|Born||Louis Johannes Tregard
10 August 1783
Kango, Swellendam district
|Died||25 October 1838
|Occupation||Field Cornet, farmer|
|Spouse(s)||Martha Elisabeth Susanna Bouwer (1796–1838)|
Four reached maturity:
|Parents||Carolus (Carel) Johannes Tregard, Anna Elisabeth Nel|
Louis Johannes Tregardt (1783–1838) (from Swedish: trädgård, garden) was a farmer from the Cape Colony's eastern frontier, who became an early voortrekker leader. Shunning colonial authority, he emigrated in 1834 to live among the Xhosa, before he crossed the Orange River into neutral territory. His northward trek, along with fellow trekker Hans van Rensburg, was commenced in 1836. He led his small party of emigrants into the uncharted interior of South Africa, and settled for a year at the base of the Zoutpansberg.
At this most northerly point of their trek, unhealthy conditions began to take a toll on man and animal. Seemingly abandoned by a follow-up trek, and distant from supplies and buyers for their ivory, Tregardt abandoned the settlement, and led the party southeastwards to the Portuguese outpost at Delagoa bay. The oceanward route proved arduous and included the challenge of traversing a section of the northern Drakensberg. Though reaching the fort at Delagoa bay, a number of their party contracted malaria en route. Tregardt's wife perished at the fort in May 1838, followed by Tregardt six months afterward.
At the colony
Louis's father Carel was, as civilian officer, much involved in the 18th century Xhosa conflicts. In addition he was a participant in the Graaff-Reinet resistance movements, first against the Dutch East India Company and later against English colonial governance. For a time Louis farmed near Bruintjeshoogte (i.e. Somerset). He ostensibly had an uneasy relationship with the colonial authorities, and agreed to rent grazing land from Xhosa chief Hintsa.
In 1829 Louis sent his son Carolus to graze their cattle along the Black Kei River, then the northern boundary of British Kaffraria. In 1833 (or 34) Louis also crossed the neutral zone to join his son. Here a substantial boer community, at odds with the colonial government, was already living in exile. With Louis acting as their leader, colonel Harry Smith deemed him an agitator of the sixth Xhosa war, and planned to arrest him. Tregardt however moved his family and livestock to grazing land between the Caledon and Orange Rivers, just outside the colony, where he resided in 1835.
Tregardt coordinated his movements with those of his friend Hendrik Potgieter, who was to follow his trail. Tregardt started the northward trek with eight families besides his own, and was joined by the trek of Hans van Rensburg, another farmer living in exile. Tregardt and Van Rensburg were the first of the voortrekkers to pass near Thaba Nchu, where the Barolong tribe of chief Moroka II was resident.
Upon reaching the Strydpoortberg in the current Limpopo Province, Tregardt and Van Rensburg parted ways, after Tregardt argued that Van Rensburg was expending his ammunition excessively in his pursuit of ivory. Van Rensburg would not be seen again; he and his trek of forty-nine persons were extirpated in June 1836 by a troop of Soshangane at a ford in Limpopo River, after a night-long assault.
Tregardt sojourned at the salt pan on the Zoutpansberg's western promontory from May to August 1836, where he was visited by Potgieter's scouting party, who assured him that they would soon catch up and join his trek. Potgieter departed northwards in an unsuccessful search for Van Rensburg. In July Tregardt took up the search in an easterly direction, and reached Sakana's kraal on the Limpopo, where the Van Rensburg clan were likely decimated. Here a premonition of danger and treachery caused Tregardt to return homeward, all but convinced of Van Rensburg's fate.
In November 1836 Tregardt moved his camp eastwards to more agreeable climes in the vicinity of the later Schoemansdal and Louis Trichardt town. His party was to stay here until June 1837, in which time they built rudimentary houses, a workshop and a school for the twenty-one children. Potgieter’s trek, delayed by conflicts to the south, was however not forthcoming. From June to August 1837 Tregardt's party camped eastwards at the Doorn river (current Doorn River farm), whereafter they departed from the Zoutpansberg to find a new home or trading route to the sea. Their limited communications with the Portuguese indicated that they would be welcomed, and that the east coast was sparsely populated.
Journey to Delagoa bay
Tregardt decided on a southerly approach to Delagoa bay, avoiding the Limpopo where the Van Rensburgs were murdered, and the tsetse flies endemic to the low regions. Tregardt arrived at the Olifants River via Chuniespoort on 2 October 1837, and consulted chief Sekwati of the Pedi people about a way forward. Chief Sekwati paid them a friendly visit, and advised that the eastward route was everywhere obstructed by impassable mountains, lest they would leave their wagons behind and proceed by foot. Tregardt, now aged 54, was however resolute in crossing the mountains, even if the wagons had to be dismantled and transported piecewise. They undertook their own reconnaissance of the increasingly rugged slopes fringing the Olifants, and found a passable slope leading to the summit, after crisscrossing the Olifants a number of times.
