The history of Hermanus Steyn and the site:
In 1795 the farmers of the (Swellendam) 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 in what is now an olive grove. (Note: This section of the farm Jan Harmsgat has recently been transferred to the neighboring farm called Mardouw to straighten the boundaries. The site is accessible from both farms.)
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... and 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 it's 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.
Today the farm is still in the hands of a van Eeden, after a short time when ownership was not in the family. Judi Rebstein (neé van Eeden) and Brin are the present owners, and have been responsible for the extensive renovations to both the buildings and orchards. Another graveyard on the farm is enclosed on the slopes of a gentle hill close to the present-day dairy and here rest Christine van Eeden, Sarel Francois Swanepoel, Barabara Johanna van Eeden (neé Joubert) and her spouse Petrus Paulus van Eeden.
Extracts from: Geskiendkundige Swellendam. L.L.Tomlinson
In the Footsteps Of Lady Anne Barnard. Jose Burman
Date: 30 Apr 2009
Contributed by: Desre Sjoberg