My aim, this morning, is to tell you something of the composition of Natal’s white population prior to 1860, and then to give you instances of the influence of these early Natalians on the rest of South Africa.


The first white settlers were 26 hunter/traders who arrived in 1824 and established themselves around the Bay at Port Natal. Conditions were rough, and nine of them sailed away two months later when the ship which had brought them returned to the Cape.

Before the end of the year a further 11 had left. Of the six remaining, only Henry Francis Fynn and Henry Ogle lived to see Natal as a British colony. Early Cape settlers Other Englishmen drifted into Natal before its annexations by the British in 1843, mostly from the eastern Cape, for example Alexander Biggar and two of his sons, Dick King, G.C. and C.J. Cato, Robert Newton Dunn (father of John Dunn, the Zulu chief), Edmund Morewood (the first person to manufacture sugar here) and John Vanderplank (pioneer of wattle cultivation).

American missionaries

American missionaries were among the early whites in Natal. Dr Newton Adams (after whom Adams College at Amanzimtoti was named), Daniel Lindley (pastor to the Voortrekkers after they had arrived in Pietermaritzburg), and Aldin Grout (who gave his name to Groutville), were three of the original missionaries of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions who were to remain in Natal after it became a British colony.


Then there were the Voortrekkers. They came over the Drakensberg at the end of 1837 and, after defeating King Dingane’s impis at Blood River in December 1838, began to settle down in the territory they had conquered for themselves. When, in turn, the British defeated them in 1842, and brought their short-lived republic to an end, many trekked back over the mountains. By the end of 1843, the year of British annexation, only about 365 trekker families remained, while in 1847, according to the Graham’s Town Journal, there were only approximately 60 Boer families left in Natal. Later some did become reconciled to British rule and returned.

At least two Englishmen are definitely known to have come with the Voortrekkers, namely William Cowie and Samuel Liversage. Cowie, after whom Cowie’s Hill is named, trekked with the family of his wife Magdalena Josina Laas (the Laases were granted the farm Salt River Poort, on which Pinetown was later laid out). Cowie was appointed Field Cornet by the Boers in 1838, and was one of their Heemraden in 1839. At the time the British force was besieged in the Fort at Durban, he assisted them as much as he could, and for his pains ended up as a fugitive from the Boers.

Liversage was an 1820 Settler, and leader of a party of Staffordshire settlers who emigrated to the Cape on the John. He and his family settled on the farm Broughton on the Umgeni at Albert Falls, and later moved to the area between York and Riet Vlei. Liversage’s children married into Voortrekker families such as the Martenses, the Uyses, the van Niekerks, the van Jaarsvelds and the Mullers.

More Cape settlers

Once Natal became a British possession a considerable number of Cape Colony residents moved here. Among these were David Dale Buchanan, founder of the Natal Witness, and its controversial editor for many years, John Bird, distinguished civil servant and compiler of the Annals of Natal, Donald Moodie, the Colony’s first Secretary to Government, and Walter Harding who became Natal’s first Chief Justice. Theophilus Shepstone, like Bird, Moodie and Harding, was transferred from the Cape civil service to that of Natal.

1820 Settlers

Among 1820 Settlers who at this time were to make their homes here were John Bailie, the founder of East London, and Charles Kestell, after whose son, the Revd John Daniel Kestell of Anglo-Boer War fame, the Free State town of Kestell is named. Buntingville residents In 1846 the War of the Axe was raging on the Cape frontier, and a number of families from the Butterworth area had to flee northwards to Buntingville Mission Station. From there, in 1847, and under the leadership of James Calverley, they made their way overland to Natal in what could be termed a ‘minor trek’. Examples of surnames thus introduced are Whitehead, Mitchley and Flukes (now pronounced and spelt Flook -FLOOK).

