John Charles Molteno was a dynamic man. He first saw the Karoo as a fatherless lad of 17. By 23 he had founded Molteno and Company, a firm dealing specifically in the sale of wine, wool, meat and aloes. When the bottom dropped out of the wine market, he sold his business and warehouses to the Government. He liked the Karoo and in 1840 bought a farm north of Beaufort West, in the Nelspoort area, and appointed a man called Naylor, to manage it for him. As early as 1841, Molteno decided that the Karoo was excellent sheep country and purchased two Saxon Merino rams from Europe. The locals laughed. They said he knew as much about sheep as they knew about him. Within five years, however, he’d made a great success of his farming enterprises, and merinos were part of Beaufort West farming scene. His farm was a showpiece – with good kraals, dams and irrigation furrows, wheat and orchards. Many said his fierce and desperate work resulted from loneliness because his young wife and baby died soon after he brought them to the farm in 1843. For quite a while in letters to his mother in England he claimed to be lost and alone. Once the farm was flourishing, he moved into Beaufort West to build up a business and help establish a bank.
© Rose’s Roundup, vol. 2, no. 62, November 2008
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