Company Journal van Riebeeck 1656 to 1658

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Last Edited08/10/2017
NotesBetween 26 July 1649 and May 1662 Johan Anthoniszoon van Riebeeck wrote letters and the Company journal about the Cape. However to avoid clogging up his page, while still allowing me to link to the individuals named in the letters and journal, I created pages specifically for this purpose. This is the second volume, which is Company Journal van Riebeeck 1656 to 1658.
Company JournalOn 10 January 1656 in the Company Journal, as translated: Weather as yesterday. Herry arrived this morning at the fort with one of his wives, but loitered outside the bridge until he was unexpectedly confronted by the Commander, proceeding to the gardens. He was kindly asked where he had been so long, and replied that he had remained at a distance because the Commander (Jan van Riebeeck), had so much cattle, and there was not sufficient pasture, but when the grass grew again he would come with his all to the fort. He was shaking with fear all the time, and could hardly speak. Everything was done to give him courage. At noon he was fed from the Commander's table and given some wine, whilst pleasant conversations were held with him to remove his fears. We felt however that he was suspecting us, caused by the hatred of the men of the garrison, in consequence of his treachery, and who threatened to kill him. He complained of this to the Commander, and said that if the latter left, he would not dare to come to the Fort. He was told not to mind the men, as he saw that the Commander liked him. This made him more at ease, though the Commander hardly dared to look up or speak to anyone, as he at once supposed that he spoke about him. It was therefore difficult to manage him with his restless conscience.
     Those of the forest reported that he was encamped in 7 huts at the foot of the mountain below the forest, having with him a good number of cows and sheep. Last night he had asked them in the forest for English tobacco, but was told that they had none, but only two strong English dogs and fire-arms. He said nothing and went away.
     He wished, at dinner, to advise us to protect our cattle with 30 or 40 soldiers against the Saldanhars, as 10 of the latter were supposed, with their assegais, to be able to overpower one of our men. They could muster in great force, but not we, unless ships were in the bay; so that they would take us unawares when at our weakest. Though it is necessary to be on our guard, we consider his statement entirely false, as the fuel-carriers, Caapmen and others, have often told us that he has many times endeavoured to persuade them to assist him again to steal our cattle. He likewise still retains the animals procured with the Company's copper, which he professes to have been stolen from him. Payment must be made however in time. Our cattle now guarded by 13 or 14 sturdy soldiers, and, when we see many natives in the neighbourhood, by 20 to 25 men.
     Herry requested to sleep in the fort, not being willing to trust himself in the company of the Caapmen. The latter are strongly prejudicing us against him, saying that he will do his best to make some more profit for himself out of the Company's cattle, as soon as he has the chance.
     At night, strong wind from S.S.E.1
12 January 1656 in the Company Journal, as translated: Fine weather. Herry took careful notes of the walls of the fort and the cattle kraals; he was allowed to do so, but carefully watched. At table he stated, on being asked what he thought of the works, that the Saldanhars could easily take the cattle from the kraal at night (every one having 12 assegays) by cutting the cord with which the gate is fastened: but he did not know and was not told that at night the gate was closed with a good lock. In the meantime the hunters were ordered to go to Herry's camp and see how things were there. Whilst still at table 3 or 4 Hottentoos came to tell Herry to return home at once, as swarms of bees had come into his camp, greatly troubling the inmates and cattle, so that they would be obliged to move, &c. Herry then left, taking all the fuel carriers, &c., with him, so that not one Hottentoo remained with us. The story of the bees was false, the hunters having found at Herry’s camp only the stout Captain of the Caapmen with 2 wives and 150 cattle without even a herd; on their return many Hottentoos, walking briskly, had passed them about a musket shot distance, and going in the direction of Herry's camp. As at present only Herry's people and the Caapmen are here, and our fuel carriers have left in the same manner as when the cattle were stolen, we carefully watched Herry, and therefore have sent out scouts to see what is going on, whilst the guns on the fort are loaded with grape, especially those near the kraal. The guards are also strengthened and the rounds are made oftener. On their return the soldiers reported that they had found Herry with 20 men in his five huts, eating thick milk and unarmed; their arms they hide in the bushes; his cattle numbered about 100 large and 200 small. All this the rascal procured with the copper of the Company, which he pretended he had been robbed of. A certain girl, called by us Eva, (living in the house of the Commander (Jan van Riebeeck), properly clothed, and in that way already able to converse in Dutch) had told our people that Herry intended to pitch his tents nearer to the fort. Of our fuel carriers not more than 2 or 3 were with him; all had joined the Caapmen, making us fear that the cattle is in danger, for the chief of the Caapmen was also in Herry's huts, with not more than 2 or 3 women and only a few children. Strong N.W. wind and clear sky.2

