Cultural Contact in Southern Africa: Will, Laurens Verbrugge and Beletje Frederikszoon
Laurens Verbrugge and Beletje Frederikszoon were ordinary people from Holland who settled in Stellenbosch (near Cape Town) and took up farming there. Though not wealthy, they did own slaves and had sufficient property that they felt the need to draw up a will when Beletje became ill. Note the Christian beliefs expressed in the wording of the will.
Laurens was Beletje’s second husband, which was not unusual at the Cape, where there were fewer European women than men throughout the 18th century. Women therefore tended to marry early to men older than themselves who often died before them. It was not uncommon for women to marry three times, which could cause disputes over inheritance. Marriage among Europeans, Khoikhoi, and slaves was not forbidden, though relatively rare; sexual relations were more common. The status of the children of slave women by European fathers was precarious, and in the following will it is difficult not to speculate on the paternity of the slave girl Christintje. (The “-tje” ending to Dutch words means “little” and often suggests affection when attached to names.)
27 October 1711
Testament between Laurens Verbrugge and Beletje Frederiksz.
In the Name of the Lord, amen.
Knowing that they are the only ones who may be concerned with the contents of this present and public instrument, made in the year after the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, one thousand seven hundred and eleven, on the twenty-seventh of October, around midday, twelve o’clock, before me Peter Kolb (provisional secretary to the Magistrate and Council etc.) and the witnesses named below, the following appeared in person—the honorable Laurens Verbruggen and the virtuous Belie Frederiks, a married couple living in Stellenbosch, the testator [Laurens] healthy of body, standing and walking, but the testatrix [Belie] sick and lying in bed, but completely in command of her mind, understanding, and memory and well able to use them, as it appeared to us. The couple declared that, considering the brittleness of human life, the certainty of death but the uncertainty of the time and hour when it will come, they intended not to take leave of this world before they had disposed of their temporal goods, lent to them by God Almighty, doing this of their own free and unforced will, without the direction or deception of anyone else, committing first of all their immortal souls to the protecting hand of God, and their dead bodies to the earth, asking an honorable burial, revoking, breaking and declaring null and void all other testaments, codicils, marriage conditions, or any other public agreements, made by them together or by each separately, whatever they might be, so that they may not be observed in any point.
First, the testators bequeath to the poor of Stellenbosch the sum of 25 guilders, Cape value, which will be given out by the one who lives the longest, after the death of the other, out of their remaining goods.
Furthermore, the testators, explain that, before any other claims, the one who dies first leaves to the one who lives longest the inheritance of the house, with all land belonging to it, and all its contents, standing in Stellenbosch, together with a new wagon with eight draft oxen, which the one who lives longest should enjoy as their own unencumbered property, without any difficulty being raised by the children of the testatrix by her first husband. This on the express condition that the one who lives longest will not be able to alienate or reduce the property, with the understanding that after both their deaths, the property will be given to the children of the testatrix by her first husband. Moreover, this will should stand only as long as the one who lives longest remains unmarried, because both of the testators wish to keep in mind, that the children of the testatrix may not be overlooked.
If the testator [Laurens] comes to die first, it is his intention and complete declaration, that, in case any of his brothers’ or sisters’ children comes to live at the Cape of Good Hope, that person should receive a sum of no more than fifty Rixdollars, excepting which, all the rest of the goods should go to the children of the testatrix by her first marriage.
Next, the testatrix, declares that it is her will and design, that the slave child called Christintje, should remain the property of her son’s child, baptized Beletje after the testatrix, as long as they both shall live, desiring that the aforesaid slave child will never be sold or otherwise alienated, but expressly stipulating that the aforementioned slave child, after the death of her son’s child Beletje, will be free. Finally the testators reverently ask that the honorable lords of the Orphans’ Chamber at the Cape of Good Hope will become the executors and administrators over their remaining goods and inheritance, and that the honorable lords will have the goodness to administer the inheritance for the children of the testatrix by her first marriage. [This was the usual arrangement.]
Having heard the above clearly and precisely read to them, the testators declare this to be their final will and testament, desiring that the same will stand and take effect in every part. . . . All of this done in the house of the testators, in the presence of the former town counselors, Jan Botma and Adam Tas—as witnesses of good reputation, expressly asked to be here, who, together with me, the provisional secretary, and the testators, sign below on the day, hour and year mentioned above.
This is the personal mark t mark and signature
of Laurens Verbrugge
This the mark \\\ and the personal signature of
With my knowledge
Notarial Deeds and Wills 1708-1714, #12. Stellenbosch Files: 1/STB 18/3. Cape Town Archives Repository. Translated by Anne Good.