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Pioneers and Early Settlers - Southern Rhodesia - now Zimbabwe

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Rhodesia and Nyasaland (Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi) - Timeline

The development and settlement of firstly Southern Rhodesia, followed by Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland, started long before the Moodie Trek of 1892. This project will concentrate mainly on the Europeans who settled in the area. The missionaries were the first to do this, followed by those who took part in the various treks from 1892 onwards.

In the 16th century, the Portuguese were the first Europeans to attempt colonising south-central Africa, but the hinterland lay virtually untouched by Europeans until the arrival of explorers, missionaries, ivory hunters, and traders in the early 1800's. These were the pioneers exploring unknown territory with their own agendas.

In the early 1800's European slave traders were in operation and their presence would have had an effect on how the natives reacted towards others who ventured into the region.

The British South African Company (BSAC) was established by Cecil Rhodes in Oct 1889 and was the dominating force in the Southern Rhodesia until 1923 and Northern Rhodesia until 1924 when the British Colonial Office took over control. The BSAC encouraging the immigration of white settlers with exaggerated tales of gold deposits. When these claims were proved to be overstated, settlers were encouraged to be farmers.

The Indigenous people are not researched in depth here - it is a complicated history and deserving of a project on its own. A challenge for someone! The kings and nations will be referred to and covered briefly in passing. An interesting summary of the Great Zimbabwe Empire can be seen at the World leaders Index.

Ndebele Kingdom

  • 1821 - 09 Sep 1868 Mzilikazi ka Mthsobana Khumalo
  • 1838 - 1839 Nkulumane ka Mzilikazi Khumalo (acting King)
  • 09 Sep 1868 - 24 Jan 1870 Mncumbathe ka Mzingeli Khumalo
  • 24 Jan 1870 - Feb 1894 Jando Lopengula ka Mzilikazi Khumalo
  • 1894 - 15 Jun 1896 Mlugulu Khumalo (Regent)
  • Nov 1894 - Dec 1895 Nyamanda ka Lopengula Khumalo

Pioneers, Explorers and Hunters

CARRUTHERS, John (Jack) (1863-1951).
Born Aug 1863 Smits ave Grahamstown, South Africa 1879-1880 Basutu War, 3rd mounted Yeomanry D troop under Cpt. Fred Bowker & Cpt. Kidd where he first met Allan Wilson in Mafeking. 1881 Somerset East business with father 1882 Kimberly Diamond floors 1883 or 1884 Colonial postal service, Kimberley 1884-1885 Guide, Interpreter & despatch rider for C J RHODES with the Bechuanaland Police Stellaland under Major Stanley Lowe, until arrival of Sir Charles Warren 1885-1888 deBeers Diamond Mine Co, Kimberly compound inspector. 1889-1890 Left for the Northern Transvaal at Rhodes request to investigate the Loui Ardendorf ]]

Loui? trek (Zoutspanberg district) mission of inspection (intelligence) June 1890 cut road for the Column to the border, eight miles up-stream of the Tuli & Shashi confluence. 10/7/1890 despatch rider to Pietersburg. 1891 Met Jameson early 1891. Came north with Willie & Harry Posselt. One of the first pioneer-prospectors at the Angwa river, Rhodesia. Pegged Ayrshire mine north of Banket. 1893/4 At Allan Wilsons request he raised the Victoria Scouts which he led through the Matabele war, for this he received the silver Queen Victoria Medal for operations in Matabeleland. Owned a farm near Ayres Poort on the old lomagundi Rd. which he gave to C. J. van Staden for considerations shown in the past. Also owned a block of farms CARRUTHERS VALE"in the Marandellas district. 1895 J. Carruthers, Premier Boot store Std.2170 Salisbury 1902 & 1903 Crossed the Zambezi prospecting Copper for the SA copper trust, had prospecting rights for the Ayrshire mine. He cut the road from Sinoia to the Zambezi. 1937 Pioneer representative at the Coronation Took up residence at no 2 Manica Rd, Sailsbury "Arrari Karri". died at age 88. Ref: Microfilm 1560913 Grahamstown David Livingstone

