South Africa, Tasmania, Australia, New Zealand

December 14th, 1890

Newcastle, Natal

My Beloved Angee,

My home letters have not yet arrived – those from P.F&Co. reached me here on the 11th being addressed to Durban, but I didn't give you that address for 2 or 3 weeks after I arrived there so yours have to be re-directed on arrival at Cape Town. Postal arrangements will soon become irregular as after leaving Durban for Madagascar &c. I shall not be able to get any English letters until reaching Adelaide sometime in March. I will not fail in writing you by every chance or regular mail within my reach, and I do pray that our hearts and minds may be kept in the peace of God which passeth all understanding through Christ Jesus. Through His mercy he has wrought confidence in our hearts toward himself and we are often presenting one another before our common mercy seat remembering that He who has Redeemed us by His Precious blood really cares for us on that journey home to that Rest which remaineth for the people of God.

This town of Newcastle is the present terminus of the railway and within about 30 miles of the border of the Transvaal State. It is all in a very rough state as a town, most of the buildings being iron, but the business is very large and beside this there are very good coal beds employing many hundreds of people. The railway too attracts the produce for hundreds of miles around. The Dutch Boers are the great farmers and it is a very interesting sight to see the numerous teams of oxen and waggons slowly moving along transporting the thousands of tons of wool, hides &c. to the market and loading back to their farms with the ten thousand odds and ends into requisition by any measure of civilisation. The merchant is on the lookout early in the morning as the waggons enter & the competition is keen enough to buy the wool or any other produce and to secure the business for the merchandise the farmer requires to take back - The Americans are sending enormous quantities of articles like ploughs, wheelbarrows, carriages, harmoniums, organs &c. at prices far below the English. One large firm at Durban had about 80 first class carriages (4 wheel) at from £80 to £120 each in stock and one of the partners showing me over the premises remarked that they had an indent now in hand for about 80 more carriages. The more I see of it the more it amazed me, but of course the secret of it all is the vast extent of new country where a settler requires everything and must pay any price the seller chooses to fix. Newcastle is very near the Majuba Hill the scene of the terrible disaster that befell General Colley and some British troops about ten years ago which I dare say you will remember.[1] The Boers do not forget their great victory and all Englishmen in these parts felt and do still feel much humbled at the affair and Mr Gladstone's name is not much in favour with them for accepting the defeat and giving the Boers the Transvaal after declaring that it must be regarded as belonging to England. God willing I leave here tomorrow for a three day coach ride to Johannesburg – we pass along the neck of the Majuba Hill where Colley was buried. I hope we may get decent weather but we have had much rain and many storms continually for weeks now. They are storms too [?].

Yesterday afternoon while we were sitting on the veranda of the hotel, the Landlord a Salisbury man jumped from his seat very quickly and shouted Majuba by which he meant a storm coming. All the servants were flying about in a moment closing up windows, throwing old bags over some lamps in the grounds and making other preparations for an approaching hailstorm. I withdrew with Lazarus to my own shanty of a bedroom. In about ten minutes after the peals of thunder were really alarming and the lightning was very vivid as the hail stones came down and struck the iron roof they gave you the impression of being huge pebbles hurled against it and would soon destroy the building. I had never seen anything like it before and it certainly was a very grand sight for about 20 minutes. Lazarus stepped out for a moment to pick up one stone which was as large as a small hen's egg. I took the measure of it and covered the first joint of my thumb and nail, so you will be able to judge the blows our iron roof was getting. Then we had a flood of rain for an hour or two. In the evening it was fine and I sat down quickly and read through the epistle to the Ephesians which we greatly enjoyed. What a fact for our poor hearts is the revelation of the counsels and purposes of God and to see that the place of children by Jesus Christ to Himself is the plan that Perfect Love devised and delights in for us even we who in time were found dead in trespasses and sins. We talked a long time over the word redemption – "In whom we have Redemption through His Blood even the forgiveness of sins according to the riches of His Grace" – Lazarus seemed to enjoy what I said about redemption – to buy back and the word in his language was "sumput" which he said was a very fine good word – not a common word, only a dictionary word and I hope will be henceforth a heart word. If we look back at the types of it clear and blessed and profitable as it all is for us, yet how infinitely blessed for us that the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven from Glorified Christ can give us such precious words – "In whom we have redemption through His Blood even the forgiveness of sins according to the riches of His grace" – what a kinsman! What a neighbour! What a friend! Well may we sing, with triumph sing "Glory unto Jesus by from the curses who set us free, all our guilt on Him was laid – He the ransom fully paid. Divinely and Righteously bought out and Divinely and Righteously brought in so that our mouths once shut in guilt, are now opened to give thanks unto the Father who hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light. What hath God wrought! For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things to whom be glory for ever and ever.

I intend leaving Lazarus here while I visit the Transvaal as the coach fares are very high – I am only carrying 3 small pieces of baggage – 40 pounds being the limit allowed and 6p per pound for any excess. D.V. I shall finish for the present and say good night my beloved Angee.

