Early white settlers from Britain in Trans-Nzoia

Early white settlers from Britain in Trans-Nzoia

  Early White Settlers from Britain in Trans-Nzoia   Mrs Gladys Hoey reached the plateau in 1913, arriving with her father in an ox wagon. Her future husband, Cecil, later a breeder of racehorses, had reached the Nzoia river in 1904 when on a hunting expedition. He felled trees to make a river crossing – known thereafter as Hoey’s Bridge (now Moi’s Bridge). Many Boers from South Africa had also made their farms on the plateau, and it was not until after the First World War that settlers from the British Isles arrived in any number. How did these travellers reach Trans-Nzoia? For the early Boers, it was a hazardous journey. At the beginning of 1907 Frans Arnoldi and others left Nakuru to travel up the western wall of the Rift Valley by ox wagon, and then on to the plateau where they stayed with the van Breda brothers. The journey took two months. The Van Rensburg trek up the western wall of the escarpment began in August 1908. The wagons crossed the Rongai and Molo rivers, traversed the forests and bamboo beyond Eldama Ravine and eventually forded the Sosiani river. Cecil Hoey, camped at Lake Sergoit on a hunting safari, watched the wagons through his binoculars. The Van Rensburg trek rested up on the farm of John de Waal at the end of October 1908. Then the Commissioner of Lands, Colonel J.A.L. Montgomery, and Piet van Breda (in his capacity as a land surveyor), allocated them land on the plateau and each family began farming. There is a good description of the route a few years later, by...
World War I Battlefield Tour – Maktau Cemetery

World War I Battlefield Tour – Maktau Cemetery

World War I Battlefield Tour Taita Taveta August 2014 Part two Maktau Railway Station and Cemetery In August 2014 I travelled with my daughter Malindi and a group of Old Africa readers on a tour of World War I battlefield sites. James Willson acted as our guide. After looking at the Commonwealth Graves Cemetery in Voi on the afternoon of our trip to Taita, we spent the night at Taita Salt Lick Lodge. The next morning we headed on the rough road to Taveta. Our first stop was at the railway station at Maktau. Maktau developed into a large military camp during the first two years of World War I. At the beginning it had to be supplied with water carried on the heads of porters. Eventually a rail line was built all the way to Taveta to carry troops and supplies. The railway station at Maktau continued to serve Taveta until the line ceased operation a number of years ago.  We walked along the rusty rail lines and James Willson stopped several times to examine the imprints on the sides of the rails to show they had been laid back in the time of the Great War.  Our path led us to a well-kept cemetery with a stone monument in the middle with inscriptions in Arabic and some Indian languages. This cemetery had been set aside to honor the fallen troops from India. It didn’t have individual headstones like the cemetery in Voi. We stood and listened as James told us how the war progressed in its early stages and the sacrifice made by troops from India who...
The Founding of Kitale

The Founding of Kitale

There is a map of the Trans Nzoia area in 1908, which showed numerous potential farms delineated by metal beacons stuck in the ground. A survey had been done to encourage white settlers to come to the area. Kitale appeared as a rectangle three miles by two, but in reality there was nothing there – not even one building. The British Government sent out settlers after the First World War in 1919 and they found that what was supposed to be Kitale was just grassland and scattered trees, with not a single hut or person to be seen. One traveller noted: ‘It was impossible to foresee that this small area was destined to become the commercial centre of the 1000 square miles of fertile land. As I moved westwards two huge lions passed me, for this was lion country where game abounded. Kongoni, reedbuck, oribi, topi and waterbuck were plentiful, and leopard well in evidence in the forested areas, their victims wild pig and monkeys.’ In reality the Trans Nzoia district was not a popular area. It had a reputation as the home of malaria and blackwater fever and it was removed from civilisation, because the nearest railhead was at Londiani over 100 miles away and the nearest bank was at Eldoret 45 miles away. But gradually convoys of ox wagons carrying furniture and tools travelled from Londiani and the soldier-settlers sent from England after the First World War began to occupy and develop the farms. A District Commissioner, Mr Champion, was appointed but as there were no buildings in Kitale he took up residence in what became known...