Memories of several years in south western Africa

I’ve just finished reading a very interesting book that paints a picture of life in what is now Namibia in the 1860s and 1870s. It covers several interests of mine, like family history, because the auther was a friend of my wife Val’s great great grandparents, and missiology, because of his comments on the way missionaries behaved then.

Memories of several years in south-western AfricaMemories of several years in south-western Africa by Thure Gustav Een

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Since Namibia became independent in 1990 there has been increased interest in its history, including its pre-colonial history. The problem is that there are few written sources for that period, and even fewer published ones, and many of those that were published (mostly in the 19th century) have long been out of print.

Captain T.G. Een spent some time in Damaraland (Hereroland) and Ovamboland between 1866 and 1871, and when he returned to his native Sweden published an account of his experiences in 1872. The archives of Namibia have been published some of their manuscript holdings, such as letters and diaries of European missionaries and traders who were in Namibia at that period. But diaries are personal documents, and tend to be quite sketchy.

Thanks to a grant from the Swedish Agency for Research Co-operation for Underdeveloped Countries, Eens books has now been translated into English by Jalmar and Ioene Rudner, and published with a new introduction and annotations by the Namibia Scientific Society.

Unlike a diarist, or even most letter writers, Een is writing for readers who have never seen the country he describes, and so he gives a vivid word picture of the places he visited and the people he met. In some ways the descriptions are superficial. Een was a sailor, not a trained anthropologist (actually there were no trained anthropologists in that period). He describes the everyday life and customs of the Herero and Ovambo people as he observed them, but he did not speak the languages of those peoples well, and communicated through interpreters who used Dutch, which Een did not speak well himself. So while he describes external customs, his interpretation of their inner meaning tends to be skimpy and shallow. One of his complaints was that the German missionaries, who had studied the languages, kept their knowledge to themselves, and were unwilling to share it with others who wanted to know the people of the country better.

He gives some interesting details of relations between different groups of people. When he first arrived in 1866 with C.J. Andersson, the Anglo-Swedish explorer and trader, they were based at Otjimbingwe on the Swakop River, which was then the capital of Damaraland (Hereroland). There were then at least four distinct groups of Herero-speaking people — the followers of Maharero, the followers of Zeraua, the Himba of the Kaokoveld to the northwest, and the Mbanderu of the east. Maharero and Zeraua and their retinues lived at Otjimbingwe, and they were occasionally invited to dinner by Andersson, but never at the same time. When Zeraua came to dinner, he sat at the table. But when Maharero came to dinner, he sat on a chair by the door, away from the table, because of his bad table manners. But Andersson did not want them to know of this different treatment.

Grasplatz, in the Namib desert just inland from Lüderitz

Grasplatz, in the Namib desert just inland from Lüderitz

When I lived in Namibia over 40 years ago one of the things I wondered about was how traders back in the 19th century managed to travel with their ox wagons through the waterless Namib desert. A few miles outside Luderitz there was a railway halt called Grasplatz, because they used to store grass for the oxen there, for the next stage of the journey. The diarists described “wagon trains” going from Otjimbingwe to Walvis Bay and returning, but they don’t describe how they did it. But Een does describe it, in some detail. And that is the kind of thing that makes his book interesting.

Of course, like a diary, it is still a personal book. He praises the Damaras (Hereros) at some points, but criticises them at others. He thinks they are lazy, ungrateful scroungers, and makes no bones about it, and gives several examples. But he also writes of several that he regards as friends. When I was in Namibia a century later, I had several Herero friends, but none fitted that description. I did know one or two scroungers, but other Hereros thought they were weird too. But perhaps a hundred years of history can make a big difference, to all parties.

So we have Een’s view of people of other cultures, but his description of them for the benefit of Swedes also tells us something about 19th-century Swedish culture and values. One of the interesting sidelights was that, according to the translators’ notes, there were 137 white people in Damaraland at that time (though the number can’t have been constant, they were always coming and going). They were of various different national origins, but the missionaries were all Germans of the Rhenish missionary society. Een describes the differing responses to the news that the Germans had won the Franco-Prussian War.

