Namaqualand Spring: Lily Fountain and flowers

Continued from Namaqualand Spring 1

Friday 21 August 2015

We woke up in our cottage at Kamiesfroon in Namaqualand, and set off up the pass to Lily Fountain Methodist Mission at Leliefontein, which played a significant part in the Morris and Stewardson family histories. James Morris visited it a few times in the early 1840s when he accompanied Methodist missionaries across the Orange River to Namaland, where they had established a mission station called Nisbet’s Bath at Warmbad. One could see why they spoke of going “up” to Lily Fountain as we climbed up the pass over the Kamiesberg, but like most things in Namaqualand it didn’t look at all like what I had imagined. I pictured it like one of the places in southern Namibia, dry and dusty, but it wasn’t like that at all.

The road up the Kamiesberg to Leliefontein

The road up the Kamiesberg to Leliefontein

At the top of the pass we passed through fynbos and wetlands The church, which I think was the oldest Methodist Church in Namaqualand, was smaller than I had pictured it, and it was locked and there didn’t seem to be anyone around, so we took photos of it, and the village, and left.

Methodist Church at Leliefontein

Methodist Church at Leliefontein

James Morris was staying here early in 1843, and on 7 March 1843 wrote in his diary “A messenger arrived from the Baths with letter from Mr Cook and Mr Tindall with intelligence of Mr Cook’s dangerous state of health and his interntion, if possible, to get to Cape Town as quick as possible, and, as though Providence had been preparing Mr. Jackson’s health for a journey, he had been improving in health ever since my arrival at Khamiesberg, although still weak, the same evening he made preparations for the journey, with horses, to the Great River, and I offered myself to accompany him on my horse.”

Leliefontein church and village

Leliefontein church and village

Edward Cook was the Methodist missionary at Warmbad in Namaland (now part of Namibia), and died on the banks of the Orange River before reaching Cape Town. James Morris accompanied his widow and children back to Leliefontein. The Morris and Dixon families spend several days at Leliefontein in December 1843, on their way up to Damaraland to start a trading venture, supplying meat to the British garrison at St Helena. They were later joined at Walvis Bay by James Morris’s sister Frances (Val’s great great great grandmother) and her husband Frank Stewardson.

Leliefontein village

Leliefontein village

We drove over more high plateaus, with wetlands, then down a steep bit, to a cultivated farm, and then turned west to Studer’s pass, which went down quite steeply in a couple of stages. There were few flowers this side of the mountains, and people  had told us it was too early, and most of the flowers now were on the coastal side of the N7 though at the bottom of the valley as we approached Garies, we saw some vygies opening.

Vygies (mesembryanthemums) flowering on the road between the foot of Studer's Pass and Garies.

Vygies (mesembryanthemums) flowering on the road between the foot of Studer’s Pass and Garies.

We reached Garies about 12:00, and I looked for an ATM to buy airtime for my Samsung cell phone, but the only ones in town seemed to be FNB, and they did not seem to offer air time, but I bought some at a shop. They also had Flanagans chips, which we had not seen for a long time, so we bought some. At one time they were popular and almust ubiquitous, the then the Lays brand seemed to become more popular, though they didn’t and don’t taste as good.

Garies in the Northern Cape. Since the N7 now bypasses the town, children walk home from school in the middle of the road, though in my day we finished school at 3 pm, not noon.

Garies in the Northern Cape. Since the N7 now bypasses the town, children walk home from school in the middle of the road, though in my day we finished school at 3 pm, not noon.

We then drove back to Kamieskroon on the N7 and passed straight through and made for Skilpad, another place where the flowers were said to be good.

Kamieskroon seen from the road to Skilpad

Kamieskroon seen from the road to Skilpad

Skilpad was in the Namaqualand national park, so we had to pay to enter, and the flowers were indeed very good, mostly the orange Namaqualand daisies, and masses of them looking
almost fluorescent again.

Namaqualand daisies at Skilpad, looking almost fluorescent in the sun

Namaqualand daisies at Skilpad, looking almost fluorescent in the sun

There were a few white ones, but a different kind from those we had seen yesterday near Soebatsfontein
— these had smaller petals. There were also yellow flowers, but as they grew closer to the ground they were eclipsed by the orange daisies in the massed displays.

More daisies at Skilpad, Namaqualand

More daisies at Skilpad, Namaqualand

There were lots of 4×4 SUVs going round the park, and we were virtually the only saloon car there.
Did people think it was necessary to drive a 4×4 to look at flowers? Our little Toyota Yaris was dwarfed by these monsters.

