Friday, 8 October 2010


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It became evident that affairs in Old Umtali were at a standstill. Patience was needed, as much progress could not be expected without railways and roads, and on top of this a great calamity hit the small community. This was the rinderpest. As ox transport was the only means of transport everything seemed to be in abeyance. But before proceeding further let us digress for a short while, and see how Umtali fared in the face of apparent disaster.

The ambition of man to explore is continuous, and one of the earliest groups of settlers arrived in 1891. At that time Rhodes was doing his utmost to encourage people to come to Rhodesia and take up land. One of the first groups consisted of Laurence van der Byl and his party of twenty five young men (Cape Colonists).

They record a difficult journey to Salisbury, and from there resumed their way eastward towards Umtali, their intention being to take up land somewhere in the vicinity of Umtassa's kraal. The reason why they wore not sent further eastward was that uncertainty prevailed as to where the boundary between Portuguese East Africa and British territory would be placed.

So van der Byl started his settlement in the Makoni district, the area now known as Rusape, the town itself having the same name. Temporary huts were built from materials at hand, whilst a search was made for suitable farms where people could settle. The weather conditions added to the general discomfort, and the initial zeal disappeared. Soon after the settlers were down with malaria and blackwater set in. They had never experienced such adverse conditions before. Laurence van der Byl was one of the first to succumb. In 1892, less than a year after arriving, he died at M'gopas. This was too much for the other settlers, and the group broke up and men dispersed.

The reason given for the failure was ignorance and unpreparedness to meet the conditions of a new country, and secondly, the lack of any womenfolk to give stability and permanency. In spite of all this, the little town of Rusape, which developed out of the experiment, has proved that the hardships of these young men were not in vain.

After them came Dunbar Moodie's trek. He certainly had been put through his paces by past experiences and hardships connected with the settlement of a new, unexplored country. As already stated, he escorted Jameson and Doyle when they undertook that hazardous expedition to find Gungunyana, and eventually succeeded in finding him and winning him over to the British. This roused the Portuguese and the demarkation of the boundaries was executed. It was agreedthat all the land around Melsetter known as Gazaland be ceded to the British. Now Noodle, well acquainted with this area, was determined that he and his people would occupy it. His impression was that it surpassed any other agricultural area he had previously seen, with green pastures, rivers, abounding perennial streams, and numerous game of all kinds. The land also seemed very fertile. There were forests with countless large trees suitable for cutting into boards for the structure of the settlers' homes. Bordering all this was the majestic Chimanimani mountain range where beautiful wild flowers abounded, and where birds and animals unknown to other regions were found.

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Moodie, having taken into consideration all these aspects, and being most impressed, immediately communicated with his friends in South Africa begging them to join forces with him and settle in this land of plenty. Rhodes inspired them further. "Go north, young men, your hinterland lies there."

It was when such promising accounts reached South Africa that the well established farmers were rather suspicious, and averse to venturing into the unknown. They considered 'a bird in the hand was better than two in the bush'. They reckoned it would be a long journey through the lowveld before they obtained their objectives; roads were non-existent, and wild animals, tsetse-fly and malaria were all hazards to be considered. Then on arrival, the high plateau which the settlers were expected to occupy, had no roads, and very little chance of a railway. But these glowing accounts of the life in the eastern part of Rhodesia were very unsettling, for at the back of men's minds was the lure of the unknown, and the love of adventure. Land was there for the asking, and to miss such an opportunity might affect them for the rest of their lives.

Cecil Rhodes realised that it was essential that there should be a buffer state between Manicaland and the Portuguese, so as to resist the menace of the native tribes encouraged by the settlement of the land. At the same time it was determined to choose carefully the intending settlers. If they were to be permanent, they must be accompanied by their wives and families. It would be no mean task, but an ordeal which required endurance and courage, and because of this Rhodes chose George Benjaman Dunbar Moodie, who had already proved himself by working for the Sabi Ophir Gold Mining Company in 1861.

It was in 1891 that Rhodes and Jameson decided that Dunbar Moodie should be encouraged to form the settlement in the Gazaland area, and to grant him seven farms, each about three thousand acres, with an annual rent of seventeen pounds ten shillings for the farms. Moodie was naturally pleased and enthusiastic.

He decided to return to the Free State as soon as he had mapped out the farms. He employed three men and told them during his absence to get on with the job, and build huts on each farm, so sure was he that he would have no difficulty in persuading Free State farmers to take up the land. Moodie's idea was to settle a hundred families in the area and Rhodes approved of the idea 'as it was just what he needed, and asked Moodie to keep in touch with him and visit him in Cape Town. He realised such a big venture would take considerable time to organise.

Dunbar Moodie, on arrival in the Free State, took his uncle Thomas Moodie into his confidence, giving him glowing accounts of the beautiful country which had untold possibilities.

Thomas Moodie's father, James Moodie, represented the Melsetter Clan. His forefathers had lived for generations at Melster in the Orkneys, therefore their estate in Rhodesia was later to be named Melsetter.

In 1892 a small deputation went to interview Rhodes. They thought the farms of three thousand acres too small, and suggested three thousand morgen would be more suitable, and also a reduction in quit-rent to six pounds per annum. To this Rhodes agreed, and sent Jameson a telegram to that effect.