New Germany

The next infusion of new blood was the arrival of the German settlers, 188 in number, brought out by Jonas Bergtheil, a Cape merchant, in order to grow cotton. Bergtheil had tried originally to get settlers from England and Scotland, and later from his native Bavaria, but without success. The immigrants finally collected were from the areas around Osnabrück and Bremen, and they landed in March 1848 on the Beta. They were settled on property inland from Durban, at what became known as New Germany and Westville (named after the then Lt-Governor, Martin West). Cotton cultivation did not succeed, and market-gardening then became the main occupation. Later some made their way to New Hanover, Greytown and Maritzburg.

Cato Ridge is another area where many of these settler names can be found. Examples of Beta surnames are Oellermann, Thöle, Winter, Torlage, Dinkelmann, Erfmann, Bosse, Königkrämer, Schwegmann,Westermeyer, Schäfer, Schäfermann, Lange, Klüsener, Laatz, Nipper, Siecksmeyer and Freese – spelt FREESE.


Mauritius was the source of a trickle of immigrants after 1843. The flow increased in 1850 when about 50 Mauritians arrived with the intention of trying sugar growing on the Natal coast. An 1854 arrival from the island, James Renault Saunders, was the founder of one of Natal’s leading families in the sugar industry – the Saunders of Tongaat.

Discharged soldiers

A number of useful citizens was added to the white population in the form of discharged soldiers from British regiments. Most were from the 45th Regiment which served in Natal from Aug. 1843 until Apr. 1859, the longest period in the Colony by any of the British regiments. 45th Cutting (which they excavated), and Fort Nottingham (which they built) are reminders of their presence. Many of these men either earned their discharges, or bought them, or were pensioned while in the Colony. Some, whose time was not up when the regiment left Natal, made their way back from England once they had been discharged.

Settlers from England

The biggest addition to the population of the new colony was the settlers who arrived from the United Kingdom between 1849 to 1851. Great Britain was in the midst of a depression in the 1840s, causing many millions of her inhabitants to emigrate, mainly to the United States, Canada and Australia. Natal received a small percentage of these emigrating masses. There were various schemes under which people came to the Colony. Among the smaller were those of Dr Charles Johnston, G.P. Murdoch, John Lidgett, Richard Hackett and William Josiah Irons. The last three concentrated on bringing out Wesleyans.

Irons, a St Albans man, in particular, wanted to create a settlement specifically for Methodists, and in its early stages his scheme had the patronage of the Earl of Verulam. Verulam was the name to be given to his contemplated Wesleyan village, and Verulam it became, although the Earl later withdrew his support, and the only tangible reminder of his patronage was a marquee in which the settlers held Divine Service until they were able to erect a chapel.

Haidee settlers

Henry Boast was another who was instrumental in bringing settlers to Natal. He created a co-operative scheme and gathered together a number of Yorkshire people, mostly farmers who could pay their own passages, and planned to transport them in the Pallas, but on the point of embarkation at Hull, the Pallas was condemned by the emigration authorities as unseaworthy. Because of a technicality, Boast found himself responsible for the living expenses of the emigrants at Hull while arrangements were being made for a substitute ship. All this trouble, and the expenditure of his private means, weakened Boast’s health, and he succumbed to ‘brain fever’. His wife Mary resolved to carry ahead with the scheme, and with the aid of her father, Joseph Smith, the difficulties were overcome, and they set sail in July 1850 on the Haidee.

The land purchased for them was about 20 miles north of Maritzburg, and here the settlement of York was laid out. These settlers, as a group, were the most successful from the agricultural point of view, most of them having been practical farmers or farm labourers in England.

J.C. Byrne & Co. settlers

Emigration on a large scale began as a result of the efforts of Joseph Charles Byrne. His wide advertising, his oratory at public meetings on emigration and his lavishly furnished office in Pall Mall, led many hundreds to decide on Natal as their new home. For the payment of £10, a ‘statute adult’ (i.e. someone over the age of 14) could get a steerage passage and 20 acres of land. Children under 14 received five acres. Between May 1849 and Feb. 1851 twenty J.C Byrne & Co. ships dropped anchor at Port Natal. To someone from England, with its neat patchwork of rolling countryside, owning 20 acres seemed an attractive proposition – but the poor immigrants received a shock when they saw the nature of Natal’s topography. The 20-acre allotments were of little or no use in a large number of cases.

