A short history of the Pohl Family

(1) At Schivelbein

Due to the passage of time as well as the destruction of documentation in the European conflicts of old, very few facts could be obtained regarding the early history of the POHL family. The family tree could similarly only be traced back to 1675.  However, through the respective family coat of arms, the name spelling, as well as place of residence (Schivelbein), there may well be a connection with a family by the name of von Polenz (also spelled POHLENZ, Polenzk, Polenski). They resided in the eastern regions of Germany and along the Polish border during the fifteenth century(1400-1500).  Some members of the family were based in the town of Schivelbein from where they acted as Governors/Marshalls of the Emperor and the Electors of Brandenburg.

The von Polenz family were apparently of Slav/Polish origin. It so happened that the Governor, Christoph von Polenz and his cousin(or son), also named Christoph as well as a number of Knights escorted Bogislaw, the Duke of Pommerania, on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.  The former Christoph were killed at sea during a skirmish with some Turkish pirates but the younger Christoph survived and later accompanied the Duke on his return to Germany.  This Christoph subsequently adopted a coat of arms which can be connected to that episode. Principle features are the blue ostrich plumes, the silver star representing Jerusalem and the golden bell representing the ringing bell on the ship’s deck.

South African Pohls have been in possession of a similar coat of arms for many year may have been brought to the Cape by the ancestor Carl Friedrich Pohl (1768- 1844). The name spelling POHLENZ, the town SCHIVELBEIN as well as the identical Coat of Arms suggests that there may be a connection with the old von Polenz family.  It is also suspected that the Polenz name was, in some instances, gradually Germanised to become Pohlenz/Pohlen and that the shorter and more generally used "POHL" name was eventually adopted.

(2) Journey to the Cape

Carl Friedrich Pohl's parents were Ephraim Pohl (1735-1815) and Sophie Judith (nee Dopecke) and his grandparents, Bonaventura Pohl (1700-1757) and Barbara (nee Rindfleisch). These Pohls were esteemed masterweavers and merchants in Schivelbein. Carl Friedrich Pohl was only nineteen years of age when he departed from there in 1787. He travelled to Holland, found employment with the VOC and was subsequently involved in some sea voyages. While on a return voyage in late 1792 from Batavia (currently the island of Java in Indonesia), he fell ill and was compelled to disembark at Cape Town on 7 January 1793. While recuperating at the Cape he met a girl by the name of Hester Isabella Marx and they fell in love. He then decided to leave the service of the VOC and to stay on in Cape Town. Carl Friedrich Pohl and Hester Isabella Marx got married in 1799 and nine children were born of the marriage. He was however never to see his parents or his home town again!


(3) A biography of Carl Friederich Pohl

1793 to 1799: At the Cape of Good Hope. According to some romantic storytelling, Carl, while recuperating at the Cape, was nursed back to health by the teenager Hester Isabella Marx with whom he fell in love. However, what has been recorded is that the Marx family had the farm "Driefontein" near the Gouritz River and that their daughter Hester Isabella Marx married Carl Friedrich Pohl on July 9, 1799 in Swellendam. Not much is known about Hester, who was the Marx’s fifth child, other than it appears that she was badly injured by an elephant during one of her father's hunting expeditions. The German scientist, traveler and writer, Lichtenstein, makes specific mention of one particular pretty girl in the Marx household.

1799 to 1811: Swellendam / Gouritz River. Carl did not take long to establish himself and by the turn of the century he was referred to by the Cape Gazette as "that highly respected and famous Cape citizen." In 1803 he owned a farm in the Outeniqua area, possibly located in the vicinity of Kleinberg along the Gouritz River where farmed sheep and cattle. He also owned the farm "Sandkraal" located near the current city of George. It is interesting to note that there is still a place with the somewhat exotic name, "Bonavontuur" which is located south of the Gouritz River near the N2 bridge. Further investigation may in fact show that this was the Pohl's first permanent residence in the colony and perhaps Carl named the farm in memory of his grandfather. The Pohls' first five children, ns Carel Frederik (1802), Martha Petronella (5 September 1807), Johann Theodore (16 August 1809) and Carolina Frederika and Hester Sophia (2 September 1811) were born in the area and baptized in Swellendam.

1811 to 1814: Cradock at Algoa Bay, District Uitenhage. In 1811, together with the known Algoa Bay pioneer, Frederick Korsten, Carl founded in Cradock, "CFPohl and Co" a company which exported mainly butter and salted beef to Mauritius. In late 1812 it was recorded that 32,129 lb of butter and by August 1813, 2,000 barrels of salted beef had been shipped. Carl and Hester stayed there until about July 1814, as the baptism of their sixth child Lotjie, occured on 17 July 1814, in George and it was reported that the parents come from Cradock. Carl also advertised in 1814 in the Cape Gazette that he planned to move from the Uitenhage district to George leaving his cousin, JHLange, to look after his interests in Algoa Bay. In Uitenhage, Carl met his friend and later Voortrekker leader, Piet Retief, and lent him on May 15, 1814 the sum of Rds8000.

