Category: Early Settlements

Au Kang (Hougang) 后港

Au Kang (Hougang, variant: How Kang), a former Kangkar settlement established at the end of Sungei Serangoon. An Index in Romanised Hokkien and Cantonese to ” The Chinese Names of Streets and Places in Singapore” published in the Journal of the Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society in December 1906 revealed that Au Kang was the Chinese synonym for Serangoon (variant: Sirangoon).

According to a survey published in the Straits Times on 18 May 1855, Au Kang was settled by 243 coolies. A letter printed on The Straits Times, 11 November 1856 by Philip Marquad complaining of the poor location of the Siglap police station he was in-charged of, revealed that the “Jungle inhabitants” at Howkang and Lowe (i.e. Low or Lau) Chu Kang Baru districts conveyed their produce to Town by Serangoon Road.

The Wikipedia entry on Hougang reports that at Hougang Street 21, there was a well that is still identified as the tua jia ka well structure. This well identified the Teochew village of tua jia ka which means the “foot of a big well”. In the past, the village was a popular place for food, street wayangs, itinerant Chinese medicine men and story tellers spinning yarns. Au Kang  was once a pig farming area until the 1990s.

 

Pre-1860 newspaper reports

Early press coverage on the Au Kang/Serangoon reveal it to be an almost lawless area.

The Singapore Free Press reported on 20 February 1845 an investigation ordered by Tan Tock Seng (Justice of Peace) when a group of Chinese were seized for transporting on a bullock cart a coffin with a badly decomposed body. The deceased, a sawyer at Serangoon, was claimed to be found dead in a swamp after he left home to buy arrack for the Chinese New Year a week earlier. On inspection, his skull was found marked with cuts from heavy sharp cutting instrument.
1

The Singapore Free Press reported on 28 December 1849 a robbery at a Chinese plantation near Serangoon. The inhabitants were attacked by a gang, which took away the working tools.
1

The Singapore Free Press on 7 June 1849 carried the news of the murder of a Chinese. The victim’s body was “cut in the most horrid manner, and the hands tied behind the back”.
5

The Singapore Free Press reported 25 January 1850 of a Lim-ah-kin who was assaulted by his own coolies in a pepper plantation in Serangoon and robbed of clothes and money.
7

The Singapore Free Press on 3 May 1850 identified Serangoon as one of several areas where gambling was carried out on “a most extensive scale”.
2

According to another case reported on The Singapore Free Press on 18 October 1850, five Chinese found their stolen boat and three thieves at Serangoon River. However they were stopped on their way to the police station by Tan Ah Tow, the head of a secret society. When the five Chinese appeared at the Kongsi House at Rochor days later, they were ordered to return the thieves some weapons left on the boat (but allowed to keep the boat), and beaten. Tan Ah Tow was charged in court and sentenced to 6-months imprisonment and a $200 fine. The reporter believed that the fine amount would be raised through a 1 cent per head levy on the 20,000 society members.
4a
4b

The Singapore Free Press reported 6 December 1850 of the death of a resident in Serangoon named Tan Soo in hospital from a severe wound received in the abdomen.
9

The Straits Times reported on 24 August 1852 the dismissal and forfeiture of pay of two police peons who refused to accompany their colleague to aid a Javanese mandoor and two coolies, who were murderously attacked in a plantation at Serangoon. Read full article here.

The Straits Times, 24 August 1852 reported of a Chinese vegetable gardener and his wife who were gagged and robbed in their house in Serangoon. The local police constable was also reported to be aware of two cases of gambling, but did not intervene due to the large number of people involved and the small size of his party.
13

An over-night secret society meeting involving a large but unknown number took place at Toa Payoh in the Serangoon district, according to The Straits Times, 19 October 1852. Swearing-in of new members was suspected, although the police was ignorant of the purpose of the assembly.
14
Read full article here.

The Straits Times, 10 June 1856 reported the kidnapping of a Christian Chinese adult in Serangoon village. It coincided with an increase of kidnapping of children in Singapore town, who were taken custody in Johore until ransom was paid.
14

The request of Geo. Wahab, the Deputy Supt of Police in Charge, to the Municipal Committee to build four police stations in Buddoo (Bedok), Serangoon, Sungei Kranji and Chan Chu Kang was published on The Straits Times, 15 July 1856.
Untitled picture

 

Tiger attacks were regularly reported in the Serangoon in the late 1840s and early 1850s, which might have resulted from an expansion of human activities  and reduction of jungle in the area.

Singapore Free Press, 7 December 1847
2

The Straits Times, 29 March 1848
3

The Straits Times, 23 May 1849
4

The Straits Times, 13 June 1849
6

The Singapore Free Press 25 July 1851
10

The Singapore Free Press 5 December 1851
1212b

The Straits Times, 16 November 1852
11

 

On 21 February 1851, The Singapore Free Press reported the Serangoon (Au Kang) area to be affected by the anti-Catholic riots carried out by the Triad.
Untitled picture
Read full article here.

