Remembering the Birth of Bulawayo
- 17/6/2014 <--Prev : Next-->
From "Experiences of Rhodesia's Pioneer Women" by Jeannie M Boggie - What my Aunt Alice Barker said...
New Bulawayo 1894
Gentlemen. I don't think we want any talk about. There is plenty of whisky and soda inside; so come in."
"Hear, hear! Rather!" cried his audience.
A photograph taken at the time, shows a crowd of men settlers, but not a female face amongst them.
New Bulawayo's first male child was Albert Peters, born 6th July, 1894, in a marquee tent, three weeks after his parents had arrived from Johannesburg. They had two thrilling experiences during their four-months' trek. The first was when Mrs. Peters and little Alice went for a walk, and lost themselves.
Alice (Mrs. Barker, Bulawayo) said: " We must have been walking for some miles, when mother suddenly realized we ought to be getting back. We sat down on a fallen tree to wait the approach of the wagons, and listened for the familiar crack of the driver's whip. But not a sound of that description could we hear-only the noise of the wild animals calling, and the roar of what we took to be a lion.
" We waited for some time, as we were terrified to wander further. Not hearing any sound of the wagons, mother thought we had better try to find our way back to the road. So we walked and walked, I can't say how long it was from the time we left the wagons, but I know I was tired, and began to cry. We seemed to have wandered for hours. I remember dear mother earnestly saying a prayer. Then off we started again. Quite suddenly we heard a shot from a gun, and knew we were near the wagons; or that one of the men was looking for us.
" Eagerly we followed in the direction from which the shot seemed to come, and kept on calling out.
" Very soon we came across our wagon driver. As soon as we were missed, he had set off in one direction, and dad had gone another way.
" I think we were lost for about four hours. It was a terrible anxiety; and the incident stamped itself on my childish memory, never to be forgotten.
"Another terrifying experience occurred at the Limpopo river. when we arrived at the drift, the river was in flood. There were several wagons waiting to get across, but none would venture. We found it would be quite impossible to cross, even with our two spans of oxen hitched on to one wagon, so we borrowed two more spans from the other people. These were hitched onto our own two spans, which meant that- our wagon was on one side of the Limpopo, and the first span of oxen was on the opposite bank-a stretch of forty-eight oxen altogether.
This gave the leading span a footing, and so enabled them to pull, while the remainder swam with the wagon behind them. We had to sit high up on our goods and chattels, the wagon being almost under the water.
It was very thrilling to hear the drivers-one to each span, and nearly up to-their necks in water-yelling and shouting to the oxen, urging them on. It took some time to get across, as the river was running very swiftly and the poor oxen were absolutely terrified. We got over safely, but it was really an extraordinary sight, and a thrill which not one of us will ever forget.
"Another wagon which crossed, had their fowls all drowned. They had forgotten to take them from underneath the wagon, where it was usual to carry the fowl crate."
Lily Tempofsky and Albert Peters were Bulawayo's only babies for several months.
Mrs._Tempofsky used to go round with little Lily in her arms to see how Mrs. Peters's little Albert was getting on. Then a return call would be paid; and_ perhaps in would pop Mrs. Colenbrander to enquire about the babies.
Just look at the wee darlings," Mollie Colenbrander would remark. ''.Of course when they grow up they must marry each other." But of course they didn't !
Before the arrival of the first undertaker, one woman died - somebody who kept a cafe.
The usual pioneer packing-case coffin was constructed and three men and a clergyman took the remains on the back of a cape cart to the cemetery. The story goes that the clergyman was the only one of the party who had not taken a wee drop too much, and when lowering the coffin, one-man let go the rope.
Down went the poor woman with a bump, while the Jew lamented: " Sorry, sorry ! Oh she was good to me. Yes she was.'
Meantime the newspapers in England had been giving considerable prominence to the happenings in Matabeleland.
Tourists began to arrive. Among others who came out, was Miss Alice Balfour, sister of the Right Hon. A. J. Balfour.
She has left a delightful account of her wagon trek from Kimberley to Chimoio, in her book called " Twelve Hundred Miles in a Wagon."
She writes: " We passed through the new town of Bulawayo on the 4th Ju1y, 1894 Dr. Jameson and Sir John Willoughby, who - have a house between the old and the new towns, are living in tents - and have given us their rooms
I have Sir John Willoughby's room. This is a true and faithful picture of it. It has mud walls, mud floor, thatched roof with no ceiling, doors made of two packing case lids. Furniture, a bedstead, one box upside down. A small strip of matting, an empty whisky bottle doing duty as a candlestick.
And (oh luxury!) a table. Dr Jameson's_room, occupied by Mrs. Grey, is much the same, only it has a six-inch square looking-glass as well; and for the first time for five weeks she has been able to look at her back hair... a few flies about.
Mr. A. Grey asked Dr. Jameson's factotum, Garlick, whether the flies had been very troublesome in summer. 'Yes, indeed sir; you couldn't see through them.'
From "Experiences of Pioneer Women" by Jeannie M Boggie