History of Graaff Reinet
Last Updated: October 2019
- Longitude: 24.531953
- Latitude: -32.253375
About History of Graaff Reinet
Named after Cornelis Jacob van de Graaf and his wife Cornelia Reynet, “de Wiljdgelegen Colonie van Graaff-Reinet" was established in 1786 and is one of several towns in South Africa named after Dutch governors. This was the fourth district to be proclaimed in South Africa and as a result received a "drostdy" or seat of local government.
For years it was a certain stopover for every traveler to the interior. It has experienced four changes of supreme government (including the proclamation of the so-called "Republic of Graaff-Reinet") and at times it has been the focal point of insurgence, political tension and border wars along its eastern frontier. It was visited and described by such early travellers as Barrow, Burchell, Lichtenstein and Moffat. Later in the mid-nineteenth century it was one of the starting points for the exodus of the Voortrekkers. Some of the farms relate directly to famous voortrekkers such as Damesfontein Farm, established by Piet Retief’s cousin in 1838 where five generations later the Retief family still farm. Andries Pretorius of Blood River fame, farmed at Letskraal from 1818 to 1838. The homestead has changed very little since his departure.
From the late eighteenth century right up to the arrival of the railway, a century later, Graaff-Reinet was a bustling trading centre, and in 1865 there were sixty-four recognised public 'outspans'. Inns were established at many of the 'outspans' for the convenience of travelers. Today you will find a vast selection of Guesthouses, Bed & Breakfast establishments as well as the famous Drosdty Hotel and De Graaff Hotel to suit your needs.
Graaff-Reinet has long been justly renowned for its attractive and well-preserved historic homes and buildings. Graaff-Reinet boasts of several famous people, including Lord Somerset, Robert Sobukwe, Beyers Naude, Dr Anton Rupert and Anna Neethling Pohl. Ironically, the building that once housed the Graaff-Reinet Commandos, is now named after the former Pan African Congress leader, Robert Sobukwe.