanted. In addition to the
three farms it also took Uitvalgrond near Oskraal so that the
people from Hebron would also lose something. At an assembly
of the people in Brits everything was accepted in this way, was
put in writing and was signed. Over the past seven years of the
levy I had been given 10% of the money collection, but half of
that I had to pay my helpers. And when the levy came to an end
through the agreement, nobody thanked me for my work.
In 1936 to 1937 we started building a church in Rama. The
congregation agreed that every family father and every young
man would have to pay ₤ 2, every widow and every spinster
₤ 1. I should keep the cash and do the books. Everybody that
was at home should also have to help with the spans and their
assistance as handymen. The men and women at home baked and
burned bricks so that the construction work could start. A good
bricklayer from Elim, Matheus Mayesa, did the construction
work for ₤ 40 and in 1937 we could consecrate the church. But
there was neither a ceiling nor pews and it had not been plastered
on the outside because the young men in Johannesburg did not
pay. We needed about another ₤ 200 from them.
1938 – 1942
Mrs Buhr died in 1938, the parents of Brother Buhr had
already died in the years before. In 1938 the story with the
two teachers Moshe Kan and Phillip Mashele already started
who wanted to listen neither to the captain nor to the schools
inspector and when they were dismissed they started their
own schools and withdrew from all supervision. They had
their supporters in Bethanie and Johannes Le collected money
and appointed the Jewish Attorney Sive in Brits to defend
their unfounded matter. They distanced themselves from the
congregation, also turned against Brother Buhr, although he
was without guilt. They established a park [?] church in the
house of Niklas Mackeley and destroyed the big church in
June 1939 and caused damage to the amount of ₤ 900!!
Johnny the captain was too weak to intervene, he died and
Daniël More II (Phiriafeta) was nominated as regent and was
also unable to put an end to the matter and thus this matter
is still dragging on today in 1943. The government also did
nothing. The leaders except for the two teachers are Niklas
Machele, Joseph More, Kornelis Sepeng, Konrad Makutle and
1939 – 1943
In September 1939 the big World War broke out and today in
April 1943 when I am writing this it does not seem that peace
will be restored any time soon. Very sad that the European
nations are mauling each other in this way.
In the years 1940, 41 and 42 the following friends and relatives
died: Aunt Dora, Uncle August and the Missionaries Ernst
Penzhorn in Saron, H. Behrens in Eben Ezer, F. Jensen in
Linokana and H. Wenhold in Kana. We went to the funerals in
Saron and Eben Ezer and also to the burial of Aunt Dora and
the funeral of Cousin August in Kroondal. The latter had only
been ill for a short time. The Hermannsburg Mission suffered a
great loss of staff with four missionaries dying and actually all
four were not old yet.
In Natal, our close friends Pastor Stielau and his wife died at
an old age.
At the beginning of 1942 I was quite ill and thought that my
end had come. But I improved when winter came and by the
grace of God I am still alive now in April 1943 and am fairly
well. My organs were not affected, I had periodical pain
in the entire body and was very weak. In particular, I took
the following medication: Pylosan and Phosphorene, then
Lycopodium and Rhus tox, Sulphur acidurn and Crataegus.
1940 – 1943
In 1940 we got electrical light from Pretoria, really something
big and wonderful! It is costing us about 10/6 for our house,
but a little more since we also had a radio from May 1942.
This cost us ₤ 15. I bought this with ₤ 10 from Willie and ₤
5 from Theo. Our monthly fixed costs amount to ₤ 1.10 as
follows: sanitary 10/6, light 10/6, water 6/6. Then milk with
about 15/-, bread 15/- = again ₤ 1.10. Wage/domestic worker
10/-, a boy 20/-, vegetables and meat again ₤ 1.10 etc. The
annual rates on the house and four erven about ₤ 9. And the
At the beginning of 1942 when I was so very ill and thought
that my end had come I found a purchaser for Vogelfontein
through Mr Ladie and the purchaser offered ₤ 2 600. In order
to get rid of all debt, I agreed, especially since in this time of
war you never knew what would come. I sold the farm with
the mineral rights for this price and when I had paid all my
debt: bond with the Land Bank, bond on the house and all
other debts and loans, I had very little left. After settlement
H. Lüneburg still owed me ₤ 42 on Irma which I abated. But
he still owed me approximately a further ₤ 40 on material,
a donkey etc. of which he should pay me ₤ 1 to ₤ 2 etc. per
soon as he could and had something. See letter and invoice
in my copy books of 1942. Now he has nothing. In 1928 I
had paid all his debt in Rustenburg, two pieces of land of
Vogelfontein bought with my money but transferred to his
name and I took over a bond of his for ₤ 208 at only 5%
interest but since 1928 he had not paid a single penny of
interest but had already taken up a loan of ₤ 100 with the
Landbank where the interest again was a problem. So, nothing
came from the sale and settlement. I tried everything to make
something of the minerals that are there, but I did not succeed
and I had to sell with damage and loss: “Inspectors also make
mistakes!!!” I should never have bought Vogelfontein but in
order to be the boss over the first purchased piece I had to buy
out others and all other co-owners so that I had to put all my
money into the farm and eventually sold everything at a loss
and was happy in the end to have got off lightly.
