Chapter 9 – John Clark of York, Natal

As has been described earlier, John Clark – elder brother of our ancestor William – was the first of the Clark family to come to Natal. It was John who encouraged William to join him in Natal, and it was John’s son William who sponsored our ancestor William’s emigration from Yorkshire – thereby becoming the instrument whereby the William Clark branch of the family came to Natal at all. It is, therefore, appropriate to include a chapter on John Clark’s branch of the family in this booklet.

Because his family came to Natal as part of the historically well documented Byrne Emigration Scheme, and also because of the records left by his grandson John Frank Clark III of his geneaological research, the history of John’s branch of the family is far better documented than that of William’s family. Other source material on John’s family includes what has been written about his son John “Buffalo” Clark’s reputation as a big game hunter, and also what has been written about some of his progeny who married or came into contact with other families which have been the subject of published works, i.e. the Samuelson, Rattray, and Crookes families.1

John Clark was born in 1808, near Ripon in Yorkshire. He was the first child of Leonard and Sarah Clark.2 In 1833 John married Margaret Cooper, of Thornton Steward, at Kirklington. He was a “wheelwright and carpenter and an eloquent Methodist preacher”.3 John and Margaret lived in the small North Yorkshire country village of Carthorpe from at least 1834. That was the year in which their first child – their son William (nephew of our ancestor of the same name) – was born. The couple had four other children, all of whom were born in Carthorpe: Leonard, born October 30, 1835; Mary, born August 30, 1837; Ann, born 1839; and John junior, born 1840. The family remained in Carthorpe until early 1850, when they left for Natal as settlers under Byrne’s Emigration Scheme of 1848-51.4

The John Clark family left England, from London, on February 16, 1850, on the 538-ton barque “Lady Bruce”. The passage to Port Natal on the Lady Bruce took a “speedy” seventy days, after eventually departing from Portsmouth nine days later. The charge made by Byrne for the passage to Natal, and accommodation, (rations for the voyage were specified) was £10 for each approved settler, who for that sum was entitled to an allotment of twenty acres with the right of choice from at least double that quantity.5 Byrne was a controversial figure at that time, and the lots of agricultural land promised to immigrants under his scheme were hopelessly unsuitable and inadequate for farming purposes. Byrne went bankrupt in 1850, but his achievements in bringing British settlers to Natal undoubtedly redounded to the lasting benefit of the community. It certainly provided the means whereby John Clark and his family – and thereby, indirectly, our own ancestor William – came to settle in Natal.

The Lady Bruce arrived off Port Natal on May 8,1850. In those days the landing was done by small boats, which crossed the Bar to ships lying at anchor off Durban, then returned with the new arrivals. This procedure is described by Joseph Churchill (who arrived in November 1850, i.e. the same year as the John Clark family) as follows:6

Glad to see boat come off to us, as well as the one to the Emily … I took with me my carpet bag and swimming belt, as the bar was said to be dangerous for so large a number (70) going at once. Fortunately we had a smooth and delightful sail not knowing that we were across the bar until we had passed it. A smooth, extensive lake-like bay with several ships at anchor lay before us, on the sandy point of which opposite the Bluff we landed, being myself among the first to step from the plank on to the sandy beach . . . Dark brown coloured men with wagons standing here and there, with teams of oxen heavily yoked, showing us that we were now in South Africa. The Caffirs though nearly in a state of nudity did not surprise us as much I thought it would have done when in England … They were standing and sitting, laughing and talking very loud, full of merriment and perhaps at our expense.

Our baggage being laid upon the beach, the great body of the immigrants gave one of their number power to treat about a wagon, as in that way they could get their things up to D’Urban much cheaper than if each were to bargain for himself. A wagon would be about five shillings or six shillings. Our party, with the clergyman and his lady, rode in a cart drawn by three yoke of oxen. A young Caffir lead the cattle, a Caffir with a bamboo walked alongside to keep them up, while the master, a burly young Englishman, about eighteen, with an ostrich feather in his cap, sat behind, occasionally calling out in Dutch and Zoolu (sic). The first drive gave us some idea of their [the Zulu’s] habits. He did not walk steadily along, as an English carter would have done, but ran after the shallow water of the ebbing tide, throwing his bamboo in the water as if spearing fish, and then coming up and going to the oxen would walk by them for a time until something else caught his fancy when he would be off again.