1813 to 1821: The George years. In 1813, Carl rented the house on his farm "Sandkraal" to the government, to serve as church and parsonage for the NG community of George. Pastor Tobias Herold delivered his inaugural sermon on the 25 April in the house which until a few years ago still existed. It is probable that Carl studied construction in Pomerania because from 1816 he became increasingly involved in the design and construction of several important buildings in Mossel Bay and George, later in Uitenhage and then in Grahamstown. Examples in George are the first official church building and public buildings such as the courtroom, District Offices and the physician's house. Peter Frans Petrus was born on 26 April 1816 and Carl Emanuel on August 30, 1817. It is presumed that Frans Petrus died as a baby. The German Ernst Daniel Wienand arrived on 28 April 1818 at the Cape and travelled later that year to George where he met and eventually married Martha Petronella Pohl. In 1817, Carl advertised the sale of his farm “Sandkraal” including the house and slaves trained as saddle makers, blacksmiths, carpenters, masons, tailors, roofers and farm workers. Also for sale is European furniture, 150 breeding cows, 200 Cape cattle, 300 oxen, 3000 sheep, 10 breeding sheep were also offered for sale. "Sandkraal" was a large farm and stretched from George, to the coast including a little bay with the name "Karlspoel" as shown on contemporary maps. In an advertisement in the Gazette of July 8, 1818, the Pohl - properties in George were described as 11 plots, seven of them cultivated gardens and located on Church Square. The old familiar "Goewermentspos" was located on one of the plots. The last son, Fredrik Wilhelm, was born on June 16, 1819. The family was still living in 1820 in George because in that year Carl writes from there a letter to his cousin, JH Lange of Uitenhage, requesting him to recruit a saddle maker for him from the 1820 settlers. On July 3, 1820 Carl presents a plan for a new church building to the Church Council for approval. The cost is Rds4000. The construction was started and the building is completed in 1821. The inauguration took place on March 12, 1821and this church, known as the long building, still exists today.

1821 to 1822: Uitenhage. The Pohls moved to Uitenhage after Carl heard that his offer to build the DR Church, during a board meeting on March 1, 1821 was accepted. His tender price was £2400, (Rds.32000). Work on the building started in 1822 but a dispute arose after the church council headed by JG Cuyler (the magistrate of "Slagtersnek Rebellion" fame) rejected the building foundations. Carl refuses to amend it and stopped all construction. He requested that an independent expert inspect the foundation, but the council refused and took the matter to court in August 1823. It wasn’t until 1827 that Carl won the court case and costs amounting to £600 were awarded to him. However, the elders appealed the decision and after years of procrastination the case is finally heard in 1831, This time the decision was made against Carl and he had to pay the sum of £1,350 plus expenses. The church was later completed by another builder and was recently declared a national monument. The last child, Hendrica Isabella Johanna was born on October 8, 1822 and baptized in Uitenhage.

1823 to 1827: Albany. After leaving Uitenhage, the Pohls settled in 1823 in the vicinity of Grahamstown. Carl bought a farm in the “Suurberg” mountains located on the former historical Algoa Bay / Grahamstown route and called it "Pohls Retreat". The farm, now known as "Handsworth", is about 40km. located west of Grahamstown, and the farms of his friend Piet Retief, viz. "Assegaaibosch" is to the west and "Kariga", to the east. Carl also buys the farm "Doornkraal" located at Kowie Rivier. In the ensuing years he acquired a few merino sheep and is one of the first Capetonians to breed with them. In the town, Carl as sub-contractor to Dietz, completed the new prison in Somerset Street in 1824 in a way that the authorities described as "in a workmanlike manner and within the specified time limit". The building still exists today. In the same year he bought part of plot number 33 in the town of Anthony, for a sum of Rds4000. The builder of the new Drosdy building was dismissed and Carl undertakes to complete the building within six months. The contract price amounted Rds.19500. The construction initially progresses well and the acting magistrate, Mr. Hope makes a favorable report. This contract, however, eventually brought great hardship, especially arising from unreasonable orders from the authorities. The new Magistrate named Dundas, calls on all sorts of changes to the plans, but without any compensation to the builder. The resulting delays resulted in Carl being dismissed on 8 September 1826 as the builder and action was brought against him because of breach of contract. In such a situation where the complainant, prosecutor and judge are one person, there was only one possible outcome. He thus lost the court case and in 1827, was declared bankrupt. The costs against him were recovered by the auction and sale of "Pohls Retreat" and "Doornkraal".

1827 to 1844: "Carel’s Rust". After the Drosdy debacle, Carl, Hester and the younger children moved to live on a neighboring farm which was bought shortly before their bankruptcy by their son, Carel Frederik. The farm is on the old route to Algoa Bay on the beautiful slopes of the “Suurberg” mountains. Carl clearly segregated his assets and despite their setback, remain reasonably wealthy. In addition to the purchase by his son of this property, his son-in-law Ernst Wienand (with Frederik Pohl standing as guarantor) purchased "Pohls Retreat" in December 4, 1834. "Carel Rust" was a prestigious place in a stately two-story house designed in the Karoo style. The size of the family increased rapidly with the addition of not less than 38 children in the period up to Carl's death in 1844. He died following the tragic death on the 20th May 1835 of Dorothea Charlotta (Lotjie) during the birth of her second son (who also died during the birth) and the death on 13th March 1843 of the eldest granddaughter, Maria Petronella, who was fatally injured when she fell off her horse. Hester died seventeen years later. Her tombstone and that of the two girls' with epitaphs are still in place at the farm cemetery. During the Eighth Frontier War of 1851-1853 "Carel Rust" was the headquarters of Commandant Stephen John Hartman / Fieldcornet Ignatius Ferreira.

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