Alfred Francis Dawson and Alfred Dawson Francis

One of the minor mysteries of Natal history in the 1850s has been the identity of a mysterious Alfred Francis Dawson, who is described in Shelagh O’Byrne Spencer’s British Settlers In Natal:

Wine merchant. Dawson and his wife Octavia (?c. 1832-24 May 1852, Durban) emigrated to Natal on the Dreadnought. There are many unanswered questions about this family. To begin with, it is uncertain as to what their surname was — Dawson or Francis. In the burial register of St Paul’s there is an entry for their son Frederick, dated Mar 1850. The child was buried under the name Dawson, but an asterisk has been put next to the surname and the annotation ‘Francis not Dawson’ has been added, and signed by Revd W.H.C. Lloyd. The other entries in the St Paul’s registers (Apr 1851, Jan 1852 and May 1852) all give the surname Francis. Despite this, Dawson went by the name Dawson in Durban society. The only inkling of anything different comes in a letter from Thomas Roberts, J.C. Byrne’s confidential clerk, to the Government in Nov 1850, in which he refers to ‘Mr Dawson alias Francis’ (Spencer 1989:93 ff).

When I read this a few years ago, I wondered if it was the same person who had married Agnes Green in Australia. It now seems probable that it is, and we can construct an outline of the life of Alfred John Francis, alias Alfred Dawson Francis, alias Alfred Francis Dawson.

Alfred John Francis was born in or near Liverpool, Lancashire, England, about 1820, and his father was John Francis. In 1842 he married Christiana Fox Dean, and their first son, Dean Francis, was born in 1843. Another son, whos name may have been Alfred, was born about 1844, but this is uncertain. A third son, Frederick Thomas Francis, was born in 1846, again, in or near Liverpool. Then in 1847 Christiana Fox Francis died.

Two years later, in about July 1849, Alfred John Francis remarried, to Octavia Cecilia Waring, also in Liverpool, and the following month they seem to have boarded the Dreadnought, sailing from London for Durban. The Dreadnought was an emigrant ship, carrying Byrne settlers to Natal, but Alfred and Octavia Francis travelled cabin class, which means that they must have paid for their passage, and not been part of the Byrne settlers party. They also travelled under the name of Mr & Mrs Dawson, and on arrival in Natal were known by the name Dawson, though, as Shelagh Spencer notes, some knew their real name.

The children do not appear to have travelled with them, and Shelagh Spencer notes that two Masters Francis arrived on the Hannah from  Cape Town in February 1850. These could have been Dean Francis, then aged 7, and Frederick Thomas, then aged about 4.  The third child may have been the mysterious Alfred, who would then have been aged about 6. The question arises, then, why these children did not travel with their father and stepmother, and where they stayed in the mean time. Who looked after three children under 10 on the voyage? Did they stay in Liverpool and leave later? Did they travel to Cape Town and stay there for a while? If so, with whom? Were Alfred and his new young bride wanting to enjoy a honeymoon voyage without the kids? The youngest child, Frederick Thomas, died in May 1850. Octavia then gave birth to Fairfax George Francis in December 1850, but he died just over a year later.

Dawson/Francis was cited in a divorce case by John Ross Melcolm Watson, who said his wife had committed adultery with Alfred Dawson of Pinetown. The Watsons had arrived in Durban on the Hannah, the ship that has brought the Francis children. According to Shelagh Spencer, Alfred Dawson/Francis had several other extramarital affairs, and may have left some illegitimate children when he left Natal. Mrs Watson, however, was more than a match for him. After Alfred Dawson/Francis had left Natal J.R.M. Watson went into business with my great great grandfather Richard Vause at Tugela Drift, which they named Colenso after the Bishop of Natal. The Watsons later moved to Ladysmith, and Mrs Watson also had an affair with Isaiah Solomon before eloping with Herbert Stanbridge from Ladysmith in April 1860, accompanied by her daughter Theresa who eloped with Frederick William Beningfield.

