Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Story of Two South African Families and a Mantle Piece Clock

William Martin Austen was an 1820 Settler descendant,  born August 12, 1849 and baptized in the "Nederduits Gereformeerde" (NG) Church in Lady Grey. He married Caroline Shepperson. Unfortunately she died at a very young age when her children were still very small. She was buried in Wakkerstroom. William was devastated by her death and the prospect of raising these small children by himself. He wanted to exhume and take her body back with him to his farm. Dr Roy managed to persuade him to let her body stay in Wakkerstroom.  He moved his family to Vryheid. It is rumoured that William Austen's father was executed and beheaded by the Basotho. His poor widow had to go to Basotho Land and buy back the scull from the Basotho for 100 Pounds so that she could bury her husband.

Coenraad Kuys was the son of a prominent minister after whom the NG Church in Napier was named. He became a school teacher and married Dinah de Bruyn.

At the age of +_ 18 years, their son Johannes Machiel (Johnny) Kuys, had a start to fend for himself and he agreed to accompany a herd of cattle to a prospective buyer in Wakkerstroom in the KwaZulu Natal Province.  He served in the Wakkerstroom Commando and served in the Anglo Boer War.  He was wounded in one of the War's first battles at Talana and carried lead shrapnel in his calf until his death. At the late age of +_ 40 years he married Mildred Amy Hannah Austen in the beautiful stone NG Church in Utrecht in KwaZulu Natal, the daughter of William and Caroline Austen. Mildred had three sisters Daisy, Ellen and Faith and a brother named Danny. Danny died at the age of 16 are in the concentration camp during the Anglo Boer War in Volksrust where his death is commemorated on an official Memorial Plaque.

Johnny and Mildred Kuys had two children, Caroline Patience (born in Wakkerstroom in 1908) and Dinah Joyce Kuys (born in 1914). The local General Dealer gave Johnny and Mildred Kuys a Mantle Piece Clock, manufactured in New York and priced 19/6 (Can$ 185.00 in 2012) as a gift to commemorate Joyce's birth.  As a teenager, Joyce suffered a nervous breakdown, allegedly caused by her poor eye sight and left formal public school t o be tutored by her Grandfather William Austen on the family farm, Uitzicht (KwaZulu Natal).  Joyce became a widow at the age of 21 years she her first husband, Willie Coetzee ( a ZAR Railway worker) and some oxen were struck by lightning while ploughing his fields.  Joyce relocated and bought a house in a a town in Vryheid. Johnny and Mildred retired from their family farm, Uitzicht (on the Paul Pietersburg - Vryheid Road) to settle with Joyce in Vryheid.  They, in turn, gave Joyce the Mantle Piece Clock. Mildred died in 1935 in Vryheid and Johnny relocated to his birth town of Napier where he married Sannie Swarts. Joyce got remarried to Neels van Rooyen who was a shopkeeper at Vryheid and Glencoe (KwaZulu Natal) This marriage did not last. Joyce's 3rd husband Steward Donald, was a bakery manager, and they lived and died in Dundee.

Caroline married Barend Jacobus (Ben) Viljoen and they had two children, Giovanna (born in Paul Pietersburg on February 6, 1931) and Kuys Viljoen (born in Dundee on January 5, 1939).

Giovanna married Hendrik Johannes (Hendrik) van Eck, they had 5 boys and stayed on their family farm, Wildspan in Campbell from 1952 to 2011. They retired to a retirement village, Minerwa Gardens in Kimberley in 2011.

Kuys Viljoen married Maureen Isabel Aspden, they had three children (Michelle, Andre and Martin Viljoen) Martin Viljoen immigrated to Canada in August 4, 1997. Martin inherited the Mantle Piece Clock (as part of Joyce Donald estate) where it still kept in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. It still works perfectly well today never needing any repairs.

Faith Austen (married de Jager) wrote up her recollections of the Austen family. The memoirs were donated to Giovanna van Eck who in turn donated these to the Dundee museum after the death of Joyce Donald.

This story was told by Giovanna van Eck and Kuys Viljoen to Casper van Eck on February 19, 2012 at Wildspan Farm near Campbell (Northern Cape).