President Paul Kruger.
by Willie Meyer – from his book “Magaliesberg Kaleidoscope”
The Krugers were not among the first families to settle in the Moot, but their lives through the years have been closely intertwined with the area. Apart from the fact that Paul Kruger through the years, as member of the Volksraad, Commandant General and later as state president, frequently traversed the area travelling between his farm near Rustenburg and Pretoria, his firm friendship with General Hendrik Schoeman played an important role in the fortunes of the Moot. He must also have visited his brother, Casper, in Hekpoort.
Whatever one’s view of Kruger, there is no denying that in stature he was a giant of a man who exerted a tremendous influence during the formative years of the Transvaal.
Paul Kruger himself was born on 10 October 1825 on the farm Bulhoek near Steynsburg as the second oldest son of Casper Jan Hendrik Kruger and participated in the Great Trek at the age of ten. He had his baptism of fire in the battle of Vegkop in 1936 after which the Krugers trekked with Piet Retief to Natal and later with Hendrik Potgieter to the Transvaal where Casper Kruger, with his brother and Andries Pretorius, established the town of Potchefstroom.
Casper later settled on the farm Boekenhoutskloof near Rustenburg. Here Paul married his first wife at the age of 17 after he was granted the farm Waterval in the Rustenburg district.
Pretoria became the capital of the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek in 1860 and Kruger, who had been active in politics since an early age, frequently travelled to the capital through the Moot. He crossed the Crocodile River near the Poort where Schoeman eventually would establish his farm Schoemansrust.
The Krugers and the Schoemans have not always been in the same camp, which makes the friendship between Hendrik Schoeman and Paul Kruger all the more remarkable. During the Transvaal Civil War in 1864 Kruger, as Commandant General, was in command of the “Staatsleger” who had to protect the newly elected Acting President Willem van Rensburg. Commandant Stephanus Schoeman, Hendrik’s father, was commanding the “Volksleger”, who with force of arms opposed the election of Van Rensburg, ostensibly because the percentage poll was so low.
In 1868, four years after the civil war, Hendrik Schoeman settled in the Poort. A firm friendship developed between him and Kruger with Kruger becoming a frequent guest at Schoemansrust.
The first Kruger to settle in Hartbeespoort was Casper Jan Hendrik Kruger, a grandson of the president. According to Henri Schoeman he was born in 1897 in Kampen in the Netherlands as the eldest son of Pieter Gert Wessel Kruger and Maria van der Oeven of Kampen. It is not known why Pieter, President Kruger’s eldest son, was in the Netherlands at that stage, but according to Schoeman he died in Pretoria in 1948.
Casper Kruger died in 1963. His unique tombstone of raw granite is in the Schoemansville cemetery. The tombstone was capped by a bronze bust of Casper Kruger by the artist Hennie Potgieter but that had been stolen and has probably found its way to some scrap metal dealer.
According to Casper’s grandson, Herman, his grandfather spent the first four years of his life in the presidency in Pretoria. That would mean that he was there when the Anglo Boer War broke out until his grandmother Gesina died on 20 July 1901.
A Kruger who died in the Anglo Boer War, according to an account in the Journal of the SA Military Historical Society was a Field Cornet Pieter Kruger of Rustenburg.
He was probably the president’s youngest son who was born on 4 October 1864 and who, according to Henri Schoeman, looked after the farming at Boekenhoutfontein while his father was busy with matters of state in Pretoria. Schoeman did not mention the date of his death, but according to the genealogical register of the Krugers, his last child was born in May 1900 when he must have been 36 years of age. Piet Kruger was mortally wounded in the battle of Kalkheuvel on 3 June 1900 and was buried at the foot of Silkaatsnek, according to one account, probably where he died of his wounds while the force of Commandant SP du Toit was retreating over the mountain after the battle.
According to Schoeman Casper Kruger was a property broker and farmed on a portion of the farm De Rust where Pecanwood is today. His grandson, also Casper, was one of the biggest tomato farmers in the area in the seventies of the last century and got many of his neighbours’ backs up with his hail gun – a contraption that automatically send sound waves like canon shots into the air when the conditions became favourable for the formation of hailstones. This protected his crops against hail but did not win him many friends.
Piet Kruger (Pieter Gert Wessel – born 21 Feb 1925) initially farmed on the portion where Leopard Lodge is today, but later procured the property in Melodie where he started his well-known aquarium. The property and the aquarium are still in the family’s possession and all seven his children live in the area. Casper manages a fishery and the well-known Oppidam complex, a venue for shows and concerts. The eldest brother, Herman, is a contractor and runs a bed and breakfast facility. The president’s namesake, Paul, a successful film maker, is the father of the only Paul of the next generation who was born in 2009. Paul says if his and Emma’s youngest child was not a boy, the name Stephanus Johannes Paulus Kruger would have died out in that branch of the family because there would not have been another child.
A copy of the book by Willie Meyer is available at the Kormorant office.