Memories of Rhodesia



On a dark wall in the dining-room of the Rhodes Inyanga Hotel is a brass plaque bearing the uninspired statement, THIS ROOM WAS OCCUPIED BY C. J. RHODES WHEN STAYING AT INYANGA ESTATES.

Visitors who chance to read the plaque may wonder under what circumstances Rhodes, a very busy financier, a mining magnate and a politician, became interested in the Inyanga area, remote as it must have been when he was alive.

As soon as the Union Jack had been raised at Salisbury in September, 1890, officials of the B.S.A. Company were sent off to greet the African chiefs and to report on the land given to the Company under the Charter. A young official, James McDonald, made his way to Inyanga, and a surveyor, Piggott, was given the task of pegging out farms, which were to be made available for purchase.

In May, 1892, the farmers with their wives and children, of what became known as the Moodie Trek, set off from the Orange Free State on the 1 600 km journey to Gazaland. Before they had reached Fort Victoria there was quarrelling among the leaders, and the majority of the party, refusing to acknowledge the leadership of Tom Moodie, decided not to go to Gazaland but to continue north to Salisbury and then to make their way to Umtali. The new leaders were John Moodie and John Nesbitt.

As they had not carried out their promises to go to Gazaland, the B.S.A. Company withdrew their right to free farms. They were accordingly dependent on their own resources.

After a short stay in Salisbury, Moodie and Nesbitt, with their companions and families, made for Umtali. The men scattered around looking for farms. One of them,McAdam, made his way to Inyanga. He was impressed by the beauty of the region and returned bursting with excitement to tell of flowing streams, fertile valleys, short grasses and bracing climate.

Eight men set off to view the promised land. Like McAdam, they were thrilled with what they saw. Each selected and bought a farm. John Moodie had married Margaret Brown, daughter of John Grey Brown, a farmer of Claremont, in the Cape, South America. (Brown was a relative of the notorious John Brown, whose liaison with Queen Victoria was the scandal of the 19th century.) Moodie, in deference to his wife, gave his farm the name Claremont.

The possibilities that Inyanga's climate might be suitable for deciduous fruit and apple growing was early recognized. Fotheringham, another of the eight, whose farm adjoined Claremont, called his farm Fruitfield.

1896 was a bad year for Rhodes and Rhodesia. The Matabele and Mashona rebellions followed the Jameson Raid. Rhodes was ill, first with malaria fever, and then a heart attack, but he worked on, never sparing himself. After the famous Matopos indaba he set out for Salisbury. McDonald, now one of his secretaries, had frequently told him of the health-giving Inyanga plateau and had suggested he should visit it.

Rhodes had many problems. One was the future of the Trans-Africa telegraph. From Salisbury, it had been erected along the Mazoe Valley, but telegraphists died at their posts from disease, Africans cut the wires, elephants destroyed the poles. On his way north, at Enkeldoorn, Rhodes overtook a party bound for Mazoe with telegraph material. Calling for a map of South Africa, he decided on a new route, from Umtali, over the Inyanga plateau, to the Zambezi.

The B.S.A. Company never neglected its officials, even those who had blundered. Jameson, after serving his sentence for his part in the ill-fated Jameson Raid, had been let out of prison. Here, as supervisor of the telegraph line, was a job for him. Traveling incognito, as Mr. L. S. Stevens, Jameson left England and a few weeks later arrived in Inyanga. A store was set up where Angler's Rest Hotel now stands, and Jameson set off for a 480-km walk to Tete. Having completed negotiations with the Portuguese for the crossing of their territory by the telegraph, he hired a dugout and paddlers and traveled down the Zambezi to the sea, and then made his way back to Inyanga.

While Jameson was on his journey, Rhodes, traveling by mule wagon and on horseback, reached Inyanga before him. Rhodes was very impressed by all he saw and sent the following written message ':0 McDonald in Bulawayo: "Inyanga is much finer than you described. I find a good many farms are being occupied. Before it is all gone, buy me quickly up to 40 000 ha and be sure you take in the Pungwe Falls. I would like to try sheep and apple-growing. Do not say you are buying for me."

