Port Elizabeth of Yore: Disappearance of Seven-year-old on Christmas Day 1859

Instead of Christmas Day 1859 being a day of wonder and joy, presents and over-stuffed bellies, in the Haywood household, it would be a day of tragedy, heart break, sorrow and despair, a day that would be indelibly etched in their minds. They would forever recount every minute of their movements that day for that was the day when the innocent seven-year-old Augusta Ann Hayward would inexplicably disappear.

Most of the records have vanished along with Augusta. What has survived, highlights both grief-stricken parents contrasted with an indifferent uncaring officialdom. This blog has been based upon the excellent blog of Mansell George Upham entitled, “Whatever happened to Augusta Anne…?

Main picture: Watercolour entitled ‘View of Port Elizabeth from upper Russell Road’ by Lester Oliver in 1854 [NMM AM]


The Haywood family comprised James, his wife and two children, one being an infant and the other Augusta Ann, not yet eight years old. Recent immigrants in terms of the Colonial Emigration Scheme, they had only arrived in Port Elizabeth six months previously on the 28th May 1859 on board the New Great Britain. His occupation was a painter and in 1877 he is recorded as living in Hill Street.

On Sunday the 25 December, James left home at 11 o’clock with the intention of attending church leaving his wife with two their children at home. At approximately 12 o’clock, the child’s mother had to run a quick unspecified errand which would take her away from the family home for 8 to no more than 10 minutes. On checking the whereabouts of her children, she found the infant in a deep sleep on the bed whereas Augusta was busy picking mint.

New Great Britain

On her return home, she found neither child at home. On checking in the back yard, she found the infant lying in the house of a next-door neighbours, a German family. They admitted to going into the Haywood’s house and removing the infant and young Augusta. They couple then claimed that the child had merely vanished and could not be traced.

In order her track her down, James Haywood, his wife and friends had undertaken every search option possible. In addition, James had placed adverts in the “Eastern Province Herald, the Mercury and Telegraph” but to no avail. No trace or clue to the lost child was discovered. On his return at half past twelve from the Chapel, James reported the case to the Chief Constable and on the following day to Mr Campbell, the Magistrate. After repeated calls on the Magistrate, apparently only a perfunctory investigation was made by the Magistrate one day after the loss of the child.  The Magistrate only summoned two persons to appear before him; the German husband and a woman living some 300 or 400 yards from the Haywood’s house. The enquiry by the Magistrate ended inconclusively as he was unable to understand the German couple. As no interpreter was present, available or sought, the investigation was terminated.

The Criminal Justice system

For a substantial portion of the nineteenth century, the police force in Port Elizabeth comprised only constables on the beat. No formal training of any description was provided. The concept of having an investigative branch whose responsibility and training would attune them to meet these demands, was not even contemplated. What the main responsibilities of these constables were, was to arrest drunk and disorderly persons being mainly patrons of the numerous bars and taverns in Strand Street. Even their remuneration compelled them to make this their focus as they were paid a bonus based upon the fines levied. Finally as their basic pay was derisive, the calibre of the men attracted to this position did not fit the mould of the detective. As not much was expected of them, their outputs were commensurate with their abilities.

Further attempts to prod officialdom

Any parent can appreciate the anger and dilemma of the parents of young Augusta. After the most perfunctory of attempts to assist the Haywoods in tracing their daughter, they had closed the case. Made of sterner stuff, they had no intention of taking their superficial investigation with equanimity. If the local officials could not be stirred, perhaps the senior Colonial officials in far-off Cape could be prodded to light a fire, preferably of the bonfire variety, under the local officials.

To his end, James Haywood wrote a letter to the Colonial Secretary


Rec.[eived] 2/2/60                                        

                                          PORT ELIZABETH 22 JANUARY 1860


            With the deepest respect I take the liberty to address to you the following, with humble request to lay the same before his Excellency the Lieutenant Governor, and to intercede in behalf of a poor and deeply distresed [sic] father, the sympathies of his Excellency.

            On Sunday the 25 December last I went at 11 o’ clock to a place of worship, leaving my wife with two Children at home; the one an infant, the other a girl of not yet 8 years old; at about 12 o’ clock my wife had occasion to absent herself or 8 or 10 minutes from the house, leaving the little Child in a deep sleep on the bed while the little Girl was busy picking mint.

