These were all eight feet high, with shooting apertures. In 1906 JN Malan snr. spent 500 Pounds to rebuild fallen down portions and "point" all the stone joints with cement. This was money well spent, making sure that Rietfontein's historic buildings would be preserved, the cement pointing preventing the mud used as mortar form washing out further from between the layers of stone.
The farm is situated on the clear piece of land in the area, surrounded on all sides by hills and bush. This makes it an ideal place for defence.
The original house was in the traditional "I" shape. With the necessary loopholes and fortified windows, it is obvious the original inmates realised that they lived in dangerous country. These loopholes are still to be seen, as originally constructed, inside and outside in the main bedroom. The front part of the house shows other exterior loopholes, which were opened up in 1974, when some restoration work was done.
According to Capt. Peter Campbells book "Reminiscences of the Frontier Wars", there were approximately 100 troops stationed at Rietfontein. No private owner could have possibly built the extensive outer buildings, or needed all that accommodation. The stables could have housed 40 horses or more.
On August 4th 1835, Mr Muller, from "Rietfontein farm", advertised in the Grahamstown Journal, that ...no traveller may outspan, as oxen would be sent to pound. No other than public road allowed.
On May 30th 1846, during the War of the Axe, Rietfontein on the Koonap, was attacked by 70 or 80 Xhosa's who took 300 sheep. A party of 14 went in pursuit, and killed one stock-thief.
At Rietfontein, near Mildenhalls place, the home of William Ayton, William Curry was murdered on October 8th 1846.
Here are some incidents recorded by Godlonton in his Narrative of (8th) Border War 1850 - 1853.
Last Thursday some men went out to escort George Gilbert in, taking with them three Englishmen who had been engaged to go out to Ayton's to help them defend the place.
They had managed to save three horses, and one of these they left and followed the escort over to Ayton's (about four miles over a long, and in some places, steep ridge, encumbered with thick clumps of bushes). They did not save even a change of clothes. The Aytons followed the same plan. Mrs Ayton packed a few clothes and plates in a box, and then left the place. Their Hottentots had all previously deserted them. They went round by G Gilbert at Nelshoek (Stoneyfields), and joined by his family in the same plight. Nobody could help - weeping to see them come into Fort Beaufort. They had two wagons - one wagon was Ayton's stone truck, full of bedding - some of which was trailing on the ground; and the other full of children, with the women on horseback. It was a dreadfully hot day. Mr Ayton and G Gilbert brought their sheep with them, but a great many dropped on the road. Ayton started with 200 little kids, but only got 20 into Fort Beaufort.
More next week. Our thanks to Danie Malan for sending this very personal snippet of history to us and to Roy Dromgoole for the editing and transcriptions. We have edited some of the words which appear in italics, which were used in normal conversation in the 1800's but today are unacceptable.
Podcast: We chat about the historic Montagu Pass and its predecessor - the Cradock Kloof Pass - near George.
Pass of the Week:
Our featured pass this week takes us deep into the heartland of the Wild Coast and the tiny coastal settlement of Mbotyi where a very steep pass winds its way down to the coast from the escarpment where the largest tea plantation in the southern hemisphere provides access to a series of impressive waterfalls, which include the Magwa Falls and Bluff Waterfall. We filmed this pass just before lockdown in February 2020.
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Words of wisdom: "Sometimes we are tested not to show our weaknesses, but to discover our strengths" - Anonymous