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.

 

 

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.

View all my reviews

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