(19 March 1813 – 1 May 1873) was a Scottish Pioneer Missionary and Explorer, who was one of the first to cross central and Southern Africa in 1854-1856. It was hostile territory with diseases such as malaria, sleeping sickness and dysentery causing problems on similar, earlier expeditions. There was also hostility from African chiefs. However, Livingstone, unlike previous expeditions, travelled with a small party. He didn't appear to be a threat to the natives, but bartered with them for provisions. He carried only a few guns for protection. He was the first European to see the "Smoke that Thunders" (Mosi-oa-Tunya ) which he named the Victoria Falls. He believed that the Zambezi was the key to his aim of developing the area for trade - the inscription on a statue to his memory at Victoria Falls reads "Christianity, Commerce and Civilization."

Livingstone preferred his calling to explore over his missionary work, and in 1858 the British Government funded his Zambezi Expedition. The expedition lasted until 1864. The expedition was the first to reach Lake Malawi. In 1864 the expedition was recalled because of the escalating costs and the failure to find a navigable route to the interior.

Livingstone returned to Africa in 1866 to Zanzibar to explore the Nile. The expedition was plagued by illness, supplies being stolen and deserting assistants. He lost contact with the rest of the world for 6 years. Henry Morton Stanley, who had been sent by the New York Herald newspaper to find him, located him on the shores of Lake Tanganyika on 27th October 1871 - greeting him with the famous words "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?" His reply was apparently "Yes, and I feel thankful that I am here to welcome you" but there is no documentary evidence of this.

Livingstone could not be persuaded to leave Africa and continued to explore in the area. He died on 1 May 1873 of malaria and dysentery.


The first constitutional step which led to the acquisition of the territory between the Limpopo and Zambesi rivers for the British Empire was the grant of a Royal Charter by Queen Victoria to the British South Africa Company (BSAP) on the 29th October, 1889, giving it large powers of administration carry out the terms of the Rudd Concession, secured by Charles Dunell Rudd, on behalf Cecil John Rhodes from the Matabele King, Lobengula, a year before. The Concession gave Rhodes the exclusive right to exploit the mineral wealth of Mashonaland, whose attraction at that time rested largely on its reputed riches of gold and silver.

Rhodes wanted Mashonaland not only for its mineral wealth. He saw the strategical significance of the area. Gold was the attraction by which means he hoped to make the venture viable.

Within a year of the Occupation, a proclamation made on the 10th June, 1891, adopted the laws of the Cape Colony as then in force for the administration of the new territory as far as circumstances permitted. Cape Colony laws passed subsequently to that date did not apply.

For the first nine years of the B.S.A. Company's regime, Southern Rho- desia was governed by a one-man Government - the Administrator. The first Administrator, who travelled up with the Pioneer Column, was Mr. A. R. Colquhoun, but he resigned the following year, and was succeeded by Dr. (later Sir) Leander Starr Jameson, who was Rhodes's right- hand man and closest friend. See under Military men below.

Jameson, Leander Starr (1853-1917) greatest achievement during his Administration was his invasion of Matabeleland at the head of 700 Pioneers from Salisbury and Fort Victoria, and the conquest of Lobengula's martial might. Two years later he led a body of Rhodesian "Police" in a raid on the Transvaal, which resulted in his defeat, capture and subsequent sentence to imprisonment in Britain. He later became Prime Minister of the Cape Colony.

He was succeeded as Administrator of Rhodesia by Mr. W. H.(later Sir William) Milton until 1914. On the 15th May, 1899, under his administration, the first step towards democratic government was taken with the formation of the first Legislative Council.

Southern Rhodesia; Rhodesia; Zimbabwe.