After my illness at the beginning of 1942 I could only hold
the services when sitting and with the help of Moruti Segale
I was only just able to confirm the last confirmands in Rama
in my 88. year of life. It simply did not work anymore. The
congregation in Rama refused to return to Polonia and wanted
to join the Berlin Mission. Superintendent Hoffmann from
Botshabelo was prepared to accept them. Then Mission
Director Wickert and Superintendents Dehnke and Tönsing
interfered and wrote to Superintendent Hoffmann instead of
going to Rama with suggestions on a re-unification and an
attempt at changing the mind of the congregation. Eventually,
the two superintendents came to Brits and upon request I gave
them a letter to the church council in Rama that was to serve
as an introduction and with which they were satisfied. But
they said nothing more, asked nothing, also did not ask for
advice or anything else and hence I said nothing. They went
and without making suggestions and plans they simply asked
whether they wanted to come back. When they answered with
“no” the meeting was closed. They had known that already and
it would not have been necessary for them to go there.
1854 – 1906
My curriculum vitae
1854 born and 1857 to South Africa with my parents
1857 – 1863 on Ehlanseni and Emhlangane in Natal
1863 to 1873 at school in Hermannsburg Natal
1873 March until March 1875 with my parents in Bethanie
1875 March until June 1880 at the Mission House in Hermannsburg
1880 – 1900 April, 2. Missionary under father in Bethanie
1900 – 1909 Missionary in Bethanie congregation. Boer War
1910 – 1928 Pastor of the separated Bethanie congregation
1928 – 1942 Pastor of the Rama congregation
May 1880 ordained and engaged and went to Africa
1882 Bought Klipkop
1883 Married to El. Martins
1884 Theodor, firstborn son; first daughter 1886
1890 – 1892 Jameson Raid and rinderpest
1899 50th anniversary of the Hermannsburg Mission in Bethanie
1900 – 1902 Father died and war with England
1904 – 1909 With Siebelts and Meyer in Bethanie
1910 Separation in Bethanie; construction of house on Waaikraal
1914 – 1918 World War. Exchange of farms Bethanie. Sale of Klipkop
1921 Took up Rama. 1928 Bethanie back to Hermannsburg
1927 To Brits. 2nd marriage. Construction of church in Brits.
1926 Gold on Waaikraal. 1942 Rama to Wesleyans
1942 – 1943
Then the congregation sent a deputation to Mr Bottrill,
Superintendent of the Wesleyans in Pretoria, and he wrote a
letter to me that he would be willing to accept the congregation
after a probationary period if nothing stood in the way. I then
visited Rev. Bottrill and on 27 December he came with Rev.
Kilnerton and Rev. John Malope to Rama and accepted the
congregation, every person who still owed the church had to
pay first before being served further. The indigenous pastor
Rev. John Malope had to serve the congregation; he stayed in
Pretoria, 14 Brown St.
My missionary work in the kingdom of God extended over 62
years from 1880 to 1942, longer than hardly any other.
From 1880 – 1928 in the Bethanie congregation
From 1929 – 1942 in the Rama congregation
But I had also served Rama from 1921 – 1928 besides
Bethanie and I also served Brits from 1928 until about 1936.