A ride of a mile and a half along the beach of the bay brought us to D’Urban. Our young carter took us first to McDonald’s Hotel [later, the Royal] but as they had no accommodation for ladies we went to a private boarding house kept by a Mr. and Mrs. Russell. After partaking of tiffin at one o’clock we sallied forth to see what kind of place it was, and … fell in with a builder who had done very well in his line, building and selling cottages. He gave us a good deal of information respecting the colony, especially about the trade with Panda [Mpande, King of the Zulus] and the Dutch Boers … He had a room … which he would let as a store for £2.10/- per month, and a small cottage, two rooms papered inside with a little ground behind, for sale at £130. Town land is very high and house rent in proportion, £2 for a small mud cottage, per month.

At the time that John and his family arrived, Durban had not yet achieved the status of a borough. Brick buildings, were only just beginning to appear: until 1849 there was only one brick house, which was owned by Tom and Harry Milner. Most of the other buildings were of wattle and daub.7

The intention of Byrne’s scheme was to settle immigrants in rural areas, e.g. Richmond and the Byrne valley near Pietermaritzburg. John Clark was entitled to an allocation of eighty acres of land in the Richmond District, but did not claim those rights: eventually, in 1863, he transferred the property to a David Taylor.8 Instead, John settled in Durban, and by 1852 he was established as a carpenter, wheelwright and wagonmaker at premises at “5 Block E Pine Terrace” – now known as Pine Street.9 His brother in law, Thomas Cooper, carried on the business of a joiner, cabinetmaker, and carpenter at the same address. A note found in the Killie Campbell Museum states, that “Mr. John Clark it was who put up the first gallows for the hanging of Jimmy (sic) Squaretoes”.10 The note is obviously not entirely accurate, since Squaretoes was the victim, not the perpetrator, of the murder. However since the hanging of Jemmy Squaretoes’ five murderers was indeed the first in Durban, and the gallows used were therefore the first to be constructed in the town, the note is probably correct in all other respects. A description of the circumstances surrounding the murder, and of the hanging, appears in George Russell’s “A History of Durban”, but no mention is made of the identity of the constructor of the gallows.11 The editions of “The Natal Mercury” which reported the trial and the hanging make no mention of the carpenter’s identity either! In view of the number of Clark offspring, albeit the offspring of his brother William, who subsequently became involved in the legal profession in Durban, the early involvement of a Clark in the administration of justice might perhaps be regarded as something of an omen!

John did not stay in Durban for long. In mid-1854 he moved to York, Natal, and is listed in the Pietermaritzburg County jury lists until 1870 as a farmer and property owner of York.12 Similarly listed are his children John junior (“Buffalo”) and Leonard. John Clark senior farmed initially at Clifton Farm, then at Mount Pleasant, and finally at Carthorpe Farm.13By 1894 John had moved to Pietermaritzburg. He died eighteen months later, on July 21 1896, and lies buried in the churchyard of the Wesleyan Church, York, Natal. John’s obituary includes the following description of him:

His religious character and history were noteworthy – at the age of nineteen he joined the Methodist Church and continued a member of it to the end. He was a local preacher for 65 years, one of the old Yorkshire school – racy, sensible, fervent, and powerful in uncultured simplicity and directness. All through his long career he maintained an unblemished reputation – he was honest, truthful, straightforward in word and deed. He was not a great talker, but there was in him a touch of real and kindly humour. He had a strong reserve of common sense, and was a safe counsellor. As long as he was able he was a diligent and useful worker in the community to which he belonged – it was mainly through his exertions that that the new church was built at York, thirty years ago. He was twice married. His first wife had a fine presence, a powerful intellect, and a generous heart. She pre-deceased him by about twenty years. Both were patterns of hospitality. His second wife, who became his solace in his declining years, survives him. Mr. William Clark of Durban (after whom Clark Road is named) is a younger brother, and also the head of a large family. The eldest son of the deceased is Mr. William Clark of Camp Hill, Sydenham (Natal).14

