The village of Great Brak Rivier was founded by Charles Searle, an English paper-mill hand who, together with his wife and four children, emigrated to the Cape in 1859. They landed at Mossel Bay following a sea voyage of 68 days. After a few months he was awarded the tender for Keeper of the Toll Bridge at Great Brak River which, at that stage, consisted of a toll- house, a small boarding house called Ferreira's and a farmhouse on the Mossel Bay side of the river. There he began making boots as a part-time occupation but, as these found a ready market among travelers passing through his toll, he soon found he had more work than he could handle and employed his first full-time boot-maker. In 1864 he lost the tender for the toll but, being reluctant to move, he purchased land behind the toll-house and started up a general store. In 1865 he again won the tender for the toll and became the village's postmaster, a position the Searle family was to monopolize for the next 34 years. During that time the postal and telegraphic business of Great Brak River was conducted from the Searles' store, a portion of which was set aside for this purpose. The Searle family continued to prosper and soon expanded their business interests by erecting a boarding house known as the Temperance Hotel. The Searles were staunch abstainers and expected everyone else in the village to follow suit. From the outset, therefore, they opposed the sale of liquor and, in time, Great Brak River became known in the neighborhood as "Prohibition Village". In 1886 a new boot factory was erected there, and the following year this was followed by a tannery. In 1893 a mule-drawn cart service was started to deliver groceries to holiday makers as well as to carry mail from Oudtshoorn and Mossel Bay to Great Brak River. The 1904 census indicated that Great Brak River had a population of 362.
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