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Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Livingstone - old drifters and more

From An Historical Guide to Livingstone Town (and Victoria Falls Town)

by Kristin Ese (Livingstone Tourism Association, 1996)

This post has been expanded with further names from a second book by Kristin Ese (see lower down).

About the Old Drift

" The death rate was extraordinarily high. If they did not die from malaria they succumbed to blackwater fever or were mauled by lions or crocodiles... There were one or two chemists, but hardly a doctor to consult, though in 1903 a nurse came up from Bulawayo. The doctor died from blackwater fever some months later, and the nurse returned to Bulawayo."

The following names turn up in this slim book which gives you a guided tour of some of the buldings in Livingstone town. See lower down for extras from a second book by Kristin Ese.

CANNON & BRADSHAW from Bulawayo erected a shop in 1910.

Frederick .J.Clarke was given the name Mopane by Lobengula, the Matabele king, because he was tall and straight as a Mopane tree, and his heart as hard as the Mopane wood. He was the first white to settle at the Old Drift where he started a self-named business in 1898.

Clarke erected Nanoo's Cash and Carry in 1909 and the family carried on the business until 1950.

F.J.Clarke was a prominent man in town and had several properties and farms. He played an important part in both the social and political life in town.

Susman Brothers & Davis Butchery, Tel Address "Davis, Livingstone".
The Pioneer Butchery. Bakers and Livestock Dealers. Empire Street & Cold Storage Depot.
(Nice photo)

Robert Davidson was the first mayor in town 1928-29, he was an old drifter and worked for Mopane Clarke for many years.

Bimsinh Jiwa Devalia ran a shop in 1945, fought for social and political justice and was among the first to open (his shop and his Britannia restaurant) to Africans.

Worked on Dimitra Saw Mill 1915/16?

Marcus Grill, one of the Jewish pioneers, had a shop in the building on the corner of Akapelwa Street and Kuta Way.

Solomon Grill established the first cinema in Queensway in 1919. In 1921 he moved to Mainway (Rama and Bukhan today).

The Livingstone Mail reported of the large family:

" one sister sold tickets, another took them, a third played the piano. Mr Grill senior looked after the motor. Mr Solly worked the projector and the rest of the family made quite respectable audience...".

In 1922 Solomon Grill's father erected Grill's Kinema with an indoor stage, a bar, lounge and a dancing hall.

Ten years later Solly Grill and his sister Gertrude MERBER erected Capitol Theatre...

The Grills also established one of the first modern garages in town in 1919, the Livingstone Motor Works.

St.Andrew's Church's (1910) architect was C. Hazard... the first government architect.

R.Murray Hughes (The Livingstone Journal) recalls (of the railway reserve)

"I don't know exactly where the railway person fitted into the social framework of Livingstone. One never saw them except at the station or on a train... [or at] the hospital to be treated for malaria"

John Hunt Way is named in memory of John Hunt who was a European curio trader. He was among the few Europeans in Livingstone who supported the struggle for independence, but died before the first African coalition Government in 1962-64.

In 1972 one of the last Jews to move from town, Nickie Iljon, dispatched the torah from the Synagogue to Lusaka. 'His name is still on the hardware store in Mutelo Street (Codrington Street).'

Started Dimitra Saw Mill with Trombas in 1911.

Announced the opening of their store in 1907.

Reverend Louis Jalla was in charge of the Paris Mission church at the Old Drift in 1911. The Paris Mission was the first in the area, followed by the UMCA from 1910.

(The mission was pioneered by Revd Francois Coillard in 1899; Coillard was later buried at Sefula with his wife.)

Worked on Dimitra Saw Mill 1915/16?

Ran the Livingstone cafe opposite the Livingstone Hotel in 1906 [my reading of the text]

Freddie Mills, one of the pioneers from the Old Drift, started a makeshift bar for railway workers, eventually becoming the Livingstone Hotel in 1906. He also built the North Western Hotel. He also erected the building on the corner of Akapelwa Street and Kuta Way.

In 1906 Leopold F. Moore organised a subscription library through the Livingstone Mail and in 1911 a Library Committee was formed to collect funds for a [library] building.

He also ran L.F.Moore's Chemist shop. Outside his shop he used to arrange gramophone concerts with the newest records from England.

He was a "vociferous opponent to the administration" through the Livingstone Mail newspaper.

Moore was knighted in 1937 and died in 1947.

Mr Pauling was the railway contractor.

'In 1906 Miss Powell started an infant school in a small room in a shop in Chimwemwe Way (Fairway). In 1908 the Government decided to support a primary school. By 1910 there were only 18 pupils - parents still choosing to send their children south to boarding schools.'  A report in 1910 concluded that the school had low discipline and that the children were below average in skills and intelligence.

Miss Stow was a matron at the Livingstone Hospital from around 1909-1915.

The Golf Club was informally opened in May 1908. Mrs Selby (the magistrate's wife) provided tea and refreshments.

