Danielskuil

A pretty town which  lies at the foot of the Kuruman Hills, 90 km south of Kuruman.

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The San and Korana

This water-rich environment was used, for centuries, by hunter-gatherer groupings (the San, or Bushmen). 

For about two decades, after 1770, the area was criss-crossed by warring and raiding clans. The Khoi people also lived in the area. In the Ghaap region, the Khoi were called "Korana"; and one Korana clan, called the Springboks, were led by a fearsome white brigand, Jan Bloem, who was based near the current-day Postmasburg.  Bloem was eventually defeated by a Tswana clan.

 

 

Tswana origins

In the late 1700s, the area fell under the control of two Tswana groups, the BaTlharo and the BaTlhaping, in an area that stretched from Campbell in the east, across Danielskuil and Postmasburg, up to the Langeberg at Olifantshoek in the west.

 

This place was then called Tlakalatlou (seTswana for “elephant’s reed”) - possibly reflecting the times when elephants were hunted in the reedy wetland of Danielskuil.  The African township in Danielskuil still celebrates this name.

 

The sketch, left, illustrates the methods which the Khoi and Tswana used to hunt elephants.

 

In 1816, the missionary James Read wanted to call the site "Vraayfontein" (beautiful fountain), because there were in fact 15 fountains contributing to a central lake.

The town of Berend Berends, Griqua leader

 

The Griquas were a rich mixture of racial groups. They were westernised, spoke Dutch, used guns and horses, built up large herds of cattle, and were famous hunters. Their leaders were recognised as chiefs by the Cape Colonial Government.

 

In 1804, the Griquas established Griquatown (then called "Klaarwater", or "clear water"), as their main town. They welcomed missionaries in their midst.

 

Danielskuil became an important outpost for the Griquas. The Griquas under Barend Barends moved to Danielskuil in 1820 – to the great discontent of the local San people. The San resisted the Griquas by ambushing them in the veld, and by stealing their livestock. The San often hid their loot at Boesmansgat, the formidable cave on the farm Mount Carmel, 40 km north of Danielskuil.

 

For protection, Barends welcomed other migrants from Tswana, Nama, and Griqua communities.  Barends, who was a well educated man and a trained missionary, continued with his own missionary activities in Danielskuil, and a local Griqua school was established in 1820. Generally, the Griqua were always hospitable to missionaries and indigenous groups.

The name “Daniel’s Den” was first found in documents written by the missionary, Campbell, in 1820. The name derives from a natural crater in a limestone formation, which reminded observers of the Biblical story of Daniel.

The map, alongside, shows the Griqua country in 1871.

The "kuil" of Danielskuil

The name of the town is drawn from the Bible. The legend of Daniel in the lions' den tells how Daniel is raised to high office by his royal master Darius the Mede, but jealous rivals trick Darius into issuing a decree which condemns Daniel to death. Hoping for Daniel's deliverance, but unable to save him, the king has him cast into the pit of lions. At daybreak he hurries back, asking if God had saved his friend. Daniel replies that God had sent an angel to close the jaws of the lions, "because I was found blameless before him." 

In Dutch or Afrikaans, the "lion's den" was translated as a "kuil", which means a "pit" or a deep hollow.

The name "Danielskuil" was first used for the little village in 1820. A large cavern, on the eastern side of the village must have reminded the Christian residents of the Biblical story. (There is no evidence whatsoever that the Griquas ever used the cavern as a prison).

Currently, there is no signage to the "kuil". Use the map to find it. The Kuil is surrounded by a formidable razor-wire fence - to prevent people from getting in and injuring themselves.

The field near the Kuil
Rock formation at the Kuil
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Old enemies break bread together - Jager Afrikaner made peace

For many years, the violent brigand Jager Afrikaner had sown death and destruction north of the Orange River. He was continually challenged by the Griqua leader, Berend Berends, who was determined to rid the region of this murderous man.

But in 1815, Robert Moffat befriended Jager, and converted him to Christianity. Jager became a peace-loving and conciliatory man. In 1820, he met his old enemy, Berends, at Danielskuil - and they prayed together. Jager confessed to the Griquas the injuries he had done to them. The missionary, John Campbell, described these two men as "judicious, excellent Christians ... who breathe nothing but peace on earth and good will to men".

After many long years of incessant bloodshed, this friendship must have indeed seemed like a miracle.

 
Missionaries and the establishment of the Danielskuil settlement

 

The first missionaries in the area were Jan Kars, assisted by Jan Hendriks (two literate Griquas).  After 1816, they worked amongst the San at a site called Kramersfontein - just 5 km north of Danielskuil, and now there is a guest farm at this historic site. The missionaries assisted the San to build canals to water their crops. This area became an important grain producer, with the produce sold as far as Beaufort West.

Gradually, Barends parted ways with the London Missionary Society, which remained a dominant influence at Griquatown. Barends now ruled on his own, attracting other notable Griqua leaders to his village. He and his men also participated in the battle of Dithakong, in 1823, north-east of Kuruman, where the Tlhaping/Griqua coalition defeated the Phuthing and Hlakwane raiders. These Sotho bands had originated roughly from what is today the Western Transvaal, and this historic battle turned the tide against the waves of violence, dislodged by the Difaqane ("tribal wars"), caused by Zulu expansion under Chaka and Dingane. This victory was momentous, because it prevented the difaqane from ravaging the Northern Cape.

 

Because of its strategic location on the routes to the north (the so-called Missionary Road, from Griquatown and Campbell to Kuruman), many visitors came to Danielskuil and recorded their impressions.  Traders came to Danielskuil to trade in ivory, skins, and feathers.

Barend Barends later moved to Boetsap, near the Harts River, where his Griquas were totally defeated, in 1831, by Mzilikazi. he spent his last years near the source of the Orange River, in Lesotho.

 

The Anglo-Boer War blockhouse

During the war of 1899-1902, the British troops erected blockhouses to ward off Boer attacks. The blockhouse in Danielskuil is an excellent example of these stone blockhouses.

Danielskuil blockhouse
A steep climb up the hill ...
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Panorama from the Blockhouse

The view enjoyed by the British soldiers, watching out for Boer attackers

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