Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Growth of the Population

Prior to the arrival of the 1820 Settlers, it would have been an exaggeration to claim that Port Elizabeth was sparsely populated as that was an overstatement of the facts. Indeed, it was mostly depopulated. Apart from a dozen farmers in the whole area from the Sunday’s River to the Gamtoos River, there was an understrength company of soldiers based at Fort Frederick and thirty-five inhabitants mainly residing along the coast at the foot the Hill. 

Main picture: Port Elizabeth in 1833

At the dawn of the Settler’s Arrival

According to JJ Redgrave, in the years prior to the arrival of the 1820 Settlers, “the land was devoid of inhabitants and as new arrivals entered upon it, they had an understanding among themselves about locations and boundaries. The extent of a “farm” in those days occupied by a family varied from four to six thousand acres.

In his book The Cape Colony and the Eastern Province of Algoa Bay,  John Centlivres Chase states that in 1820, “the only buildings were the fort, a small barracks, a mess-house, the Commandant’s quarters, and a few temporary huts of perishable materials [probably wattle and daub], besides the original farm house belonging to a Boer by the name of Hartman. The population was about 35 souls.

painting-by-thomas-baines-of-the-settlers-arriving-in-algoa-bay

At this stage, the hamlet had nothing to commend itself and did not even possess a formal name. It was during a visit by the acting Governor of the Cape Colony, Sir Rufane Donkin in 1820 whilst assisting with the planning for the location of the Settlers, that he issued two momentous instructions. At his behest a pyramidal cenotaph as a perpetual token to his recently deceased wife would be constructed and secondly that the name of the wind-swept area was proclaimed as Port Elizabeth, also in her honour.
Redgrave describes the other residences and buildings apart from those of a military nature as follows: 

There existed a mere handful of other miserable dwellings. The Residency, a squat stone building with a sundial in front of it, stood at the foot of the present White’s Road on the site of the Colonial Mutual Buildings, a cottage occupied by the Commissary of Stores, on the site of the present St. Mary’s Church. A little above Hartman Road, stood the poor farmhouse of Hartman with a few other similar farms and mud huts scattered here and there”

Fort Frederick
Fort Frederick

Apart from the military, the hamlet consisted of only 35 people. The exact details of the population were recorded by a visitor to this nondescript village in 1819.

In this document, a Mr. Griffin Hawkins listed the names and occupations of the inhabitants in an unofficial census as follows:

Evatt, Francis                  Commandant

Henry                               His son

Creig                                Commissary

Camm                              His clerk

Nicholl & Chabaud        Merchants

Welsford                         Retailer

Benjamin Green            His clerk

Hunt                                Retailer

Frames                            Merchant

McPhail                           Mason

Board                              Contractor

Fortuin (Malay)             Blacksmith

Nicholas Hitje                Hotel-keeper [Red Lion Tavern]

Dunn, Gambol & son    Postmaster

Burchell                           Apothecary [Chemist]

Gambol Hartman          Field Cornet

Diesel & son                   Masons

Thomas Griffin               Shoemaker

Brown                              Shoemaker

Gurney                             Boatman & crew

Smith                                Boatman & crew

Hatcheloven                    Butcher

Younger, John                 Surgeon

Younger, Thomas           His brother

Mollineaux, Thomas      Whalefisher

Reid, James                Crew

De Mell, Joe               Crew

Hubbard, Joe               Crew

Kane                            Sawyer

La Harpe                      Retailer

Minto, Dr.                    Garrison surgeon

Hawkins, Griffin          A visitor

John Futter, a shoemaker
Like most settlers, John Futter, a shoemaker, came ashore in Port Elizabeth en route to Grahamstown

1824 Census

A census of the town indicated that its population consisted of:

73Men
30Women
44Boys
33Girls
75Khoikhoi
64Slaves

Presumably the races of the men, women, boys and girls would include the white, the coloureds and the Malays all resident in Port Elizabeth. The 75 people classified as Khoikhoi were probably the misallocation of the local Fingoes, as the Blacks resident in the area were known. Surprisingly 64 people were classified as slaves.

Candle maker
Candle maker

The reason why the population of Port Elizabeth had only increased marginally in four years in spite of the influx of thousands of settlers was due to the fact that the Settlers were immediately relocated to the Eastern Border. Many of those that found farming condition too arduous or were bankrupted by drought or pestilence, drifted back to the towns in the area.

1825 Census

For the first time, Port Elizabeth gives the impression of having a population of a functioning village rather than a temporary settlement.

Within another ten years, the number of houses had risen to 100.

Prominent citizens in 1842

By 1842, it was no longer possible to list all the citizens in Port Elizabeth as Mr Hawkins had done in 1819. The best that John Centlivres could achieve in his book, is to list the names of the most prominent citizens in Port Elizabeth in 1842.

Whereas the initial list in 1819 of citizens reflected mainly occupations such as artisans and merchants, with the increased wealth of the citizenry, most of the prominent people now occupied sedentary clerical, supervisory and management positions.

