Wednesday, June 23, 2010

American missionary letters from Natal continued.

Although Umpande had allowed Aldin Grout to found the Inkanyezi Mission Station, two years later the King gave his army orders to kill any of his subjects connected with the mission, though Grout and his family were to be spared.

At this point the American Board of Commissioners withdrew from the field. Not wishing to abandon his work, Grout went to Cape Town, returning as a Government missionary unconnected with the ABCFM, a position he held for a year in Natal. Meanwhile, Newton Adams had also decided to stay on, setting up his station at Amanzimtoti. Lindley became a minister to the Voortrekkers for five years (during which time he baptised a boy named Paul Kruger). Later, Lindley founded the Mission Station at Inanda.

Aldin Grout resumed his ties with the ABCFM in 1845 and the following year founded the Umvoti Mission Station. By this time Umpande’s power and popularity were in decline and large numbers – possibly as many as 100 000 - of his people had crossed the Tugela and moved into Natal.

Charlotte Grout soldiered on, coping with the daily vicissitudes of a frontierswoman. She writes in housewifely mode to her father from Umvoti on 16 August 1848:

I have often thought that you may at times feel anxious about us lest we suffer for the necessaries and comforts of life. True we are deprived of many of the good things we enjoyed at home, but we seldom suffer. There is no season of the year but we have something from our garden. It is now winter, and we have sweet potatoes, beets, tomatoes, lettuce, sugar cane and gooseberries. For the last eight months we have had daily green corn … and we often have peas, beans, onions, cabbage, and cauliflower. We do not have a good variety of meats, though we have fowls in abundance and pigs. We seldom have a piece of beef unless we slaughter. We have some sheep and goats, but not enough to slaughter very often. We usually have milk enough for family use and generally make our own butter, though sometimes purchase of a Dutch farmer who lives a few miles from us. Cows are becoming far more expensive than they have been owing to the number of white inhabitants which is constantly increasing. We can generally purchase wheat meal and fine flour, though we have sometimes been reduced to Indian meal for a short time … For dinner today we had fried ham and eggs and sweet potatoes, with a dessert of gooseberry and custard pies. These Cape gooseberries are delicious. I may sometime send you a bottle preserved. We can purchase very common clothing here, though it is expensive. We frequently send to Cape Town. Shoes are very poor here and are a great bill of expense to us, as our children wear them constantly on account of poisonous reptiles …
Our postboy … takes his mail bag on his back & starts on foot early Mon. morning, arrives at D’Urban Tues. evening, and returns here on Thursday evening. The distance is 45 miles. We always receive the Natal Witness and letters from some or all of the brethren and sisters. But our letters from home are worth all the rest.

If only we all had a Charlotte among our own ancestors, someone who maintained a regular flow of correspondence, allowing us illuminating glimpses into their daily lives. Letters remained the most important means of communication for the Natal missionaries, though the inevitable delays (waiting for ships to arrive, weather to improve or for rivers to subside) must have been frustrating. If there was one quality essential to a missionary it was patience.

Engraving of the Entrance to the Bay of Natal, a sailing ship entering the channel, with the Bluff
and Signal Station at right and the sandy spit known as the Point at left. 

1 comment:

Mole said...

To everyone who thinks I should be spelling Umpande as Mpande, which is the currently accepted form: if I were to make that change, all names of rivers e.g. Umgeni, Umvoti etc would require similar alteration. Charlotte Grout spells the King's name as Umpandi (no doubt the way she pronounced it) and the mission station as Umvoti. I shall continue to keep to the middle road, somewhere between trendy and archaic.