The earliest well-known travellers through the area known today as 'Carnarvon' mention the oasis-like fountain of 'Schietfontein' and its surroundings in their descriptions of the area. In the 1830’s a Xhosa community settled in the area, but evidence suggests that they may have been present as early as 1816. The Karee Mountains were also home to the nomadic San people at the time.

Rhenish Mission Church (built in 1858) still in use today

Rhenish Mission Church (built in 1858) still in use today.

When the early white settlers started farming in the vicinity of Schietfontein, they often came under attack by the San people. This is just one explanation for the unique corbelled houses still in existence in the region today. These houses resemble small forts from which the settlers could defend themselves against the San attacks.

In 1839 the British governor of the Cape, Sir George Napier, offered the Xhosa community of Schietfontein 98,000 morgen of land (approximately 19,600 hectares) surrounding Schietfontein, in exchange for their role in acting as a protective buffer between the San and the settlers. This included a majority of the farming land in the area today. The gradual disowning of land by the Xhosa people is one of the tragedies of the colonial and apartheid past, resulting in an almost exclusive white ownership of the farms in the Carnarvon district today.

In the year 1847 a Rhenish mission station was established in Schietfontein. The first missionary was the reverend C.W. Alheit. The present information centre of Carnarvon contains a small museum portraying the early times of the Rhenish Mission. The street names of Carnarvon still bare testimony to the early Rhenish missionaries, Alheit, Sterrenberg, Stremme, Biesenbach and Hartwig.

The central plane in town, as well as the surrounding buildings, still bear testimony to the early Rhenish Mission station. The church building was erected in 1858, the clock tower added in 1899, the first parsonage of Rev. Alheit was erected in the 1850’s and is today utilized as an information centre. The present parsonage opposite the church was built in 1912. It is flanked to the North and West with the L-shaped Rhenish school building, erected in 1871.