Snippets of Kruger History
Prompted by my interesting visit to the Skukuza Museum this morning, I thought that you may enjoy some snippets that caught my eye.
James Stevenson-Hamilton (S-H) originally came to SA with the British army after the Anglo-Zulu war in the 1880’s and then fought in the Anglo-Boer War. Prior to this Paul Kruger was largely instrumental in the formation and proclamation of the Sabie Game Reserve (in southern Kruger) in 1898.
In 1902 S-H was appointed the first Warden of the reserve and was instructed to “go down there and make yourself thoroughly disagreeable”. This he quickly achieved by eliminating poaching, cattle and people inhabiting the area. So effective was he that he earned the Shangaan nickname “Skukuza” which meant ‘he who turns everything upside down’ or ‘he who sweeps everything clean’.
S-H’s early offices and headquarters at Skukuza
Elderly Harry Wolhuter and James Stevenson-Hamilton together.
Despite his diminutive size, S-H became a giant of early Kruger. He married Hilda, 34 years his junior, and they had three children.
In 1936 the main restcamp in the park, Sabie Bridge, was renamed “Skukuza” in honour of S-H. He retired in 1945 aged 80.
Harry Wolhuter (HW) was recruited as one of the first rangers in the Sabie reserve. He had served in the infamous Steinaecker’s Horse, during the Boer War and it came as a shock to HW that instead of breaking the law he had to now uphold it. He nevertheless became probably Kruger’s most famous ranger, no doubt helped by the incident when he was attacked by two lions by riding on horseback.
This incident is prominently displayed in the museum. Interesting too is a picture of HW camping at Pretoriuskop with the koppies beyond.
A lesser known Boer general was Ben Viljoen (BV) who commanded the Boer troops operating in the Eastern Transvaal and the Lowveld.
His biography is well worth a read. After the end of the Boer War and refusing to sign allegiance, he went to live in Mexico and then Texas. He became friendly with President Teddy Roosevelt and became the US Consul in Berlin. Amazing stuff.
The enormity of what the Orpen’s did for Kruger is easily forgotten. Eileen Orpen must have been a formidable character and she and her husband donated an area half the size of the Umfolozi Game Reserve to the Kruger Park during the 1930’s.
The rather curious name of Shitlhave Dam is often remarked upon in the Pretoriuskop area. In the museum I found a photograph of ranger Shitlhave, an outstanding and long serving staff member.
A photo of the 1930 Satara shop and restaurant also caught my eye.
If anyone visits Skukuza, a visit to the Museum will be well worth the time.