Early History of Klein Karoo
In the year 1689, Hykon, the Chief of the Inkqua tribe, which lived in the eastern Karoo sent a message to the Commander of the Cape settlement inviting the opening of trade. A party of travelers from the Cape set out on a venture into the interior. Ensign Izaak Schryver, at the head of the party of soldiers and guides, was sent on the long walk along the coast and then across the mountains into the unknown to find the Chief.
The Situation in the cape during the administration of the Dutch in 1689 was as follows: In the 1670’s free burghers were allowed to obtain a piece of land for farming purposes in the Hottentots-Holland region. This region fell under the control of Simon van der Stel and formed the eastern frontier of the Cape settlement. Further to the east along the coast, south of the Zonder Eind mountains and the Langeberg, the land was occupied by wondering Khoi-khoi tribes and groups of San. It is known that the Khoi tribes Hessaqua, Guriqua and Attequa wandered there with their stock. The Inqua tribe was known to move around in the eastern parts of the Karoo and Klein Karoo.
Information sourced from the Calitzdorp Museum
From origin to proclamation
The Deed of Transfer of the quitrent-tenure farm Buffelsvlei (2994 morgen) was issued to MC Calitz and his brother JJ Calitz in 1821.
In April 1834 five portions of the farm Buffelsvlei, totaling 1668 morgen, were transferred to others – and in 1842 the remaining 1326 morgen was divided and transferred to a son and two sons-in-law of MC Calitz. The land was divided in such a way that each farm had access to one of the two rivers – either the Gamka or the Nels river.
In 1854 a large farming community was already living in the area. There was, as yet, no church and a minister from Oudtshoorn served the area. It is on record, for instance, that ds. Van der Riet baptized 14 children in “Calitz Dorp in the parish of Oudtshoorn”. In reality, at that stage, a village did not exist, but as there were so many people with the surname Calitz living in the area, people started calling it Calitz Dorp.
In November 1854 the decision was made to build a church. A piece of land, not far from the Nels river, was sold to the Church Council by Frederik Calitz.
In 1855 work on the first church building commenced. A further piece of land was made available for the church in 1856. On the 7th June 1857, the new church was consecrated.
In October 1858 it was decided to also build a school on the church ground. To raise funds part of the ground was divided up into smaller erven and sold to members of the community and the school was built. At that stage Calitzdorp was still only the farm “Buffelsvlei” with a church and a school. There was no village or management board and the Church Council attended to the affairs of the village community.
In 1858 a divisional council was founded in Oudtshoorn and Calitzdorp for the next 12 years were represented by BL Saayman (1822 – 1879). He came from Ladismith in 1846 and established himself as a farmer in Calitzdorp. He married a daughter of CC Stassen in 1848. In 1874 Ds Richard van Reneen Barry became the first minister of the new church in Calitzdorp.
In 1986 a management board was formed, although no proclamation had yet been issued to declare Calitzdorp a village. The board was in the hands of three well-known residents i.e. Saayman, Brink and Stassen.
In 1905 Calitzdorp was declared a sub-district of Oudtshoorn, and in 1909 was proclaimed a town.
Early in 1913 Calitzdorp became more independent when it was granted its own divisional council and shortly thereafter proclaimed a municipality. The attorney JSF Brink (1874 – 1918), became the first mayor and the other five councilors were Reginald Barry, BL Saayman, NL Fouche, DJJ Nel and JP Strydom.
Geology of the Little Karoo
The geology of the Little Karoo bears no resemblance to that of the Great Karoo. The valley is an integral part of the Cape Fold Mountain Belt, with the two ranges on either side composed of extremely hard, erosion-resistant, quartzitic sandstone belonging
to the 450- to 510-million-year-old Table Mountain Group (i.e. the oldest layer of the Cape Supergroup). The valley floor is covered, in the main, by the next (younger) layer of the Supergroup, namely the much softer Bokkeveld shales. The dolerite of the Great Karoo did not penetrate these rocks, so Karoo Koppies are not seen in the Little Karoo.
The Little Karoo contains two other geological features that give the landscape a special character. During the erosion of the African interior following the bulging of the continent during the massive lava outpourings that ended the Karoo sedimentation 180 million years ago, some of the eroded material was trapped in the valleys of the Cape Fold Mountains, especially during the Cretaceous period, about 145 million years ago to 66 million years (Ma) ago. These “Enon Conglomerates“, as they are known, were deposited by high energy, fast-flowing rivers, and are found between Calitzdorp and Oudtshoorn, where they form the strikingly red “Redstone Hills”.
The second special geological feature that marks the Little Karoo is the 300 km-long fault line along the southern edge of the Swartberg Mountains. The Swartberg Mountains were lifted up along this fault, to such an extent that in the Oudtshoorn region, the rocks that form the base of the Cape Supergroup are exposed. These are locally known as the Cango Group, but are probably continuous with the Malmesbury Group that forms the base of Table Mountain on the Cape Peninsula, and similar outcrops in the Western Cape. In the Little Karoo, the outcrop is composed of limestone, into which an underground stream has carved the impressively extensive Cango Caves.