More daisies at Skilpad

More daisies at Skilpad

There was a circular drive with a sitplekkie at the topwhere we ate our lunch of tomato sandwiches, and there was a little bird with a striped face hopping around hoping for crumbs.

Yey more daisies at Skilpad

Yet more daisies at Skilpad

There was a good view over the surrounding countryside, with its orange patches of flowers surrounded by dark green bush. We then drove slowly down again, reaching Kamieskroon at 4:00 pm.

Cosy Cottage, where we spent three nights in Kamieskroon in the Northern Cape

Cosy Cottage, where we spent three nights in Kamieskroon in the Northern Cape

I had a shower while Val watched tennis and cricket on TV, having been deprived of it since we were forced to downgrade our subscription to DSTV.

Continued at Kamieskroon to Robertson.



Stewardson family breakthrough

In the forty years we have been researching our family history, the Stewardson side of the family has been one of the longest-standing “brick walls”, as family historians like to say, referring to the inability to get further back than a particular ancestor. In the case of the Stewardsons, the brick wall is more like a dam wall, because once it has broken, down comes the flood.

We discovered quite early on that Val’s great great grandmother was Kate Stewardson, who was born at Rooibank near Walvis Bay (now part of Namibia) in about 1847-48. Her parents were mentioned in several books, but for 30 years we were unable to discover their first names. The author of one book even made up names for them, Ian and Norah, which somehow carlessly slipped into some historical records published by the Namibian Archives. Eventually, after 30 years, we found, in a Methodist baptism record in Cape Town, that they were Francis and Frances, or Frank and Fanny, and also that Frances’s maiden name was Morris. We have described the story of that search more fully here.

Thanks largely to FamilySearch, the online genealogical research tool of the Mormon Church, we were able to learn more about the origins of the Morris family. FamilySearch have placed online indexes, and sometimes original copies of the registers kept by other denominations, and by this means we were able to trace the Morris family back to the village of Donisthorpe, on the border of Leicestershire and Derbyshire in England.

Donisthorpe village, home of the Morris family, on the border of Leicestershire and Derbyshire in England

Donisthorpe village, home of the Morris family, on the border of Leicestershire and Derbyshire in England

At the time there was no church in Donisthorpe, so the Morris children were baptised in the nearby village of Over Seal in Leicestershire.

Family tradition, which was also found in published sources, was that the Stewardsons originally came from Scotland, and we had assumed that Frank Stewardson had come to the Cape Colony and met Frances Morris there, and married her before moving on to Damaraland. But no amount of searching Cape marriage records, in the originals in the Cape Archives, on microfilm in the LDS (Mormon) family history centre in Johannesburg, or later online when some of the records became available on the web, revealed this marriage.

Another useful online resource that became available was FreeBMD, which is the birth, marriage and death record indexes for England and Wales. The handwritten, typewritten and printed indexes have been transcribed by volunteers, and are almost complete for the 19th century. And there we eventually found the marriage record of Francis Stewardson and Frances Morris. We received the marriage certificate on 2 May 2015, and that broke the dam wall.

They were married in Donisthorpe on 8 Oct 1838, and the entry was No 1, so theirs was the first marriage after civil registration of births, marriages and deaths began in England in 1837. His father was Samuel Stewardson, and his occupation was listed as Servant. Her father was Thomas Morris, and his occupation was listed as Butcher. The residence of both parties was given as Donisthorpe. The witnesses were Thomas Proudman and Elizabeth Morris.

View over the Amber Vaslley from Coxbench, where members of the Stewardson family lived in the 18th century.

View over the Amber Vaslley from Coxbench, where members of the Stewardson family lived in the 18th century.

Thanks to the availability of online records, mainly through FamilySearch, we were able to follow up the father’s name, and it appears that the Stewardson family went back a few generations in Derbyshire, mainly in the village of Coxbench, in an area called Amber Valley.

Not only was Frank Stewardson’s father named Samuel, but so were his grandfather and great grandfather. He also had a brother Samuel and a couple of cousins named Samuel as well. Unlike the Morris family, where several members came to the Cape Colony, Frank seems to have been the only Stewardson to have done so.

One family tradition/rumour/legend did prove almost true,  however. About 30 years ago a cousin, Bernard Lindholm Carlsson, said that his brother, Ernest Gay Carlsson, had done some research into the family history and maintained that the correct spelling of the name was Stuartson. Some of the entries in the parish registers at Horsley (near Coxbench) spell the name as Stuardson, but that appears to be the idiosyncrasy of a particular clergyman, and  in all other cases the Stewardson spelling was used. We were never able to make contact with Ernest Gay Carlsson to see what he had discovered, though we tried several times to do so.

