On my last trip to visit my sister-in-law in East London I decided to take the opportunity of visiting Charlotte’s grave which cousin Wyndham had visited and saved the GPS co-ordinates of a few years ago after a local had read my reward poster (see story lower down on this page).
On 28th December we had a wet overcast (non-beach) day so I set off in our hired car together with 2 of my 3 children for Fort White. I had previously put markers on Google Earth and measured distances along dirt roads and paths so it was quite easy to find the grave site in the middle of the bush. It also helped that I had seen a largish tree in one of the photos Wyndham had taken which also helped in the location.
We saw Leo’s grave together with the broken headstone as seen in the photos below and Charlotte’s grave which we know is next to where Leo was buried. There did appear to be arranged stones nearby in what could be a few more unmarked graves. While exploring the area we came a cross a local villager and his dog who were returning to the village from herding his cattle. He told us he knew the area well and knew the position of some old graves I had found years ago as well as the position of an old farm house. He agreed to take us to these so we followed him. His name was Buaeneni and I have his cellphone number.
I am listing the GPS co-ordinates of these points we visited below and displaying the Google Earth image with these shown together with some of the photos I took below that.
32° 49' 22.6898"S, 27 08' 29.1529"E John, Claude and Margarets graves
32° 50' 07.8194"S, 27° 07' 08.3603"E Fort White cemetery
32° 50' 39.9816"S, 27° 07' 05.0624"E Old cattle dip
32° 50' 35.7518”S, 27° 07' 04.4674”E Unknown cemetery
32° 50' 21.3477”S, 27° 06' 47.3102”E Old house foundations
32° 49' 45.8011’S, 27° 07' 41.7278”E Leo Africanus’s grave
32° 49' 45.4779”S, 27° 07' 41.8532”E Charlotte’s grave
On 23rd December 2012 while erecting one of my reward posters at a trading store, a local said he knew of some graves nearby and led us (cousin Wyndham from East London and myself) to it/them but they turned out to be those of local villagers. Strangely enough these graves turned out to be very close to Charlotte's grave although we only found this out some 5 months later. While putting up another reward poster at a nearby bottle store, the owner said he knew of a grave nearby of a "Claude" so we went with him to whereabouts he thought they were and we wandered around for some time in the bush before talking to a passing woman who said she knew of some graves some short distance away and pointed them out to us. They were overgrown with thorn-scrub which we hacked away at and discovered three graves.
The one headstone reads "In Loving Memory - My Dear Husband and our father - Claude John Whitfield - Born 19-9-1884 Died 23-10-1958".
The other double headstone reads : "In Loving Memory of - John Whitfield - Born 22-8-1844 Died 10-9-1922,
Margaret Whitfield - Born 12-2-1845 Died April 1929".
It turned out that these were the graves of Leo's son John Henry Whitfield and his wife Margaret. Since he is buried in the same small farm grave-yard as John and Margaret and going by the dates I am assuming that Claude is related and most likely the son of John and Margaret.
There was a third unmarked grave next to these where a bit of wood was sticking up so assume the original headstone has long since disappeared. Initially I thought this was Charlotte's grave but realized later it could not be as she is supposed to be buried in the same farm grave-yard as her som Leo Africanus. The GPS position for these graves is 32° 49' 22.6"S 27° 08' 29.0"E at an elevation of 664 metres above sea-level.
Some 4 months later, my daughter Bryony was down in Grahamstown attending her graduation when she received a sms to call somebody in connection with some graves. She in turn contacted the guy and then asked me to get hold of him as the names on the grave were different and the word Leo was mentioned so I contacted him from Botswana. I arranged for cousin Wyndham to meet him on a particular Sunday but the guy failed to answer his phone and we tried for days to contact him to no avail. So near and yet so far - I was very disappointed. Some days later Wyndham received a call from the guy to say that he had been arrested and sentenced to 6 months jail but that we must contact his wife, which Wyndham did and they arranged to meet and point out the graves. These graves wre approximately 1,4 kms away from the other graves as can be seen on the google earth picture below depicting the positions of the graves in relation to Debe Nek, Fort White and the village marked as Ngcamngeni.
Sadly it appears the gravestone of Leo has been vandalised as can be seen from the photos below. Wyndham had to find the scattered broken pieces of the headstone and put them together for the photos. Various older relatives who have been to and seen the graves when they were a lot younger say that Charlotte was buried together with her son Leo and his wife in the same small family graveyard and that Charlotte's grave was unmarked so we can assume this unmarked grave near Leo's must be that of Charlotte.
The GPS position for these graves is 32° 49' 45.54"S 27° 07' 41.82"E at an elevation of 602 metres above sea-level.
I would like to get the living descendants of Charlotte to get together and organize a fundraizer to have a decent monument/plinth made for her grave as well as a "non-stealable" wall/fence put around both sets of graveyards.
Hopefully some Eastern Cape Whitfields can take on this project and organize it and send out letters of appeal.
I would also like to sew the seed for a huge Whitfield Reunion to be held on the 200th Anniversary of Charlotte's arrival in Algoa Bay with the 1820 Settlers on the 30th April 1820 aboard the ship Northampton which dparted from Portsmouth, UK on 13th December 1819 and arrived in Cape Town on 26th March 1820 carrying some 257 passengers under the Government Settler Scheme at the time. Charlotte travelled under Clark's party.
Photographs of the various graves can be seen below and Fort White can be found approximately mid-way between King Williams Town and Alice in the Eastern Cape and if you type in "Ngcamngeni, South Africa" in the Search box of Google Earth, it will take you to this view.
We did try to locate the graves I found some years ago indicated on the google-earth photo above but failed as it was all overgrown badly. One needs to try and locate these in winter when the growth is a lot less. From memory there must have been some 30 or more graves in a small area totally overgrown by bushes also indicated on the google-earth photo.