When Graaff-Reinet was established in the horseshoe bend of the Sundays River on July 19, 1786, that part of the Karoo was far from peaceful. Things were so bad that the first magistrate, Mauritz Otto Woeke, took to drink. His successor Magistrate Maynier was inefficient and caused great discontent throughout the district. A medical man, Dr Jan Pieter Woyer, arrived to serve the community as district surgeon, but all he did was cause further dissention. The town was still suffering from the effects of the Second Frontier War when he and the schoolmaster began inciting all who would listen to Jacobean sentiments. The farmers were easy prey to their tales. Many felt greatly encouraged when the doctor told them that a combined fleet of Dutch and French vessels was on its way to help the Graaff-Reinet rebels and to sort our affairs at the Cape in general. Woyer in time managed to make his way to Batavia where he persuaded the Dutch Government that the Graaff-Reinet rebels were in great need of arms and ammunition. They believed him and he managed to return to South Africa with a shipload of arms. In the end, however, the people of Graaff-Reinet saw through Woyer, denounced him and he disappeared.
© Rose’s Roundup, vol. 2, no. 75, December 2009
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