In caves and overhangs throughout the area, San rock art can be found, evidence of the earliest human inhabitants. European settlement brought forestry and some agriculture, and led to massive destruction of the local cedar trees, with thousands felled for telephone poles,furniture and housing. The European arrival also led to the elimination of the San population. In the north, the old Moravian mission station of Wupperthal still remains, the heart of a small subsistence farming community, and home to a local industry producing velskoene, traditional soft leather shoes.
The Cederberg was possibly the southernmost battleground of the Second Boer War. A small band of Boer guerrillas penetrated into this area from the Boer republics, hundreds of kilometres to the north, hoping to stir up popular support amongst the local farmers of Dutch descent. In this they failed; the farmers may have had little sympathy for the British but they had a fair notion of who was going to win the war. It is said that the Boer commandos were confronted in the Cederberg by a lone Englishman, who ordered them to surrender. They laughed at him, because he was one and they were many and tried to reason with him, pointing out the hopelessness of his position. He refused to back down and was in the end shot dead. The place where he fell is today called Engelsmanskloof ("Englishman's ravine")