The Founding.

The Founding of Jesselton

On Friday, 9 July 1897, Mat Salleh and his followers from Mengkabong attacked the settlement on Gaya Island at 4:30 pm from Inanam River, seizing all arms, ammunitions and boats while looting the Treasury and all the Chinese Shops. On 12 July, all Government buildings and shops were put to the touch thus destroying the settlement.

When peace was restored, it was necessary to find a new location for a new township. Rebuilding on Gaya was out of the question as island settlements were considered un-economical as they entailed costly transportation of materials from the mainland. Accordingly, an alternative location on the mainland south of the Kabatuan River on the shore of Gantesian Bay, opposite Sepangar Island, was elected. A founding ceremony was held on 8 May 1898, officiated by W.C. Cowie who named the new township Gantian a name from the word ‘ganti’, to take the place of Gaya as it was. A jetty was built, Government buildings were erected there on and the Chinese traders from Gaya were encouraged to re-establish their businesses in the new location.

Gantian shortly proved to be a bad location as its anchorage was exposed and as a coastal terminus for the proposed rail link from Beaufort, it would involve constructing a costly bridge over the Inanam River. As a result, in I 899 Henry Walker, the Commissioner for Lands, was tasked to look for a more suitable site for the new township. He selected a new site, 6 miles south of Gantian and directly opposite Gaya Island, where “there are about 30 acres of flatland, over 6 chains wide and half a mile long, suitable for a township. The hills at the back provide good bungalow sites. A stone mole and a wooden pier (for the railway) could be built and the depth at low tide is 24 feet sufficient for ocean going steamers,” with adequate water supply nearby and the anchorage well protected by Gaya Island from the N.E. and S.W. monsoons.

The native name for the new location was ‘Dia-Suka’. Others called it ‘Api-Api’. There was no founding ceremony. It was called Jesselton after Sir Charles Jessel, the Vice Chairman of the Court of Directors of the British North Borneo Company. By late I899, the Public Works Department commenced the removing of the Government buildings from Gantian to Jesselton. Shoplots were prepared to exchange for those in Gantian. A contract forth extension of the railway from Beaufort to Jesselton was signed with Pauling 8. Co.the contractor.

In addition to the establishment of the Government facilities such as administrative offices, wharf, residency, rest houses, quarters, hospital and barracks, Jesselton, as the coastal terminus, was also a busy hive of railway construction activities. The first train from Jesselton went through to Papar on 23 January I902 and the railway was handed over to the Government later that year and became a Government Department.

By 1903, Jesselton, a mere fishing village, has now developed into a beautiful industrious tropical town with a port of call for steamers. Rows of shops with wide streets between them, schools, offices, an outdoor dispensary, an up-to-date hospital, European firms, a Roman Catholic Church and a Church in progress for members of the Church of England and various other buildings.

The Founding of The Sports Club in Jesselton

The idea of establishing a club in Jesselton was mooted by His Excellency the Governor as early as 1902. In this connection, EG. Atkinson, the then District Officer of Jesselton wrote in his monthly report for December 1902 that ‘His Excellency the Governor suggested some time ago that the house belonging to Messrs Pauling & Co. (the Railway Contractor) could be turned into a Club house as soon as the railway was handed over to the Government. I now recommend that the piece of ground between the M/S Pauling & Co.’s house and the Medical Officers’ quarters be reserved for a tennis ground etc and ask that 8 to 10 prisoners be allowed to work daily reclaiming the swamp which at present exists there. This work must be done sooner or later as no rising town in the East should be without a recreation ground.’ This also marked the start of the ‘town padang’ which would be placed under the jurisdiction of the club when it was formed.

His Excellency the Governor, Ernest Woodford Birch arrived at Jesselton from Sandakan on I2 June and left on 9 July I903. It was during this visit that he officially founded the club, called it THE JESSELTON SPOIRTS CLUB and formed a committee to manage its affairs with the Governor himself as the ex-officio President.

The Governor and Mrs Birch on their farewell visit were back in Jesselton at 6:00 pm on Tuesday 22 December I903. Immediately on arrival, they proceeded to the new SPG mission school and officiated its opening as King Edward VII School (the predecessor of All Saints’ School); then proceeded by train to the new hospital which was declared open by Mrs Birch; after which the party adjourned to the CLUB where all the Europeans had assembled and bade farewell there. Major Harrington proposed a toast to the Governor wished all success to The Sports Club which he has founded. Dinner was served at the Residency. The part went on board at 10.30pm that night and sailed from Jesselton in the early morning of Wednesday 23 December 1903.