            At my wife’s return she found none of the Children in the house, but on running in the back yard saw her infant laying in the house of the next neighbour, which are Germans man and wife; who, entering into my bedroom, had taken the Child from my house and brought in their [sic] but the little Girl had disappeared. From that time till now every search possible has been made by myself and my friends and advertisements placed in the “Eastern Province Herald the Mercury and Telegraph” but no trace or clue to the lost Child have been discovered. At my return at half past twelve from the Chapel I reported the case to the Chief Constable and on the following day to Mr Campbel [sic] the Magistrate. After repeated calls on the Magistrate, a kind of investigation was made by the Magistrate1 days after the loss of the Child; two persons were summoned the German husband and a woman living at 3 or 400 yards distance; the Magistrate was unable to understand the German man, as no interpreter was present and so the investigation ended.

            I know as a deeply distressed father who have [sic] no rest day or night, who am only six months in this Colony, and dare not write the distressing circumstances to my relatives in England, of whom my lost Child was the beloved, humbly Earnestly and with a broken heart beseach [sic] his Excelency [sic] that he be pleased to order that full and searching investigation be made, that every neighbour be summoned to declare on oath what they have seen or known of the Child, and Especialy [sic] that the German  man and wife be Examined separately as they had fetched the infant from my house and laid it in their own house, and who Consequently must have known where my Girl was.

            I would also humbly beg as I am a man of no means but what I earn by my daily labour that if possible a reward be offered by Government to any person who should give such information as would lead to the discovery of my lost child.

                                                  I have the honour to be


                                                         your humble & obedient


                                                   [signed]  JAMES HAYWOOD

To the honorable

           the Secretary to Government

                 Cape Town


Port Elizabeth 8 Feb[ruar]y [sic] 1860


            With the deepest respect I beg to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of 28th ultimo, and to request you to convey to His Excellency the Lieutenant Governor the expression of my heartfelt gratitude for the sympathy shown by His Excellency in my affliction. I believe however that it is my duty to acquaint His Excellency that till no steps whatever has [sic] been taken by any of the local authorities to execute the gracious assurance of His Excellency that, due enquiry shal [sic] at once be made into the circumstances.

                                                     I have the honour to be


                                                           Your most Obedient &

                                                                humble Servant

                                                      [signed] JAMES HAYWOOD

To the Honorable

the Secretary to Government

          Cape Town


                        Port Elizabeth 20th of Feb[ruar]y 1860


            I took the liberty, with deep respect, by my letter of 8th instant to request you to acquaint His Excellency the Lieutenant Governor that till then no steps had been taken by any of the local authorities, to execute the gracious assurance of His Excellency that due enquiry should at once be made into the circumstances of the loss of my Child. I take now the liberty to enclose an outline of an examination which took place on Wednesday the 15th instant; no comment is necessary. It seemed as if the Clerk of the Peace endeavoured to baffle the very purposes for the which His Excellency so graciously ordered an enquiry. Without sympathizing with the feelings of a father’s heart bleeding for the loss of his Child; he was course and insulting towards me, while he was affable and conniving towards those whom I suspected having a hand in the loss of my Child.

            Believing with many that if a searching investigation were held by a competent and unprejudiced gentleman not withstanding [sic] the harm already done by the Clerk of the Peace, that some traces might be found of my lost Child, I take the liberty once more humbly to request His Excellency that He be pleased to order such measures as He may deem necessary.

 I have the honour to be


                                                  Your most Obedient

                                                   and humble Servant  

To the Honorable

the Secretary to Government

       Cape Town

Outline of the Examination

            On Tuesday the 14th Feb[ruar]y [sic] one of the Constables called on me to inform me that the examination would take on the following day at 10 o’ clock am.  My wife and my self [sic] went to the Court house betimes.

            Outside the Court house Mr Wylde saw me and called me, and said “he did not know whether the examination would take place to day [sic] or to morrow [sic], and whether I had heard any thing of the Child, adding that he did not think the Germans knew any thing about the Child.

