FLEMMER FAMILY 150 YEARS

CRADOCK APRIL 2003

Cradock 2003
Cradock 2003

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Cradock
Cradock

View of Market Street and the Tuise

Graveyard
Graveyard

St Peters where so many of our ancestors lie

Cradock 2003
Cradock 2003

This was our welcome banner

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The 150 Year Flemmer Reunion was held in Cradock over the Heritage Day weekend in March 2003. 

The event started with a social get together on Friday evening 21st March - what a party and what better way to celebrate Heritage Day! The main events - the talks, the tours and the dinner were on Saturday 22nd and on Sunday some of the family went to Tafelberg Hall. 

One of the pleasant surprises of the weekend was to meet up with McDonald 'McGyvir' Flemmer and family. McGyvir had made contact just before the Reunion on behalf of a family named Flemmer living in Cradock, with relatives in the area. His story is here on the site - click on the link below. It is not clear if this family is descended from the original Flemmer family, but McGyvir and his family came along to the Reunion anyway and were made very welcome. Steve is helping McGyvir to conduct the genealogical research to establish his line of descent.

The weekend was wonderful. Over 90 family members from Australia, England, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and all over South Africa. A great time was had by everyone. Read about it by clicking on the links below.

Fay's report back 

We arrived in Cradock on Thursday 20th March 2003 and were shown into May's House in the delightful row of restored houses in Market Street, which make up the Tuishuise.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shortly after settling in we met Duncan and Margie (Flemmer) McBean and had a chat in the street, while the staff put up a wonderful banner welcoming us all to Cradock.

 

Steve, Judy and Kate arrived. Steve had arranged to meet McDonald 'McGyvir' Flemmer, who had contacted him just before the Reunion on behalf of a family named Flemmer living in Cradock, with relatives in the area. It is not clear if this family is descended from the original Flemmer family, but McGyvir and his family came along to the Reunion anyway and were made very welcome. Steve is helping McGyvir to conduct the genealogical research to establish his line of descent.

 

We had a quiet but splendid dinner in the Victoria Hotel, and had an early night in anticipation of the onslaught of the ninety family members who would be arriving the next day. Each house occupied by a member of the clan had the Flemmer family reunion crest pasted outside the door.

Sandra Antrobus from the Tuishuis had done a splendid job in getting the Masonic Hall ready for us and we mounted the exhibition of photographs and memorabilia ready for the next day.

 

All day during Friday 21st in between showers and a cloud burst, family members arrived and great meetings and greetings were held in Market street between the houses.

A wonderful bring and braai was held in the garden of Karoo Morning, Steve and Judy's Tuishuis. Sandra had provided the salads, which were amazing and several braai's were set up in the driveway. The local historian Duncan Ferguson who has been so helpful with information was there too. Many people had never met and many had not seen one another since the last reunion in 2001. The atmosphere was tremendous and many thanks to Judy & Steve for hosting this get together. Needless to say the noise level rose and there were several delicate constitutions the next morning. Our ancestor Christian August Flemmer would not have looked down too proudly with his teetotaller thinking!

Saturday dawned - a beautiful warm day, and the sun shone. The proceedings were due to start at 9 a.m. sharp and everyone gathered to collect their nametags and pay their R30 entry fee. 

Terry had set up a sale's table for memorabilia, from family crests, medallions, shirts and caps, emblazoned with the Reunion logo to CD's, books and cross-stitch patterns of the crest. A brisk trade was done and thanks are due to Dani and Talia for all their hard work.

 

Terry started the meeting with an introduction on the crest. And put everyone's mind to rest regarding the skull and cross bones. The original meaning of these symbols was to emphasise the basis of Christian belief. The skull was a reference to Golgotha (The Place of Skulls) where the Crucifixion took place; the bones were crossed as a symbol of Christianity: the bones themselves were thighbones to signify the Resurrection - no one can rise again without these bones. It was only very much later that this blazon changed its meaning, ironically to indicate danger and the threat to the mortality of man.

Fay then spoke on the women, in particular, Betty von Abo Flemmer, wife of Christian August, our stamvader in South Africa.

 

So little is written about the women 150 years ago. In a 100 page document on one family two pages were devoted to the wife - a photo and her death notice. This is a woman who bore her husband seven children. 
Today at 37 years of age - if you are pregnant your gynaecologist would keep a close watch on your progress - do tests and would certainly advise you not to travel. But our little Betty, she was a little woman, left Denmark five months pregnant - with seven children under 12! She had a servant with her, but one can imagine how overwhelmed she would have been. Hopefully Camilla (11) and Charlotte (8) would help with the little ones, Hans (4) and Salvator (2).

