Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Bean Family of Ferndale near Hankey

What I find fascinating are the stories of the old farmhouses scattered like chafe on the parched plains of the Karroo, the water sodden Southern Cape and the rocky hillocks and outcrops of the foothills of the mountain ranges. Many of these have stories going back to the original Trek Boers of the 1770s. Equally of interest are the anecdotes of privations and struggles on obdurate lands and unfriendly tribesmen. 

This is the story of the Bean family and their family house located near Hankey. Locally Ferndale was known as “Bean se Bos”

Main picture: Leonard Orlando Bean [1809-1892]

The Bean progenitor

When Leonard Orlando Bean [1809-1892] alighted from his sailing vessel in Algoa Bay in the 1833, it was into the arms of the lithe Mfengu surfboat men or beach labourers who would transport him to the landing beaches close to the Baakens River mouth. That means that Leonard was not an 1820 Settler. As far as the family is aware, despite being only 20 years old, Leonard travelled to the Cape Colony alone. How he survived on his own is unknown but clearly he did. Being so young it is highly unlikely that he had completed an apprenticeship of whatever sort as the duration of such contracts in those days was usually five years. By all measures, he was bereft of familial support being far from his birthplace of Lillington in Sussex, England which in turn was barely 9 miles from his final residence in England being Eastbourne, also in Sussex.   Lillington was put up for sale in 1829 and sold in 1830.

Above: Grandmother Lavinia Bean nee Pullen

Above & left: Lavinia Anne Bean [nee Pullen]

Aboard the 1820 Settler ship Nautilus was a 2-year-old, Lavinia Ann Pullen [1818-1906], who would become Mrs Bean in 1838 at the age of 20. This marriage entitled Leonard to be listed as an 1820 Settler. The couple lived in the Sunday’s River area on a farm called Orlando [See below] on which he is buried. This property is still in the Bean family being owned by Peter Bean who runs it as a lodge called Scotia Safaris. Orlando and Lavinia had 11 children one of whom was Maria Georgiana Bean who would marry an eccentric bachelor, Major General John Pigott Nixon, of the farm Balmoral. Leonard would die on the 22nd June 1892 in Port Elizabeth.

Above: Maria Georgina Nixon nee Bean with her daughter Nellie Nixon

Lavinia’s father was Thomas Pullen 43, a farmer, and his wife was Dorothy Ann Carter36. She was one of 12 children. The family were members of Owen’s Party comprising 52 Settlers aboard the Settler Ship Nautilus. The party originated from London, departing on the 3rd December 1819, arriving in Table Bay, Cape Town on the 17th March 1820 with their final destination, Algoa Bay being reached on the 14th April 1820. The area allocated to the Owen Party was “Spanish Reeds” between the Wellington and Kap rivers

Ferndale

Above: Thomas Pullen Bean

 A 2nd generation member of the Bean family, Mr Thomas Pullen Bean (1845 – 1925) and son of Orlando, farming on rented property in the Nanaga area, battled to make a living. Apparently the water supply was erratic and scarce. Also problematic was accommodation as he had seven children at that stage but the cottage on the property was rather basic and Lilliputian.   

Cognisant of these adversities faced by Thomas, his brother-in-law, Maj-Gen. John Pigott Nixon of Balmoral in the Sunday’s River area, advised him to investigate the farming prospects of the Gamtoos Valley. It was during 1885 that he undertook the journey from Sunday’s River to the Gamtoos. Upon inspection, he was immediately so enamoured with the lush vegetation and plentiful water supply that he rented it without hesitation. This Crown Land, situated in mountainous area on a tributary of the Gamtoos River, was known as Zaag Kuilen and was close to Hankey.

Above: The first house on Ferndale together with the cottage which then comprised two rooms

Translated from the Dutch, Zaag Kuilen, means “Saw pits”. During the 1700s yellow wood trees were endemic in this area. So presumably the saw pits were used to cut both these trees as well as sneeze wood which were used as railway sleepers. Due to Thomas’ instinctive dislike of the Dutch name, he christened the farm Ferndale. However officially the area is still known as Zaag Kuilen but with the Z being replaced with an “S”. This change occurred when the spellings used in the Afrikaans language were formalised in the twentieth century. 

Above: Edith Emma Bean nee Pakenham

Initially the family with 7 children at that stage, only had a wagon for accommodation. The subsequent birth of 3 more children would bring the total number of children to 10. Soon Thomas applied himself and arranged for the building of a tiny 2 room cottage, later expanded to 3 rooms. This cottage would gain the sobriquet of “Top House”. This building is still in use today. Seven years later in 1892, Edith Pakenham Bean, the wife of Thomas purchased the property. This was made possible as she had inherited a substantial sum from her father, a wealthy merchant in Port Elizabeth, she was able to fund the purchase of the property. The Title Deed reflects her as being the legal owner thereof.

