Piet Retief started in 1883 on the farms 'Osloop' and 'Geluk' in the region called the Assegai Valley, where the Assegai River runs through. The valley is formed between the mountains of Swaziland and the Drakensberg Mountains. The Assegai River is a misnomer that was derived from the Zulu name for this river. In Zulu it is properly called the Mkonda river. This refers to an animal spoor and signifies how the river runsalong a meandering course like the spoor of an animal. White settlers, however, confused the word Mkonda for Mkondo, which means spear.
The area was a frontier district, plagued by raiders from Swaziland. There was also the plague of tsetse flies and malaria in some areas, but it was for the most part open and uninhabited country. The settlers that came from the highveld found it to be a region of mild climate, high rainfall and fertile soil. It was not long before they were using the Assegai valley in the winter time for grazing for their stock. The old farmers soon found out that the area was particularly suited for the cultivation of tobacco, and to this very day, the pipe tobacco brand, "Boxer", is still called "Piet Retief Tobacco".
German settlers moved in and became successful farmers and today Piet Retief has a particularly large German community. Still today, most German families still speak German as a mother tongue and the German culture and religion is prevalent.