email: Richard Ball
Main page with list of families in this web site  | The surnames in the Rensburg family tree  | The names of the people in the Rensburg family  | The sources from which the Rensburg information is drawn  | 
The Murder at Houdenbek, Koue Bokkeveld, Cape of Good Hope.

Extracted and translated from the Eeufees Gedenkboek van Ceres, 1855-1955, compiled by J.P.G. Underhay and H.C. Hopkins.

In 1835 Willem van der Merwe lived on the farm Houdenbek in the Koue Bokkeveld with his wife Elsie Cecilia du Plessis. 
Houdenbek Farmhouse, Koue Bokkeveld*

For some time there had been talk of the general freeing of the slaves, some of whom began to get restless because the day of freedom seemed a long time coming. In addition Willem and his friends were also generally known to boast that rather than set them free, they would rather shoot all of the slaves and along with them any Englishman or commissioner who might dare to come to their farms to set the slaves free.

After the harvest of 1824 Willem went a round of visiting neighbouring farms, taking his slave, Galant, with him. This gave the latter the opportunity to gather allies among the other slaves in the area for his plan of campaign, acquiring a henchman in Abel, one of the slaves of Barend van der Merwe of Rietvlei, who then gathered more adherents.

Their aim was, apparently, to murder all the men, to occupy the farms and then march on Cape Town. If their attempt failed they planned to retreat across the Orange River.

By Thursday evening, 1st February 1825 a gang made up of slaves from
those of Barend van der Merwe, Willem van der Merwe and Johannes Dalree of Sandrivier, was ready and they attacked the farm of Barend van der Merwe that same night.

He and his family escaped, however, and the gang headed back to Houdenbek where they waited until daybreak when Van der Merwe and Johannes Hendrik Janse van Rensburg, a visitor, stepped out to the cattle pens, then invaded the house, helping themselves to rifles.

The two men made it back to the house, although Van der Merwe was shot in the shoulder, but after a siege these two men and the newly arrived Tutor for the children, J.M. Verlee, were murdered and the gang set out for neighbouring farms.

A commando was set up under the Veldkornet Willem Francois du Toit, half brother of the murdered Willem van der Merwe. They engaged the same day with the gang and scattered them, but it took until the 14th of March before the whole gang were rounded up and the trial of the thirteen slaves began at Worcester.

A week later the verdict was given and the three ringleaders were hanged, two were set free and the rest were sent to gaol.

From the witnesses during the trial it emerged that Willem van der Merwe treated his slaves reasonably well, providing also for their religious education.

Galant and his master had grown up together and he was favoured above the other slaves. When Betjie, one of Galant's wives, had warned her master of what was going on he had refused to believe that Galant would do anything of the sort.

*This picture is reproduced from 'Eeufees Gedenkboek van Ceres, 1855-1955' without permission. If anyone knows who holds the copyright I should be glad to have the information so that I can request permission to use it.
The names of the people in the Rensburg family   |  The surnames in the Rensburg family tree  |   The sources from which the Rensburg information is drawn |