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Eight Years in Kaffraria, 1882-1890.

By Alan G. S. Gibson, M.A.
S.P.G. Missionary to the Pondomisi, and Archdeacon of Kokstad

London: Wells Gardner, Darton & Co., 1891.

Chapter VI. Extension of work from Ncolosi

BEFORE I attempt to give some account of Umditshwa's return, and its effects upon the mission, which belong properly to the years 1885-6, it will he more in accordance with chronological order to sketch the gradual extension and development of work which began with 1884. I confine myself, of course, to the growth which belonged to this particular district, because that is all that falls into the sphere of my own experiences; but it must be borne in mind that a similar development was (as it is still) going on all over the whole diocese, and that in those parishes which were fortunate enough to possess missionaries more accustomed to the people and the language, it would naturally be on a far larger scale.

A visible sign of both growth and consolidation is generally to be found in the erection of buildings. It will be remembered that, in this respect, almost everything had still to be done at the beginning of 1884. The chief object at first was to provide a suitable building at the central station, i.e., at Ncolosi itself, to serve in the immediate present as a Church, and possibly in the future (if the work developed so as to authorise the building of a stone Church, an ideal to which we still look forward) to be turned into a good boarding-school. A building of burnt brick was soon planned and set in hand, and the walls were running up briskly, when there came upon us an altogether unprecedented spell of rain and wind, for the time of year. Unfortunately the part of the building which was then in hand was going up under an old roof. The incessant drip from this, and the constant gales, catching the work at a very critical time, proved too much for it. Part came down, and the rest we pulled down, in order to recommence entirely afresh. Eventually the Church was completed by September 6, and was opened on the following day by Bishop Key, the service used being that for a dedication, not a consecration. The service was held at half-past eight, and was combined with a choral celebration and sermon, between sixty and seventy communicating, and all the few white people in the neighbourhood being present, in spite of the early hour. It was a very great relief to exchange our little hut, into which forty people could with difficulty be crowded, for a building capable of holding, at a pinch, two hundred; but it was a mistake to roof with corrugated iron, the heat in summer being very great. The nave of the Church is 40 feet by 30, the sanctuary 14 by 12, below which is a small choir with boarded floor, raised above the nave, the floor of which is the ordinary mud floor, made with ant-heap, and smeared with dung; while at the west end a small vestry is curtained off. The pitched roof is supported on two rows of strong wooden supports, which take the place of more elaborate pillars, and the whole of the interior is well furnished and reverently arranged, not only the altar, but also the old stone font from S. Augustine's, finding a place there. All the carpentering work was done by a native carpenter resident on the mission.

After a Church had been provided, we were at leisure to think of ourselves. The S.P.G., by which the diocese is so largely supported, had very kindly made a special vote of £100 each to the missions of S. Augustine's and All Saints, to help towards replacing the parsonages destroyed in the war. With the aid of this money, without which the undertaking would have been impossible, four brick rooms were added to the wattle-and-daub house built by the late missionary, and the kitchen and old and new houses were all consolidated together.

The Church having being named after S. Cuthbert, the mission will be henceforward so styled in this book.

Both Church and parsonage were completed by the end of 1884. In the following year a wattle-and-daub house, with thatched roof, containing two rooms, was built at the back of the parsonage for the Pondomisi boarders.

The glebe-lands were also fenced in with wire to a large extent in the former of these two years.

As soon as the Mbokotwana people were settled down again in their old homes, a school-chapel was erected there. This was commenced in 1884, and completed the following year, the people cutting and transporting the wattles and poles, and building the wattle-and-daub, while the iron and carpenter's work were supplied by parochial funds. As a general rule, the erection of native schools and chapels is, as far as possible, left to the people themselves, who are always ready to give the labour and supply such material as can be obtained by personal service, without the outlay of actual money, which is usually very scarce, such as there is being swallowed up by hut-tax, school-fees, &c. The S.T.C.K. also, the missionary agency of which is not as much recognised as it should be, is very ready and generous in giving grants for this object.

At Umjika in 1884 the people put up a good-sized wattle-and-daub building, with thatched roof, as a school; and were engaged on another for a Church when, in February 1885, the station was transferred to the parish of Umtata.

