Eagar History

Eagar Family History

The Grandfather of Francis John Eagar ,Ross Eagar and wife (maiden name Ford) came with the 1820 settlers from Ireland and landed at Port Elizabeth.

.Out of their marriage 5 children were born His father was the second eldest and he was married to a Briel.

F J Eagar and Elizabeth Christina Erasmus
F J Eagar and Elizabeth Christina Erasmus

Francis John Eagar was born on the 22 February 1883 , in the district Hoopstad in the Free state, and baptized at Thaba Nchu by Minister W M Cripps on the 11 February 1884.FJ Eagar snr had a farm near Thaba Nchu named Crimea next to a mountain Citha .

English Boer War

1897 his father and eldest brother joined the kommandos to fight against the invading British. At the age of 16 he took food to them , but did not return to the farm ,he stayed and also joined the kommandos, to fight against the invading British.

Later during the war he and  approximately 5,000 Boers were betrayed when General Cronje surrendered his entire force to the British without even thinking of resistance, considered by many as the one shameful act by a Boer Commander during the three year war. They spent the rest of the war in a P.O.W. camp in Ceylon. His future Brother in law was also captured and sent to St Helena.

Note From Author:His future brother in law, Lodewyk van der Merwe’s Wife was a trained nurse and was in the women and children’s concentration  camps, and she had to remove fish hooks and glass from the food given to the women and children to eat!. When I say future brother in law, they only met in Rhodesia 1936 when his son Raymond Married the youngest daughter out of 16 children of Lodewyk  van der Merve, who was very wealthy as a diamond digger from South Africa.

Lodewyk van der Merwe
Lodewyk van der Merwe



After the war, back in South Africa, the year 1903 ,Francis resumed his studies at a school in Worcester for 3 years .To pay the school fees they had to work, the first year 4 hours work and 3 hours school, the second year 3 hours work and 4 hours school, the third year 2 hours work and 5 hours school. the work was building, woodwork, in the vineyard and garden.after three years he went to the gymnasium in the Paarl and matriculated 1907.  His first school as teacher was in 1908, a private school along Leeuwrivier, he boarded with Oom Faan Swanepoel. The house on one side of the river and the school on the other side, and during heavy rains he had to swim through the river to get to the school.

He then received a position to teach at a school at Klipplaatdrift with a salary of 5 pounds per month and free board and lodging 1909 he applied for a position in the Transvaal and taught for one month at Langverwagt in the district Standerton. he was then sent to Vakplaasskool, where he teached for one year and six months.


Francis gave up teaching to become a farmer. His father had a farm ‘Swartlagte’ in the freestate  at Ladybrand, and a neighbor offered a field on his farm to be sown with wheat at a third of the profit, but misfortune  caused him to decide to move to the wilds of Northern Rhodesia, after most of his crop was wiped out by a hail storm.

Trading Northern Rhodesia

He and a friend bought third class train tickets at Kimberley to Lusaka, Northern Rhodesia. Because the country was still wild, a rifle was a necessity , and crossing the border at Livingstone a permit for the ammo had to be purchased at one pound($). At Lusaka he met someone who told him if he had a wagon he could make money trading with the natives, so back to South Africa he went and acquired a wagon from his father, returning to Lusaka.

There were no roads and in order to reach the native kraals a path for the wagon had to be hacked through the bush and bridges built at rivers .Lions would often walk around the campsite at night , roaring and making the oxen restless. All that kept them at a distance was bonfires and a few shots fired into the dark towards the sound of the roars.

The natives were willing to help with the makeshift bridges because they wanted Francis to come to there kraals so that he could shoot antelope for them, as well as a reward of two hands full of salt.

Beads, material,s0ap, and salt was traded for grain, the grain was then sold to a Jew in Lusaka   named Collenberg  who sold the grain to mines in the Belgian Congo

Francis suffered from malaria 12 times in 7 years, and one time without medication it developed into black water fever, and during the night he drank 2 gallons water, saving his life. His native cook and interpreter refilled his water bag three times during the night.

Back To Teaching Southern Rhodesia

November 1913 he met up with Rev. Smuts from Bulawayo who was visiting members of his congregation, resident in Northern Rhodesia. By that time Francis had had enough of adventure in the wilds and accepted an offer to negotiate for a teaching post in Southern Rhodesia. He promptly left for the Free State and a visit with his parents. On 7 January 1914 he married Elizabeth Christina Erasmus.

He was offered a teaching post on the farm Mooilaagte in the Charter district. Travelling first class at the Rhodesian Government’s expense he arrived at Umvuma. From there to Enkeldoorn with the Zeederberg mule coach. The Sebakwe river was high and when crossing a crocodile attached one of the mules which died on reaching dry ground.

At Enkeldoorn he was not expected and there was nobody to meet him. Mr Bezuidenhout, owner of Mooilaagte, arrived on horseback. A Mr. A. Hoffman who was going courting in the same direction, made his horse available for part of the way and borrowing a cart from Rev. Liebenberg the trio set off. At Mr. Hoffman’s destination they had to borrow another horse and it was two days after arriving at Enkeldoorn, before he arrived at his new school, with classes due to start the next morning.

Boarding was a problem and the Eagar’s decided to have their own house. During the school holidays, with the help of neighbors he built a pole and dagga house with thatched roof. They bought an iron bed with a choir mattress and two chairs, all the other furniture had to be made from box planks and bush timber.

Milk was bought at six pennies a bottle, this was considered too costly and Francis bought a cow at a price that was more than a month’s salary. He later bought a second cow and they enjoyed home made butter.

The year 1914 was exceptionally wet with persistent rains and the Umniaty river constantly in flood. There were no bridges and because of the crocodiles, attempting to swim was out of the question. Everybody soon ran out of groceries. The Eagar’s bought wheat from a nearby farmer and had it ground by Oom Willie Steyn who owned an ox-powered mill. It took two days for Francis and a friend to fetch, convey and mill two small bags of wheat, walking, as the road was too wet for normal travel. Sugar was not a problem as they regularly robbed hives for honey. Most farmers had small hand operated grinders and grinding mealies was not a serious problem. They survived.

In those early days, general transport was a slow process. Horse-sickness killed many animals and even mules were not immune to the insect borne disease . The few that survived, said to be salted, were out of reach of most people and the normal was a donkey-drawn cart and on occasion oxen were used. Francis placed on record his admiration for the donkey. Throughout the early days the donkey was the main draught animal, it was immune to horse-sickness and also rinderpest. The Eagar’s used a donkey-cart for six years, travelling where-ever they wished to visit including a hundred mile trip. Francis and Wessel de Klerk took a business trip to Salisbury, mainly to buy themselves each a new rifle. In the Beatrice area they became bogged in the mud and for several days managed less than half a mile a day, going from antheap to antheap where they would rest on the comparatively dry ground. That trip took eight days. The accepted price for a donkey, if one became available was thirty pounds.