Port Elizabeth of Yore: Farming Woes of the 19th Century

Farming is a trying profession in that it involves, apart from hard work and long hours, numerous risks and uncertainties especially as regards the weather. On at least two instances during the 19th century, these woes were revealed in the Eastern Province Herald. The one episode involved “incendiarism” or the purposeful setting fire to something of value in 1884 and the other related to the spread of the deadly disease known as “longziekte” or bovine pleuropneumonia as it is known today.

Main picture: Reaping wheat at Bushy Park

A bad case of Long Ziekte

To prevent the spread of this Cattle Disease, commonly called ‘Long Ziekte’, Ordnance 987 was passed in 1852 by the colonial administration of the Cape of Good Hope in which  ”the owner of every animal which shall have or be commonly deemed and taken to have the said disease called the ‘long ziekte,’..shall cause the same to be shut up in some kraal.”

This disease should not be mistaken for poisoning even though there is a similarity in their symptoms. It is characterized by froth on their mouths and the way the animal fights to breathe. In his 1864 book Explorations, Thomas Baines recorded that “I asked how so many of the oxen had lost their tails and was told it was the lung sickness. It was usual to inoculate healthy cattle by passing a needle and thread previously steeped in the virus of the deceased lung, through the skin of their tails.

In his 1968 book, Frontier Flames  F.C. Metrowich records that “In 1855 the deadly lung sickness spread from the Cape Colony across the border with calamitous results, and the simple Africans were only too ready to believe that the hated European was using witchcraft to ruin them utterly.”

Charles Lovemore vs. Mr. Nixon

This relates to the charge laid by Mr. Charles Lovemore of Bushy Park against Mr Alexander Nixon for allegedly permitting his infected cattle to mingle with Mr Lovemore prize bovines. This case was heard before Mr. AC Wyle in the Port Elizabeth Magistrates Court on Wednesday 18th April 1877.  

Isaac [presumably the herdsman employed by Mr. Nixon] was charged with neglecting his duty in allowing longziekte cattle to mix with other cattle, about the 8th inst.; and further with absenting himself from his master’s service about that date.

Plea, not guilty.

Mr. Lovemore, sworn, said: On Sunday, the 8th of April, my eldest son reported to me that there was a longziekte ox belonging to Mr. Nixon with my cattle. He searched for the herd but could not find him. I rode about until sundown, and then found my ox herd, to whom I handed the cattle over to be kraaled. My tenant, Alex. Nixon has a right to graze over the same ground, and it was owing to the neglect of the prisoner that the cattle got mixed. I gave him strict orders not to mix with other cattle. The work is very easy- a man with a wooden leg could do it comfortably.

Marthinus, the herd referred to in Mr. Lovemore’s evidence, corroborated his master.

Mr. Lovemore said the prisoner was a worthless vagabond, and on one occasion had left every head of cattle out of the kraal.

His Worship: Why do you keep him then?

Mr. Lovemore: Well, all I can answer to that is, if I discharge him, I shall get just such another worthless fellow in his place.

Fined £2-, or two-month’s hard labour, with spare diet according to Government regulations, a previous offence of absenting himself from his master’s service being proved against him.

Alexander Nixon was charged with, that he did on or about the 9th of April, at Buffel’s Fontein, allowing four longziekte oxen to be at large at a drinking place without anyone in charge of them; and further, that he neglected to bury the carcass of an ox, his property, which had died of lung sickness.

Defendant: I deny the charge of not burying the carcass, and I never knew there was an Act against allowing oxen to run about.

His Worship (to Mr. Lovemore): He pleads guilty on the first count. Do you press the second count?

Mr. Lovemore: I lodged the complaint on public grounds, and I think it a most flagrant case.

Mr. William Beckett said defendant leased a portion of Mr. Lovemore’s farm, Buffel’s Town, called Heatherbank. Witness found four longziekte oxen near Board’s Vley on the 8th April. One was lying dead, and the others were suffering very badly from it; in fact, one of them died during the night. The next morning, Mr. Nixon took the two oxen away, and buried them in a low spot about 200 yards from his place. It is like a river there in wet weather.

His Worship: The result will be that when the rains come, the bones will be washed up and the disease spread.

Witness: They ought to have been buried in a higher place. I was perfectly aware of the law about longziekte cattle, and I always tie my cattle up when they are affected.

Mr. Charles Lovemore said he had warned defendant seven or eight weeks ago not to let his sick cattle run about. Witness went up to his farm and saw a longziekte ox tied up. Said to him – “Now kill this ox, and I will come and inoculate all your cattle for you. You know what stake I have got in cattle on these hills.” Defendant faithfully promised not to allow his cattle to run about. Cattle from Walmer and the neighbourhood centre around this place at night, and the danger is in consequence very great.

His Worship: The law says when you see a longziekte ox you can kill that animal after first calling in the Field-cornet, or two persons authorised to act as jurors.

Mr. Lovemore: Yes, but we can’t be always riding about after these oxen.

His Worship: Well, I only told you so that you and others can avail yourselves of it.

Mr. Lovemore: I shall certainly do so, sir.

His Worship (to defendant): I find you not guilty of neglecting to bury the oxen, but guilty on the first count and I fine you £5. It is such a serious case that if you are brought up again it will be a question whether I shall not send you before the judge.

