Louis Johannes Trigardt was a farmer in the Cape Colony’s eastern frontier. Shunning colonial authority, he emigrated in 1834 to live among the Xhosa across the native reserve frontier.

In year 1836 two small companies of boer families set out from the colony. They were the pathfinders of the greater movement that followed in their wake.  These two family-groups, Trigardt, and that of his fellow trekker Johannes (Hans) van Rensburg composed of seven Boer farmers, with their wives and thirty-four children & native servants, into the uncharted interior of South Africa, and settled for a year at the base of the Zoutpansberg.

Trigardt and Van Rensburg parted ways, after Trigardt 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 killed in June 1836 by a troop of Tsonga after a night-long assault.

Trighardt’s Trek along the Olifants River (Sep-Oct 1837)

This volume based on Trigardt’s dairy starts in August 1836 while still in the Zoutpansberg and ends in May 1838 in Delagoa Bay. Trigardt was the only Voortrekker leader to keep a diary of his trek which is a valuable document in terms of linguistics and ethnology, besides his observations on the weather patterns, geography and the wildlife of the interior.

The climate and grazing in the Delagoa Bay area was found to be unfavorable for a long term stay, and Trigardt dispatched a servant to Natal to request an evacuation by sea but before this could happen he succumbed to malaria.

The Great Trek showing Trigardt route on purple.

In November 1836 Trigardt moved his camp eastwards to more agreeable climes in the vicinity of the later 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.  Later the same year they departed from the Zoutpansberg to find a new home or trading route to the sea. He was resolute in crossing the mountains, even if the wagons had to be dismantled and transported piecewise.

His limited communications with the Portuguese indicated that they would be welcomed, and that the east coast was sparsely populated where they can settle.

Trigardt’s Trek from Kaaymans Gat to the Witriver (18-27 Oct 1837)


On the 9th a family episode forms quite a feature of the entry, and is of interest, since it again brings us in touch with the human element in the trek. We read :

“Carolus had flogged his oxen very badly to-day. He had actually smashed the nose of one, and slashed another with a knife. I had to warn him that if he behaved in that way he would have none left, certainly no healthy ones. As we were going along, a young ox got out of the yoke, and he and Pieta tried to inspan it. The ox started butting, and as they were so long about the business, I went to help. Carolus was desperately annoyed and furious with those in the wagons behind, because not one came forward to help him.

I asked him how he could expect anyone to come to help a man who treated his animals so badly. Later, an ox of my own got entangled. While Pieta was working to disentangle the ox, Carolus started talking again. Pieta told him it was no use swearing at others, as it was owing to his [Carolus’] use of the whip that the animals had got entangled. This only made Carolus very much worse. When he wanted to help us, I told him he had better keep away, as I did not want my animals treated as he did his. As he was leaving us, he clouted Pieta in the face with his fist. I ordered him off at once, and as he attempted to hit some of the others, I gave him a punch myself. Then he began to rake up the past and said how, one of these days, he would get even with Pieta.

I asked him if he thought he was the only one entitled to inflict punishment, and do just as he pleased, and added that if he wanted to act the parent to my children, he must wait until I was dead and gone. Whilst I lived, I would never allow him to touch any of the children without good reason. He could tell me what Pieta had done, and, if I thought it called for it, I would give the boy a thrashing myself. In any case, he could not expect me to stand by and let him vent his rage on Pieta like a barbarian.”

Author and Editor

Dr Claude Fuller, Assistant Chief of the Division of Entomology of the Union of South Africa 1910-1926

Edited by Prof Leo Fouche, Professor of History University of Pretoria