JAN HARMANSZ SCHAT
In 1674, east of the current town of Bonnievale, on a farm nestled under the towering Langeberg Mountains, Johannes Harman Jansz Potgieter was born.
Johannes married in 1714, and the farm appears on the grant of 1723 as Jan Harmansz Schat (treasure) from which it was apparently corrupted to Jan Harmsgat.
In 1731 we find the grazing rights being granted to a famous hunter, Jacobus Botha. His hunting career was brought to an end a couple of years later, when he shot a lion, and the lioness (which he had not seen) attacked and mauled him, leaving him for dead. Botha recovered but was never able to hunt again, and in 1734 Governor de la Fontaine made a freehold grant to Botha, for services rendered, of the farm Jan Harmans Gat which he was then occupying. The farm was described as 'vier uur te perd van die dorp Swellendam' Jacobus Botha lived to the age of 90, dying in 1782, and his 12 sons gave him 190 grandchildren. The farm is situated along the slopes of the Langeberg, between the mountain and the Breede River. The modern road from Swellendam to Ashton runs along this beautiful valley.
In 1789 the farm passed into the hands of Hermanus Steyn de Jonge. In 1765 he had married the widow Margaretha van Staden, and by the time the farm was occupied by him, he was already a man of some stature in the area. In addition to farming, he also did some Trustee work and sat on the District Council of Swellendam.
In 1795 the farmers of the District rebelled against their Dutch masters, and declared themselves independent of the Cape Government. Hermanus Steyn was chosen as the president of the new Republic, which lasted only a short while before the British assumed control of the Cape Colony, and Swellendam again reverted to their original status. Hermanus Steyn lies buried on the farm, Jan Harmsgat, in a small plot marked by a granite gravestone, which can be seen a few hundred meters from the main house.
A grandson of the old President, Gideon van Zyl, changed the name of the farm to the gentler name of Nooitgedacht. The old building with its three gables under thatch, was again changed by a cousin, one Piet van Eeden. He removed the upper floors and rebuilt the house with a corrugated iron roof.
The original wine cellar and old slave quarters were retained, but again the thatch was replaced by corrugated iron. This has subsequently been changed back to thatch and is the form in which the buildings now exist.
The wine cellar reminds us of the days when Jan Harmsgat was a large wine farm. The owner of the farm during that time, one F.J.van Eeden was a member of the Legislature, and inherited the farm from old Gideon van Zyl.
One day, while sitting in a meeting of the legislature, he became so angry about a proposed excise duty, that he had all the vineyards cut down, and planted orange trees in their place.
Jan Harmsgat became famous for its oranges, which thrived in this climate. Four giant old orange trees which had been planted by Hermanus Steyn, de Oue, produced wagon loads of oranges for 150 years, but were then cut down by van Eeden, and 5 dozen orangewood chairs made from the timber.
* Extracts from: Geskiendkundige Swellendam. L.L.Tomlinson * In the Footsteps Of Lady Anne Barnard. Jose Burman
The 680 ha. farm is yours to explore and straddles the lush mountainous belt with its orchards of fruit, nut and olive trees being the source of its highly acclaimed preserves and produce. Indigenous wildlife such as Black Wildebeest, Springbuck, Grey Rheebuck and Ostriches are to be seen here, along with many smaller creatures and birds.