Contemporaneously Thomas now constructed a more substantial house on the property to house the enlarged family which now comprised 10 children being 4 boys and 6 girls. This house was also given a name: Settler House. Finally in 1912, a more substantial house was built on the property and as the original house was no longer stable, it was demolished.

Thomas farmed citrus and plums on Ferndale. In the early 1900s, Thomas arranged for the export of navel oranges from Port Elizabeth. This is credited with being the first export of this fruit from Port Elizabeth. He also planted vegetables and fruit trees, but their output was merely for the family’s consumption.

Above: The sons of Thomas Pullen Bean in their army uniforms during the Boer war. L-R Walter, Guy, Lancelot & Dixon

The children of Thomas Pullen Bean

Thomas would sire 10 children, 4 boys and 6 girls. All 4 sons would serve with the British forces during the Boer War, even the youngest Walter, who was only 16 at the time. The extant copies of the letters from their sons during the war have been published on the blog The Boer War Letters of the Ferndale Boys.

 

It is interesting to note that three of Thomas’ sons married Kirby sisters with only Guy not marrying a Kirby girl. As my grandmother and two of her Beckley sisters of Draaifontein married three McCleland brothers, one can draw the conclusion that the prevalence of this practice was possibility due to the lack of opportunities to meet members of the opposite sex.

Thumbnail sketch of the children

Lancelot W P Bean 1875-1969

Lancelot Bean

Was a citrus and apple farmer. Married Constance Kirby 1897- 1994. He was a keen hunter and an excellent shot. Was also a Bridge player of note and a good tennis player. Fought in the Boer War.

Kathleen E P Bean [1876-1961]
She left Ferndale after she married Gilbert Elsby in 1903. Initially they lived in Cape Town then later in Joburg.

Kathleen Ethel Pakenham Elsby nee Bean
  • Dixon C P Bean [1878-1965]
Dixon Bean in his Boer War military uniform

Apart from farming he also opened one of the first shops in Patensie, a general dealer. He had a good knowledge of anything electrical. Married Lilian Kirby. Like his brothers, he fought in the Boer War.

Olive P Bean [1880-1967]

Oliver after playing tennis at Ferndale. Is that a medal around her neck for winning the match?

Married Harry Ballinger and settled in Rhodesia where she did some nursing.

  • Irene P Bean [1882-1979]
    Married Thomas Kayser. She was an excellent cook and took in boarders in her P E home.

Guy P Bean [1883-1962]
A talented athlete he won many races at meetings in Humansdorp. A keen hunter but sadly he lost his sight in a hunting accident in 1906 aged 23. Nevertheless this remarkable man managed to live a fairly normal life. Aged 49 he married Dorothy Pyne a trained Midwife who had just returned from working at a London hospital. She became a highly respected member of the Patensie community. Guy was a gifted story teller and kept his nieces and nephews spellbound with his animal tales. He was also musical and played the piano and concertina. Like his siblings, he fought in the Boer War. Afterwards he returned with a bugle which he used at Ferndale to summon his staff.

Guy Bean

Guy and Dorothy Bean in 1960

Guy’s wedding in East London in 1932#1
Guy with 1st born – Brenda
Guy Bean with his first born Brenda at her 21st Birthday. L-R: Guy, Brenda, Natalie, Dorothy, Patricia Reid, Edith
Guy with his beloved pipe
Guy, Constance (Kirby) & Lancelot

When questioned about how her father being blind supported his family financially, Patricia had this to say: “He continued citrus farming with the help of his loyal man Friday called Sulani Speelman. Guy made his own wooden boxes for the fruit and often ended up with a black and blue nail. My mother was a sought-after Midwife in the Gamtoos valley, and so added to the family income. She also inherited money from her uncle Edward Earnest Pyne in the U K. I know that this money paid our boarding school fees at Collegiate and my teacher training in Grahamstown. Aunt Edith who lived with us helped as well, she inherited the Pakenham money as the unmarried daughter. Not wealthy but we lived reasonably well. Oh and during the war when petrol was rationed, my mom took in paying guests for holidays, mainly P E people. Many continued coming for years after the war ended.

Walter P Bean [1885- 1963]

Walter Bean

Walter was a good carpenter, a skill he learnt from his father, T P Bean. He married first Edith Paterson and after her death he married Lorna Kirby. Walter wasn’t a successful farmer and left Ferndale with his family in 1937 to work in P E.  He fought in the Boer War. During the 2 nd World War he joined up but because of his age ( born  1885) he wasn’t sent abroad. I understand he served locally in some capacity. After that he retired and spent a lot of time at Ferndale with Guy and Dorothy. He and Lorna Kirby divorced soon after the war ended.

