Cradock was declared a sub-drostdy of the district of Graaff-Reinet on 21 January 1814, and on 12 March 1825 it was transferred to the new district of Somerset. This was reversed on 20 May 1831, and in June 1836 a Resident Magistrate and Civil Commissioner was appointed to Cradock. On 10 February 1837 Cradock was proclaimed as a separate district. Over the next 52 years various portions of its territory were separated to form new divisions at Middelburg in 1858, Tarka in 1874, and Steynsburg in 1889. Its revenues were derived mainly from sheep farming, supplemented at a later stage by ostrich husbandry.
The following census figures are available for the division:
1841 census: 6,300 residents
1865 census: 12,228 residents, of whom 3,195 were literate
1875 census: 12,084 residents, of whom 3,652 were literate
1891 census: 15,049 residents, of whom 4,938 were literate
1904 census: 18,803 residents, of whom 6,759 were literate