Port Elizabeth of Yore: Early History of the Buffelsfontein Area

Like most of Port Elizabeth prior to the arrival of the British, the area of the future town comprised farms of the Trek Boers. Many of these names such as Welbedacht, the future Walmer, have long since disappeared yet the name Buffelsfontein has clung on tenaciously.

This blog is based upon an article by Bernard Johnson.

Main picture: Buffelsfontein by EC Moore

Botha’s Place, 1776 to 1850

On 6th of March (1802) we inspected the things and provisions which were sent to us by the Governor (Major General Francis Dundas), and on the subsequent day, being the 7th of March we took possession of the place of T. Botha, having then 160 Hottentots with us. We found an abundance of Grass, Timber and Limestone, a dwelling house of three rooms, another house fit for a Church and School, and a third where we placed our printing office.

So wrote James Read, a fellow missionary with Johannes Van Der Kemp, in their “Yearly Account for the year 1802 containing the Establishment of a missionary Institution among the Hottentots near Algoa Bay.” (London Missionary Society (UIS) Correspondence, South Africa).

The Botha family had been working land to the west of Algoa Bay certainly from 1776 and probably for many years before that. Pioneering farmers had been moving outwards from the Cape of Good Hope ever since the Dutch had arrived, the pattern being that a man set up on an area of land of his choice, cultivated it and raised a family. The eldest son inherited the farm and the younger sons moved on to find their own land. Theunis Botha, the second surviving son of Jacobus Botha and his wife, Emerenta Potgieter, was born in December 1750 and had married in 1771. (De Villiers, Pama, Genealogy of Old South African Families, page 79). They raised a family, apparently staying on his father’s farm which was big enough and productive enough to support several families. His eldest son, Jacobus Theodorus, was born on 17 March 1776; shortly before, a grazing permit had been issued by Governor Van Plettenberg to “the agriculturist Theunis Botha authorising him to pasture his cattle on the farm named Buffelsfontein lying between the Kragga Camma and the Company’s Beacon“. (Cape Archives Depot (CAD), RLR 24 /1 No.100). Theunis Botha continued to farm the land until early 1799 when his fortunes changed dramatically.

In September 1795 a British force had occupied the Cape of Good Hope to safeguard communications with India and other British interests in the East during the war with France and its allies. With their limited military resources, it was British policy to continue the administration through the existing system of the Batavian Republic and the districts functioned much as they did before. Farmers such as Theunis Botha went on with their work largely unaffected by the change in occupying power. In January 1799 one of their number, Adriaan Van Jaarsveld of Graaff Reinet, was arrested on a charge of forgery and the subsequent action of other farmers in forcing his release led to a revolt against the government in Cape Town. Theunis Botha decided to throw in his lot with Van Jaarsveld and took command of part of his group. It was an unfortunate decision which was to cost him his liberty and his land.

The rebellion never made headway and soon petered out. Most gave themselves up to the British military commander, the authorities in Cape Town having acted swiftly to deal with the insurrection. Theunis Botha found himself on his own with less than 100 men and was rounded up. Along with Adriaan Van Jaarsveld and his son, Zacharias, he was put aboard H.M. Sloop Rattlesnake and taken to Simon’s Town. (PRO, Kew, ADM 36 14955 and ADM 51 1298).

Charged with taking up arms against the Crown and inciting others to do so he, with the other rebels, was found guilty by the Court of Justice and recommended for the death penalty. The sentence of the Court announced on 3 September 1800 called for the rebels “to be delivered to the executioner blindfolded and having kneeled upon a heap of sand he ls to sway the sword over their heads for punishment and then to be banished ( The a l , RECORDS OF THE CAPE COLONY, iii . p 295). The judicial process had taken so long – it was 15 months before the accused were brought before the Court and the proceedings had then to be referred to London imposing another year’s delay that the Acting Governor, Major General Dundas, commuted the sentence to one of imprisonment. (Ibid. iv. p 113). Theunis Botha remained a prisoner in Cape Town Castle until released in April 1803 by the returning Batavian administration.

In the meantime, the rent payments on Buffelsfontein probably lapsed. No evidence has been traced to show that Botha was either dispossessed – it was leased anyway – or that he or any member of his family were authorised to retain it. We do know from the letters and journals of Dr. Johannes Theodorus Van Der Kemp and James Read that in March 1802 Botha’s Place was vacant.

In 1801 Graaff Reinet had been chosen as a site for a new London Missionary Society station among the Hottentots and Dr. Van Der Kemp and others went there to set it up. A combination of adverse factors, not least the hostile attitudes of local farmers, forced him to move away to the protection provided by the military garrison at Fort Frederick where he arrived with his party of Hottentots on 6th March 1802.

With rumours of the suspension of hostilities among the European powers, only temporary as it turned out, a state of uncertainty prevailed in the Cape. Major Le Moigne, the British commander at Fort Frederick, was reluctant to give orders for the permanent siting of a mission station but aware of the Acting Governor’s desire to help the Hottentots, he suggested Botha’s Place, “a farm belonging to the Government, about 7 English miles to the west of Fort Frederick and 3 miles from the sea shores.” (James Read, Letter datelined Botha’s Place near Algoa Bay, South Africa, 18 March 1802 addressed to the LMS, London). “Whether we shall stay here, or have another place given us, is quite uncertain,” he wrote, “by digging wells we find, the water amply supplied the fertility of the ground (is) beyond most parts of the country so that what will not grow in other places without much watering grows here in abundance without that trouble. Its nearness to a large and perhaps the best salt pan in the country renders the situation very advantageous, we have in great plenty fine Timber of the Different Kinds which this country affords, and of excellent Limestone which we think will make excellent pots and Bricks….

