The First True European Settler in South Africa

Cape Town, 23 May 1693.

On this day there is an entry in the Journal of the Cape Governor, Simon Van der Stel:

—”This evening, between the hours of 8 and 9, was murdered, not far from the Castle near the butchery, Jacob Cloeten, corporal in the service of the Hon. Company, the oldest of the Comp’s servants, having helped to lay the foundation of this colony, having been the first Freeman,…”

So ended the life of Jacob Cloete, a key character in AmaBhulu and progenitor of the vast family of Cloete, now spread all over the world. This is the one man who occurs most often in the ancestry of South Africans of European descent. For many he occurs multiple times. That is true of both the present author and of his wife. Our son counts no fewer than five ancestors among the thirteen children of his daughter, Elsje. Our research reveals him to be the first true European settler in South Africa.

Jacob and Fijtje Cloeten van “Ut in ‘t Land van Ceulen” is a very detailed paper on the research done on this key man and  may be downloaded.

Jacob’s arrival

Our research shows that he most likely arrived at Cape Town on the ship Maria on 13 July 1657. What Jacob did not know, was that on 16 April 1657 Councillor Extraordinary of India, Rykloff van Goens, representing the Dutch East India Company, had instructed Commander Jan Van Riebeeck during his inspection tour of the Cape :

 “[…] we have only to proceed to the fulfillment and further object of devising the most suitable means of diminishing the expenditure; and which means are to be found in the observance of the following points – if only attended to with the zeal expected of you by the Directors.

♦ First; – Discharging all salaried servants above the number of one hundred, according to the list prepared in conjunction with you, and hereinafter inserted.

♦ Secondly; – Employing these servants on no other work than that which is the most indispensable, that is to say, upon agriculture and the raising of grain.

♦ Thirdly; – That you endeavour to encourage to that employment as many Burgers as possible […].”

It assumed that Jacob was one of the “surplus” employees, because he received his Letter of Freedom 10 August 1657 as an Adelborst (cadet). He received 200 Morgen of land near the Liesbeeck river on 10 October 1657. In the land deed he is described as Jacob Cloeten van Keulen (Cologne).

The Search for “Ut”

An entry in the records of the Council of Policy at the Cape on Wednesday 10 November 1660 reads:

“Pieter raderotjes van Ut in ‘t lant van Ceulen, hier te lande gecoomen voor vrijman met ‘t schip Aernhem den 16en Meert ao. 1659 met sijn suster Fijtje raderotjes, huijsvrouwe van den vrijborger Jacob Cloeten […]”

This launched the author on a quest for the elusive “Ut in ‘t lant van Ceulen“, origin of the family Cloeten. In the full length paper, the reader is taken on this search in order to secure information on Jacob’s wife, Sophia Radergörtgens, and Jacob’s marriage marriage and child baptisms. Of course, Cologne referred to the Bishopric of Cologne, which was an actual country at the time.

We eventually identify the town as Oedt in the Nether-Rhine and trace his baptism, marriage, and child baptisms to the St. Vitus Catholic Church in town. We discover that Jacob’s family name was actually Klauten and that he spoke a language called Uetsch Plott, akin to the German spoken by many Mennonites. One tower of the original castle of the town is still standing, and the author visited there for the photograph below. All of this made Jacob a Catholic in a Protestant Settlement at the Cape! And his Bishopric would soon go war against the Dutch!


It is strange indeed that, in a country that has always played a major role in Western Genealogy, no-one in South Africa had prior to this work traced the origin of as key a man as Jacob Cloete. AmaCover2For decades he was wrongly assumed to have arrived at the Cape on 6 April 1652 with the founding of the Cape settlement. The truth is that he arrived later, but was still the First True Settlerthe Man to Follow. The twentieth of the first free men to get title to land, he was the first of those men to stay, bring his family to the Cape, and have children at the Capea Real Settler.

Jacob and Sophia return in AmaBhulu– the Birth and Death of the Second America to be witnesses to life at the very early settlement at the Cape of Good Hope in the period between 1655 and 1680.