1820: A Settler's Saga
Newspaper - The Argus, Monday September 3 1973
Norman (Ziggy) was a member of the Rhodesian Air Force having attested with 16 LAR on January 13, 1964 .His family has long tradition with the South African and Rhodesian heritage.
What follows is Part 1 of the family saga. The move to Rhodesia, Norman's time in the Air Force (humorous memories) and ending with Norman move to South Africa after the Independence of Zimbabwe is currently being written by Norman.
My personal thanks to Norman and his wife Charmaine for their help and many will be looking forward to the Air Force memories. Eddy Norris
BORN in a howling storm in mid-ocean, in a small 330-ton sailing vessel . . . survivor of three savage Xhosa wars . . . surrounded by 20 000 blood thirsty warriors, and saved by one fearless man and two loaves of homemade bread... a bride at 17... then tragically, a widow at 30, her husband brutally murdered at midnight in their own front door ... a dramatic, escape into' the black African night with a baby on her back... ... all these, and many more besides, are the precious, and revered memories I have of my courageous 1820 Settler- great grandmother, Eliza Jelliman, as related to me by her grandson, Mr Evelyn Jelliman, who was my father.
It all started in January 1820. The 330-ton sailing vessel, Brilliant, was getting ready to leave her moorings for the 6 000 mile voyage to South Africa at the ship's railing, looking sadly out to London for the last time, stood my great grandfather, William Rayner, aged 24, a hatter from London, and his-lovely young wife, Martha, aged 22. Her baby would be born at sea.
On the voyage out, William and Martha Rayner experienced all the violence and fury of the sea. On one occasion, the waves rode so high and menacingly, that the sea broke through the cabin windows and almost washed poor Martha right out of her berth. It was an experience she was never to forget! In addition, she feared for the life of her unborn child. However, her fears proved groundless, and it was not until about two weeks later that her baby was born, also in a howling gale, the little sailing vessel creaking and groaning in her agony, and rolling, from side to side. At last the ordeal over, a little girl's lusty cries filled the air, and my 1820 Settler great grandmother had made her advent into theworld. She was christened Eliza, after Martha's mother.
The voyage over, my great grandparents and their two months old baby, Eliza, first set foot on South African soil on April 16 1820. Martha was terrified of the wildness, the 'Caffres', wild animals and especially the scorpions.
Their journey by ox-wagon into the interior began. They were under the leadership of H e z e k i a h Sephton, andRichard Gush. First they settled in the Zuurveld where they nearly starved to death. Then the whole party moved to Salem, near Grahamstown. There William, Martha, and Eliza lived in a tent until their first home was built. William cut the timber, and Martha, with Eliza on her back, carried the reeds. When it was complete, the house resembled little more than a hut.
Eliza turned seven. Entering her life now, was a gentleman who was to play a significant part in her education and the moulding of her character — the schoolmaster, M. H. Matthews. Eliza attended his school, known as the Salem Academy. This brilliant teacher instilled into my great grandmother her lasting love for literature, poetry and writing'— a love that has been passed on to many of her descendants.
Another great man in the life of young Eliza, was the Rev William Shaw, missionary and founder of Methodism in South Africa. She attended his Sunday school and church at Salem.
William Shaw implanted a great and living faith into the heart and mind of my great grandmother — a faith that shefaithfully passed on to future generations, many of whom became missionaries and preachers.
The brutal, and savage sixth Xhosa war of 1835! Eliza was 15 years old and she was directly involved in this grave and perilous episode. The hero of the piece was Richard Gush, a fel- low immigrant and friend on the Brilliant.
Almost overnight the little village of Salem found itself surrounded by 20 000 Xhosas chanting their bloodthirsty war cry, and whistling their eerie death whistle. The Settlers and their children faced total annihilation! But, 'cometh the hour, cometh the man,' and in this grave hour, that man was Richard Gush.
At the first sign of alarm and danger, he and the men quickly hustled the women and children into the church. Inside, they sang hymns and prayed, expecting to be massacred at any moment. Outside, a handful of men took up their arms, amongst them my great grandfather, holding in his artistic hands that day, not the millinery tools he loved, but a gun! The bloodthirsty war cry grew louder!- The eerie whistle more insistent! How could a handful of Settlers stand up to 20 000 of the enemy? It was a perilous and fateful hour!
It was then that a miracle happened. Richard Gush, a deeply religious man, and a Quaker, who strongly disapproved of bloodshed and war, stepped forward. He said he believed in peaceful deliberation instead! And so, ignoring the pleadings of his family and friends, he removed his jacket, and handed his musket and gunpowder over to his son-in-law. Then, totally unarmed, he rode out, all alone, to meet the 20 000 strong enemy on the opposite hill. But for the singing of the hymns coming from the church, there was a deathly, silence.
