The 1880 journey of Rev Father Augustus Henry Law S.J. and others to Mzila’s kraal in south-eastern Zimbabwe


The Zambesi Mission itself is comprehensively covered in the book Journey to Gubulawayo and in the article by Rob Burrett The Zambesi Mission: The First Steps. The Second Jesuit attempt at Roman Catholic Evangelisation in South Central Africa. Photos in this article labelled National Archives of Zimbabwe (NAZ) are from the book Journey to Gubulawayo translated by Moira Lloyd and introduced, edited and annotated by Professor Ray S. Roberts – a very useful and interesting book that features the letters of Fathers Henri Depelchin and Charles Croonenberghs S.J. and the remainder of photos are from Rob Burrett’s informative article in Heritage Publication No 21, 2002.

This article has a narrower focus than either of the two above concentrating on the expedition from Gubulawayo to Mzila’s kraal in order to establish a Roman Catholic Mission in the south-east of present-day Zimbabwe. The notion seems to have been taken up through Fathers Depelchin and Law witnessing Lobengula being married to Calinja, [called Xwalie[i]] a daughter of Mzila on 14-15 September 1879. She assured them that they would get a friendly welcome at her father Mzila’s kraal and Lobengula ‘gave them the road’ and promised guides. The expedition did not meet with Lobengula’s approval, combined with the other proposed expedition to Lewanika’s Barotseland in the north-west, in fact it guaranteed his opposition.   

This was not the first Catholic mission to present-day Zimbabwe as Father Dom Goncalo da Silveira S.J. entered the country via the Mazowe river and Fr Froes relates that since Silveira could not swim and had to cross the Mazowe river he was put into a great clay pot and pushed across by his native guides and from here the journey took them to the next feira at Massapa, near present-day Mount Darwin. Travelling west they would journey across the upper Ruya river into the present-day Centenary district in Mashonaland Central and the valley of the Musengezi river which flowed north from here into the Zambezi Valley. Somewhere along its banks lay the Mutapa’s capital and da Silveira persuaded the young Mutapa Chisamharu Negomo Mupunzagutu and his family to accept Catholicism. He fervently believed the whole of Southeast Africa could be converted to Christianity and the best way of achieving that was to convert the King of Mutapa following the Latin maxim cujus regio, ejus religio meaning “whose realm, their religion” – the religion of the ruler was the religion the people followed. However the Mutapa’s courtiers and Swahili merchants conspired successfully against him and on 15 March 1561 da Silveira was strangled and his body thrown into the Musengezi river. [See the article The 1561 martyrdom of Dom Gonçalo da Silveira, S.J. under Mashonaland Central on the website

Couto wrote that Portuguese merchants initially either travelled into the interior accompanied by as many as 100 – 200 African attendants (vashambadzi) or sent their trade goods with their attendants to the feiras with both Swahili traders and indigenous natives and what was not sold here went to the feiras at Dambarare, Luanze (Ruhanje) Bukuto, Makaha, Massapa, Chipangura (Massikessi) and elsewhere. There is much evidence that Christians, Muslims and African traders initially co-operated in their trading.

However the arrival of Dom Gonçalo da Silveira, S.J. at the dzimbahwe of Chisamharu Negomo Mupunzagutu in late December 1560 ushered in a new era of fear and mistrust. Silveira belonged to the Society of Jesus, who saw themselves as soldiers of Christ and looked at the Muslims at Chisamharu Negomo’s court as enemies of the faith and was totally intolerant of their presence in striking contrast to the easy-going relationship of Muslims and Portuguese at the Tete and Sena settlements. Silveira’s mission was to convert the Mutapa and his followers who would then favour Portuguese traders and expel the Swahili. [For further information see the article The Mutapa (Mwenemutapa, Monomotapa) State in its heyday c.1480 – c.1623 under Mashonaland Central on the website]

Members of the Jesuit mission to Zambezia

The Catholic members of the missionary expedition that left Grahamstown in April 1879 featured a mix of Jesuit Fathers and Lay Brothers. It was headed by Father Henri Depelchin who met Lobengula in Bulawayo, then returned to Tati and in May 1880 set out for the Zambesi and established a mission at Pandamatenga, George Westbeech’s trading station, but resigned as Superior in late 1882 after suffering from exhaustion and an injury. Brother Theodor Nigg was at Gubulawayo on 7 November and later accompanied Fr Depelchin as far as Pandamatenga where the mission was established and returned to Tati in December 1880. Nigg was at Pandamatenga in 1882 with Engels and Paravicini before travelling down to Wankie’s kraal and then Mwemba’s with Engels in August 1882 but withdrew to Pandamatenga in September and left through Tati in 1884.

Father Karl Fuchs went as far as Tati and died there in January 1880. Brother Pietro Paravicini made it as far as Tati and Gubulawayo where he suffered from fever and returned to Grahamstown. In 1882 he was sent to the mission at Pandamatenga but left in 1883. Father Salvatore Blanca went as far as Tati but returned to Grahamstown in October 1880 with Brother Paravicini. In 1881 he and Engels were to go inland from Sofala to the relief of Father Law but returned when they heard news of his death. Father Anton Terörde accompanied the expedition to Tati and then went on with Brother Vervenne to Mwemba’s kraal on the Zambesi where he died of fever in September. Brother Louis de Vylder went to Tati before returning to Kimberley and then returning to the Pandamatenga Mission from November 1881 before drowning in the Zambesi river in April 1883.   

Father Charles Croonenberghs was stationed at Sacred Heart, Gubulawayo until 1884 when he transferred to a mission at Kalkfontein, near Zeerust.

The missionary expedition to Mzila’s comprised Father Augustus Henry Law who died there on 25 November 1880 from fever and dysentery. Brother Joseph Hedley barely survived Father Law at Mzila’s and after three weeks was taken by litter to the wagon but Mzila’s bearers were uncontrollable and Wehl rescued him. He returned with Br de Sadeleer to Gubulawayo in October 1881 where he stayed until 1887 when he and Father Prestage moved the mission to Empandeni at Lobengula’s request. Brother Francois de Sadeleer accompanied Law to Mzila’s and after Law’s death walked with Father Wehl to Sofala and after Wehl’s death in May 1881 walked back to the wagon again at Umgan before returning with Brother Hedley to Gubulawayo in October 1881. He spent some time at Tati and in 1884 accompanied Fathers Kroot, Booms and Allen to Pandamatenga. Allen and Kroot died of fever and Br de Sadeleer abandoned the Pandamatenga Mission in 1885 and returned to Grahamstown. Father Charles Wehl also accompanied the party but was lost in the bush for 26 days having been fed by the natives. He then stayed three weeks at Guda’s kraal and with the chief plotting to kill him was rescued by a trader / gold prospector named Robert Roxby who took him to Sebombom’s kraal and then to the wagon.[ii] Wehl rescued Hedley from Mzila’s natives in January 1881 and then accompanied Br de Sadeleer to Sofala taking three weeks to reach the port, but due to his exhausted state died there on 12 May 1881 leaving Br de Sadeleer to return to the wagon and Joseph Hedley alone.  

  Map 1 - The Zambesi Mission from Grahamstown to Gubulawayo in 1879

Augustus Law’s early life

Augustus Henry Law (1833 – 1880) was born on 21 October 1833, the eldest of eight children. His mother died when he was just eleven years old. In January 1846 his father, William Towry Law, an Anglican cleric married Matilda, second daughter of Sir Henry Montgomery, Baronet of Donegal. William’s brother, the Earl of Ellenborough was First Lord of the Admiralty in 1846 when he wrote to his brother: “My Dear William, why should you not make that fine eldest boy of yours a midshipman? He is old enough and there are a good many to be appointed at once, so that he could go to sea immediately.[iii]

Life in the Navy 1846 - 1853

So the young cadet of thirteen years went to sea. Three months later he wrote in a letter: “I have been three months now in Her Majesty’s Service and I must say I like the navy very much. I don’t think there is anyone on the ship happier than me and I hope someday in about three or four years’ time, I may be safe on old England’s shores again.” A month later the Chaplain wrote to his father: “Mr Augustus Law promises to be an ornament to his profession and has evinced even in this short time a great desire to obtain a perfect knowledge of the nautical part of his education and by his amiable and affectionate disposition he has won the esteem and regard of all the officers in the frigate.

He sailed to Valparaiso in Chile, Australia and New Zealand and at the end of November 1847: “I cannot express my joy, you will hardly believe what I say – the Carysfort is homeward bound! Hurrah!! Hurrah!!”[iv]

His second voyage was in HMS Hastings and before his fifteenth birthday he had crossed the equator five times. In August 1849 Sir Ernest Montgomery from Madras wrote to his sister: “We were very much pleased with Augustus. Indeed, I never saw so well-disposed a boy. He bears the highest character possible from his shipmates and Lora will send you the commodore’s note about him.” Commodore Plumridge says: “He seems a fine lad and I hear he has a well-regulated mind; indeed the Admiral told me he was the flower of his flock.[v]

  Royal Museums Greenwich: HMS Hastings as a hulk after decommissioning

Beginning of his conversion to Catholicism

In July 1851 writing from HMS Amazon[vi] anchored in Singapore it is clear from his letter that both father and son are beginning to convert from the Anglican church to Catholicism. By 1852 his father had undergone conversion as well as his sisters.

After four years at sea Augustus was back in England and his diary of 15 May 1852 records: “Saw the Bishop of Southwark this evening and after two or three hours talking he convinced me that the Holy Catholic Church was that in communion with the See of Rome. Made my general confession. My father…very much delighted.”[vii]

His May diary ends: “Bought a rosary at Burns’ and the Cardinal sent me yesterday a crucifix blessed by the Pope – so I am now complete.”[viii] 

On 11 June 1852 he sailed in HMS Encounter for the Mediterranean. On 9 July he writes: “Went on shore at six to the English College”[ix] where he received confession. Father Richmond wrote to his father: “Your son Augustus was treated here with no more kindness than he deserved. He was at home on his very first introduction. His guileless confidence and childlike docility soon won for him the favour and affection of all at the college.[x]

By December 1852 he had been promoted to mate.

This fork inscribed with message that it was used by Augustus Law whilst he was in the Royal Navy

On 27 April 1853 from HMS Excellent at Portsmouth he writes to his uncle: “My Dear Uncle, I believe it to be my duty to inform you that may very much surprise you at first, which is my having formed a resolution of becoming a priest…”[xi]

Law leaves the navy and trains as a Jesuit 1854 - 1868

After some delays and difficulties he left the navy on 8 December 1853[xii] and joined the Society of Jesus on 15 January 1854 and a month later writes to his father: “I am very, very happy here and by the assistance of God’s grace, I hope to live and die in the Society of Jesus.[xiii] and in January 1856 the novice pronounced his vows of poverty, chastity and obedience in the minima Societas Jesu.

1856-7 was spent in France at Amiens, from August 1857 he was back in England at Stonyhurst studying philosophy and then in September 1859 at preparatory school at Hodder, Glasgow, where he taught for three years until October 1862 when he began a four year course in theology at St Beuno’s College in Wales. A year before he completed he was ordained priest where he wrote the last entry of his old naval journal: “August 20, 1864. Whoever has read so far in this journal of mine, pray for me that I may persevere in the Society of Jesus and that I may be a holy priest. I have now been ten years and seven months in the Society and am miles off being a true Jesuit.”[xiv]

On 24 September 1865 he was ordained a priest at St Beuno’s College by the Bishop of Shrewsbury.

 St Beuno’s College in Tremeirchion, Denbighshire, Wales built in 1847 by the Jesuits as a theology college. 

In August 1866 Augustus travelled by ship to the islands of St Thomas, St Lucia and Barbados and then to George Town and New Amsterdam, Berbice in British Guiana where he preached to an English, Portuguese, Chinese, Dutch and French congregation. On 17 October 1871 after five years’ service in British Guiana on the eve of his departure the Catholic congregation wrote to him:

Dear Reverend Father. On the eve of your departure from the colony and when you are going to be separated from us; we, the Catholics of Berbice who have had the privilege of obtaining the benefit of your ministrations for the period of five years, cannot refrain from expressing to you, in the fullness of our hearts, the respect, gratitude, and affection of which we are all penetrated towards you, for your unwearied zeal for our salvation, your devotion for our welfare, your truly kind and fatherly interest and sympathy in all our individual concerns, your unbounded charity not only for those of " The household of Faith," but also for our Christian brethren outside, and for the benighted heathens of every nationality. We beg you, therefore, dear Rev. Father, to accept our heartfelt thanks for all the good you have done to us and for us. We look round with honest pride at what has been done by your encouragement, direction, and care for the church, by repairing, improving, enlarging, completing and adorning it, and in the increase of the congregation, by numbers of conversions, more so than by immigration, and in the regular attendance at church, and in the frequenting of the sacraments of so many of various nationalities, including the Chinese, your special Mission, etc…” This letter was signed by three hundred individuals.[xv]  

The Roman Catholic Church of the Ascension, in New Amsterdam, Berbice

In November 1871 Augustus was at Manresa House, Roehampton. Thereafter he seems to have moved between various locations that are given in his letters – Blackpool, Bournemouth, Edinburgh, Galashiels and for a year from September 1874 he was in charge of the Catholic Poor Schools in Lauriston before leaving in 1875 for Grahamstown.  

St Aidan’s College, Grahamstown (present-day Makhanda) Eastern Cape

The first letter from Augustus in South Africa to his father is dated 6 April 1876. The foundations of St Aidan’s were laid by Bishop Ricards on 29 January 1873. With few priests in the Eastern Cape Ricards approached several religious orders in Europe to support this new venture. Following discussions with the Jesuit General in 1875, a party of Jesuits including Fr John Bridge (the first Rector), Fr John Lea and Fr Augustus Law were sent as teachers and St Aidan's College accepted its first students on 31 January 1876.[xvi]

Augustus’ memoir has few letters covering this period although many must have been written to his family. His letters were usually passed on from one member of the family to another and travelled often to India and Canada so this perhaps explains their loss.

