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FROM POINT CEMETERY TO WEST STREET CEMETERY [ Picture ]
On Thursday 19 March 1896, The Times of Natal carried a report on the exhumation of those colonists buried at the Point Cemetery and the re-interment of their remains at the West Street Cemetery. The report includes a list of the buried, as far as it was possible to determine at the time. Was one of your ancestors among them?
"POINT CEMETERY: EXHUMATION AND REMOVAL. LIST OF THE BURIED.
Within an obscure and unfrequented corner of the Point, amid the sand-dunes, bounded by bush and shut in with bramble, it was the custom for upwards of a generation ... to inter the dead. Here, upon high ground, near the end of the low-lying narrow tongue, the sailor, billow-beaten, was laid to sleep, lulled by the lapping wave; the soldier of the young Queen found recompense and repose after bivouac and duties done; and colonist and citizen have sunk to rest from labour upon the threshold of the sea. Between 1839 and 1882 the remains of five score and nine sojourners and residents were buried in this acre of sand above the shore; none had reached the Psalmist's span, although some were well up in years, and there were children whose lives were only in the bud. Fifty-seven years ago was seen the first graveside gathering in that weird and lonely spot, and 14 years have passed since the last burial service on the hill. But it is no longer lonely. The tide of trade has flowed about the sepulchre, and spring-floods of progress have now swept away the landmarks and memorials of the past. The peace of the early days is gone. The Union warehouse and Brown's foundry almost touch the sacred precincts, and the rush of machinery, the whistle of the locomotive, the roar of traffic, the bustle of business, the throb and babel of this latter life - even the intrusive habitations of the living - destroy the quietude of the place, and make a cemetery in the situation an anomaly. And the remains have been all disinterred, for final and more fitting sepulture (burial) in the City of the Still. There, at the Point, was a jungle dark and in disrepute, and trace of even the best-known buried there was hidden. Trees interlaced their branches overhead, and sent their roots deep down into the grave; and the surface sand was rank and wild with thicket and creeper; it was a dustbin for refuse and the habitat of snakes. Here, in the west of Durban, the bones of the dead will be laid reverently to rest, order and decency will be preserved, and on the spot now set apart a general memorial will be erected.
The following is a List of those buried.
The above represents all that can be ascertained in regard to the military men. The first named died in the year of the withdrawal of the British troops. Numbers 2 to 8 were probably among the party of nine who were drowned on the bar by the swamping of a boat of HMS Southampton when she came to the rescue of the garrison, or were killed, on the 26 June 1842. In the list from which this is copied, 1840 is the date given for numbers 2 and 3, but this is probably an error; there were no troops in Natal on that date. These had tombstones of Bluff rock, but the rain has worn out the inscription. Numbers 7 and 8 are given as 1843, but this also appears to be incorrect. There was no fighting at Port Natal in that year. The headstone of Lance Corporal Robert Arthur sets forth that he was 'killed while effecting a landing for this place, then in the hands of the emigrant farmers'.
Below are six names for which there are no particulars, saving that E. B. Ledson died at the age of 57 and was related to Nos 19, 48 and 69.
