THE WEDDERBURN SETTLERS
The account below of the 1820 Wedderburn settlers has been reproduced with the kind permission of Mark Anderson, settler descendant, from his private family publication "Familiae Morganiae et Dunbar Andersones". This publication also includes George Richard Wedderburn's (1866 - 1948) fascinating family history, from the arrival of the Stentor in South Africa, through to the late 1870's. (Click on the following links to read this account)
GRW Chapter 1
GRW Chapter 2
GRW Chapter 3
GRW Chapter 4
GRW Chapter 5
GRW Chapter 6
GRW Chapter 7
he Wedderburns are a Lowland Scottish Clan, originating in Berwick and Forfar. The family motto is “Non Degener” meaning “to not degenerate”. The early Wedderburns played an important role in establishing Protestantism in Scotland and the family is also hereditary standard bearer of the Scottish Standard. An early Wedderburn, Alexander, was “financially induced”, as were the majority of the other Scottish nobles, barons and burgesses, to vote for union with England in 1707 (Michael of Albany). Burns said of the union:
to all our Scottish fame,
The South African Wedderburns are descended from a branch that migrated southwards to the northwest of England, and farmed first in Cumbria/Lancashire before moving to Manchester, the first industrialised city in the world. They were involved in clothing manufacture during the time of the industrial revolution, which began in Manchester in the 1770s. Christopher Wedderburn, who was reportedly born in Lindale Lancashire on 12 February 1772, married Ann Quail in Manchester Cathedral on 6 July 1795. Ann was originally from the Isle of Man, but at the time of her marriage was living in Salford in Lancashire.
It is possible that Ann and her parents spoke Manx, as the Manx Methodist Historical Society Newsletter No. 19 states that until the end of the 18th century little English was spoken on the island, and the parsons could speak little Manx. The Isle of Man was a Celtic island. It had been held by Norway up to 1265 after conquest by the Vikings around 798AD, and was then conquered by the Scots under Cawdor, but this was short term, and soon the Isle was under the control of England. This brought pressure on the Celtic Church on Man, and Rome brought pressure for the Celts to conform.
Christopher and Ann had eight children baptised at St James Church in Manchester between 1798 and 1814. At this time they were living in Deansgate Manchester and Christopher was a tailor. In the recession that followed the Napoleonic wars Christopher was not doing well in the tailoring business and was not in good health, so he decided to emigrate with his wife and five surviving children to the eastern part of the Cape Colony.
“The Wedderburn Book” by Alexander Wedderburn (Part VI, Chapter V, Sections I and II) contains a record of Wedderburns in Manchester supplied by a Mrs Warren, and records of the family that emigrated to the Cape Colony supplied by William (born 1830) and George Richard (born 1866) Wedderburn, grandson and great grandson of Christopher and Ann. Also mentioned are two other branches, one that emigrated to America (c 1735) and one to Canada (early 1800s). Unfortunately we only had access to these sections of the book, full copies of which are in the Church of the Latter Day Saints Library in Salt Lake City, the Library of Congress in Washington and the Edinburgh Public Library. The further ancestry of the South African Wedderburns is set out in the book, and it is a pity that we could not get a complete copy, as it is certain that it contains the family’s entire Scottish history and genealogy.
It is known though, that the family had strong links with early Scottish Protestantism, and also links with Rosslyn Chapel, as a cousin of the Wedderburns, Alexanders Wedderburn, was 21st Baron and 1st Earl of Rosslyn. He inherited the title from the last male of the Rosslyn St. Clairs, who was the last hereditary Grand Master Mason of Scotland, and who died in 1778. Alexander was Lord Chancellor in Pitt’s government between 1793 and 1801, and did much to preserve the Chapel. He had a foul temper, and was reprimanded from the bench for “intemperate”remarks when representing his friends Adam Smith and David Hume, whereupon he tore off his gown and vowed never to return to a Scottish Court. In 1780 he was created Baron Loughborough of Surrey. He had no children and the Earl of Rosslyn title passed to his nephew, the son of Janet Wedderburn St Clair Erskine. The title is believed to be in this family’s hands today.
