Simon van der Stel, commander and governor of the Cape, is born

Friday, 14 October 1639

Simon van der Stel was born on 14 October 1639 in Mauritius, the son of Adrian van der Stel, a Dutch East India Company (DEIC) official and Maria Lievens, the daughter of a freed slave. His father remained in the service of the DEIC until his death, upon which Simon went to Batavia, a colony in Java. After his marriage to Johanna Jacoba Six, van der Stel was appointed by the DEIC as the Commander of the Cape in 1679. Soon after this arrival, he set about expanding the colony, establishing the town of Stellenbosch and the winemaking farm of Groot Constantia. Van der Stel also attempted to improve farming in the colony by requesting that the DEIC provide safe passage to the Cape for French Huguenot farmers and by utilizing their farming skills on their arrival.

By 1691, van der Stel had been promoted to the position of governor. He was succeeded by his son, Willem Adriaan van der Stel in 1699.

Widely known for his development of the South African wine industry, van der Stel was also the first Cape Governor to be of mixed race-origin, a fact that was largely unacknowledged by the Apartheid government.

References:
• Discovery of Diamonds in Africa [online] Available at: history-world.org [Accessed 6 October 2009]
• Wallis, F. (2000). Nuusdagboek: Feite en Fratse oor 1000 jaar. Kaapstad: Human &Rousseau.

Last updated : 06-Dec-2016

This article was produced for South African History Online on 16-Mar-2011