Register of Addington, Dr. Ikin, Rector
On the list of 52 supplied from the Addington Register, 14 marked * have been identified, and the remains of all contained in the other three lists have also been identified from internal evidence, this affording the only clue to the names. Thus there are 38 identified in name and remains, 38 whose names are known but whose remains cannot be identified, and 33 of whom nothing is known, save that they were, and that bones are now all that is left of them. The remains of children found were 34 in number, and as 28 are identified above, there remain but 6 out of the 33, so that 27 were of maturer years, where name and memory were lost. In 1882 interment ceased altogether, the cemetery was 'closed', and although efforts were made towards the removal of the remains, nothing was done by the powers that were. The cemetery was allowed to remain in neglect and disorder - for the sake of £300. In the month of June last a sum of £400 was passed by the Legislative Assembly to provide what decency and respect for the dead demanded. Mr S Dove was asked to go over the ground, and the initial survey had to be undertaken upon hands and knees beneath the bending boughs, amid the underwood and the waste and rubbish thrown in desecration of God's acre. Upon his report, the task of exhumation was placed in his hands, and with eight coolies and a foreman Mr Dove commenced active operations on Saturday fortnight the work taking some 12 days. A week earlier the manufacture of coffins was commenced, and 34 have been made for children, 75 for adults, but when as many as 20 remains were recovered in one day, the carpenters had difficulty in keeping pace with the demand. Some days the search was entirely fruitless, although a depth of eight feet was reached. It was, of course, comparatively easy to find and identify remains where headstones were erected. In some cases the breast plate supplied required information, and when nothing else afforded a clue buttons or boots, or ammunition indicated what history did not reveal. Sometimes a skeleton was not complete, once a skull was absent, in several instances the legs of the dead appeared to have been broken, the bone having grown together, shortening the stature. Only one skeleton, of a woman, was found without a coffin, and she had been buried within 2½ft of the surface - the two facts pointing, in the opinion of some, to a dark deed of days gone by. One remarkable fact was that the skulls of the older interments showed the finest sets of teeth, those of a later date evidencing deterioration. In one case there could be seen the broken teeth of the confirmed smoker, and a short clay pipe with the remains of the last smoke, was brought to light. Old Mr Spradbrow buried a son and daughter (Nos 27 and 78) in the cemetery, Mrs Nelson being the last of all to be interred; and although he keenly felt the necessity to disturb their remains he is now quite satisfied with the manner of exhumation and the reinterment. D Robertson (11) shut off with white palings, was father of Mr J Robertson of Johannesburg, late of the Point Railway Station. Capt (56) and Mrs Tucker (49) were the parents of Mrs Geo Smith . G A Armstrong (67) was the first husband of Mrs Bryant of the Castle Boarding House, and her child was buried near by. Of other children there are those of C Vincent (16), A Drimie (57), J T Anderson (58) and J Mathias (59,74,75). In addition to the stone set up to Richmond, Duncan, and Arthur (7,8,9) the three Morrissons (34, 35, 43) were laid beneath one slab of slate. J Phillips (40) who - like 53 - was drowned in the Bay, was the husband of 66. The grave of G A McIntyre (15) was surrounded by lattice work. Over Charles Jones (42) was the text: 'The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good.' The head-board of R W Morton (45), drowned in the Bay, bears the words: 'So my Father orders it, His will be done'. Below are other inscriptions:-
(73) 'Kaptein Helmer Buccholdt, geb in hadersleben, D 6 Aug 18 1873, gest D 6 Jenseits sehen wir unscieder' (illegible) .
(76) 'In loving remembrance of Annie Catherine, beloved daughter of Thos and Alice Hunt, 1 year 9 months 1 day 'Suffer the little children to come unto me'.
(51) 'Captain William Douglas Bell, 25 years port captain of this port, died 10th April, 1869, aged 62. At the taking of Port Natal from the insurgent Boers, he rendered valuable service by towing into port, under fire of the enemy, the boats of the Southampton frigate, and through his after career in life was held in esteem, and as a faithful servant of Government. A good husband and an affectionate father'.
The Minister of Lands and Works sent Mr Wolhuter, the oldest colonist, a railway pass to enable him to attend the funeral and the hale and hearty old man, now in his 82nd year, came down from Maritzburg yesterday for the purpose of being present. An opportune call from him enabled us to verify some of our data. He told us that he knew Captain Bell from the year 1831, when second officer of the Thorne. In that year the barque got becalmed in a fog on leaving Table Bay, and went ashore on Robben Island. As to Morrisson, on Mr Wolhuter's third visit to Natal in 1844, after leaving Port Elizabeth in the Pilot, with a strong westerly breeze, Andrew (second officer) was put on the yard arm as look-out. At 11 o'clock at night he heard the captain say, "Isn't that land"? And Morrisson's reply was, "Yes, and we are in the breakers already". Had he not been on the yard arm, the danger could not have been averted in time to save the ship. Mr Wolhuter also knew Ensign Morley and attended his funeral. He was in command of the Point, where he was stationed for 15 years. He came from England as sergt-major in the Rodney battleship of 93 guns, in the year 1845, and received his commission by next mail".