All whites who were not of German nationality wished the French army to be victorious, and we awaited news from the front with intense interest. When the victories of the German forces became known, in their usual manner of course, started bragging and blustering and behaving arrogantly. Of course these wonderful victories with all their bloody deeds, which have taken the European civilization a big step backward, had to be observed and celebrated with German thoroughness here in the wilderness also. To begin with, Mr Hahn, the High Priest of the missionaries, took down the mission flag, a red cross on a white background, and raised the flag of the North German Federation instead. The holy sign of the cross had to be replaced by that of ‘das grosse Vaterland’. The common symbol of peace of the Celestial Empire for all peoples had to give way to the German nation’s flag of victory. That was not enough. The black Christian brethren must not be left ignorant and unstirred by the victories of the Germans… The Negro boys (presumably from the mission school) were surely less interested in their German brethren’s victories than in the slaughtered ox with which they were treated to mark the occasion… All we white men were upset by this deed which we found improper in a neutral country, and especially coming from men of the cloth who should preach peace or at least avoid open approval of war, which they otherwise condemned in their preaching to the natives…

Een responded to this by raising a Swedish flag over his house at Omaruru, and went on to say,

In order to counteract all influences of the German flag still further, I made another flag of my own design, a large white star on a blue background. I hoisted this flag and tried to explain to Old Wilhelm (Chief Zeraua) that it was the flag of the Damara people, the symbol of their unity and harmony about which they should gather in times of danger to defend their country.

It little details like these that make Een’s book an interesting read, and help to bring the past to life.

It was also interesting to me because Een was a friend of Fred and Kate Green, my wife’s great great grandparents, and throws some interesting light on the family history. Fred Green married Kate Stewardson, the daughter of Francis and Frances Stewardson.

The translators, in their notes, persist in repeating the errors of several published sources by referring to Francis Stewardson as “Ian” Stewardson (which is a name that was made up for a historical novel), and giving Fred Green’s middle name as Frederick Joseph Green, when it was actually Frederick Thomas Green. I mention this because of the persistence of these errors, which come from relying on secondary sources. The church records, in Namibia and Canada, show that Fred Green’s middle name was Thomas, and the elder Stewardson’s name was Francis, not Ian. Fred Green’s deceased estate file in the Free State Master’s Office also shows his middle name as Thomas, so he didn’t change his name in middle age as some people do.

Een (2004:74) reveals that Fred and Kate Green had another child that we didn’t know about before:

Last among the hunters to arrive [in Ovamboland in November 1866] was Mr Green with with his wife who had been born in Damaraland of English parents. Both of them were ill. Green already had the first symptoms of the fever [malaria] prevailing in the country, which he had first contracted some years ago and which characteristically recurs every year, and then often enough it reappears some time before the period of its general recurrence. Mrs Green could not, of course, be anything other than exhausted and sick as she had had a son some days previously. The child died soon after their arrival here without having been baptized, and was buried without any ceremony at the foot of a fig tree…

Green was an amiable and pleasant gentleman and known as the most proficient hunter in this part of Africa. He did not consider it worthy of a gentleman to shoot elephants from an ambush at night when they came to the water to quench their thirst.

Een goes on to describe the recent death of another Swede, Johan August Wahlberg, who was killed by an elephant when on a hunting expedition with Fred Green. In Wahlberg’s case, he was ambushed by the elephant.

In a couple of places Een refers to Francis and Frances Stewardson’s daughters as beautiful, and one of the last things he did before he left to return to Sweden was to attend the wedding of one of them, Fanny, to another Swedish trader, Axel Whilhelm Eriksson (Een 2004:187).

