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TODAY IN KIMBERLEY’S HISTORY 14 JULY

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UPDATED: 14/07/2017

14 July 1858, Black prisoners massacred by farmers near Boshof.
14 July 1964, SA hockey player Wally Ubsdell dies.

DID YOU KNOW

LIFE AT THE DIGGINGS No.4

Trade, Stores and Stocks

Having gone the round of all the Camps and counted all the stores, I proceed to the stocks. There are two kinds of stocks at the Fields. It is, perhaps, of that sort with which I am the least familiar I have now to write. Let me, however, say a word or two about the stocks concerning which I know most. Mr. TRUTER, Free State Magistrate at Pniel, carried on a most thriving trade with about the poorest stocks I have ever seen. The fine old wooden anklets which form one of the most agreeable features of village life in England are easy chairs in comparison with the stocks at the Diggings; but I never saw a foot in the keeping of the former, while, at Pniel, the holes were never empty. I often used to wish Mr. TRUTER’s stocks had run out. There are few sights more humiliating than to see poor human nature held fast by the leg in the stocks. The helpless creature cannot hide his shame, nor can he carry his punishment with even the show of dignity. One thing I can say for the Pniel stocks. They were under canvas at first, and are now under thatch. At Klip Drift while there were any stocks – they were sold, I believe, the other day to pay the debts of one of the revolutionary governments at that Camp – but while there were any, they stood in the eye of the sun on the open square, and many a time have I saw a poor fellow lying in the blaze with a rag over his head – a rogue perhaps, but still a man. Then the government of the day was too poor to have the holes bevelled, and the sharp edges cut the skin. The stocks were, however, undoubtedly deterrent. They had a moral influence. I, myself, never saw them but I felt encouraged to keep my hands from picking and stealing, so that my feet might never get into that grip. But let the moral stocks go. At present I have to do with the stocks commercial.

I have heard the total value of the business stocks on the Fields estimated at a quarter of a million. This I cannot but consider to be an exaggeration. In all probability, however, a calculation of the amount of the capital involved in trade at the various camps, reckoning in stock, buildings, transport and services, would not fall very far short of that sum. There is one house alone at Klip Drift which is said to have stock to the value of £15,000 in its stores. The stores of the firm had cost at least £2,000. I can refer to another house which has under its roof goods to an almost equally heavy amount, and here again the stores have been costly. The Royal Masonic Hotel at Pniel cost £500 in transport from Durban, Natal, of building material alone, and scarcely less than £3,000 must have been spent before the place was opened. How much Messrs. SOLOMON, SMITH & OUTING’s stock and fittings cost I cannot tell. Mr. LASKER brought up with him from Capetown a large, choice and valuable selection of watches, jewellery and instruments. All the fifty or sixty stores, of the first and second class of importance, must, if they wish to do business, keep on hand a varied assortment of goods, and most of them do so. Every shop has its clothing, provision, liquor and ironmongery department. Some stores keep furniture on hand. It is possible to supply yourself with a piano, a four poster, a chest of drawers and a Boston Beauty on the diggings. The supplies of wood are often heavy. There is enough of champagne, claret, sparkling Burgundy, F.C. cognac, Cango, old Tom, and Natal rum to float a man of war in more than half-seas. Half a dozen soda-water manufactories have tidy little sums invested in machinery and bottles. Will anyone guess how much capital is in the Diamond News office? The diggers eat pretty much meat, and the butchers have to keep both flocks and herds. The camps take into store large quantities of Transvaal breadstuffs, while the quantity of tobacco vanted is enormous. What does the capital of the great diamond buyers – UNGER and others – and the Standard Bank, amount to?

Properly considered, all the property on the Diggings may be viewed as so much business stock, as the whole of it is engaged directly in the business of diamond digging. The value of the machinery, implements, carriage, cattle and capital engaged in this department of business must be very great. It would add, we should say, a hundred thousand, at least, to the quarter of a million supposed to be engaged in commerce. It is perhaps forcing language to say that the Pniel Missionaries drive a flourishing business in licenses. 
Undoubtedly, up to the present, they have found the Pniel kopje – a bit of land not much bigger than the ground that High-street stands upon, taking in the houses – to be a capital stock in trade. The business is, however, falling off fast.

