Jacob Klauten: Murdered at the Castle

Among Sarah Sussens’ most distant forebears. are some of the earliest settlers at the Cape. One of the very earliest was Jabob Klauten, from Oedt in the vicinity of Cologne, Germany. There he had married his wife Sophia Radergeortgens (also from the Rhineland) in 1650, but initially left her behind when he joined the VOC (Dutch East India Company, the commercial enterprise that established the Cape Colony).

There are some claims that he was even one of the original companions with Jan v Riebeeck, but there is no documentary evidence of this. It is more likely that he arrived in 1655 Two years later, he was one of the first “vryburgers” – members of the company who released from direct service, and given instead farms. Jacob’s farm was located on the banks of the Liesbeek river. Later, his wife Sophia was able to join her in the Cape in 1659, together with her brother Pieter. By 1671 he was able to return to Europe, having completed his contracted years of service, but later re-enlisted and came back to the Cape as a corporal.

During this second spell, he served as second in command at Klapmuts (outside Paarl), but may have also served stints on duty at the Cape Castle garrison. During either such a duty stint, or on some other visit to the main settlement, he was murdered just outside the castle, on 23 May 1693. He had been one of the Cape’s first vryburgers, and at the time of his death, the oldest man on the VOC muster roll.

On the Wikitree genealogy website, his full story includes some colourful anedcotes illustrating the difficult lives of the Vryburgers. His farm was attacked during the Khoikhoi rebellion on 1659, while Jacob and other men were out in the fields, attending the cattle. It was the women alone in the house who spotted the danger early, and grabbing their rifles, drove the attackers off.

There is also a description by the traveller Wouter Schouten, who finding themselves unexpectedly overtaken by dusk, were forced to seek refuge Jacon’s farm,

On coming there we were amicably greeted by the half-naked pregnant wife (from Cologne by birth), since her man was out, & invited into the little glassless house, & brought into the best room, which in this cold night was airy & chilly enough since there was no glass nor any shutters there.[9]And there, when the man [Jacob Cloete] came home we ate a truly frugal evening meal, the best the folk could provide.

For more details of Jacob’s life and careers, see the entry on Wikitree

To follow the lineage on Ancestry UK, start with Sarah Williamson Bantjes / Sussens, through to Hendrik Bernardus Cloete, then to Gerrit (Kloeten) Cloete, and finally to his father Jacob Klauten / Cloete

(Note: We tend to think of the early Cape settlers as Dutch, because it was founded by the Dutch East India Company (VOC), but it’s important to remember this was a commercial organisation, and so could recruit its employees from wherever they could find them. Jacob is not the only one among Sarah Sussens’ earliest Cape ancestors from other European countries. “Klauten” was the German form of his name, but once in the Cape, over time it changed to the more familiar Dutch/Afrikaans form “Cloete”)

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