Edith Pakenham Bean [1887-1969]

Unmarried, she lived all her life in the Big House at Ferndale where she grew and sold flowers and ferns.

Lavinia E P Robertshaw nee Bean (aka Tiny) 1888-?
Married Alfred Robertshaw and lived in the Transvaal. 

Above: Olive Pakenham Ballinger nee Bean
  • Constance P Bean 1892-? 

She was a talented musician and gave piano lessons in Hankey. Married Andries Geldenhuys. After his death she was the Postmistress in Hankey then settled in Rhodesia with Olive.

Constance Pakenham Geldenhys nee Bean

Dates Lancelot 1875-1969  Irene 1884-1979. Edith 1887-1969. Lavinia 1888-?  Constance 1892-?

Occupations of Thomas’ children

All four sons were citrus farmers. Edith never married and lived in the family home all her life. She grew and sold flowers and ferns and also kept chickens. She was also the car driver for her blind brother Guy. The other 5 daughters all married, Olive did nursing for a while, Constance was the postmistress at Hankey after she was widowed, Irene took in boarders at her big house at 14 Fort Street in P E after she was divorced.

Guy Pakenham Bean [1883-1962]

Guy Bean, who had penned two of the extant Boer War letters, was involved in a tragic hunting accident in 1906 at the tender age of 23. As a consequence, he lost sight in both of his eyes and was blind for life. Despite this hinderance, Guy married at 49 fathering three children.

Above: The bugle which Guy used in the Boer War. It proved to be useful after the war when he used it to call his staff in the field

Story of Ferndale by Patricia Reid

Above: Plaque at the entrance to Ferndale

When Thomas Pullen Bean (1845-1925) trekked to Ferndale (Zaag Kuilen) in 1885, the trip was not without problems as his wagon capsized in the original van Stadens Pass, damaging his Victorian furniture. Being a good carpenter, he was able to repair everything. At Patensie, they were kindly received and assisted by Mr. and Mrs. “Koning” Ferreira. When he arrived at Ferndale, there were no buildings, so he hired Mr. Millborough, a carpenter. First, he erected a two roomed cottage, which is still in use today. Then he built the main house which was demolished when he built the present house in 1912. A “wagon house” containing a stable, storeroom and workshop which was also erected next to the homestead and is also still in use today.

Being a mountainous terrain with two streams running through it, farming at Ferndale required hard work and perseverance. Baboons and porcupines damaged crops and leopards killed livestock. They also had to contend with droughts and devastating floods. Though Thomas Bean and his four sons were mainly citrus farmers, they also planted apple trees and grew plums for sale as well as planting wheat and barley.

Above: First house on Ferndale
Above: The second house constructed in 1912

Thomas Bean and his four sons were very keen hunters (mainly bushbuck) with venison being their main source of meat. They were also keen sportsmen, taking part in athletic events in Humansdorp. They built a tennis court at Ferndale in the late 1890s and they often hosted tennis parties and arranged matches against the Hankey and Patensie folk. In addition they attended Dances at the Hankey Town Hall and also hosted dances at Ferndale where guests left at daybreak in their carts and horses.

Above: On the left is the Wagon house & on right the present house, restored since 1912. Photo taken May 2022

The Beans were also avid bridge players. Edith Emma Bean [1850-1938) was a skilled seamstress as were her six daughters and they made most of their own clothing. Schooling was a problem as the children had to walk the five miles to Patensie. At one stage they were taught by their uncle, Charles Pakenham, who had been educated at St Andrews College. A Mr. St. John Lea was also employed as a tutor in the 1890s. Later they went to school in Hankey and boarded with Mrs. Damant. The Bean family was largely self-sufficient as they kept cows and chickens. In addition they grew a variety of fruits and vegetables as well as making jams and canned fruit.  

Above: Ferndale in 1900

Thomas and Edith Bean had four sons: Lancelot, Dixon, Guy and Walter. Subsequently Ferndale was divided into four equal portions. As Guy was the last one to marry, he inherited the portion with the original family home. Guy left his portion to his three daughters: Brenda, Natalie and Patricia. Brenda and Natalie sold their portions to Patricia’s son, Dr. Guy Reid. So this portion of Ferndale is still owned by the Bean family descendants. The portions that belonged to Lancelot, Dixon and Walter are no longer owned by descendants of Thomas Pullen Bean.