John’s eldest son, William, apparently remained in Durban when the rest of the family moved to York. He married Sarah Jee of Durban, in October 1859. Four children were born of that marriage. The eldest was Ethel May, who married Millar Rattray, and had two children – Loring and Colin Rattray. The other three children were Iley Alexandra, Emma Claris, and Margaret, all of whom never married. They were described as the “Clark Girls” even in old age: all three died in 1943.15 In 1857 – at the age of twenty three – William started a foundry and wagon building business in Pine Terrace (now Pine Street).16 In 1876 William was still in business as a wagonbuilder in the same premises.17 This business was probably conducted on the site of the present Clark Building, at 317 Pine Street. Moreover, based on the map of Durban in George Russell’s “History of Old Durban”, it seems that these were the same premises which William’s father John had occupied before he left for York. In 1860 William employed Samuel Crookes – founder of the Crookes Bros. Ltd. sugar company – as an apprentice.18

William lived at “Camp Hill”, Sydenham. He is featured in a photo montage which includes the photographs of old colonists who – in 1905 – had lived in Durban for fifty years or more.19 It is said that the name Camp Hill was derived from the fact that the 45th Regiment (Sherwood Foresters) camped on that high ground while building the 45th Cutting.20 However, there is a Yorkshire estate between Kirklington and Carthorpe in Yorkshire which bears the name “Camp Hill”, and it seems conceivable that this was the origin of the name: after all, William’s father John named his farm in the York (Natal) area after his Yorkshire home town of Carthorpe!

William prospered and became a benefactor to the City of Durban, when he set up the trust creating William Clark Gardens, in Sydenham. William’s original home still stands on the William Clark Gardens property. The circumstances surrounding the creation of the trust are described as follows in “To Everything Its Season”:

When old William Clark died in 1918, he bequeathed both the Pine Street and the Camp Hill properties to the Mayor and Councillors of Durban in perpetual trust for the erection of a home for destitute children, as well as for recreation and pleasure grounds. Each year a scholarship for a boy and a girl was also provided for.

After William’s death the following comments appeared in an article in “The Pictorial” of September 6, 1918:

He saw Durban grow from a heap of sandhills, and probably could have told as much of Durban’s history as anyone. He was proud of being one of Durban’s oldest burgesses. For many years he had been an invalid, and lived a quiet, retired life, but always taking a keen interest in the Colonies welfare. To the last his mind was clear and active, and very pleasant times were spent in his company.

John’s second son, Leonard, moved from Durban to York with the rest of the family in 1854. He farmed there initially, and later at Colworth.21He married Sarah Elizabeth Ward in June 1855. In 1868 Leonard was living at Sterk Spruit near New Hanover, and in 1874 he was farming at Groen Kop near York.22 By 1899 Leonard had moved to the Orange Free State, and was living near Witsieshoek. His wife died at New Hanover, in 1902, while living there as an Anglo-Boer War refugee. It is not known how many children Leonard had, but the notice of his death on April 3, 1913 reflects that his living progeny included five daughters, forty grandchildren, and twenty great – grandchildren. At the time of his death, Leonard was living at Besters Vlei, Orange Free State, with one of his daughters, a Mrs. Cronje.

Mary Clark, John’s third child and eldest daughter, married Robert Garbutt, on 5 November 1855, at York.23 By marrying Robert Garbutt, Mary apparently consolidated relationships between the Clark and Garbutt families which went back to Yorkshire days, as Mary’s aunt Ellen – her father John’s sister – had married a William Garbutt in Yorkshire. Robert Garbutt was from Ampleforth, about fifteen miles from the Clark’s home town of Carthorpe.24 He had arrived in Natal on the “Haidee”, in October 1850.25 It is, however, unclear whether Mary and Robert were cousins. They apparently settled in New Hanover, and in 1874 they were reported to be the proprietors of the Sterk Spruit Hotel, near New Hanover.26 They were with John “Buffalo” Clark and his family in 1878 when John’s party were fleeing East Griqualand, at the time of the Griqua rebellion.27 Robert Garbutt died in 1893. In 1913 Mary Garbutt was living in Sydenham, according to the notice of her brother Leonard’s death. The presence of the Garbutt family in Sydenham is commemorated by the fact that Garbutt Road – which forms one boundary of William Clark Gardens – is named after them.28

