BOARDMAN, William, 1821
National Archives, Kew, CO48/56, 54
[Letter from the Rev William BOARDMAN (of WILLSON'S party) to his son Thomas. Addressed to:
Mr Thos BOARDMAN
at Mr BARTON'S Upholsterer
Mr WILLSON'S party
near Bathurst 10th Sept 1820
We are at length settled at the place of our location, or rather, have been here 7 or 8 weeks, but, Mr WILLSON having left the party immediately on our arrival, the business of measuring the land, and allotting to each his portion devolved on me, so that I have been almost continually engaged. I am happy to inform you that our situation is delightful, resembling much a park, the air and water are good, and the soil apparently fertile; so that, unless the summer prove very dry, we have the prospect of a good crop of corn. My neighbour Lieut BISSET and I have ploughed in common a valley containing about five acres, and sown about half of it with wheat, but cannot sow the rest yet, as seed-corn is very hard to be obtained. We have also digged a garden, and planted about 100 vine stocks, with potatoes, pease, beans, French beans, pompions [transcriber's note: old word for pumpkins], and melons, which are come up, and promise a fair crop; we have also sown the seeds of other vegetables as turnips, cabbages, onions, beets, cauliflowers &c; but, I am afraid prematurely; as altho' the midday heat is equal to that of the hottest at Midsummer in England, yet the nights are intensely cold, and a hoar frost is often found on the grass before sunrise: as we live in tents these changes from heat to cold affect us more severely: as soon therefore as we have finished the cultivation of the ground we shall begin to build without delay, altho' straw for thatch cannot be had until December, when the crop of wheat is ripe.
My salary is fixed at 2000 Rixdollars per annum for which liberal allowance I am under the greatest obligations to Mr NAUDE the Governor demurring to allow me a stipend, as the whole of the party were not members of the Ch of England: two or three families of methodists and as many of Jews (or proselytes as they call themselves) having smuggled themselves on board; the British Government also had sent no definitive instructions relative thereto; their sanction to the measure must therefore be obtained, which I have not the least doubt will be the case, as that Government which intended to confer a favour on Col CLAUGHTON, would never have thought of doing so by sending a person whom he so highly esteems, to perish with his family in the wilds of Africa.
From the liberal manner, however, in which the colonists have been treated as well by the Colonial as by the British Government, I have nothing to fear. On the passage (as I believe I observed in my last letter) the health, and comfort of the settlers were provided for in every possible manner: tea, sugar, cocoa, lime juice &c were provided in sufficient quantities for those in health; and wine, preserved meats with other medical comforts for the sick: our agent Lieut WILLIAMS turned the people regularly on deck, often at first much against their inclinations, whilst he and myself, and Dr PAULL, the surgeon, superintended the nitrous fumigations below.
Soon after our landing ⅓ of each man's deposit was returned; the rest has been retained by the colonial Government, in part of payment for the rations of beef or mutton and bread or flour, which I understand will be delivered out (as they are at present) until the wheat be harvested, so that the Colonial Government has evinced a degree of wisdom which deserves the greater praise. I had also forgotten to observe that another third of the deposits was furnished to the settlers in agricultural & other useful implements, as spades, shovels, hoes, axes, harrow teeth, saws, hinges, nails, &c at very low rates; wagons also to bring us hither from Algoa Bay (near Port Elizabeth) were found by Government.
The Colonial officers also are in general British, and execute their respective offices with fidelity and ability. His Excellency the Governor Sir Reufen Donkin, to whom I had the honour of being introduced by Capt CLOETE, is the complete gentleman & man of [business]: also Capts CLOETE, EVETT, MORESBY Ret of the Menai [transcriber's note: Captain MORESBY and HMS Menai were present when the first settler ship, the Chapman, arrived in Algoa Bay], J. TRAPPES, with whom I have had business to transact, have shown me every attention. Captain TRAPPES's family is related by marriage to Grimshaw LOMAX Esq; also to the BLUNDELLs of INCE, BLUNDELL & CROSSLEY.
Altho' it is now the commencement only of the spring yet the number & variety of most beautiful flowers is astonishing, there are also many useful plants, as wild leeks, marjoram, mint, wormwood, &c; as also a tree bearing berries resembling wild cherries, & another, the round succulent acid leaves of which make excellent pies or puddings, resembling in taste young gooseberries or apples. There is also an abundance of game as antelopes, wild hogs, zebras, monkeys & baboons, hares, wild Guinea fowls, ducks, doves & geese, with partridges, plovers, parroquets, and a variety of smaller birds of the most exquisitely coloured plumage. There are however other animals which are more unpleasant neighbours: about 4 miles from hence the post boy (a soldier) was stopped by a lion on his way from Bathurst to Grahamstown, which caused him to turn back. Scarcely a night passes in which we are not serenaded by the spotted hyena (vide Encyclopaedia Brit. article Canis) which comes generally singly, but sometimes in troops, the noise of which is most horrid; there is also another species called the laughing hyena from its diabolical laughter. The notes of these troublesome creatures, the barking of watch dogs with the report of fire arms in every direction form no pleasant concert. We have lost five sheep, which straggled from home, and which they, no doubt, have picked up. There are also leopards (called here tygers) seen occasionally: our servant Mr HOGG when I was surveying the woods, bringing my dinner, was stopped at the entrance of a jungle by a leopard, which he represents as a most beautiful animal: being at not more than ten yards distance from the beast, and thinking that I would rather lose my dinner than my servant Will offered him the former, which he civilly declined; and greatly to the satisfaction of one of the parties at least, they parted good friends. We have also enemies of a more insidious kind in abundance, as scorpions, scolopendras [transcriber's note: large centipedes], and the most deadly kind of snakes, one of which (the puff adder) I killed on Thursday next.
Of the Dutch settlers I can say little having seen none, except those who brought us here, & who came from Graff Reinet 150 miles to the northward; we could not understand each others language; yet they appear an uncouth half-civilised race, a composition of knave & fool, in which the former predominates; they have raised the price of every necessary of life to an enormous height; & had it not been for the provident care of the Government we must have been starved.
All our party, many of whom are very worthy & respectable, and firmly attached to the British Government are anxious to hear from Britain, myself among the rest, I request therefore that you will write to me without delay and directed to me near Bathurst, district of Albany, Cape of Good Hope. Your mother, sisters & brothers join in love to you with
Your affectionate father
We are all in good health & spirits; in the midst of good neighbours; & I have the happiness to be much esteemed by all the party. See W. HOGG's mother & inform her that he is in good health & contented; & that he behaves very well.
[Obscured] to [R] WHITTAKER and every friend at Blackburn: communicate also the contents of this to our relatives at Childwall, Speke & Prescot. Present our best wishes to Mr & Mrs BARTON, & above all write to me immediately. I should be happy to receive a letter from Miss DAWSON