The 3 roomed cottage today

Honeysucklevale was the former name of Orlando farm which was owned by Leonard Orlando’s eldest daughter Lavinia Harriet Walton. She inherited the farm from her husband, Tindal Walton. It is now known as Scotia Safaris and owned by Peter Bean. Situated in the Addo, Paterson area.

Above: Hunting at Ferndale
Above: Thomas Bean out hunting
Tennis at Ferndale. It appears as if the winner was awarded a medal. Olive, Irene and Katie Bean
Tennis Court at Ferndale
A 1955 reunion of 9 of the 10 Bean children. Back row: L to R Irene, Katie, Edith, Olive, Lancelot , Front row: Walter, Guy, Constance, Dixon. Absent Lavinia ( Tiny)
Edith, Patricia, Guy, Natalie, Dorothy, Brenda
This was Lancelot’s farm, now owned by a distant relative. The road ends here.

Details on John Bean [1755-1829] by Lorna P Cowan
John Bean 1755-1829 died, possibly leaving the estate in debt. The Letters of Administration of John Bean’ s Life Assurance Policy taken out in 1812 included the very official Grant of Administration of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury of 6th April 1830. This shows that John died with very little estate apart from the value of the policy that was then £5700. This had been assigned to John Hitchens as part of the settlement. He “died intestate a widower”.
“Letters of administration of the Goods Chattels & Credits of the said deceased have not been granted to any person whatsoever so that there is not now any legal representative of him”. The document lists his children:
Catherine Sarah Drury (wife of the Rev.Benjamin Heath Drury Clerk)
Maria Anne Harriot Lyne (wife of the Rev.Charles Philip Lyne Clerk)
Felix Freeman Frederick Bean
John Dickson Dyke Bean
Milo Bean
Luke Bean
Leonard Orlando Bean a minor
as: “his natural and lawful and only children and the only persons entitled in distribution to his personal estate”
Re Felix Frederick Freeman Bean…As the eldest surviving son he would have inherited his father’s estate. However he sold the Litlington estate for £39,500 in August 1830, a year after his father died, possibly to meet debts.
Note the spelling of Litlington.
Ref SAS C517 re sale of several estates to the Rev.Thomas Scutt of Brighton.
Attested copy of deed of conveyance of 31 Dec 1830 Felix Freeman Frederick Bean, esq, late of Clapham House but now of Brighton;
SAS/G/49/14/911 SAS/GA/49/911
From Felix Freeman Frederick Bean, esq to Rev Thomas Scutt of certain bullock and sheep leazes on Berwick Common
SAS/G/49/14/920 SAS/GA/49/920
Litlington was put up for sale in 1829, sold in 1830 and he emigrated to South Africa from England in 1833. So LOB was 24 when he emigrated


Sources

Patricia Reid [nee Bean]
www.Geni.com

3 Comments

  1. John Bean 1755-1829 died, possibly leaving the estate in debt. The Letters of Administration of John Bean’ s Life Assurance Policy taken out in 1812 included the very official Grant of Administration of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury of 6th April 1830. This shows that John died with very little estate apart from the value of the policy that was then £5700. This had been assigned to John Hitchens as part of the settlement. He “died intestate a widower”.
    “Letters of administration of the Goods Chattels & Credits of the said deceased have not been granted to any person whatsoever so that there is not now any legal representative of him”. The document lists his children:
    Catherine Sarah Drury (wife of the Rev.Benjamin Heath Drury Clerk)
    Maria Anne Harriot Lyne (wife of the Rev.Charles Philip Lyne Clerk)
    Felix Freeman Frederick Bean
    John Dickson Dyke Bean
    Milo Bean
    Luke Bean
    Leonard Orlando Bean a minor
    as: “his natural and lawful and only children and the only persons entitled in distribution to his personal estate”
    Re Felix Frederick Freeman Bean…As the eldest surviving son he would have inherited his father’s estate. However he sold the Litlington estate for £39,500 in August 1830, a year after his father died, possibly to meet debts.
    Note the spelling of Litlington.
    Ref SAS C517 re sale of several estates to the Rev.Thomas Scutt of Brighton.
    Attested copy of deed of conveyance of 31 Dec 1830 Felix Freeman Frederick Bean, esq, late of Clapham House but now of Brighton;
    SAS/G/49/14/911 SAS/GA/49/911
    From Felix Freeman Frederick Bean, esq to Rev Thomas Scutt of certain bullock and sheep leazes on Berwick Common
    SAS/G/49/14/920 SAS/GA/49/920
    Litlington was put up for sale in 1829, sold in 1830 and he emigrated to South Africa from England in 1833. So LOB was 24 when he emigrated

    Reply
    • Hi Mike
      Do you perhaps have any information or photos of Walter that I can include in this blog?
      Dean
      )82 801 5446

      Reply

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