Sir. Theophilus Shepstone

Names: Shepstone, Sir. Theophilus

Born: 8 January 1817, Westbury, Bristol, England

Died: 23 June 1893, Pietermaritzburg, Natal colony

In summary: fritish South African statesman, an outstanding administrator of native affairs, who was responsible for the annexation of the Transvaal in 1877.

Theophilus Shepston was born near Bristol in 1817, the son of the Reverend J William Shepstone, who became an 1820 settler, and his wife Elizabeth Brooks, a Quaker. Shepstone's father was entered as a stonemason on the 1820 settler's list. Their first home was a rough shelter near Bathurst where William eked out a living as a builder while working as a lay Wesleyan preacher. Shepstone's linguistic ability gave him his first government post as interpreter to Sir Benjamin D'Urban during the Sixth Frontier War of 1834-35, and he acted as interpreter for Colonel Harry Smith in his many negotiations with Paramount Chief Hintsa. On the 11th November 1838, Shepstone married Maria Palmer of Grahamstown. Together with his wife and four children, Shepstone returned to Natal in 1845, where he took up the post of Diplomatic Agent to the Native Tribes in Natal. As the son of a frontiersman, he had valuable qualities for a job as African intermediary; as an Englishman with an imperialist background, he had grown up at a time when humanism determined the views and actions of missionaries.