Wolmarans House (First owners)

Pretoria News August 8, 1984 article by Daan de Beer

Old Pretoria Society Historical Tour Pretoria East T E Andrews

Die Helde-Album van ons Vryheidstryd by P.H.S van Zyl






Died 1926


Jacobus Marthinus Andreas Wolmarans

(Son of Frederick Jacobus Andreas Wolmarans who farmed outside Potchefstroom)

Member of Pres Kruger’s executive council.

Died on 18 May 1899 and was buried at Donkerhoek

Married Catherina Jacoba Schutte. Two of sons contributed to SA history

Son no 1. Jan Francois Wolmarans

He received military training in Holland at Breda, taken prisioner near Ermelo on 11 January 1902 and sent to St Helena.

On his return he became the officer commanding at Tempe (Bloemfontein) and retired in 1926 .

Died in 1926 on his farm Mooibank outside Potchefstroom

Son no 2 . Jacobus Marthinus Andreas

Born 1875 also a member of Pres. Krugers executive council.

Wolmarans was anti-government after Union was declared in 1910 and took up arms during the 1914 rebellion

Died on 7 November 1914 Maleoskop Groblersdal district buried in Donkerhoek next to his mothers grave. In 1973 the body was exhumed and reburied in the Hereos Square in Bethal


Buildt the house. House was a donation.

Wolmaranstad was named after him

Frederickstad was named after him

Pretoria. July 19 (no year stated-possibly 1900 ) “Mr Wolmarans, whose house is within our lines was arrested.A quantity of arms and gold bars was found concealed in his house.”

July…”Mr Wolmarans who was arrested

arrived from Cape Town from a trip to Europe. He was allowed to proceed to his house after taking an oath of neutrality”


Wolmarans House on Farm Donkerhoek – a history

Donkerhoek was originally part of the administrative district of Bronkhorstspruit. It was registered to a Mr P.J.Botha on 9 September 1859. A diagram showing the early history of the property (see bottom of these notes) has been created from this early date, to the time when the portion of property on which the house was built, falls out of the original owners hands. This information comes to us as a result of an architectural student C.A.Richard’s research and interest in 1984. The upper portion, termed Diagram 1, shows the farm in 1888 prior to it’s subdivision between shareholders in 1896. On 15 June 1896 a portion, described in Diagram 2, was purchased by J.M.A. Wolmarans from the estate of the late A.L.Breet and from B.J.Liedeburg’s portion of the farm. This totalled 645 morgen 486 rods. This land was held in the family until 1919-20 when it was again divided to J.Levin and J.L.P.deBeer; whilst a distant relative J.B.Wolmarans owned another major section of the farm until 1920

The house was situated in the north west corner of J.M.A.Wolmarans’s property and it is postulated by C.A.Richards that the house must have been built between 1896 and 1902. Wolmarans himself was supposed to have died in 1899. It is true that he and his wife were buried about 200 meters from the house, in a pine ground near to the present roadway. Unfortunately I cannot collaborate these dates of Richard’s as Wolmaran’s lovely big white marble gravestone was removed a few years ago by the government when they went and reburied him at Hero’s Acre, Pretoria. His wife and other family members however, remain buried on the farm. I have mentioned two points here – the date the house was built and secondly, when Wolmarans died. I also wish to discuss the Boer War history of the house. Yes, when new, the house was certainly a grand place – on a par with Zwartkoppies just down the valley where Sammy Marks lived (back in the sixties I knew his son Joe – the last owner, who used to come to into my mother’s shop). Sammy Marks surely visited here at the house as did State President Paul Kruger, Tant Sannie and other important people of the day.

The house was built with imported timber from Germany – all wood was treated with lime so as to be fireproof. This turned out to be fortuous as one of the owners after the Boer War, a Jew called Levin who owned the store at Pienaarspoort, was having financial difficulties. Again this was a story passed on to me, and so I cannot vouch for it’s authenticity - but I was told that Levin had insured the house, then oldest con in the book, had tried to burn it down - only to find the house refused to burn! It was after this that my grandfather bought the place.

Concerning the date of construction of the Wolmarans house – I was still in high school when my step father decided that the roof was leaking to such an extent, it needed fixing. Even to today, the thick corrugated zinc sheeting is still the original. To my dismay all the beautiful filigree edgings were removed from the top of the roof, as was the little vent house on the main east roof. One of the chimneys also had it’s top broken off (remember the bricks were all red mud bricks and not that hardy). Then too, where the sitting room now is, was originally two rooms – a study or smoking room and next to it a smaller guest room. Point is I ended up saving a piece of the metal roof filigree with the date 1889 on it – hence my belief that construction must have started by then, not later as proposed by C.A.Richard.

