Port Elizabeth of Yore: A Brief History of Hankey

Hankey is a small town on the confluence of the Klein and Gamtoos rivers in South Africa. It is part of the Kouga Local Municipality of the Cacadu District in the Eastern Cape. Mr Bart Logie compiled the following (undated) history of Hankey and surrounds, titled ‘The history of Hankey, the resting place of Sarah Bartmann’.

Main picture: The picturesque town of Hankey

The town of Hankey is the site of Sarah Bartmann’s grave. Born in 1789 in the Eastern Cape, Sarah Bartmann moved with her family to the vicinity of Cape Town where she met a ship’s surgeon, WilliamDunlop. She accompanied him to London and then Paris, where, in 1815, sad and homesick, she died. Her remains became the property of the Musée de l’Homme in Paris, where a cast of her body together with preserved body parts and her skeleton were put on display. Only in 1975 were they removed to the archives of the museum (Hawthorne 2002). In February 2002, after continued pressure by the South African government, the French finally agreed that her remains be returned to the land of her birth. On Friday, 9 August, precisely 213 years after her birth, Sarah Bartmann was laid to rest on Vergaderingskop in Hankey, in the presence of a crowd of 6000 that included President Thabo Mbeki and Eastern Cape Premier Makhenkesi Stofile. (The Herald 10/08/02).

Sarah Baartmannn

The town of Hankey is situated beside the Gamtoos River and close to the original drift (on the farm Wagendrift) which, other than at the river mouth itself, a hazardous undertaking even at low-tide, was the nearest crossing point to the sea. The name of the river – in the form Gamtousch – was first recorded on a map drawn by C.D. Wentzel in 1752 (Skead 1993:188) and is of Khoekhoe origin, thought to be derived from the name of the people, Gamtouers, living beside its waters (Raper 2004:108), although by mid-18th century their numbers may well have been depleted by the smallpox epidemic that swept through the Colony in 1713 (Coetzee 1984:9). According to Robert Gordon who visited the area in 1778, the people themselves called the river Tei-qua, meaning the ‘Kaauwdag Rivier,’ or cold day river (Skead 2003:27).

The Gamtouer people lived beside the river for probably some three centuries before a combination of events, including the encroachment of Dutch and the amaXhosa and the introduction of previously unknown diseases such as smallpox, resulted in their displacement and dispersal. According to colonial history, Dutch Trek-Boers settled illegally beside the river during the first half of the 18th century, but on 23 May 1744, the first official grant of land was made to Maria Botha (Coetzee 1984:16). In the latter part of the century, Chungwa’s Gqunukhwebe with both Khoekhoe and Xhosa blood flowing in their veins, began to infiltrate the valley of the Gamtoos. Formerly resident in the Zuurveld, they had been displaced by Ndlambe and his people.

David Stuurman

From 1779 one family in particular, the Stuurmans, first Klaas Stuurman and after his death in 1803, his brother David, initiated developments in the Hankey area. It was during this era that Sarah Bartmann was born ca 1789 (Coetzee 1984:33). At that time, the Eastern Cape was in a state of general unrest. In 1799, Klaas Stuurman led Khoekhoe resistance to colonial forces on the Eastern Cape frontier. Together with his brothers David, Andries, Bootman and their Xhosa allies, in one of the most successful campaigns waged by indigenous warriors, he chased farmers from the Zuurveld as well as those from beside the Gamtoos into the Langkloof and down the length of it to the vicinity of Plettenberg Bay. Despite his success, Stuurman was well aware that in time, colonial forces would retaliate, and he drew back in order to regroup his followers and prepare a defensive position. Acting Governor General Francis Dundas was sympathetic towards the landless Khoekhoe (Coetzee 1984 :26), and in order to persuade Klaas Stuurman to agree to a peace settlement, Dundas promised him a grant of land if he and the other leaders undertook to return stolen arms and cattle, and bring their followers under control. By the time the transfer actually took place, British rule had been replaced by a Batavian government at the Cape and in 1803, the new Batavian Governor, General J.W. Janssens, concluded peace by granting Khoekhoe leaders lands of their own. By this time, Klaas Stuurman had died on a hunting expedition, and the mantle of leadership fell upon his brother, David. It was he, together with his people, nine men and 32 women and children, who moved to the land granted to them beside the Klein Rivier, where today the town of Hankey is situated (Coetzee 1984:28,34).

