Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Story of the Buffelsfontein Farmhouse

Officially this homestead is not accorded such a nomenclature. Nor is it recognised as one the houses which existed prior to the arrival of the 1820 Settlers. The reasons why such houses still exist – Draaifontein House is another exemplar – is due to the location outside the town environs itself but this house is unlikely to survive the tender mercies of the property developers ad infinitum as civilisation encroaches upon it.

Main picture: Buffelsfontein by EC Moore

Take Hartman’s farmhouse on Richmond Hill as an example. It encapsulates what happened to all these pre 1820 houses. Today it does not even rate a one-line mention in history books or even local memory. The growth of the town rapidly overwhelmed these houses, now no longer even a footnote in history.

The first place mentioned by the earliest explorers and travellers venturing through this area was not Port Elizabeth but Kragga Kamma. The reason for not even alluding to Port Elizabeth is due to the fact that it was a wind-swept stretch of bleak uninhabited land. But when it did gain prominence due to the British establishing a puny fort on a hillock overlooking the Bay, references to Kragga Kamma disappeared in toto and the name Port Elizabeth was substituted. Nevertheless, unless they had to venture into town, it was still bypassed as Uitenhage was more prominent.

Early mentions & ownership

The farm mentioned by Sparrman on his travels in 1775 could have been Buffelsfontein. It was originally a loan place granted to Theunis Botha in 1776. He was one of the insurgents arrested with van Jaarsveld and died while imprisoned in the Castle at Cape Town. In 1816 the farm was inherited by his son Jacobus Theodorus Botha, the brother of Hermina Berry, nee Botha of Baakens River. On his death in 1854, George Wood took over ownership of it. In 1854 it was sold and then subdivided into eleven portions, including Mount Pleasant and Emerald Hill. Charles Lovemore purchased two plots, one of which was Heatherbank. Subsequently a Mr Clark rented it and later Mr. CW Clark, his son, took ownership of it. The best guess is that Charlie Clark acquired it is 1915 but his father must have acquired it some time prior to that. All of Charlies children were born in this house.

Charlie Clark and Ethel Frances Beckley

According to Ivan Clark, who was Charlie Clark’s youngest son, now deceased, in 1988 he was in possession of a title deed dated 1947 showing these subdivisions. Moreover he stated that in past times, scurvy-ridden sailors from sailing vessels were sent to this farm to recuperate. A small building which housed them has subsequently been demolished but is visible in a photo in his possession.  

According to H. Scott in Looking Back Volume VI No 1 dated March 1966, “This very beautifully situated homestead was framed by a giant Kaffirboom [how called coral trees] which cast an aura of peace with its shadow. The thick walls, yellow wood floors, adzed beams, the low loft told of bygone pride in craftmanship. Moreover, age has not detracted from the workmanship. During the Historical Society’s visit in 1966, Mr. Charlie Clark showed his treasures: the nautilus shells, Strandloper relics and Georgian coins found on the land. In the small family graveyard at the back of the house, lies the grave of Theunis Jacobus Botha who died at the age of 45 on the 18th August, 1854.

Map of the original farms on Port Elizabeth

 Sources

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 C.J Skead (1993, Algoa Regional Services Council, Port Elizabeth)

The Society Outing to Farms in the Kragga Kamma Region by H. Scott from Looking Back Volume VI No 1 1966)

3 Comments

    • Hi Jan,
      No, I don’t & I don’t think that there was ever an image of it because it was never considered to be significant in thse days
      Dean McCleland
      082 801 5446

      Reply

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