It is, however, of more interest to note the real extension of work, and to see how fresh ground was continually being occupied. The account of this development, and commencement of new operations in entirely fresh places, will make it clear why there is often such a want of continuity in mission work; why stations lie so far apart, why consolidation and organisation is sometimes sacrificed to extension. It is not that we wish to go so far afield from our base of operations that we deliberately pick out places twenty or thirty miles apart: it is rather that we have no option in the matter, but are bound to go where God calls us.

It was, I believe, in March 1884, that, as P. M. Lokwe, the native catechist, and Z. Maya, the carpenter, were riding back from the magistrate's office, they fell in with Samuel Nombewu, a chief of the Zizi Fingoes, who lives at Gqaqala, on the hills some twenty-one miles from S. Cuthbert's. As Maya was related to the chief, they began to converse together, when the latter put the question. How is it that you keep the Word of God selfishly to yourselves? Lokwe and Maya indignantly denied this, pointing out that preachers went out every Sunday to the heathen Pondomisi, and that every station became a similar centre for evangelisation. The reason of Nombewu's bitterness soon appeared. He stated that for three years he had been appealing to the religious society to which he belonged for spiritual aid, but all in vain; till at last, in despair, he had fixed a limit of time, after which, if he met with no more response, he would apply to the Church. It was just at this period that he met with our two men. When the position of affairs had clearly been explained, we replied that if, after the expiration of the period named, he applied to us, we would see what we could do. The term came and passed, and the chief's appeal remaining disregarded, it fell to us to try and come to his assistance. It is probable that the denomination to which Nombewu belonged may not have cared to undertake work at such a distance from their nearest white missionary (for they had none within reach), or that they were prevented from doing so by want of funds or men.

When I paid him my first visit, I was much struck by all that I heard and saw. All this time the chief had been holding services himself, morning and evening; and on this very occasion, it seemed a good augury for the future to see him standing on an ant-hill striking together the two pieces of iron which served here, as they have to do in many of our stations, as the primitive substitute for a bell. Our conversation was most interesting. Nombewu epoke with much feeling of the fact that he was the only one of the royal blood of the Zizis who was a Christian; he begged that his position as chief might not hinder his being rebuked when he neglected his duty as a servant of God; he urged strongly, again and again, that a white missionary should be sent to him; and he promised to give us glebe-land--a promise which was afterwards duly carried out.

A resident preacher was first sent up, and then a teacher; and afterwards the Rev. E. Jwara, from Umjika, was moved there. A number of adults were in due course baptized, and among those confirmed were the chief, and his mother, wife, and daughter. At Mbidhlana, the mother's residence, some seven miles distant from Gqaqala, a resident preacher was also stationed, whenever funds permitted.

The next place where a new work was begun was at the old station of S. Augustine's. The Fingoes who had been brought down from the Maclear district and settled in this neighbourhood were under a man of the name of Thomas Ntaba, himself a heathen; but not a few of his people were Wesleyans, and others again Presbyterians. Naturally, and rightly, the preachers of these denominations followed up, and continued to minister to their own flocks: we, also, having, as previously related, the two Christian Pondomisi families of our communion living close to the old Church, used to send a preacher over every Sunday from S. Cuthbert's to conduct service in our own building.

It was very sad to see Christianity being thus presented to the sight of the heathen in three different (almost in three rival) ways; but here it was a simply unavoidable result of "our unhappy divisions." As far as I know, there was no proselytising, or bidding of one against the other; nor was there any mission or school belonging to any one of the three communions. At the same time, there was, I believe, considerable speculation as to which was the form of worship that the headman would, as it were, "establish" and accept for his location. Towards the end of 1884 there was an outbreak of small-pox in the district, and several persons in Ntaba's neighbourhood fell sick. At this time there was no other white missionary in the magisterial district of Tsolo except myself, for the new Presbyterian mission was temporarily occupied by a native. Whether it was owing to the greater respect felt for a white man, or owing to other reasons which were both at that time and afterwards alleged, I do not know; but it is a fact that Ntaba, whom I had never (as far as I recollect) seen up to that date, asked me to go and visit the patients, who had been isolated in a cave some three miles from his kraal, as he could get no one to visit them, and did not know whether they really had small-pox or not. There was, of course, no disregarding such a message as this: so on November 6, 1884, I rode over with Butters, and found that two persons had died from the disease, and that two others were ill with it. These latter were waited on by a third who had been told off for that duty. After talking and praying with them, and giving them such advice and help as we could, we reported the result of our interview to Ntaba.