But not for long. Local farmers and missionaries noted that officers recruiting for the Cape Regiment (manned by Khoekhoe) were met with hostility at the Stuurman settlement and this was brought to theattention of the local landdrost, Jacob Cuyler, who was not sympathetic towards the local Khoekhoe.Stuurman also refused to accept a staff of office as ‘captain’ of his people. It was also alleged that heharboured defecting farm workers, and when the Gqunukhwebe leader, Chungwa moved into the area, his Dutch neighbours feared that David Stuurman, like his brother before him, would seek an alliance with Chungwa. Cuyler was determined to break up the community, and in April 1809 the grant of land was rescinded and David, his brother Bootman, two other men, three women and seven children were taken into custody (Coetzee 1984:28,34). Sent to the Cape, the four men were transferred to Robben Island. Soon thereafter, David and the others escaped from the island, and all but Bootman managed to return to the eastern frontier, where David, with his knowledge of the ways of the whites, was welcomed by his Xhosa hosts. He again played a prominent role in the wars of 1811-12 and 1818-19, but during the latter conflict was arrested and again sent to Robben Island. Yet again he managed to escape, together with the well known Xhosa leader, Nxele Makhanda (Makana). However, their boat overturned in the breakers and Nxele was drowned. Although Stuurman reached shore safely he was soon recaptured and sentenced to banishment for life. In February 1823 he was transported to New South Wales, Australia, where he died in 1830 (Logie 1999:31).

Above: The first route across the Gamtoos River to Port Elizabeth

With the departure in 1809 of David Stuurman, Frederick Korsten, a former Dutch naval officer turned farmer and energetic entrepreneur, bought the land vacated by the Khoekhoe as a speculative venture. When in 1817 his daughter, Maria, married John Sancroft Damant, the newly-weds moved to Wagondrift Farm, which they named Lammas, but in June 1821, the farm having been divided into three portions, it was again put up for sale.

Because of the shortage of suitable agricultural land at the mission at Bethelsdorp outside Port Elizabeth, The London Missionary Society (LMS) immediately expressed an interest (Rainier 1962:2). On 6 December 1821, an agreement was concluded between John and Thomas Damant, and the Society. On Christmas day, a down payment of 640 Rix dollars was made, and on 29 March 1822 the deed of transfer was issued, stating inter alia, that the property was being bought for use as a “corn farm” for the Khoekhoe of Bethelsdorp (Coetzee 1984:61). The other two portions were acquired by John Parkin and Philip Frost. By 1827 the first residents, together with their missionary, Mr J.G. Messer, were settled at Kleinrivier, beside the Gamtoos and the new settlement was given the name Hankey, after the treasurer of the London Missionary Society at the time (1822), William Allers Hankey (Raper 2004:129).

On hearing of the purchase, the residents of Bethelsdorp at once promised 6000 Rix dollars towards the cost, and set about raising the money by entering into a contract with Frederick Korsten to fell timber for cask staves. When Jacob Cuyler, the Uitenhage landdrost, who was totally opposed to the missionaries and the settlement at Bethelsdorp, got to hear of this, he banned the Bethelsdorpers from cutting timber anywhere other than in Landsman’s Bush, effectively making it impossible for them to fulfil their obligation to Korsten. Cuyler gave as his reasons the careless way in which the people of Bethelsdorp harvested timber and their hunting of game without permission. He regarded it as his duty to protect the timber and game for use by the whites of Graaff-Reinet and Albany (Coetzee 1984:62).

Despite this setback, 256 of the Bethelsdorp Khoekhoe made contributions towards the purchase of the land, the amounts varying between two and 100 Rix dollars. In 1827 a further ten residents made contributions, and the grand total amounted to 6 055 Rix dollars or about 40% of the purchase price of the farm (Coetzee 1984:67).

On 14 April 1827 an agreement was signed by local farmer Mr James Wait on the one hand, and fifty men of the community on the other, to construct a canal, each man undertaking to pay “one young ox or heifer of three years old,” as well as to supply the necessary labour and tools. In another contract Messer undertook to pay Wait 399 Rix dollars, or 12 good oxen “as soon as the water is in the ditch running over Hankey Institution” (Coulton 1924:7).