Brits is now served from Eben Ezer by Missionary Wenhold
with one service per month. At least one evangelist should be
stationed here. My dear wife did the sewing schools here in
the Brits location and also in Rama. I have nothing left, can no
1910 – 1935
Here I briefly want to describe our life on Waaikraal from
1910 – 1926. Nowhere have we lived so beautifully and freely
were as undisturbed as on Wilhelmsruh on our portion of
Waaikraal!!! It was 1200 acres of land, fenced on two sides
and on the western side the river Sterkstroom as border. On
these 1200 acres I alone was boss. There we had the large,
spatious house with outbuildings. Water supply through a wind
pump from the Sterkstroom to our house and flowers and a
vegetable garden, as well as fish in the river. Dr Bornebusch
once caught an eel there that weighed 14 pounds. We had quite
a few vines with really nice grapes. We harvested enough
maize and had many fields of good cotton. I had a nice herd of
cattle and we had more than enough milk and butter and could
sell cream. In addition, a herd of goats and Persian sheep that
gave us enough meat. Furthermore, a herd of about 40 donkeys
that I could sell. Then about 30 wild ostriches on the farm that
did not yield anything. On free afternoons I often went hunting
because I had duikers, impalas, hares, guinea fowls and
pheasants on the farm and let nobody shoot there. Then I had
two horses for the carts and three dogs and one riding horse.
After 30 years 1880 - 1910 in a kaffir village in
1910 – 1926
Bethanie where I was restricted to the fenced-in area around
the house down to the stream. Here in Wilhelmsruh I was the
only boss to all sides. If I stood in front of my house in the
morning at sunrise I heard many different birds tweeting and
chirping, the pheasants calling and quails and turtle doves etc.
From the house I could see the ostriches walking, the antelope,
hares, guinea fowls grazing and walking. I could see my cattle,
horses, goats and donkeys until I harnessed them and drove
to Bethanie to do my day’s work in the congregation. I got
there in half an hour and arrived back home at sunset, unless I
stayed in Bethanie for a couple of consecutive days.
Lissy had a small shop for herself in one of the outrooms of
the house and when she married Franz Roos in 1919 he took
over the cultivation of the land that had been done for me by
blacks until then. During the big World War Theodor bred
chickens on Waaikraal for a few years. During the time of the
maize harvest when the loose maize heads were spread out on
the southern side of the house, I could shoot at buck and hares
that came to the maize during the
1910 – 1926
night from the windows of the house; similarly, I could shoot
the many doves that came during the day. Early in the morning
or towards the evening I sometimes took a refreshing bath in
In this way we spent 15 very good years on Wilhelmsruh,
lonely and secluded, idyllic and still so close to my main
job, the congregation in Bethanie!! People had hurt me when
they evicted me from my self-built house in Bethanie, but
the Lord our God turned everything for the better and guided
me since otherwise I would probably not have built and
lived on Waaikraal so free and so beautiful and as a lord!! 30
years cramped in Bethanie and 15 years beautifully free in
Wilhelmsruh and now 16 years in my own home as an old man
of many years alongside my much beloved wife that God had
given me as a gift! Truly, I cannot be grateful enough! I would
probably also not have left Wilhelmsruh on Waaikraal and
would not have moved to Wilhelmsruh in Brits if they had not
found the gold mine close to my house in 1925 that changed
1926 – 1930
The Waaikraal gold mine caused quite a stir and the shares
went down and the company went bankrupt because of
mismanagement, irresponsible mismanagement. A thunderstorm
above the mine brought down water floods that flooded the
underground work. No capital was available to get the mine
back to work and the directors sold everything in order to
pay back borrowed money. One Jew still had a contract for a
percentage of the yield but understood nothing of it and gave it
up. The government bought the farm and a certain Mr Balogh
from Marikane bought the mineral rights. The mine is good, the
gold is there, perhaps somebody else can try to work the mine
properly. I still hold a couple of hundred shares that have lost
their value. Balogh has many thousands. But through the mine
I and my children got land and a livelihood that we could never
have dreamt of and the promise of Jesus in Matthew 19 was
completely fulfilled. Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all
On 16 May we celebrated our birthdays and were in good
health. Gussi Behrens with Ida his wife and three children and
H. Backeberg and two children of Wulfes came by car. We
received letters, telegrams and many telephone calls and in
the afternoon many visitors from Brits. It was really nice and
Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits. Psalm 103
What then will there be for us?
Peter said to the Lord in Matthew 19:27, “We have left everything
to follow you! What then will there be for us?”
The Lord does not question him about this but promises a reward
and says Himself in Luke 10:7 that the labourer deserves his
wages. And He is the biggest labourer because his soul has
worked and thus he receives the biggest wage. Philippians 2:6-11,
“God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that
is above every name” etc. etc.
