Jonas Bergtheil & the Establishment of New Germany

Jonas Bergtheil

Jonas Bergtheil

While the British are definitely the largest group of European expats in KZN, people from all over the world have been drawn to the warm climate for nearly two centuries now. In 1840, Jonas Bergtheil came to Natal with the aim of setting up a cotton factory and establishing a European settlement along the coast. Having been rejected by both the British and Bavarian governments, Bergtheil turned to the Kingdom of Hanover (now officially a part of Germany) for support. Thirty-five families accepted his offer, and on the 23rd March 1848 approximately 185 German immigrants arrived in Natal. The settlers called their new home Neu-Deutschland (New Germany).

Bergtheil Settlers' map of Wandsbeck. Bergtheil changed the name of Wandsbeck to Westville in honour of Martin West, first Lieutenant-Governor of Natal

Bergtheil Settlers’ map of Wandsbeck. Jonas Bergtheil changed the name of Wandsbeck to Westville in honour of Martin West, first Lieutenant-Governor of Natal

Unfortunately for Bergtheil the Natal Cotton Company failed following an insect infestation and the settlers soon abandoned cotton in favour of growing fruit and vegetables. The immigrants maintained no contact with Germany and despite naming their new home in honour of their old one, they seemed to have no vision for a distinctly German community. Nevertheless, the arrival of German missionary, Pastor Carl Wilhelm Posselt, ensured that the language and culture would continue for some time to come.

Bergtheil Museum, named after Jonas Bergtheil, is housed in Westville’s oldest building (circa 1840), and features exhibitions centred around the history of the Bergtheil Settlers and their contributions to the development of Westville, Clermont and New Germany. Exhibition pieces include household items and workshop implements, as well as photographs and documents that show the gradual development of the area, as well as the role of the settlers during the South African War, and the First and Second World Wars.

Images courtesy of kznpr.co.zawww.pressreader.com and molegenealogy.blogspot.com

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