 

The voyage which took three months with no fresh water, meat or vegetables, would have been a trial beyond words. We hear that the noise was incredible - the creaking and shouting the water leaking in everywhere. Their clothes were constantly wet. The arrival in Algoa Bay is left to the imagination. Leaving the ship either in a basket and being lowered down into a boat, or going down a rope ladder, bearing in mind that Betty was now eight months pregnant. The small rowing boat would take the family and all their possessions ashore. The first encounter with a black person would be being lifted from the boat and carried to the beach. 

Europe in February has temperatures around the minus - South Africa would be in the 30's. the beach would have tents to camp and now she has to feed the children. Food they have never seen in some cases. We hear the beach was like a bazaar with stalls set up selling to the new arrivals. The trip to Cradock was a three week journey by ox wagon. Once again just imagine feeding the family. The Danes loved soup and sometimes had two at a meal. Perhaps she would just get the soup going over an open fire when the cry would go up to inspan and carry on the journey. There is a story - not of our family but it could have happened to them, where there was no fresh bread and the lady of the family was preparing vet koek in oil over the open fire, when a herd of elephant charged through the camp, upsetting the oil and setting a tree alight, almost burning down one of the wagons, which would have contained all their clothing and linen!

We understand that Toger von Abo, Betty's brother, had prepared a house for them in Cradock, there is some dispute but it could have been where the Victoria hotel is today. He would surely have furnished it and so the family would have had a relatively smooth arrival. However, bearing in mind that Betty was eight months pregnant she would have had to start bottling vegetables and fruit which was ripe during this period. It was a case of now or never, and provision had to be made for the winter months. No handy store around the corner! She would have had to make candles and soap. I'm sure she would have brought the baby's layette from Denmark. I would like to think that great friendships were forged and the family were welcomed and assisted by the families already established in the town, like the Disitn's, Gilfillan's and Philps into which families the children of the Flemmer family married years later.

 

Steve then gave us a wonderful talk on the family, the origins of the South African Flemmer's and the families into which the seven children married. 

He started by showing a line of descent for the youngest family member at the Reunion - Tim Shelver - who was there with his parents, Helen and Stu, and grandparents Nolan and Jenny Flemmer. Ten generations were on the chart, from Fredrich Flemmer born in 1703 - three hundred years ago, to young Tim, a mere 18 months old.

From there he took us back to try and answer the questions which have been asked so often - why did the family emigrate? And why Cradock?

 

Denmark had gone through major financial problems in this time. The country was insolvent in 1815 - it was at this time that a silver tax was introduced which was payable by all citizens. It was this event which gave rise to the old family story that Hans Christian Flemmer voluntarily gave all the family silver to the king and was rewarded for his loyalty.

Another major event at about the time they left Denmark was the Schleswig War of 1850 in which Christian had served as an army doctor. We do not know how he felt about that, but wars have never been a pleasant experience and Europe was far from settled at the time.

Against this broad background of a stagnating economy and the threat of further wars, there was also the personal financial position of Christian and his large family. Although one thinks of doctors as being comfortably off now, the family was helped financially for many years with an allowance from Christian's father Hans, the Lutheran minister. When Hans died in 1847, and the allowance ended, finances would have been very tight with seven children and three servants to support.

Betty's brother Toger had gone to South Africa and had settled in Cradock many years before. He had been successful and become quite wealthy and no doubt he had sent back glowing accounts of life in the Colony. He offered to finance the trip out to South Africa for Christian and the family and to help them establish themselves, which would have entailed a considerable outlay. 

Presented with the means to get away from their problems in Denmark, like immigrants from time immemorial, the chance was seized to take a risk and move to a new country. And what a chance it must have seemed. Moves like this were very final in those days - no phones, no Internet, no hopping on a plane for a 12 hour ride home if things went wrong. Most people who emigrated never saw their homeland or family again in those times.

