Defending Graaff-Reinet in 1801

Graaff-Reinet’s Resident Commissioner, Honoratus Christiaan David Maynier, was extremely unpopular. Dissatisfaction with his services reached a peak during 1801 when he was accused of harbouring “a force” of between 200 and 400 vagrants at the Drostdy. To the horror of some locals, he also made loopholes in the walls of the church claiming this necessary for its defence. Lieutenant Duncan Stewart, who spoke Dutch fluently, and who was in command of the company of Khoisan soldiers, was detailed to defend the church if it was attacked by local burghers. The situation became so volatile that Government wisely decided to recall Magistrate Maynier and, in 1801, sent Major Francis Sherlock to Graaff-Reinet to settle affairs. Sherlock persuaded 147 of the “vagrants” to enlist for one year in the Hottentot Corps. Each recruit was given a shirt and a pair of trousers. A ticklish problem arose when Sherlock used the church at as a temporary barracks for his troops. This greatly upset locals who complained about damage being done to the building. The Church Council were most unhappy to have “heathen, vagrants and infringers of the law.” in their place of worship. They said “the place looks worse than a horse-stable.” Governor Francis Dundas directed Sherlock to “see that the church was kept tidy and to evacuate the building every Sunday so that the regular sermon could take place.” The Governor also granted 300 Rixdollars to repair the building. Despite this, Sherlock was not able to get the unrest under control.

© Rose’s Roundup, vol. 2, no. 76, January 2010

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