The first houses were erected beside the Klein Rivier – today in the vicinity of the Philip graves – and the first Bethelsdorp families, among them Stilbaai, Januarie, Dragoonder, Kiwiet, Armoed, Windvogel, Diederich, Scheepers, Abraham and Koemdo, moved in (Coetzee 1984:72). Education was always considered an important aspect of the society’s missionary endeavours, and in 1826 William Foster arrived in Hankey to establish a school, initially for the sons of the missionaries, which might later develop into one for the other children of the station. Foster was not impressed with what he saw, and during his four year stay in the colony did little to advance the educational aims of the society. Despite this, it was a first step that led eventually in 1900 to the establishment of a college, a pioneer scheme to train Khoekhoe teachers. When it moved to Uitenhage the college was named after Scottish missionary the Reverend William Dower (Coetzee 1984:5-6).

The missionary Messer left Hankey in 1831 and was succeeded by John Melvill whose arrival coincided with the completion of Wait’s watercourse, which resulted in an immediate improvement in the production of crops, although it should be noted that the production of corn, for which the farm was bought, was less successful because of the prevalence of rust (a plant disease) (Coetzee 1984:113-114). In 1832 work began on a new church and during the decade further land was acquired, but the mission was beset by other problems. Its success attracted newcomers who were often made to feel unwelcome by the original inhabitants.

In November 1837, Melvill was replaced by Edward Williams. In January the following year, James Backhouse of the Society of Friends visited the mission. Backhouse wrote of the “six miles” of irrigationditches that had been cut, and also noted the neat chapel and “good” houses for the inhabitants (Backhouse 1844:147). His visit coincided with a celebration of the emancipation of the slaves four years earlier. The celebration took the form of a temperance tea party at which Backhouse, together with 159 others, took a vow of abstinence. He wrote in glowing terms of the little settlement and of the progress made and remarked how it had been his privilege at the meeting to follow the Reverend Edward Williams “in recommending total abstinence from intoxicating liquors” (Backhouse 1844:147-148). In the same year one of the original residents, a sister of David Stuurman, died at the mission.

In the middle of 1842, the 28 year-old son of Dr John Philip, the Reverend William Philip, was appointed to take charge of the Hankey Mission. With typical Philip energy he set about planning developments at the settlement. He established a blacksmith’s shop and decided to grow fruit and vegetables instead of producing wool.

He also introduced cattle farming. He determined to put more land under irrigation and to do so planned to dig a tunnel through a ridge of land (a spur composed of Enon conglomerate) that caused the waters of the Gamtoos to flow in a loop around it. If water could be made to flow from higher up the river and through a tunnel in the spur, it could irrigate lands on the side of the spur nearest the mission. First, William had to negotiate for the land through which the channels and tunnel would pass, as well as on the mission side of the spur, on the farm Vensterhoek. In 1843, Ignatius Rautenbach exchanged his farm Vensterhoek for LMS land at Cambria (Coetzee 1984:204-205).

Work began on the tunnel in the same year. It was to be the first of its kind in South Africa. Digging from either end, the tunnellers worked for more than a year before they met in the middle on the night of Tuesday, 13 August 1844. Jan Bosman, working from the side furthest from the mission, struck the blow that finally broke through, connecting the two galleries. In his eagerness to pass on the good news, he did not climb through the hole he had made, but ran back along the tunnel and over the hill to Hankey. There were scenes of wild rejoicing in the little village. Philip was justifiably proud of his achievement, the first major irrigation tunnel in the country (Coetzee 1984:211-212). The area that came under irrigation as a result of the tunnel was named “Backhouse Hoek”, after the 1838 visitor, who also made a donation towards the cost of the tunnel. Today the name – locally at least – has become completely South African, and the farm is known as Bakkieshoek (Skead 1993:17). The tunnel, although occasionally blocked by debris, remained in use until the building of the Kouga Dam in the 1960s.

Barely a year after the completion of the tunnel, on the morning of 1 July 1845, William Philip and his nephew John Philip Fairbairn, aged 11, were drowned in the river. They were buried in the graveyard in the valley below the manse. William Philip was succeeded at Hankey by his brother, Durant. A severe flood in 1847 resulted in the loss of 13 lives. Eighteen houses were completely destroyed and 50 to 60 families left homeless. The Philip Tunnel was also blocked (Coetzee 1984:230-234). Durant set about establishing a new village and clearing the tunnel, and work began on the construction of a new church and manse, both the latter being completed in 1850.

