Long before the Great trek (when the pioneers left the Cape for the interior) a number of hunters as early as 1820 had already penetrated into the Free State even as far as Port Natal. Many of them came back with stories of the great Zulu King Chaka who with his well trained impi’s (a impi numbered about 1000 men)  and phenomenal Military fighting power was playing havoc amongst the smaller tribes in the interior.

Many of these hunters especially after 1824 came across these impi’s on their war path  where they had left behind them a trail of blood and total extinction of many of the smaller tribes. Many of the smaller Sotho speaking tribes had fled when word of Chaka’s advancing armies had reached them. They fled over the Mountains into the present Lesotho where they were welcomed by the then King Mosheshe 1 who at that stages was also busy building up the Basotho Nation from the remnants of all the fleeing tribes. This time in History was then known as the great ‘’Difakane’’. The time of murder, war and hunger.

The Basotho who found refugee in the mountains behind the Rooi Berge were Masters in laying ambush in the mountains and valleys. Chaka tried a number of times to attack the Basotho in their mountain strongholds but had very little success and after loss of  a couple of his impi’s had to give up the attempt.

During the reign of Chaka he had cleaned up (murdered out) as far as Vryburg in the Northern Cape, Thaba Nchu near Bloemfontein, Gaborone and Francistown in Botswana and even as far as Bulawayo in Zimbabwe whipping out as many as possible of the local inhabitants.

The result of this was that when the first Voortrekkers under Piet Retief moved through the Free State in 1836  they came across a vast empty wilderness with very few inhabitants except for around the present Thaba Nchu. Due to the lack of people the history books describe the area as that the mountains and hills were bending under the shear weight of the game.

Piet Retief moving from Winburg stayed along the flatter more level areas not to exhaust his animals. Once past Bethlehem he stuck to the Langeberg Range of Mountains via Kestell towards Kerkenberg. During those days a team of oxen pulling a oxwagon could only cover about 24 km. per day, and keep it up for three days when they had to rest again for a couple of days.

About a year later he was followed by Piet Uys. It seems he was in a great hurry to catch up with Piet Retief. To save time and distance he trekked from the Cape along the Rooi Berge staying just this side of the that time Basotholand. He went through Slabbertsnek where he stayed over a while at the now known Uys Kuile (Uys Pools). Due to the fact that he was in a hurry he had chosen a difficult travel route with many up hills and sharp declines. With the result that when he reached Learkoppie (present farm of the De Leeuw’s) his oxen were totally exhausted, and he had to camp for a number of months (about 5 months) to give his oxen time to recover and build up there strength. (UP TILL THIS DATE IT STILL COULD NOT BE PROVEN BEYOND ANY DOUBT THAT IT WAS PIET UYS WHO CAMPED AT LAER KOPPIE).

Fact is that everything points to the theory that it could be Piet Uys. Unfortunately very few people living today can justify or stand in for the truth on the above.

During the time that the Voortrekkers camped at Laer Koppie 9 oxwagon were send to the Golden Gate, Clarens Valley to go hunting. Four days later the wagons were back fully shot to capacity with game. While the lager was encamped in that area the Voortrekkers did many exploring trips, with the result that when the trek left for Natal the Van Der Linde family stayed behind and decided not to go any further. They settled at the ruins as we know it today. (Looking at the Map of Boshoek it is interesting that the part occupied by the ruins about 5 Ha has it’s own registration named Monument). Should one pay more attention at the first ruin near the large Bluegum tree you will see a typical Voortrekker house with two rooms only. With a dinning room/living room on the one side and a bedroom on the other side. Those days the women did not have a kitchen area they normally cooked under the oxwagon which was close at hand near the House under a tree. Always packed with pots and pans and always ready to roll should need be. This oxwagon also served the purpose of being the bedroom for the children. The families were large from 9 to 14 children.

After the battle of Bloodriver 1838 the Bruwer family whom were related to the Van Der Linde’s came back from Natal and settled in the vicinity of the kraal belonging to the old African living beneath the Mountain. The ruins that can be seen in this area then belonged to them. Such the first European settlement in the Eastern Free State came to be.

The Voortrekkers at this stage had lots of problems with Lions and other wild animals as well as raiding black tribes from across the mountains stealing their cattle at night. As result of the above they then build this massive kraal to protect their animals which were herded into this enclosure at night. Men would take turns at standing guard. Standing at the two pear trees, remains of this kraal can still be seen today. These Pear trees as well as the Apricot trees close by were all planted by the Pioneers and are estimated to be between 130 and 150 years old.

During this time more and more Voortrekkers came back from Natal and started settling towards Bethlehem and even further towards Reitz that time known as the Riemland. (country of thongs made from animal skins). So called because that on each farm their were stacks and stacks of wild animal skins. Game at that time were treated as vermin and had to be shot out as soon as possible to give domestic animals chance to increase in numbers. Also it was firmly believed that Game animals carried diseases that were harmful for domestic animals.

