Port Elizabeth of Yore: Lake Farm in Kragga Kamma

Initially the area known as Kragga Kamma stretched all the way from the Van Stadens River to the headwaters of the Baakens River. Included in this vast portion of land was a lake then called Klaas Niemand’s Lake but now renamed Lake Farm. Replenishing the lake is a short feeble stream called grandiosely Klaas Niemand River. Correctly speaking such a lake can be referred to as an “endorheic” lake, id est, that is one with no outflow.

Main picture: Lake Farm. The picture was obviously taken many years ago as the Lake has sadly not looked like this for years.  The probable reason for this is the curtailment of the water flow due to the building of farm dams for their cattle.

According to Margaret Harradine, the origin of the name Klaas Niemand is unknown but in 1799 a Nicholaas Niemand is mentioned as being amongst a party of burghers beside the Zwartkops River who had fled with their cattle after attacks by Xhosa tribesmen.

Tragic deaths
This property was successively subdivided with the initial subdivision being in 1843 when three quarters of the farm Kragga Kamma was transferred to William Titterton and the remaining quarter to John Owen Smith. William Titterton’s house was constructed on Lake Farm. On this property are three memorial stones inscribed as follows:   

  1. Erected in memory of George Glen, 3rd son of James Glen who was drowned when crossing Klaas Niemand’s Lake, Jan 18, 1847, aged 13 years and 7 months.
  2. Sacred to the memory of John Thomas Deakin of Port Elizabeth, beloved son of John King Deacon of Southgate, England who was drowned while bathing in the lake at Kragga Kamma on 25 Dec 1863 in the 26th year of his life. Deeply regretted by his beloved wife Fanny and others.
  3. Sacred to the memory of Elizabeth Abraham Howard, wife of John Parkin who departed this life on Apr 13, 1838, aged 19 years , leaving her husband and her children to lament her loss.

In his Gazetteer, CJ Skead provides additional information on these tragic deaths. “A contemporary report in the E.P. Herald stated that George Glen’s body was found floating in the middle of the lake. He had been sent on horseback to look for some oxen but the horse had returned covered in sand. In the past, young Glen often swam his horse across the lake when looking for stock but in this case no clue was found in explanation of the tragedy.

In 1932, Owen Smith Christian died and the farm was sold having been subdivided into several lots. Other residents and farmers in subsequent years included the following: J. Baatjies, a farmer, W Estment, a foreman, OS Christian, JO Christian, O Jack, Clarks CW, EC & HE.WKC Hustler and Miss LS Jenkins.   

Lake Farm in 1944

The Schooner Shrimp
The hull of the schooner Shrimp was built on the north side of the Landman Lake, Kragga Kamma by John Owen Smith. In his memoirs, William James Reid recalls how he and some friends frequently rode out to see how she was progressing. Timber for shipbuilding was cut out of the local trees presumably yellowwood. On completion the hull was dismantled and transported to Port Elizabeth by means of wagons. Then it was placed on rollers close to the spot where the 1820 Settlers landed, and there it was reassembled. Apparently Lake Farm was called Landman Lake for a period as a Voortrekker leader, Abraham Landman owned land there.

Concerns regarding depletion
During the early 1980s, anxiety was expressed regarding the potential depletion of the lake on Lake Farm with its consequential deleterious effect on the wild life and the indigenous plant life of the area. As a consequence, a meeting of local property owners, representatives of various societies and the Department of Water Affairs was held. Mr N.G. Bang of the Department was impressed with the natural features and wild life of the area and promised the Department’s support for a study.

In the September/December 1984 issue of Looking Back the opinion of the PE Historical Society was provided. Their view was that the lake is a natural feature of historical importance being referred to by early travellers such as Ensign Beutler (1752) and Sparrman (1775). A map of 1788 shows that Abraham Landman, father of Karel Landman, the Voortrekker leader, owned this area and Karel was born on the neighbouring farm of De Stade and learned farming there. In the mid-19th century, the area was owned by William Titterton and John Owen Smith jointly, both being prominent citizens of Port Elizabeth. It was later acquired by the Christian family who owned it until 1932 when it was sold off in lots.

Apparently an article in the press regarding the history of the area prompted a resident of the area to disclose that a small cemetery on Mr Spenser’s property contained graves dating back to 1832.

Comments by reader
According to Gary Wade, “Ernie” died around 1961 and the farm was then sub divided and ownership passed on to “Enid Wade and Flo Bradford” (the two daughters). The Bradford’s farm now forms part of the Royaldston Game Farm. Gary Wade’s grandfather (Eenest Cecil Clark) owned “Hillside”.