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However, after Moodie had had several more meetings with his applicants for further aid it was agreed that each person be allowed seventy five pounds for farm equipment etc. but the Company turned this request down. So it seemed that the expedition was doomed to failure! But Moodie, being a determined character and a patriarch, would allow nothing to stand in his way and resolved to accept the responsibility for the trek. In view of the fact that no further assistance was forthcoming many farmers withdrew their names. Moodie was not deterred, and eventually mustered sixty or seventy adults, children, a baby, their grand parents and four servants, including cattle and horses.

He was glad to have Ernest du Plessis (a staunch supporter of Thomas Moodie) who was experienced as a transport rider, and an excellent organiser and also no stranger to Mashonaland. Dunbar Moodie decided to go by boat to Beira, and from there to travel to Salisbury to see Jameson, as it was necessary to supply the trekkers with arms and ammunition. They would be responsible for them in case of attack by hostile African tribes.

In November 1892 the party set out from Fort Victoria into Manicaland. where Dunbar Moodie rejoined them. Previous to this the settlers had had numerous setbacks, which Dr. Olivier has so ably described in his book "Many treks made Rhodesia".

However, in spite of all the discouragement they endured they pressed on to the promised land. Arriving at the summit of a hill they looked down at its steeply descending sides. There seemed no hope of going any further as it was impossible for wagons to make an, progress. So these hardy travellers came to a halt and in desperation called it "Amen Heights"!

Once again, however, their despondency passed, hopes were revived and they refused to be beaten, and what is now the Moodie Pass was surmounted and overcome. It was a task of immense endurance which took four days to accomplish. They had to avoid large granite boulders and trees and to prevent wagons sliding and capsizing the wheels were secured to prevent them revolving. As one wagon at a time was let down, a team of strong men, after attaching ropes to its rear, held on to them with all their might to prevent the vehicle crashing down the hill and becoming a wreck. With all their efforts, strain and endurance all the wagons eventually reached the bottom of that hill and they continued their journey rejoicing. Being a sincere and religious people they thanked God for their deliverance and went on their way with thankful hearts.

A few days afterwards the travellers arrived at the Sabi, and looked upon the majestic river with amazement, its flow having been increased by the recent rains. The party had been notified before that the river was an obstacle to be surmounted, and it was possible that they would never reach the other side. There were quicksands and obscure crossings had to be carefully examined before proceeding. Dunbar Moodie was not a man to take risks. He was most concerned that their attempts to reach the opposite bank should not fail and was seen walking to his wagon with a bundle of flags. Mounting his horse he rode down into the river, expecting any minute to flounder into a quicksand, but he was fortunate. From island to island he went, seeing that the sand under his horse was firm and solid, at the same time erecting flags to indicate a safe route for the wagons to take. Unfortunately, the next morning when he looked around he

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found all his work undone. The river had risen and his flags were washed away and so he had to repeat the performance. This was no mean task. The sand banks on the opposite side were steep, therefore before proceeding it was necessary to cut a way through them. Eventually all was ready.

The first wagon to leave the river was that of Tom Moodie with his wife sitting by his side as a passenger, tense and worried, not knowing what the future held. However, those who were about to venture across watched their progress anxiously, and regained confidence when the wagon was soen to pull out on the opposite bank. The first four wagons managed successfully but after that, as the vehicles disturbed the sand under thorn, it was necessary to add extra teams of oxen to help them through, fill through the day the shouting and cracking of whips continued, and at four o'clock that afternoon the last wagon was safely pulled through to the opposite bank and there, under a large tree,next morning, the event was celebrated with thanks- giving. A few shots of dynamite were fired off, and to cap the proceedings the only case of liquor was produced. The most difficult crossing of the river was an event worth celebrating.

Throughout the journey there was no excessive drinking. The settlers abided by the rules set down before starting and in no way deviated from them.

Now in Gazaland the boundary was between the Shangaans of Gungunyana and the Mahalakas, the former regarding Gazaland as their territory. Aware that there was bound to be conflict in approaching the border, preparations were made for any eventuality. It was just as well as it came sooner than expected for there were about four hundred indunas advancing on them in battle array. The trekkers stood their ground unflinchingly, and the oncoming Zulus realised that they had a formidable enemy to contend with, so called a halt within a hundred yards or so. They squatted down whilst their captain and two of his indunas went forward for consultation. On arrival the trekkers gathered round and were very annoyed by the leader, a burly heavyweight, who was most abusive, and threatened them by yelling and cursing, displaying his authority, demanding who had given them permission-to enter this country and why were they bringing their wagons and women with them? "This is our country" he shouted. Fortunately Tom Moodie had an interpreter with him who silently looked on and listened. "We must try and straighten things out", Moodie instructed the interpreter, "but this chap really needs taking down a peg or two".

It infuriated Moodie when the boastful captain refused to answer. In no uncertain terms Moodie affirmed that they had no intention of becoming subjects of any African leaders, they intended to remain in tho territory. This further infuriated the leader of the Shangaans. With wild threats he flung himself about describing what would happen to these white strangers if his commands were not obeyed. Tom Moodie stared at him calmly, and then called a party of his men together as if to consult them, but instead he ordered them to close in on the trouble maker and hold him down. The surprise on the culprit's face was almost laughable. He then realised the white men determination.. He had no alternative but to humble himself before them, and respect the stand they made.