The original mill, built under the direction of William Philip, had also been destroyed, and therefore, another was built by Durant at his own expense, using water brought by furrow from the tunnel. In 1868 after the arrival of a Scottish miller, David White, a new iron water-wheel was put in, and other changes were made that increased its efficiency. White and his sons, James and John, ran the mill for 40 years. The building was eventually destroyed in the 1932 flood, but its ruins are still visible.

In 1867, while in England, Durant Philip met with the Directors of the LMS and urged that the communities living at mission stations be allowed to own their land freehold. In the following year the society directed that as missionaries retired, so the management of the stations should be taken over by representatives of the residents. Six years later the Missionary Institutions Reform Bill, very largely the work of Durant Philip, was passed by parliament, allowing for the gradual transfer of land to the residents of the mission stations (Coetzee 1984:252). At Hankey not all people wanted, or were able to buy their land. By 1876 much land was still vacant and a decision was made to put it up for public auction. Plots sold for about £7 and irrigable ground for approximately £28 per morgen (0.856 ha). Most of the buyers were whites, changing the nature of the settlement (Le Roux 1975:6)

The Society continued its spiritual oversight of the people, but neither of Durant Philip’s successors, the Reverends H. Riley and H. Kayser, was able to raise the amount of his salary from the congregants. Perhaps the inability of the people to pay the stipends or to raise the money to buy their plots was an indication of hard economic times, but there may also have been resentment that mission land had passed into the hands of outsiders.

From 1881 the administration of the village fell under a Village Management Board of three members, H.A. Horn, September Februarie and P. Kettledas, and a local trader, John Mackay, was appointed Justice of the Peace (Le Roux 1975:7). The LMS, in an effort to restore the relationship between itself and the villagers sent the secretary of the society, the Reverend R. Wardlaw Thompson to Hankey and he resumed possession of certain of the society’s land. Then on 6 October 1891, 56 year-old John Mackenzie arrived to take charge of the former mission, where he remained until his death in 1899.

The “Victoria Tree”, an alien blue gum – Eucalyptus globulus – an impressive example of the species, and perhaps a suitably regal memorial to Queen Victoria, was planted on 22 July 1897 to commemorate the jubilee of her reign. It is situated next to the railway crossing on the road to Humansdorp. It was in 1902 that the London Missionary Society sold the last of the original mission lands. With the society now out of the way, a municipality was established in 1905. The first mayor was R.W. Metelerkamp, the council consisting of Messrs I. Ferreira, H. Stumke, D. White, G. Colling and S. Zev (Le Roux 1975:7).

After the completion of the Port Elizabeth-Avontuur railway in December 1906, farmers clamoured for work to begin on the branch-line from the Gamtoos Bridge to Hankey to begin, but Mr J.W. Sauer, minister of railways, was hard to convince. He felt that at an estimated cost of £72 000 the line was unlikely to pay its way carrying a few bundles of ostrich feathers (Moir 1963:65-66; Le Roux 1975:9). But the amount of agricultural produce from the valley continued to increase and Sauer was finally persuaded to allow work to begin. Work on the line took three years to complete, and the line was officially opened to traffic on 3 April 1914 (Moir 1963:66). Despite the minister’s forebodings, the branch line was a financial success from the start, until in the late 20th century, rail gave way to road transport.

The municipality lasted until 1951 when the town was taken under the control of the Divisional Council. On 1 March 1963 Hankey was again given village management board status, and is now – 2008 – a part of the Kouga Municipality centred on Jeffreys Bay. In 1963, during work on the irrigation canals connected with the building of the Kouga Dam in the 1960s and 70s, a temporary factory was established just out of town on the road to Patensie to manufacture 8 foot (2.43metre) diameter concrete pipes (Joubert p.c.). At the time these were the largest pipes manufactured in Africa. (The factory now houses the headquarters of Wagendrift Boerdery).

On 16 June 2002 on the road to Patensie near the turn-off to Vensterhoek, the Struggle Monument was unveiled which commemorates Comrades Vuyo Katoo, Vusumzi Landu, Sandile Mjacu, Monde Mjijwa, Msondezi Sibengile and Sipho Siziba who gave their lives in 1986 during the struggle for democracy.

