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BY GARDNER F. WILLIAMS, M.A.,
When your Council did me the honour of asking me to accept the presidency of the Association for this year I had not made any definite plans for the future, but I outlined what might happen and which has since taken place, namely, that I would shortly take up my residence either in England or America.
With this information before the Council I was elected your President. I appreciate the honour conferred upon me, but at the same time I have to express my regret that I am unable to be present on the occasion of your visit to Kimberley where I spent so many years endeavouring to make the De Beers Company one of the most successful mining enterprises in the world. I feel certain, however, that your meeting will be a great success, and that the Association will be accorded a welcome characteristic of the citizens of the Diamond Fields, and of the great corporation which has done so much for the benefit of all who reside there.
I propose to give short historic sketches of the settlement of the Cape, of the adventurous spirit of the Portuguese, of the influence of the Dutch Pioneers, who, year after year, trekked farther north until they occupied the country from the Cape to the Limpopo, and of the rush of adventurers from almost every part of the world who laid the foundation of the mining industry of to-day.
There were two motives for exploration that so signally stamped the fifteenth century—the riches of a new world and an all sea rouie to India.
Somewhere in the unknown expanse of Africa, tradition placed the land of Ophir and King Solomon's mines, and the explorer knew of the coming of the Queen of Sheba to the King followed by a great train loaded with gold and precious stones. The finding of the southern waterway to the Indies was the first reward of the daring explorers, Dias and Da Gama.
Subsequently Da Gama touched at Mozambique (1st March, 1498) and saw gold in the hands of the Arabs that had passed up the coast from Sofala, which was one of the traditional gateways to King Solomon's mines. Here the Portuguese built a fort which they called Ophir, and made this the starting point of adventurers in search of the fountain of King Solomon's treasures.
These expeditions were continued by the Portuguese with little result until the Dutch and English began to tread upon their heels in the beginning of the seventeenth century.
About the middle of the century Jan van Riebeek, a man of ardent spirit and uncommon energy, landed at the Cape of Good Hope. He seems to have had great confidence in the traditions of Monomotapa, and it is known that he had before him books infused with the romance of Africa. He plotted the location of Davaque, the chief seat of the splendours of Monomotapa at a point 828 miles N.E. of the Cape of Good Hope, and 322 miles W. from the Indian Ocean, curiously near the present Witwatersrand. Nearer still to the Cape, tradition placed another El Dorado, the city of Vigiti Magna, which was located on or near the 30° u' of south latitude, and not much more than 300 miles from the Cape.
As the Cape became settled by the Dutch, expedition after expedition was sent out in search of these mythical cities, only to return without any tidings of good cheer to the founders of the colony.
Abraham Gabbema led the first little party into the unknown land north of Fort Good Hope, to be followed by the expeditions of Danckerk and Cruythof and Meerhoff and Everaert and de la Guerre. One notable undertaking was the despatch of a party of expert assayers and miners from the Netherland to Cape Town in 1669 by the Dutch East Indian Company, with instructions to search for any promising outcrops of ore in the region of the Cape. This party prospected for several years, but saw nothing to inspire them with the hope of finding King Solomon's mines.
A revival of the dazzling old visions came in 1681, with the appearance at the Cape of a party of Namaquas bearing pieces of rich copper ore.
This exhibit spurred the East India Company to send out another expedition ; Simon van der Stel was then Commandant at the Cape. He was quick to despatch a company of thirty soldiers, a draughtsman and a reporter to make the venture so often tried in vain by others. Again, after months of struggle, the desert drove them back. Van der Stel, nothing daunted by these continued failures, formed an expedition of 42 white men with Hottentot servants and guides. Olaf Bergh was put in command, and led his company on to Namaqualand. But it was the same old story. No strength of men or oxen availed against the desert where no rain had fallen for twelve months, and the whole region was an arid waste without a trickle of moisture.
In the following year Izaac Schurver pushed over the desert a little farther than Bergh, and brought back a sack of copper ore. As a last resort the unflinching Van der Stel resolved to head an exploring party himself. The preparations for this expedition were in keeping with the dignity of his position as the head of the Dutch settlement at the Cape.
He left the castle of Good Hope August 25th, 1685, with fifty-six white followers and a troop of Hottentot attendants. He was more favoured than others who had attempted penetrate the dark continent. The time of year chosen for the start was precisely the same as for Bergh's expedition two years before, but the difference in the face of the country was amazing. After the long drought heavy rains had fallen. Grass was growing everywhere, and the water courses which had been dry so long were full to overflowing.
