Thomas Baines journey to Mashonaland in 1869 that resulted in a mineral concession granted by Lobengula and the first mining claim at Hartley Hills - Part 1


Many readers might think that Karl Mauch was the first to discover the Mashona goldfields, certainly the website Britannica describes him as the: “explorer who made geologic and archaeological discoveries[i] in southern Africa, notably goldfields in Hartley Hills (1867) and the ruins of the ancient city of Zimbabwe.”[ii] 

However knowledge of the Mashonaland gold fields, the history of goldmining in Zimbabwe and the export of gold from the interior to the coast at Sofala goes back a lot longer than Mauch.

It is worth noting that Thomas Baines, explorer, cartographer and artist, about whom this article is written, always referred to the old gold workings as “old Mashona workings” and goes on to say they are “not apparently proving…a very high antiquity.”[iii] The term “ancient workings” only came to be used by many subsequent authors after it was popularised when Mauch’s account of Great Zimbabwe was first published in full and he revived the fable that Great Zimbabwe was somehow connected with King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba.[iv]   

Summers writes that this view of “ancient workings” was further promoted by Hall and Neal in The Ancient Ruins of Rhodesia published in 1902 and Hall, in particular, supported the view that they were “two or three thousand  years old and untouched since Phoenician or Sabaean exploitation.”  Summers goes on to say that after the Anglo-Boer War, when capital was urgently needed in Rhodesia (present-day Zimbabwe) that the myths about ancient workings were actively promoted. The British South Africa Company’s mining regulations required mines to be exploited by companies, not individuals, as the company reserved the right to 50% of the issued share capital[v] and potential shareholders seeing that the claims were on “ancient workings” in company prospectuses considered them a good reason to buy.  

A summary of the events in years 1866 to 1869 leading to the first mining claim

This is given to orientate the reader:

1865 – Henry Hartley and his party are given permission to hunt elephant in Mashonaland by Mzilikazi, as are Viljoen and Jacobs – they hunt as far as the Umfuli (Mupfure) probably the first Europeans since the Portuguese.[vi] On this journey Hartley saw the open pits on the quartz reefs that he suspected were gold workings and this was confirmed by his native followers who knew the trade had been carried on centuries before by Swahili traders and then the Portuguese and their vashambadzi.

1866 – Hartley and his party return in the winter month of July, accompanied by Karl Mauch who is keen to make a name for himself as a discoverer. Mauch is forced to examine rocks without arousing the suspicion of their guide Inyoka (snake) and he kept a very low profile. Between the Sebakwe and Bembezaan rivers he is guided by a Mashona called Makhombo to the open stopes, shafts and open pits of the Mashona gold workings.

1867 – Hartley and his party are back in Mashonaland during the winter months and again accompanied by Karl Mauch. At the Tati river Mauch finds not only what he believes are rich quartz reefs, but also abandoned open pits from which gold bearing ore had been extracted and at the Mupfure river are open pits six feet deep indicating old gold workings. When the wagons are parked on the Serui river a bull elephant is killed near the Chimbo rivulet and falls on a quartz reef. Twelve days later Mauch is taken to the spot and selects a 60 lb specimen that the hunters carry ¾ mile to the wagons. There are also rubble dumps that yield good specimens. The amaNdebele guides are suspicious, but view Mauch as a madman. On his return Mauch writes his letter to the Transvaal Argus giving details of ‘his discoveries’ at the Tati and northern goldfields.

1868  - Karl Mauch accompanied by Paul Jebe crossed the Northern Transvaal (Limpopo) and the Limpopo river somewhere near its confluence with the Bubye river and then followed the Nuanetsi (Mwenezi) river – the journey was fraught with difficulties and they were held by chief Umtigan. Ncumbata, the regent as Mzilikazi had died on 6 September 1868, had them brought to Bulawayo believing they were Boer spies, but they were soon released into the care of Rev Thomas Morgan Thomas at Inyati mission.[vii]

1869 – Thomas Baines, in command of the South African Gold Fields Exploration Company expedition with a mineralogist, C.J. Nelson, Robert Jewell and William Watson accompanied Hartley and his party to Mashonaland and Hartley Hills. Nelson chooses the area of the first mining claim. Sir John Swinburne and Revd T.M. Thomas told Ncumbata, the amaNdebele regent, that Baines exceeded his authority by digging for gold in Mashonaland. Baines and his guides proved this was untrue, that in fact Swinburne had no authority to dig exploratory shafts at Hartley Hills. All Europeans had to leave Matabeleland for Mangwe and Tati before the amaNdebele succession, but Baines managed to make a firm friend of Lobengula.  

