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G. W. Cross

George William Cross (1851 - 1920) travelled to South Africa from Britain in 1877 to take up the ministry of the Grahamstown Baptist Church, where he served from 1877 to 1879 and again from 1887 until 1905. He is sometimes referred to as the ‘Baptist Bishop’ of South Africa and was eventually based in Pretoria, initially at the Central Baptist Church, and then at the Hatfield Baptist Church which he founded. During his time in Grahamstown, Cross was a key member of the Eastern Province Literary and Scientific Society. He was also a key leader of the Baptist Union of South Africa, and in his 1889 presidential address called on South African Baptists to address the plight of South Africa’s ‘natives’.

Schreiner’s extant letters to Cross date predominantly from the mid-1890s and centre on her interest in the activities of Rhodes’s Chartered Company in what were then called Matabeleland and Mashonaland, and her efforts to uncover the atrocities they had carried out, in which she enlisted Cross’s help. Cross was living and working in Grahamstown at the time and from the content of Schreiner’s letters it is apparent that he also knew Rebecca Schreiner, although Schreiner explicitly asked him not to discuss her political views with her mother. That Cross was a trusted friend is demonstrated by Schreiner sending him early in 1897 “a rough unrevised proof” of her Trooper Peter Halket of Mashonaland, remarkable given that the book’s release was otherwise shrouded in secrecy to prevent Rhodes from blocking its publication. Schreiner’s letters to Cross are thus mainly concerned with their shared political interests around the ‘native question’, and Schreiner provided Cross with ‘ammunition’ to publically speak to in his capacity as a religious minister, and he also formed part of a wider network of politically active individuals in Schreiner’s orbit, including John T. Lloyd. Cross in turn provided Schreiner with contacts, such as the missionary John Moffat, who could furnish her with ‘insider’ information on the activities of the Chartered Company, and who could perhaps be persuaded to speak out publically on these matters.

For further information see:
S. Hudson-Reed (1987) ‘Cross, George William’ in (ed) C.J. Beyers Dictionary of South African Biography Vol V Pretoria: Human Sciences Research Council, pp. 157 - 158
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