St Aidan's became the early headquarters of the Zambesi Mission. It was from St Aidan's that the first group of Jesuit missionaries, including Fr Augustus Law, departed for the Zambesi region and present-day Zimbabwe in 1879. In 1893, the headquarters of the Zambesi Mission was transferred to Bulawayo.

Postcard of St Aidan’s College, Grahamstown

The Roman Catholic Zambesi Mission

A Grahamstown newspaper of 16 April 1879 was sent to Augustus’s father and recorded:

The friends of the missionary expedition to the valley of the Zambesi, and they are many in Africa, as well as in Europe, will learn with much satisfaction that after some weeks of preparation, the fathers and brothers have at last started, followed by the fervent prayers and blessings of their brethren in Grahamstown. The scene in St. Patrick's Cathedral, on Tuesday morning last, the fathers of the party, assisted by the brothers, celebrated the solemn function of the High Mass, the bishop presiding at the throne in cope and mitre, . . . the whole ceremony being one of the grandest ever witnessed in St. Patrick's. The celebrant was the Very Reverend Superior of the mission, Father Henri Depelchin, assisted by Father [Karl] Blanca as deacon and Father [Anton] Terörde as sub-deacon. . . . The assistant deacon and sub-deacon at the throne were Fathers [Charles] Croonenberghs and [Karl] Fuchs. Father Augustus Law, of St. Aidan's College, so well and favourably

known in Grahamstown, and now, by the appointment of the authorities at home, a member of the expedition, assisted as master of the ceremonies. The Brothers [Theodor] Nigg, [Pietro] Paravicini, [Joseph] Hedley, [Francois] de Sadeleer, and [Louis] De Vylder, discharged the offices of acolytes, thurifer, etc., so that the function was entirely confined to the members of the expedition, the bishop only as it were superintending and blessing all engaged in it...

Later on in the afternoon, a large crowd of Catholics assembled in the grounds of St. Aidan's College to witness the preparations for the departure of the expedition. The four waggons[xvii] were already packed and just as night cast her shadows at the scene, the oxen were inspanned, fourteen to each waggon. ... It was a touching scene, as by the fitful light of a lantern carried by one of the fathers, the prayers of the Benediction were solemnly pronounced in the centre of a silent and sympathising crowd. The party left on Wednesday last, the 16 April 1879 at four in the afternoon.”[xviii]

A copy by Jessie Grant White (1866-1955)  of Thomas Baines painting (1820-1875) of Church Square, Grahamstown

Travel into the interior – Fr Augustus Law’s letters

1 May 1879 – eight miles south of Colesberg to his father

“…We started in our four-bullock waggons from Grahamstown on the 16th of April, and we have made about fifteen miles a day, which is the general day's journey for bullocks on a long journey. All of us are in good health and spirits. Waggon life is a continual picnic; but not only are the meals picnic, but also the washing, and sleeping, and everything else. As for myself I like it immensely, and my appetite is shockingly great, and I am getting stronger every day…”

1 June 1879 – Bloemhof on the Vaal river to his father

Here I am, all safe and sound, as far as this—a place in about 27½° S. latitude. We start for Zeerust—and

then along the Marico river for Shoshong, which is in about 23½° S. latitude on Tuesday or Wednesday. We hope to get to Zeerust in about a fortnight or three weeks. I like the waggon life well enough. It is at least very healthy. I have not enjoyed such health for some years…”

2 June 1879 - Bloemhof on the Vaal river to the Reverend Mother of the Grahamstown Convent

“…Perhaps some find the waggon life a little rough, but they thrive on it. I scarcely know myself. I look so stout and well. And I enjoy the waggon life very well. The only thing is, that one has little time to study. However, all the boys speak Zulu, and I pick up a good deal from them…”

18 July 1879 – Banks of the Limpopo river to the Reverend Mother of the Grahamstown Convent

A waggon is passing down to Zeerust and so I take the opportunity of writing just a line to Grahamstown,

to say we are all well, so far. On Sunday, Br Nick shot a crocodile. We hope to be in Shoshong in a few days. We have had a little rain, which will well supply us with water from the Limpopo to Shoshong, where sometimes there is scarcity…Fancy, from Saturday week back till yesterday we had not met a single human being. They seem to prefer the other side of the Limpopo. We have heard panthers [leopards] and jackals, and hyenas, at night, but no lions. One of our oxen, which was too weak to return to the camp with the rest, being left where it was, was found in the morning with half its body gone, devoured by jackals…”

28 July 1879 – Shoshong to his father

Just one line to say we arrived here six days ago ; but the chief [Khama III] would not let us stay here, as he said he had missionaries already, i.e., London Missionary Society [under Rev J.D. Hepburn]...otherwise he was extremely civil. We are just starting for the Matabele country, where I hope Lobengula will receive us. Otherwise we shall have to push on to the Zambesi. I have not been so well for a long time.”

                   NAZ: Chief Khama III                                                                           NAZ: Revd J.D. Hepburn

On the 14-15 September 1879 Fathers Law and Depelchin witnessed the wedding of Lobengula to chief Mzila’s daughter, Calinja. She told the fathers they would get a friendly welcome from Mzila.[xix] This led them to believe it might be possible to establish a mission in Mzila’s country as increasingly they felt it was going to be impossible to convert any amaNdebele. Already the Jesuits could sense that the amaNdebele would not welcome them as missionaries and educators, the London Missionary Society had been in Matabeleland for over two decades with little to show in the way of converts.

22 September 1879 – Gubulawayo to his father

The Europeans in these parts organise a post of their own, by means of runners, and it is so well-arranged that ordinarily we get letters as surely as if we were living in Europe and not amongst the Amandebele. You can direct still ‘care of Francis & Clarke, Shoshong, via Cape Colony, Transvaal and Marico’ and the ordinary sixpenny stamp is enough.

We left Shoshong about the 28 July and got to Tati the 17 August. Three of our drivers ran away and left us in the lurch two days after leaving Shoshong, so two of our brothers had to turn drivers during the journey and hard work it was for them, poor fellows. However, we got through all right, thank God. And for that matter we could all, I think, now manage to drive the bullocks, in some fashion or other and yoke them in as well if there was necessity.

After a few days at Tati to rest the oxen, F. Depelchin and myself and a lay brother came on here to see Lobengula and get leave to establish a mission in his country.[xx] We are still waiting for an answer but hope in a day or two to get one. He is going to be married (he has sixteen wives already) to a daughter [Calinja] of Mzila,[xxi] the chief of another great Zulu tribe,[xxii] just due east of this—about three hundred miles—and the marriage is not yet over. When over we expect an answer. When near the king (eight miles from here) we visited the marriage expedition kraal from Mzila and saw the future queen. We were received with the greatest cordiality and we both agreed that Mzila's people seemed a nicer people than Lobengula's.

We hope to send some missionaries to their country before long. I only wish I could return with the marriage expedition for I was charmed with the people. However, I like the Amandebele very well. They are fine people, and would make splendid Christians, if once they made up their minds to become Christian. But to become a Christian in this country means, as far as I can see, to be ready to die at any moment. If any person of any note dies here, he must have been bewitched by someone, they think. So the witchdoctors smell out some person or persons who are obnoxious or unpopular for some reason or other and put them down as the cause of the death. They with their families are then put to death and their huts burnt. . . . Hence if a person becomes a Christian, they can smell him out when someone dies, put him down as the bewitcher and put him to death. Possibly the description is exaggerated, but it is what we are told. I hope all this superstition may be gradually got rid of. The king himself doesn't believe in it, but he pretends to do so in public.”

6 October 1879 Gubulawayo to the Reverend Mother of the Grahamstown Convent

The people of Mzila seem a far nicer people than the Amandebele. They seem delighted at the thought of some of us going over there soon. They say Mzila would receive us very kindly, which I have no doubt of…

I should be intensely delighted if I was sent there, which is possible…We have no thought of going to the Zambesi till April…”

3 December 1879 Gubulawayo to the Reverend Mother of the Grahamstown Convent

Fr Croonenberghs is quite well again and looks himself again. Mr Greite and family leave in about six weeks, and then we shall have plenty of room. At present we live in the waggons which are inside Greite's yard. But all our things are safely stored in the iron house. We are to make a farm about eighteen miles from here…”[xxiii]

18 December 1879 Gubulawayo to his father  

“We are pretty well settled here now. We have bought a house from a trader who is leaving.[xxiv] I should say

houses—for besides a dwelling-house, there is an iron house thirty-five feet long and fifteen broad which will be very useful. [See the article Old Jesuit Mission under Bulawayo on the website]

 We shall have a farm attached to this place about eighteen miles away, and we shall go down to build a temporary house there and start the farm… Lobengula seems very friendly to us and he is a man of a good heart, but the Zulu system, and the power (irresponsible) it gives a chief, would spoil the best natures…”

27 January 1880 Gubulawayo to the Reverend Mother of the Grahamstown Convent

“…We consider ourselves here as safe as in Grahamstown. Lobengula is very kind to us. We have covered and refitted two waggons for him and he is very pleased with them.[xxv] Fr Croonenberghs is going to paint for him a picture of the ‘big dance.’ Personally I like Lobengula very much. He is a most affable man, and he shows himself very friendly to white men. For my part, I also like the Amandabele very well. They seem a very cheerful people. They, if once converted, would make excellent Christians for they are well trained to obedience and have plenty of courage…”

23 March 1880 Gubulawayo to his father 

“…I am starting for Mzila's country in May. Very likely I may go in royal company, as the queen here, [Calinja] who is a daughter of Mzila and has been lately married to Lobengula, is going soon on a visit to her father and she herself suggested my going in her company. It will be a good introduction to her father. The Mzila people have never yet been taught anything about the Christian religion…so we hope much. They are said to be a more tractable people than Amandebele, although they also are Zulus.

…Mzila's kraal is three hundred English miles due east from here. We hope to be able to go, if not all, nearly all the way in waggons. But when near Mzila's kraal we may have to walk, and get our things carried by porters, on account of the tetze [tsetse] fly. However, I have not as yet got full information. Fr [Salvatore] Blanca, a Sicilian, goes with me and an English [Joseph Hedley] and a Belgian [Francois de Sadeleer] lay brother…”

8 April 1880 Gubulawayo to his father 

“received your letter of February 5, on the 6th, so that it was just two months coming here… Fr [Henri] Depelchin, our superior, left yesterday, en route for Zambesi. It was an affecting parting, for he is old, and going, of course, to a very dangerous place for health. And then I too start about the 1 May for Mzila's country, so that it can be that we never see each other again in this life. There are some waggons

coming up with some more fathers. Fr Depelchin first meets them and then goes up to Zambesi, taking those he wants with him…Our route will be first to Umtigesa from here N.E. by E.½ E. about 222 English miles. From there to Mzila's kraal, S.S.E. 117 miles, making the whole journey 339 miles...”

20 April 1880 Gubulawayo to his sister Sister Jane Margaret Mary

“..I start in the beginning of next month for Mzila's country with the hopes of establishing a mission there…If we went straight there we should meet the celebrated tetze fly, which bites and poisons the oxen and so prevents the passage of waggons; unless, indeed, the patches of fly are small when you can run through during the night as the fly does not bite then. As we want to take our waggons we take a more roundabout route in which we hope to escape the fly altogether. We go first in a N.E. by E. direction about two hundred and twenty miles, then cross the Sabi river and go down in a S.S.E. direction about one hundred and twenty miles, which will take us to Mzila's kraal. That route will be, as you see, three hundred and forty miles. It will take us about a month. When you get this, we shall be probably with Mzila

30 May 1880 Umganin, nine miles from Gubulawayo to his father

“I arrived here on Friday and am only waiting now for the king to give me his two guides and then we start in earnest on our journey. I hope to be able to send a letter again from a place (called in the map) Inyati as there is a regular post from there. I don't know if you have got Baine's map of these parts. If so, the direction in which I go is this: first about N.E. by E.½ E. two hundred and twenty-two miles, till we get not far from Umtigesa. We cross the Sabi and then go down about S.S.E. till we get to Mzila's kraal… If we succeed in getting our waggon to Mzila's, we shall have the honour of being the first waggon that ever made the journey. We shall have plenty of game on the road and shall have to look out well for the lions. Some tell us that we shall be lucky if we lose no oxen by the lions. However, we say the ‘Itinerarium’ every day and so shall have God's protection. I hope you will pray much to dispose the hearts of Mzila and his people to receive the faith. A.F. Wehl, an Austrian father, one who has just arrived from Europe, Brother de Sadeleer, a Belgian lay brother and Brother Hedley, an English one, and formerly a sailor, like myself, are my companions…

Messengers only take ten days from here to Mzila's. But we shall probably be over a month with reconnoitring for the tetze fly and with making roads for ourselves in many places and with every now and then sticking in the mud and having to unload the waggon, we may have many a delay. However, I hope to be under six weeks…”

Copy of Father Augustus H. Law's, S.J. last Journal, with a few omissions.

16 May 1880—Engaged Zambesi boy for ten months, for a gun to be paid at Gubuluwayo. Engaged Tom, 20 May, as driver at £4 a month to Mzila's. One month after arrival, only £3 till starting again. If waggon does not return, he is paid off and gets £2 in addition. Engaged Cape Corps ‘Kip Korn’ a Hottentot. He gets £3 for the trip and food. The king's two boys asked for a blanket and beads.

Friday, 28 May—Father Wehl, Brothers de Sadeleer, Hedley, and myself with Tom, driver, a Zambesi leader and a Hottentot started on the Mzila expedition. But first we go to Umganin to get two guides promised by the king. Waggons of Collinson at Umganin, but only Dr. Crooks there. We dined with him. I called on the king and told him the waggon had arrived. Dr Crooks kindly gave me a bottle of quinine, a bottle of Friar's balsam, one of sal volatile, one of carbolic acid, a glass squirt, some court plaster, oil plasters, two needles for sewing wounds. God bless him.

Saturday, 29 May—Nothing particular, Fairbairn arrived.

Sunday, 30 May—Waggons of Fairbairn, of Robert M'Minimy [McMenemy] of Lea [John Lee] of Vermach [Solomon Vermaak] and of Slue [Frederick. C. Selous] arrived. Rode over to Gubuluwayo.