Anyway, after 40 years the Stewardson drought has truly broken, and we are now busy trying to sort out all the Stewardson relations and seeing where they fit into the family tree. And, thanks to the availability of online records, one discovery leads to another, and what would have taken three years to discover 30 years ago takes about three days now.


Proposed trip to Western Cape: August 2015

In August 2015 we are hoping to visit the Western Cape to do some family history research, and also to see living relatives and friends.

Since we are now both retired, it will probably be the last chance we will ever have to go on such a holiday trip, and to visit the Cape Archives for research.

If you would like to see us when we visit the Western Cape in August/September, please fill in the form below with your contact information.

We are hoping, in particular, to find out more about the Morris, Stewardson and Dixon families, and ones related to them. Members of all these families were traders in what is now Namibia from 1840 onwards, They would trade manufactured goods (cloth, knives, axes & guns) for cattle, ostrich feathers and ivory. They would drive the cattle overland to Cape Town for market, replenish their stock-in-trade, and return by sea to Walvis Bay.

So we hope to travel down the N14 to the Northern Cape, with stops at Kuruman and Aughrabies Falls. The N14 joins the N7 at Springbok, and we hope to spend a few days at Kamieskroon, exploring that area, which the old-timers passed through on their way between Damaraland and Cape Town. One of the places that has been mentioned in their journeys is Leliefontein, the Methodist mission station, and one member of the Morris clan, Thomas Morris, is said to have lived there at one time.


Greyton, Western Cape. May 2011

Another Morris, Abraham, also lived in the area when he was on the run from the Germans. He was one of the leaders of a rebellion against German rule in South West Africa in 1904. Sorting out the relationships between the various members of the Morris family is difficult, and a lot depends on compiling a chronology to show which members of the family were in which places at what times.

The area, called Namaqualand, is also famous for its wild flowers in spring, so we are hoping to see some of them too.

The families that livedf in or passed through Namaqualand are not the only ones we are interested in, of course. We’ll be looking up others — Green, Tapscott, Decker, Falkenberg, Crighton, MacLeod/McLeod, Growdon and many others in the archives as well, and, we hope, in real life too.

Devil's Peak, Cape Town, 2011

Devil’s Peak, Cape Town, 2011

When in Cape Town we usually stay at the Formula I Hotel (called something else now). It’s reasonably cheap, and very conveniently placed for going to the archives. The problem is, it’s very inconvenient for just about everything else — it’s in a semi-industrial area, so there is nothing to do there in the evenings, and nowhere in the vicinity where one can even get something to eat. But we hope that after the archives close at 4:00 pm we can visit family and friends, so if you know us, and wouldn’t be averse to a visit, please contact us and let us know (see form below).

While in the Western Cape, or possibly on the way home, we hope to pay another visit to the Orthodox Centre at Robertson, and perhaps also to the Volmoed Community at Hermanus, to meet John de Gruchy and put the finishing touches to our book on the history of the Charismatic Renewal in South Africa, which we hope to have ready for publication by the end of the year.

We are planning to return via the Eastern Cape and Free State, though with less definite ideas about the route. Quite a lot will depend on what we find in Cape Town, and whether we need to look at the Methodist Church archives in Grahamstown.

I’ve been twice up the N7 from Cape Town to Windhoek, in 1971 and 1972, but on both occasions I passed through Namaqualand in the dark, so neither of us has ever actually seen it before.

If you would like to meet us when we travel to the Western Cape in late August/early September, please use the contact form below so we can get in touch to let you know when we will be around and arrange to meet. Please note that whatever you type in this form will be seen only by me — it is not public! It will help us to see who we should try to get in touch with on our travels.


Beyond the Orange: trading families in Namibia

Beyond the Orange: Pioneers in a Land of Thirst and PerilBeyond the Orange: Pioneers in a Land of Thirst and Peril by Marius Diemont

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In May 1844 Frank Bassingthwaighte, a blacksmith turned sailor, was at St Helena Island when Thomas Lawton a trader from Walvis Bay came aboard his ship, and recruited him to work for him and and his partners, so he transferred to the Susan and went back to Walvis Bay with Lawton, whose partners, Ben Dixon and James Morris (erroneously referred to as Thomas Morris in the book), had a contract to supply meat to the British garrison on St Helena.

This book is the story of Frank Bassingthwaightte and his eldest son James, several of whose descendants still live in Namibia today.