This seemingly ideal site for the mission station was not to last. In the annual report, penned a year later from Fort Frederick, James Read was writing: “…we had to labour on all sides with difficulties and opposition which threatened us some time with total destruction” enlarging on this by explaining that “the war between the farmers with the Cafferians and plundering Hottentots was going on very cruelly…………”

At the end of September 1802, the military garrison at Fort Frederick was withdrawn. James Read goes on: “…….after they had departed 8 days, a Troop of plundering Hottentots attacked our place in the middle of the night, and having fired about 50 times with muskets took away all our cattle …. ” After further attacks Van Der Kemp and Read were forced to evacuate the farm and return to the shelter of Fort Frederick from where James Read wrote his letter of 31 March 1803 including the report that “…….all our houses in Botha’s Place being laid to ashes……” Van Der Kemp later established the mission station at Bethelsdorp. (Cory, THE RISE OF SOUTH AFRICA, 1, pp 112 & 113).

On the resumption of the Dutch administration, Theunis Botha, now pardoned, was likely to have returned to Buffelsfontein to reclaim the land and re-establish the farm and its buildings. The countryside around Algoa Bay was far from quiescent with bands of pillaging Hottentots and African tribesmen roaming about at will. (See X.Y.Z. (J. C. Chase), “Old Times. and Odd Corners“, Eastern Province Herald (EPH), 3 March 1868). Theunis Botha is believed to have died in a skirmish with one of these bands; his eldest son, Jacobus Theodorus, then with a young family, would almost certainly have taken over the farm and worked it as best he could.

Lawlessness continued in the frontier area for some time after the second British occupation in 1806 with the garrison at Fort Frederick providing little security. Military operations to restore order began following the appointment on 8 October 1811 of Lieutenant Colonel John Graham as Special Commissioner for the Eastern Districts. With a force of less than 1,000 cavalry and infantry, the latter drawn mainly from his Cape Regiment, he achieved quick success. In a letter to him dated 2 April 1812 the Cape Government described the area as “Fertile districts rescued by your exertions and His Majesty’s arms from the former anarchy”. In a Proclamation of ear1y 1812 the government of Sir John Cradock declared its intention “to found extensive settlements from Algoa Bay, the future naval mart of those quarters, to Uitenhage and Graaff Reinet.” (PRO, Kew, CO 48 15).

Civil administration was re-established more effectively with, amongst other aspects of local government, reregistration of the land. If they had not already done so, Dutch farmers were encouraged to return and provided proof could be produced to show entitlement, land was made over to them either as loan places or as grants. Jacobus Theodorus Botha is recorded as having paid the quitrent for Buffelsfontein in 1815 and on 1 July 1816 the farm was officially granted to him at an annual quitrent of Rxd130. As surveyed, it measured 2979 morgen 408 square roods (sq. rds.). (PRO, Kew, CO 48 65).

A neighbour, Rutger Metelerkamp, was not so fortunate. He claimed to have had an interest in the land immediately to the west of Buffelsfontein before 1814. (Memorial dated 14 January 1814). It was then known as Klaas Kraal (probably after Klaas Stuurman – “the famous Captain of the Hottentots“, James Read called him but perhaps the modern term ‘local warlord’, might be a better description. Klaas Kraal was granted to a British army officer, Lieutenant C. B. Alcock, on 13 April 1818 in keeping with a policy of rewarding members of the armed forces as well as residents in the Cape for services rendered. (CAD, LBD45 f 141). Henry Lovemore, a settler from London, bought it from Alcock in October 1820 and renamed it Bushy Park. (CAD, GS T8 3 / 18 2O). The Bothas and Lovemores were to be good neighbours until Jacobus Botha died in 1854.

The Opgaaf Roll of the Uitenhage District for 1822 (CAD, J.1 08) provides an indication of the farming activities of Buffelsfontein at that time – 19 breeding horses, 40 draught oxen, 262 head of breeding cattle and 130 sheep. Extensive areas were under cu1tivation sown with barley and oats. The livestock included racehorses from which the Bothas were to build up a reputation as breeders of bloodstock and produce several future winners.

With such a large area to farm, parts were managed by Jacobus Botha’s two sons, Theunis Jacobus (a keen lover of the Turf) and Ignatius Michael, when old enough to do so in the 1830’s. Each had their own households. Other parts were leased to individuals such as James Samuel Reed, a man with many interests around Port Elizabeth ranging from his blacksmith’s shop to farming for his butchery business, from property ownership to importing canoes from Mauritius. He and his elder brother, George Thomas, were to figure much in the Buffelsfontein story and James Reed first enters it in 1841 when he took a lease on the eastern side of the property known later as Emerald Hill.

Jacobus Botha had not limited his property portfolio to Buffels-fontein, large and productive though it was. On 29 April 1843 he had purchased 1642 morgen 11 sq rds. of the farm Nooitgedacht (or Nooitgedagt) which lay to the north of Buffelsfontein from the widow of G. H. Holtzhuysen, Susanna Elizabeth Muller, for £45 sterling. (Transfer No. 600 of 17 May 1844). In 1848 he decided to sell his half share and it was bought by the Reed brothers for £150; a condition of the sale was that there should be a right of way for both parties through the two farms, a condition which was to lead to unhappy complication when in September 1850 Jacobus Botha sold half of Buffelsfontein to his eldest son. The latter refused to accept the condition and litigation between father and son followed.

On 21 May 1850 there had been a major earth tremor in the Port Elizabeth area. A newspaper report (Port Elizabeth Telegraph (PE Tel), 23rd May) described it as an earthquake and stated that it was felt particularly at “Botha’s Farm”. The believers in superstition might have regarded it as a portent of trouble. For the Botha family it was to be there in plenty in the years ahead.