Monday, 31 May—Returned.

Tuesday, 1 June—Brother de Sadeleer rode over to Gubuluwayo.

Wednesday, 2 June—Called on the king with ‘Prince’ (a very big dog) He told me our guides had arrived. The waggons of Slue [F.C. Selous] Jamieson [J.S. Jameson] Collinson [Henry Collison] and Dr Crooks [Crook] started on their way to hunt. Rev Helm [Rev Charles D. Helm] is here with his waggon. I went to the king with Tainton [William Tainton] as interpreter. I said I wanted to go by Sebakwe River and Sebombom but the king said he would rather leave it to the men he was sending. They had orders to keep the oxen out of the fly. I asked if Civelile, the head queen would send one of Mzila's men. The king said he thought she would not like it, but that messengers were going to Mzila's to-morrow, and that he would send word by them that we were on the road.

           NAZ: Revd C. D. Helm (LMS)                                    Wikipedia: Henri Depelchin S.J. first Superior of the Zambezi Mission

They leave Gubulawayo and visit Shiloh Mission before going onto Inyati Mission

Thursday, 3 June—At 8 am called on the king and got two men for our guides. Left Prince (Augustus's dog[xxvi]) with the king and took leave. We found to our surprise that the men had never been to Mzila's, nor did they even know the road to Thomas's. [Henry Hartley had ‘Inyoka’ to watch over him during his hunting trip to Mashonaland; Thomas Baines had ‘Inyassi’ – these acted as Lobengula’s ‘eyes and ears’ and it is likely Law’s guides had the same function]  Started at 9.40, after taking leave of Rev and Mrs Helm. Outspanned at 11.45, Intaba Zinduna [Ntabazinduna] E.N.E. 15 miles. Inspanned at 2.45 and outspanned at 4.50 at River Ungaza [Umgusa] with deep banks and about twenty-five feet wide, deep holes every now and then. Since leaving Umganin, we have always been descending. The kraal close to ‘Umjima.’ We met an old man on the road we are going, that is, by the Sebakwe and Sebombom. This is another confirmation of what Lucas told us and I am not so sorry that the king's men are so ignorant of the road, as at least they will let us go our own way and not lead us astray by ‘a little knowledge.’

Saturday, 5 June—The country is very pretty approaching to Thomas's [Rev Thomas M. Morgan] The trees are larger than any I have seen since Tati. This river Umguna close to here joins the Umgusa. Thomas was, as he is to everyone, very kind. I found he was an observer with the sextant and had taken some twenty lunar observations to get longitude of Inyati, which he found to be 29° 1´. He has a beautiful garden, irrigated right through the year by a fountain.

Sunday, 6 June—I gave Thomas a little flower of sulphur and sunrises and sunsets for his place, which he calls Shiloh. He rang the bell in the morning early to let the kraal near him know it was Sunday and at eleven he held a service. About a dozen people were there. We dined with him. NB—on leaving Thomas's for Umhlangin [Emhlangeni] take the left road (which you come to after leaving him about three quarters of a mile) The left only takes a quarter of an hour more, whilst the right is dreadfully steep.

Monday, 7 June —On getting to the other side of the river we had to wait for the horse which was lost. Promised a ‘tusa’ [toosah – present] and it was soon found. Arrived at Umhlangin at 8.30. Waggons of Jamieson, Collinson, Slue and Dr Crooks there.

Umhlangin, Tuesday, 8 June—Called on Mr Sykes [Rev William Sykes] who had called on our waggon early in the morning. Collinson, Slue [Selous] and Jamieson called soon after and we all dined there. Slue played on his zittar. [zither]

Wednesday, 9 June—I engaged Boumhla as interpreter of Mashona and to help in finding out the road. He will get powder and lead on the road and for returning a little, and two blankets. Started at 12.30. Mr Sykes gave me the rainfall at Inyati for 1879 and 1880. I left for him the times of sunrise and sunset for his place.

           NAZ: Revd W. Sykes                                                                NAZ: Revd T.M. Thomas       

Thursday, 10 June—We got up at four and said Mass and then inspanned and we were ready to start when it was found that many of Jamieson's boys had left during the night either to join the army on its way to the king, or to see what was the matter. We had already heard at Thomas's that the king had called together his army, and yesterday just after we started, there was a report that an enemy was approaching. In the afternoon plenty of soldiers passed us on their return home, the whole thing being a false alarm. Griefe [Greite] recommended, as we cannot get an interpreter for Mashona, to go all the way with us, to get one to go as far as the Sabi. The gentlemen hunters go up the Poort near river Sebakwe, so we shall be with them as far as that.

Travelling on the Hunter’s Road

Friday, 11 June—Masses, as yesterday, at 4.15. Crossing a deep sluit, the shaft of the break-screw broke and crossing a river a cart of the gentlemen hunters upset. River Isamankolo or Lungivi [Longwe river] is a small stream, sandy and rocky. At the river Longwe we outspanned and now we are on the direct road again. On getting to the next outspan, as two waggons were far behind, we made up our minds to sleep there.

Saturday, 2 June—The Longwe river is about eighty yards broad—sandy bottom. The largest river since Hacobi [Ingwingwisi] river and broader. The doctor's waggon stuck and we lent our span and pulled him across. Soon after starting after breakfast Collinson's waggon capsized. Luckily nothing was broken but a bolt—a very essential one; but luckily Jamieson had a spare one with him. Our driver insisted on taking our waggon through the very same sluit but happily we did not capsize. A touch of fever this evening.

Sunday, 13 June—Not well, a little fever. A very steep descent and long continued to Fango [Nsangu] river. But all the waggons crossed without accident. It runs rapidly, has a sandy bottom, is about fifty or sixty yards broad. But at this time of the year not all is covered and so with the other rivers we have crossed.

Monday, 14 June—Gweli [Shangani] is a fine river with rocky and sandy bottom similar to the Fango, about sixty yards across, runs rapidly. The belt we have just crossed was four years ago famous for elephants. Today Jamieson shot a female ostrich sitting on its nest and Slue shot a waterbuck.

Tuesday, 15 June—I believe the old road crosses the Gwenye [Ngwenya] in another place where there are the ruins of two Amandebele kraals.

Wednesday, 16 June—Fever gone today.

Thursday, 17 June—River Bobola, [Vungu] outspan to river Sehoyhoy [Gweru] Hilly country, wooded and clayey soil. River with more body of water than others; rapid. Boulders of granite about twenty yards across, from river Sehoyhoy to next outspan. Beautiful park-like scenery in truth. Red soil. Level for the most part. Passed a small river. The ascent of the river Sehoyhoy is rather difficult, so if anyone thought his oxen could not do it, he might, instead of going straight up, go up the bank diagonally to the right, which is easy. Slue [Selous] tells me that a few years ago there were Amandebele kraals on the Sehoyhoy and also two or three amongst the hills we have lately passed through and two close to the Gwenye [Ngwenya] The hunters unsuccessful today. They had seen tracks, quite recent of the rhinoceros. Brother de Sadeleer was so successful in making ostrich egg pancakes for them two evenings ago that his services were called for again this evening.

Friday, 18 June—From outspan to river Impembesi. Plain and wooded. Then begins to be hilly again. From river Impembesi [Bembezaan] to spruit, close to river Sebakwe, four miles. Mind, after crossing the Impembesi river, there is a very difficult double turn for a waggon. I don't know how ours did not capsize.

19 June—Crossed the Sebakwe river about one o'clock. Sebakwe is about one hundred and fifty yards broad, sandy and pebbly bottom. We all had two spans to get up the other side.

20 June—The course I have laid down is the main course. But the real courses were in every direction. We came from the Poort to the Sebakwe something after this fashion. Fever again, but not so bad as last. There is an Amaholi kraal close to the Poort and they came with lots of Kaffir and Indian corn. We had enough, but the gentlemen hunters were very glad to get more.

21 June—Rode with Slue [Selous] and Jamieson through the Poort and two miles further along the foot of the mountain towards N.E. Observed Intsha Insimbi [Ntaba Insimbe / Iron Mine Hill] to subtend an angle of 39° 13' 40", its south end (I suppose) being 15 miles, its northern 25. Required its length (26 miles) Length of Intsha Insimbi in nautical miles. But I only observed the lofty part of Intsha Insimbi.

They part from the hunters at Sebakwe Poort

22 June—The gentlemen hunters left at 9 am. They have been very civil and kind to us. Left at 1 pm with two Mashonas for guides. Karaba Kambo the head one. Fever better. On mounting to the head of the Poort you see Intsha Insimbi before you. All between you and it large flat, covered with bush. I could see no hills beyond Intsha Insimbi, but it was not very clear.

Map 2 – adapted from 1:250,000 map sheet SE-36-9 Hartley;  this map is used with consent from Window on Rhodesia with the site name: Father Law’s missionary expedition leaves the Hunter’s Road

23 June—During the second trek Brother de Sadeleer shot bless buck [Blesbok] which was a great acquisition as we had twelve mouth’s to fill. It is well we got hold of the Mashonas to show us the road as at the end of the second track we had to cross a rather difficult sluit and it might have taken us some time to find the best place for crossing.

24 June—Went over a small hill to avoid crossing the Umsiyati river [Munyati] Had to cut down a few trees to make a way for the waggon. Rewarded our guide by giving him a soldier's coat at receiving which he jumped for joy. On starting we had to cross a small river, Intanga Undoba and then to avoid crossing the hills and specially to avoid the river Matundjo which was impassable right ahead, we kept S.E.½ E. for about four miles and then crossed it. Later on we crossed the Matimati where we slept. Our guide says, in going to the Sabi he takes a road which avoids certain very rough kraals, as they robbed a waggon it appears belonging to Elstop [J.D. Elstob]

25 June—Noticed this afternoon the spoor of some waggon, perhaps Lucas.

26 June—We stuck about 7.30 in crossing a soft bit but got out after ten minutes. About 8.30 we came to a rver where we stuck and after trying some time we outspanned and had breakfast. Inspanned at one again, and after trying without success, we unloaded the waggon and at last got out. I am very glad I resisted putting much into the waggon at Gubuluwayo. It is well our waggon is comparatively light.

27 June—After crossing a small river running into the Isi-Sebakwe we outspanned and remained there that day to rest oxen.

28 June—Soon after starting we had to cross the Isi-Sebakwe, a very difficult river to cross. [The Sebakwe river has its headwaters to the north east and flows south-west here before turning west] It is well we have a really first-rate driver. Arrived at Isigarra, the first kraal since the Poort. Found some Amandebele hunters here and I sent a letter from here to Fr de Wit by one of them who was soon returning. The people here seem a nice simple civil people.

29 June—The induna of kraal gave us guides, the head one Chivava to take us as far as where there is no danger of fly. Crossed three streams today. Hottentot and Br de Sadeleer tried hard to shoot some game but still without success. 3.30 pm. There is a range of hills ahead of us about fifteen miles off.

30 June, Honotyonemvinvi—Rain prevented us from going on. It cleared up about 3 pm, but that was too late to be able to reach next outspan before dark, so remained.

1 July—Crossed today four rivers and one marsh. In the first outspan we stuck one and a quarter hours and in the second we got stuck in the marsh and had to half unload before we got out. After reloading we went a few yards and there outspanned for the night, two miles from a kraal (Kazumba) Br de Sadeleer's buck is now finished. But it lasted well, eight days.

2 July—Fine day after 11 am, very cold damp weather now for three or four days. After two miles got to a small kraal of Amaholi (Kazumba) They seemed to be as those of Isigarra, a nice simple people. What a happiness if soon we may get amongst them. They did not seem to have any cattle except goats. Perhaps they may have found poverty the best security against the Amandebele. Got to the river Sebundo about 3 pm which we crossed without difficulty, as time was taken to get a good place. We crossed a stream also near the kraal without difficulty. We have a range of hills N.E. of us [Hwedza Mountains?] another E. [Mwenezi Range?) and another S.E. [Ntaba Insimbe / Iron Mine Hill?] Our outspan this morning was quite a romantic spot. We are just under a beautifully wooded kopje on the river. On our left about 100 yards across the road (we have just come up from the river) is another similar kopje and across the river is beautifully wooded. All through this country the scenery is often very beautiful.

3 July—Br de Sadeleer and Cape Corps got on the spoor of an eland and followed it but soon found two lions wanted the eland and were following its spoor. Somehow or other nothing has been shot since Br de Sadeleer's blesbok on 23 June.

4 July Sunday—Crossed at about nine the river Sebakwe (the third of that name we have crossed) Runs about fifty yards across rocky and sandy bottom. [the headwaters of the Sebakwe flowing south-west as a small stream] Crossed also another stream. The Leneh kraal and I suppose others, are at war with some tribes to the north, perhaps the unfriendly tribes we have been going south to avoid. The Leneh kraal is just at a gap between the Zakulu mountains through which gap we cross. A range of mountains some twenty miles off bearing from N.E. to N.W. is called the Umjunga mountains [Hwedza Mountains?] We started at 1 pm but through rashness of our good driver, who, though he heard there was a better place to cross the stream running between us and the kraal, went straight over a very bad place and down went the hind wheels axle deep. Unloaded the waggon and then got out and outspanned for the night. Our disselboom sprung yesterday going over big stones was finished in crossing this stream. The people of these kraals are very civil and respectful. During the unloading and loading of the waggon, instead of crowding round to see all we had (as the Amandebele would have done, looking for an occasion of stealing) they all stood at some distance off. The induna here made a present of a goat and we gave him a good present of beads and calico. It is amusing to see how soon the people turn anything into an ornament. We had opened some sardine boxes and amongst the crowd we now see two or three with a sardine box tied on the top of their heads.

