August Heinrich Dietrich Behrens

August Heinrich Dietrich Behrens founder of the family business, Aug. Behrens (Pty.) Ltd., was born at Herrmannsburg Germany on 8th March1864. After completion of highschooling he worked at a nursery at Uelzen. In June 1880, at the age of 16 he emigrated to South Africa. His uncle, Wilhelm Behrens was the Missionary at Bethanie, near Brits of the Herrmannsburg Missionary Society. After a tedious voyage, and landing at Cape Town, August proceeded to Bethanie, by oxwagon, arriving in December 1880. August was appointed farm manager, by missionary Fuls, and stationed near the present Moedwil, and conditions of employment were:
  • Free boardand lodging,
  • free clothes,
  • £15 per year and
  • 50% of the nettprofit of the tobacco crop.

During the 3 years August was employed by missionary Fuls, his 50% share of the tobacco crop totalled £12:10! In 1884, he transported tobacco, from this district, to Queenstown, by oxwagon, for a merchant, one Johny Tucker. It was a difficult journey, taking over 2 months to complete. Having left Rustenburg with 2 wagons and 32 oxen, August ultimately returned with but one wagon, and 8 oxen.

The following year, August was farming, on the Waykraal farm, near Brits. Dame Fortune then smiled on August, for whilst taking a load of produce to the Pretoria Market, he had a memorable meeting with the then well-known. English merchant, Mr. T. W. Beckett. Mr. Beckett advised August to start trading. Mr. Beckett loaned August £50 with which to buy hides. These, bought at 3d per lb were resold at 50% profit, and the trade in hides in proved such a success that in 1889 a business was established with premises at Bethanie. Again, Mr. Beckettt assisted this time with stock on credit and August soon became well-established.

During the Anglo Boer War, August lost everything, with the exception of a little cash which he had buried under the floor of his home. During the war, August served under Field-cornet Jan du Plessis, in the vicinity of Derdepoort during which time he contracted Malaria. Whilst home on leave, August was taken captive by the British troops, and until the cessation of hostilities was interned in Irene Concentration Camp, together with his wife and three small children. To start again after the war, was fraught with extreme difficulty, but with faith, handwork and perseverance, August kept abreast of life's hard demands. Suffering a decline in health condition, which culminated, in 1903, in a trip to Germany for medical treatment. Returning, with health restored, the tide seemed to change.

August established two small businesses in the vicinity of Brits, the proceeds for which endeavours he ultimately bought a farm. In 1906 August purchased the shop premises at Kroondal, from Mr. Somers, whose main business interests were in Rusterburg. A second business takeover at Kroondal, was that of Messr. Rattenberg and Cohen, in 1908. This placed August in possesion of the only business in Kroondal, and which could therefore grow, and develop with the town and surrounding area.

When August's sons were capable of taking over the business management, he retired, and concentrated on his old love, farming. Having disposed of two farms, one near Wolhuterskop, the other at the Crocodile River, August bought Bergheirn, at the foot of the Magalies mountains and which, from 1917, became the family farm. Though retired from the business scene, August developed Bergheim to become one of the most ... citrus farms in the district. Uncle August, as every-body called him, with his wife Dora (neé Wenhold) were a very hospitable couple, and always had numbers of guests visiting them. Perhaps this prompted them to start a guest farm at Bergheim, and still today, numbers of visitors from the cities, come to enjoy their Bergheim holiday.

The family comprised 13 children, but, sad to record, four died at an early age. The seven brothers all became wellknown. The eldest brother, Heiny, after he had been in the Behrens business for a couple of years, bought half of the farm Modderfontein which he named Waldheim, and where he farmed with citrus until his fatal accident in 1954. For many years Heiny was "Water Bailiff" at the Olifantsnekdam. The second son August, or Gussi, as he was generally known, took over management of the business which also proved successful. The third son, Manni, was the manager of "Ellis & Co Ltd." a furniture establishment in Pretoria, until he took over D. F. Joubert Co. Ltd. His twin brother, Fiddy, farmed at Oorzaak, and was noted to his ability to locate under ground water. The fifth son Karlie, a well-known personality in agricultural circles took over the family farm Bergheim. Reiny, renowned for his zest for living, was owner of a bottle store at Grootfontein, Namibia, and also mayor of the town. The youngest, Gerhard, farmed at Rietfontein, and was also wellknown in agricultural circles. Gerhard specialised in poultry and cattle breeding, and was also a member of the Egg Control Board.

The two daughters Emma Misselhorn and Mia Wulfes both worked for the family business. Emma in the wool department, and Mia in the cafeteria where they made many friends with their charm and friendliness.

The Behrens family enjoys periodical reunions, and now consists of almost 100 souls scattered over the Republic of South Africa.




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