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However, on being released he left without comment. Evidently this incident was not repeated to his own men.

From that day on, after Moodie had assured this leader that he himself 'would be responsible for any misdeeds of his men, there was peace and harmony between opposing forces. The Shangaans even helped Moodie and his men cut a pass over the mountain.

This particular crossing took considerable time and trouble and Ernest du Plessis and Dunbar Moodie with two European volunteers had to go in advance, two days ahead, seeking a suitable way up. Those two volunteers, when contacting the local tribes, had to be very cautious as they were regarded with suspicion because of repeated raids on them by other tribes. On such occasions, unless taken unawares, the locals fled and deserted their kraals.

Dunbar Moodie and Ernest du Plessis happened to come across one of these deserted kraals late one afternoon and as they were tired, hungry and without food, they decided to camp there that night. So they settled down and boiled themselves some coffee. It seemed an answer to prayer when a couple of fowls made their appearance round the hut and asked to be slaughtered! They soon made an end to them and boiled them in an old clay pot. Next morning, well satisfied, they continued their survey work. After a couple of days the men happened to return to the same kraal with their two Shangaan assistants They managed to capture two of the terrified inhabitants. When they realised Moodie was eloquent in the Shangaan language, and was not the head of a raiding party, they soon recovered from their nervousness and ceased trembling. A new hut was provided for sleeping accommodation for Moodie and his companions. Very soon the pathetic members of the kraal returned. The women's faces were now free from fear, but the children shrank away from them with terror. In return for the killing of their fowls the two trekkers presented the owners of the fowls with two cartridge cases, which were greatly appreciated and kept for snuff holders. After this they brought another fowl in exchange for just one more.

This raiding episode is only one example of what was taking place all over Rhodesia in those early days. The local Africans were so intimidated by marauding parties that they were very fearful. Mr. du Plessis stated that he was convinced that the fear of lions and raiding armies were the two important factors which drove the natives to the white man for. protection and security.

In continuing the journey another pass had to be surmounted. At times it was necessary to couple up three spans of oxen to a wagon, with the men pushing in the rear, whilst the women walked, carrying small children.

It seems strange that the very day they reached the summit happened to be Christmas day, 1892. This was considered a good omen in spite of tho fact that they found there was no water, so du Plessis had to return down the mountain side with six donkeys in the dark to the Tanganda river to replenish their empty bags. Much to his disgust, after he had achieved his objective, scrambling through thickets with the risk of encountering lions, he found on his return that a good supply of fresh running water was within two hundred yards of the camp!

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Having celebrated Christmas the travellers mere obliged to halt for a few days to recuperate from the constant strain and hardship which they had to endure and had been detrimental to the health of the group. Dunbar Moodie was gradually recovering from a bout of malaria, whilst Tom Moodie was down with it.

There was much excitement when they in-spanned-their oxen for: the last time. The fulfilment of their desires at last arrived when they saw before them the green grasslands of Chipinga and Melsetter. The reward which they so richly deserved had materialised and they looked upon it and rejoiced. The land before them surpassed all expectations; the travellers had not been misled by their leaders. The party had crossed the Sabi on the 13th December, taking twenty two days for them to reach their destination. It is remarkable that the trek which took eight months to complete, can now be traversed by car in less than three days!

On arrival Tom Moodie was elected as Sheriff and saw to it that order was observed, and Ernest do Plessis was his deputy. There seems to have been some difficulty in the distribution of farms as the demarkation line between Portuguese East Africa and Rhodesia . had not yet been finalised. Mr. Moolman pegged his farm but Webster went so far to the-east and afterwards found out that he was one of those who had pegged in Portuguese territory.

These were the forerunners of many other treks which' took place later,and will always be remembered in Manicaland history:

Thomas and Cecilia Jocimina Moodie and children Martin, Thomas, Harriet, James, Boyce, Charles, George and Gan.
Sarah Moodie and her husband George Benjamin Dunbar Moodie.
Ernest du Plessis.
Henry Ashput.
Ernest Baden.
Richard Dick; Hulley.
Mr. Knok.
Fred Markham.
Jan Oberholster.
Gustav Stiebel.

The settlers who came after the Moodie trek had equally trying ordeals and must always be remembered in Manicaland history. In 1893 the Moolman-Webster trek took place. Johannes Nicolaas Moolman had his wife with him and his three children and a young man named Hartkopff to assist him, and a Joseph Webster an Englishman who had lived in South Africa for many years, also accompanied them.

Leaving Fort Victoria, owing to the onset cf the Matabele rebellion, the Jan Moolman family linked up with them. Mr. Moolman had received enthusiastic and glowing accounts about the wonderful country of Gazaland, so he saddled his horse and was off to see for himself. On his return he was well satisfied, and considered it a marvellous country, and he and Webster immediately contacted Dr. Jameson who was only too pleased for them to link up with their predecessors and the Moodies, and acquire farms for themselves. This party eventually reached the Moodie farm at Waterfalls, having had a fierce fight with the Matabele on the way, killing about thirty of them.

