In 1900 the Anglo-Boer war caused a general
depression which severely affected trade and commerce. Freight by ship and rail
was very difficult to obtain and there were constant delays on Beira Railways.
Melsetter residents had to pay carriage at the rate of 10/- per 100 lbs, soon
afterwards increased to 15/-, from Umtali, where prices were already very high
and increased by the institution of Customs Duties.
For supplies to road parties and Government Departments Martin charged
30/- per 200-lb bag of mealies, 33/- to 34/- a 200-lb bag of oofoo (mealiemeal),
45/- per 100-lb bag of salt, and 9d per bundle for oats. Every wagon came to
grief in delivering supplies to Chipinga, and Martin complained about the state
of the road.
Native administration was affected by a new Ordinance under which
lobolo, or marriage compensation, had to be paid in full at the time of
marriage, the advantages of which were fully realised by older and more
intelligent natives especially those with marriageable daughters, but the
younger ones preferred the old system whereby wives could be obtained on credit
and the lobolo paid over a long period of years.
Judicial work was light as crime among the European population was
practically nonexistent and the 500 Settlers had proved themselves most orderly
and law-abiding, and civil jurisdiction work was also very light as the settlers
were averse to litigation except in extreme cases and also there was difficulty
in obtaining legal advice as there were no local practitioners.
Cases came before the court of witchcraft, abduction, house-breaking,
man-stealing, fraud, theft, contraventions of the Village Management
Regulations, Master & Servants� Act, and Game Preservation Ordinance. The
Magistrate felt that these native cases were serious and represented only a very
small percentage of the crimes actually committed because the police force was
so small and ill-mounted it was impossible to patrol the country thoroughly, and
European farmers were not keen on giving evidence which would lead to criminal
prosecutions as their being called as witnesses would entail having to travel
long distances to and from the Court, in most cases on foot, and their absence
would leave their wives, families and stock without protection.
The Farmers� Association said that it was necessary for the welfare and
protection of farmers that an experienced and competent Cattle Inspector be
appointed, as the duties of the Native Commissioner prevented his devoting
sufficient time and attention to this work. There had been several losses from
lung sickness, and one farmer had lost 100 head of valuable breeding cattle in
two months which he attributed to the laxity in administration of quarantine
regulations. In June C. E. Owen was appointed Cattle Inspector at a salary of
�200 per annum.
The Agricultural Department imported Algerian Rust Resisting Oats for
distribution among farmers, and Wayland reported having located deposits of
lime. The delimitations on his inspection plan of 72 farms were approved, of
which some details are of interest:
the position of Dunblane had to be sorted out as the beacons were
originally located before the Anglo-Portuguese boundary was delineated; on
Westfield and Jameson the areas were below the amount to which the owners were
entitled; objections were dealt with on the boundary between Orange Grove and
Roede; and a specific inspection was made with regard to the farm Tarka or
Glenmore, which included the farm Glencoe.
Iron rails and plates were received for the demarcation of the boundary
and, as no other transport was available, Wayland tried to get them from the
township to the boundary in his field wagon, but owing to the very bad state of
the road and its absence in places the wagon collapsed when a hind wheel broke.
Longden�s wagon suffered a similar fate, and Wayland then used the four front
wheels and managed to proceed under immense difficulties.
In 1900 the F.A. said that the law prohibiting the shooting of bushbuck
in this district was unnecessary and asked for the relevant clause to be deleted
from the Game Law. They pointed out that bushbuck were well protected by their
habits and the nature of the country; in spite of indiscriminate shooting they
seemed to have increased in numbers, they did much damage to crops, and farmers
depended largely on them for meat supplies.
At the same time apparently universal
contraventions of the Game Preservation Ordinance by both whites and natives
caused concern to the Magistrate, who said that only two cases had been brought
to light during the year yet he was told on all sides that shooting of all
descriptions of game continued both in and out of the close season, and while
very few licences were taken out all farmers were in the habit of shooting game.
A few years later he was pleased to report convictions for shooting Royal Game
which was an offence difficult to prove and committed often.
Dr. W. T. Lawrence took over at Mount Silinda Mission, and his
qualifications were queried in much the same way as Dr. Thompson�s had been
three years earlier. When the Chief Secretary asked for Dr. Lawrence�s diplomas
to be submitted to see if they would qualify him to be registered, the Rev. F.
W. Bates replied that Dr. Lawrence was a graduate of a leading New York medical
school which was not on the very meagre list of schools accepted by the Company.
Dr. Lawrence was the only medical practitioner south of Melsetter and had
already attended settlers and expected more calls. Bates asked the Company
to say whether he should refuse these calls: judging from experience it would be
a life and death question. Dr. Lawrence�s qualifications were accepted and he
continued to look after patients in the Chipinga area.
Dr. 1. Sutherland came to Melsetter as District Surgeon but died very
suddenly a few months later: Mrs. Sutherland was left with two little children without any means of support and Longden asked
the Government to pay her passage back to England.
A highlight of 1900 was the visit in July of Cecil
John Rhodes, whose party had six horses and three mule-wagons, one of which was
fitted up for anyone to travel in if he did not wish to ride and the others
carried luggage, provisions and servants. It was delightful weather with cold
nights and sunny days.