On 17 January 1656 in the Company Journal, as translated: As above, dark sky and a dry west wind, destroying the pasturage so that nothing almost is left for the cattle to eat; some old cows are failing in consequence, and we are compelled to kill them for food; the milch cows are drying up; every year it becomes plainer that during the dry season very little can be obtained from them. From June to October they yield milk fairly. The horses also feel it much, but are daily fed on barley; as they are working heavily at the kilns and the carrying of sand and salt, they are getting very thin. Herry has gone to the Hout Bay with his cattle; his and our cattle are together too much for the pasture. We dare not send ours too far away lest they be stolen by the number of Hottentoos about. To set an example, Gerrit C. Stensz: of Zwolle, marine, and Severyn Abrahamsz: of the Hague, soldier, have to-day been condemned to serve ½ a year in chains for stealing in the gardens, and are also to receive 50 lashes each with the forfeiture of a month's wages.3
On 26 February 1656 in the Company Journal, as translated: Warm westerly weather. Guliot discharging the skins, and ordered to fetch a cargo of shells at Robben Island. Herry arriving told us that with his cattle he was at Hout Bay, and wished to come here during the rainy season. He was told, in order to ward off suspicion, not to come during the dry season, there not being enough pasturage for the Company's cattle. The Caapmen were with their cattle about 6 miles away, but were also told not to come nearer, as they never sell anything, and are always on the lookout to steal what they can get. They were rather surprised when they saw how well we had secured the kraal, besides having placed two small guns in the half moon of the same to protect the cattle. It is now evidently impossible for them to make a raid, as the enclosure is watched day and night.4
On 13 May 1656 in the Company Journal, as translated: The same; the Caapmen and Herry, with their cattle, passed the fort intending to squat within cannon range, but they were kindly told to go further behind the hill, as we were in want of the grass about here. Herry maintained that the land of the Cape belonged to him and the Capemen, but was told that we also required pastures for our cattle, but if, like the other natives, they also would sell us cattle, we would readily allow them here, but if not, then we cared very little about them and preferred other people in our neighbourhood, as our chief object was to obtain cattle; we added that we considered them the chief impediments in gaining that object. Herry replied that he always did his best to bring the other tribes to us, &c., so that he deserved to be allowed to squat under the guns of the fort, with all his friends, viz. the Caapmen and the black Captain. He was told that permission would be granted if we saw the result of his efforts, and that his claim to the ownership of the Cape lands could not be entertained by the Company, which had taken possession of them for its own purposes, &c. He is a sly rogue and must be carefully looked after. It won’t do to say: They are merely wild savages, what can they do? For the more they are known, the more impertinent they are found to be, and certainly not so savage and stupid as beasts. They will seize their chance whenever it offers, whilst their daily intercourse with the Dutch makes them sharper every day. They already say that it is a tedious and troublesome process to manage the large gun, whilst the fuses of the muskets cannot burn in wet weather. They, however, don't like the firelocks, pistols, and pops, which are in their opinion discharged without fire and frighten them.5
On 22 May 1656 in the Company Journal, as translated: Fine sunshine. N.W. The Caapmen pass the fort from behind the hill, with all their Cattle, towards the flats south of Table Mountain, where some new tribes had encamped, and sold us some cattle. Now that these Caapmen have come they have moved off. We would have preferred them to remain, and wished the Caapmen to go as far as possible, as nothing can be done with them, though they are rich in cattle, and only act as brokers between ourselves and the other natives, from whom they manage to obtain a good share of copper and tobacco, to the great injury of the traffic. In this Herry takes the lead, gradually enriching himself and rising to the rank of chief captain, as appears from his cattle feeding behind the Lion Mountain.6
