The first de Wet, one Jacobus, arrived in South Africa in 1693 as an official of the Dutch East India Company. He was much favoured by Governor Simon van der Stel. There were even rumours that he was van der Stel’s illegitimate son, and in 1697 he was appointed cellar master of The Dutch East India Company. Thus was precipitated the de Wet family’s association with the fruit of the vine.
It is somewhat of a mystery how Jacobus, being a Hollander and the son of an artist, could have acquired sufficient knowledge of the art of winemaking to secure the position as cellar master of The Dutch East India Company. Some might suggest that patronage played a roll, however the de Wet family vehemently disputes this.
Shortly after his arrival in South Africa, de Wet formed a liaison with the fair Josina Pretorius, daughter of a free burgher. From this rather torrid liaison a child was conceived. De Wet, being somewhat of a cad, refused to do the honourable thing by Josina and make an honest woman of her. To spite de Wet and make sure that he would always be reminded of his youthful peccadillo, she made sure that the child, a boy, would be christened De Wet. We are descendents from this illegitimate child.
One hundred and fifty years later saw the de Wet family farming at Brandvlei, near Worcester on the site of the current Brandvlei Dam and Brandvlei prison. Everything was quiet, peaceful and relatively prosperous. Lady Ann Barnard, that intrepid traveller, even stayed with the family on one of her journeys. Then a younger son in the de Wet household, one Daniel de Wet, created some sort of chaos by running off with his older brother’s fiancé, the petite Miss Jordaan.
To escape the somewhat understandable wrath of his older brother, Daniel de Wet, known in his family as Daniel the Dastard, and his new wife settled on a remote farm called Retreat on the outskirts of the Robertson District.
Here, despite his dastardly action, he prospered greatly and bought a farm for each of his many sons. For the oldest, Jacobus Stephanus de Wet, he bought a large farm on the Cogmanskloof River. Arabella forms part of this historic farm.