The History of Vluytjeskraal Farm

The town of Orania is located 40 km from Hopetown in the Northern Cape Province. Orania was established in 1965 by the Department of Waterworks as a construction camp for the building of a canal system for the Orange River Scheme.

Numerous rock engravings dating from the Late Stone Age occur, alongside historical engravings and graffiti on the Dolerite rocks of a range of hills stretching from East to West through the town. The graffiti is mostly the work of white visitors since 1762. They scratched their names, dates and interesting sayings on the rocks, sometimes using the same rock faces as the prehistoric artists, to the point of even vandalising the earlier work.

The first known owner of the farm Vluytjeskraal, on which Orania was later built, was Stephanus ockert Vermeulen. He bought the farm in 1882 from his earnings as a transport driver and inscribed the record of the transaction in Dutch on a large rock overlooking the Orange River. He also started a separate annual calendar on another rock nearby.

Examinations of Vermeulen's engravings reveals interesting aspects. The inscriptions on both stones are given below as they are testimony to the farmer's attachment to his farm.

S Vermeulen het deze plaas gekoop in het jaar 1882 voor de zomme van 3952-4-5 (pounds) alle koste bei.

en was nog hier in 1892
en ook nog in 1902
 "    "     "    "  1912
 "    "     "    "  1922
 "    "     "    "  1923
 "    "     "    "  1924
 "    "     "    "  1925 Oupa dood 12 April 1925 (Inscription by Babsie Vermeulen, a grandchild)

In 1922 vermeulen changed his routine of making an inscription every tenth year. He returned in 1923 and mistakenly wrote 1922. He tried to change the '2' into a '3' but was not very successful. he returned in 1924 and again in 1925, the year in which he died. The dates of the last three years are lightly scratched and indistinct compared with those of the previous years.


According to his descendants, his eyesight was very weak in his old age. His health was probably also failing and he sensed his end was near. His granddaughter recorded his death at the end of his last entry as 12 April 1925.

Following the tradition, Vermeulen's grandson, Douw Vermeulen, continued the inscriptions and wrote on the same stone in Afrikaans:

D. Vermeulen het die Plaas gekoop in die Jaar 1942 teen 1-10/Per morg uit die boedel van sy Vader P.R. Vermeulen.

On the eastern side of the hill Stephanus Vermeulen engraved a stone with the following calendar:

S.O. Vermeulen
1881 1882 83 84 85 86 86 88 90
91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 1900 1901 1902 1910

Apparently he already occupied the farm for a year before buying it in 1882. In the first two years of his occupation he recorded the year fully, while for the following years he used only the last two digits until 1900. The years of the South African War are written in full, but are indistinct compared to the deeply scratched earlier entries. After the war there is only one more date. At that time there was a huge logistics base for British military operations and a concentration camp at Orange River station some 20 km away. As can be expected, the war must have influenced the lives of the Vermeulen family profoundly.

Despite the family's attachment to Vluytjeskraal, the farm was sold in 1956. Eight years later the farm was dispossessed by the Department of Waterworks. In May 2011 the descendants of Philipus Vermeulen, one of Vermeulen's sons who inherited Vluytjeskraal, held a reunion in Orania. More than 100 descendants attended, including youngsters of the sixth generation. The family sees such rituals as important for the preservation of family ties.

Source: Manie Opperman - The Digging Stick, Vol 28(2) August 2011