Although there had been times when Dunbar Moodie was helpful and had
behaved as a reputable citizen, his general behaviour left much to be desired
and many complaints were made about him.
Dissatisfaction with Moodie�s handling of land led the Surveyor-General
to say that no land transactions were to go through him. People who had been
granted farms were allowed to peg out their own land and send a sketch upon
which provisional title would be issued, and the final survey had to be done by
a duly admitted surveyor and all correspondence conducted through the R.M.�s
Dunbar was incensed when Longden docked his ground to the original
grant of 27 000 morgen. There were reports of his sawing timber on Crown lands,
and he was convicted of trading gunpowder to natives for mealies, mealiemeal and
On one occasion when he was summonsed on a charge of assault, he asked
if in view of the disturbed state of the country the case could be postponed, as
he felt that it was not safe to leave a family totally unprotected and many
difficulties rendered absence from home almost impossible. The case was heard
some weeks later, and Dunbar was found guilty and fined �10 or three months�
imprisonment with hard labour.
On another occasion Moodie was fined for his behaviour towards
Meredith, and then tried to circulate false and malicious rumours about him,
Meredith reported the matter to the Chief Native Commissioner, who asked Longden
for comment, adding that �I have great faith in Meredith and trust that with
your assistance he will put Moodie to the right-about. Two Almighties are
unheard of, and I feel sure that the Spiritual will not brook the interference
of the Bodily in Melsetter.�
In spite of his faults, Dunbar Moodie must be recognised as a man of
vision, as it was entirely due to his original efforts that the first settlement
of Melsetter took place. Early in 1897 he died of malaria.
In January 1897 the boundary was finally settled along the Vigliani
Line. Some farms fell into Portuguese territory and it took time for everyone to
know just where the boundary was. Mrs. Sarah Moodie wrote-to Longden in April:
�Kindly let me know if you have received the death notice of my poor husband,
and what I am to do next. My health is failing, and I am extremely anxious to
have matters settled. Re Portuguese boundary, please tell me may I continue
completing my house? We hear conflicting reports to the effect that we have
fallen in their territory. I am all alone, forsaken by God and Man.� Kenilworth
is actually well within Rhodesia.
After Orpen�s initial surveys, the Rhodesian surveyors who were mainly
involved in the very difficult survey between Rhodesia and Mozambique were R. S.
Fairbridge and A. E. Wayland. The survey necessitated long treks through
mountainous broken country and all along the top of the Chimanimani Mountains,
with the highest international beacon on Point 71 at 8 000 feet above sea
All who met Fairbridge remember him as a very colourful character. He
had led a difficult life doing surveys in many lonely stretches of Africa, and
this resulted in some eccentricities. He came to Rocklands in a donkey wagon,
wearing a red sash round his waist which was his towel: he told Marthinus Martin
(grandson of the leader of the Martin Trek) that only lazy men bathed and that a
man who worked and sweated should rub himself down. He was very well-read: when
Marthinus said he was planting Burbank wheat, Fairbridge was immediately able to
tell him the whole story of that variety.
L. M. McBean joined Fairbridge as a young survey assistant in 1923 at
his extraordinary house at Kingsley Farm near Old Umtali, which consisted of one
very large room with thick drystone walls, no windows, one stable door, and a
roof of large tarpaulins supported on poles of various lengths.
His African squatters paid their rent in produce, and each morning
Fairbridge sat before a huge ledger and entered the tithes brought to him. He
was a most interesting man, and never tired of telling stories of the old days.
In spite of long treks and a very frugal way of living he was very fit: small
and thin, but hard as nails, and wiry and tough. He believed in sandbaths rather
than washing in water, and used to sit in his sandpit and throw the sand over
his naked body just outside the doorway.
McBean�s first meal with him smelt a bit queer, and when pressed to say
what it was Fairbridge proudly said it was stewed rat. On McBean�s enquiring for
the alternative he was directed to biltong hanging up on a string. Strings went
across the room from wall to wall, and on them hung clothes, biltong, bunches of
bananas and many other oddments.
Occasionally a rat would start off to investigate, and all would go well
until the string began to wobble as the rat reached the middle of the room,
where it hesitated. This moment of indecision was the signal for Fairbridge (and
McBean after a bit) to throw things at it � anything: boots, tin plates, -enamel
mugs. There was nothing in the place to break, and, if they got him, that was
supper for that night.