Eriksson returned from his expedition to Ovamboland in September [1871]. He wasd engaged to one of the beautiful daughters of Mrs Stewardson, and now the wedding was celebrated with the usual pomp and splendour. He marriage ceremony was performed by Missionary Viehe in the meeting-house or school-house of Omaruru, and was attended by a large crowd of black spectators. The bride, dressed in light-blue silk, was radiantly beautiful. There was a big salute [of guns] and the black spectators were given two fat oxen on which they could feast as they pleased.

Sad to say, the marriage ended in divorce 10 years later. Axel Eriksson and Fanny Stewardson had four children, and one of them was named Axel Francis Zeraua Eriksson, presumably after his father, his maternal grandfather, and Chief Zeraua, who was a close friend of Eriksson.

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Adding Growdon and Sandercock to Find A Grave

I’ve been adding pictures some of our Sandercock and Growdon gravestones to the Find A Grave web site.

You can see them here.

All our branch of the Growdon/Growden family are descended from William Growden and Elizabeth Sandercock, who were married in Cardinaham, Cornwall, in 1792, so most of the Sandercocks buried in the Cardinham churchyard are related to us too. Some Sandercocks also married members of the Riddle family, but the Riddles are not direct ancestors (so there is no chance that we might be descended from Lord Voldemort!)

St Meubred's Church, Cardinham, Cornwall -- ancestral bums sat on these pews

St Meubred’s Church, Cardinham, Cornwall — ancestral bums sat on these pews

We visited Cardinham in 2005, and took several photos of gravestones, and Find A Grave seemed to be a good way of sharing them. If you have any photos of gravestones, you might like to share them on Find A Grave too.

St Meubred's Church, Cardinham, Cornwall

St Meubred’s Church, Cardinham, Cornwall

There are other Sandercock families from other parts of Cornwall, but we have have found no links to them (yet). There are also Growden families from the nearby parishes of Warleggan and St Neot, but we have found no links to them either.

Tracking down elusive Namibian families

Yesterday (Monday 13 May 2013) we had a busy day, and at last managed to track down some of our elusive Namibian families, and found more information than we had time to record.

We started off going to the Lutheran Church archives, and stopped on the way at a viewing place over the city to take some photos of the changed Windhoek skyline. It was a place I had come to in 1971 with Marge Schmidt, Bishop Colin Winter’s secretary, to take photos for a brochure we were preparing for a project for a new Anglican cathedral, with ecumenical centre attached. The brochure was intended to show potential overseas donors the need for such a centre, and the city it would serve. It worked too, and several of them promised money that would have started the project, but the new dean, who was appointed especially to oversee the project, killed it, and the new cathedral was never built, so St George’s Cathedral (the green roof in the upper right-hand corner of the picture) remains the smallest Anglican cathedral in the world.

Windhoek city centre, with St George's Anglican Catrhedral, 13 May 2013

Windhoek city centre, with St George’s Anglican Cathedral, 13 May 2013

We managed, with some difficulty, to find the Lutheran Church office, with the archives, but the archivist was away on leave, and a retired former archivist, Pastor Pauli, came over to help us.

What we were looking for was baptism, marriage and burial records for the period of 1840-1920 in Rooibank, and Otjimbingue, as Rhenish missionaries were the only Christian clergy in those places at that period. Pastor Pauli was unable to find the records we were looking for, and said, rather ominously, that people tended to steal such records, and he didn’t know if they had them.

But though we came away empty-handed, Pastor Pauli was himself an archive of sorts, full of fascinating anecdotes, and it was worth going there just to meet him.

Pastor Pauli, retired Lutheran archivist in Windhoek, 13 May 2013

Pastor Pauli, retired Lutheran archivist in Windhoek, 13 May 2013

He said he was 96 years old, and was born in Silesia. His grandmother insisted that only German be spoken in the house as he and his brother were growing up, but she was a bit hard of hearing, so they spoke German to her very loudly, and spoke quietly to the maid in Polish, as she knew no German.

His brother, however, died young (at the age of 90), so he was now alone in the world. His brother had been fascinated by aviation, and had been a fighter pilot in the Second World War.