Thomas Baines – back in England after 23 years of exploration and travel

Although Baines had travelled extensively throughout Southern Africa as an explorer and artist from 1842 to 1865 by July of that year he was back in England and wondering what he would do next.[viii] Fortunately he had a wide range of friends and contacts and between 1866 to 1868 he gave lectures on his travels to the British Association for the Advancement of Science as well as other learned and cultural societies.[ix] He wrote articles in Illustrated London News, The Field and Land and Water and wrote Shifts and Expedients of Camp Life with W.B. Lord, issued serially at first and printed as a book of 800+ pages in 1871 with Baines doing by far the most writing and illustrations.[x] In 1865 The Victoria Falls, Zambesi River sketched on the spot (during the journey of J. Chapman & T. Baines) was issued with coloured lithographs of a selection of Baines’ paintings.[xi]

Two momentous events that took place in Southern Africa in 1867:

Firstly, South Africa’s first alluvial diamond, later called the Eureka,[xii] was discovered on the banks of the Orange River near Hopetown in the Northern Cape by 15-year-old Erasmus Jacobs. He was playing on his father’s farm at the time and the stone caught his eye. Their neighbour, Schalk van Niekerk, identified this stone as a diamond.

Secondly, in 1867 Henry Hartley, one of the most celebrated elephant hunters of his day, took Karl Mauch for the second time to Mashonaland, during which they came upon evidence of mining activities in the form of shallow pits in gold-bearing quartz between the Shashi and Ramaquabane rivers, later called the Tati district. On his return to Potchefstroom, Mauch wrote a letter to the Transvaal Argus on 3 December 1867 describing the “vast extent and beauty” of the goldfields he had recently seen in southern Zambesia, his account of “white reefs of auriferous quartz glistening in the sun as they cropped out here and there” was enlarged in Britain, where The Times published a Bank of England assay of Mauch's quartz samples giving 1,185 oz. gold to the ton![xiii] He writes that he traced a quartz reef at the Tati for 80 miles and at the northern goldfields for 22 miles.

Inevitably, Mauch’s news[xiv] created gold fever in Natal as the shortest route to the goldfields and the Natal Mercury and the Natal Witness promoted the reports with enthusiasm so the details were soon being reported in  European, American and Australian newspapers and exciting the interests of fortune hunters. Richard Bab’s pamphlet The Gold-Fields of South Africa and the Way to Reach them spread the news and the resulting 'rush' to the Tati district quickly turned to disappointment when it came to light that the gold ore was low grade and not widely distributed, there were staggering transport costs and the boom fizzled. Most left for the diamond fields.

The impact of these discoveries on Baines

Both these discoveries excited world-wide interest and in Britain Baines listened to lectures by Professor Tennant on the diamond discoveries near Kimberley and Robert Mann on the gold-bearing quartz reefs in the Tati district. A number of companies were formed to finance exploring parties; Mann had come to England to promote the South African Gold Fields Exploration Company, a newly formed subsidiary of the Natal Land and Colonization Company.[xv]   

Before the end of October 1868 Baines had been offered the leadership of the Company’s exploratory expedition by Robert Mann. He had to write to his mother in King’s Lynn, Norfolk to persuade her that he was not about to embark on another wild-goose chase.

Baines’ fellow travellers to the northern goldfields

Baines left England in December 1868. He took with him:

C. J. Nelson – a Swedish mineralogist and mining engineer with good practical mining experience from California and South America. A hardworking and dedicated employee, he soon saw that the company was underfunded and only interested in short-term profits and left on their return to Matabeleland for England. When Baines next saw him he was working on the Tati claims.

Robert J. Jewell – a young clerk who acted as local company secretary and photographer.[xvi]

William Watson – a blacksmith by trade as well as handyman and mechanic and also a good shot judging by the number of Baines’ wildlife sketches featuring the animals Watson shot.     

Baines first Journey in 1869 with quotes from ‘The Northern Goldfields Diaries of Thomas Baines’

The three men arrived at Durban on 14 February 1869. The agent Behrens helped them find a wagon and oxen and Baines hired William Watson, a cousin and a blacksmith by trade. However they were forced to purchase a second wagon from their pay as the directors had forwarded insufficient funds – a sign of things to come. A detailed diary of their journey is on the website[xvii] and this text will relate primarily to mining.

They had an official letter from Theophilus Shepstone addressed to native chiefs and anyone they might meet recommending them as travellers and explaining that they were on a mission to gather information on the location and extent of the goldfields so that it could be better regulated to control future miners if gold was found, and stop them if it was not, and to protect native territories. Baines painted the royal arms on his wagons and flew the red ensign.

The Northern Goldfields Diary begins on 24 April and 3 days later Baines writes: “Gave the men an hour to clean themselves, put the waggons into ship-shape, hoisted the colours and rode on in advance to Potchefstroom” where they met up with Mohr and Hübner.[xviii]I commenced a picture in oil of our encampment with the four waggons bearing the North German and British flags and their various accessories.”

