The Watney Family in South Africa , and “Blanco” Watney of Sedgefield

Keith Meintjes
Waterford, MI USA

“Blanco” Watney was the developer of Sedgefield. His descent comes from the Watney family of brewers in England. Blanco was born on 20 Dec 1892, and baptised as Johannes Gysbertus Blanckenberg Watney. In 1929 he married, in the Transvaal lowveld, Florence Elaine Wallis. Florence was born on 2 Apr 1900 in Kent, England.

Keith Meintjes traces the South African Watney family:

John Pigot Watney

John Pigot Watney (born 20 Dec 1774 Wimbledon, Surrey, the son of John Watney and Barbara Rose) is the progenitor (“stamvader”) of the South African Watney family. John Pigot was a British Army officer who served in the Cape during the first British Occupation, 1795 – 1803. On 28 June 1801 he married Helena Catharina Roux. Ten months later, Helena died in childbirth.

The story of the Watney family then becomes woven into the history of South Africa. Helena Roux’s parents were Pieter Roux and Helena Catharina Krugel. Helena was the owner of Simonsvlei, an historic Cape farm which is just east of the N1 as you proceed north from Klapmuts to DuToits Kloof, near Paarl.

Margaret Cairns, the prominent genealogist and historian, writes

“... Helena Catharina (Roux), born 8 May 1785. She grew up on the farm and at the age of 16 married John Pigott Watney. Helena Catharina was to die in childbirth a year later. Watney, formerly of Wimbledon, England, had arrived in the Cape in the British army. He took his discharge and became a flamboyant local figure, friend of the Governor, Lord Charles Somerset, horse breeder and one-time owner of Elsenburg, insolvent, popular and always in the limelight. He and his second wife, Maria de Waal, had a very close relationship with Watney’s former mother-in-law. They provided her with comfort and support through the tragedies of the deaths of little Helena in 1801, her husband Pieter Roux in 1807, followed by the bitterness and trauma engendered by Helena’s third marriage to the Reverend J W L Gebhart.”

Helena Catharina Krugel was 17 years old when, on 8 Feb 1767, she became the fourth wife of Eduard Christian Haumann, an immigrant from Riga and the proprietor of Simonsvlei. Under their stewardship, Simonsvlei became a prosperous estate. Haumann died in 1782, and the following year Helena (then 33) remarried Pieter Roux, aged 22. Pieter Roux died 24 years later, Simonsvlei having continued as a prosperous farm.

After four years as a widow, at age 60, Helena married for the third time, to the Reverend Johann Wilhelm Ludwig Gebhardt. Cairns calls this union “most disastrous”. Gebhardt was four years her junior, and had two sons. By all accounts, Gebhardt neglected both the farm and his congregation in Paarl. By 1822 the eldest son, Willem, had become a supervisor on the farm. On the evening of September 10, the slave Joris was severely beaten, and found dead the next morning. Willem was arrested, tried within two weeks, and executed for murder on November 15. Helena and the Rev. Gebhardt were divorced two months later and the farm, her home for 56 years, was sold. She died in Cape Town on 5 Nov 1828. Helena willed her entire estate to Pieter Watney and Maria Josina Watney, the children of John Pigot Watney and Maria Wilhelmina de Waal

When the British relinquished the Cape to the Dutch in 1803 and his regiment sailed for India, John Pigot Watney remained at the Cape. On 17 Apr 1803, he remarried to Maria Wilhelmina de Waal. Maria was baptised 10 May 1781, the daughter of Arend de Waal and Maria Josina van As.


The Second Generation

John and Maria had three children:

1.       Pieter Watney, baptised 15 Apr 1804

2.       Helena Catharina Watney, born 14 Nov 1805, died 7 Feb 1806

3.       Maria Josina Christina Watney, born 4 Nov 1806

It is interesting to note that the first two children were named for Helena Roux’s parents, who were witnesses at the baptisms in the NGK Groote Kerk in Cape Town. The third child is named for Maria de Waal’s mother who, then a widow, was a witness at that baptism.

John Watney had the farm Bottelary, which is on the east bank of the Langebaan at Saldanha. In 1806, the British arrived to re-occupy the Cape, some landing at Saldanha. Legend has it that John Watney aided the British to find water, and to guide them to Blaauwberg, where the Dutch were defeated.