The Wedderburn family sailed on the Stentor with George Smith’s party of 1820 Settlers. The party was dissatisfied with the leadership and, on arrival, petitioned Sir Rufane Donkin, the Governor of the Cape Colony, for Christopher Wedderburn to be made leader, which was agreed to. He and his family moved onto “Greenfountains”, their first land grant. Christopher and his eldest son William were each allotted 100 acres. William sold his share to his father and with the proceeds opened Wedderburns Emporium in Grahamstown. In 1839, after 19 years at Greenfountains, Christopher and his second son George formed a partnership and they moved to a farm in the Bathurst district which they named “Lindale” after the area where Christopher was born. Lindale Farm, as described in Metrowich’s book “prospered and became famous for its cheese and butter”. Christopher died in 1848 and Ann in 1856, and they were buried at Salem.
George Wedderburn was known as a “doughty and fearless frontier fighter”, and showed “conspicuous dash and daring in the 1846 Frontier War”. He was seriously injured in 1851 (again fully described in Metrowich’s book “Frontier Flames”) when taking four Xhosas suspected of being spies from Seven Fountains to Salem. The four guards, including George, stopped for a smoke break (although George was a non-smoker!) and with their “trusty double barrelled muzzle-loaders across their saddle bows” they were taken unawares by the prisoners who had had their bonds loosened. George’s horse threw him in the confusion, but he kept his gun, and shot one of the assailants, only to be hit on the head by another with the stock of a gun. He was taken to Salem, but never fully recovered. He died on 26 September 1851, and was buried in the old cemetery at Grahamstown. These early Wedderburns were keen Freemasons in Grahamstown. George’s only son James Hamilton Wedderburn, who, according to the following Wedderburn notes, lost his inheritance of the farm Lindale, actually received payment in the form of a present from his mother, with which he purchased two span of oxen. The Amms purchased the farm from George’s widow sometime between 1861-1871 – this may be ascertained from title deeds in the archives which we have not managed to research.
Christopher’s eldest son William I and Martha Patrick were married by Rev Thomas Ireland of the Anglican Church in Grahamstown on 1 December 1825. William later started the Wedderburn wagon business in 1851, and his is the branch that is followed in this tale. William’s youngest sister Esther Susannah married Charles Henry Morgan. Her history is more fully described under the Morgan section.
There is in existence a beautifully written letter from William’s cousin John in Manchester dated 26 November 1833, stating that all the Manchester and Ulverston cousins were well, and that “trade has been very brisk in general”. It also states that he sent William’s last letter on to Mr. Quail in Liverpool, who had not heard from the South African Wedderburns for two to three years and thought they were all dead!
William was a trustee of the Albany Brethren Benefit Society in 1843, and ward master for Grahamstown in 1859. He died on 2 December 1869 and was buried in the Anglican section of the old cemetery in Grahamstown beside his wife Martha who had died in 1862.
William’s sons, William II, John and Christopher, continued the wagon business, which operated in to the 1890s, and Wedderburn Wagons was known as the “king of the business”. In 1880 John took a trip (costing £129) via the Natal and Zanzibar Royal Mail Packet to England and Scotland. He and his wife Elizabeth and daughters Edith and Martha, spent from 21 April to 5 October visiting friends, seeing the sights, including the Crystal Palace, and managed to get as far as Braemar in the Highlands, where he noted that the carriage drivers were very able. He also met family, including Jesse (who was a journalist) and Hanmer Quail in Whiterock Street Liverpool, and cousins of his father Mr Johnstone and Mrs Aspinall, spending the evening of 30 July at the residence of the Misses Johnstone. The family also went with a party of ten to Windsor, but John was disparaging about what he saw: “The carriages no doubt are comfortable but very old fashioned, and do not look grand enough for a Queen to ride in.” He also wrote that the Cape horses could be favourably compared with what he saw at Windsor.