From the Grahamstown Journal – April 1871

14 July 1858, Black prisoners massacred by farmers near Boshof.
14 July 1964, SA hockey player Wally Ubsdell dies.

DID YOU KNOW

In 1858 the city of Kimberley did not exist. In fact, diamonds had not even been discovered in the region, and diggers would only descend on the “dry diggings” from 1869 onwards at what are now the Dutoitspan and Bultfontein mines. What happened in this region is probably the worst mass murder in South African history – starting initially at Benfontein farm (Benaauwheidsfontein) and ending in massacre just outside Boshof in the Free State.

The tale – nothing new in South Africa – begins with disputed land, the adversaries in this case being various indigenous leaders, and white farmers making inroads into what the local leaders thought was their land. In the 1850s Kausobson Kausob, a San (Bushman) leader also known as Skeelkoc, Skeelkoos and Kousop, was not happy about farm land given to white farmers by another leader, Danzie, and wanted to claim back the territory. Kausob, with his force of Koranna, San and some Batlaping men under command of Mahoera and Gasibone (Gasibonwe), attacked the farms of Soutpan near Windsorton, and Benfontein, on the eastern outskirts of Kimberley, in May and June 1858. Kausob’s brother, Ryk Klaas and Goliath Ysterbek, were also leaders with the force. Kausob had taken advantage of the fact that Boer commandos had been busy fighting with Moshesh in Basotholand (Lesotho) since March 1858 in what was a major confrontation.

Several farmers were killed by Kausob’s men, among them Jacob Diedericks and Johannes Coetzee of the farm Benfontein, (later to become the ranch of Battle of Britain hero ‘Sailor’ Malan), and Jan Venter of Soutpan. Smit of Leeupoort farm was also killed, while the Batlaping under Gasibone and Mahoera attacked the farm Kopsfontein, killing the entire Lombaard and Van Aswegen families.

Indeed, it had been quite a ‘battle’ at Benfontein, with the Boers eventually driving off the attackers, but with the loss of the aforesaid Coetzee and Diedericks.

In retaliation for what was considered unprovoked attacks, a Boer commando numbering between 250 and 400 strong, including at least 100 armed Mfengu tribesmen, attacked Kausob, and he and at least 110 men and women were killed in the three hour battle of Slypklip between the Vaal river and north of Kimberley on 6 July 1858. This commando was under the leadership of Hendrik Venter and used at least one cannon during the action. At least 43 of Kausob’s men and 50 women were captured by Venter’s Commando and taken to the nearest Orange Free State town of Boshof. The prisoners stayed there several days and on 14 July 1858 the 43 men were taken to Bloemfontein under escort of Captain St P O’Brien and his Mfengu soldiers, to stand trial. However, they never reached their destination, as some six miles (10 kilometres) from Boshof, the group was ambushed by 30 furious local Boers, the prisoners “captured”, and all shot dead as they ran away from the commando. O’Brien had earlier been advised by Commandant Hendrik Venter to not resist the Boers, but he did protest about the illegality of the action as the prisoners were summarily caught and executed. In other words, the prisoners were all murdered. Despite an angry President Boshof of the Free State launching an investigation into the murder, and three Boshof farmers being indicted for the murder, a court case never materialized through local (white) resistance to the charges. President Boshof later ordered the release of the 50 women prisoners who were being used as labour on the farms in the Boshof region.

A true miscarriage of justice, the murder of the 43 soldiers of Kausob, was neither avenged, nor punished by the law, and must rate as just an infamous a massacre alongside the execution of American soldiers in World War II by the German army.

The site of the massacre is now called “Prisonierskop”, and, true to history ever continuing in circles, the same ridge became the site where the French Colonel, the Comte de Villebois-Mareuil, while fighting for the Boers, was killed in a skirmish during the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902. There are at least three mass graves on “Prisonierskop” where those massacred are buried.

From Kimberley Calls and Recalls on Facebook By Steve Lunderstedt

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