The frontier war of 1850-53 was precipitated when the amaNgqika, faced with the increased pressure of European settlement upon their ancestral lands, rose in revolt against the British. They were given support by their neighbours the amaGcaleka, the amaThembu and, most notably, the Khoikhoi of the Kat River Settlement, a group whom the British had hitherto assumed to be their allies. Following their defeat, these groups were moved east of the Great Kei river and their lands were formed into the territory of British Kaffraria. In due course this was annexed to the Cape. Throughout this time one group of amaThembu abstained from the fighting and, as a reward, were allowed by the British to settle on land east of Queenstown. This territory was then separated from Tembuland and was annexed to the Cape. In 1865 attempts were made to persuade the amaThembu to accept alternative land east of the Indwe and Kei rivers but, not unexpectedly, these proposals proved unsuccessful. In 1879 it was proclaimed the division of Glen Grey, and was named in honour of Governor Sir George Grey.
Its magisterial seat was located at Lady Frere. Census figures indicate that in 1904 the division of Glen Grey had a total of 55,107 residents, of whom 1,602 were literate.