The original settlement of Gatooma, situated in the Midlands of Southern Rhodesia (97 miles from Salisbury and 190 miles from Bulawayo) owes its very existence to the rich gold reefs which were discovered by prospectors and miners in the late 19th/early 20th century and, also partially, to the fact that the site of the future town lay in the direct path of the national railway line linking Bulawayo to Salisbury, which had been laid in place in 1902.
In 1906 an enterprising agent/trader by the name of Godwin built a couple of huts next to the railway line and established a bush canteen and forwarding agency, from where he supplied both prospectors and newly established mines with general provisions and mining supplies. The name “Gatooma” was derived from a range of low lying hills south of the railway line, known as the Kaduma Hills. Business proved brisk, and by 1907 several commercial buildings had sprung up in this flourishing new settlement …
An “embryo” library of sorts was started in 1916 by Mrs. Amelia Fitt, the far sighted wife of businessman George Septimus Fitt, owner of the town’s excellent bookshop, when she proposed to the then Village Management Board that a room in their offices be allotted to serve as a small library. This request was agreed upon, and members of this new library were required to donate ten books in lieu of a year’s subscription. This venture proved to be highly popular, but as could be expected, soon become severely hampered by lack of space, being confined to a single room, and a small one at that.
So begins, Peter Sternberg’s very comprehensive and interesting History of the Gatooma/Kadoma Library. His tale outlines the highs and lows in the 100 year old existence of the Library, initiated after the settlement was only about 11 years old. A well-worth read for those interested in the History of Rhodesia and Zimbabwe.
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