Born Basford, Nottinghamshire, England. Died 1864, Lower Illovo River, Natal.
Framework knitter, soldier, arrowroot grower, cane farmer, accommodation house keeper.
1841.02.00 Enlisted in the 45th Regiment, born Basford, Notts., framework knitter, enlistment no. 1992. (WO 12/5771. Pay list Oct. – Dec. 1857)
1851.07.07 The Jane Morice arrived at Port Natal from Liverpool. On board was Betsy Turner*, a servant. (NW 11.07.51)
1854.06.01 John Pearce, Pte 45th Regt m. Elizabeth Turner. Witnesses: Thomas Dolphin* and Maria Tedder. (R.St P., Pmb)
1855.07.00 William Pearse [sic] b. (R. St P., Dbn)
1855.07.16 Son William Pearce born at the Old Fort, Durban. (WP)
1857 Dau. Ellen b., Dbn. (CSO 2287)
1857 late John Pearce is included in the army pay list that shows the men who were discharged in Natal in Oct. and Nov. 1857. (WO 12/5771. Pay list Oct. – Dec. 1857)
1857.11.09 Date of discharge given by Pearce when he wrote asking for a land grant. (CSO 2250 no E463)
1857.12.13 Ellen, dau. of John and Elizabeth Pearce bap. Father a tailor. (R. St A., Pmb.).
1858 The Pearces went to Pmb. in1858 [sic] and then to Richmond. From Richmond they went to Umzinto where they carried on a hotel and cane planting for a mill managed by Mr McLean [Maclean, Alexander born c. 1828*]. The hotel, wattle- and-daub under thatch, burnt down. It was rebuilt and later both hotel and canefields were burnt. They then decided to go to Illovo. Here Pearce took over the hotel on the South bank – this was about 1862 or 1863. (WP)
1859.00.31** Writing from Umzinto asking for a land grant he stated – Late Pte in 45th Regt. Discharged on 9 Nov. 1857, having served 16 years 330 days, 14 years of which were in Natal – bore two good conduct stripes and received a medal for services in the Kaffir War***. With wife and four children occupies a piece of land by lease and has no land of his own. On receiving his discharge was told by Col. Cooper that in accordance with the 4th paragraph in the soldiers’ ‘small book’**** he would be entitled to a land grant. He neglected applying then having prospects of a profitable livelihood in which he has not succeeded. (CSO 2250 no E463)
1859.08.23 Dinner given Capt. Arbuthnot [Arbuthnot, James*] by the Umzinto Troop of the Natal Carbineers held at Pearce’s hotel, Umzinto. (BDE v.2, p. 24)
1859.11.07 Answer to request for land grant – the subject of land grants for soldiers is at present under consideration by the Secretary of State. (CSO 2250 no E463)
1860.03.24 Signed petition of Lower Umkomaas Division inhabitants complaining about the state of the road. (Ibid. no E584)
1860.04.00 A constable in Lower Umkomanzi Division at Myangwini [unverified]. (AGO Deposition. 1/4/5 p. 344)
1860.05.00 Has an accommodation house at Umzinto. (Ibid. p. 384)
1860.06.09 Appointed Poundmaster at Public Pound established on Lot 17, Lower Umkomanzi Div. ***** (NGG 50/1860 of 9 June)
1861.01.06 Elizabeth, dau. of John and Elizabeth Pearce b. (R. St P., Umz.)
1861.03.24 Dau. Elizabeth bap., father a hotel keeper. (R. St P., Umz.)
1861.03.27 House burnt down on this date as stated by Pearce when repeating his request for a land grant. (NPP 549 no 28/1862)
1861.05.02 Was running a roadside inn at Umzinto, formerly kept by Higham [Higham, John Henry*]. (NM 16.05.1861)
1862 He established a wattle-and-daub inn on the south bank of the Illovo River. (MC). As long ago as 1862 a Mr Pearce had established a tiny wattle-and-daub inn on the south bank of the Illovo River. (PI p.13)
1862.07.07 Wrote from Umzinto inquiring about the land grant he had requested ‘about two years ago’ and repeating what was in his application of that time and saying that in reply he had been told grants were under consideration. This reply was burnt when his house was destroyed by fire on 27 March 1861. Has heard no more about his application and asks for intervention of Legislative Council. (NPP 549 no 28/1862)