Anne, John’s second daughter and fourth child, was born in Carthorpe on July 22, 1837. On January 2, 1860 she married Thomas Boddy, at Mount Pleasant, York. Boddy had come to Natal in 1852 on the “Narcissus”. He was also a Yorkshireman, who was born in 1826 in Sinderby – within five miles of Anne’s birthplace of Carthorpe.29 Eleven children were born of the marriage: Sarah Margaret (born October 12,1860), John Thomas (born January 26, 1862), Eleanor (born May 12,1863), William Henry (born September 18, 1864), Frank Harrison (born June 27, 1866), Eva Annie (born November, 1867), Walter Charles (born January 12, 1869), Elizabeth (born September 24, 1872), Mary (born May 8, 1873), Alice Maude (born October 15, 1875) and Aimee Jane (born June 5, 1878). The diary of Mrs. Betsy Gelder, storekeeper of the York store, describes that in 1875 Anne’s brother John “Buffalo” Clark called with a subscription list for Thomas Boddy, to pay his law expenses.30 Boddy had been sued for calling one Louis Demont a thief. Mrs. Gelder refused to contribute, noting that she “declined as Demont would have dropped the suit but Thomas would not”. Anne died at York in November 1899, and Thomas on 17 August 1905.

John’s third son, John II, married Mary Vause Bell (born December 1836), in March 1862. She was also from Yorkshire, having arrived in Natal on the “Cataraqui” in November 1861- thereafter joining her brother in York.31 The couple had ten children:32 William Henry (no issue); Margaret, who married R.C. Samuelson in 1884;33 Elizabeth Ann, who married William F. Raw; Clarice Mary, who married, respectively, J.W. Muir and Jas. A. Miller; twins -John Frank Clark (born October 16, 1896), who married Elizabeth Edith Marwick, and Alice Bertha, who married Thomas Groom; Ethel Vause, who married D.E. Muir; Dashwood Stewart (no issue); Leonard (no issue) ; and Lily, who married Harry Spring. The family lived for a time at Carthorpe House, at Sterk Spruit, near Kloof, Mount Currie.34

John II achieved wide acclaim as a big game hunter, and rejoiced in the nickname “Buffalo John” – or “Dambuza”, in Zulu.35 It is documented that between 1870 and 1873 he went off four times on hunting trips. The following description of “Buffalo” appears in “Long, Long Ago”, by R.C.Samuelson, his son-in-law:

He was a powerfully built man, six feet high. He commenced his career by hunting big game, in Zululand and Swaziland, in the year 1863, and numerous were the lions, elephants, rhinos, Buffaloes, Koodoos (sic), and other game which fell to his unerring rifle fire, he was known as one of the most daring of the hunters of those days. He appeared to be a man without nerves, for he feared nothing, and, as is always the case with brave men, he was a friend of all, having no enemy. The hides, tusks and horns of the animals he shot gave him his start in life, and in 1875 he bought Beeste Kraal farm, in East Griqualand, and removed thither with his family. In 1878 the rebellion of the East Griqualand Griquas took place, in which the natives took part, and very soon the stock and homes of the farmers were looted, and they had to flee, the Clark family to Natal. John Clark, with his family and that of the late Robert Garbutt travelled together in wagons, under wet weather conditions, which added to their troubles. When on the Zuurberg road the natives overtook them and threatened them with death, demanding his famous hunting rifle, to their threats and demands John Clark coolly rejoined, “You take my rifle you take my life,” which cowed the Natives for all knew of his fame; shortly after some of the Griqua leaders, who had friendly dealings with the Clark family, came up and interfered and let the wagon go.