Captain Francis Evatt
Captain Francis Evatt
Position occupiedNameAnnual salary
Resident MagistrateCapt. W. Lloyd, R.N.£ 300
Clerk to MagistrateMr. C.H. Huntley£ 80
Acting MessengerJames Hancock 
Distributor of StampsMr. C.H. Huntley 
Clerk of the PeaceF. Gie ESq£ 100
Acting GaolerThomas Sterley£  45
Police OfficersJ. Gillis, J. Wade & John Crown 
Justices of the PeaceD.P. Francis & W. Fleming Esqs 
Field CornetMr. J.B. Board 
Assistant Field CornetMr. A. Baille 
Acting District SurgeonR.L. Davies£  60

Custom’s House Department

Position occupiedNameAnnual salary
Sub-CollectorD.P. Francis Esq£ 300
ClerkMr. Patrick Murray£ 90
TidewaiterMr. J. Stonelake£ 80
arrival-of-the-1820-settlers-in-pe02

Port Office

Position occupiedNameAnnual salary
Port CaptainH.G. Dunsterville Esq£ 100
Officer of HealthR.L. Davies Esq 
CoxswainW. Warner£ 36
Post mistressMrs. Mary Biggar£ 40
Market masterMr. Charles Gurney 
Pound masterMr. N. Randall 
Overseer of ConvictsGeorge Rye 

St. Mary’s Church

Position occupiedNameAnnual salary
ChaplainRev. F. McCleland, A.B. & TCD£ 200
ChurchwardensMessrs D. Phillips & C. Andrews 
ClerkMr. Henry Shepherd 
OrganistMrs. J. Rawlinson 
Sexton & Bell-ringerMr. Thomas Hunt 
Reverend Francis McCleland
Reverend Francis McCleland

School Commission

Position occupiedNameAnnual salary
PresidentCapt. W Lloyd 
MembersRevs. F. McCleland,  A. Robson, J.C. Chase & J.C. Welsford 
TeacherMr. J. Paterson, A.M.£ 150 & £ 40 for house rent

Legal

Position occupiedName
Attorney of the Supreme Court & Proctor in the Vice Admiralty CourtCharles Whitcomb, Esq
Attorney in the Circuit CourtMr. F. Gie
NotariesMessrs. C. Whitcomb and J.C. Chase

Other

Position occupiedName
Private School for BoysMr J.B. Frames
Seminary for Young LadiesMrs Eedes
Medical PractitionersJ. Chalmers & R.L. Davies Esq
ApothecariesMessrs. J.L. Tilbury & G. Dunsterville
AuctioneersMessrs. W. Harriers, Joshua Norton, Geo. Britton & George Mitchell

Directors of the Jetty Company

Position occupiedName
EngineerJohn Thornhill
ManagersPieter Heugh, J. Blackburn, Wm. Smith & J.C. Chase
SecretaryMr John Bailie
Managing Director of the Boating CompanyD. Phillips Esq
ClerkMr Thomas Yatton
John Centlivres Chase
John Centlivres Chase

The Leper Institute of Baaken’s River

Position occupiedName
Superintending SurgeonR.L. Davies Esq
SuperintendentMr Richard Tee, Senior

Union Chapel, London Missionary Society

Position occupiedName
MinisterRev. A Robson
EldersMessrs. G Chick & D. Lewis
DeaconsMessrs James Beans & J. Kitchen
Instructor of the FingoesMr. W. Passmore
Teacher to the Coloured PeopleMrs. Robson
A chromolithograph of Port Elizabeth in 1886 by Graham Winch
A chromolithograph of Port Elizabeth in 1886 by Graham Winch

Wesleyan Missionary Society

Position occupiedName
MinisterRev John Green
CommitteeMessrs. Wm. Cawood, Samuel Cawood, Joseph Cawood, Thomas Hancock & Thomas Sterley
Chapel StewardsMessrs T. Hancock & T. Sterley

Roman Catholic Church

Position occupiedName
PastorRev. George D. Corcoran O.S.F.
ClerkMr James McCloughlan
Bill of Lading-Goods from Table Bay to Port Elizabeth-date 1828-Table Bay 24 May 1828
Bill of Lading-Goods from Table Bay to Port Elizabeth-dated Table Bay 24 May 1828

Other

Position occupiedName
UndertakersMessrs J.B. Board & Joseph Williams
HotelsMr Nathaniel Randall
Phoenix HotelMr. E.H. Salmond

Military departments

DepartmentPosition occupiedName
CommandantCommandant of Fort FrederickCapt. F. Evatt
CommissariatDep. Assist. CommissaryG. Horne
CommissariatAssistant ClerkMr. James Niven
CommissariatStorekeeperMr J. Burchell
Barrack departmentBarrack masterLt Edward Philpott
Barrack departmentBarrack SerjeantJ. Dalgleisch
Fort Frederick
Fort Frederick

Census in 1846

The census of the population of Port Elizabeth was taken on the 11th April 1846 for the purpose of ascertaining what amount of manpower could be mustered in case of a sudden attack on the town by hostile Xhosa hordes. For this purpose, the town was divided into nine wards and a few citizens were appointed to count the population, including the Hottentots and Coloureds.