And our Lord answers Peter and promises 1) the twelve apostles
their wage in verse 28: 12 thrones. Truly, with this he reinforces
His promise and in verse 29 He adds yet another promise for all
Christians who live like the twelve apostles, they “will receive a
hundredfold and will inherit eternal life” because only a person
who believes in Him will be able to leave everything behind for
And in Mark 10:28,31 it is said that those who leave everything
for the sake of Jesus and the gospel will receive a hundredfold
now in this time people and goods in this world and eternal life in
the age to come, but with persecutions.
Matthew 19, Mark 10:28 and Luke 10:28,31 report Jesus’ promises
and He Himself will sit on the throne of glory.
That all of this is true can be seen in what father and we as his
children have experienced and that is what I want to write down
here and I want to praise the Lord for literally having fulfilled what
he has promised in Matthew 19, Mark 10:28-31 and Luke 10:28,31.
A hundredfold, manifold will those who leave and give up
everything for the sake of Jesus and the gospel and the kingdom of
God receive here in this time earthly belongings and persons who
are close to them! My father did this and the Lord Jesus has fulfilled
His promises and has rewarded him a hundredfold and manifold?
Yes! Completely!! And wonderfully!!! How?
My father, as the oldest son and heir of the agricultural holding in
Hermannsburg, gave his old mother the share that was due to her
and gave up everything that was his and to which he was entitled
to the Hermannsburg Mission, to the Lord, and gave himself as
worker and preacher of the gospel among the heathens. He remained
patient as a scholar for many years in the Old Mission House, he
followed instructions where in the past and up until then he had
given instructions on his farm nearby. He had no income as before
but had to live from what was given to him together with his wife
What then will there be for us?
Two children, Wilhelm and Maria, were born to him in the
Missionary Seminar and with these he was sent out into an
uncertain future, into a completely unknown country to the kaffirs.
He was not promised a basic salary nor was anything put down in
writing about maintenance for his family. In addition, there was
Communism in the Mission! Father did not ask what he would be
receiving per month or year for himself and his family. He went out
for the sake of the gospel and trusted the Lord, as Pastor L. Harms
had taught and preached and lived himself.
On the small Kandaze and a three-months journey he came to Natal
and was sent to the Ehlangeni Station with his family where he
lived in the small house together with Missionary Müller’s family
and learnt the language of the indigenous people. He stayed here
for three years from 1857 to 1860. He had to build himself a small
house during this time and had to make himself a field. Everything
for his maintenance came from Hermannsburg, he had no money in
his pocket, so he not even had a glimmer of a possibility that Jesus’
promises would be fulfilled, it was merely securing an existence.
Then my father was ordered to establish the new station
Emhlangane to the West of Etembeni. He had to go there on foot
through the thorny field with kaffirs who carried the necessary
things to Etembeni. The family stayed behind for many months
in Ehlangeni. After he had spent weeks together with the kaffirs
building a road for wagons across mountains, through valleys
and through the bush he could start burning bricks and building
a small house and could then eventually fetch his family from
Ehlanzani. Again, he spent three years building, cultivating a bit
of land below a water pipe from the stream, giving school classes
to us and two Zulu boys, visiting the kraals and holding sermons.
Otherwise, little happened. Contact to the outside world was
limited. A two-wheel cart with six oxen had to get everything for
the three stations Elembeni, Emhlangane and Müden right from
Eventually, in 1863, after Superintendent Hardeland in the
company of Missionary K. Hohls and my father had obtained
permission from the government of the S.A. Republic in
Potchefstroom, my father, Missionary Kaiser and : were sent to
Transvaal to start the mission near Sechele in Bechuanaland. My
father was nominated as the chairperson of the Bechuana Mission.
Nothing came of the mission station at Sechele and my father and
the other missionaries had to sit in Linokane and wait to see what
else could be done.
Then, unexpectedly, but with the guidance of the Lord the
calling to the Bakwena in the Rustenburg District came. That
was the beginning of today’s Bechuana Mission with its 35 large
congregations. Father came to Mandabule on 29 November 1864,
started Bethanie and
What then will there be for us?
here the Lord wanted to fulfil His promises from Matthew,
Mark and Luke for father, as described above, but my father had
no idea of this. He was only delighted that eventually, after a
journey from 1857 to 1864 he got fixed work and was accepted
joyfully by the heathens that were thirsty for the gospel. It was
here in Bethanie that the Lord intended fulfilling His promises to
all sides for my father and his family and He did so. Praise be to
The fulfilment started very small, as is God’s way, and ended
big in every way. It started with a few baptism candidates
and then grew from 1864 to 1900, vwhen he died, into a large
congregation of about 5 000 souls with a big church with 1 100
seats and with chapels and schools in a large Christian village
with outside villages. Not a foot of land and soil did the people
have in 1864 and in 1900 they owned many farms.
