Heinrich Schroeder [+ 6th June 1883]
The life and death of Rev. Heinrich Schroder on the mission station at Tshoba-Hlobane, 1882-1883.
In Natalia no. 13 last year (p. 101) we noted the visit of Mrs H. Schiitte to an almost forgotten grave. Our Dundee correspondent, Mrs Sheila Henderson, provides further information about Mrs Schiitte and the last days of the missionary whose life she has been studying.
"Eighty-year-old Mrs Hedwig Schutte of Dundee is the authoress of eight remarkable and rare books which record the genealogy, life and works of the great founders of the Hermannsburg missions in Northern Natal and their many descendants. the Klingenbergs, Dedekinds. Schroeders, Muliers and others. With the permission of the Hermannsburg Lutheran Mission Society she has sought out from its Archives, and translated into English, the diary, letters and reports relating to the murder of Rev. Heinrich Schr()der at Tshoba on 6th June 1883.•
They present a vivid picture of the unruly times in a Zululand, torn apart by the civil war between Cetshwayo and Hamu, and of the perseverance and faithfulness of the young German pastor.
Heinrich Schroder had arrived in Zululand in 1880. Attached to the Rev. Mr Volker at Ekulengeni Mission, he worked with great diligence to restore the buildings, burnt out during the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879. Timber for roofing was needed and they set off for Hlobane Mountain with a wagon and their axes on Tuesday 16th August 1880 -Rev. Mr Volker, his son Johannes and the energetic young Schroder. On Friday morning they started working in the bush, where they had to stand in water, chopping and sawing amongst wet branches, bushes and creepers. Their clothes were soaked through. Thorns tore their clothing and ripped their hands and faces. The second trip was an epic adventure. Days of rain turned to a howling blizzard and the missionaries and their workers spent a dismal night imprisoned under their wagon, chilled to the marrow, wet through and terrified by the cracks and crashings of trees breaking under the weight of snow. Another day of cold rain drove them out to find shelter in a Zulu kraal, where in the warmth of a hut they lay down and slept. On the Sunday morning they began the search for their oxen, tramping through 18 inches of melting snow.
At a distance they saw two oxen grazing in the snow, but hope faded when they saw how the poor animals trembled and how thin they were. Fifty paces on another terrible sight met their eyes. Twelve oxen lay huddled together, dead from cold and want.
So, half dead from cold and want themselves, they had no choice but to tramp back to the Mission. Schroder's boots began to disintegrate on the descent of the mountain. At the Black Umfolozi the river was flowing breast high, 30-40 feet wide. Stripping and commending themselves to God, they attempted the crossing. In midstream, Schroder almost lost his footing but eventually struggled through. Grateful for nothing worse than wet clothes and a streaming cold, the young missionary tramped on for another 11/2 hours, to reach the mission at dusk.
Such were the physical hardships which the early missionaries faced with undaunted faith. Having learnt Zulu in his spare time, young Schroder by August 1882 felt prepared to launch his own mission and undertook the task of establishing it beside the Tshoba stream beneath Hlobane Mountain.
Schroder was to spend some nine months on his station, energetically developing an irrigated garden and orchard, building a small cottage, a stable, a cowshed, a pig sty and a fowl house, encouraged through times of want, loneliness and danger by the thought of his fiancee Isa Elise Liitkemiiller, who was to take ship in May to join and marry him. By lamplight in the lonely evenings, he fashioned a sewing table and a footstool for her and a writing table for himself.
On 13th May 1883 he wrote to the Missionary Society in Germany: 'For ten weeks I have been sitting here all alone and have no human soul with me, since all my Zulu workers have disappeared and also all the other heathens have fled, as there is again war all over Zululand, also here around us. Some tribes want Cetshwayo back as King, others follow his brother Hamu, who is opposing him, and the worst was that each tribe thought I was siding with the opposing tribe. In the beginning they all were very hostile to me, but nowadays I am told by both parties that I may live quietly, they won't molest me. They have stolen many of my possessions or begged for them most aggressively and if I did not give the desired things to them, they threatened to take them all. When I work out the value of what they took, I find it worth 100 Taler at least.
That the Lord still gives me so much courage, must be because so many are praying so faithfully and sincerely for me. That I also ask of you, for I badly need your prayers of intercession. My life is presently harder than anyone else's, having to start up here in such riotous times.
Besides the heavy work I do myself, I am often in want of feod and clothes. For six whole weeks I had scarcely any meat or fat in the house and lived on coffee and dry mealie bread alone. I asked God to let me please have a little meat for Pentecost, and what do you think? On Thursday two wild peacocks settled at about 300 paces from the house. I thought probably God has sent them: I aimed and killed one of them. Oh how pleased I was -like a king! I knelt down and thanked God for this. The bird weighed 13 lbs and was so fat that I could scoop off a lot of fat for later use. Nearly every time, when I had had no meat for a long time, God provided for me.' Stolidly enduring such privations, cheered by the knowledge that his fiancee's ship was due to dock any day in Durban, on the evening of 6th June 1883 Rev. Heinrich Schroder sat at his table reading his Bible. A band of Abaquluzi, led by the 'terror of the region' Mapela, burst in at the door. They stabbed the missionary repeatedly and mutilated the body. Then they ransacked the cottage and looted his poor possessions, but the bloodstained Bible remained where it had fallen. Two days later, alerted by Zulus, Rev. Friedrich Wilhelm Weber [Fritz], Schroder's supervisor, hurried over from Enyati Mission and sent an account of the scene to the Society.
'I saw him again yesterday. The terrible thing had happened, but he had triumphed. His dead body presented a terrible sight, but his features were peaceful and not distorted. He had wrestled with the cruel enemy like a hero. Now he can rejoice in heaven, arrayed in heavenly glory.'
Weber hastily knocked together a wooden box and buried him beside the cottage, laying a heap of stones on his grave. Fifty years later the Hermannsburg Lutheran Mission Society marked the grave with a cross and protected it with a cement slab and wrought-iron railings.
The face of the cross bears the words:
HIER RUHT IN GOTT
MISSIONAR H. SCHROEDER
GEB. DEN 1 OKTOBER 1850 IN REINSTORF
GEST. DEN 6 JUNI 1883 AUF EHLOBANE - ZULULAND
DU HAST MICH ERLOST HERR DU TREUER GOTT Ps. 31.6
On the reverse is the same inscription in Zulu but the scripture reads:
KUTAZELA UZE UFE NGOKUNlKA UMOELE WOKUPILA
Schroder's diary runs from Wednesday 16th August 1882 to Friday 27th April 1883. It is a moving record of privation, loneliness, toil, tribulation and unflinching faith. It has a history of its own.