Map 3 – adapted from 1:250,000 map sheet SE-36-9 Hartley;  this map is used with consent from Window on Rhodesia with the site name: Father Law’s missionary expedition approaches the headwaters of the Sebakwe river and on the higher healthier terrain they find frequent Mashona kraals

5 July—Put in a new disselboom. The kraal here is pitched upon the rocks and in passing these rocky hills we

could see every now and then a hut half-hidden among rocks and the amabele (kaffir corn) safe pitched here and there on the tops of the rocks. I suppose they do this for safety sake. Crossed one stream on the road to the next kraal, Mahatela. This kraal, like Leneh, is on the top of rocks called Invimbi. We could see some people like mere specks on the top of some of them. Soon after arriving the induna, a venerable old man, arrived and made us a present of a buck. We made also a present. He was accompanied by his musician who sang and danced in our honour till he was tired. Whenever he wished to show particular honour to any one he danced up to the person and drummed in his ears.

6 July—In spite of all the rain a good many were about the waggon nearly all day. The Mahatela band was in attendance and gave out more agreeable music than the musician of yesterday. The women seeing the band being rewarded set off singing but we had to draw the line somewhere. The rain today kept us from going on. We got new guides here to take us as far as the Sabi [Save] and the merry Chivava, our head guide as far as here, took his leave rewarded with a red coat.

7 July—Inspanned at 10.30. What with cutting down trees and avoiding big stones and crossing the most difficult river we have met on the journey (the Inyama Maturi), we were not far when 3 pm came when we outspanned. In crossing the Inyama Maturi, according to all principles of equilibrium the waggon ought to have capsized by taking too short a turn. I really believe the Angel Guardian held it up. At least we all agreed we ought to sing a Te Deura which we did.

8 July—At the last outspan there is a small eminence close from which a magnificent panorama can be seen. The part from N.N.E. to S.E. was very pretty. Towards east, fifteen to twenty miles off, there were ranges of hills roughly serrated, and beyond other ranges beautifully lighted by the setting sun. There was the Inyamabeli and a little N.E. by N. behind it another range running up in N.W. direction which is the Umtigesi Range [Wedza / Hwedza mountains]

9 July—Since about 25 June, on the average we had to cross either a river or a stream, or marsh, at least every mile. It was impossible to write them all. At about 3 pm I was astonished to hear the familiar words, ‘tusa mnali’ the true mark of the amaNdebele and sure enough there were two amaNdebele there from a kraal, Aoyosangweni. Apparently they are up here to act as spies or police. We got most important information from them, to wit, that we were on the wrong road and going direct for the fly. Indeed I have been perplexed ever since Isigavva, as to why we were going so much to the S. of E. but I was always assured we were going on the road to Sebombom. These men pointed out where Sebombom was behind some hills bearing about N.E. instead of S.E. as we were heading before.

This afternoon two women, to welcome us kept up with the waggon for about half an hour dressing themselves with branches of trees, running here and there, and occasionally prostrating themselves before the waggon and crying out ‘Wee, wee, wee!’ Poor things! May this be an earnest of what their people will do for the Holy Faith before long. If one good thing comes from our missing the road it is, that we have, as it were, explored the people through whom we passed and a nicer and simpler people you could not find. The induna of a kraal close to brought a present of a goat and an immense pot of utchwala (Kaffir beer) I mention the kraal, because if we ask Lobengula to have a mission here, it might be well to live near the kraal. This might drown his suspicion. We may not yet expect that Lobengula will allow us a station here as those Mashona tribes are his tributaries and subjects. It is almost sure that he will not have them more clever and instructed than his own people. No better place for a mission than near here. There are plenty of kraals all round, filled with apparently good simple people.

Vicinity of Umtigesa’s kraal

10 July—Our guides now admit that they do not know the road to Sebombom, and hence we get guides that do from a kraal close by. We stick in a deep sluit for about an hour but got out without unloading and outspanned just past a kraal built upon the top of the rock. We had a better view of this kraal than of any of the others so built. It was curious to see the people perched upon rocks some one hundred or one hundred and twenty feet high and seated there alongside of their huts. At . . . (?) got to a magnificent river to look at, but not to cross in a waggon. It is the Inyazityi and taking its rise S. of the Umtigesa Hills, runs into the Sabi. I have seldom or ever seen a grander river. When I first got to it, the wild confusion of debris of rocks piled upon one another in every kind of fantastic way, the large surface of table-like rock washed clear of all rocks once upon it, and now washed away, put me in mind of the floes described by Kane and others in the Arctic regions. If the scene was grand now in the dry season, what would it be in the wet season with torrents of water rushing along these rocks? We looked at one place that was spoken of as a crossing place but it was thought better to wait till tomorrow and then look well for a place.

11 July Sunday—At noon started and having found an open better place to cross the river, we crossed successfully. We had to cross three branches of it, or rather we crossed over to an island and then had two branches to cross. The rest of the afternoon till 3.30 we made but little way, as we had to cut our way through the trees all the way. Br de Sadeleer shot a zebra this evening.

13 July—We see hills upon hills between N.W. and N.E. I suppose they must all belong to the Umtigesa

range. We outspanned under a kopje near a very curious tree about thirty feet round at the base called by the natives the Wenkomo.[xxvii] On the kopjes too, there were some trees with their trunks a perfect cone of reddish colour. A baboon—he must have been larger than a man—took a look at us from the summit of a rock. Br Hedley thought he saw a mandril. Br de Sadeleer shot one zebra and Cape Corps another this afternoon. Plenty of cutting down to clear the road which makes progress slow. This has specially been the case since the Inyazityi river. Sebombom is close here and the people were glad to get meat.

14 July—At the last outspan we see hills about six or seven miles off which are the other side of the Sabi, eastern extremity N. 56° E.

15 July—Heard Sabi distinctly this morning, so it must be close. Our guides wanted to stop here but we had none to take their place, so we sent back some of them with Cape Corps to Sebombom, to get guides to take us further. They arrived about two. Inspanned and in less than an hour we were on the banks of the Sabi. We thought it better to wait till next day to take our time in looking for a good place to cross as we did not see any very good ones.

16 July—At about 11, Br de Sadeleer having looked and not found a better place to cross than one just opposite, we crossed by it and all went right with no hitch, so thank God, we are on the other side of the Sabi and we have just got there on a feast of Mary. May she bless us in the new country into which we have just entered. At about two we got into a dreadful sluit and the bed of the waggon was lifted right out of its place. The hole was so deep that the oxen in falling into it seemed to have just their heads visible. Unloaded and then the waggon on being pulled out righted itself. The hind wheels had been this way // and at the same time the front wheels were this way \\ The Sabi is where we crossed eighty yards from bank to bank but about forty yards were covered with water. The deepest part where we crossed was about two feet. The river, the Impopopo, runs into the Sabi about a mile higher up the Sabi.

               Father Augustus Henry Law S.J.                                             Brother Francois de Sadeleer S.J.   

17 July—Great work in cutting through the bush to make way for the waggon. Umlope river is about twenty yards across—rocks and sands—easy crossing.

18 July—Very fine mountains from north to east. Passing through very fine trees with beautiful foliage.

All today we have been skirting the Amahanko hills and are close to the eastern end now (3.20 pm) They are rocky and rough-looking and have few trees on them. No spoors of elephants about as yet. Some few of ostriches. Plenty of quaggas [zebra] koodoos, etc.

The expedition reaches the Sabi (present-day Save) river

19 July—Surprised to hear this morning that we should soon be at the Sabi, i.e. the big Sabi and the one we

crossed was only the little one. I inquired where the Verahati river, marked in Baines's map, was. The natives don't even know the name. The big Sabi is here about eighty yards across rocks and sands. The sand with patches of reeds the tops of which the oxen seem to prefer to everything else. The greater part of the bed of the river is not covered with water now, as was the case with all the big rivers we have crossed. All the Amaholi through whom we have passed are very timid of white men till they see of what kind you are. I hear the Boers' conduct has caused that. Some were seen to-day but ran off and were no more seen.

20 July—Waited till noon for arrival of two of our guides, who went yesterday to see if they could get other guides. They returned without any and then all wished to leave. After some trouble they were induced to go further, principally through the tact of Br de Sadeleer. As Tom our driver and Cape Corps said they knew a good place for crossing further down the river, we went down in that direction. We found the place for crossing but the difficulty of getting down to the river was as bad as crossing four bad rivers. So that place had to be given up. The guides said they knew a place much further down, and moreover that by crossing near our last outspan, we should come across some large rivers on the other side and so we made up our minds to follow them. I was glad to find ourselves going south at last.

21 July—Very lofty mountains in the N.E. The natives call the whole range running down the other side of the Sabi, the Imalongo mountains. Br de Sadeleer and Cape Corps each shot a buck. They could have shot many more. We arrived at the Sabi once more about 4 pm. Just opposite us there is a large sheet of water about one hundred and fifty yards across. Higher up the water flows over the rocks. However, this is not the place promised by our guides. All about here the Sabi runs through very high hills. No wonder it is so large.

22 July—Went along the banks of the river about a mile and got to the promised place. However, no signs of a place to cross. We heard that there was another place still further down some little way. So Br de Sadeleer and Cape Corps started at 1 pm with a guide to see the place. They returned about sunset but reported there was no possibility of a waggon crossing there. On the road they shot a buck.

23 July—We went on to see the place where we could take our goods across; for in any case if we crossed here we should have to empty the waggon. The place was difficult but possible. We then went to inspect the place where it was said the waggon could cross. It looked just fair and it was decided, considering all things, it was better to try rather than go back a very difficult road to where we were on the 20th. The way the black people of the place went about in deep places and even swam about, made me less afraid for our driver and leader as to crocodiles. At 1 pm we went down with the waggon to the sand and then unloaded as we thought it was also as good a place as any to carry the goods across. We then made a start with the waggon. But it is not as easy with a waggon as for men on foot who could feel their way and return when they found they were getting into deep water. The oxen floundered about and at last got into such deep water that both the leading oxen and the leader had to swim; besides, the rocks were so big that if the waggon came across them nothing could prevent its being capsized. So the chain was unhooked and the waggon pulled out hind foremost. We reloaded and returned to the outspan.

24 July—We inspanned at 9 am intending to go back to our first outspan on the banks of the Sabi, where there was certainly a fair place to cross. But when we got just past where we were at 4 pm on the 21st, one of our guides (we have now got new guides) told us he had now found a good place to cross. So Br de Sadeleer and Cape Corps went to inspect. It was found good. We went down to the place, half unloaded, and crossed, Deo gratias et Sanctis Angelis ejus, without any accident, with the exception of drawing the disselboom which was quickly repaired. The place we crossed will be about in lat. 19° 10' 15" just about eight hundred yards higher up than where we slept on the 21st. We are told that the Sabi is rather high up for this time of year. The deepest part we crossed was up to a man's waist.

25 July—Put in a new disselboom and started at 12. Crossed the river Singwosi, steep banks, not much water and about fifty yards across. Saw the recent spoor of a rhinoceros. There is an Amaholi kraal close to here. Plenty of lions said to be here and the guides not content with the usual branches for a shelter from the wind made themselves a regular enclosure with a small entrance.

26 July—All our guides but the head one went home as they had seen the spoor of some men going in the direction of their kraal and they thought their kraal was going to be attacked.

Map 4 – adapted from 1:250,000 map sheet SE-36-10 Umtali;  this map is used with consent from Window on Rhodesia with the site name: Father Law’s missionary expedition leaves Hwedza Mountain and treks down the Sabi (Save)

27 July—It turned out that the men whose spoor was seen yesterday were only out hunting. The induna recommend sending on to the chief of the Amaholi of these parts to say we are on our way to Mzila's which we accordingly do. Many of the kraal came down to see the waggon, evidently a curiosity for them all. Our oxen happened to pass near our waggon and at once there was a cry among all the children and they ran away with fear, taking the oxen for wild buffaloes. It seems that here they get their gunpowder from across the Zambesi where it is made by the natives. I am also told they make guns. Brother de Sadeleer says perhaps it is the white men who do this. The people here are nice and quiet like all the Amaholi through whom we have passed. The truth is, I expect that those who give such bad accounts of the Amaholi were a good deal the cause of any bad treatment they received from them. No one has stolen anything from our waggon and their behaviour always and everywhere has been a thousand times better than that of the amaNdebele or rather there was positively nothing to complain of in them.

28 July—Cape Corps shot an eland, and there was a great feast for Isilambeyo.

Chiefs Amalanga and Hambehusuku are hostile to the missionaries

29 July—The messengers arrived at 3.30 from the Amaholi chief saying that it was all right, we could go on. We constantly hear of small fights about to be amongst this people. A curious thing is that they salute here by shaking hands and they salute also a man when he comes to join the rest by clapping their hands.

30 July—From river Inkuni to river Upemene, running N. of Ishilinda Hill. Trees thick. Delayed much by clearing away—Lat. 19'' 10' 40"; long. 32° 12' 30". River Upemene to just abreast (N. of) the kraal on Ishilinda Hill. River Upeme a small one. The kraal on Ishilinda Hill is like most of the kraals high among the rocks. It has a most curious appearance, looking like a lot of beehives altogether and from a little way off they appear as if stuck to the side of the precipice; for you cannot see the ledges upon which they rest. They must be very careful with the children or else I should think many must be killed falling from the rocks.

31 July—From outspan just N. half a mile of Ishilinda hill to outspan S.W. of Amakombe hill where the kraal Amalanga is and there the head chief of the Amaholi resides. Lat. 19° 15' 17", long. 32° 15' 54". The view from here of the country through which we have passed lately and we can see the high mountains near Mzila's kraal but the view in that direction is cut off for the most part by nearer hills. Amalanga, the chief, sent to ask us to bring the waggon nearer and to say he would call to-morrow. So we went about a quarter of a mile nearer. His kraal is very much like the one at Ishilinda Hill but not so curious looking as you can see where the huts stand.

1 August Sunday—I heard that Amalanga's people had said that we should come nearer still, so I told Lobengula's boy to let them know that the waggon could not easily go nearer and that even if it could, we had done enough to show him respect, that we were on our way from Lobengula to Mzila and that we were anxious to get on. About 9 he sent down a sheep and some utchwala.

