Jan Frederik Reitz

Jan Fredeik Reitz was born in Utrecht, Holland on January 27, 1761 and died at the Goudini hot Springs near Worcester (South Africa) on April 5, 1824. He was the eldest son of Mr.Gijsbertus Reitz (1731-1809) and his first wife, Judith Elisabeth Loogen (1725-1765). Jan Fredrik's father, who later entered commerce, was an advocate in Utrecht, the son of Professor Dr. Johann Friedrich Reitz (1695-1778). Jan Fredrik belonged to a Dutch family which was well represented in the professions; his grandfather, Johann Friedrich Reitz was "Rector Magnificus" (Vice-Chancellor) of the University of Utrecht.
Forsaking family tradition young Reitz joined the navy (Admiralty of Amsterdam), serving under Kapitan ter zee J.H.van Kinsbergen for six years from 1777, first as midshipman in the Argo and later, during the Fourth Anglo-DutchWar (1780-1784) as Luitenant-titulair in the Admiraal Generaal. On August 5, 1781 he took part in the engagement off the Doggersbank against an English squadron under Vice-Admiral Hyde Parker, when the Admiraal Generaal formed part of a squadron commanded by van Kinsbergen. Afterwards promoted to Luitenant ter zee (August 13, 1781), he was awarded a silver medal and later sketched episodes of this action, three of which were engraved by M. Sallieth.
Between 1783 and 1786 he served in a squadron commanded by J.P.van Braam (Kapitein commandeur) which was sent to bolster the Companies waning influence in the East Indies. Although drafted to the Prinses Louisa in January 1783, he followed later, sailing as far as the Cape in the frigate Waakzaamheid which arrived in False Bay on February 17, 1784. He did not join the Prinses Louisa until August of that year.
On November 24, 1784, while at anchor off Riouw, he transferred to the frigate Monnikendam, in which he returned to the Netherlands in 1786. From 1789 until 1793 he served in the Zephyr, commanded by J.O.Vaillant (Kapitein ter zee), who headed a military commission sent to survey the defenses at the Cape, India and the Far East.
On the return voyage Jan Fredrik remained at the Cape, however, too ill to proceed. He returned to Europe in July 1793 in the Company's packet Faam, arriving home after an absence of almost five years to find that he had been promoted to Kapitein Luitenant on January 10,1793. On June 23, 1794 he was granted two years recuperative leave at the Cape by permission of the Stadholder Prince William of Orange, and arrived there on November 10, 1794 on board the Comeet.
Here he was trapped by the arrival of the British in 1795, which prevented him from returning to Holland and upon his marriage he decided to settle at the Cape, taking the Oath of Allegiance to the British King in 1796, after being released of his oath of allegiance by the Prince of Orange, who after the change of regime in consequence of the French revolution had gone into exile in England.
He married at Cape Town on March 23, 1795 Barbara Jacoba Van Reenen (1777-1818), the eldest daughter of Dirk Gysbert van Reenen (1754-1828) of Papenboom, Cape, a prominent landowner and Aletta Catharina Hurter. Barbara was born on May 11, 1777 and died on June 16, 1818.
In 1796 Reitz and his wife settled at Sans Souci Estate, Newlands where he bought and developed one of D.G.van Reenen's farms at Swellendam called Poespasvallei. Before the permanent occupation at the Cape by the British in1806, he sold Sans Souci and moved to live in a house on the Heerengracht in Cape Town, soon after which he obtained a government post as Deputy Vendue Meester.
This good fortune he owed to a fellow Dutch naval officer, Baron Francois Willem Fagel (1768-1856), whose all powerfull brother Baron Hendrik Fagel had settled in England where he had been appointed as the fourth successive holder of the influential post of Clerk (Griffier), to the Estates general, and since 1788, Ambassador to England and who had secured for Francois Fagel the appointment of Vendue Meester in Cape Town on June 1, 1808; and Reitz became his deputy. Subsequently Francois Fagel became Godfather to the youngest son of Jan Fredrik, namely Francis William Reitz.
On December 3, 1812 he acquired 4700 hectares at Zoetendals Vallei (the present Soetendalsvlei) near Cape Agulhas, where he began farming with Merinowool sheep. He imported rams and purchased the best procurable ewes. Fagel resigned his post as Vendue Master and on December 6, 1816 Jan Fredrik was appointed Commissary of Vendues by the Governor, Lord Charles Somerset.
In 1817 ill-health obliged him to form a partnership with his brother-in-law, Michiel van Breda of Oranje Zigt, into now what was the flourishing wool industry at Zoetendalsvlei. His pioneering efforts to breed merino sheep for their fleece is now recognized as the origin of the South African wool industry. No Reitzes remain in Swellendam or Riversdale, but street names in both towns record the families century in the Overberg. The family is recognised as one of the distinguished South African families with many descendants some of whom live in America and Canada.
Jan Fredrik and Barbara Jacoba had six children. The eldest two, both boys, were destined for the legal profession and their father took them, when young, to Holland where both studied before returning to the Cape.
Two of their other children lived out their lives in Swellendam, where one lies buried. Their fifth surviving child died of fever in East Africa while serving as a Lieutenant in the British Navy.

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