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Mpumalanga History

Mpumalanga History

Mpumalanga Province has a rich history of pioneers and explorers, and is evocative of the old Africa of romance and adventure. In the north eastern corner of the province, the White River (a tributary of the Crocodile River) flows through the town of White River. The name itself is a translation of the Swazi 'emansimhlope', which means 'white waters'. The name also refers to the colour of the water in the river which has a milky appearance caused by the high presence of Kaolin.

White River has had two other names in its short history. It was known as 'Mhloppemanzi' by its African name and 'Wit Rivier' by its Afrikaans name.

The first farmers moved into the area in the 1880's and the farming community that settled here after the South African (Anglo-Boer) War has remained virtually unchanged to this day. The agricultural farms tend to be relatively small but are intensive with tropical and citrus fruits in abundance, and vegetables and cut flowers readily available.

After the First Wold War the village of White River consisted of a cottage, the Magistrates residence, an outspan on the site where the Dutch Reformed Church is today, the White River Hotel, a police station and stables, and the Magistrates Court. All of these were connected by a single main street. There were no cars at the time and transport consisted of mule wagon, donkey cart, or horseback.

The Peebles area was a stopover on the route from Lydenburg to Delagoa Bay (now Maputo, capital of Mozambique) by the transport riders of the 1800's, and for a very good reason!

As the number of wagon drivers increased, so did the demand for leather thongs. Chains were scarce and leather thongs were ideal for getting heavily loaded wagons along difficult tracks and across high mountains. These leather straps did not last long and a good supply was needed as making them was time consuming the transport riders preferred to buy them along the way.

Sotho people living in the vicinity of Nsikazi were skilled at the task. Wagon drivers would give them hides of oxen and other large animals to be made into leather thongs from their 'workshops' in the caves and rocky hide-outs on Legogote Mountain.

In 1875, Bill Sanderson, a Scotsman settled at the foot of Legogote Mountain. In 1914, the farm Legogote was divided into two parts. The upper part remained 'Legogote' while the lower part became known as 'Peebles'. One can only assume that Bill Sanderson came from the Peebles area in the Scottish Borders and named the area after his hometown. It has remained Peebles to this day.

There are several derivations of the word Legogote. Some say that it is derived from the word 'lugogo' which means a skin of an animal thus we have Legogote 'the place of skins'. However, others claim that it has been named for its resemblance to a 'klipspringer' or a 'lion's head' or even a 'rock that leans over'.

Legogote Mountain is of particular interest and is regarded as the 'sentinel of the Lowveld'. This distinctive rock formation has become White River's trademark. It was used as a navigational landmark by people who traversed the territory for over a thousand years.

The San (Bushmen) were the first inhabitants of the area and rock art paintings in their hundreds show how the San lived and hunted here long before the first settlers arrived.


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