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History of Steynsburg, Hofmeyr and Tarkastad

Steynsburg was founded in 1872 by Andries Petrus Johannes Steyn, who was born in the area in 1823. The town was named after Douwe Gerbrandt Steyn, the grandfather of President Paul Kruger.

The earliest inhabitants of the area were the Khoikhoi people. In the 18th century, the area was settled by white farmers, who primarily raised sheep. 

Steynsburg was established as a trading post and service center for the surrounding farms. The town developed around the Reformed Church which was established in 1872 and was administered by a village management board under the Reformed Church. In 1874 22 plots were given to the Dutch Reformed Church and construction started on the first DRC building and the congregation formed a year later.

The town is home to a number of historical buildings, including the Reformed Church, Dutch Reformed Church and Bulhoek where former president Paul Kruger was born.
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Hofmeyr is located about 63km northeast of Cradock and was founded in 1873. The town was initially named Maraisburg but as there was already another town in the Transvaal with the same name, it was decided to rename it Hofmeyr in 1911, in honour of Jan Hendrik Hofmeyr – an ardent campaigner for the equal treatment of Afrikaans and English, and a prominent figure in the Eerste Taalbeweging.

The first few years were difficult, as the area was sparsely populated and there was little infrastructure. However, the town gradually grew and prospered, thanks to its strategic location on one of the trade routes between Port Elizabeth and Johannesburg.  

In 1952, a major archaeological discovery was made near Hofmeyr. A team of researchers found the Hofmeyr Skull, a 36,000-year-old anatomically modern human skull. The discovery was significant because it provided evidence that humans had been living in South Africa for much longer than previously thought.
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Tarkastad is located in the Winterberg Mountains, about halfway between Cradock and Queenstown. The town is known for its San rock paintings, its beautiful Karoo scenery, and its role in the Second Boer War.

The first people to occupy the area around Tarkastad were the San, who left an abundance of rock art paintings in Grootvlei just north of the town. The first farmers settled in Tarkastad in 1795 and built watermills, inns and both a Dutch Reformed and Presbyterian Church.

Two Great Trek leaders, Andries Potgieter and Piet Retief, farmed here for a short while. After the Dutch farmers decided to accompany their leaders on the Great Trek, the English 1820 settlers moved in, and in 1862 Tarkastad was established as a church centre and became a municipality in 1864.

Elands River Poort is located 24 km to the NNW of Tarkastad, where the Battle of Elands River (1901) was fought during the Second Boer War. The grave of Lt. Sheridan, cousin of Winston Churchill, who was killed in the Battle of Elands River can be found on the Modderfontein farm just outside Tarkastad.

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