Our distant cousin Hugh Bland has been doing some wonderful detective work sniffing out the Bland family history.
Today he found the grave of Josiah Benjamin Adam Bland – he was born in 1799 in ‘the UK’ – England, I guess! He arrived at the Cape in 1825. He settled in Mossel Bay, where he became mayor and the main street is still called Bland Street. He died in 1861. The grave is hidden in thick bush on a farm in the Wydersrivier district near Riversdal.
The farmer very kindly took Hugh to the gravesite. Hugh says you can still read the inscription on the gravestone – it’s indistinct, but there’s no doubt that it’s JBA’s grave. He says it was “quite a moment” for him – JBA was buried there 156 yrs ago and Hugh wondered when a Bland last stood at that grave.
Hugh put two proteas on the grave; then laid his shadow next to his great-great-great grandfather and took this pic:
Harrismith Branch of the Blands –
After Josiah Benjamin Adam Bland came John Francis Adam Bland, born in 1836. He trekked inland to Harrismith in the Orange River Colony with a small baby – John Francis Adam the Second – JFA II.
This started “our branch” of the Blands, The Vrystaat Blands.
John Francis Adam Bland II married Mary Caskie, who became the beloved Granny Bland of Harrismith. They had five sons of whom our grandfather Frank was the oldest, called JFA the Third; JFA III.
Hugh found out that JFA the First died on 10 September 1891 aged 55, and is buried in the lost metropolis of Senekal, Vrystaat. In Harrismith Granny Bland buried her husband JFA II and four of her five boys, including JFA III – as Sheila says, ‘What a tragic life.’ She did live long enough to know us, her great grandkids before she died in 1959. Lucky Granny Bland! We knew Bunty, the only child who outlived her, very well. He died in 1974 and joined his father JFA II, his mother, and his four brothers in the family grave in Harrismith.
JFA III married Annie Watson Bain – our granny Annie Bland. Known as just Annie. They farmed racehorses and clean fingernails on the farm Nuwejaarspruit outside Harrismith on the road to Witsieshoek, towards the Drakensberg. He died ca 1943 while my Mom Mary and her sister Pat were still at school. Pat died in 1974. Mom Mary then looked after Annie until she died aged ninety in 1983. Mom Mary is still alive and well. She turned ninety in September 2018.
(I’m hoping sister Sheila will fact-check me here! Also that cousin Hugh will tell us what happened to the misguided Bland branch that didn’t go to the Vrystaat, but got lost and ended up in Zimbabwe. They lived near Oliviershoek for a while before trekking on). Hugh tells tales of transport riding, ox wagons, meeting Percy Fitzpatrick, farming in Rhodesia and other exaggerations . .
Annie’s other daughter Pat Bland – married Bill Cowie, and had two daughters Frankie & Gemma; Bill worked in Blyvooruitsig on the gold mine; We would see them on their way to their wonderful Wild Coast fishing trips.
Mary Bland – married Pieter Swanepoel in 1951
Bland might sound bland, but hey, the surname is thought to derive from Old English (ge)bland meaning ‘storm’, or ‘commotion’. Don’t use dictionaries that say, ‘dull, flavorless, or just plain ‘blah.’ Use ones that say it means ‘smooth and soothing in manner or quality,’ (the Merriam-Webster); or ‘flattering’ (from Bland Family History on ancestry.com); or ‘alluring’ (from vocabulary.com).