The Botha Family Sells and Consortia Buy

Jacobus Theodorus Botha’s last years must have been for him personally particularly unhappy ones with little seeming to go right. He had farmed his land for 40years or more and with his sons had increased the yield from it. He was 74 in 1850 and certainly by 1852 had gone to live in Uitenhage. On 27 May 1850 a granddaughter of his, the youngest child of his eldest son, died on the farm, aged just over two years.

On 25 September 1850 he sold, undivided, the eastern half of the farm to his son Theunis, probably as a preliminary to divesting himself from active farming. The selling price was £600 sterling, a fair one when related to current land values especially as Theunis was not required to make payment until both his parents had died, though he had to provide a bond for the amount. Six months were allowed for transfer.

Complications however arose. In 1848 when Jacobus Botha had sold the farm Nooitgedacht to the Reed brothers, James Samuel and George Thomas, one condition of the sale was that stock    straying from either of the two farms should not be impounded and “a mutual right of way allowed to, and by, both parties . . . ” (Memorandum of Agreement dated 20 June 1848.) Theunis Botha denied knowledge of any such servitude and later claimed that if he had known about it he would have insisted on the sale price being reduced by £250 (Plaintiff’s Replication, CAD, CSC 2/3/1/164). In March 1851, six months having passed since the purchase date, he began to press his father for transfer. Jacobus Botha, honouring the agreement with the Reeds, demurred and the dispute festered family relations for two years until settled through court action.

The early months of 1851 were unsettled time in the Eastern Province with bands of tribesmen rampaging over parts of Albany and Uitenhage. People were forced to evacuate their homesteads; cattle were driven down from the north to graze on farms in the comparatively safer areas around Port Elizabeth. “On Muller’s, Botha’s, Ferreira’s and other farms there are complete villages established” reported the Eastern Province Herald (EPH) of 6 February 1851.

On 28 March 1851 Jacobus Botha and his wife Martha Jacoba signed a joint will. Under it his second son Ignatius Michael and the four daughters were each to receive £200, possibly as compensation for the sale of half the family farm to the eldest son. The remaining landed and other property was to be sold and the proceeds divided amongst all six children but, the will stipulated, the £600 owing from Theunis Botha was to be taken into account in the distribution.

Within weeks of the signing of the will, Ignatius Michael died necessitating the addition of a codicil to ensure that his two children inherited their father’s share.

In September 1851, despite the unresolved dispute over the servitude, Theunis Botha advertised the availability of a three-year letting of the eastern half of Buffelsfontein, signing himself as “Proprietor”. It was a strange act, even a provocative one. The legal ownership of the land would surely have made any tenancy agreement invalid. Yet Theunis Botha must have had a legal opinion because at the same time he initiated action to force transfer. On the 6th November 1851, in the case Botha vs Botha, a summons was issued against Jacobus Botha to appear before the Supreme Court in Cape Town returnable on 1 January 1852. It was served in person by the Deputy Sheriff of Port Elizabeth division, to whom Jacobus Botha is recorded to have replied in Dutch, “I cannot come” (CAD, Supreme Court Case Papers, No. 3493).

Towards the end of 1852  matters got worse with lawyers on both sides unable to obtain agreement. Filed with Jacobus Botha’s estate papers (CAD, MOOC 13/1/157 no. 23) is a statement of account with his attorney, Gustavus Chabaud. It reveals some of Jacobus Botha’s actions against his family and some of his neighbours. A lawyers’ letter was despatched to “G. Botha” demanding restitution of a house and claiming damages for the poisoning of some poultry. G. Botha could have been Gerrit Botha, a younger brother who might have been living on the farm but more likely it referred to the widow of his son, Ignatius Michel, who was still resident. On 8 November he served notice on Charles Lovemore, his neighbour at Bushy Park, cautioning him against receiving into his pound any cattle belonging to Theunis Botha. On 28th December a lawyer’s letter was sent to Theunis demanding that he should consent to the partition of Buffelsfontein (Ibid).

It was by now too late for an amicable settlement. The Reed brothers were given permission by the Supreme Court to join the suit as intervening defendants, they naturally wanting, and needing, the right of way across Buffelsfontein to be recognised ( CAD, CSC 2 / 3 / 1 / 1 6 4 Case No 3493 )

On the 12th April 1853 the Supreme Court authorised the hearing of the case before the Port Elizabeth Circuit Court. When it came upon 27th April before the Chief Justice Sir John Wylde, both parties agreed to settle. Theunis Botha accepted the servitude and Jacobus Botha agreed to give transfer within six months. Costs were to be shared. As in countless other cases, earlier agreement would have saved both quarrels and money.

Concurrent with all this, Jacobus Botha found himself before the Circuit Court as defendant in another case brought by a tenant, William Kelly, for illegally impounding his cattle. Jacobus Botha lost the case with costs (Port Elizabeth Telegraph (PET), Supplement, 5th May 1853).

In June 1853 Jacobus Botha decided to sell the remaining half of Buffelsfontein. It seemed an opportune moment to do so. There was no second son to take on the property and land prices were rising. 200 building plots in the neighbouring farm of Welbedacht, renamed the village of Walmer (in honour of the Duke of Wellington who had died in 1852), reached nearly £10,000 and 236 plots on Korsten’s land fetched a total of £7,239 (Port Elizabeth Mercury (PEM), June 18 1853)

From 9th June onwards  newspaper advertisements announced the sale on 7th July (EPH, 9th June and subsequent issues, and other PE newspapers). Headed “TO SPECULATORS” it put in motion the disintegration of the Botha family property including the stone-built principal homestead with its three reception rooms and five bedrooms. The advertisements described the property in glowing terms: “No farm has ever been found to equal it, either for its sterling qualities as a Farm for general purposes, or for the picturesque beauties of its scenery an uninterrupted view OF THE SOUTH ATLANTIC, an UNDULATING COUNTRY for Grazing and Agricultural purposes is unrivalled.