1862.07.16 Above petition presented to Legislative Council. (Ibid.)
1862.11.00 Son John b., parents of Lower Illovo River. (R. Wes., Dbn)
1863 c. In his lampooning of the colonial scene John Baseley* refers to John Pearce as ‘An old 45th Rigment [sic.] kicked out, planter and grog seller’. (JB no17)
1863.04.30 By this date William Palmer was trustee of the estate of John Pearse [sic], a creditor in A. Burman’s estate. (MSC Insolvent Estates 1/32 no 4)
1864 c. ‘We descended after a while, and reached the banks of the Illovo by moonlight. On the opposite side an Englishman and his wife, with six little girls [sic], resided. They hallooed us from the other side. The woman canoed herself across to ask whether we required any accommodation, or washing done, which we did, and took up our quarters with her during our stay, when she narrated all the movements of the white men of that neighbourhood. Oral information stands, in the wilds of Natal, in the stead of newspapers’. (CH pp129-130)
1864 John Pearce d. leaving a widow and six children. His widow carried on with the roadside establishment. (WP)
1865 Widow m. [Edward] Poss. (PP)
1865.11.00 The banns of the marriage between Elizabeth, widow of John Pearce, and Edward Poss were read in Nov. and Dec. (R. Isip.)
1865.12.27 Married by the Revd A. Tonnesen, at the bride’s residence, Mr Edward Wood Poss to Elizabeth Peirce [sic.], widow of the late Mr Peirce [sic.], Illovo. (NM 00.11.65)
1872 Elizabeth Poss d. [sic]. (PP)(WP)
1872.04.18 Mrs Pierce [sic], now Mrs Poss, has resigned her post as Ferryman, Lower Illovo, and Mr Price is her replacement. (GN 95/1872)
1876.08.20 Elizabeth Poss d. aged 46. (NW 29.08.76)
1919.09.00 Could ex-widow Elizabeth’s 2nd husband be the Edward Poss who d. aged 79? (Tomb WSC)
William (16 July 1855, Old Fort, Dbn – 1 Oct. 1939, Eden, Illovo)
1855.07.00 William Pearse [sic] b. (R. St P., Dbn)
1855.07.16 William b. at the Old Fort, Dbn. (WP). b. (Tomb Stella.)
1855.08.00 William Pearse [sic] bap., son of John and Elizabeth, father a Corporal in the 45th Regt. (R. St P., Dbn)
1861.04.09 Wife Lily Elizabeth Leybourne b. (Tomb Stella.). William’s wife Elizabeth L.A. Langton b. in Durham. (KP)
1866 c. After his mother’s second m. William was sent to the Pennington’s [Pennington, Richard*] at Umzinto and remained there until he was fourteen. (WP)
1869 c. Returned to his mother’s home where he remained for eighteen months. He was going to be sent to his grandfather in England, but the passage money couldn’t be found. (Ibid.)
1871.07.00 Apprenticed to a wagon maker and blacksmith. (Ibid.)
1878 end With Tom Dennell and W.Langton went to the Pilgrims Rest goldfields. (Ibid.)
1879 During the Zulu War worked as a wagon maker and blacksmith with Mr G. Langton. Then took over the coffee plantation leased to a Mr Clothier at Umgababa, then went transport riding. While transport riding went in for arrowroot farming on the Illovo Flats, lost heavily and sold the plantation. (Ibid.)
1883.08.10 Aged 28, b. Dbn took out licence to m. Elizabeth Leybourne Askey Langton, b. Durham, England, aged 22. (CS0 2287). William Pearce, farmer and Elizabeth Leybourne Askey Langton, both of Lower Umkomaas, made ANC. (RSC IV/13/25 no 354a). They were m. at Umkomaas, no date given. (KP)
1885.07.07 Of Lower Illovo, Co Dbn, admitted debt to Harry Chambers, engineer, Dbn, of £165 for purchase of a piece of machinery. The machinery pledged as security. Loan to be paid off in two instalments, first due on 24.10.1885, second due on 24.02.1886. Chambers ceded the bond to John Macfarlane Wilson, storekeeper, Dbn on 05.03.1886. (RSC IV/18/17 no 247a)
1889 Gave up transport riding and planted about 80 to 95 acres of cane on flat land at Illovo. (WP)
1889.12.19 Leased Rem. of Lot 22 between the Rivers Umkomanzi and Umlazi from the Council of Education of Natal. (RSC IV/18/18 no 324)
1890.06.09 Above lease subject to a bond in favour of Henry Pryor Powell and Selwyn Robert Pryor, the payment of which is covered by two promissory notes for £327 and £224, the one due on 01.12.1891 and the other on 01.06.1892. (Ibid.)
1891.04.15 Of Lower Illovo, transport rider and planter, mortgaged all machinery, buildings, livestock and crops on the land at the Lower Illovo (Rem. of Lot22), to Henry Payne Voysey of Dbn, merchant, for the sum of £1 000.00. On the same day Voysey ceded the bond to Jabez Newell Holden, produce broker, Dbn. (Ibid.)