Out on fieldwork his lunch would consist of a rough mealie-meal cookie
smeared with crude fat and placed on the nearest antheap for about 20 minutes;
the other half of the cookie would then be slapped on top: result, ant-sandwich,
all wriggly. �Delicious�, said Fairbridge, and consumed it with relish.
Wayland did the full survey of Melsetter farms in 1897, work which can
scarcely be faulted today. It has not been possible to ascertain exactly how or
by whom the farms were named. Doubtless Wayland chose many names himself, and it
seems likely that some, such as Westard Ho! and Kingsley, were suggested by
Fairbridge who was a keen admirer of the novelist Charles Kingsley and possibly
Albany from his earlier Grahamstown association. Some, such as Tilbury (James
Tilbury English) and Lavina�s Rust (Johanna Levina van Zyl) were chosen by their
first owners. Presumably also the Dutch names, mostly descriptive of the views
from the farms, were chosen by the original owners and were probably in use
before the formal survey was completed. In chiNdau Nzuzu is the name for a
water-sprite � according to legend one lived in the deep pool on Mount Peni, and
so the name Mermaid�s Grotto was chosen.
By 1897 Melsetter Township had been laid out with about 400 stands
demarcated and according to the Stand Register over 100 had been taken up by
September at prices varying between �30 and �120. Survey fees of �3 were due
with the first of the four instalment payments, and the B.S.A. Co. charged 8%
interest on arrear instalments, although in many instances the full amount was
never paid and there is no further record of the would-be purchasers.
Longden found that the Company�s tardiness in paying accounts made
things awkward for him, and warned that in future he would have great difficulty
in making purchases as people seemed indisposed to sell to the Company if they
had to wait such a long time for payment. He continued to appeal to Salisbury
for more silver for salary payments, but cash was a problem which continued over
At the Police Camp Inspector Nesbitt, Sergeant Herbert Remmer, and
Trooper Joe Nesbitt had some troubles with Police personnel. Native Constable
Peter Jackson aged 46, an American Negro born in Philadelphia, was charged in
March 1897 with theft of fowls and cooking utensils and with shooting at natives
with intent to murder. Jackson and another policeman, Kataza, had been sent to
find an escaped prisoner, and Jackson�s defence on the theft charge was that his
carriers complained of being hungry and he told them to collect some chickens.
He had fired into the air to intimidate the escaped prisoner�s relatives as he
did not get any co-operation from them in his search, and had impressed some �
who complained that they were handcuffed and legironed � to work on Steyn�s
farm. Kataza said that when he was in a hut with the women he heard a revolver
fired, and Jackson called him to come out with his gun and he ran out and fired
in the air.
All evidence, including that of the two Native Constables, was signed by
thumb prints. Peter Jackson was committed for trial on the charge of theft and
was gaoled in Melsetter pending his removal to Umtali for trial. He escaped that
night by climbing through the thatch of the gaol roof, and there is no further
record of him.
Another Native Constable, Long Tom, started working for Dunbar Moodie
in 1894 as groom, wagondriver and ploughman until he joined the Police in 1895.
By 1899, aged 35, he was the prison warder. In May, accused of being drunk and
using threatening language to members of the B.S.A. Police on lawful execution
of their duty, he was received into prison and paid the �2 fine. Two weeks later
he was re-admitted and charged with absenting himself from duty without leave,
being drunk and incapable within the gaol precincts, and disobeying the gaoler�s
orders. He paid the �5 in preference to one month with Hard Labour, and was
discharged from the service.
In 1897 the Medical Director, Dr. Fleming, enquired whether the doctor
at the American Mission would be willing to undertake district work at usual
District Surgeon�s salary of �200 a year and horse and horse allowance and Dr.
W. L. Thompson of Mount Selinda Mission filled in the application form. The
Acting Administrator decided that his New York degree was not recognised in
Rhodesia, that he could not be authorised to engage in private practice to the
detriment of other qualified and licensed practitioners, and that the licence
issued by the late Dunbar Moodie was quite irregular and insufficient for the
purpose for which it was intended. He added that the decision did not interfere
with Dr. Thompson�s right to practise as a member of the Mission.
