An 1820 Settler
permission from a limited circulation document “Symons
prepared by Merryl Symons.
The history of
my paternal grandfather (Robert Symons) has been documented in the
scrapbook. The history of my paternal great grandmother has been
documented in the coffee table book called “Story of a frontier
family” by Wendy Beal Preston. Edith being descended from the 1820
settlers through her mother Susannah Miles and father Stephen
grandfather, William Symons was born in 1815? Could be December
1814? (baptised on the 8th of January 1815) and lived at
Mt Edgecombe, Devon on the border of Cornwall. His first wife (whom
he married in the parish of Stoke Damerell, Plymouth in Devonshire)
was Mary Jane Dobson they had 8-10 children two were born after they
emigrated. William was the first.
as a carpenter in Plymouth dockyards.
The family were
in London (from Mt Edgecombe) attending a court case in connection
with titled land when our grandfather was born (their 8th
child). He was born there on the 16th of December 1853
at 25 Bromley Terrace Bromley in the district of “Bow and Bromley”
in the county of Middlesex. Born within the sound of the bow bells,
therefore born a cockney.
and family left Portsmouth on the 6th of September 1857
on the “Lady Kennaway” and arrived in east London on the 23rd
of November 1857 my grandfather was 3 (3 weeks short of his 4th
birthday. A 9th baby had arrived.
Kennaway (emigration ship) was built in Calcutta in 1817 her owners
being the British firm of Teiglie. A trim little 584 tons sailing
vessel. It came to grief at the mouth of the Buffalo river 2 days
after its arrival after safely landing her 153 young unmarried Irish
emigrant women, 21 Englishmen and their wives, 33 children and 4
young men. ( see newspaper article for further information.)
grandmother ( Mary Jane) died and great grandfather William
remarried the second marriage produced a further 8 to 10 children.
With all these relations it will be a hard task to work out a family
tree. I shall just concentrate on our grandfather Robert Symons.
Symons born 16th December 1953 at 25 Bromley Terrace
London, died 8th April 1923 aged69 from cancer of the
tongue buried in KingWilliamsTown cemetery.
marriage to Sarah Ann field. Date=
He wooed her at
her father’s farm in the Thomas river area during his services as a
blacksmith on the east London to Queenstown railway. Sarah died in
1900 in a Birmingham nursing home where he ( Robert) had taken her
for a serious operation to her throat. Her remains were returned to
king Williamstown and interred in the local cemetery. The font in
the Holy Trinity Church, KingWilliamsTown was presented to the
diocese by our grandfather (Robert Symons) in memory of his first
wife Sarah Ann Field.
They had two
children a daughter Ethel and a son Robert Edward (Bobbie) who died
at the age of 7 from lockjaw.
twice. She died in Salisbury Rhodesia predeceasing her father
marriage to ------- Winsor an officer of the imperial forces in
1902. He died on the 1st of January 1903
They produced a
son Sylvester Martin Winsor who married Rita Stephenson they had two
daughters Ann and Jean
family from the second marriage considered Syl more as a brother
than an uncle (being almost their age). Syl settled in Salisbury
(now Harare) Rhodesia, (now Zimbabwe) with his mother and
Most of the
Symons clan (except for the 3 oldest sons) from the second marriage
settled in Zimbabwe. (I think in the early 1930’s) they were all
one big family and celebrated weddings etc together. Living in
Zimbabwe at that time was wonderful.
marriage was to Evan Evans they moved to Salisbury with Syl. Their
marriage produced 5 children.
4 sons and a
Ripley, Glendin and Arthur.
married and died early
Barry. Keith and Jenny (married John Day)
Rona ( m. John
McIntosh), Rona (m. St John Grant)
twice first to Joy Lawson Children:
(married Martin Benkenstein a good cricketer. children : twins
a girl and boy, and a 2nd son.) Their sons were very
good cricketers one captaining Natal Their daughter ( a very
beautiful girl) married David Campese who was a brilliant
Australian rugby player. Their wedding was covered in “new
idea’’ a woman’s magazine in Australia. Lorna and family were
all represented in the spread. Martin Benkenstein managed
Michael Procter’s finances. Michael played for South Africa.