Originally Southern Rhodesia was referred to as 'South Zambezia' and the name 'Rhodesia' wasn't used until 1895. The region was designated 'Southern Rhodesia in 1901. The Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland was formed in 1953, and lasted until the end of 1963, when the country reverted to the name 'Rhodesia' . This lasted until 1979 when 'Zimbabwe Rhodesia' was created, although legally, from a British point of view the name 'Southern Rhodesia' remained in place until 18 April 1980 when the 'Republic of Zimbabwe' was formally proclaimed.

"Pre-pioneers" - missionaries, traders, hunters and travellers.


Missionaries were setting up in the region long before the occupation by the settlers who went on the treks in the 1890s.

Rev. Robert Moffat arrived in South Africa in 1817. His wife to be, Emily Unwin joned him 2 years later and they established a mission station at Kuruman, today in the Northern Cape. Rev. Robert Moffat's daughter was the wife of David Livingstone who married her in 1841. These two men were largely responsible for the spread of the missionaries North.

Robert Moffat had established a good relationship with Mzilikazi - the African King who founded the Matabele Kingdom. Mzilikazi was the son of Matshobana, originally a lieutenant of Shaka. He rebelled in 1823 and left Shaka, fleeing North with his tribe, the Khumalo, from Zululand. By 1837 Mzilikazi had been forced further north by the Boers and Zulus, and settled in the area that became Southern Rhodesia.

In 1836 a treaty was signed by Umnobate (Mzilikazi's chief counsellor) and the Governor of the Cape Colony in which Mzilikazi agreed to "be a faithful friend and ally ... to protect all white men who may visit his country, and to defend and treat in a friendly manner all missionaries ... to defend and assist all travelers or traders ..."

(Boggie Jeannie M (1940) "First Steps in Civilizing Rhodesia" page 8]

In 1857 Mzilikazi finally consented to a mission station to be established in his country on condition that either Moffat or his son was to run it. Moffat could not leave Kuruman and sent his son, Rev. William Sykes (1827-1897) - all young married men.

When they reached Kuruman missionary it was under threat from Boers. The Missionaries were joined by 2 more families – Rev Mr & Mrs Helmore with four children, and Rev Mr and Mrs Price who were headed for the proposed mission to the Makololo tribe near the Zambezi. At Kuruman an epidemic struck and the 4 month old Moffat baby died, as did Mrs. Sykes and her newborn child.

Robert Moffat joined the party for the trip to Mzilikizi – a hazardous journey followed with sand, mud, bush and tsetse flies. When they reached the outskirts of Mzilikazi’s territory they were joined by a party of Matabele warriors who were sent to guide and protect them. As the oxen had been smitten with lung-sickness (apparently pneumonia)they were sent back in order not to introduce the disease amongst Mzilikazi’s cattle. Mzilikazi sent hundreds of warriors to fetch the wagons – the men pulled the wagons in place of the oxen.

There was some distrust of the white missionaries amongst the Matabele as a result of previous encounters with the Boers. After the missionaries had depleted their supplies of gifts for the king there was dissatisfaction about their presence and Mzilikazi departed taking his whole village with him. Any attempt to speak to the king was denied, and messengers were sent accusing the missionaries of being sent to spy out the land in advance of other white people to follow. They were told not to hunt or fish or move from their location. They decided to stay in spite of the shortage of food and the conditions they lived in – rats being a particular problem.

Five weeks later Mzilikazi sent a sheep and an ox, followed by warriors to take their wagons to Inyati where they were received as if nothing had happened, saying that he had missed them in their absence. On 26th Dec 1859 the wagons were out-spanned for the last time and Inyati became the first white settlement in Matabeleland. (Inyati means means "the place of the buffaloes)

The first stone dwelling was built much to the fascination and consternation of the natives. Snakes, rats and ants plagued the missionaries. A well was sunk in an effort to get a supply of clean drinking water (the natives bathed in the nearby river) but the Matabele received this as a bathing place with much gratitude!