John’s obituary adds further detail concerning this episode, quoting from a press report in the Kokstad Advertiser on the Griqua Rebellion of 1878:

They [the Griquas] stopped all communications by messenger and wire between Kokstad and Umzimkulu, and it was only through the pluck of Walter Stafford, son of Mr. E.P. Stafford, who still resides on the main road above Riet Vlei, that despatches were conveyed from Capt. Blythe, Chief Magistrate, to Mr. Donald Strachan, then magistrate of Umzimkulu District, with the news that he was practically beseiged in Kokstad. Walter, being an active and fearless rider, succeeded in performing a really plucky action, as the rebels had already driven off all of the stock belonging to Messrs. John Clark and Simpson of Beeste Kraal, and looted their dwellings, as well as a wagon load of goods belonging to Mrs. Garbutt. It was only by the firm front shown by our old friend Mr. Clark (or Dambuza) that their families were enabled to escape when surrounded by the Kafirs, while in their wagons on the road to Harding, in Natal, for safety. His fame as a great buffalo hunter being well known, and being armed, they knew he meant business. So threatening were the Kafirs who stopped them that they forced the women and children to to come down from the wagons and stood over them with assegaais, using most threatening language, while some mounted the wagons and took what they chose from them. It was, I say, only Mr. Clark’s attitude which deterred them from proceeding to bloodshed until the Griqua’s came up, through whose influence the wagons were allowed to proceed with their occupants on their journey. One of the daughter’s of the deceased, who was with him during the trying moment above described, states as follows: “Father was armed with his hunting rifle, and, upon the Kafirs essaying to take from him the rifle, he said’you take my rifle, you take my life’, whereupon the Kafirs desisted and did not further attempt to touch him.

R.C. Samuelson has the following to say about Margaret Clark, wife of “Buffalo”, and his mother-in-law:

She started her married life at Carthorpe, York, Natal, by bravely and lovingly nursing up her family, while John Clark was away hunting; her anxieties and strenuous life were such as ladies of those days alone could put up with, for John Clark was, sometimes, away for months, without any news from him, and Mrs. Clark had to carry on by herself. Her love for her children and everybody was boundless; for her children she prayed and slaved till her death. Her nature was angelic; for forty years I knew her, after she had given me the honour of being her son-in-law. She daily had a smile and only once got angered, and that justifiably. Her eyes were an azure blue, and smiled like the azure blue of heaven to which her mind was always directed. She never blamed, but rather excused, and had no enemy. She was a Yorkshire girl and called her children “My Bairns,” reminding me that she was a remote descendant of the Norse Vikings, who left their traces in Yorkshire and elsewhere, for “Bairn” is the word for “Child” in Norwegian.

“Buffalo” John’s son, John Frank Clark, distinguished himself as a Magistrate, serving at Greytown, New Hanover, Kranskop and Hlabisa. He was serving at Hlabisa when the Bambata Rebellion erupted in 1906. His Zulu name was “Umsikilaga” – the peacemaker – and after the murder of the magistrate at Nongoma he was sent there to restore order. John Frank was married to Elizabeth Edith Marwick (born 1868) on January 16, 1894, at Richmond, by Revd. W. Holford. Five children were born of the marriage: Erema Margaret (born October 26, 1984, died August 9,1986); Sylvia Bell (born July 20,1896, died April 5,1994) , who married Humphrey Battcock at Durban on March 28, 1921 – the parents of Hilary Battcock; John Heriot Earl (born February 27, 1898), who married Ella Mai Wilson in the United States of America, and became curator of the New York Art Gallery; Rosabelle Blythe (born May 18, 1901), who, on her way to marry an American doctor was torpedoed off Cape Hattaras and survived eleven days in an open lifeboat in mountainous seas – the engagemant was broken off, and after five years she returned to Natal and made a home for her mother in Pietermaritzburg, where she died in 1958; and Clarice Mary Bonnabelle (born October 13, 1905), who married Bunny Catterall, an attorney in Durban. John Frank Clark became the unofficial chronicler of the John Clark branch of the family. In additional to genealogical research, he corresponded with Clark relatives in England and the United States. His papers are a veritable goldmine of facts concerning the family history. It is due to his efforts, and later those of his grandson Hilary Battcock, that we know what we do about the Clark’s Yorkshire roots.

Margaret and John Clark of Carthorpe Farm, York, Natal
Margaret and John Clark of Carthorpe Farm, York, Natal
William and Sarah Clark
William and Sarah Clark
John "Buffalo" Clark of York; Natal (Son of John Clark, Snr.)
John “Buffalo” Clark of York; Natal (Son of John Clark, Snr.)

