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The first European to reach Kisumu was Stanley who, in March, 1875 in the course of his circumnavigation of the lake, sailed to the eastern end of the gulf. He found a fisherman in the lake who told him the place was called Ugowe.

In 1883, Thompson while travelling to Mumias came up with the shortest route to Western Kenya from Baringo through the Nandi country and Kano plains. This set the pattern for westward bound caravans for many years, and many travellers avoided the southern route through Sotik and the Kipsigis country.

Among those who followed this route and crossed the Kano plains into the Luo country were Fischer (1886). Jackson (1889) and Smith and Neumann (1891).

Smith’s mission was to find a harbour suitable

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for the Imperial British East Africa Company’s proposed fleet which was to link the important kingdom of Buganda.

His report was , however, discouraging and this, together with the unfavourable report by Pringle (1892) on the prospects for a railway line passing through Kipsigis country , meant the areas around the gulf of Ugowe now Kisumu. were ignored.

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Instead, the survey recommended that Port Victoria in Busia county be the terminus of the railway and plans were launched to establish a station and port at that place.

The 1895 military operation against the Nandi led officers on to the hills overlooking the Nyando Valley. Later when Eng. Blackett, the railway surveyor, looked at the map used during the operation, he became convinced that at long last he had found the shortest and cheapest route to the Lake and Uganda.

In August 1898 Blackett personally travelled to the area and stood on a hill south of Londiani which he named after himself. He looked down the Nyando Valley and got the idea that a railway line could be run over the Mau to the Ugowe Gulf.

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The following month, September 1898, after receiving this information from Blackett, Sir George Whitehouse, Chief Engineer of the Railway, sailed from Port Victoria to the head of the Ugowe Gulf and then walked up the Nyando Valley to confirm what Blackett had told me.

He was convinced about the Gulf of Ugowe (Kisumu) becoming the main terminus of the railway and the port for Uganda. He named the future township Port Florence in honour of his wife. Consequently, initial plans to make Port Victoria the terminus were abandoned, and from that time the development of Kisumu as the terminus began.

At first, activities at Kisumu were mainly concerned with the progress of the railway. A food depot was established to feed the forward survey parties, the £14,000 temporary telegraph was pushed through to the lake, and roads were made from the foot of the Nandi escarpment at Kibigori to connect with Sclater’s (Kakamega) Road and from Molo over Mau in the wake of the railway engineers.

Whitehouse began the lake survey in 1899 and the same year the steamship William Mackinnon, which had arrived in parts at Mombasa in 1895. was being assembled on the lake shore of Port Florence(Kisumu).

In May, 1899. Colonel Ternan ordered the gradual removal of the civil headquarters from Mumias and the transfer of port equipment and transport staff from Port Victoria to Kisumu. After the move had been carried out, Colonel Coles established on the outskirts of the early Kisumu a military barracks with Nubian soldiers

In July, Ternan sketched the first skeleton development plan for Kisumu, which included landing places and wharves along the lake shore and government buildings and retail shops in the streets behind. However, he left room between the first buildings and the lake for public gardens and a promenade.

The residential areas were to be divided by broad intersecting roads with a row of trees on each side, and a layout devised worthy of the town’s future standing as the mart for the products and requirements of British and German East Africa, the Nile and the Eastern Congo.

Another plan was drawn up by Charles William Hobley when he arrived in May, 1900 to take charge of the province; plots were allocated to two firms, Boustead Ridley and the German D.O.A.G.. as well as to Indian traders, many of whom had travelled to Kisumu on donkey transport contracts for the Uganda Railway and had decided to settle at the expanding terminus.

Development proceeded with no trouble from the Luo tribe, more and more of whom began to settle near the town and to make their contribution to its economy. A few small expeditions were made by Nubian soldiers stationed in Kisumu barracks against the Seme and Uyoma, and against the Nyangori who were in the habit of raiding the township cattle bomas.

In June, 1900 a delegation of Nandi tribesmen met a Luo delegation and proposed an armed alliance together with other Nyanza Bantu tribes to drive the British from Kisumu and western Kenya. The Nyanza tribes refused to join their

traditional enemies and they stood aside when the military expeditionary force left Kisumu for the Nandi country in July 1900.

The expedition dragged on until October and ended indecisively, with the result that for the next five years the road, rail and telegraph communications of Kisumu with the outside world were continually being attacked and often cut by Nandi and Kipsigis warriors.

In October 1900, the 62 ton “William Mackinnon” made its maiden voyage to Entebbe from Port Florence (Kisumu) . This marked the beginning of the lake marine service. Soon two new ships the Winifred and Sybil were added to the fleet in 1902 and 1904, to deal with the increased cargo.

The railway line reached Kisumu pier on 20th December, 1901 when Mrs Preston drove in the last spike and the first locomotive arrived at the terminus.By February the line was open for goods and passenger traffic and the permanent telegraph completed.

By this time it was realised that the site originally chosen for Kisumu township north of the gulf was unsuitable, and the Foreign Office authorised the removal of the buildings to the ridge rising from the southern shore (lt’s current site).

Development of the surrounding countryside was going on under Hobley and Partington, and stations as far away as Baringo and Fort Ternan were being supplied by the Kisumu market. Private and official prospecting was going on in the province and a start was being made with the Indian settlement scheme near Kibos.

In the township, traders’ licences were beginning to produce a substantial revenue, the market was flourishing and traders were clamouring for godown plots near the station and pier to cope with the increase in general trade and the boom in hide buying.

During the godown controversy in Kisumu Allidina Visram united all traders under one organisation. The organisation was the forerunner of what was later known as Kisumu Chamber of Commerce.

In 1903 Kisumu township boundaries were gazetted and some 12,566 acres including water, set aside within a radius of 24 miles from the Collector’s office. When the Duke and Duchess of Connaught visited Kisumu in 1900, most of the initial troubles had been overcome and the town was settling down to its long history of gradual but steady progress.

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