Anderson's Griquatown / Griekwastad Visit

An account of our visit to Griquatown - South Africa - January 7, 2004.

Narrative by Helena Elizabeth Rose (nee Anderson) and moderated by Dr. Ralph Blyth Anderson.

On our early arrival - heat quite unbearable - we started our look around Griquatown - just to find out what we could. The town is not big - with the main road from Kimberly (on to Uppington and Namaqualand) being the centre. Here we found the Mary Moffat Museum. We took a brief run around the one side of the main road - to find the Anderson Primary School. Our lodging for the night was on a farm 18 km out - on the other side of the town. So we took ourselves off to the farm - and had a look at that side of the town - all in all this could have taken us 5 minutes but took us an hour.

The farm house and garden - at which we stayed - was like an oasis, surrounded by bleak semi desert dotted with a few sheep in the distance. We got to town the early next morning and firstly found someone from the Museum to show us the locality of the grave of the wife of Cornelius Kramer, who with William Anderson had been the first London Missionary Society missionaries to establish a station north of the Orange River.

This was interesting - Firstly we now saw the location of Leeuwenkuil fountain which was the first area where William Anderson 1769-1852 built reed houses.

One could imagine him cutting the reeds from around the fountain for his building. This area looks like a large dried up riverbed with the spring waters rising in the middle. Later in the day we climbed the hillside (overlooking the school) to try to take pictures of this valley with the Leeuwenkuil spring in the distance. (the photos could not quite pick this up) The spring 2km north of this is the Klaarwater spring - now within the township of Griquatown where some of the descendants of the Griqua people now live.

The spring at Leeuwenskuil (Lion's Den)

So called old sheep kraalRocky ground above Leeuwskuil




Secondly - on the walk from the Leeuwenkuil spring up a long hill (the Kramer grave is on the other side) we came across stone ruins. We asked an old herdsman what he thought this was - "an old cattle kraal" he said - well when So called old sheep kraallater we had seen how the Kramer grave had been constructed - the similarity of stone, the width of the walls and the size of the site - this all suggested that this was no kraal but a stone building of the same period.

Thirdly - on finding Mrs Kramer's grave we were most disappointed to find it unmarked and derelict. But our old herdsman came to the rescue and said he had seen the sign a way down the path (pics had taken off with it, he said) and went off to fetch it. We then were able to take some photos but were remiss in not going back to take some of the suspect 'kraal'.

It was a special feeling at the grave side - knowing that William and his wife, Johanna, Cornelius Kramer and Lambert Jansz had been right there at the burial - laying the stones on the grave - of Mrs Kramer (we later discovered her Christian names, Josina Elizabeth, in a book we purchased at the Museum) being the first white woman to be buried north of the Orange River.Grave

On looking around us at the neglect and dereliction - contrary to our deeper good feelings - we also felt that the town of Griqua could make so much more of the site as a national heritage to be preserved accordingly.

Our next move was on the Museum - the coolness under the thatch of the Museum was great to get away from the sweltering heat outside. We thought there were some things amiss in the promotion of the Moffat Museum with respect to the true history of Griquatown: one had the urge to remind visitors that Robert Moffat was only in Griquatown for 10 months while waiting for the birth of his daughter 'Mary'. And that perhaps his major claim to fame was that his daughter 'Mary' had married the famous explorer David Livingstone. [Mary Moffat Livingstone (1820-1862) was born at Griquatown, to her missionary parents, Robert and Mary Moffat].

Within this very small museum - we found nothing directly made or once used by William Anderson- this was a bit of a disappointment. In one corner a new exhibition had just been finished of the "Founders of Griquatown". Here we found photocopies of extracts from various books - one was Peter's book "Weapons of Peace". In our research we found Peter's book and another "They were South Africans" by John Bond very informative. We bought another book at the museum, "The Mission at Griquatown "1801 - 1821" - edited by Karel Schoeman (basically copies of written documents with dates). Together the three books give one a pretty good idea of what took place in William and Johanna's lives while in Klaarwater.

The bell that Anderson refers to in the Mary Moffat MuseaumAt the end of our visit to the Mary Moffat Museum - our chatty 'Hester' told us that we knew more of the Griquatown history (1800-1821) than she did. It was now lunch time - and so hot - we were directed (half a block up the main street - of course-where else) to the only 'café' where we could have some tea and something to eat. Thank heavens it had a huge air conditioner - so we could take a break out of the heat.

We took the books - plus the new one - and started again trying to place William in this little town. The Museum itself had to have been built by William - as either the school or church. Made in the same stone and same construction as the grave and suspect 'kraal'. From all the books - we know that this building took years to build - and seemed to be finished by 1818.

We then took another look at the Anderson School. We noticed the sign - as per the photos - which did confuse us a bit as we thought this would be the only indication that William Anderson had even been in the place - to find the name "P. S. Anderson" inscribed on the entrance sign. But as the school was closed for the holidays we could get no answers from the Head Master - who we believe would have the documents naming the school.So - after this we did take more photographs - but it got too hot - so we took off for our farm lodgings to pack and get ready for our home trip back to Pretoria.

In summary, we were very disappointed that apart from published material that had to be read in the Mary Moffat Museum, there was little to remind us that Anderson and Kramer, at great personal cost and deprivation, had laboured to bring Christianity to the local people, and in so doing, had established the Klaarwater settlement which was later named Griquatown.

We also felt that in view of the circumstances surrounding her death, the grave of Josina Kramer should be embellished and should be enshrined as a national heritage site.