Octavia Francis was very ill in April 1852, and had no sooner recovered than she was drowned in a boating accident in Durban Bay on 24 May 1852. Spencer notes

Dawson was still in Natal early in July 1852. There is no sign of his departure from the Colony unless he was the Mrs Francis who with two children left in Aug 1852. They sailed for Algoa Bay in the steamer Sir Robert Peel.

Alfred John Francis then went to Australia, and on 9 January 1858 he was married to Margaret Agnes Anne Wilson, a widow, according to the rites of the Episcopalian Church, at Gundary in the district of Broulee, New South Wales. He is described as a farmer, and one of the witnesses to the marriage was his eldest son from his first marriage, Dean Francis, who would then have been about 14. Alfred is recorded in the marriage register as Alfred John Dawson Francis.

He was later a miner and storekeeper, and went insolvent in 1860. Four children were born to the marriage, though there is some doubt about the last, Louisa Francis, as she was born after her father’s death, and possibly conceived in his absence.

Alfred John Dawson Francis left his wife in the Bodalla district (on the south coast of New South Wales) and went to Sydney where he lived for four months before committing suicide by taking cyanide on 8 March 1864. He is buried in the Camperdown Cemetery, New South Wales.

One of their sons, Arthur Walpole Francis, went to Johannesburg, and after the First World War farmed at Mariental in what is now Namibia. Their descendants went to East Africa, Germany, South Africa and Canada, and possibly several other parts of the world as well.

Their daughter Edith married William Throsby Bridges, a soldier, who founded the Duntroon Military College near Canberra in the Australian Capital Territory (and where his mother-in-law had been a teacher many years before). Their descendants live in Australia, South Africa and the UK.

Louisa, the youngest, whose parentage is in some doubt, has descendants in Australia, among them Bob Cowley, who has done much research on the Australian side of the family history, and to whom I am indebted for much of the information in this and other posts on this family.

Here is a summary of the information we have on the family:

Family Group Report
For: Alfred John Dawson Francis  (ID=  945)                      
Date Prepared: 11 Nov 2011 

NAME: FRANCIS, Alfred John Dawson, Born ??? 1820? in Liverpool,  
  England, Died 5 Mar 1864 in Sydney, NSW at age 44; FATHER:  
  FRANCIS, John; He married Christiana Dean and had three  
  children in Liverpool. She died and then he married Octavia  
  Waring, and almost immediately sailed for Durban on the  
  Dreadnought, with the children following later in the Hannah.  
  In 1852 he went to New South Wales, where he married Agnes  
  Wilson (born Green). 

MARRIED 9 Jan 1858 in Gundary, NSW, to GREEN, Margaret Agnes Ann,
  Born 8 Dec 1835 in Nova Scotia, Died 26 Dec 1902 in  
  Marrickville, NSW, AUS at age 67; FATHER: GREEN, William John  
  (Goodall), Born 28 Aug 1790, Died 9 Apr 1866 at age 75;  
  MOTHER: GRAY, Margaret, Born 18 May 1795, Died 11 May 1844? at 
  age 48; Witness: Dean Francis. He was a widower, she a widow,  
  both of Bodalla.; Came to Cape Colony at age of 11 with father 
  and brothers. Married William Wilson while still young and  
  emigrated to Australia. 

MARRIED 31 Jul 1849 in Liverpool, LAN, ENG, to WARING, Octavia  
  Cecilia, Born ??? 1832, Died 24 May 1852 in Durban, Natal at  
  age 20 

MARRIED 14 Jul 1842 in W. Derby, LAN, ENG, to DEAN, Christiana  
  Fox, Died Nov 1847 in W. Derby, LAN, ENG 