The wagons, at times partially dismantled and hauled on branches, were taken over the crest of the Drakensberg in a feat taking two and a half months. Once in the lowveld, the Olifants, Blyde, Klaserie and Sand rivers were forded in succession, and the region now known as the central Kruger Park was traversed without incident. East of the Lebombo range they encountered different villages of the Gwamba people. All their inhabitants were friendly; they and their chief, Makodelana, presented Tregardt with a number of gifts. They reached the Komati River two months into the lowveld trek. It proved difficult to ford and a number of their animals were lost or stolen while crossing. They passed the Vila Luiza outpost and continued along swamps, lagoons and the villages of coastal tribes to reach the fort at Delagoa bay on 13 April 1838.
Dissolution of trek
The party of fifty-two persons received a friendly reception from the Portuguese. What had the appearance of a new beginning would however spell the gloomy end of the trek as a coordinated movement. Four days after their arrival five persons fell ill with fever. The school teacher Pfeffer and Tregardt’s wife Martha were first to perish from malaria. More persons took ill, though some of Tregardt’s children recovered.
The climate and grazing at the fort was found to be unfavorable for a long term stay, and Tregardt dispatched a servant to Natal to request an evacuation by sea. Meanwhile his son Carolus departed by ship northwards to investigate Madagascar and East Africa for possible settlement. Before his return Tregardt succumbed to malaria, six months after his wife. Only by the winter of the next year, 1839, were the 26 survivors transported by the Mazeppa schooner to Port Natal.
Legacy and recognition
He was the only Voortrekker leader to keep a diary of his trek, a valuable document in terms of linguistics and ethnology, besides his observations on the weather patterns, geography and the wildlife of the interior. The document was not written for publication or effect, but rather details his personal reflections on the social interactions and day to day experiences of his small community. In 1917 Preller's version of it was the first to appear in print, followed by T. H. le Roux's more reliable text in 1964 that was supplied with a glossary and linguistic annotations.
The town Trichardtsdorp was named after him in 1899, commemorating his year-long stay at the base of the Zoutpansberg. In Mpumalanga, a town named Trichardt is situated along his northward route.
Several memorials trace his route, the first at Winburg where one column of the Voortrekker monument symbolizes Tregardt's party. Near Zebediela a route marker is present beside the R519 road just north of the Strydpoort mountains, which in itself recalls Tregardt's disagreement with Van Rensburg. In the town of Louis Trichardt a memorial commemorates the school they built, and a bust of Tregardt is displayed in the municipal library. In 1937, the trek's centenary, a bronze plaque was installed where they crossed the Drakensberg ridge. A sundial beside Nelspruit's modern town hall is shaped like a wagon wheel in recognition of his journey.
The Louis Tregardt Trek Memorial Garden is located at the final destination of his trek, in the current Maputo, and provides a contrast to the city's otherwise communistic and hero worship monuments.
An novel by Jeanette Ferreira, Die son kom aan die seekant op (Afrikaans: The sun rises from the ocean’s side), is based on his journey.
- Ransford, Oliver. "3: The Voorste Mense". The Great Trek.
- Oberholster, Dr L. E., Die Groot Trek, Louis Tregardt, Biografiese besonderhede, retrieved 31 Jan 2011
- Kruger, D.W. (ed.); AJH Van der Walt; JA Wiid; AL Geyer (1979). Geskiedenis van Suid-Afrika (2nd ed.). Cape Town: Elsiesrivier: Nasou Beperk. p. 203.
- Raidt, E.H. (1980). Afrikaans en sy Europese Verlede (2nd ed.). Goodwood, Cape Town: Nasou Beperk. p. 135. ISBN 0-625-01442-1.
Footnote (translated): Various opinions exist concerning the spelling of the surname which arrived with Louis' grandfather from Sweden. This forebear and his son almost always wrote it as "Tregard". Louis initially wrote it as "Tregardt", and later mostly as "Trigardt". Only by 1881 did the spelling "Trichardt" gain priority with the family, as they deemed themselves to be of French ancestry. Today most authoritative works like the South African Biographical Dictionary maintain "Tregardt" as historically the most correct.
- Sakana (or Chakana) Shimnambana Maluleke, the son of Ndlamane or Malema, was a Shangaan chieftain, subject to the Abagaza, See Preller, p. 349.
- Preller, Gustav S. (1938). Dagboek van Louis Trichardt. Cape Town, Bloemfontein, Port Elizabeth: Nasionale Pers, Beperk. pp. 212, 341–361 et al.
- Becker, Peter (1985). "25. A Trek to Death". The Pathfinders. Bungay, Suffolk: Viking. pp. 221–229. ISBN 0-670-80126-7.
- cf. Du Plessis-Müller, S.F. (1938–39). "Die woordeskat van die Dagboek van Louis Trichardt". Tydskrif vir Wetenskap en Taal (17): 31–9, 56–9.
- Oberholster, Dr L.E., Die Groot Trek, Voortrekkerleiers, retrieved 31 Jan 2011
- The new spelling, Trichardt vs. Tregardt, stemmed from a misconception that their surname was of French origin. cf. Raidt, p. 135.
- Gedenktekens in Suid-Afrika, Jackie Grobler, pp. 12, 14, 67. (a list)
- Marker located at
- Memorial located at
- "Mbombela (Nelspruit), Mpumalanga". SA Travel Directory. 2012. Retrieved 2 July 2012.
- Louis Tregardt Trek Memorial Garden Maputo, easytobook.com