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Eldoret Town: The Fascinating History You Probably Didn’t Know

The most interesting part of history is never learned in school. It’s not in any documentary or readily found in books. You might hear a tale from the old folks, but that would be it. So is the example of a story of the beginning of Eldoret Town.

For fear of castigation, my sources are sited at the end of this long piece. Also, a disclaimer on the factuality of some of the details. That, notwithstanding, the history of Eldoret Town is nothing short of epic.

Now, Eldoret Town came to being what it is as a result of the Boer invasion on this part of Kenya as they came from South Africa in the year 1909.

The Boers moved towards the highlands in search of arable land for farming. They had also fled South Africa in fear of being colonized by the British.

Boer and British settlers

What’s really unique about Eldoret Town is that it began under the Boer influence and not British influence as is synonymous with other towns in Kenya.

After settling in Kenya many Boers Families (Afrikaners) were displaced by the British from areas such as Nakuru. One of the famous Boer settlers is Ernest Kruger who owned a 5000-acre piece of farm; which came to be known as the Kruger Farm now belonging to Sergoit Gold and Wildlife resort.

It is said that after the Boers had settled and much development occurred, the town was divided into the Boer and British regions. North of the now Uganda Road used to be a Boer region and the south of Uganda Road a British region.

The Boers would take their Children to Highland School (now Moi Girls or White Highlands), and the Brits took their kids to Hill School. For recreation, the Boers had Wagon Wheel Hotel, and the Britons had Lincoln Hotel.

Allegedly Queen Elizabeth II visited the Lincoln Hotel at one point during her official visit to Ethiopia.

Highlands School in Eldoret Town

Arial photo of Hill School taken in 1963

Moi Girls, Eldoret Town in 1963

Moi Girls back in the day

The Safe, The Bank, and The Rat Pit

As the Boers had settled in Eldoret, The Standard Bank of South Africa Limited decided to set up a branch in the area. This also became the first bank in Eldoret Town.

The bank had a safe that was to be delivered by an Ox- cart. However, the safe fell en route to the bank which was built of mud and a tin roof. Despite best efforts, the safe couldn’t be boarded back onto the Ox-cart due to its weight.

JM Shaw, the Bank Manager, decided to rebuild the bank around the safe. The location of that bank is the present day Stanchart Bank.

Eldoret Town

1920’s Standard Bank of South African and the entrance to the Rat Pit. Pictured JW Shaw (Manager) and Secretary.

Then there is a tale of a bar named the Rat Pit, the epicenter of all the social activity within the town. This bar was located next to the bank (Now Stanchart Bank). It is said that Rat Pit was never manned and that patrons would take beer and leave money on the counter. If they needed change, they would take the equivalent amount from what was left by other patrons.

It’s also said that at one time, two patrons found the entry to the Rat Pit locked, they broke the door and went on to take their beer. They later paid as was the norm and left the door unlocked. From that point forward, and for many years later, the bar operated without a door.

The Late 1900s. Standard Bank

Why 64/Sisibo?

Today we have the 64 Stadium, 64 Secondary School, and we have 64 Resort & Sporting Club among many others. Have you ever asked yourself why the fascination with the number 64? Well, here is the story…

British settlers divided the land into huge portions named Settler Farms. Eldoret being 64 miles away from the Kibigori Railway it was therefore, called Farm 64. The locals pronounced it as Si-Si-Bo, a corruption of the word Sixty–Four.

It’s actually Eldaret not Eldoret

Typing errors did not start yesterday people. The name Farm 64 had outgrown its stay, and it was time this business center got a real name.

The governor at the time, Percy Girouard, summoned the farmers to give the business center a name. Sirikwa, Eldare, Sosiani, Bado Kidogo (I’m not making this up) were some of the names that were suggested. Not to forget Girouardfontein, which was to be named after the governor… good thing that suggestion never went through!

Now, the governor suggested that a T be added to Eldare (which means a place of hard rocks in the Maasai language) so as to make it Eldaret.

In comes the typing error. In the official gazette notice of January 1, 1912, the name was spelled Eldoret and not Eldaret as was intended.  The error was never rectified.

So there you have it. Some facts about Eldoret you probably didn’t know.

References

Eldoret. (n.d). In Wikipedia. Retrieved March, 17th 2017, From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eldoret

Kamau, J. (2009, September 15) The clumsy origins of Eldoret; once a boer town Retrieved From http://johnkamau.blogspot.co.ke/2009/09/clumsy-origins-of-eldoret-once-boer.html

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12 comments

  1. Many thanks for such an educative and insightful piece about Eldoret,,,,now I know about Eldaret as you have put it!!

  2. Educative, good to know the history of our great town, the home of champions

  3. Good to know… kongoi miising.

  4. Very interesting read. However, some parts don’t add up like what became of Rat Pit?

    • Thanks for the engagement, I guess as the town grew more hangouts came up the Rat Pit went out of style. I imagine it would have been hard for the Rat Pit to compete with the likes of Lincoln Hotel.

  5. Greatful indeed! What a story! From Hard rocks, here comes Hard World beaters. Many thanks.

  6. 64 I read in the past was the name of the Railway station, which was number 64 from Mombasa!

  7. It was a great place I spent my childhood at wasin Visu primary and Sec l lived in eldoret west. Now last 40 years in Canada 🇨🇦 Also studied in Harambee school

  8. Very interesting to know…had a short stint in Eldoret before we moved to another town but the memories still linger. Didn’t know much of the above either about the town. Keep it up!

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