 

He went on to highlight the difficulties of life in the early days in Cradock:

Although there was a house ready for them when they arrived in Cradock, said to be on site of present Victoria Manor Hotel, I will take some time now to try to give a picture of the sort of place and life they had come to. With all of our modern conveniences - motor cars, telephones, fridge/freezers, electricity, microwaves, convenience foods, running water and on and on - it is hard to realise that it wasn't always so easy. Water was collected from an open furrow that ran past the house from the river - if there was no drought. Not a very hygienic delivery system when one thinks what else might be in the furrow. Cooking of course was on a wood fire stove. Imagine the heat in the kitchen, with its arsenic painted walls to keep the insects and flies down. And no one dressed as lightly as we do now - heavy clothes were the order of the day, buttoned up to the neck. How did they keep meat fresh in summer? You can't eat an entire animal before the heat gets to it? And where did they get fresh vegetables? There were plagues of locusts. There were droughts and Cradock itself was hot and DUSTY. One couldn't just walk across Market Square where they lived, it was said. One had to wade through ankle deep dust. And compared with our modern hustle and bustle it is hard to picture how quiet it must have been at night. The streets would only be lit by the candles in people's homes although for special celebrations, tar barrels would be lit in the streets.

By our standards life was very tough indeed, and was only made bearable by strong family bonds, an unshakeable belief in God and one's church and community, all of which were central to life at that time.


And to the Question: Why Cradock?
When the Flemmers arrived in Cradock it was a thriving little town. It was one of the main centres of wool farming and commerce in the Eastern Cape and was really the 'end of the line' as far as travellers were concerned. Beyond the town stretched the wilds of South Africa. There were at least thirty general stores stocking groceries, medicines, clothing, buttons, candles and even catapults and bull's-eyes! And so the family settled in, became well established and contributed significantly to the economy and to society as we will see below. After summarising very briefly the lives of the Flemmer children, Steve concluded:

In total there were AT LEAST 46 children born of the Flemmer marriages in the 40 years between the first marriage in 1860 and the start of the Boer War. And so the Flemmer clan has grown and grown. 

There have been many achievements. In military service in the Boer War and both the First and Second World Wars; in service to the community; in sport there is an Oxford Blue, Springbok trialists and provincial representatives; in the academic field there are attorneys, chartered accountants and medical people. 

With the passing of time there are South African members of the Flemmer clan scattered to the four corners of the world. We are very fortunate to have you all here to day - a remarkable family with proud record and I thank you all for coming.

 

There was a presentation to THE FLEMMER, the eldest son, of the eldest son ……Ludvig Austin Dean Flemmer born on June 16, 1930, son of John Sweet Distin 'Jack' Flemmer 1905 - 1980, son of John Distin Flemmer 1875 - 1920, son of Christian Ludvig Flemmer 1839 - 1903, son of Christian August Flemmer 1813 - 1870. He was presented with a red cap to signify his title - to be worn at all family gatherings - and the family crest. 
 

A wonderful tea was laid on by Tuishuis and then the official photographer had the unenviable task of trying to bring some order to the proceedings and get 96 members photographed. 

In the afternoon, there was a walking tour of Cradock, a visit to Mulberry Shade residence in Bree Street, the home of Rosa Philp, who married Toger Abo August Flemmer. Although this had been arranged with the present owner of the house, the house was securely locked and no amount of knocking elicited a response. She contacted Steve later and said she had been gardening and had not heard the knocking! The crowd then proceeded to St Peter's Anglican Church in the same street, where Christian August and Christian Ludvig his son are buried. The Church was also sadly securely locked although arrangements had been made for our visit. The cemetery also holds the remains of the Gilfillan's, Philps, and Distin families - all related to the Flemmers by marriage.

We then proceeded to the Cradock Museum which was also securely locked, in spite of prior arrangements having been made. The temperature was rather warm so we all headed back to our various accommodations to relax before the great dinner. 

 

The Tuishuis and Sandra Antrobus in particular had gone to a tremendous amount of trouble to make the evening special. They had decorated the dining room with Danish flags and the Reunion logo. Each place setting had this logo as a coaster for their glass and little Danish flags were scattered on the table like confetti. There were even bottles of wine labelled with the Flemmer Reunion logo - and idea that Anthea had come up with. It was a very special evening for Kate Herbert - her 25th birthday and she will never forget more than 90 family members singing Happy Birthday to her!

A traditional Karoo Buffet dinner was enjoyed by all. We understand that there were quite a lot what Christian August might have termed 'boisterous behaviour' late in the evening. A choir of singers in the street in the small hours of the morning sang The Requiem, before retiring to bed. Their skill may be judged by the fact that Steve, hearing the racket, thought a fight had broken out! 