  NAZ: Mohr greeting Baines at Potchefstroom, the German wagons on the left, Baines’ wagons on the right

On 3 May: “I had to attend the court to release August[xix] and John Leewe from prison, the charge against

them being that they had been making a raas (noise) after the evening bell had been rung. I had myself given the men a dram on Saturday night and had heard them singing the Old Hundredth and God save the Queen shortly before they were taken and certainly neither of them was either drunk or riotous.” Mohr refused to pay the fine of one of his drivers, to the disappointment of the authorities, who were obliged to keep him in prison.[xx]

At the courthouse I had the pleasure of meeting an old acquaintance, Mynheer Faustonberg, who in 1850 had been ordered to commandeer six men with their horses and weapons and to bring me in dead or alive, for the high crime of sketching the Dorp without permission…we had a glass of grog together, but it certainly did seem a little strange to be thus drinking and conversing on friendly terms with a man who had formerly been authorised to send a bullet through me with as little responsibility for the act as if he had shot a bird.”

August was subsequently dismissed for an unwillingness to obey instructions and Baines writes: “Several persons applied for the situation of waggon driver, but most of them were afraid to engage in a journey like ours and they especially feared to go near the dreaded tribe of the late Moselekatze.” (Mzilikazi[xxi])

They left Potchefstroom on 8 May and had a mishap at a water-furrow with the off-side after-wheel sinking to the axle but with a double oxen span pulled out the wagon. On the 13th they explored the Wonderfontein caves with the farm owner, Mynheer Oberholzer and in the evening met the Glasgow party returning from the Tati goldfields who reported the quartz reefs would only be worked with crushing plant. On the 15th they met Henry Hartley at his farm Thorndale and were invited to accompany the Oude Baas and his sons on their hunting trip to Mashonaland. Hartley was very familiar with the route and was well-known to the amaNdebele and he agreed to show Baines the quartz reefs Mauch believed showed the most promise. Baines promised Hartley shares in the company for his services. Hartley advised Baines to use Shepstone’s letter with the authority it conveyed and to tell the amaNdebele that Queen Victoria did not want their land, but merely to work the goldfields for the benefit of all.

Arrival at Tati

The journey to Tati was accompanied without mishap but game was scarce with increasing travellers and after crossing the Macloutsie river Hartley showed Nelson white quartz reef from which he took samples. At the Shashe river “about 20 lions making music all night at a distance.” Tati was reached on 6 June 1869 and they passed the camps of the Pretoria and Glasgow mining camps.  Sir John Swinburne, the leader of the London and Limpopo Mining Company was in Matabeleland, they inspected his steam engine and stamp-mill that was being repaired. At the Ramaquaban and Umpakwe rivers they met George Wood and Thomas McMaster and hunted giraffe. “Our breakfast consisted of giraffe tongue baked under the hot ashes and broiled marrow bones, both of which were voted delicious.” John Lee[xxii] arrived from the Transvaal and advised Baines to be straight forward with the amaNdebele in his quest to explore for gold, he thought the official letter and royal arms on the wagons were important for success.

Hartley and the hunters were cleared by Manyame, the amaNdebele agent, to move on into Mashonaland, but Baines and his party needed permission and waited. It was here on 18 June that Baines writes: "In the

evening Mr McMaster brought his concertina, I rigged up my marionette theatre, and all the company enjoyed the first performance that had taken place in the Matabele country."[xxiii] On 2 July messengers arrived from Nombata (Ncumbata) the amaNdebele regent in the interregnum between Mzilikazi’s death and Lobengula’s succession, saying Baines could enter Matabeleland, but not before they had tried to extract information on what his business was. Baines decided to take just one wagon into Mashonaland, Jewell and Watson would stay with the other wagon at the Khami river and Baines would go on with Nelson.

Ncumbata gives permission for Baines and Nelson to travel and explore in Mashonaland

On 19 July  they travelled onto Umbangin, Ncumbata’s village. Ncumbata saw them at once, Lee explained they had come to find out if the reports of the country having gold were true and would report back to the governor in Natal. If it did the governor would make arrangements with the king for the guidance of those who searched for it; if not, the governor would warn those from making a useless journey. Lee translated the official letter. Ncumbata granted them permission to go on, saying Baines should report back to him and appointing a guide, Inyassi to accompany them.

Sir John Swinburne and Revd T.M. Thomas try to prevent Baines going to Mashonaland

Baines won local support by treating many amaNdebele, including children for eye conditions, for imaginary conditions patients were treated with cayenne pepper to save medicines. On 28 July a letter arrived from Revd T.M. Thomas saying Ncumbata was not the highest amaNdebele authority and Swinburne already had permission to explore in Mashonaland.[xxiv] “…it would be very unwise for you to attempt going eastward at present, as you would most likely be followed and stopped and turned back. Such an engagement having been entered into by the powers that be with Sir John Swinburne, Bart as compels the former for the present not to allow any other explorer or gold seeker to pass this place.” Chief Mbigo (Umbeko) of the Zwangendaba was at Inyati and Swinburne had received a promise of a monopoly in Mashonaland if Levert brought back Kuruman.[xxv] Baines protested that Umbeko had no right to ‘close the road’ and told Rev Sykes that Swinburne was ‘a sharp trader and no gentlemen’ and that Ncumbata’s permission and Shepstone’s letter were sufficient authority.    

