History of Port St John’s
A town or place is considered special when it does not matter how long you have lived there or how many times you have visited, you will never get to see it all, do it all or learn about it all………….it keeps you coming back for more and more. Port St John’s is one such place.
If you are looking for a commercial town, high rise buildings, smart shopping malls, this is not to be found here. But if you are looking for peace and quiet, for nature, to surround yourself in scenic beauty coupled with amazing culture and friendly folk, to escape the rat race and all things commercial, then Port St John’s is your town.
Approximately 500 to 1200 years ago Bantu speaking people began to settle along the East Coast of Southern Africa. The area was home to nomadic San and Khoi people who eventually became integrated into the Xhosa tribes and brought with them the three characteristic clicks that are found in the language today
In the late 1700’s the Xhosa speaking tribes were beginning to feel the squeeze on their territories. Refugees were fleeing, Shaka Zulu and his Zulu Impis (warriors) in the North and there were sporadic wars with the Boers in the East and British to the South. The ‘cattle killing’ of 1856 and the resulting famine devastated the Xhosa and their resistance to the colonial forces fell. On the advice of the prophetess Nongqawuse, people consumed or destroyed all of their cattle and crops. She foretold that all who did not, together with all the whites, were to be swept into the sea by a strong wind on the 18th of February 1857.
After the Ninth Frontier War the area was incorporated into the Cape Provincial Administration. It was never really populated by European settlers because of its war-like reputation and was left largely to the indigenous people.
The region was given nominal autonomy in 1963, under the ‘separate development’ policies of Apartheid South Africa. ‘Self government’ and ‘Full independence’ followed in 1976 and the area became known as the Transkei (meaning: the land beyond the Kei River).
The newly-formed Transkei state was not recognized internationally and it remained a diplomatically isolated, politically unstable, one-party state until after South Africa’s first free and fair elections in 1994, when it became part of the Eastern Cape Province.
This stretch of coastline is not called “The Wild Coast” for nothing.
For sailors, it has a bad reputation, sudden storms, wild winds, heavy seas with the occasional “freak wave” have claimed many ships and it has earned its title over and over again. Most shipwrecks are quickly forgotten, but a few live on in the collective memory. They are remembered because of loss of life; others on account of the horror; a few due to the adventures of the survivors; but the most famous always involve either mysterious disappearances, or treasure!
This particular part of the Eastern Cape coast has been the graveyard of many a ship through the ages, and ship’s skeleton, artefacts and structures bear mute testimony to the loss of lives and vessels.
Most of these wrecks vanished beneath the waves and have been forgotten, yielding up nothing but an occasional small treasure for the beachcomber.