A separate advertisement a week later (EPH, 16th June) notified the sale on the same day of Jacobus Botha’s race horses including two imported thoroughbreds, Gennet and Mariner, both of which had run well in past meetings at Port Elizabeth and Grahamstown.

One condition of the sale of the western half was that it should be sold as one lot which meant a considerable financial outlay for the buyer which proved to be James Samuel Reed who bought the property through his company, J. S. Reed & Co. (PEM, 9th July). The price paid was £2,200, described as “handsome” by the newspaper considering that there was a four-year lease on the land, which incidentally also had been advertised for sale though not on the same day. Furniture and stock also sold well. The £2,200 was payable over five years in eight instalments (Transfer No. 86 dated 6 February 1856).

J. S. Reed was not the sole buyer. He was the nominee for a consortium which consisted of his brother, George Thomas, Theunis Botha the son, and Lennox Lloyd, a businessman in Port Elizabeth and the sixth son of Captain William Lloyd the former Port Captain. Each took a one eighth share of the whole property with Theunis Botha holding 5/8ths (Transfer No’s 78 – 90 dated 6 February 1856).

Almost immediately after the sale there seems to have been another family quarrel. On 15th July 1853, Jacobus and Martha Botha added a second codicil to their joint will. It revealed the depths to which relations between father and son had sunk. The codicil disinherited Theunis Botha “for his scandalous behaviour in striking both his parents . . . ” He was to receive no benefit from the proceeds of the property sale and he was still required to pay the £600 due from the purchase of the eastern half of Buffelsfontein.

On 25th August 1853, Martha Botha died at Uitenhage and a footnote on her death notice recorded that Jacobus Botha was so affected by her death that he was unable to sign it. The executor, Henry Rutherfoord did so (CAD, MOOC 6/9/63 f.2146). Did the conduct   of Theunis Botha contribute to his mother’s death, one has to ask?

On 4 May 1854, an advertisement in the EPH announced that Theunis Botha was “intending to discontinue Farming owing to ill-health” and he was giving instructions for the sale of his half share of Buffelsfontein. The sale was to be a private one and details would be given later, the advertisement said. They never were.

With six young children to bring up, one might venture to think that it would have been better to lease the farm or engage an overseer or manager to run it. Family events directed otherwise.

On 22nd June 1854, Jacobus Botha died at Uitenhage at the age of 78 (CAD, MOOC 6/9/67 f.2591). Eight weeks later, on 13 August, Theunis Botha was also dead, his “ill-health” evidently having been very real (CAD, MOOC 6/9/67 f.2721). Both estates passed into the administration of executors who were saddled with the complications created by the dispute between father and son. The disposal of properties, sales and passing of transfers were inevitably held up and were not completed until 6th February 1856 (Transfer Nos. 86, 87, 88 and 89); by this time a mortgage for £1,760 had been granted to the Reed brothers, John Miller and Eliza Botha, the widow of Theunis Botha (Transfer No. 912 dated 6 February 1856). John Miller, a livery commission agent and owner of a forge in Port Elizabeth, had purchased the 1/8th share of Lennox Lloyd on 1 March 1855 for £700 which gave the seller a quick profit of £150, or about 15% (Transfer No . 90 dated 6 February 1856).

John Miller, a future mayor of Port Elizabeth, does not seem to have wanted to work the land himself. Newspaper advertisements, such as that in the EPH of February 1856, sought a lessee for his farm on Buffelsfontein “…..considered the best in the district. There is a house and all necessary out-buildings on the place, and to an industrious man it will be let low“. The advertisement appeared in the next five issues of local papers, so it does not seem to have been easily let. John Miller himself moved into the house on his part of the farm which he named Emerald Hill.

The consortium divided the land amongst themselves on a basis of fractional shares, deferring for the time being delineation of boundaries. Eliza Botha chose not to retain ownership of her late husband’s 5/8ths share and in advertisements which first appeared in the EPH of 2nd December she announced her intention to sell, the date first being given as the last week in December and then finally fixed for 10 January 1857. At the sale, the immovable property was sold in two lots, the first being the half share (the eastern half which Theunis had bought from his father ), and the second being the l/8th share that Theunis had subsequently acquired as a member of the consortium.

The description of the first lot (EPH, 9th December) said that the buildings were comparatively new and constructed of stone and slate. “They consist of one long-stooped and lattice-windowed DWELLING HOUSE, containing some half dozen commodious-sized rooms, Store House, Kitchen, Churn House, attached to this is a beautiful Garden. A double-storied well-constructed BUILDING, also slate and stone, used by deceased as a Racing-Stable but capable, with trifling outlay, of being converted into a capacious and substantial Dwelling House, Workshop, Wagon house, and Overseers Apartments in good state of  repair”.

The second lot included “The Big House” a fine old substantial building, “but owing to the recklessness of the present occupier, has fallen somewhat into decay. A small outlay will, however, restore this extensive and commodious dwelling to its pristine (sic) state of elegance and comfort. Around it at various distances are other Buildings either Stone or Slate or Stone and Tile“. The description of the lot ended: “On different parts of the Property are several excellent, HOMESTEADS“. The movables on sale included milking cows, oxen, a wagon and the household furniture for living rooms, kitchen and pantry.

The two lots were bought by another consortium, Adolphus Julian Clairmonte and James Somers Kirkwood, both auctioneers and merchants, and Robert Lecky Phelps who was in partnership with Kirkwood though not at that time resident in the Cape. The price paid was £1,700 and transfer was effected on 24th December 1858 (No. 372).

The sole ownership of Jacobus Theodorus Botha in 1850 had now changed to one where six individuals J.S. Reed, G. T. Reed, J. Miller, A.J. Clairmonte, J.S. Kirkwood and R. L. Phelps – shared the original whole. By a Deed of Partition dated 28 March 1857, drawn up by Gustavus Chabaud, they divided up the farm between them (see sketch map) with John Miller taking Emerald Hill on the eastern side and the Reed brothers 825 morgen on the western.

