- Settler George BARKER and his wife, Sarah, went by ox-wagon from Algoa Bay to the Bethelsdorp Mission Station (for Hottentots) about nine miles inland. From there they moved to Theopolis (also for Hottentots) on the Kasouga River, where BARKER built with his own hands the first primitive church, school-room, store and dwelling house.
His diary for this period (1815-28) records vast herds of the now extinct quagga and an infinite variety of other game, and constant trouble with elephant, buffalo, leopard and snakes. Depredations by Xhosa tribes from across the Fish River (then the Colonial boundary) caused much distress and anxiety.
In 1819 he was transferred back to Bethelsdorp, fortunately missing the Fifth Frontier War in which Theopolis suffered greatly. The diary records the arrival of the 1820 Settlers, many of whom he met on the beach at Algoa Bay. He also saw the completion of the Donkin pyramid on the 3rd February 1821. A few days later he returned to Theopolis where
he was Superintendent for nearly twenty years.
In the devastating floods of October, 1823, most of Theopolis was literally washed away. but more durable buildings were thereafter erected, using stone and lime quarried in and timber and thatch cut from the surrounding bush, and nails fashioned by BARKER in his own smithy. As his children grew up, they were sent as boarders to the famous Salem Academy (about twenty miles distant) founded by W.H. MATTHEWS, the most eminent of the settler schoolmasters. In addition to his onerous missionary duties amongst the Hottentots (an administrator, preacher, teacher, doctor, builder and agriculturist), the Rev. George BARKER was always ready to promote religious development in the Frontier area, often coming to the assistance of the Anglican, Methodist, Baptist and Presbyterian denominations in addition to his own Congregationalists.
This entailed constant and tedious journeys on horseback or on foot or by ox-wagon, in all weather and at all times, to Port Elizabeth, Uitenhage, Grahamstown, Bathurst, Salem, Port Kowie and rural centres where churches and chapels had been or were being established.
A good deal of the fighting and skirmishing during the Sixth Frontier War of 1834-5 took place around Theopolis, causing much distress and damage, but the station just managed to survive.
Mrs. BARKER died on the 20th December 1836, and her tombstone still stands in the now deserted mission cemetery. In 1840 BARKER was transferred to the Paarl Station. He married Hilletje SMUTS in 1844, was compelled to retire from mission work in 1856 on account of total blindness, and died on the 9th May 1861. His and his daughter Elizabeth's tombstones may be seen in the Zion Cemetery just below Paarl Rock. The Diary mentioned previously, a contemporary water-colour portrait of Mrs. BARKER and a daguerreotype of the Rev. George BARKER are now in the possession of a great-grandchild.
SOURCE: Scouting Project