Pastor Pauli himself had come to Africa in 1937, as a missionary in Tanganyika. He said that more than 60 languages were spoken in Tanganyika, so people communicated with the common medium of Swahili, and lived on good terms with each other. He was struck by the contrast with Namibia, with three little languages, and if people who spoke one language found you had been talking to someone who spoke another language, they didn’t want to know you — at least that was his experience.

We went shopping and had lunch at one of the city shopping malls, and there too much change was in evidence.

A Windhoek shopping mall sdeen from across the car park of another. It was all over builders doing additions to it.

A Windhoek shopping mall seen from across the car park of another. It was all over builders doing additions to it.

When I lived in Windhoek in 1970, there was only one supermarket in town, the Model Supermarket in Kaiserstrasse (now Independence Avenue). Back then one could fill a trolley (American English = shopping cart) with groceries for R15.00. Now it would cost 100 times as much. Namibian dollars and South African Rand are the same value, and South African Rand notes are accepted everywhere in Namibia, it seems, though the coins are different sizes. A notable difference from South Africa was that one does not have to pay to park at the supermarket.

Herero fashions in 1969: Magdalena Bahuurua (housekeeper to Biship Mize) outside St George's Anglican cathedral in Windhoek (the priest in the picture is George Pierce).

Herero fashions in 1969: Magdalena Bahuurua (housekeeper to Biship Mize) outside St George’s Anglican cathedral in Windhoek (the priest in the picture is George Pierce).

The old Model Supermarket is still there, only it is now trading under the Shoprite label, the downmarket partner of the Shoprite-Checkers chain. In 1970 you could see Herero ladies in traditional dress standing in queues at the checkout counters, some with the shopping baskets on their heads. A British visitor once remarked, “Where else can in the world can you see women wearing Victorian crinolines doing their shopping in a supermarket?”

Herero ladies in traditional dress seem to be a less common sight nowadays, and the “traditional” dress is changing too. The headgear is growing wider and wider. We showed Hiskia Uanivi and Kaire Mbuende some of our old photos from 40 years ago, and even then the older women wore narrower headdresses, such as that worn by Magdalena Bahuurua in the picture on the right, while the younger ones more much wider ones. But those are nothing compared to the ones you see nowadays.

Herero fashions in 1970: Younger women after an Oruuano Church service in Gobabis old location.

Herero fashions in 1970: Younger women after an Oruuano Church service in Gobabis old location.

After lunch we went to the Namibian Scientific Society, where we wanted to buy a couple of books by early Swedish traders and travellers in Namibia, which had been translated into English and published, in case they mentioned some family members.

They also had photocopies of the Omaruru church registers, and that was where we struck paydirt. We found more in those registers in two hours than we had in two days at the state archives looking at deceased estate files and the like. There was more than we could possibly write down in the time we had left to us, and Gunter von Schumann, the historian there, said we could come to his house the next morning, where he had more copies of old church registers.

Agnes Dorothea Dixon, daughter of Daniel Esma Dixon and Annie Charlotte Gunning,  was born on 29 April 1906, and baptised on 30 May at Omaruru, and there was the Dixon- Gunning link we had been looking for. There were several other children born to that couple. The deceased estate files simply showed Daniel Esma Dixon (Junior) as having disappeared into Angola with no issue. Someone must have been lying! We took lots of photos of the registers, and hope to be able to transcribe the relevant entries and link them when we get home.

Then we switched from deceased relatives to the living. We had arranged to meet Mburumba Kerina at the Kalahari Sands Hotel, so we packed up and rushed over there, and had a pleasant dinner and a three-hour chat.

Val Hayes and Mburumba Kerina, 13 May 2013. Second cousins once removed.

Val Hayes and Mburumba Kerina, 13 May 2013. Second cousins once removed.

We are not sure of the exact relationship, but we think Mburumba Kerina is Val’s half-second cousin once removed. Both are descended from Fred Green (“Kerina” is the old Herero pronunciation of Green), Mburumba from Fred’s second wife Sarah Kaipukire, and Val from his third wife, Kate Stewardson.