Of the six members of the consortia four, J.S. Reed, Miller, Clairmonte and Kirkwood were all to face bankruptcy, or to be associated with firms that became insolvent, opening the way for others to buy in and further diversify the ownership.

The Ownership Widens

Buffelsfontein’s potential for deveIopment and capital appreciation must have provided much of the motivation for the consortium’s members when they invested money to buy the farm – that and the prospect of good living in attractive and spacious countryside. The Reed brothers with their butchery business had an obvious interest in having plenty of grazing land to raise cattle but they already owned large areas close to Port Elizabeth which should have been sufficient to supply the meat for their shops. Adolphus Julian Clairmonte was essentially a merchant, not a farmer and he soon sold his interest in the consortium. James Somerset Kirkwood was also a merchant and a leading auctioneer as well with interests in other large properties. Robert Becky Phelps was in partnership with Kirkwood, but he seems to have been away from the Colony nearly all the time and gave Kirkwood a power of attorney for Buffelsfontein. John Miller was probably the only true farmer, but he had civic and political ambitions. He was a future mayor of Port Elizabeth and spent much of his time in the town. Although he took up residence on his property which he called Emerald Hill, he was soon seeking a tenant for the farm.

In dividing up their own part of the farm, the partnership of Messrs. Clairmonte, Kirkwood and Phelps agreed to set aside a commonage of 600 acres in the north east as a grazing area as near as possible to Port Elizabeth. For £50, John Miller was to be allowed the use of it for grazing with a limit of “one sixth the number of stock which it may be adjudged by competent parties…………[to] fairly sustain“. In any future partition of the commonage, John Miller was to have 100 acres adjoining his own property. [Memorandum of Agreement dated 13th May 1858). The same agreement safeguarded the ownership for John Miller of a lime kiln which was sited on or close to the boundary between Emerald Hill and the partnership’s land.

Although Adolphus Clairmonte, the senior partner in the partnership, was a signatory to the Memorandum of Agreement dated 13 May 1858, he had sold his interest to John Paterson on 20th March 1858 for £1,000 (Transfer No. 261 dated 18th June 1861). Presumably he had Paterson’s agreement pending completion of the transfer.

John Paterson had many attributes but practical farming was not among them and being essentially a business man, it was probably the potential for appreciation which attracted him most. Within days of the buyout of Clairmonte’s share, the partnership began to sell off its land. On 31st March 1858 the partners sold 300 morgen to John Glen for £750. The area which became known as Glen’s Portion was situated in the southern part of Buffelsfontein and had Emerald Hill as its eastern boundary (Transfer No 229 dated 12th September 1861).

Three months later, on 7 and 21 July 1858, the partnership of Paterson, Kirkwood and Phelps sold two more portions of land. The first was the area to which James Kirkwood had given his name, 161 morgen 565 sq. rds. of the “finest arable land” according to the sale advertisement. It was bought by the Reed brothers for £532. 19. 0. which included a 2/24th share of the commonage. (Transfer No. 528 dated 30 September 1864).

The second area was that known as Blythe Glade, 162 morgen 300 sq.rds., which was bought by Charles Lovemore, proprietor of the neighbouring farm Bushy Park, for £600 and with it went another 2/24th share of the commonage (Transfer No. 523 dated 30 September 1864) . A condition of the sale was that a right of way should be guaranteed across Blythe Glade to the sea for the farms Heatherbank and the Homesteading.

At some stage the partnership had accepted that parts of the remaining 500 acres of the commonage should be added to the various areas of its land roughly in accordance with size. Glen’s Portion was allocated 125 acres, Blythe Glade 50, Kirkwood 50, the Homesteading 125, Heatherbank 125 and Springfield 50. The allotments could be sold separate1y or included with the sale of a property.

Records of transfers in the Deeds Office in Cape Town had meanwhile fallen way behind events on the ground (as can be seen from the transfer dates above), with portions being sold before the paperwork had been completed. Delays had followed the deaths of the two Bothas. Legal problems held up the transfers for years and sometimes one or more parties were declared insolvent between the time of purchase and the time when it came to pay up. That too meant considerable delay and for the modern researcher – and Reader – considerable confusion.

Charles Lovemore continued to build up is land portfolio in 1859. He had already acquired land immediately to the east of Buffelsfontein formerly part of the Muller farm, Welbedacht. On 5 February he purchased the southern part of Glen’s Portion covering 213 morgen 332.74 sq. rds., for £679.9 6. together with 5/48th share of the commonage (Transfer No. 78 dated 7 January 1862). John Harrison Clark, a merchant of Port Elizabeth bought the balance of 86 morgen 267 sq. rds. and the other 5 / 48th share of the commonage. (Transfer No. 79 dated 7 January 1862). The two sales gave John Glen his money back with more than a bit to spare.

On 11th February the partnership of Paterson, Kirkwood and Phelps advertised the sale on 2nd March of another portion of Buffelsfontein, this time the area to the north between ‘Reeds’ to the west and the commonage to the east. The auctioneers, conveniently for the sellers, were J. and W. Kirkwood, who described the area as “two valuable farms… the last farms in the suburbs of Port Elizabeth [of] which the public will have the opportunity of becoming purchasers” (EPH, February 11th 1859 and subsequent issues). One of the farms had been named Heatherbank (presumably by one of the partners) and it comprised 325 morgen 150 sq. rds. It was sold to Char1es Lovemore together with 125 acres of the commonage for £600 (Transfer No. 524 of 30 September 1861). The other farm was Springfield of 50 morgen which was bought by the Reed brothers for £100 (Transfer No. 50 dated 30 September 1864).

