The Village of Colesberg was founded in 1830 on the site of an abandoned station of the London Missionary Society, and was named in honour of Sir Galbraith Lowry Cole, Governor of the Cape 1828-34. For many years it remained one of the most remote outposts of European settlement at the Cape and, as a result, became a major base for commercial hunters, explorers and settlers travelling into the Southern African interior.
The settlement was laid out about a central axis dominated by the Dutch Reformed church, and its dwellings were distinctive for their square, flat-roofed construction, a form of residential architecture which eventually became ubiquitous in the central, more arid regions of the Cape. Residents were served by the The Colesberg Advertiser, a bilingual weekly newspaper established locally in 1861.
The 1875 census indicated that Colesberg had a population of 1,312. In 1891 this number had risen to 1,841, and by 1904 it stood at 2,668, of whom 1,188 were literate.
On 14 November 1899 a Boer force of 700 men under the joint command of Chief Commandant ER Grobler and General HJ Schoeman entered Colesberg unopposed. On 1 January 1900 British troops under Major-General John French attacked Boer forces in and around Colesberg. On 11 January they managed to drag a 15-pounder Armstrong Gun to the top of Coleskop, overlooking the Town, and on the next day they began shelling the Town. On 14 February the British withdrew from their positions around Colesberg and regrouped at Arundel Siding. On 20 February the Boers began to retreat from Colesberg, and on 28 February British forces under Major-General RAP Clements marched into the town unopposed. The railway line to Colesberg Junction was reopened on 2 March 1900. However Boer forces continued to control the Orange Free State banks of the Gariep and on 2 March 1900 they dynamited the Colesberg road bridge. They finally retreated from the Area on 7 March 1900.