John Watney seems to have become a wealthy man. Partly as a reward for his aid to the British, he acquired numerous farms, including Klapmuts, which is just south of Simonsvlei. He died 16 May 1824. It then seems that Maria remained in control of the family estate for her lifetime

Maria de Waal died 27 Feb 1827. Two days before her death, she signed a new will, with seven witnesses. This will left her entire estate to her two surviving children, Pieter and Maria. The distribution and control of the assets was later disputed by Pieter. The inventory of Maria’s estate shows substantial assets, including the farms Bottelary and Klapmuts; the farm Klipfontein and associated land (Slangekop and Gemsboks Kuil) in the Swartland, the farm Cogelberg in Stellenbosch, two houses on an erf in Keerom Street, Cape Town, and 29 slaves.

Maria Josina Watney married (1 Oct 1829) Joseph Trueman, but in six months was a widow. She bore a son, Joseph John Trueman, from this marriage. Maria remarried Hungerford Vowe on 22 Jul 1833, and had at least two more children, Anna Maria Vowe and Georgina Vowe. She lived in Simonstown and eventually owned (in her own name) the three estates at the southern end of the town: Oatlands, Craddock Valley (Froggy Farm), and Rocklands. She died, in Simonstown, on 8 Sep 1857.

Pieter Watney, then the only carrier of the family surname, married 14 Jan 1826 Anna Elizabeth Catherine Verschuur. Although Anna was born in the Netherlands, her mother was born in South Africa and her parents were married in Cape Town. Her father was Heyburt Verschuur, a sea captain from Tilburg, Netherlands, who married 15 Sep 1805 Catharina Maria Blanckenberg. Anna is their only known child.

Pieter and Anna lived in the Swartland (Malmesbury area) near Groenekloof (Mamre). Possibly, they occupied Klipfontein, the Swartland farm that his parents had owned. Pieter’s aunt (his mother’s sister), Catharina Cornelia de Waal was married to George Kekewich, a judge of the Supreme Court. Pieter, like his parents, seems to have been connected into the upper strata of the Cape establishment.


The Third Generation

Pieter and Anna had seven children, five daughters and then two sons:

1.       Catharina Maria Watney , born 15 Apr 1827, married Jacobus Hendrikus van Tubbergh

2.       Maria Josina Christina Watney, born 9 Feb 1830, married Hendrik Cloete

3.       Georgina Catharina Watney, born 20 Mar 1832, possibly died young

4.       Anna Elizabeth Watney, born 1 Jul 1834, married Arrien Pieter Willem Benit, remarried Johan Hendrik Rabe

5.       Josina Georgina Catherine Watney, born 4 Apr 1839, married Thomas Frederick Charles Alexander

6.       Hendrik Johannes Watney, born 17 Aug 1841, married 14 Apr 1876 Christina Alberta Johanna Mostert

7.       William John Watney, born 27 Mar 1843, married 23 May 1866 Aletta Jacoba Johanna Augusta Blanckenberg

Hendrik Johannes and William John, who were to carry the Watney name into the fourth generation, both lived, with their families, in the area of Durbanville / Koeberg / Groenekloof (Mamre). Their children are documented in the Durbanville NGK register, and there are a number of family graves in the Durbanville cemetery. The family is associated with the farm Welbeloond in Koeberg, and a house of the same name in the town of Durbanville.

The Fourth Generation, and beyond

Hendrik Johannes Watney and Christina Mostert had six children, including four sons. Their first son, Peter William Watney, married Anna Frederika Slabber. Peter and Anna are both buried in the Durbanville cemetery, and had seven children.

William John Watney and Aletta Jacoba Blanckenberg had seventeen (!) children, including six sons. Their first child, Johannes Gysbertus Blanckenberg Watney (JGB I), was born in Aug 1866 (as calculated from his age at death). He married Anna Barendina Boonzaaier. He was a bank manager in Ermelo, Transvaal. At his death on 16 Oct 1918, there were two children:

1.       Johannes Gysbertus Blanckenberg Watney (JGB II), born 20 Dec 1892 married 20 Aug 1929 Florence Elaine Wallis, born 2 Apr 1900 Kent, England

2.       Aletta Anna Muriel Watney

JGB Watney II was known as "Blanco". As a young man, he lived in the Nelspruit area, where he met his future wife, Florence Wallis. Florence was born in England, and so is not a descendant of the Wallis family of 1820 Settlers.

JGB II then became the developer of Sedgefield, a coastal town near Knysna. He died in Sedgefield on 15 Aug 1952, and Florence remained in Sedgefield until her death in 1996. They had three children.