Mburumba Kerina

Mburumba Kerina

Like Pastor Pauli, Mburumba Kerina was full of fascinating anecdotes, including how he devised the name of Namibia for the country. When he was in exile, he was visiting President Sukarno of Indonesia, who asked him the name of his country. He said it was “South West Africa”, and President Sukarno said he had never heard of it. He said that Angola was in South West Africa, and that a country must have a proper name.

Shortly afterwards, the Revd Michael Scott, the Anglican priest who had raised the question of South West Africa at the United Nations at the request of the Herero Chiefs’ Council, showed Mburumba Kerina an article about a Texas mining magnate who wanted to make his fortune by mining diamonds  in the Namib desert, and wanted to separate it from the rest of Namibia. So Mburumba came up with the name Namibia, to give the country a name, and also to emphasis that the Namib desert was an integral part of the county.

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This is part of our Namibian travelogue. The previous episode was Sunday in Windhoek: Quaker meeting and walking the dogs | Khanya, and, if you are interested, it begins at Kang: ver in die ou Kalahari | Notes from underground

While we have been staying with Enid and Justin Ellis in Windhoek we have taken advantage of their WiFi to access the Internet. Today we are leaving for Outjo, and then the Etosha National Park and Ovamboland, and the next instalment is at North to Outjo | Notes from underground

Elusive Namibian families

Yesterday (10 May 2013) we spent most of the day in the Windhoek Archives, looking for elusive family connections, most of which we failed to find.

Namibian National Library and Archives, Windhoek

Namibian National Library and Archives, Windhoek

Frank Stewardson and his wife Frances Morris went to Walvis Bay in the 1840s, and had four daughters and three sons. The sons, William, Charles and James, disappear from history without a trace. We have no idea whether they married or had children, or when and where they died.

The daughters, however, married and left numerous progeny, and several families in Namibia are descended from them.

  1. Elizabeth Stewardson married Oskar Lindholm, and there are several descendants in Namibia
  2. Catherine (Kate) Stewardson married (1) Fred Green and (2) George Robb, and there are descendants in South Africa, Canada, Britian and New Zealand, though none (that we know of) in Namibia.
  3. Frances (Fanny) Stewardson married Axel Wilhelm Eriksson and had four children, whose descendants live mainly in Sweden, Denmark and the UK. She also had a daughter, Emily Jacoba Stewardson,  from an adulterous affair with Clement Stephen Stonier. Emily married Jacob Dennewill, and several of their descendants live in Namibia.
  4. Charlotte Caroline Stewardson married John William Gunning of Walvis Bay, and had several children. Some of their descendants are in South Africa, but two of their daughters,  Charlotte Annie and Catherine Elizabeth, are said to have married Dixons, and those are the ones we were particularly looking for. For more on this see our post on Gunning for the Dixons.

We found out quite a bit about the Dixon family, but not the bits we were most keen to find.

Werner Hillebrecht, the archivist, was very helpful, and suggested several published sources that might be able to help — some journals of Swedes in Namibia, including Axel Wilhelm Eriksson, have been translated and published in English.

He also asked about my diary from the time I lived in Namibia (1969-1972). I had sent part of it to the Archives 20 years ago, and he said that there was very little material from that period. I had asked them to let me know if anyone wanted to consult it for research (so far no one has), and he wanted to know if I still wanted that condition attached to it. I said yes, while I’m still alive, because then anyone who consults it can contact me to ask questions about anything that is unclear, or on which they wanted more information.

We did manage to find out quite a bit more about the Dixon family. Daniel Esma Dixon was born in the Cape, though his father Peter Dixon also lived in Namibia for a while. Daniel married Maria Cluitt, who was born in  Pietermaritzburg, and they had thirteen children.