Rev John Smith Moffat (1835-1918)

Rev. Thomas Morgan Thomas (1830-1884)

Rev. William Sykes (1827-1897)

Mrs. Sykes and her newborn child died at Kuruman (John S Moffatt - Lives of Robert and Mary Moffat 1885)

Rev. Sykes went to Inyati in 1859 and his 2nd wife Margaret Charlotte Kolbe arrived at Inyati in 1861.

Their daughter, Rev. David Carnegie in 1885. David Carnegie persuaded Hoti (a recalcitrant induna who controlled about 800-1000 men during the 1896 Matabele uprisings.

John Boden Thomson (1841-1878) joined Sykes with his wife Elizabeth nee Edwards. The couple were from Scotland. They first went to Inyati, but Lobengula granted them a place for a new mission station which was besides a water fall/fountain - which was why it was called Hope Fountain.

Today there is a Christian-based organisation working with orphaned and abandoned children in Zimbabwe called Hope Fountain International

The Thomsons were on their own at Hope Fountain until 1875 when The Elizabeth Eduardine Neé Von Puttkamer (1875-1913) joined them. Lobengula thought highly of Helm who was required to be present as interpreter and adviser throughout the deliberations which led up to the signing of the Rudd-Rhodes Concession. Mrs. Helm was buried at Hope Fountain.

Other casualties amongst the missionary bands –

  • 1860 – Rev Helmore, his wife and 2 children Henry and Selina and Mrs Price and her baby at Linyanti – fever or poison
  • 1862 Mrs Mary Livingstone at Shupanga
  • Bishop MacKenzie, Rev. Burrop and Rev Scudamore – Universities Mission – Zambezi district.
  • 1869 deaths of fever – Hunters – Baker 3rd April; Guthrie 14th, Hobson 15th and Davis 17th.

In 1870 – Lobengula succeeded Mzilikazi. and his new capital was built at Bulawayo – he was declared King on 17th March 1870.

Hunters, Ivory Traders

Adam Renders
Famous because he found the Great Zimbabwe Ruins in 1867 and showed them to Carl Mauch.

Born in Germany in 1822; first emigrated to the United States, then went to South Africa in 1842. First settled in Natal, moved to the Transvaal in 1848. He settled in the Zoutpansberg district where he raised a family with his wife Elsje Josina Pretorius. He died in Southern Rhodesia around 1869, where he was living with a native woman§ - the daughter of chief Bika's, with whom he fathered a child. Chief Bika was a village headman under Chief Charumbira who resided near the Bondolfi Mission on the western foot of Chigaramboni Mountain.

Eric Guffin- Needs establishing!) was one of the best-known hunters of Ngamiland and Southern Matabeleland. His friendship with Mzilikazi led to his obtaining permission to hunt in Mashonaland in 1865, and he was the first European hunter in that part of the country. He conducted Selous on his first visit to Southern Rhodesia/Zimbabwe, as well as James Chapman on his first hunting trip into the interior.

Captain Frederick Courteney Selous DSO (1851-1917)

Captain Selous was sent by Rhodes as guide and intelligence officer with the Pioneer Column. He was born in London in 1851 and set himself up as a professional hunter in Africa at the age of 20 and began hunting extensively in Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe). Though he began his career as a big game hunter his books gained him a world-renowned reputation as a naturalist, due to his precise observations about the ecology and wildlife.

The Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania at over 22,000 square miles is the largest big game reserve in the world and in 1982 UNICEF declared it a World Heritage Site due to its unique ecological importance.

Traders, Service Providers

In 1891 the Zeederberg Coach Co. were awarded a contract of communication between Tuli and Salisbury (547 km). This contract cost the British South Africa Co. £4500 per annum. It was organised by the Postmaster-General of the Cape Colony, who wanted the service to deal not only with postal traffic, but also to transport passengers.

