Elukhanyweni is a small settler village in the foothills of the Amatola Mountains, located some 50km from King William's Town, at the confluence of the Gxulu and Keiskamma Rivers. It has long been known to local inhabitants as a sheltered and fertile spot and, despite being located in a drought-ridden region, it has never lacked for water. The indigenous name for the area is Qobo Qobo which, loosely translated, means "a fragile thing" but, since 1847, it has also been known as Keiskammahoek. This name, derived from Dutch and Khoikhoi roots means, quite literally, "corner of shining waters".
The area was first settled by whites during the 1846-7 border conflict, more popularly known as The War of the Axe, when a British military outpost, generally referred to at the time as "the camp in the mountains", was established there. At the end of hostilities the camp was abandoned by the military, who were replaced soon after, in 1849, by a Scottish missionary, the Rev Robert Niven. He chose it as the site for his mission station, Uniondale, his aim being to preach the gospel among Mfengu and Xhosa clans already residing in the area. The first buildings consisted of little more than a few wattle and daub huts. However this mission was short-lived as the Rev. Niven and his family were forced to flee when their home was burnt down upon the outbreak of further hostilities in 1850. In 1851, as a direct result of this war, the British re-established a tented camp at Keiskammahoek under the command of Colonel Henry Somerset. In April 1852 a body of Royal Engineers joined the contingent and began the erection of a fortified tower. This was completed in 1855 and named Castle Eyre after Colonel John Eyre of the 73rd Royal Highlanders. In March 1853 the Cape Colonial Government declared the area immediately surrounding Castle Eyre a Royal Crown Reserve with the expressed intent of establishing a permanent village on this site. The first settlers began building homes at Keiskammahoek soon after the end of hostilities in 1853. During the next decade the village's white population rapidly expanded its numbers with the settlement of German legionaries and their families who immigrated to South Africa during 1857 and 1858. A further influx of German settlers brought more families to the region in 1876-7. In about 1858 a Lutheran church was built in the village but this structure proved unsatisfactory and was replaced by a more permanent building during 1877. Several other churches were also built in Keiskammahoek, the Gilead Chapel, consecrated in 1872, being amongst the most notable.