About 12 he came. 1. We thanked him for the sheep and utchwala. 2. We made him a present of a black blanket and a leg of the zebra shot yesterday. 3. We were afraid it was too much to take the sheep from him, as we could get plenty of game on the road but it would make his heart sore if we did not keep it. 4. We asked for guides for the road. Here he said we had not made him a large enough present, so although we had, we gave him another black blanket and a little gunpowder which he asked for. He promised to have the guides ready for tomorrow. We found he wanted us to shoot some game for him, so Br de Sadeleer and Cape Corps went off to hunt at which he was very glad, but they returned with nothing. Poor Rosinante (our old horse) must have been astonished at the consternation he caused during the conference.

2 August—It is said that the chief guide has not yet arrived, and hence we still wait. The many delays of our journey put me in mind of those games on geography where you spin the teetotum and according to its number travel from place to place till you get to the last place on the map. But after you are told on referring to the number you have arrived at ‘Stay here two turns of the teetotum to visit the cathedral and other buildings in the city’…Have been trying the last four days to get a lunar observation but have been disappointed and now I must wait for the next moon.

3 August—Here we are still waiting, 1 pm. It is said the chief is coming down. But we must start this evening, guides or no guides. At about 2 pm Amalanga did come. I told him we were very anxious to get on and that we should start this evening and that I hoped he would give us some guides at once. The other if he had not arrived might follow. He said all right we might start. Last of all and that I expect was at the bottom of all the delay, he asked whether Mzila knew we were coming. We explained to him that he knew through Lobengula we were coming and that Lobengula's boys were with us. This we had already said. He seemed then to be satisfied and he appointed three boys, who would be paid a blanket each and now we paid them before the chief. Started at 3.30. When the oxen made their appearance there was a great rush amongst the children and women and two or three trees were soon filled with little boys. Outspanned at Ishilinda Hill, we have thus to retrace our steps a short way. None of the Amaholi dared to take us anywhere but to their chief first. This evening a thing happened which might have ended in finishing the whole expedition. It appears that when at Amalanga some of the worst spirits among the people proposed killing us all and taking the waggon but the headmen and chief would not listen to it, nor do I suppose that anything like the bulk of the people ever dreamt of such a thing. The Amaholi were talking about this round the fire and Cape Corps, catching some words began to quarrel with one of them. One of the Lobengula's boys put his gun away, but he got hold of it and Br de Sadeleer just arrived in time to prevent him actually shooting the Maholi. Of course his gun was put safely away in the waggon.

4 August—The Amaholi with whom Cape Corps quarrelled was slightly wounded in the leg with a hatchet. He was tuso'd [toosah – present] with some white calico and all seemed to be in good humour again. Cape Corps shot a zebra yesterday for Amalanga and his boys take it to him to-day. N.E. by N. delayed much by cutting down trees. Going abreast of Inyavuka Hill. Outspanned just past a swamp. Lat 19° 10' 27'' Long 32° 18' 20'' We have to go N. of Inyavuka Hill to avoid the fly.

5 August—To outspan with Amahenbe mountains N.E. about six miles and Inyavuka just S. At noon at our outspan an induna came purporting to be the induna of another chief, Hambehusuku, saying we ought to go to him too. As it was far, I said it was impossible to go out of our way. I was told he was the chief who killed white people and here comes the difficulty. I was always afraid of a collision with the natives. Br de Sadeleer and Cape Corps were out hunting at the time. When they returned we talked over the matter.

Fr Wehl goes missing for 26 days and is found by a trader / gold prospector Robert Roxby

6 August 6—The brothers went to communion and we all prayed to act for the best. It was decided that we should certainly go on. It would be weakness to do anything else, nor would it avoid the danger, so we go on in Nomine Domini, praying that all may go straight. N.E. to outspan, Amapembe mountain, an immense rock towering above other hills and like a slanting cone. At the outspan our guides from Amalanga are told by others of the Amaholi, that Hambehusuku, the chief of whom I spoke, would kill them all if they were found with us. One left the others said they would go on.

Oh! the dreadful thing I have to tell now! Fr Wehl, just towards the end of the outspan was missed. I had seen him about one and a half hours before, walking a little far, but still in sight of the waggon. He was very fond of solitude apparently and often laughed at anything like risk at being far from the waggon. We at once fired guns, five discharges, one after the other, which must have told him, good father, if he were still alive, where the waggon was. Nor for a little did we doubt but that he would soon appear. When after a quarter of an hour (an ox fell into a pit) we had outspanned and he did not appear, we were really alarmed. We sent out all our boys (Amaholi) with promise of great rewards if they found him. They returned without having seen him. Br de Sadeleer remarked directly we missed him, ‘I don't think he is alive now.’ What a night we passed! The loss of good Fr Wehl, on the top of our other anxieties for we did not know at what moment we might be attacked.

7 August—At daybreak we sent out the boys again. They returned at noon saying something of their having found his spoor, but with nothing more. We sent them out again with promises of large presents should they bring him back. They returned some of them, at five pm saying they had found his spoor down at the river ahead of us and that four of them would stay and follow it up. I took the resolution to-day, in case we cannot find the dear father to leave the waggon and walk to Mzila's. My reason is this. If we go on, all of us, even Cape Corps, who is not at all afraid, says we are certain to be attacked. Rather than have this collision where first we should have to use firearms with the natives, and second, the probability is we should all be killed and the waggon, of course taken, I prefer to save the lives of the people committed to my care and to sacrifice the waggon which would almost certainly go in any case. If I were not a religious I would go on, for then I could be sure it would be an out-and-out defence.

8 August—No news of dear Fr Wehl. Lat 19° 6' 28"  Long 32° 23' 12". Mount Amapembe W. by S. two or three miles. River Umgazi ahead of us running into Sabi. Mzila's kraal will be about due south eighty-seven and a half miles. Amalanga sent to tell us yesterday we had better take another road, through a kloof we have passed about one and a half miles back, not so good as the one ahead, but we should not then have to pass through Hambehusuku's territory. Of course we cannot tell if Amalanga says this in sincerity or not, but it is enough to make us resolve at present to stick by the waggon.

The missionaries abandon their wagon and their guides fearing an attack

9 August—It was said on Saturday that some men had seen the father sitting on a rock near the river but had been afraid to go near him. This morning these very men came to our waggon and it was evident they had really seen him. So there is good hope still. I sent out more boys with bread and wine and paper and pencil to follow up the spoor of the four boys who went on Saturday and have not yet returned and to bring news as quickly as possible as to the state of the father in case they find him. News came about 1 pm that they could not find Fr Wehl. From many things we judged that he was certainly dead. We also understood that the whole river was watched with the intention of attacking us. So I came to the resolution of leaving the waggon. We started at 9 pm and walked till 6 am. Altogether about twelve miles.

10 August—Poor Zambesi would insist upon carrying a lot of blankets and yet could not keep up and so after waiting for him, at last we missed him altogether. Perhaps he may make his way to Gubuluwayo. We rested and hid till sunset in some high grass. Whilst there, one of the king's boys saw a whole lot of men walking in the direction of our waggon. Where we hid was near where we were on the night of the 4th. Went on at sunset till about nine, but the difficulties of the road were great at night and we did not make more than four or five miles.

11 August—Started again at 3 am and walked on till sunrise and then two other walks of an hour each. Today ventured to light a fire and had coffee. We have been going about S. by W. since sunrise yesterday and may have made about sixteen miles. Saw the tsetse fly for the first time. Br de Sadeleer shot a buffalo, but we had not time to wait to find him. Had our first all night in. A little drizzle rain.

12 August—Started at seven. No sun and so could not tell exactly the direction to take. Stumbled across a kraal of two families and were told the direction in which the Sabi was. They had no food to sell as they were hungry themselves. A quarter of an hour after leaving we shot a black rhinoceros and a young one and so got a very good dinner and a supply of meat. (The two families would have been glad too!) Plenty of rivers all through our journey. After making two miles W. by S., we came to the Sabi. I did not like crossing it, but the boys wanted it, not for themselves, but for Br Hedley and me as in case of attack from Amalanga's father (whose kraal is ahead of us) they could run if necessary, but not we. So we crossed it. Providentially we hit on the Sabi exactly at a place where the natives cross it and we crossed it without difficulty. I think it would be about ten miles S. of where we crossed it in the waggon. Sabi very wide here, perhaps altogether one hundred and fifty or two hundred yards. Slept where we crossed. Today S.W. about five miles.

13 August—Went on in the morning along the Sabi (which ran S.) about five and a half miles. Passed a large group of palm-trees and a tall one. Went on another four miles in the afternoon. The cactus-tree and its fruit.

14 August—Passed two or three small kraals. Tried to buy some corn or meal, but they either had none or did not wish to sell it. This morning we finished the last of the rhinoceros and there is nothing left but a small piece of the Australian dampers we took with us. So our dinner was small and our supper still smaller. Thank God, the health of all keeps good. We made about nine miles today.

Map 5 – adapted from 1:250,000 map sheet SE-36-14 Melsetter; this map is used with consent from Window on Rhodesia with the site name: Father Law’s missionary expedition continues down the Sabi (Save) river having abandoned their wagon

15 August Sunday—Assumption, our Blessed Lady helped us and would not let us fast altogether on her great feast and so after one and a half miles we came to a small kraal where we bought meal and beans, enough for two days and a little salt. I said Mass on a rock in the bed of the Sabi. The Sabi has run south all the time we have gone along it. How thankful one feels and how heartily one says grace after meals when living as we are living now. After a good breakfast for us all, Cape Corps, Tom and Isihlahla started at noon to hunt and we remained where we were. They returned at two having shot nothing. We started at four and after going four and a half miles we came upon a large troop of red bucks [reedbuck] in a grove of palms and shot two. How grateful we felt and we thought it was the Blessed Virgin who sent them. Slept in the bed of the Sabi. Three miles today.

16 August—Happiness of Mass again. The natives make the salt, which is very good and looks like brown sugar from some of the sand of the Sabi boiling and straining off, I believe. Plenty of buffaloes, lions, rhinoceroses, bucks, but no elephants along the road we have come. We have not yet seen any hippopotamuses. The bed of the Sabi is in some places very broad as much as three or four hundred yards. We have high hills to the S.E. of us. The hills of Mzila's Amaholi we are told. I think we must be about forty miles from where we shall have to cross the Sabi again. I think we have sufficiently solved the question as to whether you can go by waggon from Lobengula to Mzila. Even before we crossed the Sabi in the waggon we all agreed that it would never do to go by waggon to Mzila's. The difficulties of the road would make it so long and the danger to the waggon would be too great. After crossing the Sabi you cannot depend upon the natives for showing you the right road. After taking us to Amalanga one of our guides admitted he had not taken us the right road, but he was afraid to take us anywhere without first taking us to his chief. Even had it been possible to get through those robber chiefs without being attacked, how, to be sure, would they not direct us to where the fly was? And the Amaholi themselves told us they did not know how we should ever get up the hills between them and Mzila's in a waggon. And almost certainly without scaling those hills, it would be impossible to avoid the fly.

With regard to dear Father Wehl, the last I saw of him was when I was sitting with Brother de Sadeleer in front of the waggon. Brother de Sadeleer remarked, ‘The Father goes too far from the waggon.’ I answered, ‘Yes, I will tell him to keep nearer when he returns’ for then he was about two hundred yards away, but in sight of us. Afterwards, Brother Hedley said the last he saw of him was walking some distance from the waggon with a lot of Amaholi following him. Whenever we outspanned Father Wehl had the habit of going to some retired place to study or pray and we often had to shout loud to bring him to dinner, etc, and even then sometimes he was too far to hear. He always laughed at fear from natives, lions, crocodiles, etc. When he was missed, the guns we fired must have told him where we were, if, indeed, he was alive then. As the Amaholi evidently intended sooner or later to attack the waggon, they never would have left a white

man alive, if they could conveniently kill him, as they would have thought they left another white man to defend the waggon. We could not leave the waggon as that would have given them an opportunity, both of killing those who went in search and taking the waggon and killing those who remained in it. We were too few to separate. When Brother de Sadeleer rewarded well those who had gone in search of the dear Father, he remarked that the other Amaholi, with them, laughed, as much as to say, ‘What fools these white men are to pay so well men who searched for nothing but a dead man.

We left word before going that should the Father still turn up the chief who should send him to Mzila’s

would get twenty blankets and beads in quantity, as large as a man's head, an enormous reward in their eyes. But that we did without the least hope of his being still alive. For these Amaholi, knowing the country so well and being so clever at taking up a spoor, certainly knew, after full three days' search, where he was. They said they could not find him, which meant he was dead, i.e. killed. Four miles today.

17 August—Five miles today. Sabi very pretty from the palm-trees. Passed plenty of little kraals, the people of which refine salt. They dig it out of pits along the Sabi. The Sabi now takes a bend towards the East, towards lofty and steep mountains—the other side of the mountains we should have had to scale in the waggon.

Following the Save river

18 August—Our road always along the Sabi, which now is close to the mountains. We have from the

beginning followed well-trod footpaths, but the road is very tiring from having so often to descend and ascend deep kloofs and the path being winding we walk much but make not so much as we walk. It is noteworthy that of all the beds of rivers running into the Sabi this side, we only crossed one with water in it. Where is the little Sabi and the great Inyazityi? Do they run into the Sabi above where we crossed last or later on still than where we are now? Went about eight miles today. At about 5 to our great joy we came upon one of Mzila's kraals. It was music to our ears to hear the Zulu tongue again.

The head man, Tjekatjeka, a very jolly hearty fellow, was very kind and promised us boys to carry our loads and to show us the road across the drift. He gave us some meal and would not take anything for it. When I told him how much obliged I was to him for his great kindness, he answered ‘Oh, we are the men of the chief.’ We all felt very grateful to God for leading us into port, so to speak, after such rough weather. Our boys spoke to our hospitable friend about Amalanga and Hambehusuku (without however, as yet telling him who we were, although he perhaps guessed as he told us, a waggon with white men and two of Lobengula's boys were expected and he knew we came from Gubuluwayo and were going to Mzila's and moreover, we were not on the proper road from Gubuluwayo. He had been up there himself with an impi and had passed the same judgment upon those two chiefs that we had. He said they murdered all who came into their country.