A pontoon was built by C. H. Zeederberg over the Limpopo, to enable the journey to Fort Victoria and from Fort Charter to Salisbury. According to the yearbook "Guide to Southern Africa" for 1893, the fare from Tuli to Salisbury was £15 and the journey took 14 days. The company was run by 4 Zeederberg brothers - the best known being Christiaan Hendrik Zeederberg

The Meikles Brothers,

The Meikle brothers established the financial giant Meikles in Southern Rhodesia. They went to the area in 1892 and set up stores, built hotels, established mines and staked ranches.

Michael Welensky

Hotelier who owned the Twelve Mile Hotel, just south of Jamestown, closed his hotel in 1890 and joined the Mashonaland expedition to Rhodesia. His 13th child Roy (Roland) Sir Roy Welensky, was 2nd Prime Minister of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyassaland.

George Westbeech (1844-1888)

"One of the first established European traders in the region, an Englishman called George Westbeech, had established himself at Pandamatenga, on the hunters road to Kazungula (following the present Botswana/Zimbabwe border) in about 1871. This route was extensively used by Westbeech, specifically as it by-passed Ndebele territory, through which Europeans first had to obtain Chief Lobengula's consent before entering".
See also George Cobb Westbeech by Lawrence Flint

Explorers and Prospectors

John Thomas Baines (1820-1875)

Artist and Explorer - Born Kings Lynn, Norfolk, the son of a sea captain.
in 1842 he reached Cape Colony where he taught drawing in Cape Town until the outbreak of the War of the Axe (q.v.) in 1846 took him to the eastern frontier with the troops.

In 1857 Thomas Baines was elected a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and in 1858 he joined David Livingstone's Zambezi Expedition as storekeeper and artist.

"From Livingstone's base at Tete on the Zambezi, Baines joined several excursions into the interior, en route making maps and sketching the scenery and people encountered. However, like most of the other members of the party, he fell out with Livingstone's brother Charles, who claimed that Baines had been guilty of stealing some of the expedition's sugar stock. Although others knew that the charge was unjustified, Baines was dismissed and on 7.12.59 put on a warship bound for Cape Town. Most of his possessions were left behind in Tete, and he never again saw most of his paintings. When Livingstone wrote his official narrative of the expedition he never once mentioned Baines by name and refused to acknowledge that Baines had provided most of the illustrations."

Prior to joining Livingstone's exploration, Thomas Baines joined Augustus Gregory's expedition exploring northern Australia in 1854, producing a large number of paintings that are now preserved in the Royal Geographical Society in London. His home town, King's Lynn presented him with a Freedom of the Borough.

In 1865 he published a volume of reproductions of his own work, immensely successful, and titled 'Explorations in South West Africa.' He made valuable discoveries as a naturalist and produced some important early maps.

Links and source:

Military men and Politicians

Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell (1857-1941)

Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell was commissioned in the 13th Hussars and in 1888 saw active service in the Zululand campaign. During the Matabele rebellion he was Chief Staff Officer; his night scouting revealed the position of the enemy in the Matopos. He was promoted to Major-General for the excellent work he did while commandant at Mafeking during the siege. He was interested in Scouting and reconnaissance and in 1907 applied many of his teachings to a group of boys. This experiment led to the formation of the Boy Scout movement.
His grave at Saint Peter's Churchyard, Nyeri, Central, Kenya

Capt. A E Burnett

Capt A E Burnett, Chief Transport Officer, killed during the Shangani Patrol skirmish (November-December 1893) His brother was Lieut R G Burnett, part of the Headquarters Staff in charge of native labourers (Ref: Reconstituted Nominal Rolls of Pioneer Column) See

Frederick Russell Burnham (1861-1947)

Burnham was born in the United States. He went to Africa early in 1893 after gold mining in Arizona. Soon after arriving in Africa he joined the Victoria Column taking oart in the Shangani and Bembesi battles. During the Rebellion he served as a scout in the Bulawayo Field Force.