The men watched Gush's every movement. They watched him ride through the village and gallop right up to the impi. Unhesitatingly, and boldly, he dismounted. Then he threw open his arms to prove that he carried no arms or gunpowder. The Xhosas stared back at Gush in shock, unbelief, and not a little respect! Completely disarmed by this, act of courage, they immediately summoned the chief to deliberate with this bold and intrepid White man.
Suddenly the onlookers an the village, saw Gush come galloping back to them. With the fire of faith burning brightly in his eyes, he rode straight up to his house, and soon emerged with two loaves of freshly baked bread and some trinkets that the enemy had demanded.
Once more he mounted his horse, and still unarmed rode back to face the enemy. Again the onlookers saw Gush dismount. He placed the bread in the hands of the chief. For a long moment the chief gazed at the bread and then at Gush. Finally, he broke the bread and gave the White man a piece to eat. Then he broke off another piece and he himself ate it. Their eyes met! They shook hands. Peace was concluded! Not a drop of blood had been spilt!
Then, Eliza turned sweet 17. But, she had been kissed! Kissed by William Jelliman, a young farmer who had immigrated from London in 1822. His farm Leeuwfontein, was situated on the old main road between Somerset East and Cradock. Powerfully built, short, and thickset, this young man completely captivated our young Eliza's heart. William had already fought in three Xhosa wars with the utmost distinction.
He used to perform what he called his famous, 'Tin Dance. In this 'dance,' William used to throw up an empty tin into the air, and he kept it dancing there while he fired at it continually with his revolver. The tin only fell to the ground when the revolver magazine had been emptied. (This feat was later performed by William's son, and after him by his son, my father).
Eliza and William were married early in 1837.
She knew only too well, that her future home lay near one of two strategic points near the ever-dreaded Great Fish River, that served as the boundary between the Settlers and the Xhosa. Today, nearly 150 years later, I, her great granddaughter can with great reverence of heart say of her: 'Brave Eliza! You were but a child of 17 but you never flinched! Indeed, you needed as much courage as love, to follow William Jelliman to a place where you knew that death and danger lurked round every corner.'
On this farm, in the wilds, till tragedy struck Eliza, she was to spend 13 very happy and prosperous years. Her young husband was an ambitious man, and apart from his farming, he had a store and an inn. The inn was known as 'Travellers' Rest.' Situated close to the main road, it attracted hundreds of weary travellers who spent the night there.
It was here at Travellers' Rest, that Eliza's famous waffle-iron came into play. With it she baked thousands of waffles for her guests. Soaked in home-made butter and the honey from their own bee hives, they proved a tremendous attraction. All day carts, wagons, horse-riders and conductors called in to enjoy her fare.
Her first child, a son, was born on May 8 1838. He was christened William (my grandfather). After him Eliza had two more sons and several and several daughters.
Then, alas, it was that tragedy struck! To this day, I can still hear my father's sad and sombre voice telling me the tragic tale. I could not have been more than five years old when I first heard it. This is the story he told me.
It Was midnight. The date was November 6/7/1850. Strangely enough, the inn was empty. William, Eliza and their children were all sound asleep.
Suddenly William was awakened, He heard loud and incessant knocking on the front door. He roused Eliza and told her to get dressed. He was not really surprised to hear the knocking on the door, because he had been woken in like manner during the fourth, fifth and sixth Xhosa wars, when he had been hurriedly called up to report for immediate duty.
Hurriedly he pulled on his boots and his overcoat, and walked quickly to the front door. Unsuspectingly, he withdrew the bolts, and opened it. To his surprise two Hottentot soldiers, deserters from the Cape Corps, confronted him. Eliza, crouching behind her husband in the dark passage, overheard the two men insolently demand a shilling's worth of liquor.
She heard William's refusal declaring that it was after hours and that on principle, he strongly objected to serving men with drink who had deserted from the army. A fierce argument ensued, but William held his ground. The deserters became even more aggressive and violent, and then to Eliza's utter horror, she heard two shots ring out! William must have collapsed, but as he did so, he shouted: 'Run Liza!' Frantically my great grandmother dashed back to her bedroom, quickly locking all the doors behind her. Hastily, she roused her sleeping family, tied her five-month-old baby, James, to her back, pushed all her children as fast as she could through the back window, and fled into the dark bush in a valley behind the house. Fearing footsteps behind her, she hurried on desperately, pulling and dragging the smallest ones after her in the darkness. Sensing danger, not one of them uttered a sound, or even cried. William, her eldest, was a great help. Then, at last, panting and exhausted, they stood still in the heart of the bush, and listened. A great and terrible silence enveloped them. For the rest of the night, the children huddled closely around Eliza. She soothed and comforted each in turn till they all fell asleep . . . all, but William, her 12-year-old eldest, who stood guard over them all, his rich courageous Settler blood already stirring in his young veins.
