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Under Moshoeshoe's rule
Moshoeshoe was born at Menkhoaneng village in the vicinity of Botha-Bothe in the North of Lesotho. His father, Mokhachane was the leader of a small junior branch of the Bakoena tribe. He himself was subordinate of Mpiti, Chief of Sekake who was his kinsman. Moshoeshoe was born roughly in 1786, but since the Basotho did not keep strict account of their age so the date is approximate.
What made Moshoeshoe a great man was his sagacity and his diplomacy. He quickly grasped the situation during the Lifaqane wars and took advantage of the mayhem to build the Basotho Nation.
Moshoeshoe chose Thaba-Bosiu because it was a stronger natural fortress than Butha-Buthe that the Basotho had occupied. It was also on the left bank of the Caledon River and consequently less open to invaders from Natal.
Thaba-Bosiu is flat-topped and is situated in the valley of the Phuthiatsana River. It is about fifteen miles east of the junction of this river with Mohakare or Caledon that divides Lesotho from the Free State. It rises about 350 ft. from the surrounding valley. A belt of perpendicular cliffs some 40 ft. high on average surrounds its summit.
The summit has an area of about 4 square miles. To get to the summit, one has to ascend one of the six passes:
The name of Thaba Bosiu means the "Mountain of the Night". It was in July, 1824 when Moshoeshoe and his people took occupation of the mountain which his brother Mohale had reconnoitred.
Moshoeshoe named Thaba Bosiu - Mountain at Night - because he and his people
arrived there in the evening. Preparing the defences lasted long into the night.
Many years later a lie was spread among enemies that the mountain grew larger
than usual at night.
On the 28th June 1833, three French Protestant Missionaries - Eugene Cassalis, Thomas Arbouset and Constant Gosselin - arrived at Thaba Bosiu at the invitation of King Moshoeshoe. In 1838, they completed building a mission house and a chapel. Cassalis, who was stationed at Thaba Bosiu, took take charge of the mission. King Moshoeshoe has a fruitful mutual relationship with the missionaries. Cassalis practically became the King's secretary and acted as interpreter in all dealings with white people.
By 1840, the Paris Evangelical Mission Society had nine stations in Moshoeshoe's country in which they taught religion and literacy. As a result, Lesotho today has the highest literacy rate in Africa. The missionaries also introduced new crop plants such as wheat and peaches that have become important in the country's agriculture.
There is very little trace of Moshoeshoe's first village remaining. By 1939 he had already begun to build rectangular stone houses after the European style. In 1837 ex-private David F. Webber, a deserter from the 72nd Seaforth Highlanders, eventually reached Thaba Bosiu, where he was given a shelter and in 1841 Moshoeshoe obtained a pardon for him from the Army authorities. Webber was a good mason and carpenter and in 1839 he commenced to build a rectangular stone house for Moshoeshoe. It was in European style and the Chief had intimated that he had only provided accommodation in it for one wife. There is no record of the builder who assisted Webber, but there is the name R. Murphie and the date 1839 engraved on a nearby rock face. This is well cut by a person accustomed to using stone-dressing tools and it is very possible that Murphie co-operated with Webber in the capacity of stone dresser.
This house was situated very near the top of the Khubelu Pass, just beyond and to the right of the main entrance to the settlement. Three stones mark the entrance, although in the time of Moshoeshoe there were only two sets 15 ft. apart. Here visitors were required to halt and wait until their arrival was announced to Moshoeshoe and permission was granted for them to proceed. It was also custom for each visitor, as a mark of respect to the chief, to add a stone to a pile on the left hand side of the entrance and the broken remnants of this cairn still remain.
Ntlama or Mothunts’ana, a relative of Moshoeshoe, built the house whose walls still remain. It was built much later. It consisted of a bedroom and a sitting room and a door made of wood. The windows were large and had glass panes. The King lived in this house though he continued to sleep in his traditional hut. He kept furniture and various untensils in this rectangular thatched house, including a set of teacups from the Maison des Missions in Paris. He also kept his blue military suit, green military jacket and trousers and other European clothes.