John and his family travelled an enormous amount, and did at least what a modern tourist would do today. The number of people he met that he knew from Grahamstown or to whom he was related is astounding. On 31 August 1880 he was the guest of Rev Sir William Dunbar (who had a son in Grahamstown) at Dummer near Basingstoke, and there they saw the 400 year old church where Wesley had preached.
He also made sure of visiting the axle makers, spring makers, coach builders, and even took a piece of Cape Black Ironwood to toolmakers to see if they could construct an awl strong enough to drill into it! They succeeded by altering the angle of the thread on the awl. John wrote up the trip in his “Notes of a Tour from Grahamstown through England and Scotland by a Colonist” in 1881.
The photograph on the previous page, dating from the 1870s, shows John and Elizabeth, with their two girls dressed in highland dress, in what may be the (Hanoverian) Victorian Dress Stewart, inclusive of plaid sash and bonnet. Even though the family was removed from Scotland via England, and then South Africa, they still respected their Scottish ancestry.
In 1873 the Independent Order of Good Templars had its first meeting of ten members in Grahamstown, and subsequently became the Grand Lodge of South Africa. By 1877 there were 450 members from the Grahamstown area. In 1876 the Grand Lodge of America took their decision to exclude “people of colour”, and it appears that the Grand Lodge of South Africa followed the American lead, whilst only two of the twelve Natal Lodges did. In Britain only 100 of the 3,500 Lodges followed the Americans. James Butler, the diarist, was a member of the Good Templars, who were strongly in favour of total abstinence.
In the late 1800s Grahamstown was a hotbed of Freemasonry, Good Templars, Friendly Societies, and Oddfellows. In August 1877 at the laying of the new Town Hall stone, the writer James Butler noted that all the above organisations marched from the Drostdy to the Town Hall “in their regalia”, with as well a good body of natives, many dressed in white gloves and waistcoats. Earlier that year, in April, he noted that his good friend Rev. Wilkin was staying with John Wedderburn, and this Methodist priest was much involved in preaching “at farms, hotels and such like out of the way places.” When leaving Grahamstown for Cradock in 1878, he described “calling at Wedderburns the wagon agent” to see if there were any wagons leaving for Cradock. On his return in April 1879, he had tea with Elizabeth Wedderburn, and found out that he was just in time to be best man at a wedding the next day! He subsequently returned a week later to London by rail and then sea. (Garner).
William’s eldest son, William II, after serving in the Kaffir Wars of 1846 and 1851 went to Australia in 1852, and was initially in the Gold Mounted Police. He went on a survey expedition and his name was given to the town of Wedderburn, 140 miles northwest of Melbourne, by the Governor Sir Charles Latrobe. On his return from Australia in 1854 he married Miriam Whiting, the daughter of Richard Whiting in Grahamstown, and they had a large family – six sons and three daughters.
William and Miriam’s second son, Alexander John Ennis, moved north from Grahamstown with his wife Susannah Alice Cawood and their first four children at about the time of the expansion of the railways in the late 1800s. The Wedderburn wagonmaking and trading business had been rewarding, with the Great Trek demand for wagons in the 1830s and 1840s, the subsequent massive migrations to the Kimberley diamond fields in the 1860s, and then the gold fields in the 1880s. In the 1890s the railways complained that the wagon transporters were giving them unfair competition, as “they didn’t have to pay for their rails”. Alexander and Susannah moved their base to Colesberg where another four of their children were born. They arrived in Bloemfontein in the mid-1890s, and the last four children were born there, making a total of 12. At the outbreak of the Anglo Boer War in 1899, the family felt neutral. They moved back to the Grahamstown area for the duration of the war, and returned to Bloemfontein after 1903. There they stayed in the transport business, transporting pipes for the Modder River to Boshoff Mines (RV Diamond Mines – New Elands and Damplaats), as well as coal for the mines. The family also had a seed merchant shop in Bloemfontein which was an extension of the grain trading they undertook in the late 1800s.
