Arcadia is one of the oldest suburbs and has always been seen as one of the most authentic and attractive historical residential areas in Pretoria. Well, Arcadia is not one of the oldest suburbs in our beloved city but THE oldest pregnant with historical landmarks that have been neglected for too long.
|Andries du Toit|
Most Arcadians will know that their leafy suburb was established by land surveyor Andries du Toit who was born 8 August 1813 on the farm Eerste River in the Stellenbosch district. His father, Jacobus François du Toit, was the fourth generation of the Du Toit family at the Cape and his mother, Gertruda Johanna Buykes was of Flemish origin. Andries studied at Stellenbosch in order to qualify for acceptance at a theological institute in Holland.
Before departing for Europe, however, he fell ill with chronic chest trouble and was advised not to undertake the dangerous sea travels but to take advantage of the dry Karoo air. Andries then settled on the farm Grootfontein in the Beaufort West district. He married Elizabeth Getruda Jacoba de Villiers with whom he had ten children. In order to support his large family, he concentrated on selling, buying and bartering among the Trekboere in the Caledon area as well as with Voortrekkers living north of the Orange River. In spite of his strong religious conviction, he did not deem it necessary to abide by the law. He devised ingenious ways of smuggling guns and ammunition across the Grootrivier. Before long Du Toit was trapped and arrested but he managed to escape to the Orange Free State.
While looking for new opportunities to earn a living there, he met Commandant General Andries Pretorius who invited him to survey farms in the Voortrekker areas. Thus, towards the end of 1856, Du Toit arrived with his family by oxwagon in Pretoria. Among his tools were a ship’s telescope, a spirit level mounted on a tripod to serve the purpose of a theodolite and a trek-chain made up of 50 metal links together with a marking gauge. In Pretoria he surveyed 78 erven that were to be developed on the open square, a task which took him almost a year to complete for an erven was only surveyed when a buyer came forward to join the people who had already settled there. His surveying method may have lacked sophistication, but it proved to be extremely accurate when qualified land surveyors checked the measurements many years later with modern instruments. On 2 May 1857 Du Toit was sworn in as the first landdrost of Pretoria with responsibilities that would have broken most other men. However, with no government buildings at his disposal, Du Toit had the privilege of working from his modest home situated in the vicinity where the present Lion Bridge crosses the Apies River in Church street. Even before he was sworn in as landdrost, he stressed the necessity of postal connections between poor Pretoria, which he considered as an outpost to which he was moved, and the other towns. He was duly elected to serve as Pretoria’s first Postmaster.
While Du Toit has gone down in history as the man who surveyed the first erven in Pretoria, his pioneering efforts in municipal matters are of equal historical significance. They were as diverse as drafting regulations which dealt with the water supply for the young town, the maintenance of the furrow starting at the Fountain, the control of cattle, and in particular outspanned oxen who posed the constant threat of contaminating the water, and, on 2 June 1857, solemnising the marriage between Jacobus Abraham Botes and Christina Sagarian Johanna Beatrix du Preez, which was the first marriage that took place in Pretoria.
Du Toit was instrumental in having Pretoria declared the capital of the South African Republic and he was involved in moving the seat of government from Potchefstroom to Pretoria.
When his many public functions he had to carry out finally proved too much for him that he, at the age of 45, asked the President for permission to relinquish his post and resigned on 31 December 1859.
Next, Du Toit acquired a tract of land from President Pretorius extending from the present Du Toit Street to the official residence of South Africa’s State President in Arcadia, and this in lieu of a Basuto pony. Perhaps the deal was meant to be a golden handshake after the services he had rendered to the emerging town. The story that Du Toit had named his property after Arcadia – a central region of the Greek Peloponese, idealised in pastoral poetry for its idyllic life and innocence and simplicity, too, is a charming tale that does deserve retelling.
Du Toit set out to survey Arcadia at once, cutting the land rising gently towards the east into 82 erven. He sold the erven to Stephanus Johannes Meintje for £ 1,00 on a promissionary note for three months. After the registration of the sale Meintje received about £250 worth for the deal. Du Toit left Pretoria in 1871 to settle in Nazareth, which was to become Middelburg, where he died on 15 August 1883 and was buried.
Reproduced from an original article in ARRA by Eric Bolsmann June 2010