Sunday, March 3, 2013

Verulam Settlers to Natal, Mission Station and Sugar Estates

More on the Verulam Wesleyan baptismal register (see two earlier posts on this blog):

The original baptismal register of Verulam’s Wesleyan Methodist Church (covering the years 1859-1872) is a rare survival, a treasure discovered during a family reunion in the area and subsequently added to The Campbell Collections, Durban. This is a fitting repository for the register, including as it does many entries for the inter-related CAMPBELL and BLAMEY families.

The late Dr Killie Campbell, daughter of Marshall Campbell and Ellen, nee Blamey, was born 9 September 1881 and was christened Margaret Roach Campbell (Roach was Ellen’s mother’s maiden name). Killie, however, jettisoned her given names in favour of the nickname by which she was always – and always will be - known. Note mention of the Roach family name in the register entry for the baptism of Edith Gertrude Blamey, 18 Feb 1872, daughter of James Roach Blamey and his wife Ocea Isabel, of Mt. Prospect.

Practically a roll of settlers to the Verulam area (as well as CAMPBELL and BLAMEY, the register has entries for POVALL, POLKINGHORNE, GARLAND, HULETT, GEE, STARR, RATHBONE and many other famous names) the register also mentions well-known sugar estates and place-names.

For more on these plantations and the people who owned/managed them see Valiant Harvest by Robert F Osborn.

A feature of the register is the inclusion of baptisms of  the Verulam Mission Station African children and adults: records of such baptisms are like the proverbial hen’s teeth.

Why were there Wesleyans at Verulam specifically?

William J Irons, founder and organizer of  the Christian Emigration & Colonisation Society under the auspices of the Wesleyan Methodist Church, as well as the patronage (for a short while) of the Earl of Verulam, sent out  the first three parties of Wesleyan emigrants to Natal by the ships King William, Sovereign and Edward, in 1850. This was under arrangement with J C Byrne, who was running his own emigration scheme at the time. The Wesleyans were settled at Verulam, on the previous Natal Cotton Company lands. Many are the stories of the delays and disappointments they encountered as their new lives began.

Verulam was the first township or village to be established outside Durban. The Wesleyan Chapel was for seven years the only church where people of the area could attend services. A Day School was established in 1852 with T J Champion as master.

The Wesleyan Chapel was opened at Verulam in 1851 and managed to survive the floods of April 1856 when the Umhloti River rose 30 feet. The Wesleyan Day School, damaged by the floodwaters, had to be closed for three years.

Further reading:  Natal Settler-Agent by Dr John Clark (Balkema Cape Town 1972) for more on Byrne's emigration scheme as well as that of W J Irons.

Page from the Verulam Wesleyan baptismal Register, March 1867:
zoom in for a closer look

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