On 6 June 1656 in the Company Journal, as translated: Fine, W. weather. Yesterday the Hottentoos stole the chain and other iron of the plough lying at the blacksmith’s shop; upon this we seized three of their cattle. Herry at once came to complain, but he was told that it was done by order, that he could better than we discover the thief among his people, that the cattle would not be restored before the iron was brought back, and the thief pointed out who would then be tied to a post and thrashed by his own people. He did not like this, and requested that the thrashing might this once be forgiven. He would see that the iron is at once restored, and this he did within half an hour, the cattle were then given back, but he was told that if a theft were again committed, their cattle would again be taken and kept until the stolen articles had been returned, whilst the thief was to be surrended for punishment by his own people. Herry was also informed of the injury caused to out cattle by his own, which he brought in the neighbourhood to eat up the grass and without selling us any. We told him we did not like it. It was finally agreed that he might remain near the fortress provided that for every large ship arriving he sold us 10 head of cattle, and for every yacht or small ship 5 hear, but for a larger quantity of copper and tobacco that what was given to the other Hottentoos that he might make some profit, and when he had parted with most of his own then to proceed inland to buy others, leaving his family and cows in our care. To-day he brought 5 cows, as we had made him understand that he was to provide the Englishman also. We hope this agreement may last, that we may be henceforth more certain as regarding the supply of meat for the ships and the fort. He wished us to maintain him as supreme chief of the Hottentoos, and that only he and the Dutch Commander should be acknowledged as masters of the land, but he was told that we first wished to see him fulfil the conditions, when he wonld be satisfied. He seemed to be satisfied; time will show.7
On 15 June 1656 in the Company Journal, as translated: Calm, as yesterday; death of a slave presented to the Commander by the French Admiral in March last. The Englishman leaves with a S.E. breeze for London, taking letters for the Masters. It was further agreed with Herry that he shall also deliver every 4 days an ox for slaughter and one sheep, nominally for the Commander. As long as he kept faith he would be allowed to remain near the fort, and it was stipulated that theft should be prevented on both sides, and the thieves thrashed by their own people at a post. If this arrangement is continued he may in course of time be acknowledged as chief of the Hottentoos, and perhaps even more satisfactory conditions might be drawn up, if in course of time we learn to understand each other better; the Hottentoos are already learning to speak Dutch, especially the Children, but they do not like to live in our houses; they are grievously tormented if they are not allowed to wallow as swine in all kinds of filth. They give satisfaction in fetching fuel for a little tobacco and food, sometimes also some arrack, &c., a great convenience to us.8
On 22 June 1656 in the Company Journal, as translated: New moon. Same weather. The Caapmen stole during the night 12 hides. Sergeant sent to Herry to inform him. Skins at once produced, but already cut up. Herry ordered to appear with the thieves, before the Commander (Jan van Riebeeck), that they might be punished according to agreement. Herry came and said that the thieves had escaped; he wished that the matter might be overlooked this time, promising that he would take care that we would not be robbed in future. Not to cause unpleasantness and seem to be too severe, the matter was left in abeyance.9
Between 23 June 1656 and 24 June 1656 in the Company Journal, as translated: Dry, warm sunshine. Very favourable for completing the gate. N.W. breeze. To-day Herry is again to bring an ox and a sheep for the fort, but not fulfilling this agreement he was sent for and was told that unless he complied with it, he was to leave the neighbourhood at once with all the Caapmen, as we required the pastures for our own cattle, and did not wish them destroyed. He replied that he would send the cattle to-morrow and carry out the agreement.9
On 25 June 1656 in the Company Journal, as translated: (Sunday.) – Same weather. The Caapmen already on the move and Herry preparing to go. To the east of Salt River a a large tribe with much cattle was seen approaching. We hope to be able to trade with them, as it is evident that Herry and the Caapmen will do us no good , for having sold us 10 or 12 of their leanest kine they refuse to part with any more. Two men sent to Salt River for grass to fill the mattresses. They shot there a large steenbok, as heavy as a Javanese or English pony, which was pursued by four wolves, two of whom were hanging to its buttocks, whilst the two others endeavoured to check its progress. Seeing our men the wolves immediately left the buck, which was shot.10
On 26 June 1656 in the Company Journal, as translated: Fine, warm weather. Herry sent word by a Hottentoo who could speak a little Dutch that he had left, and we were to send him some more copper, to enable him to get us some more cattle; but having once deceived us we are of opinion that he wished to help himself, and perhaps soothe our impatience with a few lean animals. Sickness very severe. Day of prayer and fasting appointed for Thursday next; the men exhorted to do their Christian duty on that day and to refrain from all sing.