19 August—Two of Mzila's people started with us at 8 to take us to the nearest big induna. They relieved us a great deal of our loads. Walked three and a quarter miles and then crossed the Sabi, deepest part up to the middle. On today five miles more. The Mzila people with us were told our story this morning. They were very indignant at Hambehusuku and Amalanga and say that Mzila will kill them and perhaps make the Amaholi bring the waggon over. Our misfortunes may make Mzila our friend, as by the same acts we have been injured and he insulted. For the Amaholi, we hear, are his subjects and Amalanga and Hambehusuku nothing more than indunas of his.

20 August—Only went about two miles, as I was very tired out and Br Hedley anything but fresh. But one of Mzila's went to the town ahead to the induna and he will probably send on at once to Mzila's. Br de Sadeleer and Cape Corps shot two bucks.

21 August—Walked nine and a half miles towards the town ahead. Passed several small Amaholi kraals. They made offerings of meal to us gratis and we gave them meat. Met U-nota, one of Mzila's men, on the road, who told us Mzila had sent out parties of men at the new moon to look for the waggon and he was one of them. It was very civil of Mzila. Along this side of the Sabi we have passed some magnificent trees. Slept with the Sabi just below us.

22 August Sunday—Said Mass close to the river and then went on. Br de Sadeleer shot a Koodo [kudu] and so we were delayed by the cutting of it up and getting carriers to carry it. Seven miles today. Arrived at an Amaholi kraal where the induna was one of Mzila's and received us very well. At the kraal they had just brought in a lot of elephant's flesh. They had found the elephant dead, the other side of the river, where there are plenty of elephants, they say. The stench in the kraal was terrible.

Map 6 – adapted from 1:250,000 map sheet SF-36-2 Chipinge; this map is used with consent from Window on Rhodesia  with the site name: Father Law’s missionary expedition arrives at chief Mzila’s kraal

They arrive at an outlying kraal of Mzila’s

23 August—After four and a half miles arrived at the great induna's just after crossing a very rapid stream

-Utangando. First one told the story, then Tjekatjeka, and then Isihlahla, Lobengula's boy. They all stood up and made speeches on their subject, the induna sitting down with his people and listening. It was curious to observe the solemnity and order with which all this was carried on. And if you had looked at the induna's face, he was as solemn as a judge, without any movement to show what his feelings were. At the end of each speech he made an answer, beginning always, ‘I have heard you’ and to Lobengula's boy, ‘I have heard you, child of Matyebana’ (off duty the induna was as jolly as possible) He said his heart was sore at hearing this and said he expected we should get our things back. He put us up at his kraal. We made him a present of a buck, one out of two shot this morning. Soon after he sent us some utchwala and a goat. Really, how kindly we are received among this people! May it be blessed to their getting the holy faith.

24 August—Detained all day waiting for some meal which we are out of and which the induna has been kind enough to send for, for us. It was a pity as it was a fine day for walking. No sun. However we rested well.

25 August—Walked fifteen miles today. One buck shot. The induna went with us. On the road met three Amandebele, some of the marriage party going to Umzila's. So we shall have solemnities here too, like those we had at Gubuluwayo last year. We have had no tsetse fly since the 21st.

26 August—Started at seven and after two miles crossed the Dinyamandi river and had a very tiring walk till 2 pm with only an occasional short rest. No tsetse. I fancy the induna is going all the way with us. He is very kind and very jolly. Today U-nota was sent to the king to tell our story.

27 August—Three buck shot and then went on four miles. The induna makes requisitions through all the Amaholi kraals through which we pass for people to carry loads and meat and also for meal, etc. I suppose it is their way of levying taxes for the reason given is always that we are on our way to the king. No tsetse.

28 August—Long walk today from 7 am to 3 pm with a short rest for lunch or dinner. Our small stock of coffee finished yesterday morning. We first passed through a wood about four or five miles and the rest of the road about ten or eleven through a long poort through the mountain (Amabota) which separates Umzila's kraal from the Sabi. Slept at a deserted kraal. Heard that Amalanga had sent to Umzila to say there was a waggon there. Fifteen and a half miles today.

29 August Sunday—Unhappily we could have no Mass. It was impossible. This want of Mass is a great privation. Heavy and tiring walk of eight miles up and down hill. Saw oxen for the first time since our own.

30 August—Waited where we were for the arrival of U-nota from Umzila. He arrived at noon. Umzila wants us to come on as soon as we can and says we are to have utchwala wherever we pass. He has already sent for the waggon and has ordered that Amalanga give up his blankets that we had given him. Started at three, but only went one and a half miles. We were sorry for we were so anxious to have this journey at an end for it is telling upon us all. Even Br de Sadeleer is very tired. However he always carried a heavy load till lately and besides he has hunting in addition to his walking.

Arrive at Mzila’s

31 August—Went on about five miles, when we left the hills. We had a little feast on bananas on the road. Then went about two and a half miles along the large plain in which Umzila's kraal is. He lives on the river, Uongweni (south of it) two days and a half, seventy miles, from Sofala. Arrived there at two. Waited on the river about two hours, but did not see Umzila, Put up at a little hut, the north side of the river. We have walked one hundred and seventy miles since we left the waggon. Thirty-three to the Sabi, thirty-nine to Utyekatjeke, thirty-one to Induna, sixty-seven to Umzila. We changed our Itinerarium to-day for a Te Deum. God has been indeed good to us on the road. On arriving at the hut we found three great indunas sitting in a kind of court and Isiblahla was called to tell our story. They were very kind and told us how sorry they were. One of them, a fat jovial-looking fellow, Amakityana by name was especially amusing for although he was sincere in his sorrow good potations of utchwala had made him still more tender.

1 September—Umzila sent us about two hundred and fifty pounds of Kaffir corn and later in the day sent us a young ox which the three aforesaid indunas brought. I had just been thinking how our commissariat would get on and had just read through the Roman Catechism on ‘Panem Nostram’ to help me to pray for it. The Roman Catechism A' Kempis and Horse Diurnae is my whole library at present. Here I will say a little more of the night of our leaving the waggon as it may interest some. Before night, bundles had been made up for each one and all the gunpowder had been poured into a keg so that none might be left in the hands of the Amaholi. We took a good dinner and then waited till our Amaholi guides were quiet lying down near the fire. When all was ready, the horse was saddled for Br de Sadeleer wanted me very much to ride although I foresaw the horse would be more in the way than of any use, considering it was so dark, and the road so difficult. Then we dropped silently away into the bush, by ones and twos, till we all met a little way off the waggon. It was thought better to go by the road we came as knowing it better we could get on quicker. We started in single file for there are plenty of deep holes dug for wild beasts, some of them with spikes at the bottom and so a leader of sharp eye was wanted in front. We lost one of our oxen by falling into one the evening we lost good Fr Wehl. I found travelling on a horse very inconvenient for what with branches of trees coming in one's face and breast, I was nearly knocked off several times. At last in a rocky place the horse fell on his side, further on he fell in a hole on his back and we could not get him out, so we left him and I was not sorry. At intervals we rested and were glad of it as the burdens of all were heavy. The boys although given new blankets in place of their old things would insist on carrying their old things too and so were overburdened and we had to throw away at a great loss the gunpowder, except what was in two or three flasks.

Br de Sadeleer carried a prodigious weight, how I can't conceive and continued to carry it till we met with Ulyeketjeka. We carried the Mass things, my journal, the papers, medicines, we had a few pills, relics and a few other odds and ends. Our cooking-pot was a grease pot and we carried two pannikins, some bread and a little coffee and we trusted to the guns for the rest. I think our bush life of three weeks and a day did us all good and taught us a good deal. Not that it would be good to continue it but it accustomed us to get on with a few things and it especially made us feel, as it were, the touch of the fatherly providence of God.

Contrary to what I was led to expect, there are no resident Portuguese or Europeans in the country. The Portuguese just come and go between Sofala and here which they say is only two days and a half from here. But I have seen no Europeans as yet to talk to. And now we pray God to give us the daily bread of Holy Mass. It is impossible at present, as we have not a hut to ourselves, but the induna and others live in it as well.

2 September—We have not seen the king as yet. I am very anxious to see him, as I want to arrange to send off news to Fr de Wit and to Europe. I spend my time in listening to people talking and talking myself to learn the language and in meditating the Roman Catechism.

N.B.—It is evident we must open the communication with Sofala. It is the only place where we can get things and it is not far. I think of walking there if we see no Portuguese soon.

3 September—Still we do not see the king. I hear he was holding council with the indunas today about the waggon affair. Evidently our good induna, like all others here and amongst the Amandabele are very afraid of the chief and so he does not like to take us to the chief uninvited. Today two Amandabele (one Untapaise) nice fellows, called. They expressed great sorrow at seeing ‘white men of theirs’ as they called us with our waggon gone and in a little hut lying on the ground. One of them came from Inyati, near Hope Fountain. He promised when he returned to take letters. He said the marriage party had arrived.

4 September—Still waiting, but we hear we are to see the chief to-morrow.

Fr Law meets chief Mzila, Br de Sadeleer goes with Mzila’s men to recover the wagon 

5 September Sunday—At 11 am we went to the chief. He is a quiet, sedate-looking man of about fifty or fifty-five years of age. There seems to be more ceremony in approaching him than Lobengula. It was settled that Br de Sadeleer goes with Tom and Cape Corps to the waggon and that Br Hedley and myself and Lobengula's boys remain here. Umzila wanted us all to go but we told him Br Hedley and myself were unfit for the journey (besides shoes) We wanted to send to Gubuluwayo, but Umzila will not let us write till the waggon is here and the honour of his country vindicated. In the meantime it makes us like prisoners. But I hope to speak to Mzila myself soon. Br de Sadeleer and party started at about 3 pm. Our good induna who brought us here also goes with them. We hope to see the waggon here in three weeks. They will take five days walking there. An impi started yesterday for Amalanga’s and Hambehusuku's.

6 September—Br Hedley and myself called on the marriage party which is staying about 1½ miles from here. The induna was very kind and invited us in his hut to drink utchwala which we were glad to get. For Kaffir corn meal and meat is our only food. He made us a present too of a little meat. However yesterday we began to make some coffee out of ground nuts. The induna told us he knew of no letters being sent to us from Gubuluwayo. We heard that poor Philips was dead.[xxviii]

7 September—The wife of a man living in a hut close to us kindly brought us a kind of soup made out of kaffir corn (ubudu). She took pity, as she said, on the white people so in want. And indeed our meat ends today and we are reduced to Kaffir corn. We begin a Novena of beads to our Blessed Lady to help us. I went to see the dancing at the kraal. Mzila was there and seemed to take great interest in it as he danced himself, but apart from the rest and supported on each side by an Induna and once he went to the dancers himself to correct something in the dance. Their singing and dancing here beat that of the Amandebele hollow. In fact the only thing worth hearing amongst the Amandebele is the famous song ‘Nansi Indaba.’ Here they have plenty of spirited songs and the time they keep in dancing with their feet and the sticks in their right hands is admirable.

Mzila's cattle are very small and poor compared with those of the Amandabele country, nor does anyone possess cattle but the chief. So that the people, you may say, live on amabele (Kaffir corn)[xxix] Yet nearly anything would grow here. They might have any kind of fruit and all kinds of vegetables. The only kind of fruit we have seen is banana and that, wonderful to relate, cultivated only by a very few. Either the people are too lazy to cultivate or they think these things too great luxuries for the warlike Zulus.

8 September—The Blessed Virgin sent us a guinea fowl which Ischlabla shot. I went to see the dancing at the kraal. It is a thing impossible to describe, the beautiful time in which one hundred and fifty men (in a semicircle) keep with their feet, hands, heads and sticks, the spirit of the melody, the good voices of the men so well together that they sound like one voice and the delight which they evidently take in it all, the women standing in the centre facing the men and singing as well and often keeping up a running clapping of the hands. All of this is unique and it would move anyone who witnessed it.

9 September—Mzila sent us some Kaffir beer. It rained last night and a little during the day.

10 September—Walked over to the kraal and found Amakityana there amongst a group of people who had just had a lot of Kaffir beer. He was very sorry, he said, the Kaffir beer was finished. I asked him where I could buy some tobacco. "Buy" he said, "oh no, you shan't buy, I'll give you some," and off the kind-hearted induna went to his house with me and gave me a lot of tobacco and told me when I wanted more to come again.

11 September—The good woman next door (Kuhlisa) Matyaham is always bringing us something. God reward her kindness.

12 September Sunday—Had the consolation once more of Mass which we have been a fortnight without.

13 September—The daughter of Kuhlisa asked me some questions when I was at my Breviary and I was talking to the Chief above. I told her what I was able and she immediately ran to her mother and told her. The mother came and asked, ‘Is there really a Lord above?’ and then I spoke to her still more. They were much struck at hearing we had no wives and the reason why—that we might give our whole selves to the Lord above. Called on Amakityana and told him how I should have to go to Sofala to get things. He said Mzila would arrange all when the waggon arrived. He told me that Mzila was not as approachable as Lobengula. He left much to his indunas. I told him white men continually went to visit Lobengula but I don't know the customs here.

Fathers Law and Hedley experience hot and crowded conditions, little food and no medicines

14 September—Very hot day. Many people have arrived to be present at the marriage and have put up little huts near us and the whole day they were crowding round our hut to have a look at the white men and we felt as the lions must do at the Zoological Gardens.

15 September—Just a little rain. More and more arrive every day and we have a continual crowd at our hut blocking up light and air.

16 September—Kuhlisa came and asked more questions and I explained, as well as I could, the judgment, heaven and hell, immortality of the soul, etc.

