Jan Heystek: Landdrost, Prisoner of War and Last Years (2)
This much about the story I found in Jan’s autobiography. I dug a bit further into this history, and found that actually there were grounds for the government to question Grobler’s frequent incursions into this Botswana-Rhodesia region. Our Chief Khama was also involved in this whole saga. To read more about these details, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tuli_Block, under the “Boer War” paragraph. What an interesting find.
When Pietersburg became the temporary capitol of the two Boer Republics after the fall of both Bloemfontein and Pretoria in 1901, Vorster asserted to Lodi that only the office of the president himself was higher than his own. Vorster declared himself supreme head over all and demanded absolute obedience in an “official” document, but backed down under their refusal to comply, as well as pressure from both the Landdrost and Lodi Krause. Vorster was finally replaced by General Beyers who took charge of the Zoutpansberg and Waterberg commandos.
On April 6, 1901, the British vanguard—Australian Bush Veldt Carbineers—entered Pietersburg, and the regional Boere leaders, including Jan, fled to Spelonken. About a month later the situation became so dire with fighting around them that they finally surrendered to the Brits. (Jan’s description of this surrender is something beyond sarcastic... “…het ons aan die Allerchristelijkste, allerbeschaafste, edelmoedigste beschermers van de klein natiën over te geven…” (surrendered to the Most Christian, most civilized, noble protectors of the small nation) – no doubt his feelings about the war carried throughout his life! Ouma-grootjie Anne Marie and the three youngest Heystek girls had in the meantime been taken captive and sent to Pretoria, although I am not sure exactly where they were taken first. Oupa-grootjie Jan was put under house arrest in Pietersburg while he awaited further action by the British authorities. He stayed in his own house, although most of his furniture had been stolen or damaged.
During this period, a certain Major Wilfred Nash Bolton, now the Provost Marshall of Pietersburg, approached the former Landdrost/prisoner Jan Heystek with a request for information, to which Jan replied that he now stood outside all matters related to the war, and thought about traitors of his own nation the same as the Major thought of traitors [to Britain]. Major Bolton’s response was to order Jan to Pretoria as a P.O.W. This Major Bolton would, later in the same year, be tasked with the prosecution of “Breaker” Tony Morant and Peter Handcock during their court martial for the murders of a wounded P.O.W., four Boere and four Dutch schoolteachers at the Elim Hospital. A German missionary witness, the Rev. Heese, was also shot to death later that same day.
Interestingly, after the war Maj. Bolton became the Magistrate of Pietersburg (Oupa-grootjie Heystek’s pre-war Landdrost position), and was responsible for the repatriation of the P.O.W’s and concentration camp families. (In 2002 the name of the city of Pietersburg was changed to Polokwane, which is Sotho for “Place of Safety”.)
It was now a bitterly cold winter, and Jan Heystek found himself escorted by a Scottish Highlander to Nylstroom by train, and then, in the company of a Colonial volunteer, on to a bleak tent in the P.O.W. camp in Pretoria. He was running a high fever—he thought possibly from malaria—and soon developed pneumonia. At last an officer heard about Jan’s illness and had him released from that camp to the care of Anne Marie and his daughters at a house in Struben Street, a short walk away from Pres. Kruger’s home. Jan was now under house arrest.
Here the family heard the news that their second-oldest son, Jan Heystek, who was on commando but had gotten very ill, had died on the farm Wijsfontein on the 10th of June. This was the period of capture for many of the men, women and children in our family, except for Oupa Wijtse Lampen who escaped capture and fought on with Gen. de la Rey until the bitter end of the war.
On January 31, 1902, Anne Marie Erasmus-Heystek died of “ingewandskoorts” (typhoid fever.) The sweet relationship between husband and wife is evident in the copy of a letter we have, from Anne Marie to “mij lifi man”—her beloved husband.
Twenty-three years after her death, Jan’s heartache is evident in writing that he would rather pull a veil over this traumatic time than to speak of it again, lest it opens the wounds again. Add to his loss the suffering of his children and deaths of several grandchildren in concentration camps, as well as the sons-in-law that were taken to P.O.W camps, and we may have a glimpse of what Jan must have gone through. Anne Marie’s place of death is officially listed as Irene concentration camp, so I am not sure when and how the Heystek women were released to take care of Jan in their Struben Street house. Ouma-grootjie Anne Marie was buried in the Dutch Church graveyard with the help of friends, close to the graves of the Kruger family.