 

On Sunday the descendants of Christian Ludvig and other family members who grew up in the area made a pilgrimage to St Lawrence's Anglican Church at the Tafelberg Station, this church was built by Christian Ludvig and John Sweet Distin, among others, and Anna Distin Flemmer used to play the organ. A service is held once a month and we were fortunate that this was the day on which the service was held by the Rev. Rory Middlecoat of Middelburg. There were twenty family members and we took up the entire on side of the church, which apparently except for weddings and other occasions has never been so full. It was sad that the original organ can no longer be used, William Asher (who now owns Tafelberg Hall) used to pump the bellows and Eve Meintjes would play the organ. A Piano has been installed and it was the first time it was used for a service. The family would like to thank Rory and the congregation for accommodating such a large crowd.

 

William took us on a tour - the weather had deteriorated and the temperature dropped dramatically. We all scrambled for warmer clothing. The group clambered up a kopje to view the initials of J.D. Flemmer carved in a rock in 1883. Also to see the remains of the house Christian Ludvig and Anna Distin Flemmer had lived in Plaatrivier.

 

We then followed William to Tafelberg Hall where we had a tour of the Watermill. And the grainery store which John Sweet Distin built. The tour of the Milkshed and a visit to the house was truly a step back in time. Hearing about the Union Jack which was flown when the mail ship was in Port Elizabeth and visitors used to travel to Tafelberg Hall by train made us all realise how times have changed.

 

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There were more than 90 family members at the Reunion. Those who attended are listed below under the name of their ancestral child of the Flemmer stamvader - Dr Christian August Flemmer - by order of those ancestor's birth.

CHRISTIAN LUDVIG was the eldest son. He married Anna Distin and they had nine children. He farmed at Tafelberg Hall before setting up business as a storekeeper in Cradock. His descendants were the second largest group and here they are, alphabetically by last name:

1. Cole-Rous Jenny 
2. Etsebeth Lindi 
3. Etsebeth Talia
4. Etesebeth Kylie
5. Flemmer Dennis
6. Flemmer Devon
7. Flemmer Estelle
8. Flemmer Joan
9. Flemmer John 
10. Flemmer Lu
11. Flemmer Natasha
12. Flemmer Yvonne
13. Geyser Joan
14. Griffiths Dave
15. Griffiths Wendy
16. Lea Brian
17. Lea Fay
18. Mast Andrew
19. Mast Charles
20. Mast Emily
21. Mast Jo
22. Mast John
23. Mast Noel
24. Mast Shirley 
25. Rainer-Pope Chris
26. Rainer-Pope Jill
27. Ransome Glen 
28. Ransome Joyce
29. Ransome Michelle 
30. Warren Joan
31. Warren John

TOGER ABO AUGUST was the second son. He married Rosa Philps and they had nine children. This clan of the family was represented by a small but vocal group who clearly enjoyed the party atmosphere:

1. Pallister Geoff
2. Pallister Val
3. Van Selm Jet
4. Turvey Phyl
5. Carter Kit 
6. Carter Carol
7. Tarr Marie
8. Tarr Ann

CHARLOTTE MARIE LOUISE was the second oldest daughter and she married Edward Gilfillan. They had six children. Although at first it was thought that there would be none of her descendants at the Reunion, at the last minute, the Gush family heard about it and they were made very welcome.

 

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List of family members who

attended the reunion

 
May House
May House

Banner
Banner

The staff of Tuishuisie put up a wonderful banner to welcome the Flemmer family

Grainery store
Grainery store

The grainery store which John Sweet Distin built

May House
May House

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So little is written about the women 150 years ago. In a 100 page document on one family two pages were devoted to the wife - a photo and her death notice. This is a woman who bore her husband seven children.


Today at 37 years of age - if you are pregnant your gynaecologist would keep a close watch on your progress - do tests and would certainly advise you not to travel. But our little Betty, she was a little woman, left Denmark five months pregnant - with seven children under 12! She had a servant with her, but one can imagine how overwhelmed she would have been. Hopefully Camilla (11) and Charlotte (8) would help with the little ones, Hans (4) and Salvator (2). 

The voyage which took three months with no fresh water, meat or vegetables, would have been a trial beyond words. We hear that the noise was incredible - the creaking and shouting the water leaking in everywhere. Their clothes were constantly wet. 

The arrival in Algoa Bay is left to the imagination. Leaving the ship either in a basket and being lowered down into a boat, or going down a rope ladder, bearing in mind that Betty was now eight months pregnant. The small rowing boat would take the family and all their possessions ashore. The first encounter with a black person would be being lifted from the boat and carried to the beach. 