Alfred Carrington Wylde

            I then went into the Court house; the German woman came in soon after. Mr Wylde came to me and asked, ”Is that the woman you suspect?” On my affirmative answer he said “that woman has not got your Child any more than I have, or knows anything about it. I know that woman”. I told Mr Wylde that wee [sic] deal with facts not with supposisions [sic]. He then asked me if I had got an interpreter. I told him no.

            My wife, myself and the German woman were then called into Mr Wylde’s office. Mr Wylde asked me, do you want her examined on oath?  I said yes. He then addressed me and upbraided me that I had not done what was to be done for the recovery of the Child, and that I wanted other people to do all for me, and that I had not put my shoulder to the wheel. I told him that I have done all I could do, and so had my friends and that if either he, or any one else could tell me of any thing I could have done more that I had done I should feel much obliged. “O” he interrupted “there it is”. I told him all I asked for was Justice.

Government Gazette 06 February 1860

            He then gave the woman the oath; and told me to ask what questions I wanted to ask; I told him that it was not my place to conduct the examination.

            Mr Wylde asked the woman, why she had fetched the infant out of the house – She said because it was crying. – I told him I can bring two or three witnesses, who would say that if the child or children had cried they would have heard them, but they did not hear them; In answer to this Mr Wylde said, he would not be bothered with a lot of witnesses. He asked the woman, if she had seen the lost Child leave the house on Christmas day; She said, “my husband did, and called me, and I saw the Child going to the right.” He asked further, what was your husband doing when he saw the Child leave the house she said he was reading his bible in the back room.

            After some more unimportant questions the German man was called in; on entering the wife talked for some time with the husband; I called Mr Wylde’s attention to it, but he would not take notice of it. After that had talked for a length of time, Mr Wylde said in a whispering way to the woman, “It is best to leave of [sic] talking”.

            Mr Wylde asked the man, “when you was [sic] reading your Bible in the back room where did you see the Child go to?”  The man said, “She went towards the beach.” (It was in this manner that Mr Wylde put the questions to the man, using the very words of the woman, as if he did all what he could to prevent that any difference in answers should take place. I pointed however out to Mr Wylde that the woman had said that she saw the Child going to the right (that is into an inclosed [sic] yard), but that the man said towards the beach, (thus in an opposite direction), but Mr Wylde took not any notice of it, neither did he put any cross questions to them.) Mr Wylde asked further, to the man why he did not fetch the child back, when he saw her going away. He answered, he had enough to do, without looking after other people’s Children.

He then asked the German man where he had slept on Christmas night? He said at home. If he had any friends in the Colony, he said no. He then asked the man where the Child was? He said “How do I know” – and flew in a great rage; and moved towards me; I thought he was going to strike me; at which I held up my hand, and told him; do not put him about. Mr Wylde said nothing to him and did not call him to order.

 At the close of the examination Mr Wylde asked me, why I had not got an interpreter, and gone to the Germans the first day the Child was lost, and then I would have known all what I knew now. On my answering, that I knew not any one, “O, he said, there are plenty to be found for looking for, or how did I get this gentleman in a few minutes, but you want others to do all for you.”

After the Germans had left, I asked Mr Wylde, if any thing more would be done, he said no, that he could not see any use to examine more persons, and that Mr Campbell had done all that was needed, and that  this investigation was only held to please me.



                        Port Elizabeth 9th April 1860

Sir                                                                          22

I had the honor [sic] to send you on the 20th February last a letter, with an enclosure containing the outline of the examination held by Mr Wylde in the matter of my lost Child as I have not received any answer on the Same, I would most humbly request you to be so kind to inform me wether [sic] there will be anything further done in the matter. It is painful for the bleeding heart of a father that the local authorities have neglected to investigate the matter at once as I feel convinced if they had done so, traces of my lost Child might have been found.

                                I am


                                      your most Obedient

                                        and humble Servant

                                          [signed] JAMES HAYWOOD

To the Honourable

the Secretary to Government

Cape Town


[Written in corner] See Gov [ernment] Notice 164


I regret the delay that has followed upon the reference in this case. When I saw the papers that were open and I took it for granted that it was the opinion of the Attorney general that was sought. I am unable to see what more the authorities at Port Elizabeth could have done. Constable Alexander seems to have been very active from the first, whilst Hayward [sic] himself did nothing. It is true that he was a comparative stranger to the locality. But he might have found his way to Walmer, at which place he was aware the child had expressed a desire to live.

