BOWKER, Miles, 1824
Filed under H for HALEY)
National Archives, Kew CO48/67
June 9th 1824
I do myself the honor of enclosing a copy of a letter I a few days ago received from Mr. Mile BOWKER from the new settlement to the eastward of the Cape of Good Hope.
Amidst the afflicting intelligence communicated to the public through the medium of the public papers of the distress experienced by the settlers in that part of the world, the account from Mr. BOWKER may in my poor opinion be interesting even to your Lordship as coming from a practical, well informed, respectable & industrious individual: at all events it cannot be wrong to communicate its contents to your Lordship, who will pardon the liberty and appreciate the intention.
I have the honor to be with the highest respect & consideration
Your Lordship's most humble serv't
R. STANDISH HALEY
[enclosed letter, addressed to Lieut. Richard STANDISH HALEY RN, Poole, Dorsetshire]
near the mouth of the Cowie
Feb'y 24th 1824
My Dear Sir,
You will long ago have heard of the difficulties the settlers have undergone since their arrival here by losing three, and nearly a fourth harvest, but Government having kindly helped them with [ugly rice?] during a good part of that time and rations for the two first years keeping great part of the deposit to pay for them has greatly mitigated these evils and things are now [wearing?] a better aspect, as we have found a species of wheat, coarse indeed and rush straw, that in a great measure withstands the rust, our great enemy in agriculture, & being convinced that growing corn is not to be our staple pursuit, we attend now to Horticulture & planting rather than agriculture, still depending upon herds & flocks as our best pursuits; this last has been much checked by our treacherous and near neighbors the Caffres who are only a few miles from us and have been constantly stealing for these last few years both from the Dutch and English to a very great extent, but Major SOMERSET having lately taken the worst of them by surprise and ?? them severely we hope they will be quiet in future or more severe measures must be resorted to and they must be driven to a distance as it is only to order it and it may be instantly accomplished, as tho' [a stout case?] of people, yet having nothing to cope with fire arms, they are soon discomfitted or destroyed. For my own part tho' [many?] of the men that I took out with me as servants did me no good in fulfilling my agreement with Lord BATHURST in securing me one thousand acres of location, yet thro' the help of my sons & their most excellent mother we have been able to get forward [obscured] better than any other settlers, tho' several of them came out without means which was far from our case& we have now only to regret the distance we are at from our dear friends & relatives as in all other respects our prospects far exceed any thing we could hope for in England. Upon finding our location unequal to means Government have kindly given us another place, making it near 5,000 acres with one and a half miles of sea coast. One of the finest spots in this country, lying four miles from the mouth of the Great Fish River and five from the mouth of the Cowie, now become our sea port, whilst many or nearly all are complaining tho' not for want of land for Government has in that respect been sufficiently liberal to such as could do it justice, we are getting on almost as well as we could wish. Our fruit trees, though only three years from the stone or cutting, are many of them bearing fruit – we have planted above 15,000 vines, many of which are now bearing, and we have twenty different sorts of fruit trees & most of them will be fruitful to all appearance in another year, and we are preparing again for a similar plantation; our prospects of improvement will be also much in feeding as in cattle, sheep & pork we can have an excellent market for it [salted?] at the Cowie, where our cheese, which we make very good, as well as fat & hides, have a good market. Cloathing is still very dear tho' that is not likely long to be the case as the exchange has greatly fallen and our goods will be in future without land carriage. Land is now very much occupied in Albany tho' larger than Yorkshire yet good places may be bought for from £150 to £200 for 1,000 acres but it is increasing in value as many people are now satisfied with the means of living here, the climate being for health and comfort almost without its parallel & its production of the most valuable sorts may be made profitable such as tobacco, coffee, cotton and drugs of very many sorts, oils &c &c. It is a family's own fault rich or poor if they do not thrive, the Dutch here are all rich and they have not the industry of the English tho' they are careful and provident; many of them have here from 1,000 to 10,000 sheep and five or six hundred head of cattle. More – our population of all colours and many nations, Heathens, Mohamatons and every sort and denomination of Christians – this multitude is ill amalgamated and we have many tricks & thievings amongst them. We had no less than 64 cases or trials come before the Court of Session which is held monthly, of which I am now the Senior Heemraad Magistrate, tho' Landdrost Mr. RIVERS being our Chairman & proper the Court consists of six other Heemraad of a which my friends Major PIGOT & Capt. CAMPBELL were some time ago Members but are now out there being party's here as well as in England, but we [steer?] in the mean. We have many half pay officers both of the army and of the navy and they do well as they endeavour. I have written you much of this long detail for your own information & of Mr. PITT your neighboring Magistrate of Organ House and any other you may please to communicate it to.
I am to have a school on my place to which Government give to a master 200 dollars pr annum & chapels and schools are now everywhere erecting [obscured] by the Frome, Warminster and Somerset parties who have given me great trouble to keep in peace but they are mostly thriving on about 230 acres for each family and they will get more land as they deserve it or can do it justice. We have plenty of fish and game & almost every description of wild beast from the elephant & hippopotamus to the mouse on my premises. My boys have become very dextrous in killing all sorts of monsters who neglected to keep their distance & tho' often heard thro' the night are seldom seen. Our worst enemy is the large wolf dog which hunts in packs and will fell down an ox before our eyes in the day time. In other respects we are in a land of myrtle and evergreens – a land of milk & honey which is found wild in the trees and taken without killing the bees with little trouble. We have in very little been disappointed in this country as excepting the antiseptic disposition of every new soil to foreign vegetation & the rust before our arrival little known, we found it equal to the general description given, and if the rust had not been so destructive I believe in point of [obscured] this would have been for its time the first settlement put in action & I still think it will soon [answer?] all its misfortunes and satisfy all my Lord BATHURST's very best hopes.
We expect to see the Arethusa at our port soon – she is trading on this coast. We expect most of the coasters will soon be here for goods for the merchants or stores for the frontier army.
Most faithfully & affectionately yours