1891.07.30 Of Lower Illovo, transport rider and planter, borrowed £1 900.00 from Samuel Crookes of Cypress Hill, Umzinto. Security is title to lease of piece of land occupied by Pearce – Lot 22 lying between Umkomanzi and Umlazi Rivers, together with the crops, machinery etc on it. (Ibid. no. 328)
1892.06.01 Bond with Voysey to be repaid with 8% interest. (Ibid. no. 324)
1895.07.24 Loan from Crookes to be repaid with 10% interest. Payable ½ yrly. (Ibid. no 328)
1900.02.25 Samuel Crookes writing to his son George says he and (his son) Fred are awaiting the arrival of Augustus Ducasse, a young engineer from Mauritius who has been erecting a mill at William Pearce’s estate on the Lower Illovo. (Letter dated 25.02.1900. AH p. 96)
1906 Because son William wanted to expand he formed a Company – Illovo Sugar Estates Ltd – with C.G. Smith, Edward Saunders [son of Saunders J.R.*] and himself as MD. (WP). With C.G. Smith floated Illovo Sugar Estates with Smith as Chairman and Pearce as M.D. (AH p. 104)
1908 Two more directors app. in above Co., Geo. and Frank Crookes. (WP)
1914 C.G. Smith and William Pearce persuaded the Crookeses to invest in a sugar venture in the north of Mozambique, floated as Beira-Illovo Sugar Estates, but things went wrong from the start. (AH p. 122)
1915 William Pearce on the board of Natal Cane By-Products Ltd., which had been set up to extract wax from the caked waste left on sugar filters. (Ibid. p. 122)
1915 MPC representing. Dbn Co., MD of Illovo Sugar Estates. (SAWW 1915 p. 293)
1916 The Crookeses and Pearce sold their shares to C.G. Smith at a loss – then helped to bale him out in 1917 when the estates were destroyed by floods. (AH p. 122)
1919 The year before his retirement in 1920, Colonel Friend Addison sold Addington to a private company consisting of Charles Smith, Frank Reynolds, G.J. Crookes, J.J. Crookes, S.F Crookes and William Pearce. The estate now comprised the mill and 12 000 acres and was named Addison Brothers. (RO p. 189)
1920 Gledow-Chaka’s Kraal Sugar Co., formed – 3 Crookes Bros, Frank Reynolds and William Pearce. (JL)
1934 Addison Brothers’ Estate merged with Chaka’s Kraal Estate to form Gledow-Chaka’s Kraal Sugar Co. Ltd. (RO p. 189)
1934.05.22 William Pearce, J.P., of Illovo, b. Dbn, 1856. Transport rider, coffee, arrowroot & sugar planter. MD Illovo Sugar Estate, MPL for Dbn Co. 1910-1919. (NM Supp. 22.05.34)
1938.09.13 Wife Elizabeth d. at Eden. (OH). Lily Elizabeth Leybourne Pearce d. (Tomb Stella.)
1939.10.01 William d. at Eden. (OH). William Pearce, JP d. (Tomb Stella.)
Anne Maria (1857c. – ________ )
1857 c. b. [Date calculated from age given on m. cert.]. (R.St P., Umz.)
1878.07.17 Anne Maria Pearce, 21, spinster, m. Thos Fayers, 25, bachelor, overseer. (R. St P., Umz.). Anne Maria Pearce of Lower Umkomaas m. Thos Fayers of Ifafa at St Bride’s, Lower Umkomaas. (NW 23.07.78). m. at St Bride’s Lower Umkomaas, Thomas Fayers of Ifafa, son of the late Wm Fayers, to Anne Maria Pearce, eldest dau. of the late John Pearce. (NM 12.08.78 )(NW 15.08.78)
Ellen (1857c., Durban – 29 October 1935, ? Umzinto)
1857 c. b. Dbn [Date calculated from age given on m. licence. Place of b. taken from same source]. (CSO 2287).
1857.12.13 Ellen, dau. of John and Elizabeth Pearce bap., father a tailor. Sponsors: Moses Reid*, Elizabeth Pearce and Margaret Pearce. (R. St A., Pmb.)
1880.09.11 Thomas Samuel Crocker [son of John Crocker*], 27, b. Dbn and Ellen Pearce, 23, b. Dbn, took out licence to marry. Licence taken out at Umzinto. (CSO 2287)
1880.09.22 m. at Umzumbe, Thomas Crocker and Eliza [sic], second dau., of the late John Pearce. (NM 12.10.80)
1900.10.15 Ellen’s husband T.S. Crocker d. aged 49. (R. St P., Umz.)
1935.10.29 Ellen (b. Pearce), wife of Thos S. Crocker d. aged 77. (Tomb St P., Umz.)
Margaret Annie (1859c. – _______ )
1859 c. b. [Date calculated from age given on m. cert.]. (R. Cong., Dbn)
1880.09.21 m. at Dbn, William Hutchinson [son of William Hutchinson*] and Margaret Annie, third dau. of the late John Pearce. (NM 12.10.80). m. at Dbn, William Hutchinson, 23, bachelor, Illovo, and Margaret Annie Pearce, 21, spinster, Dbn. Witnesses: Robert Hutchinson and William Pearce. (R. Cong., Dbn)
Elizabeth (1861.01.06 – ———-)
1861.01.06 b. (R. St P., Umz.)