CHILDREN:
 1. M  FRANCIS, Dean, born ??? 1843, died ???; Married 24 Jan  
       1865 to BOOT, Eliza Angelina Hopkinson 
 2. M  FRANCIS, Alfred, born ??? 1844, died ??? 
 3. M  FRANCIS, Frederick Thomas, born May 1846 in W. Derby, LAN,
       ENG, died Mar 1850 in Durban, Natal 
 4. M  FRANCIS, Fairfax George, born Dec 1850 in Durban, Natal,  
       died Jan 1852 in Durban, Natal 
 5. F  FRANCIS, Ada Anne Angeline Fairfax, born 10 Mar 1859 in  
       Bodalla, NSW, AUS, died 9 Nov 1938 in Ashfield, NSW, AUS; 
       Married 1 Aug 1894 to WHITE, William 
 6. M  FRANCIS, Arthur Walpole, born 7 Jan 1861 in Moruya, NSW,  
       died 8 May 1921 in Mariental Dist. SWA; Married 2 Nov  
       1887 to DONOVAN, Ida Miranda Willoughby; 3 children 
 7. F  FRANCIS, Edith Lilian, born 20 Aug 1862 in Yarragee, NSW, 
       died 13 Oct 1926 in Melbourne, Vic. Aust.; Married 10 Oct 
       1885 to BRIDGES, William Throsby; 7 children 
 8. F  FRANCIS, Louisa, born 3 Nov 1864 in Queanbeyan, NSW, died 
       18 Mar 1943 in Tenterfield, NSW; Married 24 Dec 1883 to  
       COWLEY, Percy; 10 children

Some mysteries still remain:

1. Why they travelled to Durban under the name Dawson.
2. Why the children travelled separately
3. Who looked after the children (all under 10) on the voyage to Durban.

So research continues…

__________
Bibliography

Spencer, Shelagh O’Byrne. 1989. British settlers in Natal, 1824-1857: a biographical register. Vol 5. Pietermaritzburg: University of Natal Press.

Park, Vause and Drake families of Hull and Bath

One of the long-standing mysteries of our family history is how my great great grandfather Richard Vause, who lived in Hull, met his bride Matilda Park, who was born in Belfast and lived in Bath. He was living in Hull in the 1851 census, and at the beginning of 1852 they were married in Bath and very soon sailed to Natal.

Now we’ve found a couple of census records that could explain how they met.

Matilda Park was the daughter of William Park (of Belfast, Bath and Quebec) and Mary Martin (daughter of John Martin of Belfast). There is more information about the family here and here.

One of Matilda Park’s sisters was Margaret Martin Park, who married James Drake, a surgeon dentist, at St Saviour’s Church, Bath, on 8 June 1848, and the 1851 census shows them in Hull, as visitors in the home of Simeon Mosely, also a surgeon dentist, at 15 Whitefriars Gate, Holy Trinity, Hull.  Their daughter Mary Edith Drake was born in Hull in about December 1850.

Perhaps James Drake and Simeon Mosely were partners in a dental practice, and perhaps Richard Vause was one of their patients, and maybe Matilda Park went to Hull to visit her sister. A lot of maybes, perhaps, or perhapses, maybe. But the fact that members of the Park family were living in Hull in 1850 could explain how Richard Vause met them.

In the 1861 census the Drake family were living at Castle Church, Staffordshire, and in 1871 in Warwickshire, where Margaret Drake appears to have died in 1878.

Mary Edith Drake was later known as Edith, and was single, living on her own means in Penge, London, in the 1891 census. She appears to have been the only child, and does not seem to have married, so there’s no point in looking for present-day relatives from that branch of the family.

Perhaps one thing that could be added is that last week I was contacted by Peter Henderson, who is researching a William Park/Mary Martin family for a friend. That family is in Scotland, and it is not the same family as the one I have been describing here. Peter said a Catherine Raw had a family tree that has conflated the two families. Richard and Matilda Vause’s eldest daughter Polly did marry a John James Raw, so there is a link between the Vause and Raw families, though I’m not sure where Catherine fits in. But the Park/Martin family of Scotland appears to be entirely separate, with no link to ours.