It was than that the first tragedy befall the settlers. After two months on his farm Mr. Webster went out to shoot lions with an

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English missionary named Burgin. They were not successful and the lions avoided them. The missionary forgot to unload his gun on return and the next morning they both sat on the verandah cleaning their guns, when Burgin's gun went off and unfortunately shot Mr. Webster in the chest and heart. It appears that Mr. Webster was doomed to failure. When he attempted transport from Malala to Mount Silinda, the track he was obliged to cut was through a thick wooded area full of swamps and infested with tsetse fly. His next attempt at transport was to Beira, which was more disastrous, as he lost every ox he had. Eventually, after having to continue in Portuguese East Africa for some, time under adverse circumstances, Mrs. Webster was granted a farm in Melsetter, named 'The Meadows'. She was a fine and well respected woman, who walked many miles to attend and care for the sick, especially the Moodie family. She was eighty four when her first illness struck her, and she died in Mount Silinda Hospital.

Members of this trek mere Johan Nicolaas and Catherine E.F. Moolman and their children, Jurie, Hendrik and Lettie; Johannes Hartkopff, who found conditions too trying and moved to Salisbury; Piet Lourens and Johannes Bezuidenhout who returned to the Transvaal; Joseph and Sarah Webster and their children John T, William G, Anna, Louisa, Mary and Alice; Johannes Bezuiddnhcut; John Ballantyne; Jakens and Lecorno.

In 1894 the Samuel Gifford trek took place. It numbered thirty four people with ten wagons. Right from the beginning troubles started even before reaching the Rhodesian border. Most of their oxen died owing to bush ticks and so had to be replaced with donkeys and when the servants heard that the Matabele were on the war-path, they refused to go any further. However, it seems that the British South Africa Company come to their rescue and were able to supply, oxen. These oxen, evidently commandeered from the Matabele, were very acceptable and so the donkeys were replaced. There were additional delays as these oxen had to be trained. In the process this caused many headaches owing to breakages of chains, yokes and skeys.

After reaching Fort Victoria the party followed the tracks of their predecessors, the Moodies and Webster's, and eventually arrived at the Moodie farm in September 1896, when they took a well-earned rest, which they justly deserved, as they had had a very gruelling time and some terrifying experiences.

Unlike the previous trekkers they were not entirely satisfied with their new environment. It may have been that the best farms had already been pegged. This group was obliged to go further afield and owing to this made a big error by pegging their farms in Portuguese territory. It was some years after this that they realised their mistake, and were very unhappy that they had to return to Manicaland. The farms they preferred were new occupied so they had to take what they could get. The following were members of this party:

Alfred Samuel and Emma Geauz Gifford and their children Prudence, Mary, Edith Maud, Alice, Johann, Margaret Ann;Johann and Sarah Herbst and children Elizabeth, Johann, and Molly;
Clifford and Molly Connell and children; Daniel Nell, his wife and three children; T. van der Walt and two children; Frank Connel:

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E. Dorking; Emil and Katrina Grootwahl; Michael Herbst; Mr. Hulett; J. Pienaar; Angus Rubridgo; John Walker Scott; William Edward Scott; R, Sauer; S. Swanepoel and F. Webster.

Again in 1894 a trek well worth recording as it was the largest agricultural one to enter Rhodesia, was conducted by Marthinus Jacobus Martin of Naudelust, Fouriesburg in the Orange Free State.

Martin, when a Member of Parliament, was attracted by an advertisement which stated that three thousand morgen farms near Macequece were available and anyone interested was to contact the Administrator immediately. A much delayed reply stated that the Mozambique Company would undertake guides and carriers and people should be given every assistance when they arrived in Beira. The fact was emphasised that it was a beautiful piece of land north of Massi-Kessi, hilly country well supplied with water, and suitable for man and beast. A number of meetings were arranged with Mr. Martin and it was agreed that four men be selected to undertake the expedition. They were Marthinus J. Martin, Michel A. Heyns, Casper Badenhorst and Cornelius J. du Preez.

On arrival at Beira the group were well received and according to arrangements, the Governor Machado supplied guides, and gave them permission to visit Gazaland. They travelled by the usual route taken by many settlers at that time to Rhodesia from Beira, by paddle-boat along the Pungwe to Fontesville, and from there by narrow gauge railway to Chimoyo and Macequece.

Here they found most of the ground unsuitable and low-lying, and being afraid of malaria, moved on as far as a farm known as 'Clifton'. From here there was a magnificent view of undulating hills and.mountains, and the party became more enthusiastic. This was just what they were seeking. Some Africans informed them that there was a European settlement a few days journey onward so they decided to investigate.

Across Buffelsnek and Lemonkop the party travelled, and at Cecilton they arranged to part company. Badenhorst and Heyns continued search for the Europeans but Martin and du Preez wanted, to see more of the country and travelled in an easterly direction towards Nyahoda river and the Chimanimani mountains. It was a great surprise to both couples when, after a short period, they stumbled across each other again! Then they were staggered after a further journey to find themselves at the Moodie's farm 'Waterfalls".

