Shell middens containing early Iron Age pottery fragments have been found at Umhlanga Rocks, Ballito and Shaka's Rock Village, which date back to roaming Bantu civilisation in the period from 400 A.D. The site of a later iron-age village of the Lala people can be visited in the Shaka Valley, near Stanger, dating back to about 1500.
In the Groutville area, there are sites of pre-historic Ice Age glacial activities, likewise in the Umvoti, Tongaati and Mbozambo valleys.
In 1816, after the death of his father, Shaka became King of the Zulus. At this time, he was living at his royal settlement "Bulawayo" in the heart of Zululand, where he was engaged in forming a vast and very effective Zulu army of warriors (impis), which led to his reputation as a mighty warrior.
In the early 1800's the area was thickly wooded, with some open patches or grassland on which King Shaka and the Zulu peoples grazed their vast herds of cattle.
From 1824, the first European Settlers started to arrive in sailing ships from the Cape. They met and obtained land around the bay from King Shaka, and called their tiny settlement Port Natal. Later, it was to be re-named Durban, after Cape Governor D'Urban.
Settlers such as Henry Frances Fynn, Lieut. Farewell Captain King, Nathanial Isaacs, Mr. Hutton, and the young John Ross, befriended and traded with King Shaka, and the Zulus who were living in Zululand. Items such as elephant tusk ivory, skins and carvings, were traded for the settler's beads, cloth, food and trinkets.
Shaka chose KwaDukuza as his new capital, where Stanger Town now stands, because he knew that the area was well watered and had good for grazing his vast herds of cattle. The new settlement began in July 1825, and was occupied by September. King Shaka called it, 'Dukuza' (the maze). It was a massive, oval shaped settlement comprised of a huge central enclosure (kraal) for the royal cattle and about 2,000 or more beehive shaped huts around it. His massive royal hut was built alongside a small spring and stream.
During the late afternoon of 22 September 1828 (the official date commemorated is the 24th, but this is incorrect), King Shaka was seated on a large rock (which now stands behind his memorial) known as his throne, under a wild fig tree in Nyakamubi, when traders arrived. They had come to deliver blue crane tail feathers and animal skins that they had been sent to gather for him from Pondoland (Transkei).
At the time, King Shaka was being attended by his bodyguard, Mbhopa. He became very angry because the traders had kept him waiting, and their goods were of inferior quality, according to Mbhopa, and a general shouting match developed. Unknown to Shaka, Mbhopa, together with Shaka's two half-brothers, Dingane and Mhlangana, were planning to assassinate him.
In the confusion, the three assassins put their deadly plan into action. From behind the nearby stockade of the Nyakamubi kraal, and through a side opening behind Shaka's back came Dingane and Mhlangana with their spears. Mhlangana stabbed Shaka on his left side, aiming for his heart, but instead hit the King's left upper arm. Disgusted, but ever brave, King Shaka strode away from them, probably heading for the entrance to Dukuza, and safety, but they followed, striking him repeatedly in the back. He fell dead at the entrance of the Nyakamubi kraal.
His faithful companion, Pampata guarded his massive, 1 metre, 91 cm (6 ft. 4 in.) muscular body all through the night, keeping the wild animals at bay, with a pole taken from the Nyakamubi fence.
On the following day the three assassins, and others, had a black ox killed, and wrapped the King's body in its skin. Inside and near the entrance of the Nyakamubi kraal, there was a newly dug grain pit. They lowered Shaka's body and all his possessions down into the empty pit and filled it with rocks, forming a cairn of rocks over the top.
During the next month, Dingane the new King of the Zulus, had his half brother, Mhlangana killed, and organised the building of a new royal settlement in Zululand called Gungunghlovu. He evacuated all the people from Dukuza, and the warriors from the three military establishments in the Umhlali/Shakaskraal area, Umdumezulu, and Hlomendlini one and two, back into Zululand.