The family lived on the farm Ubib, in the Karibib district, and Daniel Esma Dixon left the farm to his four (or six) sons, on condition that they did not sell it, but kept it for their descendants. Only the two eldest sons were of an age to have married the Gunning girls, but we found no mention of their spouses anywhere. The eldest, also named Daniel Esma Dixon, was said to have gone to Angola, where he died or disappeared. The second son was James Thomas Harwood Dixon, but there was no mention of his spouse.

We found out a bit more about the Dennewill descendants, however.

Jacob Dennewill was an Alsatian from Dosenheim, and he and Emily Jacoba Stewardson had ten children. They farmed at Ongariwanda in the Omaruru District, and several members of the family are buried in the cemetery there.

We were able to add to our knowledge of this branch of the family from an interesting source — alien registration cards.

Dennewill1

Relationships are not mentioned on the cards, but it appeared that this one referred to Wolfgang’s mother:

Dennewill2

At first we wonderdd whether there might be two different Dennewill families, but there was more information on the back of the cards, which said that they went to the farm Ongariwanda, where Wolfgang was accompanied by and staying with his parents, and Charlotte’s husband was Wilhelm. But there was no card for Wilhelm. But Jacob and Emily had a son Wilhelm Otto Friedrich Dennewill, born in 1914 (the same year as Charlotte) on the farm Ongariwanda, near Omaruru (so he would not have been an alien), so we concluded that he must have gone to Germany before 1914, married Charlotte, stayed there for two world wars, and returned to Namibia in 1950.

Unlike most archival records, the photos on these ones show what the people looked like.

Dennewill3

Cell phones are very useful in the archives, both for taking photos like this, and for scanning written documents. We scanned a few documents in old German handwriting which would have taken too long to decipher in our limited time in the archives, but we can take them home and work them out with the aid of a dictionary.

And, according to PAF, Wolfgang DENNEWILL and Valerie Muriel Katharine GREENE-153 are 3rd cousins 1 time removed.  Their common ancestors are Francis STEWARDSON-874 and Frances MORRIS-875.

The story of our Namibian journey continues here.

You can see an index to all these posts of our travelogue of Namibia and Botswana here.

Fearless Females: my brick walls

I’ve only just discovered about the idea of blogging about Fearless Females in the month of March, and there’s a list of blog prompts, one for each day of the month, here, hat-tip to GenWest UK.

Today’s theme is Is there a female ancestor who is your brick wall? Why? List possible sources for finding more information., and since GenWestUK, who gave me the idea, is in the west of England, I’m choosing a couple from that part of the, world too.

The first one is Mary Barber, who was my great great great grandmother. She married Simon Smallridge Stooke in Hennock, Devon, England, on 11 December 1813, and that’s about all I know of her.

Though, according to the 1851 Census of England she was apparently born in Hennock in about 1796, the Online Parish Clerk for Hennock, who kindly looked them up for me, said that the only Mary Barber baptised there was born in 1791. Perhaps she lied about her age on the census, so I’m not sure of her parents.

Her husband, Simon Smallridge Stooke, was baptised in Ashton, Devon, on 4 May 1788, the son of  Francis Stooke and Ann Smallridge. He was a farmer of Chudleigh, and he and Mary Barber had two sons (that we know of), Thomas and Francis. Simon died in 1828 at about the age of 40. The elder son, Thomas, went to Bristol and married Mary Harriet Hollins. The younger son, Francis, does not seem to have married or had children, but what happened to him is uncertain too — there is a possible death record for him in the 1840s.

Our other brick wall there is Mary’s mother-in-law, Ann Smallridge, who married Francis Stooke at Ashton, Devon, on 26 June 1775. Actually she is not so much a brick wall as her parents, as we would love to know more about them. She was from Doddiscombsleigh, a village a couple of miles north of Ashton, and possibly the daughter of Simon and Elizabeth Smallridge of Doddiscombsleigh, where she was probably baptised in 1748.

