Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Sugar and Natal: the Pioneers - Rathbone


In 1848, Ephraim Rathbone became overseer of the north coast cotton estate then managed by Edmund Morewood. Born in Tiverton, Devon in 1812, the son of Thomas and Elizabeth Rathbone, Ephraim Rathbone had spent about 16 years in Mauritius and had considerable experience as a sugar planter there, before emigrating to Natal on the Rosebud, 1855 in August 1848. According to Rathbone, he urged Morewood to suggest to the Cotton Company the advantage of cultivating sugar rather than cotton. Morewood agreed that Rathbone should experiment initially with 5 acres, providing Rathbone supplied the plant cane. Rathbone states: 'I found a small patch (of cane growing) on Mr Peel's farm, Umgeni ... which I purchased for the Cotton Company and engaged four Mauritian coolies to hoe five acres on an establishment I formed on the Umhloti ... In July 1849 I was appointed manager and gave Mr Morewood the cane on the Umhloti for removal to Compensation, with advice on its culture. I offered gratuitously to supervise his planting 40 acres on his estate'.

In May 1842 The Natal Times reported that a party of gentlemen were to inspect Mr Morewood's enterprise - among them was Rathbone. That Rathbone remained a strong supporter of Morewood can be seen from Rathbone's letter to The Natal Mercury in 1859:

'Mr Morewood was the first man in Natal with sufficient spirit to speculate with his own funds in sugar cultivation: only for the enterprising spirit which animated him, the production of the Colony would have remained at potatoes and beans, and the great landowners have been content with one shilling per acre for their land. When Morewood made the first sugar it was: "Hurrah, Morewood, for my land is now worth 10s" and when he was ruined for want of sufficient funds they ought to have supplied him by a sub ... and not ungratefully try to deprive him of the unprofitable merit of being the first sugar manufacturer'.

Ephraim Rathbone married twice (both marriages took place in Mauritius) and founded a large Rathbone clan in Natal. Eleven children are listed on his Death Notice but other sources mention fourteen in total. There were two sons from his first marriage with Josephine Emilie Modet: Thomas Britannia and Frederick. With his second wife, Ann/e Williamson he had at least eight children: John Mexican, Annie Alice Chieftain (married Seymour), Flora Natalia Blade (married Matthew), Harriet Pumgwine/Ponguin (married Shuttleworth), Caractacus Reliance, Boedicia Industria (married Silverlock), Alfred Leyricer, Constance Rosemont (married Fearnsides) and (perhaps at this stage the parents were running out of exotic names) Elizabeth Edith.

Ephraim operated as a trader for many years in Natal and Zululand. He died on 24 June 1882, aged 70, at Lower Umzimkulu, Alexandra County. Among the documents in his deceased estate file is an interesting invoice dated July 29 1882 listing the type of articles sold by 'Rathbone & Horning' including: green beads, striped beads, hoes, clasp knives, blankets, red serge coats, rugs (square pattern), white baize, covered sheets, handkerchiefs, Tonga Salampore, Striped Salampore @ 10/6 (Salampore was a blue cotton cloth originally in 17th c made at Nellore in India and exported, later a cheap print with stripes and bright colours much used for trade goods), serge trousers and military trousers.

In 1859 Rathbone was given a grant of land 'in the Zulu Country' under an agreement with King Mpande and remained 'in undisturbed occupation of the land, residing on and cultivating portions of the same until 1862 when owing to false reports made to the King as to his intentions, Cetywayo (sic) ordered him to leave, though at the same time admitting E F Rathbone's right to the land and of his family to reside on it.' For his own safety Rathbone deemed it advisable to comply with Cetewayo's order to quit. Subsequently in 1864 Cetewayo discovered that Rathbone had been falsely accused and invited him to return but Rathbone, distrusting the King's promises of future friendship, declined to do so.

Frederick Rathbone, Ephraim's second son by his first wife, married Sarah Warren, and farmed cane at Tongaat, Inanda, Natal. He died aged 83 in 1927.

Ephraim's daughter Harriet Pumgwine Rathbone (1852-1945) married, at Utrecht, James William Shuttleworth (1847-1918), who was a transport rider and later farmed at 'Duck Pond', Newcastle. They had 9 children, of whom only one was a boy.

Caractacus Reliance Rathbone
Caractacus, Ephraim's fourth son, known as 'Crack' to the family, had a remarkable career in his own right. Born in 1854 in Zululand, he married in 1881 Caroline Magdaline Williams and farmed at 'Tiverton' in the District of Utrecht. In 1870 he went to the Diamond Fields with his brother-in-law John Seymour, and took up claims at Heilbron. After working these for six months he went to Dutoit's Pan in 1871 and then went to New Rush (later called Kimberley), selling out of his claims there in 1872. He then proceeded to Button's Gold Reef near Marabastad, before returning to his farm. He saw service throughout the Anglo-Zulu War 1879 as Lieutenant in Wood's Irregulars, under Sir Evelyn Wood, receiving the campaign medal and bar. In 1880 he served in Basutoland as a Lieutenant in Hanson's Troop, Transvaal Horse, and earned another medal and bar. He was Guide and Interpreter to Colonel Deane OC Natal Field Force in 1881 (First Anglo-Boer War), then transferred to Field Hospital as Officer-in-Charge and Interpreter to Native Stretcher Bearers, attached to Natal Field Force, under Surgeon-Major Babington. He was present at the actions at Ingogo Heights (9 February 1881) and Majuba (27 February 1881).

In 1882 he went to Lower Umzimkulu and planted cane on Ambleside (property owned by Archie Sinclair who had an ox power mill). In 1885 he moved to the Harding District, and then farmed near the Ingela in 1886. He became a transport rider to Barberton in 1888, discovered the only coal mine worth working on the Newcastle Town Lands and worked this for two years before returning to farming. He served as OC transport attached to Lord Dundonald's Mounted Brigade, under General Sir Redvers Buller, in the Transvaal, 1900 (Second Anglo-Boer War). He joined the Field Intelligence Department, under the Hon Captain Guest, serving to the end of the war in 1902, and receiving the Queen's medal, 2 bars, and the King's medal, 2 bars. Caractacus Reliance Rathbone had six sons and a daughter.

No comments: