The Cinderella Town

The original Que Que village board offices with Mayor John Austen (born Johan Osterlund) presiding with his wife, Mayoress Li
The original Que Que village board offices with Mayor John Austen (born Johan Osterlund) presiding with his wife, Mayoress Lily Prudence (nee Nolan), at his side in 1934. John MacIntosh the Town Clerk?

The original Que Que village board offices in 1934 withQue’s First Mayor,  John Austen (born Johan Osterlund) presiding flanked by  his wife, Mayoress Lily Prudence (nee Nolan) and  John MacIntosh the Town Clerk

The Cinderella Town

With White occupation of Rhodesia in the 1890’s and the subjugation of the Matebele and Shona after the two rebellions, liberal mining concessions were handed out by Cecil Rhodes’ British South Africa Company to English companies, that could boast capital backing and promise of mining exploration.  The Que Que area, recognized early on as highly mineralized would soon be pegged with two hundred and ninety three claims.

Fort Kwe Kwe, a British South Africa Police Outpost consisting of an officer, a senior NCO, six European troopers and fifteen Africans, was established on the banks of the Que Que River soon after the Pioneer Column entered Fort Salisbury to occupy Mashonaland.   But the promise of the Globe and Phoenix Mine proved the greater attraction.  Would-be inhabitants gravitated to the mine 9 miles away.

Production started at the Globe and Phoenix in 1900.  It was self sufficient providing all the essentials to its workers: housing, club house and even sports facilites besides the mine works and offices.  It was supported by its own farms.  Que Que village was even dependent on the mine for its water supply.  A sanitary board was established in 1904.  But by the end of the decade there were only thirteen residential stands and of the fifty four business stands only twenty had been taken up.  Que Que was a mere appendage to the richest gold mine in the country.

Cinderella Town

John Austen, actually Finnish, had a walrus mustache and made a commanding presence.  He arrived in Que Que in 1894.  In time he bought up all of Second Street, pegged various gold claims and acquired the vast estates in the surrounding area he named Woodlands, Matchabel and Apsdale, as well as a one third partnership in the property that became the Rhodesian Iron and Steel Company at nearby Redcliff.

Que Que’s municipal area was throttled: hemmed in by mines on three sides and the railway on the forth.   It was the exception, the Cinderella of all the municipalities of Rhodesia which were blessed with generous commonage open to development.  Nobody thought it would ever amount to anything.

John’s inveigling finally won Que Que municipal status in 1934 even though the village measured barely half a mile wide east/west and less than one mile north/south.  Naturally, he became its first mayor. The Globe and Phoenix Mine gifted a solid gold mayoral chain with Que Que’s coat of arms. It was the grandest in the land.  The old wood and iron shanty Management Board Office on Second Street was replaced with a brick Town House whilst the attendant tin shacks housing the Municipal Offices lived on.  So many histrionics and so much shenanigans went on there it was only fitting that the Town House was destined in time to morph into Reps. Theatre.

Photo credit: Austen Clan Facebook page (double click on image to enlarge). If anyone can identify the other councilors assembled we’d love to hear from you.