Mary Barber has been a brick wall for a long time, but perhaps that wall ids beginning to crumble…

The Dixon family of Namaqualand (book review)

Die Dixons van NamakwalandDie Dixons van Namakwaland by Ledivia van Vuuren

A couple of weeks ago I wrote in a blog post Gunning for the Dixons about some of the problems of locating the Dixon family in what is now Namibia.

We were interested because some members of my wife’s family had married into a Dixon family (as described in the blog post in the link above) and they also appeared to be business partners of the Dixon family, but most of the records we had found were confusing and it was possible that there was more than one Dixon family. We made contact with the author of this book, but weren’t able to get hold of a copy because of a postal strike. Now at last we have a copy, and things become a little bit clearer.

It seems that there were definitely two Dixon families, and Edward C. Tabler confused them in his book Pioneers of South West Africa and Ngamiland and conflated them into one.

This book deals with only one of the families, and makes no mention at all of the other, but that at least helps us to say that people who can be identified as members of this family are very unlikely to be members of the other.

Both Dixon families were probably Irish in origin, however.

The two Dixon families are:

1. Benjamin Dixon and Lodivia Manifold (the subjects of this book)
2. Peter Daniel Dixon and Whilhelmina Hendriks

I will refer to them as the “Ben Dixon” and “Peter Dixon” families.

Ben Dixon became a business partner of James Morris, and their two families set out for Namibia in 1843, travelling overland by ox waggon. They were Wesleyan Methodists and travelled part of the way with some Wesleyan missionaries, and stayed at mission stations on the way. They crossed the Orange (Gariep) river on Christmas day 1843, and reached Walvis Bay in about June 1844. This is all described in detail in the book, seen through the eyes of the Dixons’ eldest daughter Jane, who was 13 years old when they left, and had her 14th birthday on the journey.

The Dixon and Morris families built two houses and a store on the Kuiseb River, at a place they named Sandfontein, about three miles from the present town of Walvis Bay, and began trading for cattle, which they exported to St Helena to provide meat for the British garrison there. In September 1844 Mary Morris gave birth to a daughter at Sandfontein (she was named Sarah Ann Kuisip, because she was born on the Kuiseb River, though that is not mentioned in the book).

They kept a couple of lion cubs as pets, and various sailors from ships in Walvis Bay harbour wanted to buy them, and when they would not sell, tried to steal them. Walvis Bay harbour was amazingly busy in those days, mainly with ships collecting guano from the offshore islands, and sometimes there were 10 or 12 of them in the bay at the same time, come to re-stock with stores before going back to collect more guano.

For a while the business prospered, and then things went bad. Fewer guano ships arrived, and many of the people inland who traded cattle for goods did not pay for the goods, and so Ben Dixon and James Morris had so go on debt collecting tours. The debtors, however, sometimes decided that they easiest way to pay their debts was simply to steal the cattle from someone else, or even from those to whom they were owed. One group bought a waggon for a number of cattle, and then took the cattle back to haul the waggon home. Complaints to the British government about this led to the St Helena contract being cancelled.

James Morris took a large herd of cattle overland to Cape Town, to try to sell them there, and returned by sea with his sister Fanny and her husband Frank Stewardson, and their two children. Fanny and Frank Stewardson were my wife Val’s great-great-great grandparents, so snippets like that were of special interest to us.

So one thing that we learned from the book was that while that Ben Dixon and the Morris and Stewardson families were in a business partnership together, they did not intermarry.

Eventually Ben Dixon returned to the Cape Colony, but instead of going back to Cape Town he settled in Little Namaqualand, on a farm near the town of Garies. Their eldest daughter Jane married William Latham, and remained in what is now Namibia until her husband’s death, then went to stay with her parents. The second daughter, Rebecca, married Frank Bassingthwaighte, and their family remained in Namibia, and some of their descendants are still there today. The younger members farmed in the Northern Cape, and so the Ben Dixon family is mainly associated with Namaqualand, as the book’s title suggests.

The Peter Dixon family seems to be entirely different, though also perhaps originally from Ireland.