The war drew to a close in 1902. One of the twins, Josina, got married to an Albert Heinrich Mundt, but died in November of 1903 during childbirth. Her twin sister, Jacoba, and the youngest sister, Maria, were still living with Jan when he got married again in 1904 to the widow Sophia Minnaar. He was fifty-five, she was fifty years old. Sophia’s own three young children were still with her, and the family now moved to the Modderfontein area where Jan had bought a piece of land for his youngest two daughters to inherit from him. He farmed here for thirteen years. As a former Z.A.R Landdrost (magistrate), Jan also received a government pension.
In 1917, after all their children had left home, Jan and Sophia moved to our Oupa Wijtse and Ouma Hannie Lampen’s home in Rustenburg, where they lived for a few years. To help our younger generations remember again: Ouma Hannie was Jan Heystek’s second-oldest daughter, married to our Dutch Oupa Lampen. Their oldest two sons, Geert and Jan, had survived the war, but the Lampens had lost three small children in the Merebank Concentration Camp. After the war four more children were born, including my mom, Anneke and our Oom Herman, and the older girls Kieka and Mientjie.
The Lampen’s property was big enough for Jan to keep himself busy with many fruit trees and a garden. He was happy to be close to his children and friends in town, as well as being back in his church. It was an adjustment, though, not being his own boss anymore on his own farm, and having to heed the “tax slippers” and “a hundred and one restrictions and red tape”. I have often wondered about this. Were the Lampens a tough family to be with? My ousus Elizabeth remembers our Ouma Hannie to be loving, enjoying cooking with her. My boet Tonie and sister Andriette remember her as strict, because they were always naughty! So I think, if you put together a couple of strong personalities, as was evident in both oupa-grootjie Jan and his daughter Johanna, and you add all those tough emotional scars that everyone had been carrying after the unbelievable war traumas, one can understand that this was not an easy transition for Jan. My mom, Anneke, would have been six years old then, and her little brother Herman, four. I think they were very lively kids, if their adult relationships are anything to go by! Geert and Jan were young men, probably out of the house already; Kieka and Mientjie were teenaged girls. I have no idea what our Oupa Lampen’s personality was like. His father in Holland, Geert, seems to have been a soft-hearted, gentle man. Oupa-grootjie Jan was very tenderhearted as well, but had shown himself quite strong-willed and opiniated in his leadership. Most of us Lampen-grandkids definitely inherited spirited personalities somewhere along the line!
The deadly Spanish flu epidemic hit Rustenburg in 1918. Although Sophia survived this flu, she never recovered completely and died in 1922. Oupa-grootjie Jan stayed with the Lampens until 1923, when he went to live with daughter Nakkie Theunissen and her husband on Jan’s first farm, Klipfontein for a while. After increasing ill health and more stays with his other children, Jan travelled the farm Doornhoek, near Cradock, which belonged to daughter Jacoba’s husband, Zacharias Pretorius. Here Jan Heystek wrote most of his autobiography in amazing detail. On 24 February 1932, Jan Heystek died in Rustenburg at the age of eight-three years old.
Previously published on: https://www.facebook.com/groups/Lampens/
•https://www.dropbox.com/…/Jan%20Heijstek%20zijn%20levensver… : Jan Heystek autobiography.
•The War Memoirs of Commandant Ludwig Krause, 1899–1902
•https://samilitaryhistory.org/vol126rb.html andhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tuli_Block – Rhodesia incursions, see “Boer” paragraph.
•https://www.angloboerwar.com/…/sou…/462-rhodesian-volunteers: “Between 11th October and 25th November the Tuli force was very frequently engaged, a Boer force of about 1700 being opposed to them.”
•https://www.sahistory.org.za/t…/polokwanepietersburg-timeline Pietersburg temporary capitol of Boer Republics.
•https://books.google.com/books… Maj Wilfred Nash Bolton
•https://en.wikipedia.org/…/Alfred_Taylor_(British_Army_offi… andhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wi…/Court_martial_of_Breaker_Morant - Story of “Breaker Morant”; role of military prosecutor Maj. Bolton.
•https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=22x96qVN0VA - Breaker Morant movie. (Not the full truth...)