The only thing that I can suggest is the insertion in the Government Gazette of a Notice such as is now enclosed.

                                                              [signed] H. LIMAN

Attorney General’s Office

Cape Town 19th April 1860

           [pencil line drawn from “enclosed” above connecting following words]  and published No. 164

Conclusions by Mansell George Upham

In his blog, “Whatever happened to Augusta Ann…….? Mansell draws some strong conclusions from the treatment of Ausgusta Haywood. These are set out below:

The initial investigation by Constable Alexander and the Magistrate, Mr Campbell, was a travesty of justice. In 1859, Alfred Carrington Wylde was Justice of the Peace but for many years he had been Clerk of the Peace and Civil Commissioner. Apart from arrogance, nepotism and abuse of power characterises Alfred’s behaviour. As the son of the then Chief Justice of the Cape Colony, Sir John Wylde, who was a brother to the Lord Chancellor himself, it was nepotism writ large where the law was used as an instrument of power and not justice.”

The Attorney-General was finally requested by Percy Vigors for the Colonial Secretary to examine the evidence furnished by Mr Wylde and to give his opinion whether there had been due pains taken by him and by the Resident Magistrate. No record of Mr Wylde’s ‘evidence’ or the earlier investigation by the magistrate has come to light. 

“The eventual cryptic ‘Report’ to the governor by Mr H. Liman of the Attorney-General’s office confirms absolute bureaucratic disdain, irritation, closing of ranks, cover ups and a belated and reluctant concessionary advertising of an official reward of £ 20 for anyone who had information leading to the discovery of the child’s whereabouts.  Repeated allegations that James Haywood did nothing to find his lost daughter do not ring true.  Judging the contents of the father’s continuous correspondence with the governor, these allegations appear to have been completely groundless.  The expressed ‘desire’ of a 7-year-old girl to ‘want to live in Walmer’ is a ludicrous bureaucratic excuse for official inaction.

What was James Haywood up against? 

What recourse did people like James Haywood – or certainly any other lesser mortal (even nowadays) – have against judicial incompetency and the arrogance and insensitivities of officialdom?  What kind of system was in place that prevented any real access to justice and did not hold people in judicial positions accountable?  Did this incident and heartless dismissal of his cri de cœur eventually persuade James Haywood to turn his back on the Colony and repatriate to a Quaker (Cadbury) stronghold at Bournville in England?

James Haywood was repatriated to England. On the 31st March 1901 as per the census, James was resident at Bournville. He died at his house Rhodesia 117 Bournville Lane, Bournville, Worcestershire, England on the 26th February 1909 aged 85 years leaving personal estate in England and real & personal estate in South Africa [viz. lot no. 4 of erf no. 14 105 sq. roods 106.95 sq. ft. with house in Lower Hill Street) inherited by his son Arthur Henry Haywood of Swansea, Wales & daughter Francesca Elizabeth Seller of Port Elizabeth]


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  1. This is simply appalling. You have lifted this entire piece – with minor changes – from my blog (and which already was published in Capensis [“What ever happened to Augusta Ann ..? The humble supplications of James Haywood on the disappearance of his daughter on Christmas day, 1859.” Capensis 4/2000: 4-15 & https://mansellupham.wordpress.com/2019/12/01/what-ever-happened-to-augusta-ann-the-humble-supplications-of-james-haywood-on-the-disappearance-of-his-daughter-on-christmas-day-1859/%5D. No where do you mention my name or a link. Why would you do this? Please acknowledge appropriately. Mansell Upham

  2. I note that you have not only removed my comment of yesterday, but that you also choose, most rudely, to ignore outright my request. I expect to be cited fully – by name, as well. Also, all the many passages of text and archival transcriptions that you have lifted verbatim and in toto, I expect to be featured in your follow-up in quotation marks and not to continue being featured mala fides and fraudulently as your ‘own’ words. I have asked you to do the right thing. I am requesting you to do so yet again. Mansell Upham


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