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John Edwards

Also Known As: "The hunter"
Birthdate: (91)
Birthplace: Cradock, Somerset District, South Africa
Death: December 16, 1917 (91)
Barberton hospital, Barberton, Mpumalanga, South Africa
Place of Burial: Historical Cemetery, Barberton, Mpumalanga, South Africa
Immediate Family:

Son of James Edwards, Snr, SV/PROG and Ann Thomas, SM/PROG
Husband of Sarah Edwards (Moorcroft) and Sarah Mary Edwards (Smith)
Father of John James Edwards; Walter Moorcroft EDWARDS; Alfred Sydney Edwards; Eugene Horatia Edwards; Christopher Smith Edwards and 10 others
Brother of James Edwards; Daniel Edwards; Henry Edwards; William Edwards; William Edwards and 5 others

Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About John Edwards

Baptism : "South Africa, Methodist Parish Registers, 1822-1996," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 21 May 2014), South Africa > Cape of Good Hope > Grahamstown > Baptisms 1827-1930 > image 1 of 294; Methodist Church of Southern Africa, Grahamstown.


From Goldfields News and Barberton Herald, Friday 9/3/1917 - The Late Mr John Edwards, one who missed Dingaan's massacre.'

In our issue of 20th February, we recorded the death of Mr John Edwards in the Barberton Hospital at the ripe old age of 91 years. We are now able to give a few of the many interesting incidents of what was a very remarkable career.

Mr Edwards was born in 1826 at Somerset East and was the son of an 1820 immigrant. He remembered the starting of Retief's trek in 1836 which he accompanied, being then 9 years of age. The family were particular friends of Retief and after their return to the Winterberg, (some time after Retief's murder by Dingaan), Mr Edwards' father obtained Retief's farm.

(NB sold years ago).

It is known as Post Retief, from being used as a military station or fort during the early "Kaffir" wars.

He often spoke of the hardships endured in these early days by the Boer Trekkers and told of how they drove cattle down the berg bare footed on a dark and rainy night. The deceased could well remember the day the party left for Dingaan's kraal. His father, who was one of the party of immigrants camped near the Weenen laager, but on arrival, found they had already left.

He returned to the laager and later was one of the men who went to Weenen camp after the massacre and saw the dead, so frequently described in the history of that tragic event.

It was probably these early treks which gave impetus to that reckless spirit which was such a marked trait in Mr Edwards' character.

After his return from Natal he took an active part in the "Kaffir" wars of 1846-1850.

In 1862 he made his first hunting journey into the interior (Mzilikatze country, as it was then called, now known as Rhodesia (Zimbabwe)) and in 1865/66 joined the Free State forces against Moshesh. His journey to Matabeleland was in 1868, this time on a hunt for gold, owing to the discoveries of Mauch, celebrated German traveller whom he met in Potchefstroom on the return journey. Sir John Swinburne had preceded him by a few months with a stream engine and a two-stamp mill. This mill was erected and put into operation on what is now Tati Concession on Tati Reef a few miles from Francistown. His party was not directly connected with Sir John Swinburne and consisted of several Australian prospectors, by whom the original discovery of the Blue Jacket Reef was made, and worked to some extent by a temporarily erected Dolly and horse gear.

The venture proved unsuccessful and Mr Edwards again turned to hunting. The partners (who were the prospectors) developed into interior traders and the relationship was terminated by the discovery of diamonds on the Vaal River at Heilbron where all or most of them immigrated to.

In 1870 the discovery of diamonds on the dry diggings was made at de Beers and the new rush (Kimberley). A few months later Mr Edwards obtained an original claim. Here on adjoining claims the late hunter Mr Selous worked with Messrs Stewart and Cocksley, both old interior traders and no doubt interacting with these associates was largely responsible for his late career. Though fairly successful as a diamond digger he left the fields to participate in the new goldfields of these days in the Lyndenburg district in 1873.

The alluvial goldfields did not appeal to him, and in company with the late Mr John Wainwright he went on a hunting trip down the Olifants River and along the Tembirube Mountain. He returned to Kimberley in 1875, only to leave again almost immediately for the Zoutspanberg, and down the Limpopo River in 1876, this time in search of "natives" for the Cape Government, to build the railway to Kimberley, then under construction, but still far down in the Colony. The venture proved to be unsuccessful and he returned to his claims in Kimberley, and continued diamond digging.

The heavy fall in the value of diamonds during the years 1876-1878 resulting from over supply ruined him. This was about the time the late Cecil Rhodes connived the idea of amalgation and the first limited liability companies were formed in about 1879. From this time to 1890, the life of the deceased was largely of a migratory turn, made up of farming in Marico, gold and mineral searching in Malinanie and Marico, arriving in Barberton in May of that year.

In later days the old restless spirit would assert itself and he would walk from place to place all over the district. As late as 6 years ago, he walked from Three Sisters to Maxianga Point - a distance of over 80 Miles in the Lebombe. When tempted to take these walks nothing would stop him and no persuasion on the part of his family or his friends would prevent him.

Mr Edwards enjoyed good health almost to the last and probably much of his splendid health was due to his active habits. Always a good shot and a lover of hunting, he shot 14 buffalo in one afternoon on the Ramukabaan River beyond the Tati.

The deceased was the 6th of a family of 11 and the last survivor. His only sister, Sarah Anne Rorke, whose death preceded him by 2 months at the age of 81, was lately found to have been christened at Kuruman (British Bechuanaland) by a missionary.

On being questioned recently, Mr Edwards could not call to mind anything in connection with that journey, except that his sister was a big girl and could walk when christened.

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John Edwards's Timeline

December 15, 1826
Cradock, Somerset District, South Africa
January 31, 1828
Age 1
Somerset District, South Africa
April 29, 1848
Age 21
Winterberg, Eastern Cape, South Africa
September 24, 1853
Age 26
Post Retief, Fort Beaufort, Eastern Cape, South Africa
Age 27
April 19, 1855
Age 28
Winterberg, Eastern Cape, South Africa
July 20, 1857
Age 30
December 7, 1858
Age 31