The proceeds from both sales ensured that Messrs. Paterson, Kirkwood and Phelps now showed a good profit on their original investment with the Homesteading still to be sold.

There was little activity in the affairs of Buffelsfontein during 1860 while new owners digested and sorted out their acquisitions. There was also time for the Registrar of Deeds in Cape Town to catch up with the books.

All had not gone well over the sale of Heatherbank. It was to be five years before transfer was effected and then only after a court action settled disagreement between sellers and buyer. The action was brought by John Peters on behalf of his partners against Charles Lovemore for non-payment of the second instalment of £300 due six months after purchase, namely 22 September 1859. A dispute had arisen over Rights of Way for the farm Kirkwood and the Buffelsfontein Homesteading to the commonage, and for Heatherbank through the Homesteading to Blythe Glade. Having money available Charles Lovemore offered the amount as a loan to Kirkwood & Co, another landed property company, in which James S. Kirkwood was also a partner, and received a promissory note for it, but presumably without a certificate to make clear that the money was to be held against payment of the second instalment. When the matter of rights of way was settled Kirkwood refused to regard the loan of £3OO to Kirkwood & Co. as payment. Why he chose not to do so is not known but Charles Lovemore refused to pay a further £ 300 and the dispute went before the Port Elizabeth Circuit Court on 1 February 1866. After a lengthy hearing the Judge ruled that payment had not been made and gave judgement for the plaintiff with interest and costs (EPH, 3rd February 1866). It is not known whether Lovemore received back his loan of £3OO to Kirkwood & Co.

On 10th January 1861, Messrs. Paterson, Kirkwood and Phelps sold off what was perhaps the jewel of Botha’s property – the Homesteading and with it 309 morgen 330 sq. rds. plus a 5/ 8th share of the commonage. It was bought jointly by John Glen and John Wood for £1,500 who divided the whole between them (See sketch map based upon the Deeds Office diagram number 1026 of 1864).

The partnership of Paterson, Kirkwood and Phelps was now finished with Buffelsfontein apart from some outstanding lawsuits and completion of administrative procedures and registration. It is hard to arrive at an accurate assessment of how well they did out of Buffelsfontein. The expenses associated with the land deals such as auctioneer’s charges are not known and each deal involved government dues. Allowing for these in three years the partnership raised over £4,000 for its sales of Glen’s Portion, Blythe Glade, Kirkwood, Heatherbank, the Homesteading and Springfield. Clairmonte had sold out at a good profit. Kirkwood and Phelps had comfortably doubled their money and John Paterson saw his money back with something else. John Miller from the original consortium had done well as had the Reed brothers who had now almost 1,000 morgen of Buffelsfontein for themselves.

In 1861 they paid off the last instalment for the purchase of the western quarter of Buffelsfontein and became its official proprietors (Transfer No. 96 of 6th June 1861). Wasting no time, they issued a newspaper notice warning anyone against trespassing on their land. (EPH, 13th August 1861).

John Glen decided not to retain his ownership of the Botha homestead and on 10th January 1863, he sold his portion to Port Elizabeth businessman, Henry Bruton Deare, for £1,100 who registered it in his wife’s name, Catherine Stewart Deare. Land prices were on the rise and towards the end of the year, in keeping with the upward movement, John Miller sold Emerald Hill to Clement Wall Frames for £3,500, a significant increase in value compared to a few years before payable in 10 annual instalments bearing a 6% percent interest. But even these favourable terms were of no use to Frames as he had not got the money to pay even the first instalment and unknown to himself, he had been insolvent since August (EPH, 4th August and 27th October 1863).

Henry Deare and his wife took up residence in the homestead and in February 1864 were advertising for a married couple to work there, the man as a gardener and the wife for domestic duties (EPH, 9th February 1861)

Meanwhile harmony among members of the old consortium had been disrupted by a disagreement between the Reed brothers and the rest. On the 14th April another case – Paterson and others vs. J.S. and G.T. Reed, was heard before the Port Elizabeth Circuit Court. The Reed brothers had held up transfer of Kirkwood by not paying the purchase money amounting to £532 .19 .0. They were judged to be at fault and were required to settle in full within one month, each side having to bear its own costs. The Reeds settled as ordered and the property was then registered in their names. (Transfer No. 528 dated 30th September 1864).

This last date seems to have been the occasion when the Deeds Office tidied up its Buffelsfontein records to try and bring them up to date. Blythe Glade and Heatherbank were transferred to Charles Lovemore from Paterson, Kirkwood and Phelps. The Homesteading was transferred to John Glen and John Wood (but as seen earlier it had already been sold to Catherine Stewart Deare); and the Reeds received the transfer of Springfield. The second sketch map with this Part Three shows the locations of the properties mentioned.

1865 was to prove to be a difficult year for some as financial pressures began to catch up with these property speculators who had over-stretched their resources and credit. Charles Lovemore, Henry Deare and J.H. Harrison were not among their number having limited their acquisitions to what they could afford or for which they had adequate cover. Not so most of the others. C.W. Frame had already appeared in the Insolvency Court. Adolphus Clairmonte had debts of over £4,000 (EPH, 28th 0ctober). James S. Kirkwood, who had interests in several businesses had claims against him which exceeded £1OO,000 (EPH, November 10) and John Wood appeared before the Insolvency Court on 13th December with a deficiency of £1,229 (EPH, 14th December).

In John Wood’s case the insolvency arose from his purchase of the half share of the Homesteading – the money was just not there to pay for it. His seems to have been the only case where Buffelsfontein was the direct cause of insolvency. The others compounded their cash shortages by widespread over-buying. That man of many interests, John Paterson, had bought much else besides both in Port Elizabeth and at places some distance from it. Amongst other properties he had bought Allyn, a farm to the east of Uitenhage, but some of his purchases were on the Orange River well to the north. James S. Kirkwood had acted similarly.