There are few Wedderburns left in the Eastern Cape at the end of the 20th century, barring the descendents of John Wedderburn still farming on Lilyvale near Queenstown. It is interesting to note that the Free State Wedderburns were in close contact with the East Cape family, as Phyllis Holmes came down from the Free State and spent many holidays at Lilyvale.
The descendants of Alexander John Ennis in Bloemfontein, including Percy and William Barry have left numerous Wedderburns in the Free State. Percy worked for the Bloemfontein Creamery after joining up in WWI, and was a director when he retired, and Barry was a magistrate who was “retired” as a magistrate at the age of 21 years when the Union of South Africa was declared in 1910. He played an exceptional game of tennis, and married Jessie Roberts, of the family who owned the Roberts Victor Mine, and they spent the rest of their lives farming at Kalkwal. This farm has passed by descent through their hands to Percy, and then to Ralph. Percy went farming on the Modder River (1943-1966), after his retirement
Percy’s wife, Ina Moodie Phillips (born 1898 in Umtata) was descended from the Moodies of Melsetter. Her mother was Caroline Emily Moodie (“Daisy”) (born 1870), who married Capt. William Henry Boothby Phillips in the Holy Trinity Church, Kokstad in the 1890s. William was involved in the Cape Mounted Rifles, and his son Charles Moodie Ralph Phillips (born 1896 in Umtata) was always known as “Polo” as he was born during a polo match.
Caroline’s father was Harry Moodie, who was a Commissioner in Rhodesia, and whose father was John Bell Moodie (born 1836 in Graaff Reinet) the sixth child of Lt. Donald Moodie RN, who married Eliza Sophia Pigot in Albany, Eastern Cape. Donald Moodie’s father was James Moodie 9th Laird of Melsetter. (Ruvigny). James Moodie married Elizabeth Dunbar daughter of Thomas Dunbar of Grangehill and his wife Janet Dunbar, who was the first daughter of Sir William Dunbar of Hempriggs and half-sister of Sir Benjamin Sutherland Dunbar (see Dunbar Family Tree).
James Moodie’s eldest son Benjamin led the Moodie party to the Cape in 1817. This party was a large group of about 200 including tenants of Melsetter, young indentured settlers from the south of Scotland and others, which idea perhaps formed an important part of the British Government decision to back the later settlement of the 1820 settlers in the Eastern Cape. The Moodies had sold their estates in Orkney to move lock, stock and barrel to the Cape. Their old Orkney residence, Melsetter House, had a centenary exhibition at Tankerness House Museum in 2000. The story of Melsetter House on Hoy – the finest creation of W. R. Lethaby, an architect of the arts and craft movement – was set out in the exhibition. The old mansion of the Moodies was almost completely rebuilt and extended to the design of Lethaby after the Moodies had sold it. William Morris & Co. supplied carpet and curtains, and his daughter May described this house as “a sort of fairy palace on the edge of the great northern seas”.
The Moodies, and also the Dunbars, were descended from Robert the Bruce, King of Scotland (1274-1320), via the Stewart Kings James I to V, and then James V’s son John the first Earl of Moray, and then via the daughter of the fourth Earl of Moray, Lady Margaret Stewart, who married Alexander the first Lord Duffus. (Ruvigny). It is ironic that the Dunbars are descended from James I, who confiscated their title and property in the 1400s.
Benjamin moved to Swellendam and farmed at Grootvadersbosch. His son Thomas left Groot-vadersbosch and became a respected farmer in the Bethlehem district, with a fine stable of horses, and in 1872 was Field Cornet. These Orcadian Moodies had a Norse wanderlust spirit, and were soon to undertake the Moodie Trek into Rhodesia in 1892 led by Thomas’s nephew, Dunbar Moodie (Burrows), establishing themselves in the Melsetter district. Thomas inherited the lairdship Moodie of Melsetter, as 11th Laird, from his father Benjamin.