Europe in February has temperatures around the minus - South Africa would be in the 30's. the beach would have tents to camp and now she has to feed the children. Food they have never seen in some cases. We hear the beach was like a bazaar with stalls set up selling to the new arrivals. 

The trip to Cradock was a three week journey by ox wagon. Once again just imagine feeding the family. The Danes loved soup and sometimes had two at a meal. Perhaps she would just get the soup going over an open fire when the cry would go up to inspan and carry on the journey. There is a story - not of our family but it could have happened to them, where there was no fresh bread and the lady of the family was preparing vet koek in oil over the open fire, when a herd of elephant charged through the camp, upsetting the oil an setting a tree alight, almost burning down one of the wagons, which would have contained all their clothing and linen!

We understand that Toger von Abo, Betty's brother, had prepared a house for them in Cradock, there is some dispute but it could have been where the Victoria hotel is today. He would surely have furnished it so and so the family would have had a relatively smooth arrival. However, bearing in mind that Betty was eight months pregnant she would have had to start bottling vegetables and fruit which was ripe during this period. It was a case of now or never, and provision had to be made for the winter months. No handy store around the corner! She would have had to make candles and soap. 

Amazingly enough there was 26 000 gallons of wine and 10 640 gallons of brandy produced in the year 1843 and James Collet reports 'The English servants were all intoxicated.' It is little wonder that Dr Flemmer was actively engaged in the teetotallers' organisation.

I'm sure Betty would have brought the baby's layette from Denmark. I would like to think that great friendships were forged and the family were welcomed and assisted by the families already established in the town, like the Distin's, Gilfillan's and Philps into which families the children of the Flemmer family married years later.

 

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Paper presented by Fay Lea

 

When looking at all that our ancestors faced over say the last 500 years, we can honestly say that this weekend is a celebration for us as family - for actually BEING here at all.

It is a celebration of the happy times many of have had as family, for our achievements and the strength and characteristics handed down to us from our forebears

I say 500 years because the earliest reference to a Flemmer we have found is Olof Flemmer, who lived near Odense in 1491. He was a churchwarden, and I have no doubt a direct ancestor of ours. During those 500 years our family line has survived plague, starvation, numerous wars and every other problem that besets mankind- and yet here we are all together in celebration in Cradock!

The recorded history of the South African Flemmers started 300 years ago this year. Fredrich Flemmer was born in Odense 1703 - lets look at one chain of descent, that of the youngest family member here today - Tim Shelver.

 

FREDRICH FLEMMER born 1703
 

1 Fredrich - Wigmaker
2 Johannes - Wigmaker
3 Hans Christian Lutheran - Minister
4 Christian August - Doctor
5 Hans Christian JP - Farmer, Storekeeper
6 Marius Toger - Attorney
7 Oswald Nolan - Attorney
8 Nolan George - Attorney
9 Helen Claire - Teacher
10 Timothy 18 months!

 

 

 

But lets look at the last 150 years now - the main reason we are here today - and in the course of this talk try to answer the questions I have wondered about and been asked by many family members

WHY DID THEY LEAVE DENMARK? AND WHY DID THEY SETTLE IN CRADOCK?

Christian Flemmer had married Betty von Abo in 1839 when he was 26 and she was 23. They lived in Korsor where he had his practice. In the eleven years they lived there before leaving for the Cape Colony they had 7 children.

Denmark had gone through major financial problems in this time. The country was insolvent in 1815 - it was at this time that a silver tax was introduced which was payable by all citizens. It was this event which gave rise to the old family story that Hans Christian Flemmer voluntarily gave all the family silver to the king and was rewarded for his loyalty.

Another major event at about the time they left Denmark was the Schleswig War of 1850 in which Christian had served as an army doctor. We do not know how he felt about that, but wars have never been a pleasant experience and Europe was far from settled at the time.

Against this broad background of a stagnating economy and the threat of further wars, there was also the personal financial position of Christian and his large family. Although one thinks of doctors as being comfortably off now, the family was helped financially for many years with an allowance from Christian's father Hans, the Lutheran minister. When Hans died in 1847, and the allowance ended, finances would have been very tight with seven children and three servants to support.

Betty's brother Toger had gone to South Africa and had settled in Cradock many years before. He had been successful and become quite wealthy and no doubt he had sent back glowing accounts of life in the Colony. He offered to finance the trip out to South Africa for Christian and the family and to help them establish themselves, which would have entailed a considerable outlay. 