     As some take their meals like pigs without asking a blessing or returning thanks, the Gunner is ordered to pay particular attention to this matter, and when dinner is served go round and fine all who neglect to perform their sacred duty – ¼ real for the first offence, ½ ditto for the second, and four times as much for the third, besides arbitrary punishment according to Resolution.11
On 27 June 1656 in the Company Journal, as translated: Fine, cloudy weather. Men sent out to see where Herry and his friends were; one party went behind the Lion Mountain and the other eastward towards the forest. In the afternoon the latter reported that a troop of cattle found by them on the other side of the river belonged to Herry and his friends. The camp consisted of 35 huts and many oxen. They stated that Herry and the Caapmen were expected to meet them, and when together they would proceed inland Herry was afraid to drive his cattle past the fort lest the Commander might seize it, because he had failed to carry out his agreement, The other party returning from behind Table Mountain reported that they had found there a camp of 13 houses and about 200 head of cattle belonging to the Caapmen, who had stated that Herry had proceeded along the seashore to Hout Bay, and wished to go further inland; that he intended to return with much cattle to sell to us. Time will show.11
On 14 July 1656 in the Company Journal, as translated: At night a large troop of Hottentoos and friends of the Caapmen arrive with much cattle, which they had driven from behind the Lion Mountain along the beach and past the fort, having been camped between the Kloof and Table Mountain. They were chased by the Soanqua, enemies to them and all the Saldanhars. and really robbers; the former requested to squat under the guns of the fort, and were told that they could do so if they complied to the conditions agreed to by Herry, viz: to sell weekly to us 2 oxen and 2 sheep for copper and tobacco, &c., to feed the fort and the ships. They replied that being obliged to live upon their cattle they could not spare so much, and we then told them to march, as they only stay here to eat the grass, so that our cattle suffer grievously.12
On 15 July 1656 in the Company Journal, as translated: Boisterous wet weather. Sent men to find out what had become of the Hottentoos. They reported that the camp waa about ¼ leagues distant, and that Herry was near them, whom they had spoken to. He was on his march, but declined to come to the fort. In the meantime the Caapmen had sent messengers to propose to the Commander to seize Herry and his cattle, as he had so often deceived the Company and by dishonest means enriched himself, only requesting in return that when attacked by enemies they might be allowed to take shelter with us, living amicably with us and for food and tobacco collect fuel for the cooks and do other work. They could not, however, undertake to supply as much cattle as Herry had bargained for, as they required it for their support; they would, however, undertake to get what we required from the Saldanhars and act as faithful mediators. They were told to call their chief and 2 or 3 headmen, in order to consult with them and make a proper agreement, which would bind both parties; they were also told to detain Herry in a friendly way, in order more easily to get hold of him. In the afternoon two sons of the chief came, but they were told to bring their father, to which they agreed. Treated well, they left at night. The whole night through heavy rains.13
On 16 July 1656 in the Company Journal, as translated: (Sunday). – Wet, rainy weather from the west. Three sons of the chief arrived stating that their father, because of the wet and his corpulence, could not very well come, but agreed to the proposal. They sold us 6 fine sheep, and stated that they abided by yesterday’s proposals. If we killed Herry we would do them a great kindness, and they would get as much cattle from the Saldanhas as we wanted, who also would be served; and to clinch matters tlley ware prepared to proceed inland and invite the Saldanhars to come hither, &c. They would leave enough men behind to fetch fuel and do other service. They were told that they might always dwell here in friendship with us, but that we would keep in consideration the catching of Herry, pretending that such a course might displease them as well as the Saldanhars. They, however, declared unanimously that they would be delighted if we caught Herry by the neck, as he had richly deserved it by stealing our cattle and afterwards our copper, pretending that the Saldanhars had stolen it, which was a lie, as the Saldanhars had traded with him for those stolen articles, by which means he was continually growing richer as long as we countenanced him. The Caapmen and Saldanhars also feared that one day he might persuade us to take all their cattle. Already he was conspiring with the Soanqua, in order to obtain a large clan, and many were already gathered around him. Not one of them is his own people; he had neither child nor wife, except those whose parents and husbands were dead. This course he pursues daily, in order to become by increase a mighty chief. We were also reminded that, when we came here he had not even a skin to cover his body with, much less a hut to live in. At night he had to sleep under the bush. Now, howeyer, he plays the master over the Caapmen and all others. There was much truth in all of this, and it gave us cause to reflect. It was resolved to keep this consultation secret from him, and that the Caapmen should try and persuade him to come and live with them near the fort, when he would be more easily seized if necessary.