J.M.A.Wolmarans himself was one of four children of F.G.A.Wolmarans, a wealthy Potchefstroom farmer and church leader. Both he and his younger brother were involved in politics and the affairs of the church. He was regarded as a man of means, notwithstanding the fact that I learnt later that his nickname was “Donkie” Wolmarans – how true this is I do not know. On his gravestone is stated the fact that he was “Hoof van die Uitvoerende Raad van die Transvaal Republiek” (Head of the Executive Council of the Transvaal Republic). Was his death in 1899 as suggested by Richard? The story I was told as a youngster by my family was that Wolmarans had two farms, Donkerhoek and the other being in the Lowveld. Apparently he had hardly completed building the house, when 6 months later he went down to his other farm, contracted malaria and died (no dates mentioned).What is interesting was a snippet gained from Google concerning Wolmarans during the War years:

Councillor Wolmarans Arrested

PRETORIA, July 18. – Mr J.M.A.Wolmarans, of the Transvaal Executive Council, had been arrested at his house within the British lines near Hatherley. Bar gold worth £6,000 and a quantity of arms were found concealed in the house.

The New York Times, Published: July 19, 1900 Copyright © The New York Times”

This certainly questions the date of his demise. Someone will have to do a trip to Hero’s Acre to check the gravestone and find out… It also leaves the question open as to whether there is still some of the old Transvaal gold hidden on the farm. As a child I remember many intrusions of people searching for this gold. One lot, one dark night, even mistook the glint of the family’s horse’s eyes as that of a wild animal and – much to the chargin of my grandfather – shot him dead. We never found out who did it. I do not know that any gold was ever found, but it was certainly rumoured by many to still be around.

The farm house was of course confiscated by the British and used as an officer’s mess. I have an early photograph of a group of these men standing on the front veranda. The now huge trees were still small. And in the foreground, believe it or not, a hosepipe – never imagined they had them more than a hundred years ago! The Battle of Diamond Hill – sometimes called the Battle of Donkerhoek - was fought on 11/12 June 1900 not that far to the south of the house. Several of these officers are buried there on the hillside with other British casualties. And behind the house, clearly seen after a veld fire, the remains of the old canon path forged up the hill is still visible to this day – as are numerous small stone forts and emplacements found on top of the hill. I remember picking up old rounds of ammunition on the top of the hill as a boy.

My name is Ian Bernard Dougall MacDougall. I was born on 22 October 1944 and I grew up living here on my oupa Barry Wouda’s farm Donkerhoek (ie. Donkerhoek 365JR, now known as the portions #105 to #116). Actually my mother, Ella Maria Aletta (born Wouda on 20 October 1915 – she died 4 June 2004), had the farm portioned, or sectioned, in the 1970’s after the Government published a law stipulating that after a certain date, farms could no longer be portioned off. She did this as a precaution which could allow her to sell off sections in the future, should she ever have the need to – this was prophetic as later my parents did have financial problems, and so slowly and unfortunately my mother parted with all but four portions of the farm she had originally inherited from my grandfather Johannes Bernardus (Barry) Wouda, when he died on Christmas Day, 1955.

My mother Ella married my father Wilferd Ernest James MacDougall, in 1941, and I was the only child of this marriage. My Dad had been born in Piertermaritzburg of Scottish parents, fought in the Great War in France at the famous Battle of Delville Wood - where he was wounded and the rest of his South African Battalion almost wiped out. He worked most of his life at Iscor in Pretoria. There, through his friendship with my mother’s younger brother Johan Wouda, who also worked there in Personnel (and was eventually to become the Exective Manager to four of Iscor’s chairmen), he had some years before met and started courting my mother. Unfortunately their marriage broke up in 1948. In 1949 she remarried David Hermanus Brink, 23 year her senior (he was born 18 March 1892). She was his third wife. Between them they had two children – Ella Aletta Wouda Brink born in 1950 and David Hermanus Brink (junior) born in 1952. In those days my mother Ella ran the little Avondzon Trading Shop and post office at the bottom of the hill where the Pienaarspoort ground road branched off the old main tar road between Pretoria and Bronkhorstspruit. Her husband David Brink had a large dairy farm with 350 friesland cows behind the hill at Rietfontien. He also owned a farm at Rooikoppies near Rayton and Brink & Hertzog motor engineering in the city. In the early 1960’s they would build the Avondzon Hotel on the farm with the aid of my mother’s older architect brother Carl Wouda. Eventually they would move from the house into the hotel to run it themselves – this was in 1968 – and it was there that my stepfather eventually died on 4 Nov 1979. At that time the name “Wolmaransrust” could still be read high above the entrance at the front stoep; or just plain the “old house” as we in the family have always termed the Wolmarans House, was occupied by myself, my wife Martie (Martha Sophia Elizabeth, ne Strydom, born 30 Sept 1947), and our young son Barry (John Bernard MacDougall, born 16 Jan 1968). Not many people will believe me in this, but we had to contend with the odd ghost wandering around in the house in those days! Martie will back me up - but that is another story. My mother would stay on at the Hotel, surrounded by her children, until eventually due to old age and ill health, she sold there and returned to the old house with David, my younger brother. I had by then moved my family into the city. My sister Ella had also married and moved away from the farm. My mom “Tant” Ella died in 2004 - leaving a big vacuum for us all! She had always been the pivot or keystone of our family. David, now divorced, stayed on alone for a while in the old house until in 2005 my younger son Ian Dougall MacDougall (born 29 January 1975), moved out to the farm with his wife Suzette and two children, Tamsin and Christian. They now occupy the big house, whilst my sister’s only son Mark Pearse (born 13 April 1971), his wife Anneke and their baby Aidan live nearby in what used to be the old “waenhuis” – now converted into two large apartments.