Editorial in the Herald dated Friday 20 April 1877


The case in which Mr. ALEXANDER NIXON was, at the instance of Mr. CHAS. LOVEMORE, convicted of allowing “long ziekte” oxen to be at large, is so important to the farming community and grazers that we deem it our duty to call their special attention to it. This is all the more necessary if they are all, or indeed many of them, so ignorant of the law as Mr. NIXON professed to be. The facts which will be found fully detailed in our police report, may be briefly stated thus: Mr. NIXON hires from Mr. LOVEMORE part of the Buffelsfontein Farm known as Heatherbank, and he has the right to graze over certain land which Mr. LOVEMORE’S cattle also frequent. Of Mr. NIXON’S cattle, some were afflicted with ‘long ziekte’, and, notwithstanding Mr. LOVEMORE’S warnings, these cattle were a1lowed to be at large at a drink place without anyone in charge of them. This, indeed, Mr. NIXON did not deny, and naively said ‘he never knew there was an Act against a1lowing oxen to run about! ‘ Lest there should be others in a similar style of ignorance, we venture to call their attention to Section 5 of Ordinance No 1 of 1853, which was passed to prevent the spread of the Cattle Disease commonly ca1led ‘Long Ziekte’. This section reads as follows: – “

And be it enacted that, if any person in charge of any such animal as aforesaid, or supposed to be, sha11 have the same, in any place whatever public or private, except in the care and custody of some person who sha11 have undertaken to take and keep the charge thereof. Such person shall forfeit any sum not exceeding five pounds and in default of payment, shall be liable to be imprisoned with or without hard labour for any period not exceeding one month.” Under this Section the Resident Magistrate convicted the accused, inflicting the full penalty, and further pointing out that any person seeing ‘long ziekte’ animals at large could further kill the same, provided he first obtained the approval of the field cornet, or two persons qualified to serve as common jurors. Mr. NIXON was further charged with neglecting to bury an ox that had died of ‘long ziekte’ and neglecting so to bury is an offence entailing a further penalty of £5, with like imprisonment on default. This charge was, however, not proved. In the face of the amount of the disease now prevailing amongst our cattle and horses, we certainly think the thanks of all farmers are due to Mr. LOVEMORE for the action he has taken in this matter. True, he protects himself and his own cattle, which are more immediately concerned in the first instance; but by his action he makes known the law to his less well-informed neighbours, and they are thus enabled to know what remedy to take against owners of stock who are either careless or unscrupulous. The Government have of late shown themselves very anxious to discover, arrest, and prevent the spread of contagious diseases, but this is a matter which is very much in the farmers’ own hands. It is no use of the Legislature filling the statute books with statutes against this, that and the other, unless those primarily interested will take some pains to carry out the law and see that it is carried out by others.

This Mr. LOVEMORE, however distasteful to himself, has done; and we doubt not that now our farmers are clearly acquainted with the law on the subject, they will see that there are no further infractions of it, remembering that if they have to make individual sacrifices and suffer personal losses, it is for the general good.

Large fire at Bushy Park

The case of incendiarism arose in 1884, the year before Mr. Charles Lovemore’s death in 1885. I assume that the eldest son of Mr. Charles Lovemore, Mr. Alfred Charles Lovemore was at this time managing the farm on behalf of his father. The Eastern Province Herald dated Wednesday 9 January 1884 reported the proceedings of the Magistrate’s Court as follows:

At the Magistrate’s Court yesterday, before H Halse, Esq., A.R.M., Matazima, a native lad about 14 years of age, was brought up in a custody charged with incendiarism. Mr. Alfred Chas. Lovemore gave evidence that he resided at Bushy Park, and the prisoner was an ostrich herd in his employ, and on Sunday evening last witness was informed that a stack of oats, about 13,000 bundles, was on fire. When witness came out of his house he saw the stack, which was only about fifteen yards away, ablaze. Despite the efforts of his servants and himself, the stack was destroyed. The value of the oats was between 250 and 300 Pounds. From information received, witness suspected the prisoner of having set the stack on fire, and Sergeant Buckley was at once communicated with, and he arrested the prisoner. In reply to the prisoner, witness said a boy named Hoffmeyer had informed his prisoner was the party who had set fire to the stack. David Hoffmeyer, a Hottentot, about 12 years of age, after having been cautioned, stated that he was a leader in the employ of Mr. Lovemore, the last witness, and knew the prisoner. On Sunday last witness was the prisoner, his (witness’s) brother, and Doch alias Jan Gyadien, at the stack of oats. It was after dark, and they were lying on the ground. Prisoner had a pipe and was smoking tobacco. Witness said prisoner lighted his pipe with a match, and he then threw the match into the straw, which at once caught fire, and before they could put it out the flames reached the stack of oats, which also caught fire, and all the forage was soon consumed. They all went home while the fire was burning. Witness did not report the fire to Mr. Lovemore., as he was afraid of being chastised. The straw was not set on fire purposely; it was an accident. In the reply to prisoner, witness said he also was smoking out of an empty cartridge case.

The accused was remanded to the 12th instant.



Lovemores Then and Now 2000