The Singapore Free Press reported a week later 28 February 1851 of simmering unrest despite mediation by an unnamed rich Chinese merchant. Muskets, casks full of powder and rice were despatched by Serangoon River to Tan Chu Kang, where chiefs of the anti-Catholic riots were gathered. Meanwhile a Christian planter named Pung Ah Chin was robbed near Serangoon Road by a gang of ten armed Chinese.
66b
Read full article here.

 

Serangoon River was also plagued by frequent attacks of small parties of Malay.

The Straits Times reported on 9 July 1850 of an attack on two Malay boatmen and their three passengers (two Klings and one Chinese) at the entrance of Serangoon River by a large sampan of 13 Malays, two or three armed with spears. They were stripped of their clothes, some rice and working tools. One of the boatmen and Kling were speared to death, while the rest managed to escape.
3a3b

The Straits Times reported on 28 January 1851 that a coolie and a boatman, both with the surname Eyo (Yeo), were robbed and killed at Serangoon River. They were returning by boat to Pasir Ris with some rice and silver dollars after transporting gambier from a plantation there. One of the bodies was found with kris wounds.
5

The Straits Times published on 1 May 1855 the statement of a Tan Joo Hok, a merchant from New Bridge Road who was attacked and robbed on his way back from Johore by a sampan of eight Malays. Two of his companions were missing after the incident. He identified two of the assailants to be familiar faces at a Serangoon River.
7a7b

Sempang Kang (Simpang) 新邦港

Sempang Kang (variant: Seng Pan Kang, Seng Pang Kang) was sited by Sungei Simpang. A survey published in the Straits Times on 18 May 1855 showed that it was cultivated with gambier, pepper and nutmeg, and had 176 coolies.

Sempang

Location map (obtained from ijamestann.blogspot.sg)

Pre-1860 Newspaper reports

Sempang appeared from old newspaper article to be a place well out-to-reach from the authorities, with at least three cases of violence reported in the 1850s.

The Singapore Free Press reported on 27 September 1850 about the case of a plantation owner by the name Cheah Teng Kee who was assaulted, tied up and robbed by a gang of Chinese.
Untitled picture

Two months later, another planter from Choo Chwee Kang (location unknown) was ambushed by a gang hidden in the jungles on his way back from Sempang Kang. (The Singapore Free Press, 15 November 1850)
Untitled picture

The Straits Times recorded on 4 September 1855 the statement of Tey You Leang, a boatman from Sempang Kang who was attacked for no known reason by a small group of Malays while ferrying a man across to Johore. The worst was feared for the passenger Tan Kong Koey.
Untitled pictureUntitled picture

Yio Chu Kang 楊厝港

Yio Chu Kang (variants: Yio Choo Kang, Yeo Choo Kang, Yeo Chu Kang, Yeo Chukang, Eo Chu Kang, Eyo Chu Kang), was a originally gambier and pepper plantation settlement located by Sungei Seletar.  It was probably named after an owner or the occupant clan by the surname Yeo. A survey published in the Straits Times on 18 May 1855 showed that Yio Chu Kang was a place with 161 coolies.

the-kangchu-systems-in-singapore-1851

Picture credit: A Pictorial History of the Nee Soon Community

Yio Chu Kang Road, a major road was built in the 19th century to connect Upper Thomson Road to Upper Serangoon Road. Subsequently the term Yio Chu Kang become associated with a wider area covering Upper Thomson, Yio Chu Kang, Ang Mo Kio, Buangkok, Jalan Kayu, Hougang and Serangoon. A number of Chinese villages that sprung along the road survived until the 1980s.

Remember Singapore blog provides a good write-up and some interesting old photos on the Teochew Yio Chu Kang Village and Chia Keng Village 車宮村 in the enlarged Yio Chu Kang area.

Pre-1860 newspaper reports

The Singapore Free Press published on 27 July 1849 a proposal by Louis S. Jackson, Chairman of the Municipal Committee, to build police stations at Bukit Timah, Sungei Kranji/Sungei Sempang and on Thomson Road towards Yio Chu Kang, as part of measures to bring the interior under British controls.

Untitled picture

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read full article here

 

The Singapore Free Press 5 December 1851 reported three cases of tiger attacks, including one at Yio Chu Kang and discussed on the need to increase monetary reward to encourage the people to hunt the animal.

1212b

 

Peng Kang 秉江

Peng Kang (variant: Pengkang) was a large and renowned gambier plantation growing area,  until 1906 when rubber planting took over. It   was reported in A Descriptive Dictionary of British Malaya (1894) to be a village in Southwest Singapore, bounded on the east by Jurong River. For this reason, local Chinese knew Jurong area as Peng Kang.

A survey of gambier and pepper plantations published in the Straits Times on 18 May 1855 showed that Peng Kang had 132 coolies.