Tombstone Tuesday: Adelaide & J.B. Cottam

West Street Cemetery, Durban, KZN, South Africa

John Bagot Cottam was born in Salford in 1836, the son of Richard Cottam and Margaret Bagot. He grew up in Manchester, where he was a warehouseman. Her married Adelaide Herbert, daughter of Reuben and Ellen Herbert, in 1858, and their first three children, Margaret, Ada and Jessie were born in Manchester.

Adelaide Cottam, born Herbert

He came to Natal in 1863 as accountant to the Natal Cotton Plantation Company. The American Civil War had disrupted the supply of cotton to the Manchester cotton mills, and it was thought that Natal might be an alternative source of supply. That soon fell through, however, and in 1867 J.B. Cottam set up business on his own account as a wool presser and fresh produce dealer. When the Durban fresh produce market was opened in 1876, he became the first market master. In 1891 he became a city councillor. For two terms he served as a town councillor of Durban until he retired in 1894. He then started his own business as accountant and auditor at 61 Esplanade Buildings.

Like many people of his time, he was a member of the Freemasons and other social and charitable organisations. He was district Grand Warden EC since 1887. He was district grand secretary for 12 years and held other offices in the Craft as well as being a prominent member of the Durban Town Guard formed during the Zulu War. He was also treasurer of the Durban
Benevolent Society for several years and occupied the position of secretary to the Seamens Institute.

He took an active interest in church affairs, and was one of those who supported the Colenso schism from the Anglican Church in Natal, and was at one time publicly rebuked to be Bishop of Natal for preaching without a licence from the bishop.

John Bagot Cottam (1836-1911)

They had five more children in Natal: Richard Herbert, Lucy, Bessie, Lily and Kate.

John Bagot Cottam’s younger brother, William Henry Cottam, also came to Natal, and farmed near Verulam.

Childhood memories: Ingogo 1948

Randy Seaver challenges people to post their most vivid childhood memories Genea-Musings: Saturday Night Genealogy Fun – A Childhood Memory.

INGOGO – APRIL-MAY 1948

I lived in Westville, near Durban, until I was nearly 7. Then my father got a new job in Germiston, and the house in Westville was sold. My father went to Johannesburg to find a place to live, while my mother and I stayed at a hotel at Ingogo for a couple of months in April and May 1948. Ingogo was a small village in northern Natal, about halfway between Durban and Johannesburg.

The hotel, Valley Inn, was a mile from the main road between Newcastle and Volksrust. and was owned by my father’s cousins, Win and Sheila Bradbury, though my parents had not known that when they first arranged for our stay there. The Bradburys had two children, Michael, who was 12, and Gillian, who was about my age (there was a third child,  Winona, the eldest, but I have no recollection of her at all).

The hotel itself was built of stone, and had only four guest rooms. My mother and I stayed in the biggest one, on the corner of the veranda. It had an old-fashioned washstand, with a stone top, and a large enamel jug and basin; there was no running water in the bedrooms.
There was a hill behind the hotel, up which wound a deep rutted track which had been the main road from Newcastle to the north. There was a wood and iron general store over the road where this track joined the road from the station. The road from the station turned to the left at the store, and passed in front of the hotel, and after passing through some wattle trees crossed the Hart and Ingogo rivers, which joined quite close to the hotel. There were lots of doves around, and every day the place was filled with the sound of their cooing. Since then, whenever I hear doves cooing, I am reminded of that autumn in Ingogo. Ingogo was overlooked by three hills, Majuba, Inkwelo and Mount Prospect, and amajuba means doves in Zulu, an appropriate name.

I used to play with Gillian a lot while we stayed there. We would sometimes walk to the railway station, a mile down the road, and look at the signal cabin, with its big red levers. Or we would walk the other way, down to the river, and play there. We once found an old corrugated iron canoe, which didn’t float, however. We salvaged it from the bottom of the river with a great effort, but it was quite useless. We swam in the river, and went for rides on ox wagons that came past laden with fire wood. We went riding on donkeys a couple of times, but not very far. They were stubborn beasts, and had to be led and chased.

