A building on Uganda highway in Eldoret town, Uasin Gishu County on July 26, 2022. The town is in the process of being elevated to a city status. Photo/Nation.

The Boers Who Built Eldoret

In the early 20th century, a group of South African Boers embarked on an extraordinary journey that would later shape the landscape of Eldoret Town. Their story is one of resilience, determination, and the pursuit of a new life far from their homeland.

The backdrop was the aftermath of the Second Anglo-Boer War, which raged between the British Empire and the Boer States (the Orange Free State and the Republic of Transvaal). The British emerged victorious, annexing both states. But for some Boers, British rule was intolerable, and they sought a fresh start elsewhere.

In 1908, a band of 58 rogue Afrikaans-speaking Boer families boarded the German ship Windhoek and sailed northward. Led by Meneer Van Rensberg, they arrived in Mombasa. Their goal: to find fertile land where they could thrive.

From Mombasa, they journeyed inland, eventually reaching the Uasin Gishu plateau. This place reminded them of the South African kopjes—rolling hills where their women could raise families in peace. They settled at the foot of Sergoit Hill on October 22, 1908.

Each family built modest wooden houses, fenced their land, and turned the first furrows. They planted wheat, maize, and vegetables, transforming the plateau. These Boers, armed and determined, effectively “colonized” Uasin Gishu.

At the time, the African continent was a playground for white settlers. The British had carved out the fertile Rift Valley into large farms known as “the white highlands.” However, Africans already inhabited these lands. To ensure European dominance, the colonial government passed the Crown Lands Ordinance of 1902, granting land grants exclusively to Europeans.

And so, Farm 64—later known as Eldoret—became their new home. Eldoret’s elevation ranged from 7,000 to 9,000 feet, ideal for European settlement. The Boers thrived, cultivating the land and establishing a community.

How was Eldoret’s first bank established?

But here’s where the story takes an unexpected twist.

As the Boers scouted the best spot within Farm 64, a heavy safe fell from their wagons. This safe contained all the cash they had brought from South Africa. It was a stroke of luck—or perhaps fate—that this mishap occurred right where they would settle.

Standard Chartered Bank of South Africa Limited recognized the potential of this growing community. They decided to set up a branch in Eldoret. The bank’s safe, containing valuables and currency, was delivered using an ox-drawn cart. Eldoret’s first bank was born.

And so, the Boers’ determination, combined with the arrival of a bank, laid the foundation for Eldoret’s future. Today, Eldoret stands as a vibrant town, a testament to the resilience of those early settlers.

Remember this tale when you walk through Eldoret’s streets, and perhaps you’ll catch a glimpse of the past—the echoes of Boer voices and the clinking of coins in that very first bank.

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