You can imagine the great welcome they received, especially as Tom Moodie was a brother-in-law of Badenhorst, and a great friend of du Preez, Dunbar Moodie, being the representative of the British South Africa Company, seized this opportunity of taking the party round, showing them all he could. By the end of ten days' inspection members of this trek wore convinced that this was the country for them. Heyns went so far as to look at farms along the Busi river. The next meeting place was Wolwehoek (Rich lands) where the rest decided to apply for permission to settle along the range of mountains known as Chimanimani. This name was given to the gorge or peak and the range itself was known as Mawhengi, forming the boundary between Portuguese and British territory.

When Martin returned to the Free State he was still very enthusiastic, although the other three wished to delay operations for a while, as it was uncertain whether Gazaland was in Portuguese

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East Africa or Manicaland. Partly because of this Martin went to visit Rhodes, who was than in Kimberley. Rhodes was in full agreement with the proposal and welcomed the Afrikaans trekkers to Rhodesia, emphasising the fact that it was necessary for them to take their wives and children with them, as good family units produced a moral influence in any country. Rhodes promised that all the rights of the Afrikaans settlers, including their language, would be respected. There would be nothing to fear during his lifetime. Also, there would be no purchase price for farms, merely the usual quit-rent of one pound per one thousand acres, and it was hoped that they would be successful and strong supporters of the Eastern Border. Mr. Martin, being well satisfied, then resigned from Parliament.

Ho was a staunch member of the Dutch Reformed Church, which was established in Rhodesia the following year, and has served the community so well in times of trouble and tribulation. The Afrikaarers being a devout people, always put their religion first and every year, if there was no church in the district, hold their Nachtmaal in some central position where all assembled to renew their homage to God and to thank him for all His gracious gifts and to seek His protection. This Nachtmaal as a rule lasted three or four days. It was primarily a time of prayer and thanksgiving, and afterwards renewal of old friendships and associations.

Before making decisions Mr. Martin contacted the great preacher, Dr. Andrew Murray, who was very interested in the project and promised his every assistance.

It was on the 19th April 1894 that the big trek started and one hundred and four members moved slowly out of Fouriesburg in new wagons. Included were four Zulus, six Hottentots (two women) and ten house servants, and other families joined them en route.

On arrival at the Limpopo the crossing of this river took a week. Many adventures, too numerous to record here, took place on the way. For instance, Hardy got lost whilst out hunting and this caused a great commotion amongst the party. That night large flares were made and lamps hung on trees and shots fired, but without effect. The next morning many men went on horseback in search of him and arrived back late in the afternoon. Fortunately one party who came back late that night had found him utterly exhausted. He had given up all hope of ever seeing his friends again. However, having read about van der Riet's experiences Hardy was sensible enough to remain in one spot and sleep in a tree.

Another sad incident took place. One of the children, about three years old, disappeared one day when the children were playing a little distance from the wagon. When they started to look for the child he was gone. For days a frantic search took place, but sadly with no result, only a small shoe being found. It was a tremendous wrench to the parents when they had to move without their child, However, in spite of all these frustrations and hardships, the trek had its lighter aspects which I shall deal with later.

Jan Gysbert, who was very keen on joining the trek, died suddenly just before departure. The widow was determined to fill her husband's place so she and her whole family joined the party. One of her daughters, a very attractive young girl, caused a commotion amongst the young men in their efforts to gain her affections, and whenever an opportunity occurred they were seen at the wagon like bees round

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a honey pot. However, after some consideration the young woman fell in love with a fir., Heyns, much to the disappointment of the other ardent suitors. The engagement ended with a wedding ceremony under some large spreading trees and was conducted by the Rev. A.A. Louw, who afterwards started the Dutch Reformed' Church Mission Station at Morgenster, near Great Zimbabwe.

When the party arrived at the Sabi river at the entry to Manicaland, they were surprised by its width, in some places over a thousand yards wide and in others almost a mile. As usual the travellers had great difficulty in crossing the river. Mr. Olwage thought he would be clover and put all his fowls in a bag on top of the wagon, to protect them from being submerged in the deep water, but when opening them up on reaching the other side, he found they had been suffocated. Another great loss was all the salt which was a most important factor in a new country, especially in preserving meat. There again, when the other side was reached the water had flooded the bed of the wagon, and the salt dissolved rapidly.

Having crossed the Sabi river with only a few minor accidents, the party travelled more hopefully; they were now approaching the promised land and their future home. They travelled along Mount Rudd to Goke to the Tanganda river and the remarkable or notorious Three Span Burg, it's appropriate name being Jacob's Ladder,. Although the travellers had heard a great deal about this obstacle they had never taken it very seriously. Now they were confronted with this hazard.

The mountain road was a short pull but- very steep and had been made by the first Noodle party in 1892. It was full of rocks and stones, and so many spans of oxen had to be hooked on to the wagon that by the time the first oxen were nearing the summit, the wagon was only a quarter of the way up!

On the 14th October, 1894 the trek reached Buffelsnek where they stopped, as Martin's ambition was to establish a memorial to the honour of God who had so wonderfully guided and. helped them. This was the ideal spot, so they erected a memorial of stones as a sign of their thankfulness for their safe arrival on the border of the habitable land of Gazaland and for His faithful guidance and care of the trek, for "Truly the Lord had helped and taken care of us on this long, dangerous and exhausting journey", wrote Martin. Two days later, on the 16th October, the day was dedicated to Thanks-giving, The memorial was called Ebenezer, and the members of the party decided that once every fifty years as from 1899 they would gather on the same spot and celebrate the day to commemorate God's wonderful guidance and care which they had received. And so the trek which left the Free State in April arrived at their destination on the 14th October, a matter of seven months, a feat which can be accomplished today by car on macadamised roads in several days.