Most of the good Crown land near Durban and Pietermaritzburg had been disposed of before Byrne’s scheme had got going, and much of what was available to his agent, John Moreland was, like the Byrne valley, too rugged for cultivation, or in a low rainfall area, for example Vaalkop and Dadelfontein near Ashburton just outside of Maritzburg on the road to Durban. Even when the lie of the countryside and the rainfall were satisfactory, like at New England, just outside Pietermaritzburg, it was found that many allotments had no water, and/or, no wood (an important consideration).

Types of immigrants

The main idea behind the granting of land to emigrants was to establish a solid agricultural population, and for this reason, only people in certain occupations, for example, farmers, farm labourers, millers, blacksmiths, wagonmakers, carpenters and wheelwrights, etc., were approved by Her Majesty’s Colonial Land and Emigration Commissioners as settlers, able to take advantage of the land grants. This led to many prospective emigrants’ ‘changing’ their occupations overnight.

John Moreland, writing in retrospect of his experiences as Byrne’s agent, said, ‘by the mere flourish of the pen, a hairdresser and perfumer, for instance, was speedily turned into an experienced agriculturalist’…or ‘a lady’s maid became in the twinkling of an eye an experienced cook or dairy maid. A milliner or dressmaker became a milkmaid…’ He pointed out that most of the emigrants came from the large cities in the UK and only about 2% were from the country areas.

Durban and Pietermaritzburg

The nature of the emigrants plus the general unsuitability of the land offered led, in the majority of cases to their abandoning their allotments and congregating in the two towns of Durban and Pietermaritzburg. It appears that any settler who had a bit of capital, but no occupation of use in the infant colony, became a shopkeeper. Moreland complained that in one street alone in Pietermaritzburg, which had a population of fifteen hundred, there were 35 stores, and in Durban, with a similar population, the main street had 60 shops.

Byrne & Co. settler areas

The areas which were intended to be settled by Byrne’s emigrants, namely, Vaalkop and Dadelfontein, Slang Spruit and New England (both near Maritzburg), Mount Moreland and New Glasgow in the Verulam area, and Byrne near Richmond, instead of becoming the flourishing communities intended, remained sparsely populated.

However, one J.C. Byrne & Co. area which seemed to go ahead from the beginning was Richmond. Not only was there abundant water and land suitable for cultivation, but adjacent to the village was the Beaulieu estate, on which about 40 hard-working tenants of the 5th Duke of Buccleuch had been established. The Duke had the foresight to arrange for a group of his indigent tenants to emigrate to Natal on one of Byrne’s ships, the Lady Bruce, paying their passages, buying a tract of land, paying the costs entailed in transporting them by wagon from Durban to the Illovo river, and also for tents, implements and seed. His generosity even extended to the gift of £100 for the building of a church in their new home. Crouches, Goddens, Westbrooks and Fosses were among the Duke’s settlers.

Natalians to Australia

A temporary brake occurred in the growth rate of the Colony’s white population between 1852 and 1854. A number of people who either could not settle down to agriculture, or who found they were redundant in the towns, or who needed to escape their creditors, deserted Natal for Australia which, in the early 1850s was attracting a good deal of attention because of the gold discoveries at Ballarat and Bendigo.

Four ships left Durban direct for Melbourne crammed with would-be gold seekers. It is said that the Port Captain’s lists for these ships are not accurate, as many more took ship than are listed, one ingenious debtor even arranging to be taken aboard in a barrel!. Life at the gold-diggings was not easy, and by the end of the 1850s quite a few of these ex-Natalians had made their way back to the Colony.

Hermannsburg settlers

What was to become another German settlement was established when the Hermannsburg Mission near Greytown was founded in 1854. Six missionaries, together with eight colonists, passed through Port Natal on the Candace early in that year, en route for Ethiopia. In August the Candace reappeared at Durban because the missionaries had found it impossible to gain permission to enter Ethiopia. Natal was decided upon as a field of work instead, and a large farm was purchased in the Greytown district. As the mission established itself, more missionaries and colonists arrived from Germany, and subsidiary stations came into being, not only in Natal, but in Zululand and the Transvaal as well. In the 1860s the Hermannsburg School was the foremost institution for boys, until superceded by the establishment of Hilton College in 1872.