Captained Gloucester in England ( it was called Procter shire)
he is now very involved with cricket internationally.
Something went pear-shaped (forgotten)
marriage to Sheila Dowdeswell mother of Colin.
(after the local river)
and Cartage Contractors.
October 1878 when he was 24 years old.
There is much
written about his business which I have included in the scrapbook.
It makes very interesting reading especially the newspaper article
which appeared in the Mercury on Thursday February 16th
1989. (by Just Lynn)
article was sent to me by “Just Lynn” titled
KingWilliamsTown”. There are other articles which I shall enclose
in this history.
It was quite by
chance that I found out about our grandfather’s carriages displayed
in three halls of the KingWilliamsTown museum.
Ian and family live in KingWilliamsTown. one day i mentioned our
family history to Sheila his wife. It was a coincidence that their
4 year old son had been on a kinder outing to the museum and seen a
“carriage”!!!!!. We rushed down and to my surprise there were in
front of me our heritage. the beautiful carriages and tools from
“buffalo Works”. He well deserved being known as “the best in the
This is how it all began
stepmother (frustrated with taking on 9 or 10 stepchildren and also
bearing 9 or 10 of their own) ordered him out of the home, calling
him a “ne’ar do well. at the age of 14!!! The story goes that he
walked with a friend “through native infested territory”) to
KingWilliamsTown. from east London. (nb. this same stepmother ended
her days in Robert Symons’s home.) Here he found work as a
blacksmith on the East London to Queenstown railway. 9 years later
in 1977 at the age of 23 he fought in the 9th “kaffir” war. (from
East London to KingWilliamsTown by car takes 30-40 minutes.)
A year later at
the age of 24 in October 1878 he started the wagon works. This
developed into the “buffalo wagon and carriage works”. He had 3
farms which stabled horses, cows donkeys etc. for his carriages. He
also planted trees especially bluegums. He was known as “bluegum
business started in 1900 when he won the local railway cartage
contract and it remained with his firm until 1950 (carried on by his
son Oswald), except for 5 years after 1910. His wagons went to the
Argentine, India, Rhodesia East Africa (Angola). His firm built
hearses (one is in the museum) fire wagons etc. The carriages were
mostly canopied. There is a beautiful stinkwood one in the Bathurst
museum. The Standard Bank (South Africa) one year used a photo of
one of his carriages on a Xmas card. There were examples of
carriages from other firms as well.
The firm (which
employed about 80 men) developed into engineering works. Robert
owned the first motor car in KingWilliamsTown. This car had large
wooden spoked wheels and hard rubber tires. To start the engine it
was cranked up on the side. It was no bigger than a motor bike
engine of today and a chain drove the back wheels. He then entered
into the motor trade by running a garage in Taylor Street. He
captured the franchise or agency for the ford company in the days of
the old model T. Later he also held the agency for the Hudson for a
short while and the Nash.
first wife died in Birmingham England in 1900 the business was well
established and profitable. There have been reports he was a
millionaire. He married our grandmother (Edith Brown from Vaalkranz
farm Cathcart area) on the 12/2/1902. She was 25 and he 49 years old
(the same year his first daughter married) Life carried on, 9
children were born (more later) until Robert Symons’ death in
8/4/1923 aged 69 from cancer of the tongue. Oldest son was 20
None of the
children (except Oswald on the cartage side) were groomed to take
over the business in particular on the finance side. It resulted
in the accountant ( name?) Making off with (stealing) all the money
leaving the family destitute. The family tried to summons him but
nothing was proved. I did hear he disappeared. The very spoilt
Symons clan who had everything had to start again. Which was a sad
ending. Or was it ???????
Family History of Edith Brown born - 24/6/1877
grandmother died - / /1944
descended from the 1820 settlers, the emigrants who were all from
England. The Napoleonic wars had ended in 1815 and life was not too
good in England, poverty no jobs etc. (Editors note: Sounds like
2009) Settling in South Africa (a British colony). Buying and
owning cheap land was a pleasant temptation for young families.