The results were as follows:

population-in-1846

PE’s population in 1875 to 1911

In the intervening period of 85 years, from a fixed population of thirty five people in 1819, Port Elizabeth  now had a population of 42,809. The diamond mines in Kimberley and the gold mines on the Witwatersrand had surpassed Port Elizabeth in their growth.

St Augustine's Catholic Church in 1904
St Augustine’s Catholic Church in 1904

2011 census

The Nelson Mandela Metro which now includes surrounding towns such as Uitenhage recorded a population of 1,152,115.

According to the Census, 60,1% of respondents described themselves as black African, 23,6% coloured, 14,4% white and 1,1% Indian/Asian

recent

This makes Port Elizabeth the sixth most populous metropolitan area in South Africa.

population-of-pe

Related blogs:

Port Elizabeth of Yore: Murders most Foul

Port Elizabeth of Yore: Murders most Foul

Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Phoenix Hotel

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: Echoes of a Far off War

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: Main Street in the Tram Era

Port Elizabeth of Yore: Main Street in the Tram Era

Lost Artefacts of Port Elizabeth: Customs House

Lost Artefacts of Port Elizabeth: Customs House

The Great Flood in Port Elizabeth on 1st September 1968

The Great Flood in Port Elizabeth on 1st September 1968

 

A Sunday Drive to Schoenmakerskop in 1922

A Sunday Drive to Schoenmakerskop in 1922

Port Elizabeth of Yore: Horse Drawn Trams

Port Elizabeth of Yore: Horse Drawn Trams

Port Elizabeth of Yore: Trinder Square

Port Elizabeth of Yore: Trinder Square

The Sad Demise of the Boet Erasmus Stadium

The Sad Demise of the Boet Erasmus Stadium

Interesting Old Buildings in Central Port Elizabeth:

Interesting Old Buildings in Central Port Elizabeth

The Shameful Destruction of Port Elizabeth’s German Club in 1915:  

The Shameful Torching of Port Elizabeth’s German Club in 1915

Port Elizabeth of Yore: Cora Terrace:

Port Elizabeth of Yore: Cora Terrace

Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Grand Hotel:

Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Grand Hotel

Port Elizabeth of Yore: Whaling in Algoa Bay:

Port Elizabeth of Yore: Whaling in Algoa Bay

Port Elizabeth of Yore: White’s Road:

Port Elizabeth of Yore: White’s Road

Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Slipway in Humewood:

Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Slipway in Humewood

Port Elizabeth of Yore: King’s Beach:

Port Elizabeth of Yore: King’s Beach

Port Elizabeth of Yore: Russell Road:

Port Elizabeth of Yore: Russell Road

Port Elizabeth of Yore: Sand dunes, Inhabitants and Animals:

Port Elizabeth of Yore: Sand dunes, Inhabitants and Animals

Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Horse Memorial: 

Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Horse Memorial

Port Elizabeth of Yore: Target Kloof:

Port Elizabeth of Yore: Target Kloof

 

The Parsonage House at Number 7 Castle Hill Port Elizabeth

The Parsonage House at Number 7 Castle Hill Port Elizabeth

What happened to the Shark River in Port Elizabeth?

What happened to the Shark River in Port Elizabeth?

A Pictorial History of the Campanile in Port Elizabeth

A Pictorial History of the Campanile in Port Elizabeth

Allister Miller: A South African Air Pioneer & his Connection with Port Elizabeth

Allister Miller: A South African Air Pioneer & his Connection with Port Elizabeth

The Three Eras of the Historic Port Elizabeth Harbour

The Three Eras of the Historic Port Elizabeth Harbour

 

The Historical Port Elizabeth Railway Station

The Historical Port Elizabeth Railway Station

The Friendly City – Port Elizabeth – My Home Town

The Friendly City – Port Elizabeth – My Home Town

Port Elizabeth of Yore: Russell Road Methodist Church – 1872 to 1966

Port Elizabeth of Yore: Russell Road Methodist Church – 1872 to 1966

The Royal Visit to Port Elizabeth in 1947

The Royal Visit to Port Elizabeth in 1947

Port Elizabeth of Yore: Main Street before the Era of Trams

Port Elizabeth of Yore: Main Street before the Era of Trams

Sources:

Port Elizabeth: A Social Chronicle to the end of 1945 by Margaret Harradine (2004, Historical Society of Port Elizabeth, Port Elizabeth)

Port Elizabeth in Bygone Days by J.J. Redgrave (1947, Rustica Press)

The Cape of Good Hope & the Eastern Province of Algoa Bay by John Centlivres Chase

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