After saying goodbye to Ncumbata, now at Mhlahlandhlela, Baines and Nelson started for Mashonaland on 6 August meeting Sam Edwards[xxvi] four days later at the Hunter’s Road as he returned to fetch supplies for Swinburne from Inyati mission. Nelson was now actively prospecting and examining likely-looking reefs. On 10 August they crossed the Vungu river and met the hunters Hans Hai and his partner Gert hunting on the Ingwenya river. They had trouble crossing the Que Que (Kwe Kwe) river, but Baines had a much needed bathe at the Bembezaan and at the Sebakwe river shot a buffalo cow, wounded a bull and lost a lioness. The Umniati (Munyati) drift proved a challenge, the wagon had to be unloaded to lighten it and beyond the Ngezi drift they met the Jennings brothers[xxvii] with McGillewie[xxviii] trekking back to Matabeleland. Nelson found quartz, agate and jasper and thought gold prospects were improving.

Baines and Nelson reach Hartley Hills

On 24 August they crossed the Umfuli (Mupfure) at Hartley’s drift and next day were at Hartley Hills. The hunters with Hartley and his sons, Thomas Maloney (Hartley’s son-in-law) Thomas McMaster and George and Swithin Wood were at their stand place[xxix] on the Biri river, but Baines and his party were welcomed by the ladies including the newly married Mrs Wood, the first bride in Matabeleland. The hunters came in on the 28 August, having been preceded by native carriers with 14 tusks, the number of servants at the camp numbering about 80, with Inyassi telling Inyoka that Baines was the only one given permission to explore for gold, Swinburne did not have permission and did not have an amaNdebele guide. Hartley said Karl Mauch had never been further than the Imbeela (rock rabbit) river to the north-west of Hartley Hills.

Nelson began prospecting; “Having obtained from Mr Hartley the approximate distance and direction of the various quartz reefs, including that from which ‘the specimen’ was taken[xxx] and Baines joined Amakoonda, (Lomagundi / Makonde) a Mashona chief and followers to the north-west to buy grain, but stopping at a Mashona village as the way ahead was tsetse-fly country. The chief showed Baines old gold workings with pits 8-10 feet deep[xxxi] and he took samples for Nelson. “The Mashona guide immediately let himself down into one of these and with the air of a man who quite understands his business, picked out several pieces of quartz closely resembling that which has been found to be auriferous…”On the return journey more old workings were seen and he shot a black rhino and two sable antelope bulls.

Baines travelled with the hunters on 14 September within a few miles of Hwata’s village but was disappointed they did not travel to the headwaters of the Mazoe (Mazowe) river where he had heard the Portuguese had panned for gold.[xxxii] Nelson walked with Swinburne to the hunters camp at the Biri river before the five wagons trekked double-spanned across the Serui river and at the Zimbo (Chimbo) rivulet.  “We had some difficulty in crossing the Simbo (Chimbo) rivulet and broke the disselboom or pole of our wagon in the drift. But with the help of Mr Maloney and W. Hartley I found a wild-olive tree [Olea europaea L. subsp. Africana] of which we made a new one and had it fitted before dark. McMaster’s wagon came down a complete wreck, with the loss of the langwagen and after-guides, the fore and hinder wheels coming far apart and the body settling down between them. Wood and willing hands however were plentiful enough and his waggon also was not only repaired but loaded up before night.”

  NHM (London) Baines Collection No 25: Baines and others are repairing Thomas Maloney’s wagon at the Chimbo river

On 22 September Baines inspected the big reef that Mauch was shown. “I persuaded Inyoka to go with me and show me the old workings, which proved to be right in the track of the waggons and one of which was that of which I had often heard Mr Hartley speak. It was one of serpentine form, nearly filled up and had a young tree of considerable size growing in the accumulated debris, showing that many years must have passed since it was disturbed, but not, apparently proving for it a very high antiquity. The quartz was partly white while some of it was marked with red, indicating the presence of iron, which I believe is not a bad sign. None of the pits - I can hardly call them by the title of mines - appear to have been very recently worked; but several of the old Mashona remember these workings and one of them, seeing Mr Hartley during the journey in which Mauch was with him examining a stone, said to him, ‘I know what you are looking for: it is metal of this colour - pointing to the brass ring on his arm and not like this - indicating a copper one. He forthwith left the waggon and coming to a hole not far from our last night’s outspan, found and brought back a piece of quartz in which several specks of gold were visible.”

