Thomas Nelson, 1820 South African settler

 Thomas Baines - The British Settlers of 1820 Landing in Algoa Bay - 1853

The 1820 Settlers were several groups or parties of white British colonists settled by the British government and the Cape authorities in the South African Eastern Cape in 1820.

Many of the Settlers were very poor and encouraged to settle in an attempt by the Cape government to close, consolidate and defend the eastern frontier against the neighbouring Xhosa peoples, and to provide a boost to the English-speaking population. It was one of the largest stages of British settlement in Africa, forming the Anglo-African cultural hot-spot Albany, and thus a milestone in the forming of the Anglo-African people. For many years, Albany remained an "Anglo-Saxon island" in a predominantly Xhosa and Afrikaans -speaking country - with its own distinctive local culture.

Initially, about 4,000 Settlers arrived in the Cape in around 60 different parties between April and June 1820. The Settlers were granted farms near the village of Bathurst and supplied equipment and food against their deposits, but their lack of agricultural experience led many of them to abandon agriculture and withdraw to Bathurst and other settlements like Grahamstown, East London and Port Elizabeth, where they typically reverted to their trades.

East 20IndianIt seems there were three Nelson families who went out in 1820.  Leaving from Cork on the 12th February 1820 was the East Indian carrying the party of William Parker who was one of the leaders who gave, and continued to give the authorities, a hard time. He was a merchant from Cork in Ireland and a virulent anti-Papist who somehow managed to have some very good connections and so was granted permission to proceed to the Cape despite his many and often totally ridiculous demands which were not met. He promised to take out 500 ‘starving Irish’ but in November two thirds of his list now included people gathered together in London and only about one third were the poor Irish. As a result this party had to board at Gravesend and then sail for Cork to fetch the rest of the party causing numerous delays. The journey was filled with quarrels and discontent and he then refused the grant of land given them at Clanwilliam and demanded they be settled at Saldanha Bay. This was refused and because of his lack of leadership the party was split into subdivisions under new leaders. The Irish were given the option of moving to Albany, which some of them did, and others were given permission to seek work in Cape Town. In 1822 Parker was given a free passage back to Britain where he continued his attack on the Cape Government resulting in Colonel Bird eventually being dismissed.  On this ship were Matthew Nelson b. 1788, a sawyer from London’s Duke Street, his wife Elizabeth, their son William Horatio b.1813 and baptized 24 Oct 1813 in St. Mary Lambeth, and daughters Elizabeth b. 1817 and baptized 10 Jul 1817 at St. Mary, Newington, and Harriett b. 1807. William Horatio married Eliza Sadler at Port Elizabeth on 4 Jun 1838 (CO48/41 p.356).

Leaving from Liverpool on 13th February 1820 was the party of Dr Thomas Calton aboard the Albury. He was a surgeon from Nottingham and the Duke of Newcastle and several subscribers sponsored his party. Nottingham as mentioned was one of the areas worst hit by the Industrial Revolution. Although the lists for this party were only sent in very late they were accepted because of the patronage of the Duke of Newcastle. On arrival in Albany the settlers named their location Clumber after his seat in Nottingham. Members of the party signed an Article of Agreement binding them to Dr Calton and in return were to be given 20 acres of land as well as the use of the commonage. This party changed continually and many were refused permission to board and urgent intervention had to be sought through the Colonial Department to allow all the changes. His people were quite unruly andobviously being frame-knit workers, had very little chance of ever becoming successful farmers. The stress of the journey must have been too much for Thomas Calton, for he died on the beach at Algoa Bay on the 8thJuly while they were waiting to be transported to their location on the Torrens River. Thomas Draper is elected as the new leader. This party of 60 included the family of Thomas Nelson from Nottingham. Thomas b. 1791 was a labourer, and with him were his wife Mary b. 1796, and their children William b.1816 and Matilda b.1818.  William married Johann and died 21 Mar 1862 aged 44 at the Cape. He had fathered Matilda Anne on 13 Feb 1850 and Millisent Sarah in Nov 1851 (DN 9644/1862).

Embarking at Gravesend and also leaving on the 12th February 1820 after a one month wait for the ice to thaw, was the La Belle Alliance carrying the party of the infamous Thomas Willson who had charged his men an additional £5 deposit which he claimed was to be used to assist them once they were in the Cape. This was however not the truth and the settlers soon became disenchanted with their leader whose group was one of the biggest joint-stock parties. His proposals to the party were ridiculous and his demands to be treated in a similar way to that of ‘Lord of the Manor’ were met with disapproval and discontent. Because the party consisted of 102 families they were entitled to the services of a clergyman and Rev William Boardman joined them after leaving Bailie’s party. On arrival at Algoa Bay the free settlers in the party sent a petition to Sir Rufane Donkin who intervened on their behalf and, thinking that unity had been restored, settled them on the Bush River. However, the peace, if you could call it that, was short lived and Willson abandoned his settlers as they reached the location and returned to Cape Town. Rev William Boardman then took up the reins as head of the party.

This was the ship carrying the family of Thomas Nelson b. 1786 possibly in Westmorland. With him were his wife Mary Ann Craik or Creek, their daughter Louisa Rachel b. 1808, Mary Ann b.1809, and John Edward b.1814. Thomas had married Mary Ann on 14 Oct 1807 in Manchester. She died on 15 May 1859.  (DN 387/1863, 478/1888)  All three children married in South Africa, Rachel to Edward Thomson, Mary Ann to Dr. James Clapham Minto, and John Edward to Loveday Ann Amelia Cook. Thomas returned to England, leaving John Edward in charge of his merchant’s business and died in Hastings in 1863.

This is his letter of 1819. Transcribed from CO48/44 at the National Archives at Kew, London - 814 - No.109 Bunhill Row, Moorfields, City - 20th July 1819 - Sir, It being my intention with others to emigrate to the Cape of Good Hope if approved by Government, I beg Sir to be informed in what manner this can be accomplished, at what time the transports will be ready for this service &c. I may state that my age is 33, have been accustomed to Agricultural Pursuits, and can give Respectable Reference as to Character &c. The favor of an answer will oblige, Sir - Your most obedient and very humble servant Thos. NELSON.

Later arrivals were Cornelius Nelson, born 1791 possibly in Beverley, Yorkshire, son of Peter Nelson and Mary Johansen, and who’d married Geertruyda Petronella Adrian Barnard on 4 Oct 1823, came as a widower with Horatio, Florence James, Geertruida Johanna, and Cornelia Petronella. He died in Mossel Bay, Cape on 25 Feb 1867 aged 76. Cornelia married G.C.Cox and had died leaving issue by 1867. (DN 3325/1867)

James Nelson’s wife Julia, born 1831 in Wexford, Ireland came with four children, Robert James, Michael Andrew, and minors Ellen and John Stephen. She died on 25 Jun 1874 at Knysna, Cape aged 43. (DN 599/1874)

William Nelson, born 1826, Ireland and his wife Catherine Cooney came with four minors, Catherine, Marge, Patrick and William. He died at the Cape 7 Apr 1868 (DN 4347/1868)

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