On 6th February 1867, Paterson’s firm, Paterson Kemp & Co, was insolvent with claims filed against it in the Insolvency Court totalling £55,897. 10. 8 (EPH, 8th February). His partner, Matthew Ebenezer Kemp, had appeared in court the previous September for failing to meet obligations over Emerald Hill. John Miller took them over. Paterson, with his customary energy fought the insolvency for two years, selling off much of his landed property, finally clearing his debts in March 1869 and so being judged rehabilitated (EPH, February 26 and March 2 1869).

The underlying cause of these insolvencies went much wider than the speculators of Buffelsfontein. A monetary crisis in the Cape Colony began to be felt in the Eastern Province from late 1864 onwards. It continued for several years and led to a drastic fall in land value and so stagnation in the property market. At auctions bids came nowhere near upset prices and owners and trustees of insolvent estates found themselves with unsaleable properties on their hands. John Paterson’s farm Allyn for example was unsold at £750 when auctioned in December 1868, though happily for him, Colonel Nixon, newly returned from India and owner of the neighbouring farm Balmoral, bought it for £900 in a private deal (EPH, 15th May 1868). Newspaper reports of auctions told of “a lack of interest” and of properties in Port Elizabeth “going for a song”. Needless to say, James S. Reed bought up some of these even though there was much to show that he was heading for bankruptcy and he appears to have lost heavily when this farm Thornhill was sold and no buyers had shown interest in his landed property at Sundays River. His turn was to come.

Another factor, a local one, must have had a bearing on land values in the southern part of Buffelsfontein. Drifting sands had long been a threat to the whole of the nearby coastline and in the 1860s the threat began to be very serious with the prevailing winds creating huge dunes of 40 feet or more, and blowing great quantities of sand across the land that imperiled much of the countryside and even Port Elizabeth itself.

Into More Settled Times

In 1871 Robert Pinchin, the Government Surveyor, prepared a map of the drift sands south and south west of Port Elizabeth for the Harbour Commissioners who had the responsibility for the coastline. His map is stored in the Port Elizabeth City Library and a sketch map based on it is included with this article.

Pinchin’s map is of interest because it not only illustrates clearly how far inland the drift sands had spread and how they threatened the very existence of Port Elizabeth, but it also gives the names of the major property owners. The drift sands had invaded large areas of the farms De Fontein and Strandfontein and covered southern parts of the former Welbedacht, Kirkwood, Blythe Glade, Glen’s portion of Mount Pleasant, and Emerald Hill also had great dunes building up in their southern parts. A dyke dug across the land, combined with natural forest in those parts, provided a degree of protection but not enough. Newspaper reports about the progress of the driftsands kept farmers and people in Port Elizabeth informed but understandably made many increasingly apprehensive. Nevertheless, once the property market began to pickup after the price stagnation of the late 1860’s, there were buyers much interested in acquiring good farming land outside Port Elizabeth when it came on offer. The strength of natural forces however, made it possible for everything in the path of the relentless advance of the driftsands to be destroyed. How they were stopped and the southern coastal areas saved is a story which has been told in other works, but it says much for the faith of proprietors like Charles Lovemore, Henry Deare and John Harrison Clark, who must have weighed up the risks and decided to accept them. Charles Lovemore continued to buy up what he could of Buffelsfontein, whilst Henry Deare doubled his wife’s holding by acquiring John Wood’s share of the Homesteading in 1866 when the latter was forced to sell through insolvency.

Henry Deare left on a visit to England on 14 April 1869 (EPH, 14th April). Before his departure he advertised that the Homesteading was to be let, providing posterity with a description of what it was like at that time. “That well-known Grazing Farm Buffelsfontein situate one hour from Port Elizabeth, consisting of about 700 acres of good pasture, all enclosed, with commonage rights extending down to the Bay. There is a large Dam and several springs. The Kitchen Garden is large ….35 Breeding Cattle………….Stabling for 8 horses. The Dwelling House, which is completely furnished, has an underground tank capable of holding 10,000 ga11ons of water.” (EPH, March 19 and subsequent issues, 1869). Despite its virtues, a tenant was not easily found.

The financial problems of James Samuel Reed, joint owner with his brother George Thomas of the large portion on the western side of Buffelsfontein, had been apparent for several years. Experienced old     hand that he was in the property business he staged a accession of delaying actions which kept his creditors at bay. The technique as the time-honoured one of raising funds and credit to buy additional property and then using that to raise more money to pay off the more persistent of his creditors. On one occasion in September 1866, he was challenged for debt whilst playing billiards in a saloon in Uitenhage (EPH, 25th September] one can almost picture him, in the manner of Francis Drake, finishing his game before attending to such a mundane matter.

He was however being forced to sell some of his properties, large and small, in and around         Port Elizabeth. In April 1870 another appearance before the Insolvency Court was avoided when rumour, conveniently timed, spread that he had absconded from the Colony (EPH,26th April). His share of Buffelsfontein he retained until 1872 when pressures forced him to put up for sale what was probably the best and most useful land in his portfolio. Providentially for him, property prices were then on the rise.

On 30th July 1872, the first of three prominent newspaper advertisements announced the sale by auction on 20 August of various Reed properties;            some were in Port Elizabeth but the main elements were “those splendid farm portions of the Buffelsfontein and Nooitgedacht properties.” The notice expanded on the attractions of the two portions, extolling particularly those of Buffelsfontein. “…..the extent is very considerable …………… for quality and quantity of butter ….no pasturage surpasses the Sea  Coast of the Property……….       Lime for ages to come and Firewood for a couple of generations, ..” As a whole the Property is a complete one for an extensive Agricultural and Dairy Farmer …………” (EPH, July 30 1872).

