Basutoland 1855 Rolland Letter from Beersheba via Smithfield Ofs


1855 The "Rolland" Missionary Letter written at Beersheba Mission on 21st of March 1855 by Elizabeth Rolland, wife of the Paris Evangelical Missionary, Samuel Rolland, who founded the Beersheba Mission in 1835 sited on the west side of the Caledon River in what was then Basutoland. This important entire (which is a magnificent PALIMPSET letter - written both vertically and horizontally to reduce letter weight - see additional image below) is the subject of the (accompanying) article by Alan Drysdall in the London Philatelist of March 2005. In 1855 the only possible office where this letter could have entered the postal system was Smithfield in the Orange Free State (Smithfield was only 18km from Beersheba Mission). The previously unrecorded circular date stamp simply inscribed "PAID" was to confirm that postage had been paid and that would have been the Orange Free State inland rate of 6d (increased from 4d on 1 January 1855). Although Wittebergen was just across the border, it is not clear whether the Cape inland rate of 6d was also paid. An exhibition showpiece for the connoisseur of both Basutoland and Orange Free State philately. See clickable additional images below.

President Boshof of the Orange Free State declared war on the Basutos in 1835 and as a result the area that included the mission station was annexed to the Orange Free State. Smithfield was the second post office opened in the Orange Free State, opening in 1850.

The letter is addressed to Miss Schreiner care of the Reverend Gottlieb Schreiner, a Swiss Missionary with the London Missionary Society based at Wittebergen. His daughter, Olive Schreiner, born the year the letter was written in Wittenbergen, was to become a well known South African author and a younger brother was to become Prime Minister of the Cape.

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