Baines writes that Swinburne’s camp was ½ mile to the south on the top of a small hill and that his people were panic-stricken with the news and almost on the point of deserting. They thought the amaNdebele would kill all the servants and thus force all the Europeans out of the country. “The shaft which Mr Griete[xxxiii] had sunk was about 150 yards or a little more westward: it was about 25 feet deep and yielded quartz of a reddish colour in which several specks of gold were plainly discernible by the naked eye. Our waggons outspanned 100 yards more westward and I made a sketch of the scene…”

  NHM (London) Baines Collection No 26: Hartley and the hunters wagons on the left, Baines wagon in the foreground with red ensign, the London and Limpopo house on the hill with Griete’s shaft and windlass to the right

Paul Jebe returned on 23 September from his unsuccessful attempt to reach the Zambesi river and left for Inyati. Hartley and his hunting party left Hartley Hills on 27 September. Baines had to wait for Nelson, who was away prospecting. “In the evening the people again remonstrated against our staying, Inyassi telling me that the Matabele army had been sent to fetch out the white men and that we must go or that our people would be killed.”  

The first gold mining claim in Mashonaland

On the 28 – 29 September Baines and Nelson picked an area of 1.3 square km (130 hectares) for their mining claim between the Chimbo stream on the north-west and the apex of the claim on the southeast. The old Mashona workings are below shown as polygons, the Hunters Road goes from south to north and the estimated locations of the various places are marked out.

         Google Earth: the South African Gold Fields Exploration Company gold claim at Hartley Hills pegged by Baines and Nelson

Baines and Nelson walked the perimeter of the claim with Inyassi and other amaNdebele as witnesses and left blaze marks on prominent trees. They examined the old workings that consisted of groups of small pits covering areas of 40 x 60-70 yards, in other places each pit covered 20-30 yards and were 6-8 feet deep  “with thorn trees – some of them 9 or 10 inches in diameter – growing in the debris with which  they are partially filled.” The more northerly extent of pits[xxxiv]  (see diagram above) runs in a south-south-west direction curving nearly south for 600 yards and then a second area of old workings – entirely south of the present road – sweeps for another 600 yards in a more south-east direction.

Baines drew the sketch map below and named the kopjes after his helpful friend Henry Hartley. Afterwards they visited Griete at Swinburne’s camp, situated 320 metres (1½ furlongs) west-south-west from the outspan at Hartley Hills, where he had dug a shaft on a quartz reef – an action that had not been authorised by the amaNdebele and would cost the London and Limpopo Mining Company. Swinburne had left Griete on 25 September expecting him to continue mining, but the workers were ready to desert and Griete then left with Sam Edwards.  

      The mining claim of the South African Goldfields Exploration Company at Hartley Hills, 28th September 1869

All Europeans are ordered to leave Mashonaland

Their amaNdebele guides and servants became anxious to get back to Matabeleland, messengers had arrived for George Wood at the Serui river on 19 September – he was needed to give information to Ncumbata about the amaNdebele succession and on 1 October Sam Edwards had arrived at Hartley Hills with fresh supplies and a letter from Revd Thomas saying the Europeans should return to Matabeleland, another letter from Jewell said the same.

Baines learned that all Europeans had to leave Matabeleland except the missionaries and Swinburne before the new ruler was elected so that he was not burdened by past privileges granted by Mzilikazi, hunting rights and other concessions “as they say, to give the country clean to the man of their choice” and anyone could apply to the new king after the coronation. Baines party left Hartley Hills on 2 October, but the journey was slow owing to the poor state of the trek oxen giving Nelson time to do some more prospecting.

On Sunday 3 October the amaNdebele army that had brought the letter summonsing George Wood overtook Baines and Nelson on the Hunters Road: “and returned from Mashonaland with many more cattle, large and small, than those they took in.” Setlaas, their headman: “was anxious to know when we should go forward to Inyati and I told him I should move tomorrow but could not say how far, as we had already lost two oxen from exhaustion and more would die if I pushed them.” Next day they were at the Umsweswe river: “we got the waggon down, lightened it of nearly all the cargo and even then the oxen with difficulty dragging it up the opposite bank.”

Baines diary on 9 October records: “All the afternoon the grass had been burning to the east of us and at night it appeared to be bearing down upon our camp. I walked round merely as a matter of form for I knew that all the vegetation was so trampled down and destroyed around us that there was not the slightest danger. The brilliant line of dancing flames however, the dark thundercloud with the dazzling lighting and the various accessories of our camp made as fine a scene as if the peril had been really as great as it might have been imagined.”

    NHM (London) Baines Collection No 31: The burning veldt, oxen in their scherm, the No 1 wagon of the South African Gold Fields Exploration Company in its actual painted colours near the Bembezaan river

Greite and Sam Edwards caught up with Baines and Nelson at the Bembezaan river and they continued to Inyati mission together which was reached on 21 October.   