South Africa had been founded in 1656.
G-g-g-grandfather Stephen Brown married Sarah Hillman in 1815 in
Chelsea, England. They sailed in the “Weymouth” with William as 1820
settlers and joined the Cock’s party.
Stephen’s second marriage (first wife’s name unknown) he had two
children Nathaniel and Sarah. Nathaniel joined him in South Africa
29th February 1816 in Chelsea England
20th October 1820
Hillman Brown born 1822
Edward Brown married Charity Hobbs (Daughter of Phillip and Charity
He farmed at
“Reed Fountain” +/- 10 miles from Port Alfred.
15th January 1848 married Elizabeth Emma Miles. (
buried Hilton Cathcart district)
born 1849 married Susannah Catherine Miles at Hilton. Settled on
the farm Vaalkrantz near Cathcart. Both buried at Hilton.
17th August 1851 died at 19 months 1853.
born 21st August 1853 married Alice
Jeanette Miles settled at Craigcross farm, Cathcart.
Stephen Brown born 1849 married Susannah
Catherine Miles. Born 1850 died 1947, aged 97.
an 1820 settler descendant.) Died after her daughter Edith Brown who
died in 1944 there is a photo of 4 generations ( Susannah, Edith,
victor and ken) at Vaalkrantz where she lived with her son Martin .
Brown married Adelaide Marshall lived at “The Dales” farm
Cathcart. Had 4 children.
married Robert Symons a widower lived for years at buffalo villa,
buffalo road, KingWilliamsTown
Lawrence married Harriet Gibbons had 6 children lived “Glengotha
Farm” Cathcart district.
married Emil Schaefer they had 2 children.
Laura Brown, a
spinster who lived the longest.
married twice. 1st to Athlie Dell they had two children
then he married Ethel ? Lived at “Stanmore Farm” Cathcart
Brown married Margaret Gibbons they had four children Percy,
George Ralph, and Mollie. They farmed at “Ellington” near
Brown married Ida Armstrong they had 6 children Enid, Wilfred,
Alma, Bernard, Florence & Winifred. They lived at the original
family farm “Vaalkranz”. Where g-grandmother Susannah lived and
Ken and i have
visited ‘Vaalkranz” I remember rocking in a huge bent-wood rocking
chair and going over backwards.
Uncle Sid and Aunt Maggie’s farm.
Ken and I have
happy memories of “Ellington.” When our father was alive we often
visited. Ken likes to tell the embarrassing story about me giving
the sheep a concert in the barn. I was 6 or 7 years old and had
just started ballet. Somehow I ended up in the barn (I thought by
myself) the sheep were all looking at me. So I gave them an
impromptu performance. I danced and sang and really enjoyed myself.
I then looked towards the window at the back of the barn and Ken’s
fair head was there with the biggest grin on his face. I have not
performed since and he has not stopped eating out on that story.
I (alone) spent
a two week holiday there when I was about 13. Cathcart was an old
little village whose one grocery store sold everything. Sugar, flour
weighed and sold in Brown paper bags etc. Rolls of material on
Sid’s second son) ran the farm then. I think two of his brothers
died in World War II. now his son Peter runs it. Their eldest boy
Malcolm died when he was about 12 from a cricket ball blow to his
head. He was a super little guy. He, Peter and I all rode one
horse round the farm, poor horse.
I’d read stories
to them while George and the employers sheared the sheep. After
classing the wool (it is spread over a table like a blanket) they’d
throw it into a huge sack. (Think of a silo) when the next wool
blanket arrived we’d stamp it down and I’d continue to read. We were
very oily afterwards from the lanolin.
collect the hen’s eggs. They had artificial eggs placed so that we
knew more or less where to look. No such thing as battery operated
chickens. You ate what was on the land. When I was there the peaches
were ripening and that is all we had for supper, peaches and home
cooked beautiful bread. Auntie Maggie and Pearl took it in turn
every night to make bread. It sat rising the whole night (near the
black coal stove) by morning it was huge and smelled delicious.