Gazetteer of the Port Elizabeth and Uitenhage Divisions of the old Cape Colony, compiled by Bartle Logie and Margaret Harradine (2014, Historical Society of Port Elizabeth, Port Elizabeth)
The Algoa Gazetteer by CJ Skead (1993, Algoa Regional Services Council, , Port Elizabeth)


The farm “KRAGGA KAMMA” by M Harradine 2014

Correctly speaking, the Khoi name “Kragga Kamma”refers to the lake on the farm and means “sweet water”- a freshwater lake compared with the salt pans in this area. Correctly described as an “endorheic” lake, one with no outflow, Kragga Kamma has been a landmark since time immemorial and by the middle 1700s (as on Friderici’s map) the name was used to refer to the entire promontory between the Zwartkops and van Stadens rivers. Historically it is one of the most important places in our area.

1752: Two stranded sailors from the French sloop “La Necessaire” met Ensign Beutler’s party at Kragga Kamma. August Friedrich Beutler was leader of the first official exploration of the eastern Cape, ordered by Governor Ryk Tulbagh. DEIC possessional beacons were set up.

1773: Swedish botanist Carl Pehr Thunberg was here and wrote of buffaloes, elephants, two-horned rhinoceroses, striped horses, asses (quaggas), several kinds of goats (buck) especially large herds of hartebeest, and lions.

1775: The Swedish traveller Anders Sparrman referred to the farm Buffelsfontein “geleegen tusschen de Kragga Kamma en ’sComps Baaken.” He commented on the thousands of buffalo.

1779: Botanist William Paterson was near here and wrote of the “numerous herds of the animals peculiar to this country”: eland, quagga, zebra, hartebeest, and also hippos.

1776: JJ Kok of Zeekoei Rivier registered “de Kragga Kamma gelegen over de Gamtouwsrivier

1799-1816+: Adolph Landman farming here. In 1816 the farm was surveyed for the change in the system of land tenure from opgaaf to quitrent and officially granted to Landman on 20 June. In 1854 the building of JO Smith’s schooner “Shrimp” was started at “Landman’s Lake”.

1820: 26 May. Sophie Pigot, aged fifteen, in her diary wrote about a two-day picnic to Chelsea by wagon during which she and little Frederick Phillips “walked round the shore of the lake and saw the garden and waterfall, all very beautiful indeed”. They walked two-and-a half miles in twenty-five minutes and she got her “feet wet a little”. Sophie’s father, Major George Pigot, was a retired officer of Dragoons and while his party of settlers was waiting to be taken inland they were entertained by the officers at the Fort.

1835: Sold 20 July in the estate of the late widow Mrs JC Vogel. Catharina Landman was married to Jan Christiaan Vogel.

1838: 4 April. Elizabeth Abraham (Howard), wife of John Parkin, died aged forty-nine years, and was buried at Kragga Kamma. The Parkins were farming at Baakensrivier, and why she died away from home and was not buried in the cemetery there is not known. According to the published story of the family, the author did not know where or when Elizabeth had died.

1843: June 8. Three quarters of the farm was transferred to William Titterton and one quarter to merchant John Owen Smith – one of the town’s most important and valuable citizens. One writer stated he might “almost be termed its founder”.

1847: John Owen Smith brought out a group of Irish settlers to work for him. Rodger Flanagan and his family lived on the farm and later owned part of Draaifontein and Goedemoedsfontein.

1847: James Glen was living here. On 18 January 1847 his third son, George, aged 13 years and 7 months, was drowned while crossing Klaas Niemand’s Lake and buried on the farm. There were several generations of Nicolaas Niemands and one gave his name to a small farm, Klaas Niemand’s River, as well as to the quite separate stream and lake on Kragga Kamma and was presumably farming on both at different times.

1849: The Field Cornetcy lists published in the “Cape Government Gazette” show the farm owned by William Titterton and John Owen Smith.

1863: 25 December. John Deakin, aged 25, drowned in the lake and was buried on the farm. However, there was mystery surrounding his death: he had financial troubles, was a strong swimmer and had come out to shoot duck accompanied by his chief clerk with a heavy sack. The clerk reported him missing, brought a coffin to the scene and waited by the water. He then announced that he had found the body and nailed it in the coffin (perhaps containing a sheep) and the burial proceeded. Some time later Dr Frederick Ensor came upon a grave in Golders Green Cemetery in London with an inscription to “John Deakin late of Port Elizabeth, South Africa”. (The graves are on what became known as Trig Farm).

1868: According to the voters’ register, men on the farm were: W Titterton, Richard Wheldon, S Pearce, A Padden, John Pittaway. There have always been several houses here, some still in use, but altered and modernised.