It is not improbable that the headman had applied for our assistance in this matter because he had--as I was always told--been a good deal struck by the fact that, at this time of a general scare, our preacher continued every Sunday to come over from S. Cuthbert's to S. Augustine's and hold service. It was always said that this was one main factor in the decision which he arrived at early in the next year, for on February 27, 1885, he came over with some councillors to see me, and announced that he and his people wished to accept the Church as the religious communion for their location. But there were no doubt, as was also freely stated at the time, other reasons for this choice; for, according to the Wesleyan rules, Christian women are forbidden to make Kaffir beer for their husbands--a piece of discipline which does not obtain in our Church, At the same time the headman earnestly desired that no other denomination might work in his location, and was very anxious to drive all other Christians to worship outside his boundaries; and it was with great difficulty--after the reiterated pointing out how hard and how wrong it would be to forbid them the use of their own forms of worship--that he was at last induced to forego any interference of this nature.

This action of the headman did not at all mean that he wished to become a Christian himself. He was and is a heathen and a polygamist

As a sequel to this, the old Church was restored and a school was started.

Hitherto the extension of work which has been noticed was confined to the district of Tsolo. The next place of which I have to speak falls within the magistracy of Qumbu, between the rivers Tsitsa and Tina, and is the more interesting because it is close to the site of Umhlonhlo's old Great Place, on the Qanqu stream.

At the beginning of 1885 I learnt from the Bishop that there were some Christians from the parish of S. Mark's who had made their way up to the Qanqu and settled down there; and, at his Lordship's request, I made my way there on January 14, and communicated them on the following morning. In after visits I learnt more about them, and found that they had a little school of their own, with a teacher paid by themselves. As services had to be held in one of the huts belonging to the principal family among them, Dunga, it seemed to me a very reasonable request on their part that the chief and headman of that location, Mtengwane, should be asked to allow them to erect for themselves a small chapel. I accordingly arranged to meet Mtengwane on July 14 of that year, at a trader's house near the well-known Ncoti bush.

To my surprise, I learnt on my arrival that the chief had called a large meeting of his people. When I had stated the nature of my request, which was simply that our Church people at Qanqu should be allowed to put up a chapel, I asked the reason of his having summoned such a number of his people. I then was told by the chief, much to my astonishment, that he wanted to have a Church mission in his location. He then and there gave me a very extensive tract of land, between the spot where we were standing and the Ncoti, for mission purposes, and asked me to send him a white missionary or teacher. This wholly unexpected and spontaneous act caused me much delight, and I accepted at once this deed of gift which hud thus been publicly made. There were, however, many other preliminaries to be settled. It was necessary to learn what were to be the rules under which the land was to be administered; how many children would attend school; what amount could be raised locally for the support of the Church workers; and as Mtengwane was unable to reply to these questions on the spot, August 5 was fixed for a supplementary meeting, to complete the arrangements.

In the succeeding weeks we learnt that the mission land was occupied in a great measure by Wesleyans, who very naturally objected to the intrusion of a Church mission. They pointed out that they were massed at the Ncoti, and had no people at Qanqu; whereas we had no people at the Ncoti, and had all our members at Qanqu; so that their request seemed very reasonable that we should take up our position at the latter place, and not at the former. This was represented to the chief, who at last, with much reluctance, consented to take back his gift at the Ncoti, and in lieu of it assigned a site for mission purposes at Qanqu. This promised to suit all parties; and a white catechist was shortly afterwards sent up to take charge. This was the recommencement of Church operations in a district where formerly Bishop Key, as Pondomisi missionary, had been working, assisted by the Rev. S. Adonis Bangela.

