Why was Murang’a called Fort Hall and reverted back to its original name Murang’a?
“Stories of Pioneers” (edited by Arnold Curtis) and to my surprise a lot is written about Mr Francis Hall.
He comes across as a decent man arriving in Mombasa 1892 to work for “The Imperial British East Africa Company” and since it seems like all his recollection/ reminiscences comes from his constant written correspondences to his father, that were later extracted to give us a sound insight that takes us back in time.
In 1892 saw some serious road-building required for the operations of the Imperial British East Africa Company and for the growing numbers of caravans to Uganda. Major Eric Smith had built for the company a station at Kabete in Kikuyuland. It was situated about two and a half miles north of the post at Dagoretti established by Lugard two years before, and eight miles to the west of the future Nairobi.
Francis Hall was later posted and relocated in 1893 and had orders to make a road between that place and Machakos, the station of his nearest colleague, John Ainsworth, he writes on 1st May 1893 describes the job: I think I told you that I have to make a road from here to Machakos, thence to Kibwezi. I started this about a fortnight ago, having taken a rough survey of the best line of country.
Four months later Hall took the first bullock cart over the new road. It took two days to do the 24 miles to Athi River and another day to Machakos.
Since all the caravans going up-country stopped at Fort Smith and made constant demands for supplies, trading cloth against food with the frontier Kikuyu, Hall though he had better experiment with crops to supply to station and possibly assist the local cash crops.. Francis Hall reported all that to his father in his letter to him.
Most importantly he writes quote: Stuart and Rachel Watt and their four children were among the early visitors. The family stayed at the fort while Watt set out to try and start his
mission in Murang’a … and continues…this letter dated 14th January 1894….
It is very clear that the name “Murang’a” is a location that is mentioned clearly by Francis Hall in the letter to his father therefore it is evidently clear that the name “Murang’a” and its existence in geographical location was recorded in a letter dated 14th January 1894.
Now, the question remains if the British renamed “Murang’a” as Fort Hall and it has rightly now taken its original and authentic name back as “Muranga” from Fort Hall!
Fort Smith, Kikuyu, Kenya, ca.1901
"Gov. Fort, Kikuyu." Exterior view of a camp with a number of tents, and huts in a fenced area. This is Fort Smith, a government station a few miles from the Kikuyu mission station. The mission had moved here from Kibwezi in 1898 under the leadership of Thomas Watson. The mission was transferred into the care of the Church of Scotland, 1901, which placed Dr David C R Scott and Dr Uffman in charge.
This image is from a collection of photographs which possibly belonged to Dr Karl Uffman, son of Dr Henry Uffman of the Leprosy Asylum in Purulia, West Bengal. He studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh and joined the Kikuyu mission from 1901 to 1905
Why was Fort Hall given that Name and who was Frank Hall ?
Hobley - 1892 - At Fort Smith we met Frank Hall, a gallant soul, who did more than any living man to establish the pax Britannica among the Kikuyu, who were then a very turbulent and treacherous tribe.
Many of you will remember Murang’a as Fort Hall, and you may have wondered at the name. When the railway reached the end of the Kapiti plains in 1899, it was half way to its final destination – Lake Victoria.
The directors decided to build a depot on the boggy flat ground they began to call Nairobi before tackling the uphill gradient to the lip of the Rift Valley and the precipitate descent down its wall. This meant that Fort Smith, a few miles uphill from Nairobi, and for many years the government station on the route to Uganda, was no longer needed as a staging post. It was decided to abandon it and establish a centre in Nairobi instead. John Ainsworth, the government representative in Machakos, managed to bag the coveted administrative post in Nairobi and this meant that Frank Hall, who had been at Fort Smith since 1892, was relegated to Machakos, much to his disgust. He felt (and he was probably right) that he understood the Kikuyu better than any other white man. He was certainly fluent in their language and in Swahili. Finally Hall managed to get back into the Kikuyu area when the government decided to establish a post at Mbirri and asked Hall to build it.
Hall fell prey to a rhino, later on in time, a leopard bit his knee and the poison spread throughout his body..(Old Africa)
Hobley - 1892 - At Fort Smith we met Frank Hall, a gallant soul, who did more than any living man to establish the pax Britannica among the Kikuyu, who were then a very turbulent and treacherous tribe. He was a nephew of the great Lord Goschen, and started life in the Bank of England, but his adventurous spirit could not tolerate dull routine, so he soon relinquished an office stool and went out to South Africa, where for many years he led a very varied life. He eventually turned up in EA, and was sent to assist Captain Eric A.E. Smith in Kikuyu, later on being given charge of the district. He was a charming personality, a mighty hunter and the prince of good fellows. He was badly mauled by a rhino and later on by a leopard, which encounters left him lame. A few years later he founded a station in Northern Kikuyu and unfortunately died there, this station being named Fort Hall in his memory. ...(Europeans in East Africa)
Murang'a is located between Nyeri and Thika. The town of Maragua is located 10 kilometres south of Murang'a while Sagana town is 15 kilometres northeast. It lies on a latitude of -0.7167 (0° 43’ South) and longitude of 37.1500 (37° 8’ East)
List Of Sub Counties In Murang’a County
This is a list of all sub-counties in Murang’a County. Murang’a is one of the 47 counties in Kenya which is located in the former Central Province and covers an area of 2,326 km².