Dawn broke over the hills. All alone, like a frightened deer, and leaving William in charge of the children, Eliza warilymade her way back to the house. With absolute horror she beheld her William lying dead in a pool of blood.
A few days later the two culprits Were eventually rounded up, and arrested. They were tried, found guilty, and executedat Grahamstown.
After the death of her husband, Eliza sold the farm, the store and the inn. Then she moved to Grahamstown where with great difficulty and much hardship, she reared her large family,
And there, for me, was where the story of my courageous 1820 Settler great grandmother should have ended. But it did not. One mystery remained unsolved. Where was her grave? That was the one question I had never asked my father, and he had never thought of telling me. I longed to see it! To lay a wreath, tenderly, upon it!
On March 12, 1970, I sat all alone on a kopjie on our farm in the North East Free State thinking of him, and admiring the view that he had always loved. Sadly, my thoughts turned to his last days, and to the last request he ever made to me. Feeble and weak, he begged me to take him to his first childhood home in the Cape. It was a farm called, Kleinhaasfontein, and he had left it when he was nearly six years old.
To my sorrow, it was a request I was never able to carry out, for he died soon after.
The name Kleinhaasfontein came clearly back to me. It was at this point, that I decided to forget, temporarily, all about Eliza Jelliman's grave, and to concentrate, instead, on finding my father's first boyhood home.
To my joy, I met with immediate success. I wrote to the Town Clerk, in Queenstown, where I knew my father had been born, and asked him whether he could locate the farm. He replied without delay, that the farm Kleinhaasfontein, was still well- known, and lay on the main tarred road, almost midway between Queenstown and Tarkastad.
Greatly encouraged, I now wrote, to the Town Clerk at Somerset East, asking him whether he could tell me where the farm Leeuwfontein, was. I explained that my 1820 Settler great grandmother and her husband had run an inn there by the name of Travellers' Rest. Again I was immediately successful. The Town Clerk told me exactly how to find it, and said that the ruins were still clearly visible from the road.
My husband and I set off for Queenstown in September'1970.
We drove up to Kleinhaasfontein in the late afternoon, and there spread out before my wondering eye§ was everything that my father had told me about. The double-storey house, that Eliza's eldest son. William (my grandfather) had built. I saw the carriage house, the stables, and the loft where my grandfather had stacked the bundles of oats for his horses. It was all like a wonderful' dream come true!
We walked over to the nearby store where the elderly owners — Mr and Mrs Henry Orton — were busy.
I introduced myself as the granddaughter of William Jelliman, and asked whether I might be allowed to look over the house.
'Certainly, dear,' Mrs Orton exclaimed. Just as we were going out at the door, Mrs Orton called after us: 'You do know, I suppose dear, that there are three Jelliman graves here?'
'Three Jelliman graves!" I said surprised. 'No, I've never heard of them. Where are they?' 'Only a stone's throw from the house, under some pinetrees,' replied Mrs Orton. 'Whose are they, Mrs Orton?' 'Two children and an adult.' 'An adult!' I asked quickly, and my heart began to beat faster. 'Whose grave is it?" It's a woman's grave, dear.' 'A woman's grave! Whose . . . whose . . . whose grave is it, Mrs Orton?' 'I thought you would have known, dear. It is the grave of Eliza Jelliman, your great 'grandmother!'
It is a tiny grave. It stands alone in the shadows of some beautiful old pine trees. I ran towards it, and bending over it, read the unbelievable words:
Departed this life
on 11th June 1872
Aged 55 years.
I knelt, and laid my cheek against the grave. Time stood still! At last we were together, just Eiiza and I, with the blue Cape mountains all around us. It was a hallowed moment! Tears poured unashamed down my cheeks.
Next day we went on to Travellers' Rest at Leeuwfontein. As the town clerk had. said, we found that the ruins are clearly visible from, the road.
I stood in the front door. Here he laid murdered, I picked up a piece of very old china. Had it, been Eliza's? I walked to the back window through which she and her little brood had escaped into the black African, night. The bush was still there, and only about a quarter of a mile from the ruins. We also found William Jelliman's grave — unmarked. Only a large, wild tree, spread its branches protectingly over it. Here lay the fearless and dauntless man, my great grandfather, who had won Eliza's heart, and had lost his life-for a mere shilling.
Norman and Charmaine also made this photograph available to ORAFs
My grandfather, photograph taken 1893 in Kroonstad after returning from a hunting trip in Rhodesia.
The man standing at rear of wagon was Albert Reuben Jelliman, seated, one of his brothers with a leopard cub on a leash. Standing, left, two cape coloureds. They took their coffins with locals believed they would die in that unknown land. Flour, salt, medicines and ammo where stored in the coffins.
[ Please note the two skulls in the photograph. Eddy Norris]
Comments are always welcome, please mail them to Eddy Norris at firstname.lastname@example.org
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