Drought and floods: 1877-1879

The year 1877 was a traumatic one for the Molteno and Jackson families who farmed at Nelspoort, north of Beaufort West. In The Jacksons of Nelspoort, Dr A O Jackson records that a drought which started two years before had taken severe toll of the stock.  “He writes that two-thirds of the small stock and many head of cattle were dead and that they had had to kill thousands of lambs just as they were born,” says Pieter. “Men were heartbroken – women wept. Most farmers agreed they had not experienced such a drought before. Many wondered whether they would survive. It was extremely serious and there were no high product prices to help them through. All but the most urgent expenditure was curtailed. Farm hands were laid off and George Holden, a most trusted employee was asked to find employment elsewhere, (everyone knew that it would be a case of “if he could” but no one dared voice the words.)” In The Life and times of Sir John Charles Molteno, his son, Percy, refers to the effect the drought had on his father, at the time was Prime Minister of the Cape. The next year, 1878 was also a poor one with very little relief, and then the rains came. “They wreaked their own sort of havoc. In 1879, floods were reported across the arid zone and these torrents caused almost as much devastation at the droughts,” writes Peter.

© Rose’s Roundup, October 2010 (No 201)

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