The Karoo has always had few inhabitants. Prior to 1883, when windmills were perfected, the only permanent inhabitants were the Khoisan.
The Bushman/San are the oldest recorded people living in Southern Africa. Living in small family groups, called bands, they moved with the seasons for hunting and gathering. They were well adjusted to living in arid conditions where food and water were scarce at times.
About 2 000 years ago the Khoi-khoi moved into the area. Also nomadic people they had come from equally arid areas further north, in regions of Botswana. The term Khoisan is a collective name for these 2 groups of people.
They have left living sites, working sites, paintings, engravings and tools throughout the Karoo.
The Bantu speaking people (Xhosa/ Zulu), although moving south from the 1200s, never occupied the Karoo because they kept cattle and so preferred the more reliable rainfall and grazing along the eastern coastal plains.
In the 1700s the Trekboers, nomadic people of French and Dutch descent, left the Cape and moved through the Karoo. Many of them eventually settled in the Eastern Cape.
During the 1800s there was more movement of people through the Karoo. This was the Great Trek. The people who embarked on this journey were called the Voortrekkers. They wanted to get away from British rule in the Cape and moved north through the Karoo to go on to create their own Republics of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State (north of the Karoo).
By the late 1800s, when the windmill had been invented, European settlements began to emerge in the Karoo. With the good underground water and the ability to bring it to the surface it was no longer an impossibility to farm here.
Further movement and settelments in the Karoo began when diamonds were discovered. The diamond fields in Kimberley stimulated the building of a railway from the Cape through the Karoo to Kimberley. It was also then that the Anglo-Boer wars began with the British trying to annex the Boer Republics. Many battles and skirmishes took place in the Karoo and many concentration camps were set up in the Karoo.
Middelburg and Colesberg both played important roles in the Anglo-Boer wars. Middelburg, originally a commando for the Boers was later taken over by the British. There were 2 concentration camps set up here. At the end of the Anglo-Boer war the British had 7 000 troops based here for peace keeping on a farm called Grootfontein. This is now a well known Agricultural college. In 1901 Lord Kitchener and General Botha met here for peace talks to end the war but this proved futile.
Although the history of Karoo Ridge Conservancy is still unclear we know that Khoisan frequented the area due to the stone age tools found on the property. It is thought that Europeans (Boers) settled here in the late 1800s prior to the Anglo-Boer war. The present day homestead is at least 90 years old but the original homestead, which is no more than a ruin, is thought to have been built in the late 1800s.