Frank Bassingthwaighte married the boss’s daughter — Rebecca Dixon — which did little to advance his career, since they lost the contract a few years later, and the partnership broke up. The Dixon family moved to the Northern Cape, where they had a farm, and the Bassingthwaightes also lived there for part of the time, and young James stayed with his grandparents until he was 9 years old, and then went back to Namibia to join his parents, and found himself kept busy working as a herdboy, wagon driver and various other jobs.

The Bassignthwaightes were sometimkes farmers, sometimes traders, and sometimes hunters, but their hard work did not make them rich, and they had long thirsty treks through the semi-desert country of the Northern Cape and Namibia with little to show for it except dead oxen and horses that had died of thirst.

Towards the end of his life Frank was infirm and could not do much, but he still travelled around with his son, apparently loving the wandering nomadic life.

James Bassingthwaighte married Philipina Von Schlicht — according to her father she was marrying beneath her — and they had several children. She died young, and James brought up his family as a single parent. The Germans took over Namibia, and the Bassingthwaightes lost the family farm at Neuheusis because they lived in such remote areas that they did not hear of the regulation requiring them to register it until it was too late.

In the First World War the South Africans invaded and took over from the Germans, and threatened to intern James Bassingthwaighte as an enemy alien. They asked his nationality and he replied, “I am the son of an Englishman, born in this country. During my life I have lived under the rule of Hottentots, Hereros and Germans. I don’t know what I am, but perhaps you bcan tell me.”

It’s an interesting story of hard lives, well told.

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That’s the end of the review on Good Reads, but there are a few things to be added. The James Morris referred to above was the brother of my wife Val’s great great great grandmother Frances Morris, who married Frank Stewardson (also mentioned in the book as having been mauled by a lion). The book was recommended to me by another descendant of the Stewardson/Morris family, Jean Mary Gray, when I mentioned to her that we were hoping to visit the Northern Caspe later in the year to see some of the places these ancestors passed through in their travels. It turned out that the publisher, Gabriel Athiros, is a mutual Facebook friend, and he very kindly sent us a copy of the book free of charge.

I noted that there are a couple of inaccuracies in the names in the book, but that is not surprising. It took us more than thirty years of family history research before we found out the first names of Francis and Frances Stewardson, and we are still trying to sort out the Morris family. We do know that the partner of Ben Dixon and Thomas Lawton was James Morris, not Thomas, though his father was Thomas, and he had a brother and two nephews named Thomas. One of the nephews may have taken over the business after the partnership dissolved.

So few are free

So few are freeSo few are free by Lawrence George Green

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Lawrence G. Green‘s books follow a similar pattern, and there is a certain amount of repetition. He tells the same story in more than one book, sometimes with more or less detail.

This one deals with the west coast of southern Africa, from the Cape to the Kunene, with anecdotes of out of the way places, and characters who played a minot role in history. As a journalist he collected notes on all sorts of topics, and every now and then he would work them up to a story with a connecting theme, and in this one the connecting theme is the places on the “Diamond Road” and the Skeleton Coast.

As I’ve already noted about his Thunder on the Blaauwberg not all of his tales are accurate. He is a raconteur, not a historian.

We have several of his books on our shelves, and the story of how this one came to be on our shelves is almost like one of his stories. It has been in our bookshelf ever since I can remember, and has the inscription, “To Frank Hayes, the most genuine of pals, from Tromp van Diggelen.”

Frank Hayes was my father, and Tromp van Diggelen was my godfather, and it is just the kind of book he would give as a gift to a friend, because he loves such stories, and lived them himself. Like Lawrence George Green Tromp van Diggelen loved to go on journeys to out-of-the-way places, drawn by tales of lost cities and buried treasure. In his youth he was a wrestler, and later he was a physical fitness instructor, and my father, originally one of his pupils, became one of his friends.

I’ve been pulling the books off the shelves and rereading them for reasons related to family history. A researcher is trying to find out more about the life of Abraham Morris (1866-1922) the guerrilla fighter against the Germans in Namibia in 1906, and leader of the Bondelswarts Rebellion in 1922, in which he was killed.

Abraham Morris’s mother was Annie Schyer of the Bondelswarts, and the story is that his father was a white trader named Morris. My wife Val’s ancestry is part of the Morris family, who were traders in Namibia, so there is a possibility that Abraham Morris was related to us — but how? There were two James Morrises, cousins, each with a brother William, who could possibly have been his father. So we search books like this looking for tiny clues that could place one or other of the Morrises in the right place at the right time to be Abraham’s father.

This book mentions Abraham Morris only briefly, Thunder in the Blaaurberg gives more detail. But it has plenty of fascinting stories about various places and events.

One of the places of particular interest was the Leliefontein Methodist Mission Station, near Garies in the Northern Cape. It was a place where traders between Namibia and the Cape often called in the 19th century, and many people passed through there.