Johannesburg. Dec. 17.

I reached this city of Gold hunters soon after noon today and I may say to begin with that all previous experiences of travelling by road including the ride to Pekin[g] have been eclipsed. The post cart with ten horses left Newcastle at 3 pm on Monday the 15th and kindly waited at the hotel door for ten minutes while Lazarus ran to the P.O. for my letters which I was glad to receive before starting. Yours and Arundel's, one from Emma with some cards and a long one from Mr Cavanagh enclosing two from Dr Eitel of Hong Kong he had desired that I should read. Our cart was a strongly built partly covered conveyance not unlike Mrs Hoyle's bus from Newquay to Truro – we were not more than half-full which was a great comfort to us. For a few hundred yards our road was smooth and you can imagine the power of 5 pairs of splendid horses – one man managing the reins and another at his side with a whip nearly long enough to reach the leaders, requiring all the strength of two strong arms to use. We were quickly on the roads, or rather the tracks of South Africa territory - now climbing a steep hill and turning about to the right and to the left avoiding the deep gullies made by the heavy rains flowing down over them – the motion of our cart was not unlike the motion of a small vessel in a heavy sea. Many times I said inwardly No! I cannot stand this - I will get out at the next stopping place and return. The thought of having to travel over such a country for the distance between Barnstaple and London was more than my nerves could stand.

The first thirty miles to the border of the Transvaal state was very hilly in addition to the other common features of the whole journey which I may describe briefly by saying that it is climbing and descending mountains – through fields of green grass – very often like a ploughed field after floods of rain – now and again a good stream and sometimes a river with a Kaffir standing in the middle of it to show us the depth – huge boulders and large stones abounding which required all the skill of the driver to avoid, but not always successfully – for a change sometimes miles of bog and swamp with our wheels buried one half up the axles, taxing all the power of our "span" as it is called to get through. For our comfort we occasionally met a stuck waggon – the hundreds of waggons met on the road with their thousands of oxen, each having a span of 18 was very interesting as showing the transport business carried on in this way. I noticed one waggon with a lot of cases from Naples for Johannesburg. We had a fresh lot of horses every hour and our first day's journey ended after about 6 or 7 hour's travelling, just as the sun had gone down. A rough iron shanty called hotel over the border was now our resting place for a few hours. What was called a dinner was soon laid which had no attraction for my stomach, but I got a little of it down for duties sake and then went to look for my bag which I found with all my other baggage in a room in the charge of a custom house officer. After a careful examination I got it clear by paying 3/3 duty on 6 pound tins of biscuits – i.e. 6p a pound. You would have smiled to have seen the room given to another gentleman and myself with two tiny strips of beds and a tom thumb sort of wash stand and a looking glass that transformed your features into anything but human shape. I was rather concerned about ventilation, but was soon relieved of all anxiety in this score on lying down I found quite a cooling breeze coming through the match boarding, which with the sheet of Albert's corrugated iron constituted the wall of our house – however with it all, God graciously granted me a few hours' refreshing sleep and at 3.15am we were called – rather early you will say and so we thought it. A cup of black coffee and a lunch biscuit made our Chota Hazri and at 4 we were "all aboard" with the first streaks of the morning sun to light our path. I omitted to mention a very interesting feature in our yesterday's travels was the passing at the foot of the Majuba Hill. Where the Boers gained such a victory over the British troops. We also saw poor General Colley's grave very near it with two trees planted on it to mark the spot. The Hill and the "rek" connected with it is a grand site indeed as it would appear that a few women might have held it against hundreds, if only by hurling down stones from the top of it. I forgot to tell you too, that soon after leaving Newcastle I got a little conversation with a nice looking young man sitting by my side in the cart and on asking him if he was from Cornwall he said No, Barnstaple was his home – I told him that was my native place and asked him if he knew me to which he replied, Yes, Sir, Mr Petter of Raleigh – he thought it was Henry. His name is Harris and the parents live in Bradford – the young fellow is a blacksmith and has a contract from the coach company to keep the horses shod. He seemed glad to hear the simple truth of the gospel – well now to return to my second day – we started at 4 and stopped for a breakfast at 8 which was very welcome I assure you but I did not eat much for there was not much to eat. The bugle soon reminded us that our fresh span was ready and off we started again through all the varieties "heretofore mentioned" as the lawyers would say, only with one novel addition – we reached the Vaal River about 1 which the coach usually drives through but the few days heavy floods had so swollen the stream that it was not possible to get across. The place was called Standerton where we met a coach going to Newcastle, so we all had to change coaches on both sides of the river and all our luggage also. The river was about as wide as the Barnstaple river above the bridge and was flowing very rapidly. A pontoon is kept for such emergencies and some Kaffirs soon emptied our coach and rowed us across very cleverly I thought and after scrambling up over a rather steep black mud bank we got into the other coach, bag and baggage and stopped at an inn after a few minutes' drive for dinner and once more renewed our journey which as far as the roads or tracks were concerned got worse and worse.