George Smith ran a shop later taken over by the Susman brothers (& Davis Butchery).

He drowned in the Maramba river in 1909.

Stanley House (1928) housed the bank for many years and was also the elegant store of Harry Sossen, another of the wealthy Jewish families.

Harry and Eli Susman 'came from a small village in Lithuania, emigrated in their early teens and landed in Cape Town in 1880. They crossed the Zambezi at Kazangula in 1901. By 1906 they were established in Nalolo and Sesheke.'

Livingstone Museum - the clock was a gift from the Susman brothers in memory of their arrival in Northern Rhodesia in 1901. Harry and Eli Susman were among the first Europeans to cross the Zambezi...

The foundation stone of the Jewish Synagogue was laid by Eli Susman in 1928.

William Trayner, a ferryman for Mopane Clarke, started the first newspaper in January 1906, "Trayners Rag" and partnered L.F.Moore in starting his own newspaper in March of that year.

Started Dimitra Saw Mill with Jacobs in 1911. The saw mills supplied wooden sleepers to the railways.

J.W.B White said of the railway reserve

" the most extraordinary collection of cosmopolitan toughs I have encountered anywhere".

Together with Susman family formed Susman Brothers & Wulfson in 1947.

From "An Historical Guide to Livingstone and Victoria Falls Town" (1996, republished 2010)

(Directory Publishers, Bulawayo)

This similarly slim volume (44 pages) adds some further history of Livingstone town, including a nice summary of David Livingstone's journeys in the area. There is a little additional information on sites of interest in Victoria Falls town, in present day Zimbabwe. There are some different photos, and places mentioned, though many descriptions are the same as those in the volume described above.  Amongst the photos is a group shot of white staff at Zambesi Saw Mills in the 1920s and people attending the Regatta in 1905.

Here are some extra names in this book. In addition, there may be further mentions of names mentioned above.

BERRINGER, Otto L., Chief Surveyor of Livingstone until 1920 (item 2 in tour of town is his house)

CHAPMAN, Nurse who came up from Bulawayo in 1903, but returned

CLARK, Percy M. - photographer, 1905, photo of his shop

CLARK, Victor, son of Percy, took over his father's business

COILLARD, Francis -  Memorial Church. Coillard d.1904 and is buried at Sefula Mission Station.

COISSON Mission station (photo)

HARRINGTON, Arthur (1930s) 'a character of notable reputation', known for shooting at the screen during cinema shows (mentioned in a book by W.V. Brelsford, 'Generation of Men')

HINE, Bishop of Northern Rhodesia, 1910  'I stirred up a wave of opposition by having a native Christian vested in cassock and surplice to carry my books at the Livingstone Centenary Commemoration Service'. He left in 1914

KERR, attacked by lions while looking after SUSMAN's cattle, 1914, Livingstone Mail

MILLS, Freddie - photo of gravestone in Livingstone Cemetery

MILLS, Enos Walter (brother of Freddie) bought Fairmount Hotel in 1928. 

MOHR, Eduard (mention of his book 'To the Victoria Falls of the Zambesi', 1876)

MOOREHEAD, Alan - mention of his book 'No Room in the Ark', 1957

SATARAS - 'the Greek has been killed and eaten by lions' - 1914, Livingstone Mail

SMITH, John - description of sundowner ritual; veterinarian; was in hospital at the end of 1914

SOPER, Jack - photo with crocodile catch, mention of curio shop

WILSON, Lady Sara - visited in 1903

WILSON, J.N. - Doctor came in 1903, died a few months later. (This sounds like a quote from another book I've commented on before.) 


  1. Sir Leopold Moore married ? Kirschbaum, my great Aunt. What was her first name and did they have any children? Bill Williams(bill@waa.co.za)

  2. Annoyingly, most older books don't give first names, for women (especially), they are usually Mrs whoever - but someone else may know!

  3. Later she was Lady Moore, I guess. A little search turned up this pdf (no first name), which also mentions Moore and Stephenson - looks like interesting reading


    and there appears to be much more reading to be done on that site.



  4. A descendant of Trombas writes the following:

    "I know that our family was the first to bring in a Trackor to Rhodesia in the 1900s, and that my grandfather was the first to open a GM Garage in Kabwe. We also had a farm called Sweet Water in Kabwe, which had a dam on it named Trombas' dam. My Grandfather was the First to start a Dairy Farm in Zambia, he got a loan and build everything, then something happened. he packed up, left the farm and everthing on it and left the country. from there i do not know anything."

    Can anyone tell us more about what happened to the Trombas family?

  5. I think I am related to Robert Davidson. Is there any other information on him, whether he had any family, brothers etc and where he came from ? I think he was my great grandfathers brother.

    1. There is literally the one sentence. (You can see the whole book as a pdf online if you do a search.) I'll see if I can find anything else in other books.


Please leave your comment and I'll get back to you if I can help.