This is one of the districts of northern kwaZulu-Natal that was once part of the Zuid Afrikaansche Republiek, but also considered being part of Zululand at another time. Two other districts that were part of the Republic are Vryheid and Utrecht.
When J H Maarschalk of Utrecht surveyed the town in 1888 it was accepted as part of the Transvaal. The original name was Paulpietersrust, in honour of Paul Kruger and Genl Piet Joubert, who was the commandant-general of the Transvaal military forces that defeated the British forces at Majuba in 1881. The town was later renamed Paulpietersdorp and in 1896 the name was changed to its present form.
At the outbreak of the Anglo-Boer War there were 20 families residing in the town. After the war the district was incorporated into Natal. The town was awarded municipal status during 1958 and lies on the eastern scarp of the Drakensberg Mountain Range. It is dominated on the west by Makateeskop (1737m) and in the South East by Dumbe (1536m). Dumbe is also the Zulu name for the town and was deduced from Madumbe, the name given to a potato like bulb that grows on the slopes of the berg.
The railway line from Paulpietersburg to Vryheid was opened on 6 January 1914. The guest of honour at the occasion was General Louis Botha, the then premier of the newly established Union of South Africa.
The district has many permanent streams and a rainfall average of 1 OOOmm p.a. Mixed farming is the norm in the area – beef cattle, milk, maize, sorghum, peanuts and legumes and there is many eucalyptus, pine, and wattle plantations. The district is rich in minerals – coal, kaolin, mica, asbestos, iron ore, etc. are all found here.
In one of the suburbs of the town there are three rocks that mark the place where Genl Louis Botha, commander of the Boer forces in Natal, met the members of the Utrecht Commando to nominate a representative to go to the peace negotiations at Vereeniging to end the war.
The Kruger Bridge over the Bivane River dates from the time when the town was part of the Transvaal.
The Dutch Reformed Church is now used as a library. According to local legend, Paul Kruger (the State President at the time) contributed 5 gold pounds towards the building costs of the church.
The first drostdy that was built in the Victorian style has also been declared a National Monument.