Friday, April 19, 2013

Sugar and Natal: the Pioneers - Jeffels


Jeffels arrived in Natal on the Sovereign in March 1850 with his wife Mary and children. His allotment of about 112 acres on the cotton lands, assigned to him under Byrne's scheme, was relinquished in favour of a property on Dick King's farm on the Isipingo Flat, near the confluence of the Umbogintwini. Jeffels purchased plant cane from Morewood in 1852 and by 1853 the Feildens rode out to visit the Jeffels family, reporting that 'the sugarcane of three or four months growth was very fine'. In 1853 and 1854 Jeffels imported two sets of sugar mill machinery from England, the first recorded importation into Natal of such machinery.

As early as 1854, Jeffels saw the need for central milling if sugar was to be produced economically in Natal, and he was instrumental in organizing a meeting at Messrs Evans and Churchill's store, to find ways of building and maintaining a central mill at Isipingo to meet the needs of the growing number of small planters.

In 1856, The Natal Mercury remarked that 'Mr Jeffels is the type of a class that form the pioneers and harbingers of all successful colonization ...'

In a letter to the same newspaper in October 1858, Jeffels claimed that he had imported the first sugar-mill and plant into Natal, had brought the first sugar of quantity into Durban, and introduced the first steam sugar-mill into the Colony.

A parcel of Jeffels's sugar won a prize at an exhibition in Cape Town and was purchased by the French consul, who sent it on to the Paris Exhibition. Jeffels was at that time well ahead of other Natal sugar planters. He was also a public-spirited citizen, nominated as a Durban Councillor and as Justice of the Peace. He died in 1862; his will is held at Pietermaritzburg Archives Repository. By the 1870s his estate was managed by WF Jeffels, possibly Michael's brother.

Jeffels's Albion Estate was sold in 1899, eventually becoming part of Prospecton Sugar Estate.

For more on the Isipingo sugar planters see article in Natalia by Duncan Du Bois:

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