Uncle Sid and Auntie Maggie were still alive then.
Pearl( going to press) are still alive in Cathcart. Auntie Geraldine
sends them Xmas cards. I believe George is in a wheelchair now.
Very happy times.
born 16/12/1853 died 8/4/ 1923, married Edith Brown born 24/6/1977
died 19 44
They met where
and how? I wonder. They married on the 12/2/02. She was 24 and he
was 49 (quite old to be married in those days). I don’t know how
far away Vaalkranz was from KingWilliamsTown, not too far by coach
as after she married Edith visited her mum frequently. The whole
family visited her brothers on their farms. They had their own
Percy the last
child arrived in 1920 when grandpa was 66 and Granny was 42. Percy
was three when he lost his father. He said “I did not lose a father
I gained 6!!! ” (his brothers).
Some snippets i
picked up from the aunties.
Percy would be in the bath, Edith anxious to use the bath (getting
ready for a date) took Percy out the bath. Oswald would come along
and take Edith out the bath and put Percy back .
the eldest was given the best. He went to St. Andrews in
Grahamstown the others went to Dale in KingWilliamsTown.
He was sent to
America and England. I have a photo of him in a rugby team for one
of the counties receiving his cap.
They were all
good at sport and played rugby for Border. Victor ( B.Sc) and
Lawrence (B.Com honours) were sent to Rhodes University. I know my
father boxed, ran and played 1st team rugby for Rhodes in
the early 1920’s he received plenty of silver cups which my mother
gave back to Rhodes.
sat on a Tuesday evening darning 56 pairs of socks (8 boys + 7
days). They were all hand knitted. They had a roast every night,
the best way to feed 10 people.
Oswald was very
fond of animals especially poultry which he bred for shows and won
many medals he was also a judge. My mum said he took eggs to bed
with him like a broody hen.
There were lots
of fisticuffs but the brothers were very close and made a point of
seeing each other over the years. They liked to argue and none of
the stories were the same.
Robert and Edith
Stephen Symons born 4th January 1903, died 1968. Chief
health inspector of east London. Married Vida Phillips born
20/8/1907. They had one child a daughter Marion ( pharmacist) born
10/3/1929 she married Reg Jones children:- 3 daughters Glynis,
Angela and Susan. She divorced and married again (Bryson )
Oswald born 21st
April 1904- married Mabel Webber. No children. Cartage
born 26/8/1905 B.Sc headmaster. Married Veronica (Vera) Billing
born 11/10/03 piano teacher L.T.C.L, U.T.L.M. 1934 in Kimberley.
two children Kenneth born 27/1/37 Merryl born 5/2/43
Symons born 21st April 1907 B.Com. Died 29/12 79 he
was 72. Assistant auditor general in Zimbabwe. Married Thora
Evelyn Dixon born 7/8/1911. 3 children. Lynette born 19/1038.
Sylvia born 22/7/ 41 died 25/3/69, John 24/9/ 43
born 26/9/1909 in KingWilliamsTown. died 15/2/1993 in Natal.
Married Robert Dudley (Uncle Dudley) Hampton O.B.E. head of
Domboshawe Agricultural College. Died 3/6/1982. In Natal, 3
children- Maureen born 18/9/38, Robert 31/5/42. Brian 25/1/45
and George Symons born 20/3/1912. Phillip married Jessie Margaret
Kable born 8/4/09 Phillip died 23/2/64 aged 51, jess died 27/6/76
. Aged 66. Children Penelope born 6/12/1944 and Moira 26/10/46
George : born
20/3/1912 died 13/3/1950 in Harare aged 37. First married Eileen
Button ended in divorce. Second marriage Thelma Fisher born
25/1/1924. One daughter Georgina Dale born 29/6/49 died 2/11/
1949, 4 months before her father died, very sad.
Doris May born
13/3/1918 - died 25/3/ 1918 lived 12 days.
born 22/3/1920 died 14/2/1978 Married geraldine hood born
1/4/1924. One child Carol Anne Symons born 11/3/1957