The town is situated at the southern foot of Mount Currie (2224m) and is the capital of Grikwaland East. It is part of the story of a second Great Trek and of those pioneer days of our history that became a footnote in the history books. In the late 1850’s a part of the Grikwas, those living in the southern Freestate, lost most of their land in a series of deals between the British government and the Freestate Republic north of the Orange River. They were given the ‘no-mans-land’ between the Transkei and Natal as compensation, but it meant at least a 500km trek with the Drakensberg in between.
The Grikwas were undaunted and about 2000 of them, under the leadership of Adam Kok Ill, undertook the epic journey to their Promised Land in 1861. With all their worldly possessions on 300 wagons and with 20000 animals they undertook the journey, of which the biggest part was over mountains and thorough the valleys of the Drakensberg in Basutuland (Lesotho). At last they reached the ‘No mans land’ through a pass that they named ‘ongeluksnek’ (accident pass) because one of their leaders died there in an eland hunt.
After having arrived in the Promised Land they built an enormous lager on the southern slopes of the mountain that they named Mount Currie, in honour of Sir Walter Currie, the first commander of the Frontier Armed and Mounted Police who championed their case for them. The Grikwas lived in and around this lager for about 10 years. In 1871 the Rev. William Dower of the London Missionary Society agreed to work in Grikwaland on condition that they move to a more suitable place for permanent residence. A new settlement was then occupied on the banks of the Mzintlava River and named Kokstad in honour of Adam Kok Ill. Each Grikwa over the age of 18 received a farm of 1200ha. For unknown reasons this excellent agricultural land, which today is considered some of the finest in the country, did not appeal to the young Grikwas. Within 3 years they had systematically sold more than half of their 600 farms to whites that were moving in and who were very eager to get hold of land.
In 1874 ‘No-mans-land’ officially became known as Griekwaland-East when Britain annexed the Griekwa Republic as part of the Cape Colony even though the Grikwas lodged several fruitless objections and rebellions. It ended with the annexation and Adam Kok was removed from his _, position. Kokstad became the administrative centre for the district of Mount Currie.
The town became the headquarters for a garrison during the ‘gun war’ against the Basutu (1880-1881) when a division of the Cape Mounted Rifles were stationed there. Municipal status was granted in 1892. Oak trees were planted along the broad streets and canals built to water the inhabitants’ gardens. The water came from the local streams and Crystal Springs on Mount Currie. Today the district, rich in water supply is known for its stock farming, dairy products, and the breeding of horses for polo- and otherwise. Polo competitions and gymkanas are regular items on the local social and sport calendar and attract entries from the whole country. Most of the streams are stocked with trout.
Adam Kok Ill and his wife are buried in a mausoleum next to the main street. Adam Kok died in 1875 after falling out of his horse carriage.
There is a bandstand at the city hall as a monument in honour of the brave men of the Cape Mounted Rifles that protected the inhabitants of Kokstad against the attacks from Nguni tribes in the area.
The Mount Currie nature reserve with its two memorials lies 5km north of the town. The first shows the position of the original laager built by Adam Kok Ill when the Grikwas came to Kokstad and the second is a war memorial of the Boy Scouts.