Dr. Thompson considered this to be a distinct breach of faith on the
part of the Government and a personal insult to himself. �When I settled here
four years ago the local Government official demanded to inspect my diplomas and
certificates. After full correspondence the Administrator, himself a medical
practitioner, granted me a licence to practise medicine. This licence was made
out on a printed Government form, stamped with a Government �5 stamp, and signed
by a Government official. You say this was an irregular proceeding. Even if it
were irregular, that does not prove it invalid. If the Administrator was
satisfied that, though my diploma was not from a college �recognised in
Rhodesia�, it was still proper to grant me a licence, surely he had the power
and authority to do so.
�It is only with the approval of the Mission that I have attempted to
wait upon the settlers, and any revenue belongs to the Mission. For the sake of
suffering humanity �there being no other medical aid available � I have,
regardless of storm or danger and great difficulties of travel, attended by
night and day to the cause of the sick, and have attended the majority of the
settlers including Government officials and employees. My right or ability to do
this has never been called in question.�
Salisbury decided to accept Dr. Thompson�s qualifications and he
continued to serve the district. The horse allowance of �5 per month was paid
regularly up to 1923 for the doctor at Mount Silinda, who looked after urgent
cases in Chipinga long after a District Surgeon was stationed at
In March 1897 three missionaries of the South Africa General Mission,
Raney, Coupland and Kidd, were sent to do pioneer work on the eastern border of
Rhodesia. They travelled by ship to Beira and by rail to Chimoio. From there
they trekked on foot with carriers who eventually deserted them, carrying off
most of their food and equipment. Much time was lost in an effort to recover
these necessities, and they were physically very weak when they reached their
In October Dr. Thompson wrote from Silinda introducing them to Longden
and recommending their Mission for any assistance he could render. Longden
arranged that they should set up their Station on the Rusitu river, and they
built huts and prepared for the rainy season. It was then decided that John
Coupland should stay with what remained of their supplies while the others
returned to railhead to obtain more. From Chimoio Kidd returned to Cape Town to
report on their situation.
When Raney got back he found Coupland very ill with malaria. The
neighbours, the Humans of Uitkyk and the Moolmans of Voorspoed, were away and
Raney had no one to whom he could turn for help. He sat down beside his
companion, very much distressed and discouraged. Coupland told him not to be
troubled, as if he died it would be a promotion. He died on 14th November and
Raney buried him the following day at Uitkyk. Over the grave he placed a stone
on which he carved the word PROMOTION and the date.
The place where the missionaries had settled was under the jurisdiction
of Chief Muwushu and his sub-chief Dzingire, who were averse to these strangers
invading the country and opposed to granting them any land, although many years
later Dzingire testified that he could never forget helping to bury the first
missionary and that always in his heart was the thought that Christianity must
be a great thing when a white man was willing to die for the sake of telling it
to others. Chief Ngorima gave permission for them to settle in his territory,
and the Mission moved to the present site at Chingwekwe, although from
the beginning it was called Rusitu.
The Melsetter-Umtali road was a major problem, and in 1897 the
Umtali Magistrate said that of all the road work
needed in his district this
one was first and foremost, and he hoped that Longden would back him up in
pressing its urgency and need of improvement and repair. He considered that
setting the road in proper working order would be an advantage to everybody, and
that if the rinderpest inoculation proved successful Melsetter people would ride
transport and reduce the very heavy rates of 20/- per 100 lbs.
He and Longden met at the Umvumvumvu river and discussed what was needed,
as the old road was almost impassable and it was a marvel how wagons travelled
over it at all. �4 000 was then provided on the Estimates, and a new route was
chosen, considerably shorter than the old and with easier gradients, on which
Wayland surveyed and reserved Government outspans at convenient distances
between the Township and the Umvumvumvu river. The railway reached Umtali in
1898, after which the hazardous route to Chimoio was gradually discontinued for
transport to Melsetter.
Mails sometimes missed catching the Salisbury coach: the runners with
the incoming mails were so exhausted on reaching Melsetter that they could not
leave immediately with the outgoing mail, and sending out for further runners
meant a further delay.
By 1898 a further 100 stands in Melsetter Township had been bought, and
there were about 50 residents in the town and about 450 men, women and children
in the district. In the township two stores and three dwelling houses of brick
under corrugated iron were erected, and blue and red gums, casuarinas and black
wattle trees were growing well on both sides of the principal streets. The water
supply was considered to be very good, and a watercourse down the centre of the
town from north to south satisfactorily met the requirements of the
Arrangements were made to have a sale of stands facing the Market
Square, the price to be �80 each, and Longden suggested that other stands should
also be offered for public auction on the same day as several residents were
desirous of obtaining stands on the outskirts of the town.