The property described was that of “Reeds” adjoining Bushy Park with Chelsea to the north; it was a large area, 825 morgen in the original survey, and unchanged since the Reeds acquired it from their partners in the Consortium in 1858 (Memorandum of Agreement dated 13th  May 1858). Nearly all of it was good farming land and no doubt the brothers were loath to part with it.

According to the EP of August 20, the     sale        was   a lively one, with “spirited competition“. The successful buyer was Charles Lovemore, and for him it would have been an important extension to Bushy Park. He bid £2,400, probably a higher price than expected and an indication that landed property was once again in demand. It had further significance for Charles Lovemore – with Heatherbank and the Commonage the acquisition gave him a continuous extent of land through the northern part of Buffels-fontein of Walmer. He took out a mortgage bond and on 6 November 1872 the new area was registered in his name. (Transfer No. 67).

Two further major property deals take the Buffelsfontein story up to 1875

On 2 January 1869, in a private deal, the Reed brothers had sold Kirkwood to James George Reed, the eldest son of George Thomas, together with a 2/24th share of the Commonage, for £309 but for some reason, probably a family one, transfer was not effected until five years later (Transfer No.125 dated 10th February 1874). Almost as soon as he had received his transfer, James George Reed put Kirkwood up for sale through Messrs. Holland &Co., who auctioned it on 1st March 1874. Covering 161 morgen 565sq.rds, the property was bought by Charles Lovemore for £660 after what the newspaper report called “great competition” (E.PH, 6th March 1874). Transfer was speedily completed within eight weeks (Transfer No.463 dated 24th April 1874).

James Samuel Reed, meanwhile, continued with his problems in the Insolvency Court. His brother George Thomas sought permission on 11th March 1874 to sell the farm Springfield in the north east corner of Buffelsfontein. The Reed brothers had bought the farm from the Paterson partnership on 2nd March 1859 (Transfer No.5l0 dated 30 September 1864) and it was registered in their joint names. George Thomas’s reasons for wanting to sell are not known; either he wanted to re-register it in his own name, or else he wanted his share of the money. The attorney representing James Samuel’s creditors to whom he owed £14,000 submitted that other matters should be settled first, and the court, presided over by the Civil Commissioner and Resident Magistrate, Alfred Wylde, refused to permit the sale (EPH, March 1874).

The sale of Kirkwood was followed a year later, in August 1875, by John Miller’s decision to take up perm-anent residence in Rosemount, Cape Town, and to dispose of Emerald Hill. On 23rd September it came up for auction. The property was first offered in six separate lots and then as one, the idea being that if the bid for the property as a whole exceeded the sum of the bids for the six separate lots it would be knocked down to the final bidder. A newspaper reported unenthusiastically that the bidding was “not very animated” although “steady”, and in the event there was no offer for the whole property (EPH, 24th September 1875).

Lot2, Emerald Hill, was only 84 acres (the auction advertisement described the areas in acres rather than morgen) but it included Miller’s house. It was sold for £1,800 to John Gruber, a young farmer, who also bought another choice part called Highlands, Lot. 4,133 acres, for £1,000. Another farmer, and a former mayor of Port Elizabeth, John Geard, paid £400 for Forest Hill, Lot 1, 82 acres, to add to the land he already owned in Walmer. The three remaining lots totalling 739 acres (about 167morgen), comprising mainly grazing land and named Kelly’s Corner, Gardiner’s Valley and Glade Farm, were knocked down to Charles Lovemore for £1,125. With them went a 2/36th share of the Commonage (Transfer Nos.338 and 339 dated 17 August 1877). Altogether the whole of Emerald Hill had realised £4,325, a big advance on prices in the depressed years of the late 1860s.

Some minor adjustments to the boundaries of Emerald Hill were subsequently agreed upon between Charles Lovemore, John Geard and John Gruber. John Geard received transfer of Forest Hill on 7th March 1878 but John Gruber did not receive title to his new properties, along with the adjustments until 2 Dec-ember 1884. That did not deter him from issuing a notice warning against trespass on his land on Emerald Hill within a few weeks of his purchase (EPH, 14th December 1875). Kelly’s Corner was later sold to John Gruber.

Charles Lovemore’s purchase of portions of Emerald Hill was to be his last from the properties that had once made up the Buffelsfontein farm of 2979 morgen. Almost exactly 100 years after Theunis Botha had received grazing rights from Governor van Plettenberg, Lovemore had become its major proprietor. He had built up his holding so that it covered nearly two thirds of the original land grant to Jacobus Botha in 1816. His ownership extended from its western boundary with his own family farm of Bushy Park to Walmer on the eastern side omitting only a central section consisting of the Homesteading, Mount Pleasant and the northern part of Emerald Hill. The Homesteading was in the ownership of Mrs. Catherine Sophia Deare. The Clark family possessed much of the rest and was later to acquire the Homesteading, retaining it and the surrounding land to this day.

Possibly Charles Lovemore coveted those parts he did not own, particularly the house originally belonging to Jacobus Botha. On the occasions when these three sections came on the market he probably did not have the financial resources to buy them, and he was too shrewd and careful to overstretch his credit and run into the problems that others had done. On the other hand, he may well have been content with what he had and seen no reason to burden himself with more.

Charles Lovemore died suddenly on 16 December 1885 aged 60. His and his wife Margery’s joint will took care of their large family, most of the Buffelsfontein properties being divided amongst four of their sons. Margery Lovemore outlived her husband by nearly 40 years so the joint will could not be implemented until 1927. Since then, changed circumstances and interests, allied with the pressures of an expanding Port Elizabeth for development land, have led to further diversity of land ownership. Now, of some of the most beautiful countryside around Port Elizabeth, only Heatherbank remains in the Lovemore family.

The Lovemore Story by Bernard Johnson
The Narratives of a Voyage of Observation by James Edward Alexander (1837, London, Henry Colburn Publisher)

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