Port Elizabeth of Yore : Volume 1 – Defying the Odds – Now Available

This volume is available as follows: Soft cover = R 320, hard cover now discounted to R390 plus shipment costs to SA destinations at R100. Copies of the book can be collected in Port Elizabeth from Alan Montgomery at 084 368 1304. It can also be purchased from Fogarty’s. Alternatively contact me, Dean McCleland at deanm@orangedotdesigns.co.za or 082 801 5446.

As Port Elizabeth celebrated its bicentenary in April 2020, this event has to be celebrated for not only was it the birth of a new town, but it was also home to many of our ancestors. This four-volume set of books records those birth pangs and well as the people and events which over the next 150 years made Port Elizabeth what it is today.

Comments on the back cover

Initially Port Elizabeth was only earmarked as a landing place for the British settlers and not as their destination. Yet in the thirty-year period from 1820 to 1850, contrary to expectations it experienced a tremendous growth spurt. So prodigious in fact was its expansion that it even overtook Cape Town in terms of the volume of exports.

This is the story of the people and events that form the basis of this incredible journey.

This book forms part of a four-volume series which takes the reader on the fascinating odyssey from the original inhabitants – the Khoi – through the town’s development into an entrepôt, wool processor and exporter to its pinnacle as the Detroit of South Africa.

Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Buildings of Mosenthals

During the 19th century and early 20th century, Mosenthals was the largest company in Port Elizabeth. The erection of its elegant head office and stores on the corner of Jetty Street and North Union Street was emblematic of their exalted status.

Much of this information for this blog has been provided by the Technical Editor, Blaine McCleland as well as the books of Margaret Harradine.  

Main picture: Initial building of Mosenthals probably close to the landing beaches

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A SMAC in the Face #73:  Is Zuma Prepared to Bury the Hatchet?

In the wake of the ground shaking 2024 National Elections, the ANC faces its worst existential crisis ever.  Nothing that the various Apartheid governments threw at them came anywhere close after the ANC’s electoral support slumped by 17% to 40.2%.  The ANC which saw off the IFP and smugly lorded it over everyone for 30 years is now forced to form some unpalatable coalition structure.  The architect of this is laughing boy, Zuma, himself who weaponised the shiny new MK Party.

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: Land Ownership in the 1820s

Forms of land tenure and availability of vacant land

Any map of the area surrounding Port Elizabeth extending outwards to the Gamtoos in the west and Sundays River in the northeast in the 1820s depicts less than two dozen farms, all with Dutch names. This reflects the fact that from the 1770s onwards the Trekboere had settled here on their quitrent farms.

This fact did not affect the 1820 Settlers per se as they were scheduled to be settled on the frontier, but it did mean that in reality none of the land around Port Elizabeth was “in British hands” and as such unavailable to the British settlers. One such person was Charles Lovemore whom we shall be introduced to shortly and who had decided to settle at Port Elizabeth. Unlike the settlers at the frontier, Lovemore would have to acquire his own land.

Main picture: Map of Klaas Kraal, renamed Bushy Park by Henry Lovemore

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A SMAC in the Face #72:  Trump Cut to Size by Occam’s Razor

History was made in America on 30 May 2024 when Trump became the first President, ex or otherwise, to be convicted of a felony.  In fact he was unanimously convicted of all 34 counts of falsifying business records in his attempt to hide from potential voters his dalliance with a porn star.  It will probably deal a huge blow to his re-election chances and make any political career for Don jnr a non-starter.  After all, who would want to vote for Con Heir, son of Con Hair?

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: Closure of the Inner-City Locations

The nascent town of Port Elizabeth required labour especially surfboatmen who loaded and unloaded the vessels moored in the roadstead. Initially it was the local khoikhoi who were employed but at a later stage they were replaced by the amaFengu as they were deemed to be more productive.

To house these workers, areas – the so-called Locations – were set aside on the Hill and allocated for their use. As the white population swelled exponentially, they sought land nearby on the Hill leading to the inevitable competing demands for land.

Thus commenced the settlers’ quest to relocate the indigenous people further out of town. None of their petitions could effect a change as the Council was legally committed to reimburse the Blacks for the improvements that they had effected to their properties in the event of their eviction but the residents were unwilling to bear the cost of the relocation.

This blog covers the path from uprooting these communities until their settlement on the periphery and also outside the town’s boundaries.

Main picture: Russell Road. The top of Hyman’s Kloof. On the right is the Strangers’ Location, set aside for Mfengu labourers in 1855

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: Jonathan Board – Builder and Property Owner

Jonathan Board came to the Cape as a member of Richard Daniell’s party. Shortly after his arrival he met Henry Lovemore when partly rebuilding the main residence at Bushy Park homestead which had been destroyed in a fire. This friendship would serve him well and he would ultimately marry, Eliza, Henry’s youngest daughter by his first marriage.

Main picture: Rufane Vale

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: Algoa Flying Club

Algoa Flying Club, including Algoa Flight Training Division, finds its roots before the 2nd World war when the Port Elizabeth Aero Club was formed in 1929, training pilots on Tiger Moths. The club was reformed 26 November 1956 as the Algoa Flying Club, named after Algoa Bay on the coast of which the city is situated.

The first Wings Parade for 12 student pilots was held in November 1957. This makes the Algoa Flying Club one of the oldest and most established Flying Schools in South Africa.

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A SMAC in the Face #71:  What a Bunch of Puckers

Like a badly scripted scene from a low rent remake of the Godfather, all the consiglieri and foot soldiers of the Don’s grime family this week grovelled and debased themselves.  They attended his hush money trial on Tuesday and Thursday to pay allegiance to him and to pucker up and kiss his ring …  and not the ring on his finger either.

Main picture: The head of the Trumpolino grime family, the Don snr, giving his inverse raccoon glare before proceedings.

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: James Edward Bruton-An early photographer

Invented in 1816, the first device that we recognize as a camera, was created by Joseph Niépce. The camera swiftly attracted devotees and rapidly spread across the world. In the Cape Colony, James Bruton was amongst the first photographers practicing the art of photography in Port Elizabeth shortly after its introduction. William Ring might have been the first practitioner in the nascent field in Port Elizabeth, but James Bruton was more prolific.

This blog mainly covers James’s life but it does also provide several snippets on this family.

Main picture: Thomas and Charlotte Bruton, the parents of the photographer James Edward Bruton

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