These were the three main points where work was extended in the period between January 1884 and March 1886, among natives, in the parish of S. Augustine's. There were other places where, at one time, there were hopeful prospects, which afterwards came to nothing. In the Pondomisi location, Umdunyelwa, living between S. Cuthbert's and Gqaqala, was very anxious for a school; but some of his people were much averse to it, and the design had to be abandoned for the present. On the hills above a little colony of Christians from S. Mark's had established itself in Bikwe's location. It was at one time hoped that, through these people, a school might be started there; but the chief was frightened at the thought of the school-fees, the payment of which is a sine qua non for the obtaining of a Government grant, and so the scheme fell through, the Christian community remaining as a sub-station, which has developed since that time, and where much good work is going on. At the back of Kambi, an application came from a headman named Ngalonkulu, in whose location services were held every Sunday by a preacher from Umjika; but nothing definite had resulted by the time when that station was handed over to Umtata.

The Umjika disturbances were illustrative of a phase of trouble which is by no means infrequent--jealousy between the headman and the representative of the Church. The former, as an official of the Government, and often also a hereditary chief, is rightly to be respected, and has, in secular matters, a good deal of authority; but very frequently he oversteps the bounds of this, and wishes to control Church matters which lie entirely without his sphere. I have known a heathen headman seriously remonstrate with a missionary priest on his delaying to baptize some catechumens who were not yet ready for the administration of that sacrament? In the case of Umjika the trouble was really this: that the headman, in defiance of the missionary, erected a Church, not in the place which had been pointed out, i.e., on the mission station among the Christians, but some two or three miles away, far from the old Church people, but considerably nearer his own kraal. When I refused to accept and sanction this, the headman adopted retaliatory measures by persecuting (as they alleged) the Umjika Christians in the matter of mealie-gardens, which it is the headman's business to distribute. The breach between myself and Ngudhle, himself a professing Churchman, grew so wide, that the offer of the Rev. W. M. Cameron at Umtata to take over the station, and work it by his theological students, for whom he was desiring some outside work of tins nature, was hailed as a happy solution by both parties. This transference was effected at the beginning of 1885, and so the work which was being considerably extended on the other side was, in this direction, curtailed.

Turning to the white department of the work, a similar development was visible. In 1884 the Europeans of the Maclear district raised a guarantee list of £130 a year, and applied to the Bishop for a resident priest of our Church, if possible, a university man. The application was at once forwarded to England, but all efforts to obtain a suitable man proved ineffectual! What a comment upon our system! It was not until 1889 that Maclear was occupied by a resident clergyman, and by that date most of the old guarantors had moved away. In 1885, four white people were confirmed at Maclear (all ex-Wesleyans), and three at Ugie. The Bishop's visit to the latter place was most interesting, as service according to the use of the Church of England had never, I believe, been held there before. At both the confirmation and at evensong the little schoolroom was full, almost all the resident Wesleyans being present, and not a few Church people having come in from the country. At the celebration on the following morning eleven people communicated.

In the early part of 1886 a service was held for the farmers near the Umga, in this same district of Maclear. This was eventually to lead to the supplying of regular services to this neighbourhood.

At Qumbu, quarterly services were held in 1884, whenever there were five Sundays in the month, and in the following year there was in addition to the four Sunday services one held on a week-night, which was also well attended. I recollect the indignation of the people because there was no offertory on that evening--a healthy sign, surely, where people are ready and desirous to give. There were some fifty Cape Infantry or Cape Mounted Riflemen stationed here, the usual magisterial staff, and traders and other civilians. At none of these little hamlets, Tsolo, Qumbu, Maclear, Ugie, Mount Fletcher, were there any churches or places of worship for white people; and it was not until the latter portion of this period, or a still later date, that English services were held at any of them by any other Christian denomination. Now (in 1890) Wesleyan services are regularly held at Maclear and Ugie by a Wesleyan minister resident in the former place; Presbyterian services are supplied to Qumbu and Mount Fletcher by a U.P. minister who lives in the Qumbu district; while the Free Kirk minister of old Tsolo, in his Kaffir services given at new Tsolo, preaches in English for the benefit of the white people. But all this is a new development.