Arkle, an engineer had brought a steam engine with a team of 32 oxen as far as Inyati mission; the stamp mill was still being assembled in Natal under Levert. The amaNdebele were fearful it was a device to take their land away and the steam engine had to be hauled back to Tati and with the stamp mill was used to crush quartz mined at Tati – amongst the first to be used in Southern Africa.[xxxv]  

Baines learns that he has been slandered by Swinburne and Revd Thomas

Baines learnt from George Wood on 25 October that Swinburne and Revd Thomas have told Ncumbata and the council at the capital Inthlathlangela that Baines had dug two exploratory shafts at Hartley Hills on quartz reefs. This would have prejudiced the amaNdebele against the South African Gold Fields Exploration Company, but Baines’ attendants including Inyassi and Inyoka gave a true account to Ncumbata and the council confirming that Swinburne and the London and Limpopo Mining Company had dug without authority. Swinburne and Thomas called a meeting at Inyati to deny their deceit but were not believed by those Europeans present and came out of it badly.

The wait for the amaNdebele succession to be settled

Baines and Nelson decided that Nelson should leave with Hübner[xxxvi] for Natal and try and obtain proper backing from the company directors, Baines would stay and maintain friendly relations with the amaNdebele. But months passed and Kanda in Natal could not be positively identified as Kuruman; most believed he was an imposter. Ncumbata favoured Lobengula, who was popular with most of the regiments, the hunters and traders and with Mzilikazi, but not with the Zwangendaba regiment.

When Lobengula had been told in July 1869 that he was favourite to succeed as king, he refused to accept as long as Kuruman’s existence was in doubt as he feared all would be killed if Kuruman returned. Lobengula personally led one of the parties seeking Kuruman to the Soutpansberg before he became sick and returned, the remainder of the party turned back at Albasini’s kraal as they were told there was no chance of passing through the tribes ahead. When Levert went to Natal to fetch Kanda, Lobengula gave him an ox. Lobengula refused a first gift of oxen from the council on 27 October and feared for his life and fled to Revd Thomas, who persuaded him to return to his kraal and speak to Ncumbata.

Baines becomes firm friends with Lobengula but learns that all Europeans must leave Matabeleland

Baines, Nelson and Watson rode from Inyati to Mhlahlandhlela on 27 October meeting Sam Edwards enroute, Watson knew Lobengula from his stay at the Khami and they stopped to see him. They had a pot of tea with him and his wives and his sister, then repaired one of his rifles and enjoyed a meal of wildebeest, pumpkin and porridge with him. “He wore a sailor’s striped shirt and cord peg-top trousers without braces…He asked whether I had dug for gold and I told him no, I had looked about on the surface and had seen a little but had not dug any.”

  NHM (London) Baines Collection No 74: Lobengula with his family visited by Baines and Watson

Another meeting was held with Inyassi being closely questioned by the Indunas. Although he was cleared of any wrongdoing Baines was told he and all the Europeans would need to leave Matabeleland until the succession was decided. Baines, Nelson and Watson went back to Inyati where they left their heavy goods in store with the missionaries and departed on 6 November. The oxen were in poor condition and six died of exhaustion on the road. Visits were made to Ncumbata and Lobengula before they reached Mangwe on 16 November.

November and December at Mangwe and Tati  

The rains had started so travel became difficult. Many hunters, traders and hopefuls gathered at Lee’s Farm or at Tati. They included Baines, Bokkis,[xxxvii] Alexander Brown,[xxxviii] Henry Byles,[xxxix] Edward Coward,[xl] Sam Edwards, James Gifford,[xli] Harry Grant,[xlii] Will Hartley,[xliii] the Jennings,[xliv] Robert Jewell, Daniel Kisch,[xlv] John Lee,[xlvi] Karl Meyer,[xlvii] Eduard Mohr, Nelson, Murphy,[xlviii] George Phillips,[xlix] Swinburne, William Watson and Paul Zietsman.[l] They usually ate at Baines’ tent, where he painted, wrote letters and his diary and did his mapping.    

Nelson believed the company was failing financially, he was correct, Baines had received a letter from Behrens, the Durban agent, saying there were no funds available and he was forced to execute commissions for paintings in return for supplies. Company drafts that Baines issued for purchases were often not met by the London office, on a number of occasions he pledged his salary and company shares as security to meet urgent requirements.    

On 22 December at the Tati diggings: "I found the community desirous of getting up some Christmas festivities and offered my little company to play burlesques of Hamlet and Othello on successive nights."  The same evening a meeting of 30 persons "representing nearly the entire white population" was held to revise "the provisions of the  civil and criminal codes." Baines comments that he: "had written a bill of the play and the reading of this was well received after the regular business."

On the 24 December: “It was then time to send round our bills of the play, and startling announcements were written on large sheets of foolscap with very little regard to the possibility of fulfilling them. Six or eight natives were called and invested, sandwich-fashion, with these bills, while John Vrei marched ahead with a tin case and a yokeskei for a drum. Dr. Coverley lent us his house for a theatre; a stage with curtains, etc. was rigged up, a very well managed flute formed the orchestra and the puppets performed Hamlet in a style never before attempted in these diggings.”