The third son of Major James Moodie, after Benjamin and Donald, was John Wedderburn Dunbar Moodie, who went to Canada. It is not certain to which branch of the Wedderburns the name relates.
Percy Wedderburn and his other brothers, Alexander and Christopher, were all keen rugby players, and all represented the Orange Free State in 1911, playing in the same team. In 1915 Percy coached OFS, after representing the province at the Currie Cup Tournament in Durban in 1914. He continued playing for OFS right up to 1920, a period of nine years. Alexander was killed in WWI at Mersah Matruh in German East Africa. He was the first of the Old Grey Boys to die in action. The Germans had colonised Tanganyika in 1885. They were under Paul von Letterow-Vorbeck, an experienced African hand, who had fought the Herero and Hottentots in South West Africa, and he fought a brilliant Boer War type campaign right through to 1918. His force comprised only 300 German soldiers and 2,000 Askaris and he used the classic Boer strategies of speed, flexibility, living off the land and numerous game animals, and turning the weight of the enemy’s numbers against themselves. Over the four years of the war, this small German force had a total of 300,000 troops against them, and led the Commonwealth forces a merry dance through Tanganyika, Portuguese East Africa, and even Rhodesia, where Letterow-Vorbeck heard about the armistice and surrendered at Abercorn. Smuts had been up against him with two divisions, arriving in February 1916 and leaving at the end of the year with the majority of the South African troops. Although Smuts claimed that he had driven the Germans out of most of their territory, Letterow-Vorbeck was still in the field with a force larger than he had started with. (History Today Vol 49(11) Nov 1999). Bob Johnstone’s (q.v. Morgan) brother Percy was also killed in this campaign, in May 1916, at Umbulu Fort; fighting on for two hours after being shot through the lung.
It is interesting to note that Rev Samuel Barrett Cawood (a descendent of David’s son William) christened Dorothy, Edward and Kathleen Wedderburn in their grandmother Susannah Alice Cawood’s lounge in Monument Street Bloemfontein in 1915. He had been passing through on his Methodist rounds, and turned up just in time! Samuel Cawood passed away at his son’s home in Vrede, OFS, shortly thereafter, in 1923.Percy and Ina Wedderburn’s son Ralph, after service as a pilot in WWII in North Africa, married the well-known dancer Doris Fisher (whose biography “The Drive to Dance” by Japie Human was published in 1997). Doris went back to teaching dancing, and in 1975 she had 16 studios throughout the Free State. In the first “South African Book of Records” she is noted as “being the busiest woman in South Africa” as she had to reach all of these studios by car, requiring a new car every two years. Doris was also very involved with Eunice School over the years, and was the first past pupil to be awarded the Eunice Board Medal at the 1996 Eunice Awards Ceremony, where she was guest of honour. The Wedderburns are closely connected with this school, and, to date 27 Wedderburns have been pupils, including many of the sons, as Eunice admits young boys in the early standards. Ralph kept his SAAF WWII connections, and was chairman of the Bloemfontein branch of the SAAF Association in the 1970s. A fine boxer and swimmer, during WWII he was challenged by the Egyptian swimming champion to a com-petition, and it is recorded that “Ralph came second”. (Human)
Another son, John, married Estelle van der Veen, who put together a fine Wedderburn family tree in the late 1970s.
Of the relatively large number of Wedderburns who were around Bloemfontein at the turn of the century, many are still based in the Free State, the sons going to school at Grey College and the daughters to Eunice. Some are in the Transvaal/Gauteng area, a few in the Cape, and others have emigrated to Canada and Australia.
There are at least two comprehensive family trees of the South African Wedderburns descended from Christopher Wedderburn. Dorothy Ward (nee Wedderburn) undertook one in 1965, and as mentioned above, Estelle Wedderburn (nee van der Veen) undertook the other in the 1970s.
GRW Chapter 1
GRW Chapter 2
GRW Chapter 3
GRW Chapter 4
GRW Chapter 5
GRW Chapter 6
GRW Chapter 7