Cities and towns
The discovery of diamonds at Klipdrift on the Vaal River in 1869 drew thousands of prospectors. The area was renamed Barkly West in 1873 after becoming part of the Crown Colony of Griqualand West.
Renowned writer Sarah Gertrude Millin grew up in the district. Her father opened and operated a shop in Barkly West. One of the first towns to be affected by the diamond rush, the district’s economy is driven by stock and irrigation farming and mining.
A private irrigation scheme was started by the Smartt Syndicate in 1885 and liquidated in 1954. The concern built two dams, planted lucerne and wheat and grazed karakul sheep and Clydesdale horses. The 1961 floods destroyed the Smartt Irrigation Board Dam, rebuilt by the government in 1964.
Founded in 1851 on the stunning Oorlogskloof River and named after religious reformer John Calvin, Calvinia lies at the foot of the dolerite-topped Hantam Mountains (Hantam being a Khoi word meaning \'where the red bulbs grow\').
It is the region\'s key growthpoint and one of the country\'s largest wool-producing areas. Like Sutherland, Calvinia enjoys 80% starlight and the night sky is as much an attraction for city-dwellers and astronomers as the rare sterboom is for botanists and horticulturalists.
Communities of Xhosa moved up to the Orange River as early as 1795. One group subsequently settled at Schietfontein, which was served by a Rhenish mission, and a village named Harmsfontein was established in 1860.
In 1874, it changed its name to honour the British Colonial Secretary, Lord Carnarvon. The district is well known for its corbelled houses, built between 1811 and 1815. Carnarvon is set among flat-topped hills and is one of the region’s busiest farming centres.
Surrounded by koppies and flanked by the towering Coleskop, when the sun slips to the horizon, brushing the skies with brilliant hues, Coleskop’s former name, Toverberg (Magic Mountain), seems more appropriate. So named because, for the traveller, it is visible from 40km but appears to get no closer. In 1814, a mission station was built here in the hope of bringing peace to the volatile frontier area of the Cape Colony.
Other sources quote ‘Koup’ and ‘Tlakalatlou’ (seTswana for ‘elephant’s reed’) as its name. The name, ‘Daniel’s Den’ was first found in documents by the missionary, Campbell, in 1820. The name derives from a natural crater in a limestone formation, reminding observers of the Biblical story of Daniel.
De Aar, the third largest town in the Northern Cape, is centrally located on the main railway line between Johannesburg, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Namibia and tarred roads to surrounding towns. The junction was the second most important railway junction in South Africa, with 110km of railway lines including 29 rail-tracks. The name De Aar refers to the underground water supply in arteries with all of De Aar’s water coming from boreholes. 68 boreholes in the surrounding area of the town, ensure the water supply.
Named after a Scottish cleric and immigrant, Rev Colin Fraser, and a certain church elder, Meyburg, Fraserburg was founded in the West Nuweveld in 1851.
In 1870 the first attorney, HWA Cooper began writing the culturally important ‘Boerebrieven’ for Het Volksblad. He wrote under the assumed name of Samuel Zwaartman.
In 1845, Garies sprang up on land given to the Dutch Reformed Church by the owner of the farm Goedeverwagting. Originally named after the farm, its present name, a Khoisan word meaning 'couch-grass', was given it by former Cape premier John X Merriman. A flood of visitors descends during the flower season and the Garies Municipal tourist hall stocks everything but the kitchen sink!
Once part of the Graaff-Reinet district and known as Bo-Zeekoeirivier. As the farming community grew, a community centre was needed and, in 1854, the 8 656ha farm, Petrusvallei, was bought for 33 333 Rixdollars (R5 000). The former owner asked that the proposed town be called Hanover as his ancestors came from the German city. Walk through town and discover old furrows and historic buildings.