However, after arriving at Waterfall Farm, the trekkers had to proceed to the farms they had chosen, surmounting large mountains, north of Sterkstroom and Lusita. There was a journey down the Lusitu Valley and up again to the farm 'Witkyk'. (Here, unfortunately, the trekkers lost one of their respected and God-fearing women, Mrs. Scholtz.) After spending many days discovering a way over the Lusitu Mountains, a police officer, Joe Nesbitt, made his appearance with a letter from Dunbar Moodie, stating that it was most necessary

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that all the men returned with their rifles and ammunition, because the Portuguese had sent an army to take over Gazaland. After, leaving a few elderly men to take charge of the women and children, the men took their departure. Eight days after this they were back again, hungry, tired and thirsty, drenched to the skin as the heavy rains were on. The whole affair had been a false alarm, much to their disgust. At last, three days after this, their goal was reached. On arrival they were full of praise for the leadership of Martinus Martin, and clubbed together, handing him a memorandum stating their appreciation for all that he had done for thorn, so ably assisting them to their future home in Gazaland.

Following this we record the names of the Martin Trek:

Martinus Jacobus and Rusina Elizabeth Martin and their son Johannes Lodewikus; Johannes Hendrik Christoffel and Roesa Huigh Kok and children Jocoba M, Johanna Cornelia, Gertruida, Rosina Elizabeth, Barbara, Johan Andries and Stephanie Deborah; George Frederick and Dirkie Elizabeth Heyns and children Engela J. Maria M, Johan A, Cornelius, George F and Dirkie Elizabeth; Abraham Daniel and Dirkie Jocoba Olwage and children Susanna Maria, Christian Dudfif, Joseph Daniel, Abraham Daniel.and Jasper; Petronella Susana du Preez (Widow) and children Petronella Susana, Mrs. Jan Gysbert, Rosina Elizabeth, Jean Charles Frederick, Hester Elizabeth, Anton Michael, Helyard Petrus, Johanna Christina and Cornelia; Rudolph and Martha van Rooyen (the'late Mrs. Hefer) and children Tommie and Miriam; Peter Edmund and Christina Steyn and children Johannes Peter, Edward and Jacoba; Jan Dirk and Rozena Elizabeth Heyns and children Jan Dirk, Rosina Elizabeth, Christina and Ignatius; Jan and Maria Scholtz and child Aletta; Jacob and Gertruida Herselman and children Frederick, Jan, Gertruida, Magdalena and Jacob; Salmon and Ann Scholtz and children Jan Botes, Anna Maria, Hendrik, Wynand Willem, Cathrina and Frederick Johannes; Petrus Stephanus and Luisa Francina Martin and children Johannes, Ludewekus, Pieter Stephanus, Marthinus Jacobus and Debora; Tobias and Mirian van. dor .Riot and children Edward.and Willem; Jan and Johanna vdin Zyl and children Johannes Willem, Pieter, Dawid, Johanna, Elizabeth arid Adrian; James Tilbury and Catherine Gesina English; Phillipus Brankin; Antonio Ferreira; Edward Hardy; Adriaan Hefer; John Andries Heyns;. Koos Marks; Pieter Rootenbach; Jan Roos; Louis Schutte;:Frederick Smith; Frederick van Eeden; Jobert van Heerden; Therenls van Schalkwyk; Joe Adendorf van Schalkwyk.

Mr. Ernest du Plessis, who has been previously mentioned in the Moodie Trek, after pegging his farm 'Clearwater, harnessed his span of oxen and returned to the Free State determined to fetch his own trek. The result was that after giving a glowing account of what was taking place in Gazaland, he persuaded many families to return with him, and made the journey in about four months. After settling them all, he decided to go back once more and fetch his bride. A pole and dagga home, he reckoned, was not good enough for her, so it seems that he had built a house for her, the first to be constructed with burnt bricks.

Mr. du Plessis returned on foot to Chimora and from there to Beira and by boat. He married Magdalena Maritz, daughter of Gerrit Maritz, descendant of the Great Trek leader. Pleased with himself and happily married, full of enthusiasm to get back to his beloved Gazaland, he led a third party safely back to his farm where his new house awaited his bride.

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Ernest du Plessis (1894):
Hendrik and Johanna du Plessis and children Gertruida, Christina,
Hendrik, Frans, Jan, Alette; Dirk du Plessis; Jan Human; Abraham Spies; Hans Talgaard.

Members of the du Plessis Trek 1895:
Ernest and Magdalena du Plessis? Louw and Deborah Kleyn;
Diederik and Lenie Englebrecht and child Jan; Frikkie Stopforth with his wife and children; Hendrik Pikster with his wife and children; Andries Breytenbach.