Presented with the means to get away from their problems in Denmark, like immigrants from time immemorial, the chance was seized to take a risk and move to a new country. And what a chance it must have seemed. Moves like this were very final in those days - no phones, no Internet, no hopping on a plane for a 12 hour ride home if things went wrong. Most people who emigrated never saw their homeland or family again in those times.

This was the party that set off from Korsor to Copenhagen and from Copenhagen to London.

 

CHRISTIAN & BETTY FLEMMER AND THEIR CHILDREN:

Christian Ludvig 12
Camilla 11
Toger 10
Charlotte 8
Kirstine 7
Hans 4
Andreas Salvator 2
Toger and Methea Sophia von Abo
Hans Michael Naested
At least two servants

 

It may seem odd that the family brought two servants with them, but we know that there was difficulty in finding servants in Cradock, as this quote from a contemporary account shows

"One lady tells me when she was a child she came over to Africa with her Parents. Her Mother brought over two women servants; but the plan did not answer, for although one was particularly ugly yet they both very soon married."

Perhaps that is what happened to the Flemmer's servants, as they do not feature in any family history.

Toger von Abo had returned from South Africa earlier in the year and had married his cousin Methea Sophia Kjelberg in July of 1852. Although we know that they arived in South Africa with the Flemmer party, there is not trace of what happened to Methea Sophia. There is no death certificate, no trace of any children. My personal view is that after spending three months on the ship with the seven Flemmer children, she caught the next boat back to Denmark.

Paper presented by Steve Herbert

 

Methea Sophia Abo

Hans Michael Naested

The final member of the party - Hans Michael Naested - was another cousin. He does feature in the family history as he went on to marry Christian's eldest daughter, Camilla. But I am getting a bit ahead of myself.

 

The family stayed at America Square near London docks, for some time, as Dr Flemmer had to apply the Royal College of Physicians if he wished to practice in a British Colony. He was a little concerned about his grasp of the English language, so elected to write the examination in Latin, an examination that he passed. 

Christian Flemmer was admitted as a member of the Royal College of Physicians on November 5 1852 and wasted little time in getting on their way. They embarked on a freezing cold November morning on the 384 ton bark Corsairs Bride, frequently on the run to the Cape, and sailed on November 22.

Conditions must have been tough on a ship this size, with seven children and Betty four or five months pregnant. Enough to put Toger's new wife off, as I said before!

This is another extract from a contemporary account of a voyage like theirs:

"Went to bed at 9 and couldn't undress it pitched so, and had to call the doctor to help me to my cot. My cabin is water tight as to big splashes, but damp and dribbling. The forecastle is under water with every lurch, and the motion quite incredible.

Life is thus: Avery, my cabin boy, brings tea for Sally and milk for me at 6. Sally turns out; when she is dressed I turn out, and ring for Avery, who takes down my cot, and brings a bucket of salt water, in which I wash with infinite danger and difficulty: get dressed and go on deck at 8. Breakfast solidly at 9, meat, curry etc. Deck again; gossip, pretend to read; beer and biscuits at 12. Dinner at 4. 

The food on board here is good as to meat, bread and beer, everything else bad. Port and sherry of British manufacture, and the water with an incredible boracic essence of tar, so that tea and coffee are but derisive names.

The children swarm on board and cry unceasingly, they are a horrid nuisance.. Today the air is saturated with wet. I put on my clothes damp when I dressed and have felt so ever since. You would be dead by this time of the noise, which is beyond all belief; the creaking, trampling, shouting and clattering; it is an incessant storm.

The Corsairs Bride finally made landfall on 11 February 1853 - almost three months from the time of sailing from London. In that time they would not have gone into any ports. The sailing ships of the time headed far to the West towards what is now Brazil to catch the prevailing winds. These would have carried the ship south of Cape Town. We can only imagine how the family felt and how difficult it must have been to find themselves on solid land once more, especially when we consider this contemporary description of an arrival at Algoa Bay: 

'…the boat anchored in the open roadstead and boats came out at once to take passengers through the surf. There was excitement when the boat reached the breakers. Urged on by the helmsman the boatmen pulled tremendously; then, at a signal, shipped the oars instantaneously, and on we swept, carried a great distance by a wave. This was repeated, the men showing wonderful dexterity, till the last wave which brought us almost ashore, when, with a simultaneous yell, in rushed a host of black children and boys, clothed and unclothed. The boat was surrounded by a crowd of young natives jabbering and snatching at our things, till I thought we would never keep them'.