Portia settlers

1856 saw the arrival of another shipload of settlers, just under 80 in number, on the Portia. These had been assembled by Alexander McCorkindale, who had first come to Natal in 1850. The core of this group was 22 boys from reformatories, whom McCorkindale had had apprenticed to himself, and members of his and his wife’s families. A random sample of Portia surnames includes Dingley, Purcocks, Ludlow and Bolt (the four families related to McCorkindale), also Hornby, McAllister, Waugh, Compton, Peachey, McKellar, Markham, Cartwright and Weldon.

New Guelderland

Another settlement which deserves mention is that of the Dutch at New Guelderland near Stanger. The founder was Theodorus Christiaan Colenbrander (father of the Rhodesian pioneer Johan Colenbrander, born in 1856 in Pinetown, and who, until about three years ago had a son alive in Pietermaritzburg, namely the late Dr John Colenbrander).

T.C. Colenbrander came to Natal from Java in 1854 with an associate, Wilhelm van Prehn. They tried growing and manufacturing indigo at Pinetown in partnership with Archibald Keir Murray, but without success. Van Prehn left the Colony, but Colenbrander remained and, acting on behalf of an emigration company established in Holland, gained the approval of the Natal Executive Council to introduce young mechanics, farmers and labourers, who had been educated by a benevolent society. The aim of this emigration was to place these young people in other parts of the world, and thus to remove them from what was described as, ‘the contamination of European poverty’. The first batch arrived in May 1857, and from then until July 1860, at least six ships landed at Durban, introducing to the Colony surnames such as Wassink, Theunissen, Ente and Gielink, as well as more Colenbranders.

Government-sponsored immigration

The last addition to Natal’s white population before the advent of the 1860s was the result of a Govenment scheme instituted in 1857, whereby the Government would pay the passages of intending immigrants as long as someone in the Colony would stand surety for the repayment of fares, in instalments, by the immigrants so introduced. This scheme was largely confined to relations, friends, and prospective employees of existing colonists, and a number of new families arrived with the old familiar surnames, such as Brickhill, Brunton, Cowey, Dickens, Dolphin, Drew, Fayers, Gavin, Holliday, Horsley, Jardine, Joyner, Newlands, Palframan, Stead and Wray.

Spread of Natal settlers

Natal settlers certainly did not remain in the confines of the Colony. By and large agriculture was not profitable, and many farmers supplemented their income with transport-riding and/or trading. A number of townsfolk also took to trading, either ‘Overberg’ or in African areas such as the Zulu country, Swaziland and Pondoland. Besides these itinerant traders there were the Durban firms which spread their tentacles beyond the borders.

One of the earliest was Evans & Churchill, which by 1854 had a branch at Mooi River Dorp (Potchefstroom), and whose activities extended to Pretoria and Rustenburg, buying ivory, wool and skins. By the end of 1854 they also had business connections in the Orange Free State.

Later firms to trade with the two republics were Henwood & Roseveare, Parker, Wood & Co., Steele, Murray & Co., and, of course, Harvey, Greenacre & Co., which had branches in Pretoria, Johannesburg, Wakkerstroom, Vryheid (then part of the Transvaal), Barberton, Krugersdorp, Bethlehem and Kokstad (then in the Cape Colony).

While on the subject of Harvey, Greenacre & Co., an offshoot of the firm was the Durban Falkirk Iron Co. It has relevance today in that one of their products was the Defy stove – possibly getting its name from the company’s initials – D F I.

Diamond fields

Once diamonds were discovered there was a mass exodus from Natal. So many civil servants took extended leave to go to the fields, that the authorities had to put a stop to the practice. Many went to try their luck, usually coming back poorer, but a few made their fortunes and returned, while others prospered in Kimberley and settled there. Two of Kimberley’s mayors in the 1870s were Durban men, viz. Mark Foggitt and George Bottomley.