So his agents were set to work. While Rhodes was still at Inyanga, the purchase of eight farms some 64 000 ha - for about 520 000 was completed. The fact that the farms were being bought for him leaked out. Moodie of Claremont refused to sell, as he considered the B.S.A. Company had treated him and his companions of the Moodie Trek unfairly.

The stone, four-roomed house on the farm Fruitfield became Rhodes dwelling-place and later the nucleus of the present Rhodes Inyanga hotel. It was built near a strong stream flowing in an ancient furrow (still to be seen at the hotel). Apple seedlings and other deciduous fruit trees for planting were brought from Umtali.

Rhodes spent much time riding on horseback up kopjes, and often climbed on foot. The high altitude and exertion brought on another severe heart attack. He was a difficult patient. He would lie under the blankets until he was in a bath of perspiration. Then, jumping up, he would strip himself stark naked and expose himself to the draught from door and window. His worried friends were very pleased when Jameson arrived to undertake his nursing. Soon he was well again.

While at Inyanga, Rhodes enjoyed entertaining his neighbors and their children. A mule-drawn waggonette would be sent to Claremont for the Moodie family. Rhodes would sit for hours on the stoep of his farm-house talking to the tenants of his farms.

Towards the end of 1897 he set out for Beira. Though he had other interests, he did not forget Inyanga. From time to time he sent up merino sheep from Persia and Australia, donkeys from Egypt, cattle, horses and pigs from South Africa. The horses died from horse-sickness, the other animals contracted diseases.

The settlement of the farm Claremont by Moodie led to John Grey Brown, his father-in-law, seeking a farm at Inyanga. He met Rhodes, who suggested that a large farm called York should be divided. Brown accepted the offer, took over a portion and named it Juliasdale after the Christian name of his wife.

It was not until 1900, after Kimberley had been relieved, that Rhodes was able to visit the Eastern Highlands of Rhodesia again. He chartered a steamer at Cape Town and journeyed round the coast to Beira, taking with him a cargo of well-bred cattle, sheep and pigs for Inyanga. Despite the shortage of transport inland, caused by the presence of the troops of the Rhodesia Field Force at the port, his animals reached Umtali and were shepherded to his farm.

After a visit to Melsetter and Chipinga, Rhodes followed them. He carried with him acorns from the Stellenbosch oaks to plant at Inyanga. Once again he was temporarily free of cares, but his health was far from good, though the invigorating air of Inyanga brought an improvement. After a fortnight's stay, Inyanga knew him no more.

In his will, Rhodes bequeathed his Inyanga estates to his Trustees, so that they could "in any way they thought fit, cultivate them for the instruction of the people of Rhodesia." He set up the Inyanga Fund, with an income of £2 000 a year from investments, to meet the costs of such cultivation, directing that "irrigation should be the first object of my Trustees."

Now, 80 years since the Inyanga farms were first occupied, Claremont, lying in its lush valley on the right of the road leading from the Montclair Hotel to Rhodes Inyanga Hotel, has become widely known for its fruit. A portion of Juliasdale, named Spring Valley, has adopted the encomium, "The World's Best Fruit", given by Winston Churchill to a gift of peaches from the valley, as its motto. The orchards of Rhodes Inyanga now bear peaches and plums of outstanding quality.

Rhodesia is indeed fortunate to have within its boundaries the Inyanga area, with its spectacular mountain scenery and horizon-wide vistas. As Rhodes inferred, some 80 years ago, it is only by a visit that one can discover that it is "much finer" than can be described. .

From RHODESIA CALLS - Jan-Feb. 1974 issueInyanga



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The arrow points to the Rhodes Inyanga Hotel, of which Rhodes' Cottage formed the nucleus.


Rhodes' Stables


Anglers Rest Hotel, built on the site of the Trans-Africa Telegraph store by Jameson.


The western edge of the Inyanga Plateau.

Claremont Estates

The Rhodes Peach variety







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