The History of Knysna – Melkhoutkraal Farm & the Village of Melville:
Stephanus Ter Blans, the eldest son of Heemraad Ter Blans (Terblanche) of the Reeboksfontein farm near Little Brak River, was the first recorded colonist farmer to settle on the Knysna Estuary, in 1770. The loan farm was registered as de Melkhoute Craal (Melhoutkraal) and was located on the east bank of the Knysna River. The farm stretched from the Indian Ocean to today’s Long Street in town. Ter Blans died in 1794.
Ter Blans’ widow, Hester Marx, remained on the farm and ran it with the help of her children, subsequently marrying Johann von Lindenbaum in 1798.
In 1801 Lindenbaum sold the farm to Richard Holiday, who died the following year.
By 1780, another settler, Hendrik Barnard, was farming on the farm Uitzigt, better known today as Belvidere and Brenton.
The massacre of colonist farmers, on 15 October 1802, at a place known as De Poort, near the Garden of Eden in Harkerville, was a setback for settlement in the Knysna area. This event occurred during the Third Frontier War when a group of renegades plundered farms all along the Langkloof and entered into the coastal regions, harassing farmers from Plettenberg Bay all the way up to the Kaaiman’s River near George.
A group of Plettenberg Bay colonist farmers, Botha, Heyns and Wolfaart, with their families and retainers, were returning to the Cape in fear of their lives when they were ambushed at De Poort. Four of the men were killed and the women and children taken hostage. The hostages were released but many of the settled farms lay unoccupied for many years thereafter.
By 1804, peace had returned and the scene was set for a new wave of colonisation.
Scottish ex-mariner, James Callander, surveyed the Knynsa Estuary and forests. The promise of Knysna (timber, farming, a possible harbour for exporting) had reached George Rex in Cape Town.
George Rex settled in Knysna in 1804. He had served in the British Admiralty Court at the Cape, practising as a lawyer. After the handover of the Cape to the Batavian Republic, in terms of the Treaty of Amiens, he decided not to return to England but to remain in the Cape Colony. He bought the loan farm Melkhoutkraal from the deceased estate of Richard Holiday.
George Rex extended his landholdings by obtaining the loan rights to the farm Welbedagt (Welbedacht), which he renamed Eastford in 1816. It was situated between the Knysna River and Long Street. He later ceded 80 acres (40 morgan) of Eastford to the Cape Colonial Government on which, in 1825, the British Royal Navy laid out the naval township of Melville, so named after Viscount Melville, the 1st Lord of the Admiralty.
George Rex eventually owned all the farms encircling the Knysna Estuary, and beyond – Melkhoutkraal, Eastford, Westford, Uitzigt, Leeuwenbosch & Springfield.
History of Knysna article by Philip Caveney.
Read Part 2.