17 September—It seems certain there is no fly between this and Sofala. This being the case we shall be able, I hope, to go in the waggon, if the oxen still exist, and get things there before the rain sets in. In any case, we must go to Sofala, for we have not enough in the waggon for barter for the summer, even if all is still in the waggon which was there. Called on Amakityana and gave him a knife which he had asked for. I stayed there whilst he was hearing a case. It put me in mind of a case of conscience at St. Beuno's. First the one and then the other told the case, which was of oxen stealing. Then the head induna spoke, then two or three other leading men. Then Amakityana spoke and then he asked if anyone else had anything else to say and then there was some desultory talk. I still find it very hard to catch what is said by others, but here the pronunciation is somewhat different from that of the Amandebeles. They "tefula" here, that is, they change the I's to y's. Thus, instead of Umlilo fire they say Umyiyo, and then some words are different.

18 September—People still crowd our hut and more and more. They wonder especially at books and ask me when they see me reading what I see there. I exhibit too sometimes Fr Bird's burning glass which fills them with astonishment.

19 September Sunday—Alas, no Mass. God grant it may be the last Sunday without it. A message came from Amakityana to ask for some beads to buy us some amabele. I went over to Amakityana and told him we had none sufficient to buy amabele, but that we would pay for all we got later on. [The fact they no longer had any cloth or beads to barter for food is a major handicap and ultimately impacts their health] People here, as at Gubuluwayo, cannot understand a person walking up and down. I often see a crowd watching me when I am meditating. Some passed me today and said, "He is divining." I always tell them I am speaking to the Chief above, which satisfies but astonishes them. Thank God we keep our health wonderfully on Kaffir corn. The people often ask whether we have wives and wonder much when we tell them we have none and why.

20 September—Went over to Amakityana to say our amabele was just out. He said he would speak to Mzila. He gave me some tobacco. Saw the inside of the hut given to Ontahaisi, one of the Amandebele ambassadors. A kind of gallery covered in surrounded the wall and the peak of the hut was pretty high, so that the hut was beautifully cool, but very dark till you got accustomed to it. There was a fireplace in the middle and on a table large baskets of amabele and hung up round the hut were all the different cooking utensils. All looked very clean and neat.

21 September—Crowds of people arrived—one of the impis in charge of the king's sons and our hut or rather the white occupants of it were being looked at most of the day. At about noon one of the Amandebele ambassadors came over and called me to go over to his hut to drink utchwala and I found out that he had asked us over on purpose that the queen might see that we were made much of by Lobengula and by his people, to tell Mzila, so that he might take good care of us. How thoughtful and kind of these two ambassadors! God reward them. After drinking utchwala I went with them to see the intimba (marriage party) dancing before the king. They sang much better than I have ever heard the Amandebele sing. The king looked very gracious and amiable and much pleased with everything. I believe the indunas keep one, if possible from the king, to keep things in their own hands. Towards the end of the dancing of the intimba the new wives danced out in front and then the head one, the queen, danced right up to Mzila and then made him a profound bow which he returned. This was a signal for the Mzila people to begin dancing. Soon after I returned and found I had lost one end of my flute which I had had in my pocket.

22 September—Poor Isihlahla has been down with fever for about five days and is still very sick. One of the king's sons who is lodging for the present in the next hut invited us to drink utchwala and we were glad of it for people are so busy everywhere that we had to fast barring the Kaffir beer till 2 pm and thus I missed a good deal of the marriage ceremony.

Here they call Portuguese when speaking to them by the complimentary title of Umsunga (worm) and some of them wish to honour us in the same way, but I tell them we are Amangesi (Englishmen). They seem to have a great respect for the English. The impi encamped round our hut, make a great noise, dancing and singing till midnight. Some of them have very fine head-dresses and other gear, samples of which one will see in the ‘Illustrated’ and ‘Graphic’ during the time of the Zulu war. One of the king's sons entered the hut whilst we were drinking utchwala. He was a perfect mass of feathers and skins and would be taken for a big bird a little way off.

23 September—Went to Amakityana again and told him our Kaffir corn was out (we have just got enough for one day) If none comes today, I must go to the chief himself tomorrow for it is our only food. This evening one of the marriage party (Amandabele) sent us a little meat.

Fathers Law and Hedley struck down with fever

24 September—Br Hedley and myself both down with a little fever and poor Isihlahla is very bad still. I am not astonished at our being sick, for we have been now three weeks on nothing but amabele. To our great relief the impi which was encamped close to us took their departure yesterday evening and a delightful quiet reigns.

25 September—Br Hedley all right. I still very unwell. I blessed St. Ignatius's water. We have no natural means and so like Josaphat we must turn our eyes to God.

26 September—I am a little better. Happiness of saying Mass. It was a struggle. But what a consolation to get the blessed Sacrament once more. The information we got about this country would seem to be all false. It was said that the Portuguese were here during the good season.[xxx] And we thoroughly expected to find them here, and to be able to get a few things from them. The truth is that they are not resident anywhere here. They make flying visits and when their stock is sold they return. We have not seen one. It was said (Fairbairn told me) that brandy and wine were to be had for a shilling a bottle. As there are no Portuguese to sell it, I cannot answer that, but I don't believe any is ever brought in except for the king. It was said (in the letter of the D ‘Urban [Durban] priest on the authority of Bedingfield) that the country was very healthy. To this I will only say that from E. to W. there is a long stretch of low, nearly flat land with plenty of swamps. The sun is tremendously hot. Only today we hear that a lot of the marriage party from Gubuluwayo are down with fever and these are people who should be more proof against fever than we are. There are hills two miles to the N. of us (the hills through which we passed coming here) It no doubt will be more healthy there and somewhere in that range we shall have to settle if we get leave to stay in the country. But I am afraid the country will be at least as unhealthy as the banks of the Zambesi. I cannot make out Mzila. I was led from reports to think at first so favourably of him. We expected to find every kindness from him. And indeed he sent amabele (Kaffir corn) and a calf at first. But since then he has sent nothing but utchwala twice. He has never sent to inquire how we are getting on. However he may have given us over to the care of Amakityana, who has neglected us. Of course the marriage and its preparations would have taken up most of their thoughts and that is a great excuse. I have not been to ask Mzila for more corn. 1. Because I felt so unwell. 2. Because our eating so little prevented the bag from being emptied. The induna of the marriage party has been kind and sent us some meat and so we have been able to make a little soup.

27 September—Br Hedley himself again. I a little better, I am looking so anxiously for the arrival of the waggon.

Suffering from lack of food again

28 September—Drizzle rain, my fever is gone but I suffer much from want of food. God's holy will be done! At about two, although very weak, I set out, as a last resource for getting food to see if I could see Mzila myself. Br Hedley went with me. Amakityana has evidently been very careless about us or has been afraid to speak to the king about us and so I go myself. I went thinking there would be all kinds of difficulties in approaching the great man—that no one would dare to show the way to his hut, etc. For here everyone, even indunas, seems to have such a fear of the chief although they seem to take great pride in him and to have far more affection for him than the Amandebele have for Lobengula.

First, we went to the hut of the two ambassadors. They were not at home. Second, we tried to find the hut belonging to the marriage party who were close to the kraal but failed. Third, we went to the large open circle where the dances took place and waited till we saw someone who could help us and show us the way to the king's. Soon an Amandebele passed. I asked him to show me the way. He led us to a hut where a lot of singing was going on and there we came across the induna of the intimba (marriage party) He asked us to drink utchwala. Was it good for us, both weakened by fever, to drink utchwala? Well, we were too hungry and too in need of something to think much of that. So we drank and glad I was I did. We went out and asked our way to the king's. To my surprise every one readily showed the way till at last we got to his hut. I asked at the door if the chief was in. I was told to wait and in two minutes Mzila came out himself and I was able to tell him that our amabele was out and that we were much in want of meat as we had been sick. He was extremely affable and sent for a shoulder of a young ox just killed and sent it to our hut. He told us the happy but surprising news that Father Wehl was still alive.

29 September—The happiness of holy Mass. I am much better. Deo Gratias. News that Father Wehl was found near the Itimbi Hill (so that he must have been taken home to Gubuluwayo)—that he was now being taken to the waggon—that Zambesi, the night he was missed, lit a fire, and so discovered himself to an impi of Hambehusuku who were going to kill him, but he said, ‘Why kill me? The white men have gone to Mzila's.’ They led him to the waggon and they took five blankets and all the bembo. The people of Hambehusuku were in full pursuit of us. Had we stayed where we were in the waggon, the waggon would have been attacked there. The two blankets given to Amalanga have been taken from him. It is said it will be some time before the waggon returns. Hambehusuku and his impi have run far away.

30 September—Br Hedley sick again.

1 October—Went over to kraal and thought it would be good to ask the king again for amabele for we have only food for two days and I might be unable to go over later from sickness or from rain. Went to Mzila's hut. When he heard what I wanted to say, he said, ‘Let him go to Amakityana.’ Luckily he was near at hand but I feared a good deal Amakityana might treat my request as he had two or three times before—make promises but do nothing. So I put it before him that we had nothing left to eat but one or two handfuls of amabele. And that we should die without food. He answered more in earnest than usual and told me to wait where some utchwala was going on a little way off and to which I was invited.

He went to the king and soon returned with five small bags of amabele a little more than half a sack. I went home glad and thankful to get this, but sad at heart at being received by the king not so kindly. But he may have been occupied. I feel so sad when I look at Br Hedley. He looks haggard and going down the hill. Dear Lord, look on us!

2 October—How I entreat our dear Lord that he would send his angels to bring on the waggon quick! I am so afraid for Br Hedley! If he had any spirits, but he is so down spirited. And he says he cannot bear amabele and there is nothing else to eat.

3 October Sunday—Thank God, Br Hedley is much better. Happiness of Mass. Both Isihlahla and Amalila are still sick with fever, I wish I had more opportunities of learning the language, but it requires I should cross the river and go over to the kraal and I am too weak for the exertion often. I went over to the kraal and called on Intabaeze and Amakako, the two ambassadors, who have been so kind.—They gave me a bit of meat.

4 October—Said Mass. They say that Mzila will not let us go to Sofala, perhaps. If so, I see no way of supporting the mission. Oh, what anxieties and if we cannot go to Sofala not having anything to buy food we should have to try and reach Gubuluwayo, taking the waggon as far as the oxen could pull it.

5 October—Fever again.

6 October—Better, but both Br Hedley and myself are getting weaker and weaker and I am afraid if the waggon does not arrive soon: we shall both die. If the king does not allow communication with Sofala there will be no means of keeping with this mission, for I see no other way (but Sofala) to bring things from Gubuluwayo would be an enormous expense. I think, too, that the fathers who should ever come on this mission should know the language well beforehand. The country seems so unhealthy that I am afraid many would die before they learnt the language. One of the Amandebele belonging to the marriage party has died of fever. And yet this should be the healthy time of the year.

7 October—Said Mass and received Holy Communion as though it was Viaticum. Fever. Br Hedley fairly well.

8 October—Walked over to Amakityana to see if I could possibly get a little meat. But no. I asked him if the king would object to our going in the waggon to Sofala when the waggon arrived. He said he would let us go. So there is that little hope remaining. The king is very bad with fever.

9 October—Thunder-storm last night which has cooled the weather a good deal.

10 October Sunday—Slept beautifully last night—a thing I have not had for a long time. Br Hedley keeps well. Managed to say Mass. What a consolation! I begged our dear Lord at receiving Holy Communion that he would absolve me and give me Extreme Unction. Dear Jesus! He will not desert me.

  Father A. Weld S.J. Second Superior of the                         Father Charles Croonenberghs S.J. Superior

    Zambezi Mission                                                                        at Sacred Heart Mission, Gubulawayo

Fr Augustus Law prepares for his death

The following letter is copied from the back of one of the bits of paper on which the chart of the route is drawn:

To Father Weld

October 10.

Dear Fr Weld—Pray for me. So many thanks for all your kindness to me. I can't expect to live unless the waggon arrives very soon. The fever has weakened me so much and there is only Kaffir corn to bring my strength back, not even salt to put with it. But all these troubles help my hope that God would not send them unless in his mercy to prepare me for heaven. When you hear of my death, write a good consoling letter to my father. May my poor brother return to the dear faith. I hope you will receive my journal all right.

11 October—Bad all today. Delirious in the evening. Br Hedley so kind. God bless him and take care of him when I die.

12 October—Very weak. Jesus, I cannot pray much, but my heart is with thee and rests in thy infinite mercy.

13 October—Rain last night and today and water came in the hut. Br Hedley is keeping fairly well. Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit. Lord Jesus, receive my soul. Love to all the Fathers and Brothers. The two kings' boys leave us and God is our only protection.

Final letters up to Fr Augustus Law’s death on 25 November 1880

Letter written in Pencil by the late Augustus Henry Law S.J, forwarded to Hon W.T. Law on 15 July 1881 by Rev. Father A. Weld S.J.

Mzila's, October 12.

Dearest Father—I am not far off my end. I trust in the infinite mercy of God. God bless you—you were the means of giving me the Holy Faith. Tell dear, dear Graves to listen to my last words, and to return to the dear Holy Catholic Faith. Best love to all. I die of fever—but if I could have had proper nourishment I think I could easily have got right. But God's will is sweetest. Jesus! Mary!—Your most affectionate son,

(Signed) A. H. Law, S.J.

One of the last Letters (if not the last) ever written by Father A. H. Law, S.J

October 12, 1880

Dear Fr Wehl and Br de Sadeleer,—I am not far off my end. I beg both your pardons with all my heart for all the scandal and bad temper. I think the best to be done is to go in the waggon to Sofala and either to stay there till you get an answer from Fr Weld, or to go round at once, after selling waggon and oxen, to Port Elizabeth. You cannot stay here. You have not enough to keep you alive, and you would only die. So endeavour to go to Sofala. If you cannot persuade the king to let you go to Sofala—but try hard, even by offering him the waggon and oxen when you have got to Sofala. But if he will not, then I should try, if I were you, to go towards Gubuluwayo, beyond the fly and then send on an express messenger for Fr de Wit to send a waggon. He could borrow one. Perhaps you will find dear Br Hedley dead too. The things will be left in charge of the good woman here. I have written to Fr de Wit about the payments.

Yours in Christ, A. Law, S.J.

Br Hedley begs pardon of all, he wishes me to say.