THE POINT CEMETERY : REMOVAL AND INTERMENT
"The Borough of Durban witnessed yesterday a scene which is likely to remain unique in the history, not only of Natal, but of South Africa. Never before in this country have the habitants of the tomb in an entire cemetery been raised to light from their resting place, and removed, to the number of 100, to interment elsewhere. The bones of the dead, as they were brought from the grave, were placed in new coffins, and the coffins were stored in a house facing the cemetery whence they came, until reinterment. The cortege was timed to leave the Point at 3 o'clock, but a start could not be effected until 3.30. There were three ordinary hearses and three trolley hearses - improvised for the occasion - and at the end of Cemetery Road, these were followed by the Collector of Customs (Mr Byrne), the Port Captain (Mr Ballard) and the Magistrate of Durban (Capt Lucas) who represented the Government, and behind came some 40 residents in some way connected with the deceased. The Signal Station and the Bluff, the Beaver on the slip, the warehouses, and also private buildings on the line of route flew half-masted flags, and progress was watched by people on the road the whole way.
The Town Hall was reached at 4.15. Here four men of the O.S.C. headed the procession by direction of Capt. Watts, D.A.A.G., who represented the General, in view of the military men to be reburied, and other carriages which joined at this point contained his Worship the Mayor (the Hon. Mr Jameson, M.L.C.), the Town Clerk (Mr W Cooley), the Engineer-in-Charge of the Harbour Works (Mr C J Crofts) and Mr D Hunter (General Manager of Railways). One carriage contained four old colonists, viz, Mr Tuohy, late of the 45th Regt., 72 years of age, 45 years a colonist; Mr T Green, also of the 45th, 82 years of age, and 53 years a colonist; Mr Wolhuter, 82 years of age, 56 years a colonist, and Mr Lennox, 91 years of age and 46 years a colonist. In another carriage was a fifth, Mr Spradbrow, 82 years of age, and 47 years a colonist.
Proceeding through West street the cortege comprised six hearses, six carriages and nearly a hundred mourners. The pavements were crowded with the public and all the windows and places of business were alive with faces. The general cemetery was reached after an hour's journey, at 4.30. The site presented by the Mayor and Corporation for the reinterment is close to the entrance, shadowed to some extent by spreading flatcrowns, with a central tree. On the farther side, the choristers of St Cyprian's, in surplices, upwards of 30 in number, were drawn up, with the choirmaster Mr Ferguson Brown, at the harmonium. Here also was the Colonial Chaplain, the Very Rev Dean Green, accompanied by Canons Booth and Johnston, and the whole square about the 59 open graves was thickly lined with people. The Dean and his canons met the cortege at the midway walk between the graves, and then, as the hearses proceeded to occupy the three sides of the square, they returned to their station, and the funeral service was commenced.
The graves were in two long rows, bisected by the central path, and at the head of each was a number corresponding to a number on the coffins. In half a dozen cases infant remains were not interred here, but removed to family lots near by. The coffins were placed on the ground with expedition and put in proper position. Where the deceased was an adult and known by name, the remains were accorded separate burial, man and wife were placed in the same grave, as were two adults where unknown, but children were placed three together side by side. While the hearses were being emptied the choir sang Psalms 39 and 90 and after the 20 minutes occupied in preparation the Dean entered anew upon the service for the dead, his voice being heard with tolerable distinctness throughout the square. It was an impressive spectacle. There lay, row upon row, 75 coffins - sombre evidence of departed life, and here and there were 28 smaller tokens of frail humanity, in pale blue covering, relieving the monotony of black.
At 4.55 the interment commenced. Mr S Dove, who conducted the whole affair reverently and in order, had on the ground a staff of 20 men. Children's remains were placed underground by hand; the adults were lowered in the usual way by means of ropes. Within 10 minutes, reports the Mercury, the task was finished, and the burial service was continued to completion. Hymn sheets had been distributed, and during the services the choristers sang the hymns 'On the Resurrection Morning', 'Let Saints on Earth in concert Sing' and 'Jesus lives! No longer now'. Wreaths had been placed upon some of the coffins and relatives of the deceased took their last look at that which held what once was dear, fathers dropped earth within the grave, and lived over the past again. It was all ended by 5.15, and the congregation dispersed".