Rhodes was very pleased with his visit; he found the settlers contented
and thriving and bravely determined to face and overcome all difficulties. He
encouraged them to come to his camp and tell him their troubles, but found they
had very few. He had a knack of making people feel at home, and arranged for
coffee, cigars and cigarettes to be passed round while he chatted with them for
hours. The settlers had absolute confidence in their leaders, Longden and
le Roux, and lived together like a big family, sympathising in each others�
troubles and gaining by others� experiences, and told Rhodes that they looked
upon him as a father.
On one occasion Rhodes had his hat on a bench beside him: he lifted it up
and put it on merely in order to raise it as a tribute to the people who had
gone through so much. His visit was a great excitement for the children as he
brought the first toys they had ever seen from a shop: Andries Kok received
a beautiful grey wooden horse with a black mane and one foot up, with a
scotchcart at the back, and attributes his continued love of horses partly to
It was hoped that Rhodes would allocate more land, and Prinsloo started
the ball rolling by asking if he could have, for himself and his three sons,
more than his 3 000 morgen. When asked if the farm were beneficially occupied,
Prinsloo replied that they just lived there and had done no development,
whereupon Rhodes said that if he worked it he would find it enough. That ended
the discussion and no one asked for more land.
Rhodes took a great interest in Melsetter�s farming and visited many
farms and outlined schemes for the importation of cattle, sheep and pigs for
distribution with payment to extend over four years carrying 5% interest. He
also discussed the care of a bull which he had previously imported for Melsetter
farmers; the erection of a Pioneer Memorial to which he promised a donation; and
expressed his dissatisfaction with the pole-and-dagga huts which served as
Government buildings and Magistrate�s quarters, and gave Longden 30 acres for a
house for himself. Rhodes was sorry when the time came to leave, and the people
showed genuine regret when he shook hands with them on his departure.
Shortly afterwards pigs were imported and offered for sale at �2 each,
with the purchasers guaranteeing to keep them for breeding purposes for two
years. The bull was in Longden�s care and a camp was made for it: a little later
the Chief Accountant telegraphed indignantly about the animal for which the
Government had built a special kraal and had paid 30/- a month for herding it,
and asked in what circumstances it had been allowed to stray into a bog. The
circumstances remain unknown, but apparently the bull suffered no damage, and
soon a new camp was made for it with a shed of rough bush timber and a
galvanised iron roof as Longden felt it was dangerous to place a valuable animal
in an ordinary shed of wattle and thatch on account of risk by fire.
Longden, having been encouraged by Rhodes to draw up plans for his own
house, built The Residency, commonly known as The Gwasha (wooded ravine), and
developed the site with a well-laid out beautiful garden, orchard and tree
�3000 had been placed on the Estimates for the Government Building, and
Longden reported that the 150000 bricks made by Brent were ready for official
inspection, and told the Public Works Department that he had shown the cover
plans and specifications to Rhodes, who had agreed that it was necessary to
erect the public offices without delay and that the proposed expensive gaol was
unnecessary. Longden urged that, if the funds available were inadequate to
complete the whole building according to plan, three cells only should be
erected which would meet all present requirements, and the whole front block of
offices be started immediately.
Building started under the supervision of a P.W.D. foreman to whom
Longden gave specific instuctions regarding the fireplaces �an absolute
necessity in winter � in all the offices, and the siting of the building, the
stables and the urinals between the stables and the cells. The building was
completed in 1901: the date, some initials and the name Remmer may be seen in
the ornamental cement work at the sides of the main Courthouse door, and other
initials are at the side of the Post Office door. In 1908 the Director of Public
Works drew attention to the Melsetter Public Offices, erected under proper
supervision at a cost of �2 250, repairs to which to that date amounted only to
An unsuitable teacher was employed at a farm school, whom Longden
described as having made a scurrilous and libellous attack on English, and as
unfit for appointment, disseminating erroneous information and causing agitation
and unrest: in that community any person with the slightest pretence to a little
learning, who would write their letters for them, and who was given to much
reading of the Bible and the offering up of long prayers, would always be held
by them only a little lower than the angels. The school was closed down shortly
Lack of support for the Dutch Reformed Church School also led to its
being closed in 1900 and no education was available for any Melsetter children.
In 1900 and 1901 Longden called meetings of interested farmer-parents to discuss
the problem, the biggest difficulty being the boarding and lodging of children
as there was no suitable building nor anyone prepared to take on the supervision
of a boarding establishment.
After discussion between Longden and Bates, it was arranged that a
Managers� Committee of Mount Silnda Mission would run a school in the township.
The Managers asked the Government for a grant of �300 a year, five acres of land
and a loan towards the erection of buildings and purchase of school supplies,
and undertook to supply the teachers and to erect the buildings. They laid down
charges which they considered the very lowest possible. with an entrance fee of
�2 towards furnishing the dormitories; the boarding department was to be open to
all girls and to boys under 12 with board at a maximum of 10/- a week and 6d a
week charged for washing; and tuition fees were 3/6d to 7/- a month according to
grade with the pupils paying for books.
Conditions in the district were reasonably good and there seemed little
doubt that these fees could be met by parents. The Mission�s parent Society in
America was not at all certain that one of their missionaries would really want
to teach white children and needed to be reassured, so there was some cabling
between Silinda and Boston before permission was granted for the release of Miss
There was concern that no provision had yet been made on the Estimates
for any hospital accommodation: patients from the country were continually being
brought into town and, unless they were provided for by the kindness of local
residents, there was no place for them to remain while being treated by the
District Surgeon. A District Surgeon�s residence was also necessary, as the
presence of a D.S. was imperative and no medical practitioner would stay if no
house was provided.