Letters recall historic event in Eastern Cape

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A document relating to a key event in the history of the Eastern Cape and South Africa is among five being auctioned online next week.

A document relating to a key event in the history of the Eastern Cape and South Africa is among five being auctioned online next week.

In an antiquarian newsletter, Fables bookshop owner Ian Balchin said he had five lots on auction made up of correspondence relating to the Moodies of Melsetter, a prominent settler family.

Among these is correspondence related to the so-called cleansing of the Zuurveld.

The letters were written to and from Benjamin Moodie from about 1816 to 1902.

Of particular interest to the history of Grahamstown is a letter from 1817 or earlier. It contains correspondence from the Colonial office refusing to provide special assistance to a party Moodie had proposed to settle in the Zuurveld.

The so-called cleansing of the Zuurveld took place from about 1811, when a colonial force of about 1 000 regular soldiers and settler militias displaced and destroyed the homes of some 20 000 Xhosa and Khoikhoi people, forcing them from their lands and across the Great Fish River.

Also of interest are original letters from Sir Rufane Donkin, the acting Governor of the Cape Colony from 1820 to 1821, after whom Donkin Street is named, and the educator and politician John Fairbairn.

There is also a requisition dated 1902, during the end stages of the Anglo-Boer War, limiting the amount of food and animals that could be retained by the citizenry.

Moodie and his family had been forced to sell the family estate in the Orkneys and left for the Cape colony in 1817.

With them they took three ships and 190 indentured mechanics and artisans.

The Moodie family settled on a farm near Swellendam called Grootvadersbosch.

Benjamin Moodie was a member of the Legislative Council of the Colony and was regarded as an active and successful member of the community.

The auction at www.antiquarianauctions.co.za opens for bidding on Thursday 23 January, closing one week later.

Letters written by Fairbairn have also been sold by Belchin, in a lively auction during 2013.

For more information look at www.antiquarianauctions.co.za

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