Military outposts placed by the Cape Government in 1655 to fight the Khoi people in the area gave the mountain range its name (piket meaning outpost in Dutch), and the town was later named after it. First inhabited by Khoi and San people, the town was established in 1836 when the farm of “Grootfontein” was donated to the area’s church council by the then Governor of the Cape Colony, Sir Benjamin D’Urban.
Prior to European settlement, the Khoisan occupying the area in and around Piketberg were the CochoQua, who lived along the West Coast, from Saldhana Bay to Vredenberg. The lower Berg area, and the area around Piketberg, were occupied by ChariGuriQua, or GuriQua, who later followed Adam Kok – founder of the Griqua and responsible for the establishment of Kokstad, the capital of Griqualand East.
The division of Piquetberg originally fell under the district of Tulbagh, whose drostdy was transferred to Worcester in July 1822, but in about 1838 most of its area was brought under the district of the Cape. It was proclaimed a separate sub-district on 9 March 1848, and was raised to divisional status in 1857.
In 1833 the Dutch Reformed Church constituted a parish in the district of Piquetberg. After D'Urban made it a grant of the government farm, “Grootfontein”, for the purpose of establishing a kerkplaats (church farm), the sale of the first plots took place in 1841. On 9 March 1848 it was proclaimed the magisterial seat for the new district of Piquetberg.
1903 saw the arrival of the railway and offered new markets and opportunities for Piquetberg and in 1906 the town was handed over from the church to the municipality by Willem Liebenberg.
Landowners in Piquetberg relied heavily on the use of slave labour, as well as that of indentured Khoekhoe and Bastaard (Griqua) workers. With commercial farming and fishing were the predominant industries during the 19th century (and the Velddrif and Langevlei settlements are the result of these industries), workers remained enslaved despite 1838’s emancipation owing to restrictive labour laws and ‘vagrancy’ acts which limited the movement of people who did not own property or land. Mission villages such as Goedverwacht and Wittewater established a measure of independence for the Piquetberg inhabitants who had been previously enslaved but who lacked the resources to establish themselves on their own.
Racial inequality in the area, already prevalent and detrimental to the lives of non-white inhabitants, was further enhanced and entrenched by the apartheid government and still affect the inhabitants of Piketberg today.
Vernacular Architecture Society of South Africa, 2015. The Sandveld Oral History Project, “ Mense en plekke van die Piketberg-kontrei”. www.vassa.org.za |The Piketberg Museum, 2015. “The History of Piketberg”.www.piketbergmuseum.co.za https://www.sa-venues.com/attractionswc/piketberg.php