The magistrates of the different residencies were always most ready to lend their court-houses for services. Several of them held lay services themselves, when none was provided by a minister; and others used to help in the regular services by reading the lessons. For music, we had at first to do the best we could (until harmoniums were purchased by subscription of the people for some of these centres), borrowing any stray piano or harmonium that its owner was willing to lend, or else taking the musical part of the service without accompaniment. On one occasion this led to a somewhat comic incident. At matins, chants and hymns had been sung without an instrument. Some of the congregation had apparently felt this to be rather bald, and one of the soldiers asked permission to bring his con-, eertina for the evening, in order to provide what had been lacking in the morning. As he stated that he was quite accustomed to sacred music, permission was readily granted; and a list of the hymns was given him, the first of which was the well-known "Thy will be done." At the conclusion of the first lesson, to the dismay of the missionary who was conducting the service, the concertina (instead of playing a chant for the Magnificat) struck up this tune, and people began to sing. Some, as far as could be made out, sang the words of the hymn; the officiating clergyman himself tried in vain through one verse to set the words of the canticle to the hymn tune! and at last, in despair, had to step off the platform and stop the music, beginning again de novo without the aid of the concertina, which was then allowed to remain in abeyance until the hymns were reached, when it proved of much service.

The villages hitherto mentioned might all be fairly considered to fall within the parish of S. Augustine's, as there was no clergyman of our Church anywhere between S. Cuthbert's and Kokstad in those days, as was previously stated. At the beginning of 1885, however, a visit was paid to another hamlet which lay quite out of the beat of the S. Augustine's workers. Matatiela lies nearly 100 miles distant, to the north-east, not far from the Drakensberg, Before the war, the Rev. C. D. Tonkin had had a mission here among the Basutos; and one of the Bloemfontein clergy, Canon Balfour, having written to us about these people, whom he had, I believe, visited soon after the war, it seemed right to take a journey up there, and try and look them up.

I went tip by Mbokotwana and Qumbu (whence I rode down to the Tina Drift, to visit some native members of the Church, returning again to Qumbu); on to Qanqu, for my first visit there; and on January 15 slept at a hospitable store at Buffalo Neck. As the country was entirely new to me, and I was travelling alone, and had a long day before me, I made an early start the next morning, being in the saddle, after the usual early coffee, by 6.15. After a short offsaddle on the veldt, I reached a native Moravian mission station about 10 A.M. Here I remained for two hours and a half, the native pastor's wife supplying me with a breakfast of tea, omelet, and fruit. Before going on again I hired a guide to conduct me. Unfortunately my one horse was too heavily loaded, as, in addition to myself, he was carrying a very large pair of saddle-bags, so that it was no matter for wonder that after going up one mountain, down it the other side, and up another, he should have given in. After a short rest we proceeded slowly, until at 5.30 I sent my guide back, hearing from him that Matatiela was now quite close. Unhappily all language is relative, a fact which I quite forgot, and suffered for my rash action. Thinking I had now only about a mile to go, I offsaddled for an hour, hoping to be in by seven o'clock; but at 7.45 I was still on the mountain-top looking for the village, and by this time it was so dark that it was unsafe to go farther. The horse and myself were equally unfortunate: I could find him grass but no water, while my own stock of food consisted only of a little wine and a few peaches. However, we were neither of us the worse for our night out. Careful reconnoitring the following morning, and listening to the sound of the cocks crowing, showed me where Matatiela was; and a three-quarter of an hour's gentle ride brought me there by 6 A.M., to become the guest of the ever-hospitable Captain and Mrs. Waring.

A two days' stay was quite sufficient to show that there was much work to be done in the neighbourhood, both among the white residents of the village, and the Basutos living at Ramhlokoana's, a few miles off, and this visit was eventually to lead to the placing of a clergyman at Matatiela.

Owing to the mutual proximity of the two missions of All Saints and S. Alban's in Tembuland, each of which had a resident priest, it seemed as if it might be possible to amalgamate the two, and so save a clergyman who might be transferred to Matatiela. With this object in view, the Bishop decided at the beginning of the following year to pay a visit to Matatiela, taking with him the Rev. T. W. Green, of All Saints, and myself.

