Somerset East : A Wild And Dangerous Place

The Karoo was still a wild place in the 1850s and news was not always reliable. On January 10, 1851, the people of Somerset East were relieved to hear that Bear Moorcroft and his son had not been murdered as they had previously been told. But sadly, they were told, by travellers reaching town that “the Tambookies were still burning everything in the Tarka area”.  In a letter to the Graaff-Reinet Advertiser, January 10, 1851, one man wrote: “I have been here now more than a week, endeavouring with Currie to raise a Volunteer Corps to go to their assistance. We hope to start out on the 20th with about 300 burghers and volunteers and 100 black men.  A patrol under William Bowker went out the other day to Stockenstrom’s and the Kaga and has not yet returned. The people of Somerset are in great alarm. They keep guard all night and patrol the neighbourhoods by day. Some of them have already sent part of their goods to Graaff-Reinet.  The only news that is cheering at the moment is the fact that we have had beautiful rains.”


About a week later the father one of the volunteers wrote: “The bad news of last week has made us anxious to hear from you and from the Frontier in general. Still, no post has arrived.  About 40 volunteers, chiefly Englishmen, started off on horseback from Graaff-Reinet today. The Civil Commissioner supplied them with all necessities. Octavius Bowker and William Shaw are also mustering a party of mounted men, again mostly Englishmen, and they will proceed towards Cradock and Somerset. The drought has been grievous, but fortunately some heavy rain fell over the district and a considerable tract of country yesterday.  The Sundays River is running strong, but luckily still passable for wagons and horses. Many people from the surrounding farms are going to the war.   I will go myself as soon as the sheep are shorn.”

© Rose’s Roundup, June 2012 (No 221)

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