Alfred's marriage certificate states his birthplace to be England, but I
think this is unlikely. Alfred's father, John, was born in England and
emigrated to Natal, marrying Alfred's mother, Eliza Ford, in
Pietermaritzburg in 1865.
Dinah Maria Taljaard on 11 July 1904, in Potchefstroom, Transvaal
Alfred Edwin Smith is recorded as a single man, aged 38, born in England and
resident in Potchefstroom. Dinah Maria Taljaard is recorded as a single
daughter, aged 27, born in the Transvaal and resident on Potchefstroom.
Alfred and Dina were divorced in 1912.
A manuscript written by Alfred contains his memories of the transport
industry in Natal in the 1800s, from wagon taking trade goods to the inland
provinces, military transports and early post and bus services before the
laying of the railway between Durban and Pietermaritzburg. The manuscript, Roadside memories: the Reminiscences of A. E. Smith of
Thornville has been printed in Natalia
vol 12 p7 published by The Natal Society Foundation. There is little
biographical detail in the manuscript, but the editorial preface, written by
Shelagh Spencer, states: Alfred trekked to Barberton in the early 1880s,
but by 1888 was back at Thornville, farming at Normanby. He later
lived in the Transvaal once more, and at the time of writing this
manuscript (which is undated), was resident in Bloemfontein.
John is stated to have been "of Normanby, Yorkshire", but this was where he
grew up. According to his brother's biography, Memoir of Joseph Smith, of South Holme, Late of
Huggate and Riseborough, Wesleyan Local Preacher p2 (R.J.
Smithson, 1900), their father married in 1821, then spent three years in
Wildon Grange, Yorkshire, followed by four years in Osgoodby, Yorkshire
before moving to Normanby, so John should have been born in Osgoodby. Both
Wildon Grange and Osgoodby are very close to Thirkleby by Thirsk, where the
baptism took place.
Baptism: 2 November 1825 in Thirkleby by
Thirsk, Yorkshire, England
Father: John Smith
Mother: Eleanor (Dickinson) Smith
Ford on 16 March 1865, at the Wesleyan Chapel, Pietermaritzburg,
John Smith is recorded as a bachelor, aged 38. He is a farmer resident at
Thornville Park, Pietermaritzburg. Eliza Ford is recorded as a spinster,
aged 24, resident in Pietermaritzburg. The marriage was performed by Rev. G.
Blencowe and witnessed by Robert Topham, George Andrews and Selina Ford.
Except from the editorial preface (written by Shelagh Spencer) to Roadside memories: the Reminiscences of A. E. Smith of
Thornville printed in Natalia
vol 12 p7 published by The Natal Society Foundation: John Smith was a cousin of Mrs Mary Boast, widow
of Henry Boast, the originator of the scheme which in 1850 brought to
Natal those Yorkshire immigrants who settled in the area now known
Alfred states that his father came to Natal in the early 1860s with
ample capital, supplied by himself and a syndicate, 'plus a complete
outfit' of the most modern farming implements. In his early days in Natal
he acted as agent for 'a machine and implement-making establishment' in
England. A cousin of Alfred's on his mother's side, Myrtle Foss, wrote
that John Smith had been a wealthy man when he emigrated to Natal to farm,
but through inexperience, lost nearly all his capital. Thornville Park was the name of his farm. It was formed of
a consolidation of emigrant allotments on the farm Vaalkop and Dadelfontein,
outside Pietermaritzburg. As a settler location the area had proved a
failure, being in low rainfall thorn country, with most allotments far
removed from any source of water. Thornville, the village laid out for the
settlers, had been sited on an outcrop of shale, and apart from a canteen
and a house or two, existed more on paper than in reality.
John Smith and his family remained at Thornville Park until at
least the early 1880s. They afterwards went to Pretoria, where he and his
wife both died.