Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Inter-Town Roads of the Mid 1800s – Part 1

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

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Port Elizabeth Yeomanry during the 1835 Frontier War

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

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: Memoirs of James Alexander on the 1835 Frontier War

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

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: Canicide and the Rabies Epidemic of 1893

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

Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Dog as Hunter and Companion

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

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: Early Black Settlements Part 3

By the 1890s, Port Elizabeth Port Elizabeth possessed four Locations: Strangers’ Location off Mount Road, Cooper’s Location off Albany Road, the Reservoir Location off Mount Road and Gubb’s Location in Mill Park. Despite immense pressure from white residents to relocate the residents to Locations further from white residential areas, this had never materialised mainly due to inertia and cost. 

Events after the turn of the century would ultimately witness the actualisation of these dreams and the clearing of the original western Locations. 

Main picture: Burning of huts in Stranger’s Location in 1903

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: Early Black Settlements Part 2

It was only subsequent to the establishment of the first Location in Port Elizabeth – Strangers’ Location – that the pattern of future residential developments in Port Elizabeth would become apparent.

This blog deals with the trials and tribulations of the African population in their quest for accommodation in the rapidly expanding town of Port Elizabeth as their needs were increasingly subordinated to those of the larger white community. Both were settlers in a new land, yet the Africans were allocated tiny pockets of land at the extremities of the white residential area, required for their labour but otherwise to be hidden from view.

Main picture: In the 1800s, the first Location was called Strangers Location, in what is now Richmond Hill, between Campbell and Stanley streets  Continue reading

Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Explosives Jetty at the Creek

At the risk of overstatement, dynamite was characterised as being extremely volatile in prior centuries. Just like Johannesburg, where the explosives factory was established at Modderfontein which was originally located far outside the municipal boundaries, so it was in the rest of South Africa. 

Main picture: Explosives jetty at the mouth of the Papenkuils River

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