My mother’s father Barry Wouda (born 29 Febr 1879) had grown up in the Karoo. My great grandfather Wouda, his father, had come to the Cape Colony from Holland – probably in 1854 – as a “dorpsuitlegger” and had thereafter planned and laid out several of the towns in the Karoo. Unfortunately he died whilst my grandpa was still a young boy, whereupon my grandfather was then taken to live with his aunt and her husband. Not a very happy time according to him. Later, as a young man, his sympathies - like so many others from the Cape - were with the two Boer republics and he came up north to help in the Boer War as a raportryer (dispatch rider). He was captured near Ladysmith in Natal and locked up in the Old Fort in Johannesburg. My grandfather told me that every day his jailer told him “Today we are going to shoot you!” The British took the view that anyone originating from the Cape Colony was a British subject – therefore my grandfather was seen as a traitor and should be shot! Luckily however the Treaty of Vereeniging was signed in Pretoria at Melrose House on 31 May 1902, so he was spared - and able to buy here at Donkerhoek later – and hence too, here we are today!

My mother’s mother – my Wouda grandmother - was born Ellie Maria Aletta Potgieter in 1881. She came originally from the farm Rietfontein in the Waterberg District. She was descended from Hendrik Potgieter, the 1836 Voortrekker leader, and then his son, her grandfather Pieter Johannes Potgieter (24 Des 1822 – 6 Nov 1854), who died fighting at Makapan’s Cave when he was Kommadant Generaal of the old Transvaal Republiek. One of the wall plagues at Paul Kruger’s statue in Church Square, Pretoria, shows a young Paul Kruger carrying my dead great, great grandfather away from the cave. As a direct descendant of him, I was actually invited by the government on 30 May 1964 to Potgieterus, and went to his impressive military reburial where his remains now lie in front of the town hall. Anyway, Ellie married my grandfather Barry on 11 July 1904 at the big old NG Kerk in Pretoria. At first they lived downtown in a large house in Schoeman Street, where the Residensie Hotel was later built. It must have been a big house (I remember seeing it once as a child) because apart from their four children, my grandma also used it as a boarding house. Her sign over the front door stated proudly “Eigenares Mev: E.Wouda.” It was here that my mother Ella and her three brothers grew up. Later my grandfather would move out into the country and buy one of the lower portions of Donkerhoek Farm, where, to the south, it straddles the Pienaar’s River. It was when he sold this section of Donkerhoek early in the 1920’s that he then purchased the present Donkerhoek hillside property which we now still own (and of which my granddaughter Tamsin and grandson Christian MacDougall are now the fifth generation of my family to live on the farm and to occupy the old house). My grandmother Ellie and especially my mother’s elder brother Hotze Wouda were very active in laying out the garden, as Ellie loved flowers and gardening. They got the terraces made and created order here at Wolmarans House, much as my daughter in law Suzette MacDougall now still does. When my grandparents bought the place the farmhouse was badly neglected, the garden badly overgrown and the hill came all the way down to the back door. The terraces were manually scraped by my mother’s elder brother Hotze, using draught animals and a handheld metal scraper, which I still remember as a boy, lying around the yard, discarded, old and rusty. Uncle Hotze not only created the terraces but also the duck pond which he manually scraped. He was the farmer here at Donkerhoek and I have a photo of him in the early days ploughing the lands with a span of 16 oxen! Ouma Ellie, whom I never knew, died here on the farm towards the beginning of WWII, before seeing my mother, whom she adored, married to my father Wilfred on 1 Nov 1941.

When I look at the old black and white photographs, many of which I wish I could share with you, all this old history of the farm and my family comes back to me… And yet still, so many gaps. So many questions I now wish I could ask my Grandfather – and not forgetting my mother - whom I still miss so much!