Dukuza was then deserted and the area was soon overgrown with bush, grass and weeds.
First White Settlers
The first White family settled at the Umvoti River Mouth in 1836. It was Mr. Willem Landman together with his wife, Maria, who was the daughter of Piet Retief.
In 1840, an American Missionary, Reverend Aldin Grout, and his wife Charlotte established one of the earliest Mission Stations and school at Groutville outside Stanger. He encouraged the growing of sugar in the area and also established a sugar Mill called Umvoti Sugar Mill, now called Melville.
In 1846, Mr. Edmond Morewood was granted a large farm near Umhlali, which he called "Compensation", and where he practiced the first commercial sugar cane growing.
Morewood has been inspired by a visit to the islands off South Africa's East Coast, like Mauritius and Reunion, where he had been introduced to sugar cane growing and the sugar industry. He then had seed cane shipped back to Natal, which he planted. He also built a small mill there, using the masts of a sailing ship wrecked off Compensation Beach (now Ballito), which he cut into lengths to form rollers to squeeze out the juice from the cane. In January 1851, he proudly took his first processed sugar to the Durban market for sale, and is thus acclaimed as the pioneer of the Natal sugar industry.
With his sugar venture under way, and cane growing better than expected, other European immigrants from England and Scotland began to arrive and obtain land between Durban and the Umhlali river; along the Natal North Coast; Verulam, the Umdloti River Valley; Morelands farms and Tongaat. The development of the sugar industry raced ahead, and soon there were many sugar farms and mills in the area.
The Umhlali area, which was the original Militia and Magisterial area at the time, was called "Williamstown", under the 45th Division.
In early 1872, under Liege Hulett, the farmers sent a petition to the Government in Durban, asking for permission to create a town and move up the magistracy and militia. With the necessary permission granted in 1872, and the site of Dukuza chosen, the initial layout of the town was surveyed and drawn up by the second Surveyor General of Natal, Dr Peter Sutherland.
The first buildings to be erected were the Police complex and a fort for the Mounted Divisions of the Militia, which was unfortunately demolished in 1971. These two sites were chosen because they were both on high ground, and because of the fresh water spring at the Police complex, which Shaka also used. This developing group of buildings, with the residency, the Magistrate's house and the first shops, was then declared and named "Stanger" on 10 February 1873.
The name, "Stanger", originates from a Viking Pirate from Stavanger, Norway, whose descendants were the "Stanger" family from England. Dr William Stanger, after who the town of Stanger is named, was the first Surveyor General of Natal.
Liege Hulett was responsible for building the first churches in the area in the early 1870s. These included the Kearsney Chapel, the Methodish Church of Stanger as well as others at Kearsney for the Indians working on his estates.
In 1893, the first school was formed, a multi-racial school called "Whites" which was later referred to as the Mission School. This school was located in a small house on the corner of Jackson and Hulett Streets, opposite the Methodist Church, which was rented from the Seedat family of Stanger. It schooled children of all races, but closed in 1923, with 200 pupils.
A young man by the name of Mr. Anthony A. Simon, a European, who had run a school for Indian children at Isipingo on the Natal South Coast, had been persuaded by a friend, Mr. Joel Peters (later to become his father-in-law), to come up to Stanger to open a school, as there was none there. He is considered the "grandfather'' of Stanger's schooling system.
His son and daughters all took up the teaching profession and taught in local schools, and so did some of his grandchildren. In 1895, in two rooms set aside as a school for White children of the area, the owner of the large house, Mr. H R Dukes, became the second Headmaster. This is currently the location of Stanger South Indian School, and was referred to as the Stanger European Government School. It remained this until recently, when the new High and Secondary European schools were built, in 1966 and 1976.
In 1920, a school was built for Indians opposite the old Stanger Country Club, and soon schools for Coloureds and Zulus were built, and many more since, to cater for the growing number of children in the area.