By 1845 Sir Harry Smith annexed the Free State to the British crown with himself as Governor and it became part of the British Empire. During this time the Voortrekkers in this area as well as those further afield towards Bethlehem had more and more trouble from Basotho raiding and stealing cattle and other live stock.. An appeal was then made to Sir Harry Smith to help them against the Basotho. He came with about 600 British troops under a Major Warden to their assistance. The Basotho were then pushed back from the present Rooi Berge to across the Caledon river which today still forms the Basotho border. This area then became known as the conquered territory which incorporates Golden Gate, Clarens, Fouriesburg, Ficksburg, Ladybrand, Clocolan and Wepener.

After this a period of relatively peace and prosperity befalls the Pioneers till about 1860 when the Basotho start claiming back the conquered area and actually resettling there. Also the raids on cattle started all over again. During this time the 3rd Basotho war took place near Bethlehem. During 1865 this problem became so huge that an appeal was made to Paul Kruger whom at that stage was Commander in charge of the civilian forces in the Transvaal to come and help them. (At that stage the Transvaal was still a independent Republic). He arrives with a Boer Commando of about 400 men late in the afternoon during 1866. They were encamped on the present farm Clarens near Boshoek. Expecting the Basotho not to attack for a couple of days, no decent precautions against attack that evening were taken. That same night the Basotho surprised the Boers and attacked the Larger. 5 Men were stabbed to death in the oxwagons another 10 were heavily wounded.

A memorial to the Boers who died and were wounded known as ,,Die slag van Naupoortsnek’’ is on the village square in Clarens.

During the chaos that followed this attack the Boers started shooting and about 300 Basotho were killed.The following day more commandos were summoned up from the bordering regions and  a couple of days later a huge Boer force went afield against the Basotho and drove them finally across the Caledon River which today still forms the Lesotho Border. After this Paul Kruger told the farmers in the area that should they want peace they should settle the conquered territory and lay claim to the land otherwise they will never have peace.

After this period prosperity again settled in this area. This community was now thriving with men women and children. Water became a problem and could not much longer sustain so many people with their cattle.

During 1898 the war clouds started coming up in 1899  the Anglo Boer War broke out. Many of the men in the area joined the Commandos under Genl. De Wet, Genl. Michael Prinsloo and others. Many women and children fled and hid in the overhanging cliffs on the neighbouring farms Ill Paradiso, Elim, Drupfontein and others.

During the war itself many of the farm houses in the area and on Boshoek itself were burnt down,  many women and children were taken to the British concentration camps. After peace was declared in 1902 and many men came back from exile in Ceylon, Bermuda and other places their morale was run down also finding that many of the women had died in the concentration camps. Therefore  most of them settled on the other side of the mountains towards the present Clarens. It is not quiet clear how many people re settled on the present Boshoek after the war. But it seems that a number of families stayed here. Probably where some of the present Uys families in the area came from


Near the end of the Anglo-Boer War in 1902, Paul Kruger went into self exile to Holland then later to Switzerland where he lived in a little village called Clarens pronounced Klaraan where he later died. Due to his involvement with the Basotho wars in the area and the surrounding  mountains reminding people of  Clarens in Switzerland this village was also called Clarens.


In the book Clarens 1900 to 2000 written by Ds. Piet Grobler and Professor Piet Straus.

Mention is made of the Grave Yard on the farm Boshoek. Apparently they could not find it, as the area was totally overgrown with bush. After clearing the bush the Grave Yard was found and is today on our route as part of our historical drive.

The Grave Yard is very interesting in the sense  that when one enters the gate on your immediate right is a single grave and on your left a double or family grave. On both graves the tombstones are already laying on the ground. Both tomb stones have nothing engraved on them.  Both these graves are obviously the oldest, although there are a number of children’s graves. What might interest the observer is how did they get the corpses there as there is no way to get to the grave yard by cart or oxwagon. Did they put the corpses over a horse or carry them there? Also we take it for granted that there were no coffins  those days. Were the corpses just wrapped up in blankets?

Also the first grave made from concrete and cement is to be found in this cemetery.

this Lady was born in 1837 as Van der Linde died in 1902 as Van Der Heide. Our Theory about this cement grave could be that after the Boer war in 1902 cement was readily available.

It also seems that the pioneers were planning to build a wall around this cemetery, as proof of this the numerous chiselled stones lying in the grave yard. My theory again is that before they could get to the actual building of the wall the Boer War broke out. After the war barbed wire was plentiful available amongst the British block houses and it was much easier to enclose the yard with wire rather than to build a wall. (Not that the present Barbed wire is still the original).

Also we presume that after the war many of the relatives of these people have been killed in action or even in the concentration camps and the remaining few had very little interest in the grave Yard.


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Author: ClarensNews

Editor of Clarens News