In its early days, Port Elizabeth was like a magnet attracting many entrepreneurial types. This is what made it so vibrant and dynamic. Amongst those were the Berry’s, two unrelated families. One made its fortune in contracts with the Divisional Council and the other as a hotel proprietor.
This blog covers the travails of Walter Horace Berry, the Hotelier.
Main picture: Walter Horace Berry, son of Walter Horace Berry senior
Father, John James or JJ, and sons, Matthew (baptised as Matthys Jacobus) and Richard John, were both peas from the same pod, entrepreneurs to the bone ever willing to take a gamble on a new business venture. In most instances, they were vindicated but when Matthew crossed swords with the Divisional Council over the Seaview Farm, it was an ill-judged move.
Main picture: The Zwartkops Convict station showing the overseer’s cottage and the convicts’ quarters at the rear
Like modern day motorists, the waggoneers of yore also required a place to rest, eat and refresh themselves except that their “facilities” were vastly more primitive than today’s Ultra City.
What facilities, if any, were provided and where were the outspans and road inns situated?
Main picture: Outspan House built by JJ Berry in 1862 as an Inn for travellers. It was situated about a mile from the Rawson Bridge, halfway between Zwartkops and Deal Party Estate
Technically this building has not been lost as it still exists. Rather the problem relates to inappropriate alterations which have destroyed the façade of the building making it unrecognisible.
Main picture: WM Cuthberts & Co Building
As a result of the poor state of the country roads, a trip by ox wagon to Graham’s Town – a distance of only 160 kms – would take eight days. The term road was a euphemism for a track through the bush, which through perpetual usage, had created a passage conforming to the contours, angle and levelness of the ground. No attempt had been made to remove boulders on the route or fill in depressions. Instead the road would skirt around such obstacles.
What roads were there and what was being done to address this issue?
Main picture: Typical condition of the rural main roads in the 1860s
The Port Elizabeth Yeomanry was formed under Captain William Matthew Harries for service during the Sixth Frontier War.
This blog covers the events when they engaged in some of the fiercest fighting of that year, at Trompetter’s Drift and elsewhere in the Fish River bush. The source of a major portion of the detail is taken from the memoir of James Edward Alexander.
Main picture: Xhosa warrior
Having obtained a commission from the Royal Geographical Society to explore and investigate Africa west of Delagoa Bay, James Edward Alexander was thrust into the Kafkaesque world of the 1835 Frontier War for which he might not have purchased front row seats, but they were not the cheap seats from which the action is barely visible. Port Elizabeth itself might not have been engulfed in the war but the hordes of African warriors knocked on its front door, the Zwartkops River.
This blog details the defence lines constructed, military plans drawn up and other martial actions undertaken
Main picture: Port Elizabeth’s Defence Lines during the 1835 Frontier War
Over a period of several decades, the dog had been transformed from an animal into a pet, a mongrel into a pure-bred. Thus, the threat of mass canicide to obviate the menace of rabies in 1893 was met with implacable opposition by these canine owners. By the time that the harsh restrictions such as muzzling and tethering were relaxed in December 1893, 1,917 dogs had been destroyed and one human died, Lydia Gates.
Yet again, class played a prominent role in how the epidemic was dealt with.
Main picture: Prize dogs in Port Elizabeth in 1895 Continue reading
The exact date of the introduction of canis familiaris to Port Elizabeth will never be known with certainty but by 1847 regulations were promulgated requiring all dogs to be registered at a charge of 1s per annum.
Treatment of domestic animals was often appalling but by mid-nineteenth century, voluntary organisations such as the SPCA had been established to combat this ill-treatment. Amongst the gentry or squirearchy, the hunting dog was an indispensable part of the hunting activities especially during the Easter Hunt at Wycombe Vale.
Main picture: Howard Mapplebeck with his canine companion
Today this little-known Hotel has escaped from the memories of even the oldest residents in Port Elizabeth. Yet in 1821, it was the very first hotel established in Port Elizabeth.
Main picture: View from Scorey’s Hotel in 1835 – painted by Lt William Vernon Guise