In 1802 William Anderson and Cornelius Kramer, of the London Missionary Society, established a station among the Griqua at Leeuwenkuil. Thesite proved to be too arid for cultivation, and in about 1805 theymoved the stationto another spring further up the valley and called it Klaarwater. Regrettablytheir second choice was little better than their first, and for many years alack of water prevented any further development. William Burchell visited herein October 1811 and reported that:

"The trees of my imagination vanished, leaving nothing in reality buta few which the missionaries themselves had planted; the church sunkto a barn-like building of reeds and mud; the village was merely arow of half a dozen reed cottages; the river was but a rill; and thesituation an open, bare, and exposed place, without any appearance ofa garden, excepting that of the missionaries."

The Griqua were a Khoikhoi group of migrant pastoralist who, over the years,intermarried with European colonists. Not finding a place in either colonialor indigenous societies, the Griqua slowly migrated northwards into the morearid regions of the southern African hinterland.In June 1813 Klaarwater was renamed Griquatown by the Rev John Campbell who wasvisiting the region at the time:

"The whole people likewise resolved that henceforth they should becalled Griquas, instead of Bastard Hottentots, and the place calledGriqua-town, instead of Klaar Water."

When James Backhouse visited them in September 1839, he was greeted by scenes of abject poverty:

"The gardens and adjacent lands were desolate; a solitary peach-treeand a few fig-trees were all that survived in the former; and few ofthe Griquas remained upon the place. Many of the houses, that hadbeen forsaken in consequence of the drought, were in ruins."

By the time John MacKenzie visited in 1859 little had changed:

"At Griqua Town everything bore the evidence of former prosperity ...the gardens and fields were now parched up and quite uncultivated,while many of the houses were deserted and in ruins."

In 1861 most of the inhabitants of Griquatown collectively sold off their land holdings in the region and migrated to Griqualand East. Thereafter Griquatown began to be developed by Dutch colonists, and in 1891 the census indicated that the village had a population of 401. By 1904 this number had risen to 1,244.

On 17 November 1899 Griquatown was captured by Boer forces and probably remainedin their hands intermittently until 7 June 1900 when British forces under Lt-GenSir Charles Warren entered the village. On 27 October Boer forces returned toGriquatown and ransacked its post office, inflicting extensive damage upon itsestablishment in the process.

In Afrikaans is known as Griekwastad, it lies on the N8 that links Kimberley with Upington, just beyond the northern reaches of the Nama Karoo, although others will argue it is still within the Great Karoo. It is essentially a sheep farming community that you will find here, reminiscent of a number of little 'outback' towns found in South Africa - sleepy, laidback and predominantly Afrikaans speaking. Despite this, the town has quite a history. It used to be known as Klaarwater but changed its name to indicate a mixed community that lived here at the beginning of the nineteenth century, originally known as the Chaguriqua tribe - a mixed bunch from Piketberg. They lived amongst the local tribes of the Koranna and Tswana people. Encouraged to do so by the mission station here, the Chaguriqua renamed themselves Griqua, and the town became known as Griquatown.
The town, whose neighbours include other little dorps like Douglas, Prieska, Groblershoop and Putsonderwater (perhaps Putsonderwater is pushing it as far as 'neighbours' go, but it is close enough to qualify), was placed on the map with the discovery nearby of diamonds. Even today it is on the route known as the Diamond Fields, and is well known for semi-precious stones like the jasper and tiger's eye.
Whilst driving through here, or staying on neighbouring farms, try to visit the Mary Moffat Museum whose building dates back to 1826 and was the original mission church of Griquatown, named after the missionary Robert Moffat's daughter (she married David Livingstone). And see the two cannons known as Old Niklaas and Old Grietjie given to the community by Queen Victoria.
The nearby Witsand Nature Reserve, just 20 kilometres south west of Postmasburg (confusingly there is a Witsand in the Western Cape, virtually on the coast) is quite beautiful, and worth a visit.
-28° 50' 50.4581", 23° 15' 15.7324"
Further Reading › Culture of South Africa