Port Elizabeth of Yore: The History of the Van Stadens Area

The river was named after Marthinus van Staden, one of the area’s pioneering farmers. He was also among the first to plot a rudimentary track through the valley. It is through the steep, winding gorge for which this River is renowned.  

The Van Stadens River rises in the Elandsberge and cuts through the Van Stadens Berg. Just east of the river on the N2 one may see rounded, marine gravels, dating back 30 million years BP, resting on Table Mountain quartzite.

Main picture: The Witteklip Rock which served as a scratching post for elephants and later used for a more mundane purpose as an outspan for wary travellers

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: Acrimonious Rivalry between Uitenhage and Port Elizabeth in the 1860s

For the most part, the relationship between the two adjacent towns was cordial but with an undertone of superiority on the part of the residents of Uitenhage. This situation was about to deteriorate. During the 1860s, the state of healthy rivalry degenerated into fierce acrimonious contestation. At issue was the length of rural roads that the Uitenhage Divisional Council was responsible for vis-à-vis Port Elizabeth. Yet another contentious issue was the ownership of the tolls collected on the main roads. 

This episode is a timely reminder that rash impetuous decisions must never supplant rational compromises however aggrieved one party feels. A wilful disregard for the truth and the facts would prolong the dispute until wisdom prevailed. This situation is eerily similar to modern disputes about resource allocation a la the NHI.

Main picture: The Wylde Bridge which replaced the Rawson Bridge

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Tolls

The Authorities always have to find a source of revenues to cover the costs of the maintenance of the roads. In the case of vehicles and animals using them, they always have a ready solution: charging a service fee in the form of a toll. In Port Elizabeth, the first toll was installed within four years of Port Elizabeth being established. It was located in Queen Street, just beyond the future Russell Road and commenced operation in August 1824. 

Main picture: The old Toll house at the Sunday’s River Bridge on the Grahamstown Road

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