Gillian Bradbury & Stephen Hayes, Ingogo, 1948

Gillian Bradbury & Stephen Hayes, Ingogo, 1948

Once we went into Michael’s room, and found a bottle of Vaseline hair oil which he used, and Gillian and I used about half of it in experiments. The hair oil was lovely and greasy, but Michael wasn’t pleased when he found out that it was gone. The wrath of big brother was to be feared, but Michael was also admired for his knowledge and worldly wisdom and experience. He added several swear words to my vocabulary, whose meanings I only discovered later.
Michael also taught me to play marbles, though I was never very good at it. We dug a hole in the ground, and had to shoot each other’s marbles out of it.
One day Michael trapped and killed a dove and Gillian and I watched fascinated while he took its guts out — looking like red and blue spaghetti, and then cooked it. We tasted that, but there was not much meat on a dove. He caught doves by setting a trap, using an old builders sieve which he propped up on a stick with a piece of string attached to it. He would sprinkle seeds on the ground under the sieve, and then hide away, and when doves came to eat the seeds he pulled the string, and the sieve fell, trapping one or more of the doves underneath it.

Gillian Bradbury, Stephen Hayes and Michael Bradbury. Ingogo 1948

Gillian Bradbury, Stephen Hayes and Michael Bradbury. Ingogo 1948

Most of the business of the hotel came from neighbouring farmers who dropped in for evening drinks. It was the social centre of the neighbourhood and they would sit in the bar, or on the verandah, talking about their farms, politics, the weather — anything. We children weren’t allowed in the bar, or at least not when it was open to the public, but we went into it when it was empty and saw the high wooden stools and the counter that was as high as we were.

One of the farmers who came from far away said he had crossed baboons with dogs. One day we went to his farm to have a look at these creatures. He had an old coupe, and we went for miles and miles along the gravel road. Eventually we left the road altogether and drove across the veld, very close to the Free State border. There was a quarry next to his ramshackle old farmhouse, where these strange savage dogs were living. They had hump backs and deep chests, and did look a little bit like baboons.

We also went to see another farm, and had to cross a drift (ford) to get there. It was a weekend when my father had come down from Johannesburg to see us, and we went in our new Wolseley 8. The had a milk separator which rang a bell every time you turned the handle. It was the first time I had seen a milk separator, and it fascinated me. My father said that on his journey down the Wolseley had gone at 50 miles an hour for the first time. In those days new cars had to be run in for a long time, and for the first thousand miles one was not supposed to drive them at more than 30 miles an hour.

One day everyone went to the station to vote. It was the 1948 general election, when the Nats got in. The grown-ups said that one  good thing about the election was that we would be able to get white bread again. We couldn’t get white bread during the war, and the Nats had promised that they would bring back white bread if they were elected. During the war my mother used to buy brown flour and sifted it to make white bread.

There was a school for black children a little way beyond rivers, and Gillian and I went there a few times and sat in the lessons. The school was in a corrugated iron church building and the children played netball outside in the breaks. The teacher was very nice; she was the nicest teacher I knew. She treated us like people and not like children who must be seen and not heard. Perhaps that was because she was black and we were white, and maybe she didn’t treat her regular pupils like that; but whatever the reason, we enjoyed going to the school. Thirty years later, when we lived in Utrecht, I was called upon to be manager of several farm schools like that one.

My paternal grandfather, Percy Hayes, died while we were there, and we drove to Paulpietersburg for his funeral. We drove through Utrecht and Vryheid, and the journey was hot and dusty. We stopped at Vryheid for tea or lunch at a hotel. I was not allowed to go to the funeral, but had to sit in the car. We collected some things from my grandfather’s cottage, including a sailor hat that my father had worn when he was young. We drove back late in the afternoon, westwards into the setting sun over bumpy and dusty roads, and reached Ingogo after it had got dark. I had never seen my grandfather, Percy Wynn Hayes. He was manager of the Dumbe coal mine in Paulpietersburg, and before that he was a stockbroker in Johannesburg. When he died his Afrikaans friends all dug his grave because they liked him. My mother told me that my father didn’t want to see him because he was afraid that he would cadge money off him. My father and his younger sister Doreen wanted nothing to do with him while he was alive, but the older sister Vera cared for him.