1861.03.24 Elizabeth bap., dau. of John Pearce (hotel keeper) and Elizabeth. Sponsor: Sarah Turner. (Ibid.)
John (1862.11.00, Lower Illovo River –
1862.11.00 b. (R. Wes., Dbn)
1863,06.00 John Pearce bap., son of John and Elizabeth of Lower Illovo River. (Ibid.)
1887.05.10 John Pearce, 24, b. Umzinto and Lillian Donnelly, 17, b. Fort Beaufort, dau. of E.Donnelly, took out licence to m., licence taken out at Dbn. (CSO 2289)
1937.12.17 Aged 72, b. Natal, m., sugar planter, d. at Windy Lodge, Umzinto. (UGRD)
?Violet Ellen (Born_______. Died 26.05.1895)******
1895. 05.26 Violet Ellen Pearce d. (R. St P., Umz.)
*After a name indicates that person as the head of a family and therefore qualified for an entry in Shelagh Spencer’s British settlers in Natal, a biographical register 1824 – 1857.
** Month missing, paper torn.
*** Awarded South Africa 1853 medal for service in the 2nd and 3rd Kaffir Wars. (GRE p. 83)
**** Paper torn, it is known that each soldier had a ‘small book’.
***** The location of Lot 17, also known as Inland View (at one time the property of J.H.
Higham) can be found on Holmden’s map of Natal.
******No proof has been found that Violet Ellen is a child of John and Elizabeth Pearce.
Books and Directories
AH – Hocking, Anthony. Renishaw: The story of Crookes Brothers. Bethulie: Hollards, 1992.
CH – Hamilton, Charles. Sketches of life and sport in South-Eastern Africa. London: Chapman
& Hall, 1870.
GRE – Everson, G.R. The South Africa 1853 medal. London: Samson Books, 1978.
RO – Osborn, Robert F. Valliant harvest: The founding of the South African sugar industry
1848–1926. Durban: South African Sugar Association, 1964.
SAWW – South African who’s who. Johannesburg: 1915.
Tomb St P., Umz. – St Patrick’s Churchyard, Umzinto
Tomb Stella. – Stellawood Cemetery, Durban
Tomb WSC – West Street Cemetery, Durban
R.Cong., Dbn – Durban, Congregational
R. Isipingo – Isipingo, Anglican
R. St A., Pmb. – St Andrew’s, Pietermaritzburg, Anglican
R. St P., Umz. – St Patrick’s, Umzinto, Anglican
R. St P., Dbn –, St Paul’s, Durban, Anglican
R. St P., Pmb. – St Peter’s, Pietermaritzburg, Anglican
R. Wes. Dbn – Wesleyan, Durban, Methodist
BDE – English, Dr B.D. The story of the Royal D’Urban Rangers. 3 v. Typescript, 1954.
JB – Baseley, John. Twenty four notes on colonial Natal written by Bazley (as he then spelt his
name) on spare pages in Johnson’s Atlas of England. Manchester: Thomas Johnson, 1847,
transcribed by Dr John Clark.
PP – Pearce papers written in 1948 by grandson Tom. Held in Killie Campbell Library, Durban.
WP – Pearce, William. Autobiography of William Pearce (1855-1939) of Eden, Illovo, South
Coast, Natal. Typescript, no date.
Holmden’s map of Natal and Zululand. Johannesburg: The Map Office, no date.
NM – Natal Mercury
NM Supp. – Natal Mercury: Supplement
NW – Natal Witness
PI – Parish of Isipingo centenary record, 1856-1956. ?Isipingo: Parish of Isipingo, 1956.
JL – Jean Lambert (née Crookes)
KP – Kenneth Pearce (Grandson of William)
MC – Cottrell, Mike
OH – Oscar Holness (Deceased)
Unpublished Official Sources
AGO – Attorney General’s Office
CSO – Colonial Secretary’s Office
GN – Government Notice
MSC – Master of the Supreme Court
NGG – Natal Government Gazette
NPP – Natal Parliamentary Papers
RSC – Registrar of the Supreme Court
UGRD – Umzinto Government Register Deaths
WO – War Office
Compiled from Shelagh O’Byrne Spencer’s records of the British Settlers in Natal 1824-1857.