Hall R.N. and Neal W.G. The Ancient Ruins of Rhodesia. Methuen, London, 1902

R. Summers. Ancient Mining in Rhodesia. Trustees of the National Museums of Rhodesia, 1969

E.C. Tabler. The Far Interior. A.A. Balkema. Cape Town, 1955

E.C. Tabler. Pioneers of Rhodesia. C. Struik (Pty) Ltd Cape Town, 1966

J.P.R. Wallis (Editor) The Northern Goldfield Diaries of Thomas Baines Volumes 1 – 3. Chatto and Windus, London 1946  



[i] Karl Mauch did not discover Great Zimbabwe. The article Karl Mauch, explorer and geologist and the man who claimed to be the first European to visit Great Zimbabwe under Masvingo province on the website tells how he was not the first European to visit Great Zimbabwe as he claimed, but he did inform the world of these finds which provided the stimulus for further European exploration of the area then called Zambesia. Adam Renders, the hunter who lived just three and a half hours walk away for three or four years prior to Mauch’s arrival is the most likely first European visitor and it was through his contacts with the local VaKaranga communities that he was allowed to guide Mauch to Great Zimbabwe; but he never left any written account himself and Mauch wrote him out of the history books. 

[iii] See the diary entry for 22 September 1869

[iv] Ancient Mining in Rhodesia, P4

[v] For more detailed information see the article The British South Africa Company and the impact of early gold mining regulations on smallworkers under Midlands province on the website

[vi] The Far Interior, P273

[vii] Karl Mauch made another journey into the country from the south again in 1871 that is discussed in the article on him referred to above. Paul Jebe accompanied the Hartley party into Mashonaland in the winter of 1869 and tried but failed to reach the Zambesi river. In 1870 from Inyati he joined George Wood and his party inro Mashonaland but died of fever near Umtigesa’s kraal.

[viii] There are numerous articles and examples of his artwork under Mashonaland West and Matabeleland North Provinces on the website

[ix] Northern Goldfield Diaries, Pxii

[x] Rhodesiana Publication No 9, December 1963, P44

[xi] A reproduction of The Victoria Falls, Zambezi river was published by Books of Rhodesia, Bulawayo in 1969

[xii] The Eureka originally weighed 21.25 carats (4.250 g), and was later cut to a 10.73-carat (2.146 g) In 1967 it was purchased by De Beers and put on display at the Kimberley Mine Museum

[xiii] Transvaal Argus, 3 Dec 1867; Hugh Marshall Hole, The Making of Rhodesia (London, 1926) P3-4.

[xiv] Many articles call it Mauch’s “discovery” but of course early hunters had seen the pits and Hartley took Mauch along to confirm his own view that they were on gold-bearing quartz reefs. Mauch in all his accounts takes all the credit for himself and omits anyone else.

[xv] The South African Gold Fields Exploration Company and the Natal Land and Colonization Company shared the same offices and secretary in London (Edwin Oliver) and the same agent in Durban (Behrens) and the same directors.

[xvi] I have only seen Jewell’s photograph of Willie Hartley’s grave and have been unable to trace any more of his photos.

[xvii] Thomas Baines journey to present-day Mashonaland in 1869/70: His first journey described in his diaries from Tati on 4 June 1869 until the 15 February 1870 (Vol 1) under Mashonaland West on the website

[xviii] Mohr and Hübner were encouraged to travel in Zambesia by Petermann, the German cartographer. Adolf Hübner was a mining engineer and wrote some geological papers; Mohr wrote To the Victoria Falls of the Zambesi published in 1876

[xx] The fine was 7/6d for each man

[xxi] Mzilikazi died on 6 September 1868

[xxii] John Lee had been appointed by Mzilikazi as his agent to check all European travellers into Matabeleland at his farm at the Mangwe river. Lobengula appointed him into the same role and he was a trusted adviser to both rulers.

[xxiii] There is a good article in Rhodesiana Publication No 24, July 1971, P63 called The First Shakespearean Production n Rhodesia by F.R. Bradlow that discusses these events.

[xxiv] Thomas Morgan Thomas involved himself in the politics of the amaNdebele succession and over-reached himself generally. In July 1870 he was recalled by the London Missionary Society and set up his own mission station at Shiloh to the west of Inyati mission.   

[xxv] Levert was 2 i/c of the London and Limpopo Mining Company and had gone down to Natal at the request of Umbeko and the Zwangendaba regiment to establish if the person claiming to be Kuruman was the real son of Mzilikazi and to bring him back to Matabeleland if he was convinced he was genuine. 

[xxvi] Sam Edwards – a long-time Matabeleland character started hunting at Lake Ngami in 1849; in 1869 when Baines met him on the Hunters Road he was guide, interpreter and transport manager to the London and Limpopo Mining Company. He was at the Kimberley diamond fields for about six years, a guide in the Griqua War and returned to Matabeleland in 1881 when Lobengula tributed him the abandoned Tati concession for £60 per annum. He remained at Tati for the next ten years as md of the Northern Light Company and Lobengula’s “immigration officer” retiring in 1892.  

[xxvii] Jeremiah, George and John Jennings.

