Archive of the Classis Amsterdam: Letters from the Cape
The Classis Amsterdam was the regional assembly for local church boards of the Dutch Reformed Church in the region of Amsterdam. During the VOC (Dutch East India Company) period, the church boards of the overseas territories, also fell under the jurisdiction of the Classis Amsterdam. Amongst these were the church boards at the Cape of Good Hope, Batavia, New York and Pennsylvania, etc.
The transcriptions published here will concentrate on letters received from the Cape of Good Hope with an emphasis on the early years, before the Cape of Good Hope had a permanent clerical presence in the form of Rev. Joan van Arckel in 1665. The letters covering the period from 6 April 1652 to 14 May 1663 are of particular genealogical interest, as they recorded the baptisms and a large part of the marriages before the first register was made by Rev. van Arckel.
The archives of the Classis Amsterdam are kept at the Stadsarchief Amsterdam in the Netherlands in the Inventory 379. The letters from the Cape reside in 3 volumes, inventory numbers 206 to 208 (Ingekomen stukken betreffende kerklijke zaken op Kaap de Goede Hoop, 1655-1792) as follows:
206: 1655-1747 (471 pages)
207: 1748-25 Feb 1773
A part of the first page from this archive
Source: Archief van de Classis Amsterdam van de Nederlandse Hervormde Kerk: Ingekomen stukken betreffende kerkelijke zaken op Kaap de Goede Hoop,1655 -1792, archiefinventaris 379, inventarisnummer 206, p. 1.
Pieter van der Stael arrived at the Cape of Good Hope with his wife and children on 5 March 1656 to start his tour of duty as "sieckentrooster". He was to replace his cousin Willem Barentsz Wijlant, who left for Batavia five days later on the tenth of March. One of the duties of the 'sieckentrooster' was to report regulary on church matters to the Classis Amsterdam.
The letters from Pieter van der Stael to the Classis Amsterdam cover the period 6 April 1652 to 14 May 1663. The first letter covers the activities from 6 April 1652 to April 1655 and were recorded by his predecessor. His last letter was dated 14 May 1663 when he was on the point of departing to the Batavia and hoping to join his brother-in-law, Jan van Riebeek, on Malaka.
A total of nine letters sent by him are found in the archives, covering page 1 through 37 and numbered as nos. 1 throug 9. From the letters themselves it became clear that at least ten letters were sent, but the one between number three and number four is missing. There is also an indication that another letter was sent to the classis in 1664, but I have not found a trace of it yet and gave it a provisional number of no. 3bis. In the following transcripts the letters are numbered 1 to 9, and ordered on the date it was signed, and in the case of the missing letter, on the date sent.
In addition to the above mentioned letters, a tenth letter is included in this series. This letter is strictly speaking not part of the 'letters from the Cape' (inventory numbers 206-208), but is part of the letters from East India and comes from inventory number 186 "Ingekomen stukken betreffende kerkelijke zaken in Oost-Indië, 1655 april-1682 augustus 13" and is numbered as no. 118. This letter was Pieter van der Stael's last report of activities concerning the church and spiritual welfare at the Cape, written after he and his family arrived in Batavia on 16 Nov 1663. The letter is dated 20 Jan 1664 and also contains a verbratum copy of a letter/statement made by his succesor, Ernestus Back.
List of letters sent and the dates they cover
Letters and copies of resolutions recieved concerning the question of slave baptisms.
This catergory contains letters sent from the Cabo church board as well as from individuals passing through who have posted their letters at Cabo.
This catergory contains letters sent from the Stellenbosch church board and concern the Stellenbosch, and in some cases, the combined Stellenbosch-Drakenstein church boards.
This catergory contains letters sent from the Drakenstein church board.