Other stories that interested me were those of the 1934 floods in Namibia, when the highest rainfall was recorded. It was the highest recorded up till then, and has never been exceeded since. When I lived in Windhoek 40 years ago there were still people around who remembered the floods of 40 years before, and there were signs in improbable places showing the levels that water in the rivers had reached then. Green tells several stories of the floods from people who actually experienced them. He also tells of odd characters and eccentrics, like the one who built a castle in the desert, and those who tried to climb lonely mountains, and, rather more sadly, those who kill baby seals for their fur.

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Chasing Namibian families

Next week we hope to travel to Namibia to see friends and family, and do some historical research — family, church and general history. We’ll try to update our blogs with our progress if we have internet access: this one for family news and family history; Notes from underground for general observations, photos and chit-chat; and Khanya for general history, church history and more serious observations. It used to be possible to keep in touch with all of them by following Tumblr, but Tumblr doesn’t seem to work as a blog aggregator any more.

It’s more than 20 years since we last visited Namibia, and more than 40 years since I lived there, so we expect to see many changes. We plan to go first to Windhoek, where we hope to stay with Val’s cousins Enid and Justin Ellis. Enid is a cousin on the Pearson/Ellwood side of the family.

We also hope to see Mburumba Kerina, a more distant cousin on the Green side of the family. “Kerina” is the Herero form of  “Green” and Mburumba Kerina is descended from Val’s great great grandfather Fred Green through his second wife, Sarah Kaipukire (Val is descended from his third wife, Kate Stewardson). We also hope to find out something about Fred Green’s first wife, who was a Dixon, and died about 1860. We don’t even know her name. There’s more on this in the earlier article Gunning for the Dixons. On the Stewardson side of the family, there are several descendants in Namibia, mainly of the Lindholm, Dennewill and Jeske families. We don’t have any current addresses for them, but we may be able to make contact with some of them while we are there.

HiskiaUOne of the friends we hope to see is Hiskia Uanivi. When I lived in Windhoek he was a student at the Paulinum, the Lutheran theological seminary then based at Otjimbingue. In early 1971 my friend and colleage Dave de Beer and I went on a holiday trip to see friends and family in South Africa (rather like the trip we are planning now, but in reverse).

Hiskia had never been to South Africa, and the Paulinum was closed for the Christmas holidays, so he came with us, travelling via Keetmanshoop, Vanzylsrust, Hotazel and Kuruman to Johannesburg (about a 22-hour drive). There we were joined by my cousins Jenny and John Aitchison, and we travelled to Nqutu in Zululand, staying at the Charles Johnson Memorial Hospital (then an Anglican church hospital), and then via KwaMagwaza and Mphumulo to Pietermaritzburg, where John and Jenny Aitchison lived. We left Hiskia at the Mapumulo Lutheran Seminary for a couple of days, as he was curious to see how it compared with the Paulinum, and one of the old Paulinum teachers, Dr Theo Sundermeier, was then teaching there.

We spent a couple of days with the Mnguni family in the foothills of the Drakensberg, helping them to erect a chicken run that would gather manure for fertilising the crops, and then went on to Umtata, Alice, Grahamstown and Cape Town, and from there back to Namibia. At that time there were Anglican theological colleges in Umtata, Alice and Grahamstown, and we visited them, so Hiskia was able to make more comparisons.

With the Mnguni family at Stepmore, near Himeville. Hiskia Univi on the left, Mr & Mrs Mnguni on the right, Chris Shabalala in the middle, flanked by Dave de Been and Steve Hayes, Jenny Aitchison in front, and other members and neighbours of the Mnguni household. 16 Feb 1971

With the Mnguni family at Stepmore, near Himeville. Hiskia Uanivi on the left, Mr & Mrs Mnguni on the right, Chris Shabalala in the middle, flanked by Dave de Beer and Steve Hayes, Jenny Aitchison in front, and other members and neighbours of the Mnguni household. 16 Feb 1971

Now we are planning, for the first time, to travel to Namibia via Botswana on the Trans-Kalahari route. Back then it was not possible, as one needed passports to cross Botswana, and the South African government, which then ruled Namibia, would not give passports to people it regarded as politically unreliable. We also hope to visit the Etosha Pan Game Reserve, and Ovamboland, and return via the Okavango and following the course of the Taokhe River to Lake Ngami, which in Fred Green’s day was navigable by boat, though getting a boat there by ox wagon must have been quite a feat.

So, if the opportunity arises, we hope to blog about our trip as we go. You’ll find the first instalment of our travelogue here.

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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