Father and mother, relatives and friends, brothers and sisters
were left behind by father in Germany and here in Bethanie and
in the field of mission and at this mission station he found many
brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, children that had found
the faith in Jesus Christ, a large congregation of believers.
Father was completely in his element here, this is how he
wanted to live: work from morning until night. He lived
completely in his mission work, this is what he had left
everything behind for, for the sake of the gospel. He was a
missionary through and through and had his joy in the church
and in the school. Missionary Chr. Müller once said to me,
“Your father is working more than all of us!” And I could work
alongside him for 20 years, from 1880 until 1900, and I gladly
did so in the second line. Father was also practically inclined:
he thatched houses, he laid bricks, he planned a village with
the roads and he also taught people earthly things. He bought
farms and set up laws and rules for them, he appointed
watchmen and kept the books of everything. He loved music,
translated hymns himself and singing was his great joy.
Although he could only play his little hand-organ, he practised
on it until he could play, for example the Great Hallelujah,
with four voices, and many other pieces so that he eventually
published and printed the “Harfe” with many spiritual songs
and canons. Father with his singers and I with my brass band
that once had 44 players with uniform, instruments, flags etc.
brought life into the people.
Father was the chairperson of the Bechuana Mission from
1864 to 1882, started more and more stations, appointed
people for them and visited them according to regulations.
The trek in 1866 from Natal on 10 ox wagons with a number
of missionaries and their brides that had just arrived on the
Candace is well documented. Father’s rich work was his joy
and he found fulfilment in it for all that he had left behind
in Germany. He also never returned to Germany. He almost
succeeded to do so once in 1882. But this plan was thwarted
by certain missionaries (I do not want to mention their names,
they are no longer alive) and it went so far that father and I
would almost have been dismissed from the Hermannsburg
Mission. But we stayed when someone intervened. So, no
more about this. Enough. Would the Lord of the church
have asked my old father whether he was satisfied with the
exchange of having left behind his farm and work and all
friends in return for doing his work for the people in Bethanie
with a church and school or whether he desired to return as a
farmer to Hermannsburg, he would definitely have said: Never,
never! I shall stay where I am and shall work for the kingdom
of God to my very end. I do not regret having left everything
The promise of the Lord
Father really flourished in his work and loved holding feasts and
knew how to give beautiful feasts, such as the 25th anniversary
of the Bethanie Station in 1889 and the 50th anniversary of
the Hermannsburg Mission in 1899 which was a big feast in
Bethanie and his last because in April 1900 the Lord called His
servant into His everlasting peace!
Has the Lord fulfilled his promises in father’s life when
father had left behind everything for the sake of the gospel,
as the evangelists said, “Brothers and sisters, mothers and
children”? Not only has my father received a hundredfold in his
congregation with thousands of souls, but the promise was also
fulfilled as far as earthly goods are concerned: father received
houses and fields a hundredfold in this time.
This, too, started small and ended big. Father had little time
in Bethanie to take care of or to seek earthly things, no, it was
given to him and he took it as it came and it was good and
“he grants sleep to those he loves” (Psalm 127). And the Lord
guided everything so that nothing went wrong and his promise
could be completely fulfilled “a hundredfold”. The Lord gave
everything and we simply had to take what was offered to us
and He guided it so that nothing went wrong.
The promise of the Lord
Only that which fitted onto an ox wagon is what father had when
he came from Linokana to Mandabula (Bethanie) and a large
tent, no child, no baggage, no money, no possessions. On Tjaart
Kruger’s farm Losperfontein he stood and there he found a small
house in which some people, called together by David Moropa,
had assembled. And father moved into the house. Initially, father
leased and then he bought 5 000 acres of Losperfontein from
Tjaart Kruger for the Hermannsburg Mission for ₤ 37 and one
ox wagon. On this land he established Bethanie. Then in the
following 14 years he bought a part of Losperfontein for his
congregation for 54 head of cattle of 54 family fathers, which part
the Bakwena call Mosemtlatlane. Then another part for about ₤
200, then a part called Geluk, then a part of Welgevonden which
was then called Rehoboth. He also bought some small pieces
of land along the Crocodile River for private families with their
cattle, e.g. for Koos Mahume and Petrus Tshepe etc. etc. He could
not think of buying something for himself because where should
he get the money from? Communism still reigned until 1870 and
also after that the salary was very small. But the Lord’s promise
that he should receive fields and houses hundredfold for what he
had left behind for the sake of the gospel stood! How should this
be possible?! It was possible! The Lord gave it!!!