Cape Colony continued

To continue with the Cape Colony – early Natalians who later made their mark in Cape Town include the Byrne settler, George Darter, who started the well-known firm G.B. Silver Darter, pianoforte and music sellers, and John Dean Cartwright (one of McCorkindale’s 1856 settlers), who moved to Cape Town in 1859 and became a prominent merchant, later in the partnership Fletcher & Cartwright. Cartwright’s Buildings in Adderley Street were a distinctive landmark, while Cartwright’s curry powders still bring his name to the fore.

Another Natalian in Cape Town was the J.C. Byrne & Co. settler William Hall, whose claim to fame is that he became the father-in-law of J.W. Jagger, the Cape merchant, philanthropist and parliamentarian.

Transvaal and Pretoria

As far as the Transvaal is concerned, Pretoria, in its early years, had a fair number of Natalians among its residents. William Skinner and the Devereux brothers, Lionel and Edward, were taken to the Transvaal by Andries Pretorius in the early 1850s to build his house on the farm Grootplaats. In 1854, together with Jan Visagie, the secretary to Andries’ son, Marthinus Wessel Pretorius, these three demarcated the site of Church Square, Pretoria, and also designed and constructed the first Dutch Reformed Church, completed in 1856. This served the town until it was burnt down in 1882.

Skinner was Landdrost of Pretoria from 1869 to 1878, and Skinner Street reminds us of him. Struben Street takes its name from Capt. Johannes Hermanus Marinus Struben, a naturalized Englishman of Dutch birth, who had been Ladysmith’s Resident Magistrate from 1850, until in Feb. 1856 he had to do a flit, when he heard that a commission was being sent to Ladysmith to investigate the theft, 18 months previously, of £352 in public money which had been stored in his residence for safe-keeping. (This was a particularly puzzling theft as it happened, at night, in the period between the death and burial of Mrs Struben, the money being in a desk in the room in which her body lay.)

Struben landed up in Pretoria, where he made a living as a transport-rider, was briefly the Government Secretary in 1860, and in 1867 became Transvaal State Attorney. He died in 1869. Two of his sons, Frederick Pine Theophilus and Hendrik Wilhelm, were much involved in early gold prospecting on the Rand, while his widow (his second wife), Catherine, married James Brooks, the Pretoria surveyor after whom the suburb of Brooklyn is named.

Another street with Natal connections is Walker Street, commemorating a son of Arthur (Hookey) Walker, an astute, but somewhat unscrupulous advocate, who boasted he was ready to ‘do anything for a two-guinea priming’.

Bourke Street is named after Edmund Francis Bourke, a Pretoria merchant, member of the Transvaal Legislative Council after the Anglo-Boer War, and Mayor of Pretoria, 1903-4. His brother Bernard Thomas Bourke was a prospector – Bourke’s Luck in the Blyde River canyon is a reminder of this.

These two were the sons of John Bourke, a soldier in the 45th Regiment, who was discharged in Natal in 1848.

Pretoria’s Melrose House was built by the wealthy coach-owner George Heys, whose father, Thomas, was a Byrne settler, and a Durban tailor.

Johannesburg streets and suburbs

Early Natalians also left their mark on the naming of Johannesburg streets and suburbs, for example, Auckland Park and Houghton Estate have County Durham connections and were developed by the Nicolson family of Pietermaritzburg (Durban’s Nicolson Road is named after another family member). Yeoville is named after Thomas Yeo Sherwell, as is Sherwell Street.

His brother-in-law Willie Rockey (formerly of Isipingo), is commemorated in Rockey Street. Inanda and Berea are also names introduced by Natalians, and Natal Spruit speaks for itself.

Loveday Street comes from Richard Kelsey Loveday, member for Barberton in the Transvaal Volksraad from 1890 to 1900, and who was appointed Burgomaster of Pretoria, with a brief to set up municipal government once the British took the capital in 1900. Pretoria and Barberton also have Loveday Streets.