     Also resolved that on both sides care shall be taken that no inconvenience be caused to either party; offenders on both sides to be punished; agreement closed, and the Caapmen at once arranged for the ordinary fuel carriage and other services; payment to be a stomach-full af food, tobacco, and sometimes a little arrack, of which they are amazingly fond. They seemed to be satisfied, and promised to persuade the Saldanhars to come and trade with us for cattle.14
On 19 July 1656 in the Company Journal, as translated: Same weather. The road makers sent out yesterday to repair the road to the forest, report that about ½ league on this side of the forest the mountain stream had uprooted and carried down a large number of trees. The Commander (Jan van Riebeeck) went to see whether they could be used for timber. He found a cutting about 50 feet in the bare rock from the mountains and the wood washed down in large quantities, with rocks which had uprooted trees as long as masts. They were, however, only fit for fuel. They might easily be brought to the fort – if we only had horses – our greatest want. Fuel greatly wanted, and we are compelled to employ the Hottentoos for the purpose. With wagons and horses we would have enough firewood, and be enabled to prepare lands for corn in order to supply ourselves.
     Eertman Gleuge of Straalsont, was this morning confined for stealing a popgun from the armoury. Having been allowed by the gunner to ease himself, he ran away.15
On 22 July 1656 in the Company Journal, as translated: Same weather. Men sent for beams to the forest for the jetty, which is already commenced, and will require a large quantity of timber. It will have to extend into the sea about 70 or 80 roods. The runaway (Eertman Gleuge) brought back in the afternoon by two of the Caapmen. The first night he had slept in Herry's camp and brought thither with 3 of Herry's Hottentoos the stolen greens. The latter having been consumed on the following day, Herry had turned him off to get more, but knowing that a careful watch would be kept he had hidden himself in the huts of the hunters, which were erected in the places where the birds abound, until today, when he had been caught by the 2 Hottentoos, who received a feed of rice and bread, some tobacco, and arrack for their trouble. They were also warned to tell their countrymen not to enter the gardens with any of our men, as orders had been given to the sentries to shoot all found in the gardens.16


  1. [S646] Precis of the archives of the Cape of Good Hope, JVR Journal II, 1656-1658, H.C.V. Leibrandt; (Cape Town, South Africa: W. A. Richards & Sons, Government Printers, Castle Street, 1897), p.1. Hereinafter cited as Precis of the archives, JVR Journal II 1656-1658.
  2. [S405] H.B. Thom, editor, Journal of Jan van Riebeeck Vol II 1656-1658 translated by J. Smuts from the original Dutch, (Cape Town, Amsterdam: A.A. Balkema, 1954), pp.2-3. Hereinafter cited as Journal of Jan van Riebeeck Vol II 1656-1658.
  3. [S405] H.B. Thom editor, Journal of Jan van Riebeeck Vol II 1656-1658, p.3.
  4. [S405] H.B. Thom editor, Journal of Jan van Riebeeck Vol II 1656-1658, pp.11-12.
  5. [S405] H.B. Thom editor, Journal of Jan van Riebeeck Vol II 1656-1658, pp.18-19.
  6. [S405] H.B. Thom editor, Journal of Jan van Riebeeck Vol II 1656-1658, pp.19-20.
  7. [S405] H.B. Thom editor, Journal of Jan van Riebeeck Vol II 1656-1658, p.21.
  8. [S405] H.B. Thom editor, Journal of Jan van Riebeeck Vol II 1656-1658, p.22.
  9. [S405] H.B. Thom editor, Journal of Jan van Riebeeck Vol II 1656-1658, p.23.
  10. [S405] H.B. Thom editor, Journal of Jan van Riebeeck Vol II 1656-1658, pp.23-24.
  11. [S405] H.B. Thom editor, Journal of Jan van Riebeeck Vol II 1656-1658, p.24.
  12. [S405] H.B. Thom editor, Journal of Jan van Riebeeck Vol II 1656-1658, pp.26-27.
  13. [S405] H.B. Thom editor, Journal of Jan van Riebeeck Vol II 1656-1658, p.27.
  14. [S405] H.B. Thom editor, Journal of Jan van Riebeeck Vol II 1656-1658, pp.27-28.
  15. [S405] H.B. Thom editor, Journal of Jan van Riebeeck Vol II 1656-1658, p.28.
  16. [S405] H.B. Thom editor, Journal of Jan van Riebeeck Vol II 1656-1658, p.29.

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