1 Samuelson, Long, Long Ago: Gillian Rattray, Hocking, Renishaw: The Story of Crookes Brothers.
2 Spencer, British Settlers in Natal: A Biographical Register, Vol. 4, at 110 (University of Natal Press- 1987)
3 Hattersley, The British Settlement Of Natal at 163 (Cambridge University Press - 1950)
4 Dr. John Clark, Natal Settler-Agent: The Career of John Moreland, Agent for the Byrne ImmigrationScheme of 1849-51, at 233 (A.A. Balkema/Cape Town/1972)
5 Hattersley, supra, at 107.
6 Daphne Child, A Merchant Family in Early Natal:Diaries and Letters of Joseph and Marianne Churchil at 5 (A.A.Balkema, Cape Town -- 1979)
7 Brookes and Webb, A History Of Natal, at 67 (University of Natal Press - 1965)
8 Spencer, supra.
9 Spencer gives the address of his premises as "5 Block E Pine Terrace". The General Plan of Durban which is reprinted in George Russell's A History of Old Durbanopposite page 63, shows 5 Block E as being in what is now known as Pine Street.
10 Note entitled "William Clark Snr. ". This document was apparently among papers left with the museum by Bobbin Eales, grand-daughter of George Clark (See Chapter 3). A similar statement is attributed to Ann Wade (nee Clark) in `Early Romance and Adventure - Old Colonist's 80th Birthday', in the Natal Mercury of May 28, 1932.
11 George Russell, A History of Old Durban, at 173-177 (T. W, Griggs & Co. (Pty) Ltd. - 1971) (New Edition: originally printed by P. Davis & Sons, 1899)
12 Spencer, supra.
13 Spencer, supra.
14 Obituary (handwritten) found among the papers of John Frank Clark III.
15 1 am indebted to Beryl Cook, a descendant of Samuel Crookes, for referring me to Gillian Rattray's book about MalaMala Game Reserve, entitled "To Everything Its Season" which includes a chapter on the Rattray family - and their Clark ancestors.
16 To Everything Its Season supra, at 160.
17 Spencer, supra.
18 Robert F. Osborn, Valiant Harvest: The Founding Of The South African Sugar Industry, at page 319 (1964), Renishaw: The Story of the Crookes Brothers, at pp. 50 - 51 and 58 - 59.
19 There seem to be a number of these photo montages in existence. The author knows of copies in the Local History Museum and the main bar of The Durban Club. William Clark is number F9. He also appears in another photo montage hanging in the Durban Club entitled "Group of Natal's Pioneers up to 1850", as number 80.
20 To Everything Its Season, supra, at 160. This book includes a number of photographs of the William Clark family at Camp Hill.
21 Newspaper obituary included among JF.Clark's papers. (Identity of newspaper not apparent).
22 Spencer, supra.
23 Spencer, supra.
24 Hattersley, supra, at 163.
25 Hattersley, supra, at 163; John Clark, supra, at 261.
26 R. C. Samuelson, Long, Long Ago: caption to photographs between pages 80 and 81 (Knox Printing-1929)
27 Samuelson, supra, Preface.
28 John McIntyre, Origin of Durban Street Names, at page 56. Interestingly, McIntyre claims that Robert Garbutt was also a passenger with the John Clark family on the Lady Bruce. However, the passenger list published in Natal Settler Agent makes no reference to any Garbutts on board. However, it reflects a Robert Garbutt as a passenger on the Haidee - as does Hattersley. McIntyre's sources are sometimes questionable, however - see Chapter 2.
29 Spencer, supra, Vol. 2, at page 119.
30 Id.
31 Spencer, supra, Vol. 2, at page 62. However, Samuelson, Preface, asserts that "Mrs. John Clark came out from Yorkshire, England, in 1850. "
32 Most of this information appears in a handwritten, and incomplete, family tree which was among John Frank Clark's papers in the possession of Clarice Catterrall. The writing is possibly that of Hilary Battcock. In addition, Clarice provided additional information after she reviewed an earlier draft of this chapter.