Thursday, February 18, 2010
German settlers in Natal
In the 1830s there had been a few individual German arrivals at Natal but no organized immigration from Germany. When the Dutch trekkers established their community in Pietermaritzburg, living among them were several Germans, but the trekkers were beginning to move away from Natal after the conflict between British and Dutch at the port in 1842 and the subsequent annexation of Natal as a British Colony.
This situation left Natal with a reduced white population as well as numerous large farms which could be acquired cheaply by settlers.
It was against this backdrop that a group of German immigrants came to Natal in 1848 The scheme was that of Jonas Bergtheil, a Bavarian who had settled in the Cape in 1834. He and several others founded the Natal Cotton Company in 1847 with the aim of growing cotton in Natal, and they purchased a tract of land for this purpose.
Bergtheil, having failed to interest British authorities in the venture, went to Bavaria and eventually found a starting point in Bramsche, where a textile industry flourished. Here Bergtheil was successful in attracting would-be colonists, and in March 1848 a group of about 187 men, women and children arrived in Natal on the Beta. This group is now generally known as the Bergtheil Settlers.
The definitive volume on the Bergtheil Settlers is: The Cotton Germans of Natal [Die Baumwolldeutschen von Natal] by Walter V. Volker, published by the author in 2006. ISBN 0 620 36298 7 This book includes detailed genealogies of the Bergtheil Settler families, comprising over 80 000 names.