Pengkang

Location map

Pre-1860 newspaper reports

According to Singapore Free Press report on 2 November 1849, Peng Kang was linked to a Jurong Kangkar by a “toah (i.e. “large”) pyoh” (pyoh referring to a large fallen trees thrown into marsh or mud to form an imperfect path). The Jurong Kangkar was connected in the same way to a Pandan Kangkar.

Untitled picture

The Singapore Free Press reported on 11 January 1850 of a plan to establish a police station in Peng Kang.
Untitled picture

Wha Heng Kang

Wha Heng Kang (variant: Why Eng Kang, Who Hen Kang). Old kangkar settlement at Tengah River, Kranji. A survey of gambier and pepper plantations published in the Straits Times on 18 May 1855 showed that Wha Eng Kang had 114 coolies.

Chu Chu Kang

Location map (obtained from ijamestann.blogspot.sg)

Pre-1860 newspaper reports

The Singapore Free Press reported on 11 January 1850 of a plan to establish a police station in Peng Kang, which was deemed useful for patrol in Wha Heng Kang.
Untitled picture

Lim Chu Kang 林厝港

Lim Chu Kang (variant: Lim Choo Kang, Lim Chukang) was described in A Descriptive Dictionary of British Malaya (1894) as a village in west Kranji district, with numerous pepper and gambier plantations in the neighbourhood.

Several online references report that Lim Chu Kang Village was founded by Hokkien businessman Neo Ao Tiew @ Neo Tiew (1884-1875). However Lim Chu Kang existed many decades before.  A survey published in the Straits Times on 18 May 1855 showed that Lim Chu Kang was already a sizable gambier and pepper plantation settlement with 267 coolies.

Chu Chu Kang

Location map (obtained from ijamestann.blogspot.sg)

From infopedia.nl.sg

The name Lim Chu Kang is derived from the Chinese word “kangchu” which translates as “owner of the river”. It is also the term used for the system of land ownership for pepper and gambier plantations in the region from the 1800s to early 1900s. The name may have originated from the fact that these plantations and their surrounding village settlements were nearly always situated on the riverbanks.

In the early 19th century, Lim Chu Kang comprised mainly of pepper and gambier plantations. Rubber plantations subsequently overtook these, in response to the development of the motorcar industry and the corollary increase in demand for rubber products. In the 1960s, domestic demand gave rise to numerous vegetable, fruit, poultry, and pig farms in the area. Such farming did not require large pieces of land, and most were family-run farms that used traditional farming methods and produced a mix of products in addition to a main crop/produce.

In the 1970s and 1980s, rapid industrial development in Singapore led to a decrease in agricultural land use in Singapore. Pig farming was phased out gradually in the 1980s and the Primary Production Department (PPD) embarked on its agrotechnology programme in 1986. Agrotechnology is defined as the application of biological science and technology to intensive farming systems. Agrotechnology parks that house intensive high-technology farms were initiated and encouraged by the PPD as a means to maximise output from Singapore’s limited agricultural land. Under the programme, farmlands in Lim Chu Kang, Murai, Sungei Tengah, Mandai, Nee Soon and Loyang were converted into modern agrotechnology parks.

Three large Chinese kampong once flourished at Lim Chu Kang. They were the Ama Keng Village (亚妈宫村), Thong Hoe Village (通和村) and Nan Hoe Village (南和村).  Read more about the villages at remembersingapore blog.

Pre-1860 newspaper reports
The Singapore Free Press reported on 23 August 1850 about suspected malicious setting of fire to a  gambier bangsal (plantation) in Lim Chu Kang. Reported losses include working implements, the clothes of the owner and his coolies, and 28 piculs of gambier.

Untitled picture

Choa Chu Kang 蔡厝港

Choa Chu Kang, old Kangkar settlement located beside Sungei Berih, which is now part of Poyan reservoir. A survey published in the Straits Times on 18 May 1855 showed that Choa Chu Kang had 248 coolies.

From infopedia.nl.sg:

Between the late 18th to early 19th century, Chinese immigrants settled along the river, Sungei Berih. These settlers were called Kangchu, where chu was an established clan name, thus the name Choa Chu Kang. Choa Chu Kang was a small remote rural district with old kampong housing, rubber and coconut plantations. Residents relied on boats or bullock carts for transportation. The Chinese district that grew out of that community included Kampong Belimbing and Kampong Choa Chu Kang. Most of the early inhabitants belong to the Teochew clan who were mainly farmers growing gambier and pepper. The Hokkiens, who settled later, started pineapple, rubber and coconut plantations as well as vegetable farms and poultry farms. Choa Chu Kang was infamous for wild tigers with the last tiger in Singapore shot here in the 1930s.

Remember Singapore reports Choa Chu Kang to be once a kangchu system where gambier and pepper plantations were first set up by the early Teochew settlers along the waters of Sungei Berih and Sungei Peng Siang. The settlement at Sungei Peng Siang probably refers to the original Chu Chu Kang. Names of more nearby old villages and photographs can be found at the blog.