Once we had discovered that we were cousins, Gillian Bradbury and I tried to work out what our relationship was, but it never became clear to me until after i had grown up and brgan researching the family history. I had assumed that we were related on the Hayes side because Gillians father was Win Bradbury, and my father’s middle name was Wynn, and so was mine. It tuned out, however, that her father’s full name was Harry Winston Churchill Bradbury, and he was born in Ladysmith during the Anglo-Boer War, around the time of the siege. Winston Churchill was captured by the Boer forces nearby, and perhaps his name recalls that event.

BradShe1It was actually through Gillian’s mother that we were related. Sheila Bradbury was born Sheila Bagot Cottam, and though she was only a few months older than my father, they were actually a generation apart, as her father, Richard Herbart Cottam (who had died only a few months before we stayed there) was actually my father’s great uncle.

After we had lived in the Transvaal for a couple of years my mother and I went to Durban on holiday, and spent a night at the Valley Inn on the way, and we once again saw the Bradburys.

Gillian Bradbury, 1984

Gillian Tiquin, born Bradbury, 1984

On a later journey, however, we found they had moved away and we lost touch with them. It was many years before I saw them again, though I did write to Sheila Bradbury a few times about the family history. When I did finally meet Sheila and Gillian again, when they were living in Oribi, Pietermaritzburg, after nearly 35 years, Gillian did not remember me at all, though Sheila did, and said that I was the only one from the Cottam side of the family who had kept in touch. She died a couple of years later.

We were at Ingogo for less than two months, but I remember more about that time than I remember of most of the time before I was twelve years old, probably because I liked it and was happy there. I suppose that for Gillian we were just two of many visitors to the hotel who came and went over the years, whereas for me it was new and different, and so my memories are much more vivid.

Beningfield family

A Beningfield family group has recently been started on Facebook.

This is interesting to us because many of the South African Beningfields are related to us (though we are not descended from Beningfields) through Louisa Flamme, who married Samuel Beningfield in Cape Town in 1833.

In the early 1840s the family moved to Durban, and Samuel Beningfield became a well-known auctioneer, and some of his sons followed him in that occupation, and their descendants are cousins in varying degrees.

Some are more closely related than others, because Samuel and Louisa Beningfield’s son Reuben Widdows Beningfield married his first cousin Martha Crighton, whose mother, Petronella Francina Dorothea Flamme, was Louisa Beningfield’s sister.

Though you will not find any descendants of the Flamme family with the Flamme surname, we have managed to record 1683 descendants of Johan Friedrich Wilhelm Flamme (1780-1831) and Johanna Sophia Breedschoe (or Breitschuh) (1782-1836). Those on our side of the family are Crightons, but there are many descendants with other surnames as well, some of the most common (apart from Crighton and Beningfield) being Mechau/Michau, Haupt, Enslin, and von Backstrom.

Johan Friedrich Wilhelm Flamme came from Twiste in Hesse-Nassau, Germany. Johanna Sophia Breetschoe was the daughter of Johan Christoph Franciscus Breidschuh, a German, and Francina van de Kaap, a slave owned by Peter Hacker. Johanna Sophia Breedschoe and her sister were born in slavery, and were manumitted by their father. And they are the ancestors we have in common with the Beningfields.

Among the descendants of the Natal Beningfields are the Hickman, Grice and O’Flaherty families.

The 1683 Flamme descendants (565 of whom are Beningfield descendants) are only the ones we know about. We haven’t been able to trace the others yet. But we hope that some of them will be interested enough to help us add to the family history.

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