Chapter 6: Strangers in a Hostile Land
On 9th April 1820 James and Jane Hoole, and their two surviving children (Abel, aged 8, and James, aged 4) were among the first of the immigrants to step ashore in Algoa Bay (later Port Elizabeth) in South Africa. They and their worldly belongings had been ferried ashore in open boats from the three-masted sailing vessel Chapman which had carried them from Gravesend on a four-month voyage. They were the pioneers -- members of the first party of settlers who would face the rigours -- and the endless possibilities -- of their new homeland.
After a period of adjustment in a vast tented village on the shore, the new settlers were organized into wagon trains, and then Bailie's party of 90 families (256 persons in all) set off under the protection of Colonel Cuyler, heading along the shoreline towards one of the most remote and dangerous of the designated locations, not far from the Great Fish River which was effectively "the frontier" of the time. With three families packed into each wagon, progress was slow, and the journey of around 100 miles took six days -- during which the travellers saw not a single human being or sign of habitation.
At last, in the middle of a forbidding wilderness near the mouth of the Great Fish River, the wagon train stopped, and Cuyler announced that they had reached their destination. Without further ado the wagons were emptied of their contents and everything was piled onto the grass. Then the drivers cracked their whips, and they were gone -- leaving the Hooles and their fellow settlers under a fierce sun with only tents for shelter and with limited food supplies to see them through the coming winter months. The men immediately set to work at erecting the tents and collecting fire wood for the fires that would be needed to keep wild animals at bay.
As the reality of the situation hit home on her, Jane Hoole sat down on the grass beside a great pile of dirty washing and wept unconsolably. According to legend, a sturdy Yorkshirewoman took pity on her and put her arm around her shoulder. "You're not fit for this kind of thing, Mrs Hoole," she said. "Here now -- leave the washing to me. I'll be pleased to do it, and if you like we can do a deal, and you can give me some of your tea..........."
In the new settlement that was created over the following months and years (called Cuylerville, between Bathurst and the mouth of the Great Fish River) each family was allocated 100 acres of land -- and on that basis they simply had to make the best of the situation in which they found themselves. The initial years were not easy, and we know that the Hoole family home was burnt out on more than one occasion during the rumbling and never-ending Frontier Wars with the Xhosa tribes, bringing James and Jane to the brink of ruin each time. James then seems to have taken up trading among the local tribes, and the family moved north to Grahamstown in 1827, where they would be closer to the core of the Eastern Cape colony and less vulnerable to attack. Abel and James helped in the business, and with a partner they established trading posts somewhere in the district called (at that time) Kaffraria. The posts had to be abandoned at another outbreak of hostilities in 1830, and as if that was not enough to be going on with, James lost another three trading posts in the 1834-35 (Sixth) War, costing him over £1000 in goods and cattle.
James survived for another ten years after that, becoming a pillar of the local community in Grahamstown. He must have been a resilient and determined man, who was knocked over time and again and who nonetheless got back up again each time, dusted himself down and carried on..........
In the end, at the age of 55, he succumbed not to a spear, arrow or bullet, but to an influenza epidemic which was rampant in Grahamstown in the month of December 1845. He died on 16th December, and his wife Jane survived him by more than ten years. According to an obituary in the local newspaper, "......his demise will be greatly deplored by all who knew him. As a man of intelligence, of unimpeachable integrity, as a kind neighbour, an affectionate husband and parent and as an exemplary amongst those who deserve well of their country and whose memory is justly entitled to be honoured in esteem by his compatriots."
The 1820 settlers' church still exists in Grahamstown. (pic. available on line). It was the first building the settlers erected, and it was originally made of wood. It also served as their school and their fortress when they were attacked. The plaques inside the church record all the names of the settlers.
A skirmish during one of the Frontier Wars
A typical cartoon of the time, portraying some of the imagined hardships likely to be encountered by the immigrants.......
St Mary's Church at Cuylerville (Cuylertown) -- still in a good state of repair after 200 years
The Settlers' Memorial which stands on a hill above Grahamstown and which commemorates the 1820 settlement by families including the Hoole family from London
As far as the settlers were concerned, this was an empty landscape ripe for settlement and cultivation.......
In this 1848 map of the Eastern Cape, we see the area which became the home of the Hoole family and many of the other early settler families. Port Elizabeth on Algoa Bay is off the left edge of the map. That is where the party led by Cuyler landed. In 1820 they had to trek eastwards for about 100 miles, first around the great expanse of Algoa Bay (about 40 miles), then eastwards towards the mouth of the Great Fish River. The original settlement seems to have been between Bathurst and the mouth of the river. Cuylerville township is not marked -- maybe it was too insignificant. Later the Hoole family move to the larger urban area of Grahamstown, where they finally put down roots.