Who Is Gobo Fango, An Enslaved Boy From Southern Africa?


Gobo Fango was thought to have been adopted by a loving white family. That couldn’t be further from the truth; Fango’s story is one of slavery.

Gobo Fango belonged to the Gcaleka tribe, a sub-tribe of the Xhosa people. Fango was born in 1855 in the Eastern Cape Colony of what is now South Africa, right before the Xhosa Wars began.

The battles brought hardship to the Xhosa people, forcing his mother to abandon him when he was three years old. She abandoned him in the crotch of a tree, where he was later discovered by the sons of English-speaking settlers on the Cape Frontier, Henry and Ruth Talbot.

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He was claimed by the Talbots and raised as an indentured servant. Latter-day Saint (LDS) missionaries baptized the Talbot family two years later, in 1857. Soon after, the Talbots sold their goods and prepared to relocate to Utah Territory. They boarded the ship Race Horse on February 20, 1861, heading for Boston, Massachusetts, and then took a train to Chicago, Illinois.

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Arriving in Chicago on the eve of the Civil War, abolitionists accused the Talbots of transporting a slave across the free states, forcing them to conceal the six-year-old beneath the skirts of a passenger until the search was completed.

The Talbots resumed their trek, passing through Iowa and Nebraska before arriving in Utah. On September 13, 1861, they arrived in Salt Lake City. Fango, now a teenager, worked as a farm hand for the Talbots. Fango experienced frostbite and lost toes as a result of the cold weather and lack of adequate shoes, leaving him to walk with a limp.


Despite knowing that Fango had been free since he was seven years old (the United States Congress had abolished slavery and indentured servitude in all United States territories), the Talbots sold him to the Lewis Whitesides family. He was sold to Ruth Whitesides Hunter again and taken to Grantsville, where he assisted the family with sheep herding.

Fango had arrived in Idaho Territory’s Goose Creek Valley by the early 1880s. He was free of all commitments to others by this stage and ran his own sheep herding ranch. Even at this late stage of his life, Fango was unable to live in peace. Fango became involved in the long-standing regional rivalry between cattlemen and sheep herders when cattlemen in Goose Creek issued an edict demanding the removal of all sheepmen from the valley in 1886.

Cowman Frank Bedke accused Fango of trespassing on cattle grazing land, but when Fango demanded proof of Bedke’s ownership of the land, Bedke refused. Bedke retaliated by shooting Fango.

Despite being mortally wounded, Fango was able to crawl to a nearby farmhouse and dictate his will, leaving money to several members of the Hunter family, the Salt Lake LDS Temple Fund, and people in need.

Bedke was charged with murder, but the jury was unable to reach a unanimous decision. In a retrial, the jury determined that Bedke killed Gobo Fango in self-defense, and he was acquitted. Fango died when he was 30 years old.


Written by How Africa News

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