On arriving at Port Elizabeth, they were carried from the boat to the shore by Kaffir boys, and she remembers seeing her father, a stout man, with his legs across the shoulders of a small Kaffir. Tents were pitched and here they lived for a while. One night they were alarmed by hearing footsteps, and the next morning they found a thief had been and stolen a cheese.

'….. they found a most animated scene with Kaffirs, resplendent in greatcoats, Hottentots with their gaudily feathered hats, and "gentleman-colonists" riding their horses through the soft sand. Ivory, skins, horns and curios brought down from the interior crowded the open market.


We are told that Betty was met by her father Johannes Christian von Abo, who had effectively abandoned her as a six month old when he came to the Cape.

Fay has covered some of the detail of the journey from Port Elizabeth to Cradock in her talk - the loading of the wagons; the trek inland taking about 3 weeks in the blazing heat of February in the Eastern Cape; the difficulty of cooking for this big party over open fires; hungry children; wild animals! What strength of faith and family there must have been to carry them through.

Although there was a house ready for them when they arrived in Cradock, said to be on site of present Victoria Manor Hotel, I will take some time now to try to give a picture of the sort of place and life they had come to. With all of our modern conveniences - motor cars, telephones, fridge/freezers, electricity, microwaves, convenience foods, running water and on and on - it is hard to realise that it wasn't always so easy. Water was collected from an open furrow that ran past the house from the river - if there was no drought. Not a very hygienic delivery system when one thinks what else might be in the furrow. Cooking of course was on a wood fire stove. Imagine the heat in the kitchen, with its arsenic painted walls to keep the insects and flies down. And no one dressed as lightly as we do now - heavy clothes were the order of the day, buttoned up to the neck. How did they keep meat fresh in summer? You can't eat an entire animal before the heat gets to it? And where did they get fresh vegetables? There were plagues of locusts. There were droughts and Cradock itself was hot and DUSTY. One couldn't just walk across Market Square where they lived, it was said. One had to wade through ankle deep dust. And compared with our modern hustle and bustle it is hard to picture how quiet it must have been at night. The streets would only be lit by the candles in people's homes although for special celebrations, tar barrels would be lit in the streets.

By our standards life was very tough indeed, and was only made bearable by strong family bonds, an unshakeable belief in God and one's church and community, all of which were central to life at that time.

And to the Question: Why Cradock?
When the Flemmers arrived in Cradock it was a thriving little town. It was one of the main centres of wool farming and commerce in the Eastern Cape and was really the 'end of the line' as far as travellers were concerned. Beyond the town stretched the wilds of South Africa. There were at least thirty general stores stocking groceries, medicines, clothing, buttons, candles and even catapults and bull's-eyes! An so the family settled in, became well established and contributed significantly to the economy and to society as we will see below.

In the fifty years (1853-1899) after their arrival there were huge changes in the Colony. The wars which had been a feature for many years continued, with the Gaika War of 1877, the Basotho War and the Zulu Wars, the first Boer War. The cattle killing of the Xhosa people followed by the Rinderpest decimated the population and finally brought peace. 

The railway came to Cradock, bringing more prosperity with easier access. The civic buildings were erected, as was the beautiful Dutch Reformed Church, a copy of St Martins-in-the-fields in London. But the discovery of gold and diamonds saw the economy of South Africa starting to move toward Kimberley and the Rand from about 1870. And Cradock became less and less important as the years went by.


But let us look at what the Flemmer children did as these years passed by:

CHRISTIAN LUDVIG married Anna Distin. They had nine children and farmed at Plaatrivier before setting up business as a storekeeper in Cradock. We learn a good deal about this family from The Little Dane - Anna Louise (Flemmer) Rous' biography.

CAMILLA HENRIETTE married Hans Michael Naested and they had eight children. Hans Michael owned farms in the area and several shops in Cradock, including liquor stores. This branch of the family seemed to separate itself from the other as time went by. Perhaps, given Dr Flemmer's total abhorrence of alcohol, the ownership of bottle stores created a problem. 

TOGER ABO AUGUST married Rosa Philps and they had nine children. Toger seems by all accounts to have been a very likeable man but also seems to have been a bit of a rolling stone. He was by turns a storekeeper, roads inspector, farmer and prospector. Perhaps the epitaph on his wife's tomb here in the Cradock cemetery sums it up. It says "Patience In Adversity".