Major-General Sir Frederick Carrington

Frederick Carrington arrived with regular troops in Bulawayo in June 1896 and assumed command of the operations. It was his opinion that the campaign would require large reinforcements of men and the expenditure of vast sums that would have wrecked the Cgartered Company financially. This led Rhodes to take matters into his own hands and arrange to famous negotiations with the Matabele indunas in the Matopas.

Carruthers, Jack (1863-1951) Victoria Scout 1893

Major Patrick William Forbes

Leander Starr Jameson (1853-1920)

Jameson was one of Rhodes' greatest friends. he left his medical practice in Kimberley to assist Rhodes, and between April 1889 and May 1890 paid three visits to Lobengula. He accompanied the Pioneer Column to Salisbury as Rhodes' personal representative and succeeded Colquhoun as chief executive - an appointment he held until his disastrous raid on the Transvaal in 1895. He was Prime Minister of the cape Colony from 1904 to 1908, and was made a Baronet in 1911 in recognition of his services in connection with the National Convention and the Avt of Union. he became President of the British South Africa Company for four years until his death in 1917.

He was laid to rest in a vault at the Kensal Green cemetery and buried in the Matopos in 1920.

Major Frank William Frederick Johnson

Lt. Col Edward Graham Pennefather

Major Allan Wilson

The Occupation and Treks

Pioneer column

Once the Royal Charter had been granted Rhodes made a contract with Frank William Frederick Johnson (later Colonel Sir Frank Johnson) to lead a column into Mashonaland. Communications depended largely on animal transport and so things moved slowly. However, within a year Frank Johnson had recruited and organized a Pioneer Column consisting of a Pioneer Corps of 180 men and a column of British
South Africa Company's Police of 500 men. F C Selous guided the column, cutting a road through virgin country from Tuli to Salisbury. A R Colquhourn, who was the first Administrator of Mashonaland was seconded from the India Civil Service by Rhodes to accompany the column. The column took 6 months to reach Fort Salisbury on 12th September 1890, where the Union Jack was hoisted on the site of present-day Salisbury (Now Harare) the next day.

Following this Rhodes encouraged Laurence van der Byl to take a party of 25 young Cape Colonists to settle near Marendellas. van der Byl started his settlement about 100 miles from the present day Harare (Salisbury) towards Umtali - calling the estate Laurencedale. But things did not go well; illness, lack of supplies and adverse weather conditions all led to failure. van der Byl died of Malaria in 1892, less than a year after arriving. Many of the rest of the party were suffering from fever. Without their leader the party broke up and the men dispersed. The mission failed primarily through ignorance and lack of preparation, but also because their were no women in the party. In spite of everything Rusapi was the settlement that developed from this attempt.

See also 'The Pioneer Corps' by Robert Cary. (1975).

Rhodesia Treks

Links to the project pages for Treks to Rhodesia.

Prime Ministers Southern Rhodesia (Rhodesia) 1923-1979

  • RP – Rhodesian Party
  • UP - United Party
  • URP - United Rhodesia Party
  • UFP - United Federal Party
  • RF - Rhodesian Front


Reading List


  • Baxter T.W. and Turner R.W.S. (1966) Rhodesia Epic Howard Timmins, Cape Town
  • Boggie Jeannie M. (1940) First Steps in Civilizing Rhodesia Philpott & Collins, Ltd. Bulawayo, Southern Rhodesia.
  • Fairbridge Kingsley The Autobiography of Kingsley Fairbridge (1928) Oxford University Press, London
  • Jeal, Tim (1973) "Livingstone", Book Club Associates, London.
  • King Paul S. (1959) Missions in Southern Rhodesia The Inyati Centenary Trust; Citadel Press, Cape Town
  • Olivier S.P. Many Treks Made Rhodesia Rhodesiana Reprint Library - Silver Series Volume Six (reproduction of 1957 edition)
  • Robert Cary "The Pioneer Corps" (1975)

Digital Books and Papers



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