Wild Outlaw Cuts A Swathe Across Karoo


Frontier outlaw Coenraad Buys, a  huge, powerful man, was an adventurer and smuggler who left a dash of wildness in the story of Beaufort West and  the Nuweveld farm.  Buys, also known as Coenraad de Buy or Buis, was born of Huguenot stock in Montagu in 1761. He clashed with the law and  took refuge among Xhosas on the eastern frontier. He also traded in cattle with them, and this was illegal in those days. His  treatment of these people is said to have contributed to the outbreak of the Second Frontier War.

Buys developed a passionate hatred for the British who declared him an outlaw, banished him from the Colony and put a price on his head.  Buys wandered through the Karoo in the late 1700s. When Graaff Reinet burghers chased their magistrate out of town and declared a republic, Buys tried to persuade the Xhosas to join these burghers in an uprising against the British.  He failed.

For years, Buys lived among the Ngqika people.  Then, with his Thembu wife and numerous children from that marriage, as well as from a liaison with Maria van der Horst, a woman of BlackKhoi-khoi descent, he moved to the area of present-day Beaufort West.   There he  disrupted the mission work of Erasmus Smit on the farm Kookfontein, raided cattle herds and generally created havoc. By 1821,  he had moved across the Vaal and  settled in the Soutpansberg. When his wife died in 1823, he was so grief-stricken that he wandered off into the veld and was never seen again.


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