Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Settler Family called Damant

Most settler parties conformed to the rules of the Emigration Scheme that they would be settled in the frontier districts. Having been stationed at Fort Frederick for seven years prior to the arrival of the 1820 Settlers, Captain Damant had already decided that the Gamtoos valley area would be the new family home.

This is the saga of the Damant family of Hankey

Main picture: A farm in the Gamtoos Valley

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Boer War Letters of the Ferndale Boys

A 2nd generation member of the Bean family, Mr Thomas Pullen Bean (1845 – 1925), living in the Sunday’s River Valley area struggled to make a living there. On listening to the advice of his brother-in-law and neighbour, Maj-Gen. John Pigott Nixon of Balmoral, he investigated the prospects of the Gamtoos Valley. Upon inspection, he was so enamoured that he rented the undeveloped farm, then known as “Saagkuilen” and still Crown land, on a tributary of the Gamtoos River in 1885. Initially the family of 10 children, 4 sons and 6 daughters, only had a wagon for accommodation. Not liking the Dutch name, he renamed it Ferndale. Soon Thomas applied himself a main house to be known as the Settler House as well as a tiny 2 room cottage, later expanded to 3. Seven years later in 1892, the wife of Thomas Pullen, Edith Emma Bean (nee Pakenham) purchased the property and accordance to the Title Deeds it is registered in her name. Finally in 1912, a more robust house, nicknamed the “Big House” was built on the property and the original house was demolished. The original cottage is still standing and functional.

Amongst the gaggle of ten children, two sons, Guy Pakenham Bean and Dixon Charles Pakenham Bean would join the Imperial forces and join battle against the two Boer Republics to the north. It was the letters of these two sons which would survive and through the gracious assistance of Patricia Reid, that I was able to obtain copies of two letters written by her father, Guy Pakenham Bean, and one of her uncle Dixon Bean. These three letters provide an insight, albeit a smidgen of a glimmer, into aspects of that tumultuous war.

Main picture: Front and rear of medal awarded to Guy Pakenham Bean

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: Expeditions by Carl Thunberg in the 1770s

Preceding the arrival of the Dutch farmers in Algoa Bay, intrepid adventurers and naturalists were exploring the area. Amongst this band of hardy individuals was a Swedish naturalist, Carl Peter Thunberg, an apostle of Carl Linnaeus, a Swedish botanist, zoologist, and physician who formalised binomial nomenclature, the modern system of naming organisms. Due to Thunberg’s discoveries in the Cape Colony, he has been awarded the sobriquet of “the father of South African botany”.

Of all the observations made by Thunberg during his three-year stay at the Cape Colony, two of them resonate with me but for vastly divergent reasons. This is the story of Thunberg’s brief sojourn in the wilderness that was Port Elizabeth in the 1770s.

Main picture: Carl Peter Thunberg in later life

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