1870: 3 July. William Titterton, aged 66, died after a wagon passed over him, breaking his ribs and causing internal injuries. His son, Thomas William, continued to run the farm. The family had arrived in Table Bay in 1819 and later most moved to the Eastern Cape.

1874: 28 August. Henry Bailey Christian, the son-in-law of JO Smith and inheritor of the farm, offered the homestead to let as he was leaving for England. The house was described as being of stone, surrounded on three sides by a stoep and verandah twelve feet wide, with three entertaining rooms, seven bedrooms etc. It is not known exactly when this house was built. The stone is thought to have come from the farm Betshanger. Next door is an older home where the owners would have lived at first.

1874: 1 October: William Brockett opened a fashionable country hotel in the stone house. He was still there in 1886. He and his family had come out in 1861 on the “Rajasthan”, his occupation given as farm bailiff.

1877: 16 June. Tenders were called for to build and complete a multi-denominational school house at Kragga Kamma. Designed by Charles Storey, it was opened on 15 October and was actually on Goedemoedsfontein, on land given by JJ Flanagan, but financially supported by HB Christian. Today it is a ruin, but it was a familiar sight to all driving on the country road. Local artists all seem to have painted it, and because of its secular gothic windows is now usually said to have been a church.

1881: 18 August. TW Titterton was killed at Fairview Race-course, being run down by a horse after starting a race. He was only 36 years old, and known as an “enterprising” and successful farmer. There is a tablet in his memory in St Paul’s Church. He was buried in St Mary’s cemetery and left five children, the youngest only a year old.

1882: 20 June. HB Christian bought Titterton’s part of Kragga Kamma for £8100 and the farm remained in the family until 1932. The advertisement for the sale described the farm as “the best agricultural and pastoral farm in Africa” and listed “extensive rich garden ground, vast productive ploughed lands, unlimited pasturage for large and small cattle, dense timber forests, abundant streams and pools, a perpetual lake, several complete homesteads, an inexhaustible supply of limestone and the most lovely scenery”.

1899 -1902: The farm (presumably a part of it) was leased by the Military for quartering mules and cobs during the South African War. On arrival here, after their long journey by sea, horses and mules were allowed a period of rest before being sent by train to the war zones.

1910/1911: Publication of “Cape Colony: its history, commerce, industries and resources”. This splendid book includes Kragga Kamma among the farms it describes in detail and with photographs. The book lists Friesland cattle, ostriches, oats, barley, wheat, mealies, mangolds, rape, lucerne, ostrich food (tares, vetches and lupins), 20 acres of wattle and sisal as products of the farm.

1913: The farm was occupied by Owen Smith Christian and his son, Jack Owen.

1932: 16 May. The death of Owen Smith Christian.

1932: 27 October. The sale of Kragga Kamma in the Christian Estate, divided into 6 lots. 1. Lakeside with the homestead of Jack Christian, sold to W Fuchs. 2. Hillside, sold to EC Clark. 3. The Gums, or Kragga Kamma Tea Garden, sold to CW Clark. 4. The Camp, sold to HE Clark. 5. The Flats, sold to CW Clark. 6. Kragga Kamma with the old homestead of stone, sold to CW Clark.

1934: An illustrated advertisement for the Lake Farm Hotel, including the lake and the tea garden.

1935: The Eastern Province Annual included pictures of the Lake Farm house.

1936+: January. The Kragga Kamma Circuit Tourist Trophy (TT) motor bike races, starting and finishing at Greenbushes.

1944: A photo published shows the lake to be a vast body of water. In the 1950s the tea garden was a popular destination for Sunday afternoon “drives”. After tea and scones my parents would park near the lake while I collected some of the hundreds of tadpoles in a tin – to study, before putting them back and going home.

1984 to 1989: The “EP Herald” and “Weekend Post” printed articles on the drought and the disappearing lake, which became a small pond. Besides the drought, there were reports of excessive irrigation by those residents with the right to use the water, in particular a grass-growing company. The birds, including three pairs of fish eagles, had gone and there was no more fishing for bass.

2000+: Flooding in the Kragga Kamma area saw the lake overflow and roads become impassable. Part of the Seaview road became a lake in itself.

Note: This farm is not the Lake Farm. This house is concealed from the Kragga Kamma Road. The turnoff is opposite the Antique Sale Farm just past the Lake Farm turnoff. There is a little dirt driveway but originally the whole farm stretched from the lake, across the Kragga Kamma Road and up past the little school ruin as far as “Rest A While” tea room.

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