And this is how it all happened: during the first years in
Bethanie a farmer offered father two young Bossekop mares
for sale, unsalted. Father bought them cheaply. They both
salted, i.e. they got the horse disease and overcame it and were
thus immune and valuable. Without having been salted, horses
in the Rustenburg District were worth nothing, they all died.
And, miraculously, the foals of the two Bossekop mares were
also salted and their foals too and that is how it continued so
that in due course father had a herd of horses from which he
could sell horses at between ₤ 40 and ₤ 60 per horse!! And
when in 1879 a farmer, Adrian Klopper, offered him 2 500
acres on the neighbouring Waaikraal at ₤ 1 000, father had ₤
250 from the horses he had sold and he received an inheritance
of ₤ 250 from an old aunt in Germany and with these ₤ 500
he could buy one half of Waaikraal with a house on it, with
large fields that could be irrigated from the Sterkstroom so
that he had safe harvests of wheat, maize, potatoes, fruit, oats
and vegetables. (Read more about the other half on p. 36.) On
Bethanie he had had nothing and now suddenly he had an own
farm that would supply him with all necessary food.
Father had the fields cultivated by indigenous people who had
grown up with a farmer and he paid them a daily wage! Two
years after my return from Germany, in 1882, father was offered
600 acres of the Farm Klipkop at the Crocodile River for ₤ 300.
Father said that I should buy this. I had nothing, but took the risk
of the purchase and – behold – one horse sold, one gift of ₤ 90
and two good harvests gave me the ₤ 300 and I, who would have
been the heir of the farm that had been donated in Germany,
also had a farm of my own that supplied me and my family with
everything that we needed for sustenance from 1882 to 1916
when I sold the farm to the government for ₤ 2 000!!
When I bought the farm I only received a salary of ₤ 3 per
month. So, each one of us had a farm, father and son, God’s
blessing that had made this possible, just as he had promised.
When father died in 1900 I inherited his farm Waaikraal, so I
had 2 farms, but gave one half to the congregation (see page)
and in 1910 I built myself a house on my half of Waaikraal,
moved there and stayed there until 1926 and from there I served
the congregation of Bethanie that was close by. On Waaikraal
it was not possible to irrigate the land from the Sterkstroom
and I had 3 children, what should they inherit? Once again, our
“bounteous God” took care of us!!
I had lived on Waaikraal for 15 years from 1910 to 1925 when
a certain Mr Edwards discovered a gold mine about 500 paces
from my house. A company was formed and bought the farm,
house and mine for ₤ 16 000. We had to move, but I could give
every child ₤ 3 000 to buy a piece of land for sustenance. I
could buy myself a house with four erven in Brits where I am
still living and I could also buy a cattle farm and a property for
₤ 300 in Brits on which I built a chapel for about ₤ 900 and the
property, chapel, bell, pews etc. etc., all together to a value of
about ₤ 900, I could give to the Hermannsburg Mission etc.
All of this were gifts from God who had carried out and
fulfilled his promise made by Jesus in Matthew, Mark and
Luke and returned father’s gift to him and his children and
grandchildren a hundredfold!!
Praise be to His holy name. Lord, I am not worthy of the
least of all the deeds of steadfast love and all the faithfulness
that you have shown to your servant! What He promises He
Praise the Lord, o my soul!
O that I had a thousand voices
to praise my God with thousand tongues!
My heart, which in the Lord rejoices,
would then proclaim in grateful songs
to all, wherever I might be,
what great things God has done for me.
At the end I would like to say something about two words the
Lord said in his promise to those who leave everything behind
for the sake of His name: “With persecutions”. There was no
lack of these for us, but I do not wish to elaborate on them.
Probably they were necessary because it is through afflictions
here that we shall enter God’s kingdom. I just want to say with
the Lord, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they
And further the Lord says, “and eternal life in the age to
come.” Not for the sake of their good deeds but by grace! For
the sake of what He did! Our deeds are partial, His deeds are
perfect!! O, no, Lord Jesus, if I did not have you and if your
blood had not been given for the sinners, where should I, the
most wretched of the miserable have turned?!! – By grace
alone shall I be saved! Yes, by grace alone!!
May 30, 1943 A.H.W. Behrens
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