It is quite a common experience for a coach to upset but not much damage is done as they are skilfully constructed to meet this contingency. It appears that the two front wheels are only held to the coach by a pin or bolt and in the event of an upset the body of the coach with the two hind wheels in rolling over clears the pin connecting with the two front wheels and the horses so that the coach and its inmates lay peacefully, I don't know how comfortably, and are not in any danger of being dragged by restive or frightened horses. A second coach we passed late in the afternoon was two hours behind and on passing them we heard they had had an upset, there were nine passengers inside, but nobody was hurt. We reached one spot about 5 always known to be bad in wet weather which our driver would not go near as two wagons were already stuck. So he said we had better get out and walk around as he hardly knew if he could get the coach through the way he was going to try. So we parted company for a little while and we could see the poor coach was swaying about on all sides, but got through and we had to pick out narrow parts of a stream and wade through slush and mud and then we got on board once more, reaching our last stopping place for the night about 8 o'clock where pretty much the same sort of accommodation awaited us that we had the previous night, perhaps a little better. I rather enjoyed my dinner but got a few mouthfuls at the end my stomach did not approve of, so I had a rather quick step outside. My stomach was saved the trouble of digesting the food it had just received and after eating one little biscuit I was glad to lay down on my narrow bed leaving the candle burning for my old companion who occupied another in the same room. Through the Lord's mercy I had real sweet sleep and awoke soon after 4 with the singing of a lot of small birds in a little garden outside. A cup of tea and at 5 we resumed our journey – the weather was simply charming and in spite of an empty stomach I felt well and thoroughly enjoyed the early drive. At our first stopping place about 6 a glass of fresh cow milk out of a tin slop pail was a great luxury and at 8 we reached a beautiful little town called Hiedelberg with a nice lot of trees (willow mostly) growing around the houses – a tree is a rare sight – but before reaching this pretty town we had to go down over a steep rocky hill with huge boulders and deep pits to cross a river – no man in England would ever have attempted to take a coach and ten horses over this fearful looking place. Of course we all got out and had to pick out a path as well as we could – I carried the coachman's huge whip on a bamboo rod about 12 feet long – he sat on the coach and his helper led the leaders – it was a sight to see the coach go down – fortunately the springs are made of leather or I do not think there would have been many unbroken plates left. Well, all our difficulties were once more surmounted and we soon sitting at a comfortable table enjoying a really good breakfast, for myself it consisted of a good deal of oatmeal porridge, kippered herrings and some scrambled eggs on toast. One of our company tried rump steak but soon remarked that they had made a mistake and cut it from the horns instead of the rump – we were only about 35 miles from the city of Gold and it will give you some idea of the beautiful climate here and the extraordinary distances you can see, that when 30 miles from Johannesburg we could see the whole city stretching along the side of [a] steep hill. Just fancy your seeing Exeter from Winterleigh. The drive was most enjoyable and as we neared the place the mining industry soon became as prominent as if you were in Cornwall.

Dec. 19th

Have been working away since my arrival and am thankful for some good results with two of the best houses, one of which gave an order for over a £100 worth and shewed great kindness to the bargain. Tomorrow D.V. I purpose moving on to Pretoria where I do not expect to stay more than 2 or 3 days and shall then return to Durban but stopping at a few places on the way back. The shop windows give indications the xmas is near but there is none in the way of cold weather – the climate here is really wonderful – I think it is about 7,000 feet above sea level so no wonder it is good – I met a Dutchman about my own age while having a little walk last evening and felt led to speak to him and was glad to find a child of God with a heart loving the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and I should judge one who had diligently read the word. There was something however he still felt the need of he said and could not find out how to get it. He felt his prayers might try to reach to Heaven but it seemed to him they hardly reached the timbers of his house. He felt the power of sin too and could not understand it. I tried to explain to him the difference between the consciousness of it and being under its dominion which was quite new to him. He spoke English fairly well and we both enjoyed the little time spent together – he was much interested to meet such a traveller. This evening D.V. I spend with a nice Christian family of Wesleyans – Mr Jameson of Durban who shewed me much kindness gave me a letter of introduction to the head of the household and he seems a very bright witness for Christ, so you see God does not leave Himself without witness anywhere. I sent a cable to P.F.&Co. this afternoon giving my return address Adelaide which they will no doubt inform you of. Trust you will have had a happy time together over the Xmas day – this will make the fifth that I have been away from England "How good is the God we adore" we may well sing. Give my kind love to Mary and Martha and the children. Eunice and Eliza and all our dear friends. And now once more commending you my dearly beloved wife and our dear children Arundel and Harry and all their treasures, believe me to our Gracious God and Father even the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and with much love to you and each of them believe me.

Your very affectionate Husband


[1] 27th February 1881 – see here.

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