Peter Daniel Dixon was the son of McCombe Donald Dixon and Maria Sprewt. He was born in the Cape Colony about 1821, and married Wilhelmina Hendriks, by whom he had at least 7 children. He was trading in Walvis Bay in the early 1860s, and his daughter married Fred Green, the elephant hunter, but died in about 1860, and they seem to have had no children. Fred Green then married Sarah Kaipukire, and after a separation or divorce, married Catherine Stewardson, the daughter of Frank and Fanny Stewardson mentioned above. So Fred Green was married into the Peter Dixon family, but was also friendly with the Ben Dixon family.

Peter Dixon married a second time to Annie Cloete, probably in Damaraland, but if they had any children, we know nothing of them. We are hoping to visit Namibia in May, and to do some research in the archives here, and reading this book was in part a preparation for that. When visiting archives a long way away, with limited time, it is useful to know what you are looking for, and also to know what you are not looking for. It can save a lot of time not going down false trails.

But though it appears that we are not related to the Ben Dixon family either by descent or marriage, the book was nevertheless a fascinating and informative read, and gives a good insight into life 150 years ago.

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More on the Stooke family

A couple of months ago I wrote about the family of Thomas William Stooke, of Littleham, Devon, and wondered why his son Lionel Leigh Stooke changed his name to Stephen Rendel (see Why did the Stooke change his name?) Now a cousin has found that article, and got in touch, and sent some photos of Thomas William Stooke and his children, which he has given me permission to post here.

Lionel Leigh Stooke alias Stephen Rendel (1884-1969)

Lionel Leigh Stooke alias Stephen Rendel (1884-1969)

Thomas William Stooke (1854-1915) was the brother of my great grandmother Mary Barber Stooke (1849-1931), and so Tony Meyer, who sent the photos, is my third cousin. Thomas William Stooke was first a sailor, and later a builders merchant, and married Mary Ann Johnson in 1881. They had two children, Lionel Leigh (1884-1969) and Mildred May (1888-1930, known as May).

Mary Ann Stooke (born Johnson)  died in 1902, and Thomas William Stooke then remarried to Jane Moore in 1905, and had a son Leslie Roy Stooke (1908-1973, known as Roy). The children of the first marriage were not too happy about the second marriage, and perhaps that is why Lionel Leigh Stooke changed his name to Stephen Rendel, as described in the earlier post.

All these younger Stookes would have been first cousins of my grandfather Percy Hayes, though he was about 10 years older than Lionel Leigh Stooke, and emigrated to Natal in 1898, when the latter would have been about 14, and his sister May about 12.

May Stooke (1886-1930)

May Stooke (1886-1930)

May Stooke lived with her father and stepmother (and later her younger brother Roy) until her marriage to Leonard Oswald Meyer in 1911. In her photo she has the kind of mischievous look, which fits with the kind of person who would fill in  a census form describing her baby brother’s occupation as “guzzla”, and the maid’s marital status as “Awaiting opportunity”. Sad to say, she died of bone cancer at the relatively young age of 42.

The “guzzla”, Leslie Roy Stooke (known as Roy) was a pilot officer in the RAF in the 1920s, which makes him something of an aviation pioneer, but he had to relinquish that because of ill-health. At the time of his death he was an insurance clerk of Bexhill-on-Sea, Sussex. In the picture below, showing him with his father, he looks much the same age as he would have been in the 1911 census, possibly a little younger.

Roy Stooke (1908-1973) and his father Thomas William Stooke (1854-1915)

Roy Stooke (1908-1973) and his father Thomas William Stooke (1854-1915)

Thomas William Stooke was the son of Thomas Stooke and Mary Hariett Hollins, and was born in Bedminster, south of Bristol. His father was Thomas Stooke, born in Chudleigh, Devon, the son of Simon Smallridge Stooke and Mary Barber. We know quite a lot about earlier generations of the Stooke family, but nothing of the Barber or Smallridge ones.

We hhave started a Stooke family mailing list, for members of Stooke families of Devon. For more information, including how to join, click here.

 

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