Fonds A839 - Papers of Schoch family

Diary Letters from Herman Schoch S.A. War, 1899-1902: Diary Notebook Notebook Notebook Account of motor tour in South West Africa

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Papers of Schoch family


  • 1868 - 1940 (Creation)

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219 items

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Biographical history

Herman Eugene Schoch (1862-1947)

Born on 10 September 1862 at Herisau, Switzerland. His parents were Wilhelm August Schoch (1834-1910) and Ida Schiess. His father was a clerk in an import-export firm in England and later set up his own business at Herisau, importing English cloth. A very religious man, he felt a call from God to go to Africa and set sail with his family on the s.s. Asia, arriving in Cape Town on 4 May 1868.

From 1868-1873 the Schoch family lived at Wellington in the Cape, farming, but religious feelings compelled them to move again and after a journey lasting from 17 October 1873 to 9 March 1874 they settled at the farm Boschdal in Rustenburg. Life was very spartan and Herman was taught at home by his father and aunt. In November 1878 Herman left the Transvaal to be apprenticed to Mr. Schunke, Land Surveyor in the Cape and from 1878-1883 worked in this capacity. His formal education took place at Neuchatel Gymnasium in Switzerland and Edinburgh University from 1884-1887. In 1888 he attended surveying clauses at St. Andrew's College, Grahamstown, coming first in his examinations for Cape Colony.

From 1892-1899 he worked as a Surveyor in the Transvaal in partnership with George Greathead. In 1895 he went out with the Rustenburg commando to intercept Jameson's column and in 1899 was called up for service with the Boer forces. He served with the Rustenburg commando which besieged Mafeking 1899-1900 but when Mafeking was relieved he handed in his weapons and swore allegiance to the British crown. In 1900 he worked in a temporary capacity in the mapping section of the Surveyor General's Office in Pretoria. In 1908 he became a member of the Institute of Land Surveyors of the Transvaal and in 1912 gained the Mine Surveyor's Certificate of competency. His career advanced steadily and he ended as Surveyor General of the Transvaal, retiring in 1922 at the age of 60. He was a member of the Angola South West Africa Boundary Commission of 1920 which delimited the boundary between the two countries. In 1923 he worked in a temporary capacity helping to survey what is now the Kruger National Park. He married Elizabeth du Plessis and had a son, Walter, and a daughter, Eileen. He died on 12th October 1947.

Archival history

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

The Papers were deposited with Historical Papers in 1974 by a family descendant, Mr. H.E. van Santen, Johannesburg.

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Scope and content

The Schoch Family Papers include diaries, correspondence, manuscripts, typescripts, personal documents, press clippings, maps, printed items and photographs. They were deposited in the library in 1974 by a family descendant, Mr. H.E. van Santen, Johannesburg.

While the greatest part of the papers relates to Herman Eugene Schoch (1862-1947), Surveyor General of the Transvaal, there are manuscripts pertaining to his father Wilhelm August Schoch, a Swiss immigrant to South Africa. and the author of a book entitled 34 Jahre Im Lande der Buren, published by Brieg, Kubisch, 1910. Both this book and his Mss of reminiscences, written mainly for his children, supply interesting information on South Africa in general and the Transvaal in particular during the second half of the 19th century. There are also family histories giving the genealogy of the Schoch family in Europe.

In addition there is an account by H.E. Schoch's sister-in-law Celestine du Plessis, of life in Rustenburg during the South African War, 1899-1900 when the town changed hands several times.

H.E. Schoch's papers relate to the South African War 1899-1902 and in particular to the siege of Mafeking. Also of considerable value, are his papers on the Angola-South West Africa Boundary Commission, of which he was a member. In his notebooks of reminiscences he comments on personalities he met such as Presidents Burgers and Kruger, Generals de la Rey and Smuts, Sir letter signed Jameson and Sir Arnold Theiler and of events like the Jameson Raid, the Braamfontein dynamite explosion and the siege of Mafeking during the war with the Pondomisi. There are also descriptions of native customs in the Transvaal and of bushman paintings and customs in the Cape of Good Hope and South West Africa.

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As the papers arrived in no particular order, they have been rearranged, according to archival type with the exception of the papers relating to the Angola-South West Africa Boundary Commission, which have been grouped together.

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South West Africa, now Namibia.


The digitisation of selected items was made possible with the generous funding provided by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, UKRI, for a project led by Holly Furneaux, Cardiff University, Wales.

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Archivist's note

Compiled by Anna M. Cunningham, 1976

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