Ernest Kruger's was the second last Pioneer Trek to Gazaland. In the early days when the Mashonaland expedition left he started transport riding and made good money. The only incident recorded was when Mr. Longden, the Magistrate at Melsetter, tried to prevent him from delivering an order for drinks, to Bulawayo! He continued transport riding until 1895, and as competition then became too much for him, decided to move into Rhodesia. Ho joined Hendrik Bekker, who had been in the transport business since 1890. ' It is interesting to note that his wife accompanied him on one of his trips to Salisbury in 1890, and in 1891 his son Jan was born in Salisbury. This might well have been the first baby to be born in the capital. Mr. Bekker states that he got as much as seven pounds ten shillings per hundred pound weight for the goods he delivered, and at times there were as many as ninety wagons lined up in Salisbury. He lost most of his oxen in Salisbury through lung sickness, but as there was a big demand for timber all over Rhodesia at the time, he signed a contract to saw and deliver wood to the British South Africa Company at eighty pounds a week. He had a flourishing mill on the banks Of the Hunyani and Bekker also stated that many transport riders, having completed a good contract, sold their wagons and returned to .South Africa by coach. In this way Bekker managed to buy a wagon and team of oxen for two hundred pounds.

Only two families joined him, and at Fort Victoria a Mr. Pretorius persuaded him to go to Gazaland. They joined parties and followed the Moodie Trek as far as Waterfalls. There they contacted the Commandant at Mazzorezi, who promised them one hundred farms if they brought settlers to occupy, them.

The son-in-law of Pretorius, Lucas Laubacher, lost his way whilst out hunting only to be found fatally ill with malaria, and being carried on a zebra skin by Africans. The family returned to South Africa where Mr. Pretorius died, and Bekker failed to accomplish his great desire of persuading his hundred people to settle in Portuguese East Africa. However, Rhodes persuaded him that it would be more desirable if they went to Melsetter. Rhodes said many people in England and South Africa seemed to think that they would never be able to create a white man's country in. Rhodesia. He was anxious to show the world that this was not so, the possibilities in Rhodesia were great. Rhodes required men who knew something about farming to make a start in Gazaland, and prove that agriculture in itself would be a great asset to, the country. When Mr. Kruger pointed out to him that Gazaland was virtually cut off from other parts of Rhodesia, and that other areas such as south of Bulawayo were more favourable, and would develop rapidly, he assured them that whatever progress might take place in other areas he would see to it that the same privileges were granted to the Melsetter part of the country. Considering this, Ernest Kruger replied that he would change his

Page 40

course, but when he arrived in Gazaland Dunbar Moodie was suspicious, because at that time trouble was brewing between President Kruger and the British, and he had the same name. However,, after making the excuse that there were no farms available, he advised Kruger to return to the Transvaal. The party therefore decided, except Bezuidenhout and du Preez, to go to Massorezi, but before they were able to select farms, all except Bekker went down with malaria. On top of this rinderpest broke out, therefore their intentions to return to South Africa were delayed. Instead, the party struggled back to Melsetter and there Kruger again met Mr. Longden and because of the argument a year before about transporting liquor, Longden was not ready to help him, so he was unable to obtain a farm. Eventually Mr. Labuschagne allowed them to occupy his farm 'Avontuur', and because they had run out of ammunition,. clothing and food (after having had such a troubled existence) Mr. Labuschagne also gave them a pair of axon to get to the farm. The group was now down to bedrock and their only remaining ox they sold for about eighty pounds which was all they possessed. But a year or two later this party of settlers obtained their own farm where they remained and were satisfied.

Mr. Bekker, having no money to start farming, accepted a contract to cut a road to Beira and all went well until one day he suddenly took ill, collapsed and died.

This broke the spirit of this that Portuguese East Africa was not for them and returned to Melsetter. Here they were given hospitality by de Beer who asked them to remain on his farm 'Middelstroom'.

The two treks wore the most unfortunate of all the pioneer efforts to Gazaland. One feels that they had earned fairer treatment. However, they proved themselves worthy of their race, The determination and courage of all those men and women should always, be remembered and revered in .the history of Manicaland.

Members of the Kruger - Bekker Trek (1895) :

Hennie and Christie Bekker and children Koot, Annie, Hendrick, Soon, Jozua, David Piet, Jan, Maria and Chrissie; Wynand and Durie Bezuidenhout and their children Wynand, Klasie, Hans, Barend, Jan, Cornelius, Johanna Anie and Dore; Fanie and Lea du Preez and children Salaman and Johanna,; Ernest Kruger with their children Petrus, Maria, Hans and Wynand; Willem and Nellie Smit and their children Nik, Gert, Soon, Lettie and Johanna.

The third big Trek was conducted by Messrs. Henry and Steyn in 1895. After news that farms were available in Rhodesia for only thirty pounds each, a. committee was formed to proceed to Manicaland to inspect and report back on their findings. Several farmers were interested and prepared to venture, if satisfied. The committee consisted of John Henry and Johannes F. Steyn. After sailing to Beira in 1894 the party travelled the usual way by Pungwe river, then by train to the seventy five mile peg. After this they proceeded on foot, or made use of wagons as far as Chimoyo and the Ruwui river.The first night out the travellers lost themselves in the mist, and after wandering aimlessly for several days, stumbled on Mr. Cripps' farm near Umtali. He was able to give them further instructions on how to reach Moodie's farm, and also provided them with an African guide.

