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Robert Hart – Father of Somerset East

The early history of Somerset East and Glen Avon Farm is tied to the history of Robert Hart.
When Robert Hart stepped off a boat at the Cape of Good Hope in 1795, he was 18 years old, a private in the Argyllshire Highlanders and penniless. Yet this young Scottish lad was destined to play a major role in taming the old Cape colony’s wild eastern flank. After surviving the dangers of being a soldier on the turbulent eastern frontier, he took a short break in England before returning to the Cape Colony in 1807 as a commissioned officer in Colonel Graham’s newly formed Cape Regiment.
By now he was also married to Hannah Tamplin, and the couple settled at the military base that later became Grahamstown. After a while, Robert took over Somerset farm, established in the Zuurveld by the government to supply the army. While there the Harts welcomed the Scottish party of 1820 settlers who ventured inland to the Baviaans River valley. Those were tough times for the Scots, but luckily they had a helpful friend in Robert.
In 1825 Somerset Farm was shut down and the land was set aside for the new town of Somerset East. Left with a small state pension, Robert Hart moved with his family to land he had acquired a short distance away in a fertile valley below the Bosberg. A beautiful place he named Glen Avon.
Through hard work and great insight, he soon made his farm a landmark in the region. He bred top merino sheep, a breed introduced to SA by Colonel Graham, and so contributed greatly to what became an important industry. His orchards produced a fantastic bounty of fruits, especially citrus, and his flood-irrigated fields delivered huge harvests of grain that soon justified a private mill. The machinery for this was shipped out from Scotland and then transported by ox wagon from Algoa Bay over the Zuurberg Pass. The mill could produce two tons of meal a day and soon Robert was grinding all the wheat grown between Pearston, Ann’s Villa and Zwagershoek.
The amazing legacy of Robert Hart, who died in 1867 at the ripe old age of 90, is remarkable because everything has been so well looked after by his direct descendants. Their dedication preserved the old mill and the two homesteads as well as Hart Cottage.
But who and what was Robert Hart?
Robert Hart, II
Birthdate: January 05, 1777
Birthplace: Strathaven, Avondale, Lanarkshire, Scotland (United Kingdom)
Death: September 14, 1867 (90)
Place of Death: ‘Glen Avon’ Farm, Somerset East, Cape Colony, South Africa
Place of Burial: Cape Colony, South Africa
Immediate Family:
Son of James Hart, III and Isabel Hart
Husband of Hannah May Hart
Father of Ann Stretch; Harriet Hart; Susannah Hart; Robert Hart, III; Caroline Hart; Cecilia Hart; Margaretha Birt. Fleischer; Eleanor Evelyn Pringle; Sarah Elizabeth Bowker (Hart); Richard Hart and Lieut. James Hart IV
Brother of Andrew Hart and Grizel Campbell (Hart)
Occupation: Soldier (Captain), Farmer and Businessman

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