Pictures of the snow in Kokstad – Courtesy: Saajidah Gangat
Kokstad the capital of East Griqualand, lies in the valley of the Umzimhlava River between Mount Currie and the Ingeli Mountains at a height of some 1280m above sea level. Few towns in South Africa can compare in scenic beauty or in picturesque history with this unique little town which literally rose from the bare veld just over 100 years ago.
In the middle of the 19th century the Griquas were a prosperous settled community living in the area of Phlippols on the banks of the Orange River underb their hereditary chief.Adam Kok 3. They had come under the influence of the London Mission Society and had their own church and Parliament. They had a reputation as hunters and had on several occasions fought alongside the British with skill and courage. It was inevitable that these people should in time clash with the large parties of organized Trekkers moving north from Colony. In fact in 1857 the new Oranges Free State Republic brought them under direct control and fearing that his people would disposed of their land. Adam Kok appealed to the Governor of the Cape Colony, Sir George offered Adam Kok and his people a new country called Nomansland,far to the east, on the other side of the mighty Drakensberg Mountains.
Kokstad lost no time in sending an advance party to report on the promised land in 1861 with 2000 men, women and children and 20 000 head of stock he stated to trek. This epic journey emerged over the rugged mountains of Lesotho took over two years to complete and pays tribute to the courage and tenacity of these hardy people.
The Griguas emerged from the mountains to see endless green grazing, abundant water and game of every kind.
The destination was the spur on the South slopes of Mount Currie where they threw up the sod fort. As the wagons outspanned, each burgher put up a primitive hut. The building inside the fort was to serve as church assembly and school until more permanent quarters could be built.
THE NEW TOWN
In August 1869 the Rev William Dower of the London Mission Society visited the laager. He was hospitably welcomed and asked to remain as minister. Dower accepted on condition that Kok and his people should move down from the mountains to the site chosen foe the new town.
In the middle of 1872 Adam kok led his people in procession to the new town. When the cavalcade drew up at the ‘’Palace’’ which had been hastily run up not far from the present post office, he announced that the henceforth this was the seat of the government which was to be called Kokstad.