CHARLOTTE MARIE LOUISE married Edward Gilfillan and they had six children. The Gilfillans were 1820 settlers and Edward was a prominent lawyer in Cradock, involved in education and local affairs.

KIRSTINE KATINKA is believed to have died young since there is no mention of her in any family records, although it has not been possible to trace a death certificate.

HANS CHRISTIAN married Alletta Alida Hopley and they had thirteen children. Hans was one of the founders of Steynsburg and was obviously a prominent citizen. He was a Justice of the Peace, a storekeeper and a farmer

ANDREAS SALVATOR never married. He was a great traveller, with voyages to South America and Europe. At one time he was a speculator on the Rand Goldfields, but the Boer War seems to have had unfortunate financial results for him. He moved to Kenya and farmed there.

MARIUS, the first child of this family to be born in South Africa, married his sister-in-law Aletta Alida (Hopley) Flemmer when his brother Hans died at a young age. They had no children. Marius was a qualified attorney and a storekeeper before heading for Kenya where he farmed.

SOPHIE WILHELMINA was also born in Cradock but died aged 6.

In total there were AT LEAST 46 children born of the Flemmer marriages in the 40 years between the first marriage in 1860 and the start of the Boer War. And so the Flemmer clan has grown and grown. 

There have been many achievements. In military service in the Boer War and both the First and Second World Wars; in service to the community; in sport there is an Oxford Blue, Springbok trialists and provincial representatives; in the academic field there are attorneys, chartered accountants and medical people. 

With the passing of time there are South African members of the Flemmer clan scattered to the four corners of the world. We are very fortunate to have you all here to day - a remarkable family with proud record and I thank you all for coming.

 

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MCDONALD/FLEMMER FAMILY STORY

McDonald 'McGyvir' Flemmer, made contact just before the March 2003 Reunion on behalf of a family named Flemmer living in Cradock, with relatives in the area. His story is follows. It is not clear if this family is descended from the original Flemmer family, but McGyvir and his family came along to the Reunion anyway and were made very welcome. McGyvir is conducting the genealogical research to establish his line of descent and the results of his endeavours will be posted in due course. This is his story to date:

I am MacDonald Christo Marcello Flemmer, the father of Marcello Christiano Flemmer who is the son of Esmeralda Yvonne Rhagosingh and we are living in Cradock, South Africa. I am the son of Christy Stone and Christine (Flemmer) Muller.

My father was not married to my mother but he died before I was born. Christine Flemmer is the daughter of Lodewyk Flemmer and Rose (Dow) Flemmer. Lodewyk Flemmer is the son of Chrisjan Flemmer and Liza (Holster) Flemmer. Christjan Flemmer is the son of Jan Flemmer and Ragel (Essex) Flemmer.

According to family legend, Jan Flemmer was a "White" man and married a "coloured" lady and that is possibly how the coloured clan came about. He lived on a farm called Olienhout Farm in the Fish River area.

Jan Flemmer had only one child, a son - Chrisjan Flemmer who also married a "coloured" lady and they had 12 children from first to last only two of them (Charles and Jacob) are still alive.


Chrisjan and Liza Flemmer's children are :
1. Jan Flemmer
2. Frank Daantjie Flemmer
3. Chrisjan Flemmer
4. Charles Flemmer
5. Lodewyk Flemmer
6. Ragel (Flemmer) Kalse
7. Sabiena (Flemmer) Pieterson
8. Abraham Flemmer
9. Warrie Flemmer
10. Jacob Flemmer
11. Liza (Flemmer) Williams
12. Willem Flemmer


My grand-father Lodewyk Flemmer and Rose (Dow) Flemmer had seven children. They are:
1. Chrisjan Flemmer
2. Alima (Flemmer) Fish
3. Jan Flemmer
4. Lavinia (Flemmer) Nieuwenhuys
5. Christine (Flemmer) Muller
6. Maggie (Flemmer) Baartman
7. Bettie Flemmer

Lodewyk Flemmer left his wife Rose and married Martha September by custom law and they had ten children. Although not married legally, Martha's children from Lodewyk took the Flemmer surname.

According to family legend, Morris Flemmer, one of the sons of Frank Daantjie Flemmer married a "Black" lady in Botswana, and that is how the "Black" clan came about. Two of Morris's grandchildren are living in Polokwane and also bear the surname of Flemmer.

 

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