Maria Anna Darvill (Harden / Fletcher / Upton)

Maria Anna Darvill (Harden / Fletcher / Upton) Born: 11 October 1791, St George In The East, London, Middlesex, England
Parents: Charles Darvill and Sarah Darvill
Married 1: William George Harden, 11 June 1815, St Leonards, Shoreditch, London, England
Children: Jane Maria Harden, 5 May 1816, England (Christened 28 July 1816, St Luke Old Street, Finsbury, London)
                  Maria Harden, ~1817/8, England (died 9 May 1823; buried in home garden)
                  Lydia Harden, 1822 (died 1823)
                  William Harden, 2 July 1823 (died 14 December 1842)
                      (Murdered by marauders on road near Red Hill on his way home to Cuylerville from a visit in the evening to his fiancee, a daughter of John Phillips. He had 13 assegai wounds.)
Widowed: William George Harden died 17 August 1823, Cuylerville (William was buried in home garden)
Married 2: William Fletcher, 13 June 1824, Grahamstown
Children: Ann Fletcher (now Palmer), 30 June 1824, South Africa
                  Joseph Fletcher, 12 January 1828, Eastern Cape, South Africa
                  John Fletcher, 12 October 1830
Widowed: William Fletcher died 26 January 1830, Cuylerville, Bathurst, Eastern Cape, South Africa
Married 3: George Upton, 4 December 1835 or 1837, Bathurst
Children: Susanna Upton (now Rands or Banks), 22 January 1837
                  Sarah Maria Upton (now Hodgkinson), 25 January 1840, Cape, South Africa
Widowed: George Upton died 1842 (or November 1844), Bathurst, Western District, Eastern Cape, South Africa
Died: 4 May 1857 (aged 63), Cuylerville, Bathurst, Western District, Eastern Cape, South Africa
Buried: Cuylerville churchyard

1820 Settler (Bailie Party, 256 settlers; party originated from London)
'Chapman' sailed from Gravesend on 3 December 1819. Anchored in Table Bay, 17 March 1820. Dropped anchor in Algoa Bay, 9 April 1820. Arrived in Algoa Bay, 10 April 1820.
Settled near mouth of Fish River. Wellington and Palmiet Rivers, Cuylerville.

Maria became famous for her amazing story of tenacious survival. She was a wealthy landowner of considerable property situated in the location of Pomeroy.

(Post by Liz Eshmade), eGGSA, 19 March 2016


Much has been written about the wives of the more prominent and well known 1820 Settlers but very little is written about those wives of the other settlers who, generally, suffered great heart-ache and had little to lighten the load in their lives.

For me the one who stands out from all of them is Maria Anna Harden who later married William Fletcher and then George Upton. As a person I have no idea what she was like but there is no doubt that she was tough and if life perhaps made her bitter then she had every right to be so.

Maria (born Darvill) came to the Colony in 1820 at the age of 25 with her husband William Harden (25), who was a cabinet maker and upholsterer, and their two daughters Jane who was 4 and Maria who was 2. They travelled with Bailie’s Party and settled at Cuylerville. In 1822 their daughter Lydia was born.

By 1823, after a succession of crop failure and droughts William went to Grahamstown at the end of January of that year to seek work as his family was totally destitute but he returned in February having had no luck. It appears that William then took on some sort of laboring job and on the 2nd of May that year began a long period of tragedy for the family. On that day William sustained very serious internal injuries when he attempted to lift a weight far in excess of his strength (I was told it was possibly a 100 weight of potatoes). At that time there was nothing at all that medicine could do for him. Maria, who was then heavily pregnant, saw to William’s needs as much as was possible as well as looking after her children and home.

On the 9th of May little Maria died of malnutrition (as recorded by comment in the family bible). Neighbours helped Maria make a coffin and the child was buried in the garden behind their home.

By 31st May the family was totally without food or the means of obtaining it and a neighbor obtained 250g of tea, 1kg of sugar and 500g each of oatmeal and sago from the magistrate in Grahamstown – hardly more than two days food for a family! A subscription was opened and eleven pound was raised for them.

On 2 July 1823 Maria gave birth to a son, who was named William after his father. William sr. was regularly attended by the military doctor but nothing of use could be done for him and on 17 August he died. At his request he was buried with his little daughter and not in the newly opened Cuylerville cemetery.

In October the family was again seriously in need of help and John Bailie lent Maria his wagon to go to town to ask for help. She asked for fare back to England for herself and the children but this was refused and it took her two weeks to get any kind of food rations out of the authorities. While she was away the drought had been broken by very heavy flooding. She had left her children in their home watched over by the neighbours and it was fortunate that Maria Heath reached the house and rescued the children before the whole place was swept away by the flood waters. Maria arrived home to find that not only was her entire house and possessions gone but little Lydia had died of malnutrition while she was away. Kind neighbours helped her rebuild her home.

Three other Settlers left their allotments at Cuylerville and these were given to Maria along with the rights to the allotment which had been allocated to her late husband – this was because she had not left her allotment and also as some form of assistance to her in her need. In June 1824 Maria married William Fletcher whom she had met while she had been in Grahamstown and over the next years the couple had two sons and a daughter.

In 1831 William Fletcher was summonsed to appear at Bathurst to attend an enquiry into a charge that had been laid against him and on the way he stopped at his home to collect his gun. Coming out of the house Charles Bailie, who had been sent to fetch him, got the idea that from the way William was holding the gun that he was going to shoot him and promptly shot William in the chest. He died some hours later. (The Bailie’s seem to have been a little trigger happy when reading of other episodes). Thus, once again Maria was a widow. In August of 1831 Maria’s daughter, Jane Harden, married Richard Hulley.

All this while Maria had been farming her allotments and was slowly building up a good farm and also some capital. She remained until the outbreak of the 6th frontier war then, for safety, she removed with her family to Grahamstown. Everything that she had built up was destroyed. Her ricks, her home and her crops were all burned and her 120 herd of cattle were driven across the Fish River.

While in Grahamstown she met George Upton and married him on 4 December 1835. The couple was to have two daughters before George died in 1842.

In December 1837 Martha Harden married John Devine. This couple would later donate a christening font to St. John’s Church at Bathurst and Martha was the only one to outlive her parents and siblings. On 14 December 1842 Maria’s son, William Harden, was waylaid and murdered while walking back from visiting his fiance, the daughter of John Phillips. He was buried next to his father and sisters.

Then, in 1846 came the 7th Frontier War and once again Maria lost everything. This time 200 cattle were driven across the river and ultimately she would receive one cow and one calf n compensation! In 1849 her daughter Jane who had married Richard Hulley died at the age of just 33 years.

Once again Maria picked up all the pieces and continued to farm until her death in May 1857 at the age of 63 years.

Her gravestone at Cuylerville gives only her name, age and date of death and tells nothing of the story of a remarkable woman.
Copyright © 2016, Rodney Jones,, Randburg, South Africa (Last updated on 25 March 2016)