Port Elizabeth of Yore: The creation of the initial “Harbour”

For the majority of the 143 years from 1652 to 1795 during which the Dutch occupied the Cape, Algoa Bay and its potential use as a Harbour can be likened to a black hole. Nothing was known about it and the Government authorities were ignorant of its existence. The raison d’etre of the use of Cape Town was that it served as a replenishment station en route to the Dutch East Indies. Nothing more and nothing less.  

It took more than a century after 1652 before the Dutch authorities displayed a modicum of interest in this Bay. This blog deals with that unhurried awakening of interest and its gradual adoption as a harbour. If the truth be told, without the British occupation of the colony, the recognition and adoption of Port Elizabeth would possibly not have arisen and some other river mouths such as the Zwartkops, Buffalo or Kowie would have snatched the prize.

Let it be crystal clear: It was not a foregone conclusion that the harbour in Algoa Bay would be situated at the mouth of a paltry stream such as the Baaken’s River.

Main picture: Blockhouse on the Baakens River in 1803

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Postal Service – The Formalisation Phase

The initial chapter on the Post Office dealt with the establishment of a postal service in Port Elizabeth following its inception in Cape Town and extension to Uitenhage and, by implication, to Algoa Bay before 1828 whereas this blog deals with the postal service from the appointment of the hamlet’s second Postmaster, George Ubsdell in 1828 until the resignation of the Postmistress, Mrs Biggar, the third Postmaster after William Dunn and Ubsdell.

 Main picture: The first dedicated Post Office in Port Elizabeth in the building with the picket fence 

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Postal Service – Humble Beginnings

Before the advent of the internet, the telephone and the telegraph, the state of the art method of communication was the Postal Service. The speed of this service was a function of the speed of the ship, the horse and the cart. History is replete with examples of orders issued being overtaken by events. Take the example of commands from England. They could take five months to reach the Cape. 

Main picture: A Post Cart crossing the drift at the bottom of Van Staden’s Pass

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: Its Inhabitants in 1822

Port Elizabeth is fortunate in having somebody who prepared a list of its inhabitants at the inception of the town itself. Without a functioning civil authority, nothing is recorded, let alone a population register.  

This blog lists Port Elizabeth’s inhabitants in 1822 together with a biographical sketch of some of them. 

Main picture: Port Elizabeth in 1823

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