As the expedition advanced it found rich croppings of copper in a range lying a little below the 30° ' of south latitude. Van der Stel had reached the line of the supposed location of the golden city of Vigiti Magna. He followed this line to the Atlantic, but saw no trace of the traditional city or of the realm of Monomotapa.
After months of travel, this notable exploring party came back to the Cape. It had found rich copper ore in Namaqualand, but the deposits were too far from the Cape to be of any immediate value. These copper mines have been worked since 1853, and have produced copper to the value of £11,000,000. Van der Stel had pricked the bubble of Vigiti Magna and the myth of the realm of Monomotapa was practically dead.
So the credulous search for Ophir came to an end, and for more than one hundred and fifty years there was little life in the tradition of King Solomon's mines.
About the middle of the last century search for the mines of King Solomon was again commenced. The expeditions of Carl Mauch, Adan Renders, Hartley, Baines and Nelson, and later explorers are well known to most of you.
A precise and graphic study of the ancient structures in Mashonaland was made in 1891-92 by Theodore Bent and his associates in the expedition promoted by the Royal Geographical Society, the Chartered Company and the British Association for the Advancement of Science. Bent saw in the ancient ruins and workings
"evidence of a cult known to Arabia and Phoenicia alike, temples built on accurate mathematical principles, containing kindred objects of art, methods of producing gold known to have been employed in the ancient world and evidence of a vast population devoted to the mining of gold.”
The main conclusions summarized by Professor Keane are strongly backed by others. Ophir was not a source of gold, but its distributor, as the port on the south coast of Arabia through which the flow of gold came by sea. Havilah (Rhodesia) was the land whence came the gold of Ophir.
Dr. Theal, South Africa's greatest historian, has given this subject much thought and study, and his conclusions are that the influences responsible for the oldest gold mines and the oldest buildings in what is now called Rhodesia, emanated from South Arabia, but that there were other Asiatic influences, especially from western India."
From the earliest settlement of the Cape by the Dutch there had been a slow but continuous advancement to the north. Year after vear the pioneers pushed out farther into the interior, settling upon
the choice locations where there was sufficient water for their stock. It was soon discovered that there were large tracts of land, unsuited to agriculture, which would serve as ranges for cattle and sheep. A little hut of wattle and daub sheltered the family of the pioneer farmer. These settlers were phlegmatic and peaceful by nature. An extraordinary impulse was needed to convert them into adventurers and wanderers in the desert. This impulse was given by the capture of the Cape by the English, by the influx of immigrants from Great Britain, by new and vexing legislation, and by disasters to crops when thousands of farmers were ruined and brought even to the verge of starvation.
There was a succession of vexations to the old colonists. The substitution of English for Dutch was a great humiliation. But the keenest resentment was excited by the emancipation of the slaves in 1833. Alien rule was the grievance which was the impelling cause of the exodus of the Dutch from Cape Colony called the Great Trek.
This migration of pioneer Boers in large parties, overcoming all mountains and deserts, and fearlessly venturing into the strongholds of the fiercest native tribes, undoubtedly hastened and secured the possession of the marvellous diamond and gold fields of South Africa.
The history of the Zulu race is familiar to all. By their raids and wars, the whole country from the seaboard of Natal nearly to the junction of the Orange and Vaal rivers, was desolated, and the native tribes inhabiting this region were almost annihilated. The push of the migrating Boers soon brought them in conflict with Umsilikazi and Dingaan Then their remarkable traits stood out in high relief. In the heart of the wilderness in his venturesome trek over the pathless veld, and in the traverse of mountains and deserts, the Boer showed what scornful eyes had not seen—the self-reliance, the fortitude and the pluck of the true pioneer. Even the women and children were dauntless at the pinch of need. No impediments nor dangers stayed the advance of these pioneers. No Karroo was so forbidding and no stream so swollen as to stop their onward march. Their faith in the literal inspiration of the Bible was unwavering. The clash between the trekking Boers and the impis of Umsilikazi and Dingaan came at last. Umsilikazi was beaten back with enormous loss, and driven in flight to the wilderness beyond the Limpopo, where he brought together the remnants of his people in the present Matabeleland.
Hard upon the defeat of Umsilikazi came the greater clash with Dingaan, who had treacherously put to death a party of sixty Boers who had entered Natal. The battle of Blood River, when six hundred mounted Boers under the command of Andries Pretorius, withstood the attack of many thousand Zulus, was the turning point in the history of South Africa. Three thousand six hundred Zulus were left dead on the field. It is related in history that this decisive victory was gained without the loss of a single life to the Boers. Dingaan fied into Swaziland, where he was put to death by one of the Swazi chiefs.