Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Sugar and Natal: the Pioneers - Koch, De Pass, Kisch


Koch was one of the founders of the Durban Club and a prominent Durban merchant. He bought the estates of Babbs and Smart and worked the re-named estate, Reunion, for about five years. In 1868 Reunion was put up for sale, Koch having been declared insolvent.

Robinson noted in 1870: 'Reunion represents three different estates, those owned when I was here in 1861 by Mr Babbs, Mr Smart and Mr R King. Since Messrs de Pass & Co became owners of the property, a large amount of capital has been expended in improvements. ... The first engine is 25-horse power and drives the mill, which is the original one imported by Mr Babbs, the largest in the Colony. The other engine works the vacuum pan and centrifugals. ... 700 or 800 acres are under cane and 220 labourers are employed. Like its neighbours, Reunion suffered disastrously from the flood of 1868 and the frost of 1869.'

Illovo Sugar Estates Ltd acquired the whole of Reunion in 1920.


As a young man, de Pass joined his father's Cape Town firm of De Pass, Spence & Co and was instrumental in persuading the then governor to annex the Ichaboe Guano Islands to the Cape Colony. He developed the Sandwich Bay fisheries, from which stemmed his sugar milling project of Reunion Estate at Isipingo. His ships, after unloading fish at Mauritius, returned laden with sugar. Later, de Pass decided he would produce his own sugar in Natal and in due course became owner of Reunion Estate.

It's interesting to note that in the 1860s, de Pass was joined by his cousin, Daniel Montague Kisch, who subsequently assisted in the management of the Reunion and Umzinto plantations which belonged to de Pass. Daniel Montague Kisch was the brother of Natal photographers Benjamin and Henry Kisch.

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