Mention has been made of the 1847 flood of the Gamtoos River, but it should be noted that throughout the history of the settlement floods have caused loss of life and destruction of property – and also have brought down quantities of rich Karoo silts that have replenished the soils of the valley. Major floods occurred in the years 1832; 1847; 1867; 1905; 1916; 1932; 1944; 1961; 1963 and the worst to date in 1971, after the completion of the Kouga Dam, which it was hoped would finally put an end to these natural occurrences.

Historical features in the area:
There are several historical features in the vicinity of the Sarah Bartmann grave site worthy of mention:

Stuurmanskop As previously mentioned, the leader Klaas Stuurman was offered a grant of land beside the Klein Rivier. Because of his death, it was not Klaas, but his brother David who actually took possession of the land. At one time or another Stuurman lived at various locations beside the Gamtoos river and in the Zuurveld, but Klaas’s last days were spent in the vicinity of Patensie. It was on the farm Mistkraal, or in the vicinity, that Klaas Stuurman died in 1803. After he was buried there, it became the custom for passers-by to add a stone to the cairn on the grave and soon there was a considerable pile. In the early 20th century farmers who were clearing the land removed the stones and out of curiosity examined the grave they had uncovered. They found a skeleton lying in foetal position. Not far from Patensie is the farm Stuurmanskop, the only remaining tangible reminder of the former leader.

Vergaderingskop – Assembly hill. One version of how the hill acquired the name involves a practical joke played by Kalie Wait on the town’s inhabitants. In 1902, during the latter stages of the South African War, a number of rebel groups were active in the Eastern Cape. Kalie rode into town one day yelling that the rebels were on their way to Hankey. In the ensuing panic the Town Guard and most of the inhabitants fled to the hill overlooking the town. In due course the ‘rebel commando’ came into view and turned out to be a platoon of British soldiers under the command of a Captain Gary (Malan 1970:156-157). The name of the hill commemorates the incident. The story may well be apocryphal, but Vergaderingskop must often have seen gatherings of people watching the raging waters of the Gamtoos sweep by during one of its numerous floods.

Above: Vergaderingskop

Schleringhout’s sundial. Situated beside the road at the foot of Vergaderingskop is an enormous sundial. It was erected by the late Dirk Schleringhout who arrived in the Gamtoos valley from Holland together with his family after the Second World War. He worked as a farm manager and after retiring settled in Hankey. Examples of his paintings and sign-writing are to be seen in various parts of the town. He was 73 when he began the job of setting up what is reputed to be the largest sundial in southern Africa

Above: Schleringhout’s sundial

Die Philip Kerk The church, known as ‘Die Philip Kerk,’ built in 1850, has plaques within and outside the building commemorating the missionaries, ministers and benefactors of the church through the years. Originally the roof of this building was also thatch, but the thatch was replaced by corrugated iron and the central spire added. The residents of the mission not only built the church, but raised much of the money required for the materials. Today the building is in good condition and stands in a neatly maintained garden.

Above: William Philip irrigation tunnel

The Philip tunnel was the first of its kind in South Africa, built to irrigate crops grown on the mission land. The tunnel was financed by a fund established by the late James Cropper ‘for the promotion of civilisation in Southern Africa’ (Coetzee 1984:209). William Philip borrowed what he could. The remainder was raised by donations. Beside Backhouse’s donation, William Allers Hankey, after whom the mission was named, gave a large amount. Philip believed that the rental of the irrigated land would make up any shortfall.

The slave tree An indigenous kei-apple tree – Dovyalis caffra is located on a corner in the main street and at one time was known as the ‘slave tree,’ possibly because it may date back to that time. It is certainly a fine and venerable example of the species and used to have painted inscriptions in Afrikaans, English and isiXhosa pointing out that it was older than any passer-by, and asking only that it might be allowed to remain standing in order to share its shade with them.

Struggle Monument On 16 June 2002 on the road to Patensie near the turn-off to Vensterhoek, the Struggle Monument was unveiled which commemorates Comrades Vuyo Katoo, Vusumzi Landu, Sandile Mjacu, Monde Mjijwa, Msondezi Sibengile and Sipho Siziba who gave their lives in 1986 during the struggle for democracy.



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