Page 41

Eventually after being fed by Africans at different kraals, the party arrived at Waterfalls - owned by Dunbar Moodie. He advised them to move to the extreme south.. They thought, however, thought it would be better to go north and get nearer to the proposed railway line.

Henry and Steyn wished to settle past the Martin's area towards Umvumvumu valley. There they were granted farms on payment of thirty pounds a piece and were made responsible for the pegging of their boundaries for these properties.

The party, being well satisfied, returned to the Free State to spread the good news and a trek was immediately organised. It seem that having profited by the experiences of previous trekkers, they decided to take with them such items as grass seed, fruit, seeds, tress and domestic animals, five thousand cattle and about seven hundred and fifty sheep etc., also clothing and food for six months, There were sixteen wagons and one hundred and four people concerned, divided into two sections led by Mr. Henry and nr. J.G. Steyn, the latter acting as general secretary.

On their journey Thomas Ferreira, whilst out shooting, bagged Kudu and then lost himself. He relates how one evening he found the spot where he left the wagon. During the night he heard a shot. Someone had been sent out along the road to look for him. What a relief!

After the horses, being stricken with horse sickness which killed most of them off, and lions having claimed a few of those that were left, the trek arrived at Fort Victoria, the supply depot for all those who travelled to and from South Africa. From there the party trekked on to the Sabi.

Another incident occurred when Cornelius Marais wagon broke down. A few men offered to.stay behind and do repairs. Whilst they away collecting an axle from a deserted wagon skeleton, Marais tried to jack up the wagon. It toppled over and pinned him to the ground. He and his wife struggled to free his legs. He was very nearly dying in agony, when a native appeared and with his help release was effected.

There were the usual difficulties when crossing the Sabi after passing the Ebenezer memorial of the Martin trek. These trekkers arrived at the Moodie settlement towards the end of October. After this a few of the settlers went on to peg their farms, and found that there was not sufficient land available for them all, so others went northward into an unknown uncharted area. Here the mountains were formidable. Two spans of oxen were required to ascend the steep gradients. On one occasion the chain attached to the wagon broke; the vehicle then ran back out of control and landed at the bottom, destroying all Mr. Hendrik Steyn's furniture! A similar mishap took place with Mr. Harm Coetzer's wagon later on, whilst travelling to Moodiesnek, on the road made by Mr. Moodie, to Umtali. After this, to safeguard wagons from breaking away whilst climbing steep gradients a big wooden block or pole was dragged along at the back of wagons.If by chance the wagon broke away and moved backwards, the wheels contacted the obstruction and immediately came to a halt. This method was frequently used whilst traversing Christmas Pass by wagon in the old days.

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Members of the Henry - Steyn Trek:

John and Emily Henry and children Tom, Freddie, Christian, Lucas and Maria; Johannes and Annie Steyn and children Martha, Herculina, Johannes and Anna; Pieter and Engela Steyn and children Johannes and Annie; Hendrik and'Christina Steyn and child Aletta; Hendrik and Sannie Steyn and children Cornelius and Sannie; P. Willem and Cornelia Steyn'and children Antonie, Hendrik, Stephanus, Paul, Susanna, Anna, Cornelia, Johannes and Pieter; Christoffel and Aletta Steyn; Wentzel and Johanna Coetzer and children Johannes, Wentze, Johanna, Annie, Piet, Martha and Willem; Hara and Johanna Coetzer and children Hendrik, Susanna,.. Jan, Piet and Lettie; Thomas and Maria Ferreira and children Willem, Maria, Jan, Thomas, Catharine and Louis; Johannes and Annie Kloppers and, children Martha, Aletta, Annie, Christoffol, Willem and Johannes Schalk; Stephanus and Annie Lombard and children Annie, Stephanus and Barend; Cornelius and Catharina Marais and children Annie, Barend, Catharina and Stephina; Willem and Hessie Prinsloo and children Willemina, Hana and Willem Frelk; E. Coetzer; Ignatius dePreez; Jaap Hauptfleisch; Daniel van der Zandt.

End of Chapter 6

Click Here To Return to Index

Recompiled, by Eddy Norris, from a copy of the booklet made available by Neill Storey. Thanks Neill.

The recompilation was done for no or intended financial gain but rather to record the memories of Rhodesia.

The family of the author have given permission for ORAFs to load this booklet onto the Internet.
Thanks top the family and special thanks to Heather Curran.

Thanks to
Paul Norris for the ISP sponsorship.
Paul Mroz for the image hosting sponsorship.
Robb Ellis for his assistance.

Should you wish to contact Eddy Norris please mail him



At 3 November 2010 at 08:35 , Blogger Rhodesia Remembered said...

Emily Messina Writes:-

I remember a cemetery near Vila de Manica - which had many graves of the old pioneers. We found the cemetery by chance one day - long ago! It was at the end of a rutted road, up a hill just outside of the town. Very interesting and rather sad to realize what a hard life it must have been for them. I think those that were buried there had started their farms in Mocambique, not knowing where the border line was - as stated in this edition.

At 14 November 2015 at 10:35 , Blogger Alex Dyer said...

Your blog article is really very nice and informative in which you have authentically described the several facts. Thanks for your sharing and please keep updating.

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