Baragwanath is named after John Albert Baragwanath, son of a Welsh sea captain, John Baragwanath, who came to Natal as a Byrne settler. John Albert had the Concordia Hotel at the junction of the Bloemfontein and Kimberley roads – later the site of ‘Uncle Charlie’s’ roadhouse.

Both the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital and the Baragwanath airport, Johannesburg’s first municipal airport, are on what was originally the Baragwanath farm Concordia.

Another ex-Natalian who should be remembered is Robert Holliday. In 1889 he headed the group which started the Johannesburg No.1 Terminating Building Society (terminating, because as soon as all the members owned their houses, it would cease to exist). By 1893 there were four of these terminating building societies in the town, and in April of that year they were amalgamated to become the United Building Society of Johannesburg – later the United Building Society.


Still in the Transvaal – Heidelberg was co-founded by Heinrich Ueckermann, an ex-Natal resident, and son-in-law of Robert Mason, a Byrne settler. In 1859 Ueckermann bought part of the farm Langlaagte, and persuaded the owners of the rest, O.A. Strydom and his brother-in-law J.L. Venter, to establish a town there, and suggested its name. It was laid out in 1863 by Thomas William Fannin, a Natal settler who had been surveying in the northern parts of the Transvaal and, having contracted malaria, was on his way back to Natal.

Fannin had hardly completed the survey when he succumbed to another malarial attack. He was the first person to be buried in the town’s cemetery, which he had completed surveying so shortly before. Eastern Transvaal The eastern Transvaal was also influenced by Natal colonists.

Alexander McCorkindale was active here as well. In 1864 he formed a company to introduce immigrants into the South African Republic. It was planned to purchase farms all over the Transvaal, and McCorkindale’s company undertook to provide the republic with banking facilities, postage stamps and ammunition, and to develop a route to Delagoa Bay.

During 1867 people were settled near Lake Chrissie and machinery and mills were imported. The settlement was known as New Scotland, with its capital at Roburnia (the present Amsterdam). The whole scheme collapsed in 1871 with McCorkindale’s death from fever at Algoa Bay.

One of the Natal families to settle at New Scotland was the Forbes clan, David and family, and his brother James. David’s son Alexander and fellow prospector C.J. Swears, found gold in Swaziland – the area becoming known as Forbes Reef.

Pigg’s Peak in Swaziland takes its name from another Natal prospector, William Pigg, formerly of Richmond. The three who have been described as the real gold developers in the eastern Transvaal were all Natal men, viz. Edward Button, Thomas McLachlan and George Pigot Moodie. Button found the first workable gold in the Transvaal in 1871 at Eersteling in the Marabastad area, and he later became the Transvaal’s first Gold Commissioner.

Thomas McLachlan of Mac Mac, also formerly of Richmond, pioneered the Barberton gold field, while the land surveyor G.P. Moodie, son of Donald Moodie earlier mentioned, discovered gold near Barberton and secured the Moodie Concession, thus owning the land on which the goldmine was situated. In later years he built a mansion at Rondebosch, which he called Westbrooke (now the State President’s official residence, Genadendal).

In 1891, shortly before his death, Moodie presented Rondebosch residents, their horses and their dogs, with an ornamental cast-iron drinking fountain – this still stands.

Free State

And what of the Free State? Some Natal settlers established themselves there as shopkeepers in various small towns, for example, the Coulsons at Kroonstad, the Povalls at Vrede and the Hiscocks and the Strapp brothers at Bethlehem. (As an extra snippet, their sister Maria Elizabeth Strapp was the wife of Brigadier-General James Wylie of the well-known firm, Shepstone & Wylie.)

As for Harrismith, with its proximity to the Natal border, this small town ‘colonized’ by Natal settlers from an early date – with surnames such as Putterill, Spilsbury, Oates, McKechnie, Irons, Sink, Friday, Odell, Petty and Gibson (another snippet – this was Robert Gibson of Pietermaritzburg, who later became the father-in-law of the Perla Siedle Gibson, famous during the Second World War as Durban’s Lady in White).

In conclusion, thank you for giving me this opportunity of sharing with you a little of Natal’s early history, and how some of the first two generations of its settlers made their mark on other parts of South Africa.