The journey was full of interest. At Mount Frere, a village in (ecclesiastically) no man's land, we had a celebration on the Friday morning in the hut which served as an office, with a short serinonetfce from the Bishop, when nine white people communicated, almost all men. After we had crossed the Umzimvubu river, and were climbing slowly up the hill of which I had such vivid recollections in my post-cart experiences of 1882, we heard shots, and pressing forward to see what was the matter, descried men on either side running out from their kraals with guns and assegais, but no one seemed exactly to know what the disturbance was. When we were on the top of the higher ground, we learnt that a fight was going on between the Fingoes on the Rode mission station, under Nota, and the Pondos. We passed through both the contending armies in succession, and stopped to have a little chat with each in turn, as it was interesting to hear the different version of either side. In the centre of what may be termed, by a very vigorous stretch of imagination, the battle-field, we found a store, the owner of which was looking on at the combatants with much complacency. When asked if he did not find his situation a little awkward, he replied that if at times they came too near, he went out and politely suggested that they might as well move a little further off again--a suggestion with which, apparently, they were quite ready to comply. On this particular day, as we learnt afterwards, they fought the whole day, and two men were killed! The small mortality is hardly to be wondered at, as the two armies were generally more than a mile apart!

After five days spent in Kokstad, where the improvement in Church affairs since my previous visit was very noticeable, we left on the afternoon of January 14 for Matatiela, sleeping that night at Cedarville, just beyond the Umzimvubu river. The journey from that place to Matatiela, some seventeen miles, is remarkable for its extreme flatness; mirages are also frequently to be seen. After wet weather the road is in places terribly muddy; in fact on these flats there are not a few bogs which are very dangerous. I recollect my horse once sinking in so far, in another locality, that he was unable to extricate himself, until I jumped off, and by our united mutual exertions we got back again to terra firma. Let the unwary traveller also beware of the mosquitoes on the Umzimvubu flats. En revanche, the views of the mountains beyond Matatiela are very fine.

We were welcomed with the greatest hospitality by the magistrate and his wife (Mr. and Mrs. Simpson), and my old friends Captain and Mrs. Waring, the Captain being still in command of the C.M.R. stationed here. The period of our visit was by no means an idle one. My diary records meetings between the Bishop and two native chiefs, Sibi and Ramhlokoana, on the 15th (the same day that we arrived), and a succession of pastoral visits, and baptism, on the 16th. The following day, which was Sunday, was very full We began with a celebration at 7.30, with seven communicants. At eleven, matins, litany, and sermon from the Bishop, were followed by a meeting to discuss the question of a resident clergyman. After lunch, we were all driven over to Cedarville, where evensong was said at 3.40, with a second sermon from the Bishop, and this was succeeded by a second meeting among the farmers of this neighbourhood to discuss the same question. While this was in progress there was a baptism in another room. A few minutes before eight we were back again in Matatiela, where we had our final service of evensong and sermon at 8.15.

On the Monday morning, by special request, the Bishop consecrated the cemetery at 7.30; and later on his Lordship had a meeting with another native headman named Nyaniso; so that, when we left early on Tuesday, we could feel that the time had not been wasted.

As is generally the case when there are two villages of nearly the same size in one magisterial district, there was a good deal of rivalry between Matatiela and Cedarville as to which should become the home of the resident clergyman. To an unprejudiced outside observer there could'be no question that Matatiela, on every ground, was the right place. It was larger, more central, the seat of the magistracy, and tenanted by English, whereas the farmers in the Cedarville neighbourhood were mainly Dutch; but the decision of the Bishop, as was necessarily to be expected, did not meet with the approval of the Cedarville people. The difficulties of work abroad are much increased by the prevalent, and not unnatural, desire of every community to have the lion's share of such spiritual privileges as there are to be bestowed; but where clergy are so very few, and the souls to be ministered to are so many in proportion, some must unavoidably suffer, and "the greatest good of the greatest number" has to be considered.

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