Sir Liege Hulett also had a large part to play in the organisation of the extension of the railway system from Verulam to Stanger, and later to Zululand. It reached Stanqer in 1897.
He also built a famous narrow gauge railway upon which two short trains, one goods and one passenger train, ran between Stanger Station and Kearsney, to his tea factory. The two engines are preserved at Darnall (see key sites).
Soon after the formation of the Militia in Stanger in 1873, and the Mounted Division Fort, these two buildings, plus the Hulett House at Kearsney, the store at Thring's Post and Mr. Duke's house in Stanger, were heavily fortified as protection laagers against threatened attacks by the Zulus under Dingane. Many of the local men joined the Forces, led by Captain (later Col.) Friend Addison. The Forces massed along the banks of the Tugela River, the boundary, at Fort Pearson, on this side of the river, and at Fort Tenedos on the opposite bank (see key sites).
The Zulu King Cetshwayo had been given "an Ultimatum" under the famous "Ultimatum Tree" on the bank of the river, to return stolen cattle, to stop killing and harassing the White farmers and to pay his taxes, in the December of 1878, which he did not comply with. Therefore, in January 1879 the Anglo/Zulu War of 1879 began and lasted until his capture in August 1879. The farming families in that area were brought to Stanger for safety.
Between 1906 and 1907 there was a Zulu rebellion, led by a sub-chief called Bambata, who, with his followers, rebelled and came against the Europeans from Greytown down Kranskop way, Thring's Post, Mapumulo and Kearsney, before they were stopped by the troops from Stanger. Read more...
Again the same venues were laagered against them. A few Whites were killed before Bambata was captured and killed, and this became known as the Bambata Rebellion, in which local White men took an active part under Captain Friend Addison. In both the graveyards at Fort Pearson and in the Stanger Cemetery, are graves of the men who died during these two wars (see key sites).
Also, both men and women from this area were actively engaged in the two World Wars of 1914-1918 and 1939-1945, and outside the Borough Offices there stands a Memorial to those who gave their lives during these wars.
The two hotels, Victoria and Stancrer Hotel, were built in 1873 by Mr. Samuel Knox, who had a small hotel in the Umhlali area, known as the "Umhlali Inn", which stood alongside the wagon trail from Durban to Zululand.
The telephone system of Stanger was started in 1901, with Miss Tilly Gielink as the first telephonist.
Motor vehicles first made their appearance along the potted, dusty dirt roads of Stanger from the early 1930's. One of the first cars belonged to Mr. Smith, a lawyer. Dr Bruce also owned one of the early cars. Stanger's streets were first tarred in the 1940's.
The spring and stream, which Shaka used, and which ran beside his royal palace and the Police Station, then goes underground. This is why the Town Hall basement always has water in it. Shaka's Indaba Tree's roots tap into this spring, which then runs underground and past the Victoria Hotel where Mr. Knox sunk two wells to draw Stanger's first public water.
In the late 1920's, Mr. Gilmore, who owned a substation for electricity where Emmetts show room now stands in Reynold Street, was able to erect Stanger's first two street lights and empower them. They stood on the opposite corners, Couper and Reynold Streets, the one, outside the Victoria Hotel. These lights operated between the hours of 5.00 p.m. and 11.00 p.m. only. In 1952, the Stanger Hydro-Electric Scheme was brought into operation, channelling water from the Umvoti River through turbines, to bring electrical power to this area. The local farmers devised their own sources of power, using water or gas operated generators.
In1932, Shaka's grave was built over with white concrete, which can be seen today.
The first Post Office and Library of Stanger was off Jackson Street, between the present Post Office and First National Bank.
Town to Borough
Stanger Village was granted 'Township' status in 1920 and 'Borough' status in July 1949, and Stanger's first Mayor was Leo Lavoipierre, who was also the first Chairman of the Town Board. They lived and farmed at Warrenton, between Stanger and Kearsney. Warrenton House, their home, still stands. He died in office as Mayor in 1966 (see key sites).