N.B.—On reverse side of the paper in pencil, scarcely legible, are these words apparently: "The good woman will not take share of dead men's things, so these will go to those who like” but in ink, written, as it is supposed, before the words in pencil were written are these words —"I give my blanket to the good woman when I die. And Br Hedley his when he dies. A. Law."

Fr Augustus Law most probably died from blackwater from successive bouts of malaria that were worsened by lack of nourishing food and exhaustion.

Extracts translated from a letter written by Brother de Sadeleer S.J. on 19 January 1881.[xxxi]

Reverend Father—You have no doubt learnt by the letters of the Rev Fr Law and those of the fathers at Gubuluwayo and at Tati our arrival at Mzila's kraal and also all the incidents of our journey…but before I describe this long journey of three months' duration, I hasten to announce the melancholy news of the death of our dear Father Superior, the Rev Fr Law, who died a holy death at Mzila's kraal on the 25 November 1880.

It is but just eight days ago, on the 11 January when his companion Brother Hedley arrived here that I myself learnt all the details of this painful event. After the death of Fr Law Brother Hedley begged of the king Mzila that he might be conducted to join me at the waggon which we had to abandon on the 9 August 1880. The king not only granted his request but showed him great kindness. Brother Hedley was himself so ill and so utterly weakened that he could not walk a single step, nor even move himself upon his wretched pallet. Mzila had him carried on a sort of hand barrow made of bamboo sticks by sixteen of his Kaffirs, relays of whom relieved each other and sang the whole of the way. This painfully tiring journey lasted more than three weeks. Brother Hedley left the king's kraal on the 17th of December 1880 and reached this on the 11th of January. The poor brother was in a most miserable state and was a most pitiable sight. Father Wehl (since dead—Ed.) informed by the blacks of his approach went forward six days' journey on foot to meet him, whilst I remained to guard our restored waggon.

When I first beheld him, I burst into tears—so dreadful was his appearance, in my whole life I never saw any sick person in so wretched a condition; his whole body was covered with tumours and ulcers and the wounds filled with vermin…He appeared stupefied by the excess of his sufferings both physical and mental. During the three months of September, October and November that he had passed at the kraal with Fr Law, he constantly was laid up with fever; he could scarcely take any food and the box that had contained medicines was exhausted. It is truly wonderful that he did not succumb as Fr Law did. He must have an iron constitution.

For five months he had not changed his clothes, which were all in shreds and tatters. The moment he reached our waggon, I set about doing all I could to alleviate his state. I laid him out on our coverlids, I washed him from head to foot. I dressed his sores with oil and balsam and dressed him in clean linen and new clothes. The good brother appeared to gain strength and at the end of a few days became much better and now he is in a fair way of perfect recovery. As soon as his strength enabled him to answer our questions, we made the minutest inquiries respecting the last moments of Fr Law and I now send you the particulars of his statements.

Almost immediately upon our arrival at Mzila's kraal, after our terrible journey on foot of twenty-one days, both Father Law and Brother Hedley became very seriously ill which was the reason why they could not accompany me on the 5th of September, in search of the lost waggon with the armed escort which

(the king) Mzila had given us for that object. They continued therefore to live in the hut which Mzila had given to them near his kraal. But this Kaffir hut was very small, ill constructed, exposed to the burning rays of the tropical sun and admitting in many places the torrents of rain which fell at this season. To complete their great discomfort the two Matabeles (guides) whom Lobengula had given to attend them lived in the same

hut, so that altogether they were four in number, suffocating in an infected and burning atmosphere and constantly subject to the visits of the friends of the two Matabeles. At the same time the position of our missionaries got worse and worse. Their only food was Kaffir corn diluted with dirty water. The meat which Mzila had in the first instance given them was cooked without any salt and after a very short time they had no meat at all to eat. Add to this, that the country was marshy and unhealthy. The greater number of the Matabeles sent to Mzila with Lobengula's two ambassadors, Intabaeze and Amakako, were prostrated by fever and one of the Matabeles died.

Till the middle of October, Father Law was able to say Mass, but from the 20th of that month his strength utterly failed him and for several weeks he was between life and death. Dysentery took a most dangerous form and his fever, which had been intermittent, now never left him. Then at last there were clear symptoms of yellow fever and after that, there existed no hope of his recovery. During the last six days Father Law was almost always delirious with very few moments of consciousness. Brother Hedley rendered him all the services in his power but he was himself laid low by fever and in the weakest state possible. What a dreadful state was that in which our two poor missionaries found themselves! Surrounded by savages, destitute of all help from Europeans, the one dying, the other most dangerously ill! Ah! What rewards should they reap both for themselves and for our dear mission! At last Father Law breathed his last on the evening of the 25 of November after a long and painful agony of several days duration!

This dreadful blow quite prostrated Brother Hedley, who was now left alone and himself in a pitiable state from illness. He was so completely without physical power that after the death of his dear Superior, his limbs were useless to him and he was unhappily forced to confide to kaffirs the burial of Father Law.

The end of the Jesuit’s journey to Mzila’s kraal

Br de Sadeleer recovered their abandoned wagon with the help of Mzila’s men and at the same time was united with the Fr Wehl who was rescued from Guda’s kraal where the chief was plotting to kill him by a trader / gold prospector named Robert Roxby who took him to Sebombom’s kraal and then to the wagon. By January 1881 they were all back at Mzila’s where they were forced to stay until the rains had finished. Br de Sadeleer and Fr Wehl then walked through to Sofala where they were welcomed and well treated by the resident Portuguese community. Unfortunately Fr Wehl died of complications of fever and exhaustion on 12 May 1881 and Br de Sadeleer accomplished the return journey to Mzila’s with the wagon, some trade goods and supplies. He and Br Hedley then left the Gaza kingdom and made their way back to Gubulawayo that was reached on 1 October 1881.

Appendix 1 - The Shangaans under Chief Mzila

The Shangaan tribe came into existence during the Mfecane / Difaquan (Upheaval / Crushing) period of upheaval between 1815 - 1840 after King Shaka sent his Zulu general Shosangane (Manukosi) to overcome the Tsonga people in present-day southern Mozambique and Shosangane elected to stay rather than return to Zululand. As a result the Shangaan today are a mixture of Nguni including Swazi, Zulu and Xhosa tribes and Tsonga speakers including Ronga, Ndawu, Shona, Chopi tribes but generally Nguni customs such as the Zulu military system were adopted.

Shoshangane’s army overran the Portuguese coastal settlements at Delagoa Bay and Inhambane and Sena on the Zambesi river and these victories formed the basis for Shoshangane’s Gaza kingdom. Geographically it included present-day south eastern Zimbabwe and extended from the Save river down to the southern part of Mozambique, covering parts of the current provinces of Sofala, Manica, Inhambane, Gaza and Maputo as well adjacent areas of South Africa.

In 1828 King Shaka sent an army under the command of Dingane and Mhlangana to overthrow Shosangane, but it suffered greatly from hunger and malaria and they were driven off by Shosangane.  In 1856 when Shosangane died, his sons Mzila and Mawewe fought over the succession. Initially Mzila and his followers fled from Mawewe to the Soutpansberg Mountains of the Transvaal. In 1862 Mzila with support from João Albasini, the Portuguese Vice-Consul to the Zuid Afrikaansche Republiek (ZAR) and based at Louis Trichardt (present-day Makhado) and traders at Lourenço Marques returned to Mozambique and defeated Mawewe who fled to Swaziland.

In 1895 Mzila’s son Ngungunyana, who succeeded him, was defeated by the Portuguese which caused the fall of the Gaza kingdom.

Appendix 2 – Harry Grant attempts to rescue Fr Law’s party

Harry Grant the trader resident at Gubulawayo 1870-1863 heard of the plight of the party and on 5 November 1880 left Gubulawayo to try and rescue them. He quickly reached the Sabi (Save) river using carriers but was unable to cross because it was in flood and he was forced to return in January 1881.[xxxii]

This article could have been included under Bulawayo, Matabeleland North or South, Midlands, Mashonaland East or Manicaland. I have chosen to put it in the last province as chief Mzila was situated east of the Save river in present-day Manicaland.

Appendix 3 – the location of Mzila’s kraal

The Carte de la Mission Zambeze map puts Mzila’s kraal on the eastern bank of the Save river about two-thirds of the distance between Sebombom’s kraal (to the east of the Hwedza Range) and the Save’s confluence with the Lundi (present-day Runde – the map does show the Tokwe river meeting the Runde) Clearly however using an 1882 map is fraught with difficulties.

Fr Law gives his last position on 8 August as 19° 6´ 28"S  32° 23´ 12"E. This maybe because his father no longer copied the positions from the diary into his Memoir. Clearly however Law would have known how to use a sextant having been a mate in the Royal Navy. The above position is 43 km south of Hwedza Mountain, but 44 km east of the Save river - possibly his timepiece was no longer accurate.

Rather I have used the distances recorded in the diary as a guide from 1-4 August when they were at Amalanga’s kraal to the 31 August 1880 when they reached Mzila’s kraal. I have no idea how Fr Law calculated his distances, although presumably he used time taken and took the difficulties of the terrain, time at halts, etc, all into consideration.  

From their stay at Amalanga’s kraal in the south-east foothills of the Hwedza Range (1-4 August) to their arrival at chief Mzila’s on 31 August his diary records a distance travelled of 166 miles or 265 km. They crossed the Sabi river twice - on 12 August to the west bank and on the 19 August back to the east bank. There were days when no travel is recorded at all – when Fr Wehl disappeared and when they waited at kraals along the way. On 9 August, soon after Fr Wehl disappeared; at the time they believed he may have been murdered, they abandoned the wagon.  

This very rough approximation takes their journey below Birchenough Bridge and below Rupisi Hot Springs to just north of Chisumbanje at 20°41´21"S  32°17´58"E where the calculated position for Mzila’s kraal is just 20 km west of the present-day international border with Mozambique.



R.S. Burrett. The Zambesi Mission: The First Steps. The Second Jesuit attempt at Roman Catholic Evangelisation in South Central Africa. Heritage of Zimbabwe Publication No 21, 2002, P37-71

Rev W.T. Law. A Memoir of the Life and Death of Rev Father Augustus Henry Law S.J. Burns and Oates, London 1883

Translated by Moira Lloyd. Diaries of the Jesuit Missionaries at Bulawayo 1879-1881. Publication No 4 of the Rhodesiana Society 1959

Translated by Moira Lloyd, Introduced, edited and annotated by Professor R.S. Roberts. Journey to Gubuluwayo: letters of Frs. H. Depelchin and C. Croonenberghs, S.J. 1879,1880,1881. Books of Rhodesia Silver Series Vol 24, Bulawayo 1979

Augustus Law S.J. Notes in Remembrance Part I. The Irish Monthly Vol 14, No 154 (April 1886) P185-191

Augustus Law S.J. Notes in Remembrance Part II. The Irish Monthly Vol 14, No 155 (May 1886) P277-284

Augustus Law S.J. Notes in Remembrance Part III. The Irish Monthly Vol 14, No 156 (June 1886) P319-328

E.C. Tabler. Pioneers of Rhodesia. C. Struik (Pty) Ltd Cape Town 1966


Carte de la Mission Zambeze originally in Publication des Precis Historiques, 1882 and published inside the back cover of Gubulawayo: letters of Frs. H. Depelchin and C. Croonenberghs, S.J. 1879,1880,1881



[i] Diaries of the Jesuit Missionaries – Who was Who in the Diaries of 1979/1881

[ii] Pioneers of Rhodesia, P90

[iii] Notes in Remembrance Part I, P187

[iv] This was the last voyage of HMS Carysfort. She was decommissioned in 1847 and finally broken up in 1861.

[v] Ibid, P190

[vi] HMS Amazon was a 46-gun frigate launched in 1821. She was converted to carry 24 guns in 1844 and sold in 1863.

[vii] Notes in Remembrance Part II, P283

[viii] Ibid, P284

[ix] The English College, Lisbon was a Roman Catholic seminary that existed from the 17th century to the 20th century for English students wishing to study for the Catholic priesthood

[x] Notes in Remembrance Part III, P320

[xi] Ibid, P321

[xii] A Memoir, P63

[xiii] Notes in Remembrance Part III, P323

[xiv] Ibid, P326

[xv] A Memoir, P94


[xvii] The Zambezi Mission article P41 states they were named after the first four Jesuit Saints; Ignatius Loyola, Peter Claver, John de Britto and Francis Xavier

[xviii] A Memoir, P131

[xix] Mzila, son of Shosangane, had become chief of the Shangaans in 1862 and the newly established Gaza kingdom that included south-eastern Zimbabwe, where he had his capital

[xx] They met Lobengula at the royal kraal of Ishoshani or the White-Rocks. James Fairbairn translated for them.

[xxi] Law spells the chief as Umzila although I have changed to Mzila throughout

[xxii] The Shangaans – sworn enemies of the amaNdebele, see Appendix 1

[xxiii] The farm was a large piece of land leased from Harry Grant, a trader and was south of the mission towards the Matobo.

[xxiv] H. Greite, a Bulawayo trader, sold his two stone houses, a corrugated iron storehouse and stables to the Jesuits for £500 – a overly generous price and left Gubulawayo on 28 February 1880. The property was named by the Jesuits the Mission of the Sacred Heart. It never really took off as a venture and suffered severely when Lobengula relocated to the site of the present State House, finally closing in 1887

[xxv] Lobengula’s royal wagon had its tent overhauled by Br Hedley and was painted by Fr Croonenberghs with a coat of arms consisting of an assegai and battle-axe beneath a crown set between the letters L and M signifying Lobengula and his father Mzilikazi.  

[xxvi] The dog Prince may be in this article’s photo of Fr A. Law at his feet

[xxvii] Adansonia digitata, the African baobab

[xxviii] George Phillips, the trader and trusted friend of both Mzilikazi and Lobengula. The rumour was untrue as he lived in Matabeleland for about 25 years and died at sea in 1896 sailing from England to Cape Town.

[xxix] Sorghum and Finger millet

[xxx] i.e. winter months April – October, when it is dry and the rivers are low

[xxxi] A Memoir, P197

[xxxii] Tabler, P62

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