[xxviii] Henry McGillewie an elephant hunter who owned a famous shooting horse named Colbrook, died of fever at the Serui river.

[xxix] Tabler states the hunters stand place was at the Biri river, its confluence with the Mupfure is approximately 50 km to the north-west of Hartley Hills and even further from Hartley drift so Baines could not have travelled this far in a day.  

[xxx] The specimen weighed 60 lb was found a little north-east of constitution Hill and the Chimbo rivulet and was where the elephant shot by Henry Hartley fell dead on a quartz reef. The scene is the famous one painted by Baines. James Gifford, one of the hunters, took Mauch to the spot and then carried the specimen, assisted by Tom Hartley, Thomas Maloney and the hunters ¾ mile to the Chimbo rivulet where it was loaded into a wagon. P461      

[xxxi] Baines seems unaware that the chief was still or had only recently stopped mining gold at the at the future site of the Eldorado mine site – Ancient Mining in Rhodesia, P4

[xxxii] The Portuguese trading post of feira of Dambarare was situated near Jumbo Mine at Mazowe and was destroyed by a Rozvi army under Changamire Dombo and his ally, the Mutapa Nyakaunembire in November 1693. See the article Dambarare – an Afro-Portuguese Feira site under Mashonaland Central on the website  

[xxxiii] August Griete was the London and Limpopo Mining Company’s head miner

[xxxiv] These cross the road – the original old workings have been entirely destroyed in modern times

[xxxv] The Langlaagte Stamp mill or battery, now located at Main Street in Johannesburg, was a 10 stamp mill that went into operation at the Robinson Mine in Langlaagte in September 1886, one of the earliest stamp mills on the Witwatersrand

[xxxvi] Mohr and Hübner had been waiting for permission to visit the Zambesi river and Victoria Falls, but the wily Manyame had delayed them in order to extract presents from them. They reached Inyati mission but there was no hope of getting any permission until the succession was settled. Mohr returned to Mangwe on 27 September leaving Hübner at Inyati to try and get permission.

[xxxvii] Bokkis hunted with Baldwin in 1860 and guided many parties to the Zambesi including Mohr and Cluley on their 1870 trip to the Victoria Falls.

[xxxviii] Brown was storekeeper after Kisch’s dismissal to the London and Limpopo Mining Company and in charge of operations after Dr Coverley departed.  

[xxxix] Byles was an elephant hunter and trader. In 1870 he was hunting with Willie Hartley and O’Donnell when they died of fever at the Chirundazi stream. Traded throughout the 1870’s in Matabeleland and the Zambesi Valley.

[xl] Coward and Stone opened a trading store at Tati called ‘The Flagstaff’ or ‘Bunting Lodge’ in April 1869 and were trading at Inyati in July 1869. Coward’s house at Tati was deserted and burnt down in December 1870

[xli] Gifford guided the Glyn party to the Victoria Falls in 1863. Hunted many times with Henry Hartley and the Jennings family in Mashonaland. Stopped hunting after 1870 as the elephants retreated into the tsetse-fly country.

[xlii] Grant traded in Matabeleland 1870-93 and built Lobengula’s house

[xliii] Will Hartley accompanied his father Henry on hunting trips into Mashonaland in 1869 and was at Lobengula’s coronation on 24 January 1870. Died of fever with O’Donnell at the Chirundazi stream south of Hartley Hill.

[xliv] James Jennings II and his sons Jeremiah, James III, John and George were all hunters and traders from about 1867 to 1871 and well-known to Hartley and Baines

[xlv] Kisch was the London and Limpopo Mining Company’s storekeeper until he knocked Sir John Swinburne to the ground in an argument. He was trading in Matabeleland in 1870 and for a time acted as Lobengula’s secretary.

[xlvi] Lee, hunter and trader first hunted elephant in Matabeleland in 1862 and in 1866 settled at Mangwe on land granted to him by Mzilikazi. In the early days of the gold rush at Tati he marked off claims and interviewed diggers. He became trusted by Mzilikazi who appointed him as agent and adviser in his dealings with Europeans. 

[xlvii] Karl Meyer, hunted elephant with Paul Zietsman, worked as a blacksmith near Lee’s place at Mangwe in the rainy season

[xlviii] Murphy was a European servant of Sor John Swinburne of the London and Limpopo Mining Company

[xlix] ‘Elephant’ Phillips was an old-timer in Matabeleland and first visited in 1864. A partner of George Westbeech until the latter’s death in 1888. Hunted elephant and traded in Bulawayo, at Lobengula’s succession on 22 January 1870, witnessed the Wood-Chapman-Francis concession at Bulawayo. Left Matabeleland in 1890 after lived almost continuously in Matabeleland for 25 years.    

[l] Zietsman was an experienced hunter who visited the Victoria Falls in the early 1865 and hunted with Mohr and Karel Lee in 1869. He started a smithy and tannery at Tati in early 1870 and hunted in Mashonaland.   

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