As an addendum: These days what is left of the property is registered in a Close Corporation – Avondson Trust CC. This is the heritage that my mother Ella Brink left us. She had worked her whole life to save the farm from all the crises that had beset her. Eventually she believed that creating a ‘trust’ was the best route to follow for the future. The CC consists of five members, all family, and it is managed by my eldest son Barry MacDougall.

JMA Wolmarans wife -  she remarried after he died. 

Regs is 'n graf op die plaas.


Pretoria Farm No 274

Freehold granted to P.J. Botha (09.09.1859)

( 1871) Sub divided between two sons ½ share each J.P. Botha and M.P. Botha

M.P. Botha’s ½ share

(1882) Sub divided between ½ share 1. F.G.A. Wolmarans

2. J.J. H Wolmarans

(1888) ½ share B.J. Liedenburg. ¼ share A.L. Breedt. (joint owners sub divided Farm)

(1896) Portions of portions:

1. B.J. Liedenburg.

2. Estate late A. L. Breedt.


Johannes Marthinus Andreas Wolmarans

(1906) Estate late J.M.A Wolmarans to son JMA Wolmarans

(1919) ½ share to 1. J Levin 1920 ½ share to J.L.P de Beer

(1920) Johannes Bernardus Woude (married to Ellie Maria Aletta Potgieter)

bought farm from J Levin

(1955) Ella Maria Aletta Mac Dougall (born Woude)

remarried David Hermanus Brink

(1970) Farm portioned Avondson Trust cc


From: Eerich Jessnitz
Sent: Tuesday, May 31, 2011 9:13 PM
To: Joan
Subject: Wolmarans lecture 2011


28 May 2011
This was an afternoon session at the impressive house, with thanks to the present inhabitants Ian and Suzette MacDougall, for their generosity to allow the invasion of their privacy. Joan gave a short insight into the time line of the Wolmarans Family, the house and the connection to the present MacDougall Family. The group present formed an interesting party: owner family members, architects, interesting friends, the stalwart event supporters and some of their family members.
Erich Jessnitz, who has some professional background in the technical side of historical structures and the restoration thereof, presented an insight into the appreciation of what to look for and research on when confronted with the (inherited) task of restoration of a structure. He stressed the importance of assessing the building in the widest possible context, including location, geography, topography of the site, social context, access and approach to the site (farm) and correlating historical dates with cross reference of sources.
A building will never stand alone without additional elements to give clues to the history of the place. Mention was made to features like tree lanes on the driveway, terraces, garden layout, formal flower beds, barn, coach house, maybe a croquet lawn, dam, water tanks and furrows, water pipes, orchards, other additions on the farm, graves, and in some cases the outside kitchen, cooler room (“sijf“ as it was called in the Dutch), dove cots, slave quarters, etc.
When assessing the main structure you would look at architectural style, layout, design, use of materials and craftsmanship, scale and size, and elements like the veranda, stairs, balustrades and handrails, trellis work, posts and columns, window and door detail, roof detail, basement construction and more.
Knowledge of the historic way of manufacture of e.g. dressed stone, glass, bricks, cement and insight into the way construction practices differed to today makes the evaluation more accurate. During the previous centuries many a building was built after ordering the materials to the last detail like wall paper, by catalogue from overseas!
This beautiful house lent itself to display examples of drawn glass, lead imbedded wrought iron balustrades, wall painting, stained glass windows, stuck pointed jointing on stonework, arched window detail, lime treatment on woodwork for fire protection, and also, alas, the disaster caused by age and decay.
Inside the house we had opportunity to experience the feel of extremely high ceilings, a spacious passage, opening of the front door to full passage width, picture rails, dado rails, rich patina on the oregon pine floors, not to forget mention of some exceptional pieces of inherited furniture. It was quite interesting watching the group dispersing into all corners of the house to “ooh – and – aah” about all the detail like lights, chandelier, hinges, handles, ------ have you ever seen a  writing desk larger than a table tennis top?   here we did!
The aim of the talk was to show what needs to be researched and evaluated, before even thinking of doing actual restoration work. You need to assess the whole project on hand, and formulate a restoration policy, taking into account to what era of the history of the building(s) you want to go to, and how to finance the work.
Setting priorities is important to maintain an order of functionality, by protecting the structure from further decay and the elements. Logically the water damage by roof leaks, seepage, rain penetration and rot need to be addressed first, before you delve into detail like choosing colour of paint for inside or fancy curtaining.
A talk like this, and a jewel like the Wolmarans House, which Erich took the liberty to re-name the MacDougall House leaves many unanswered questions now and points to ponder on.
Tea was served, with Joan’s biscuits accompanied with a lively criss-cross chitter-chatter in the spacious dining room.
Thank you again to the MacDougalls!

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