Lying in a relatively remote area, bordered on three sides by mountains, the Franschhoek valley was originally known as Oliphantshoek. Elephants found its isolation ideal for raising their calves, and were often encountered by the early settlers.
In 1692 Heinrich Müller, a European colonist from Basel, was allotted the first farm in the area and named it Keerweder (meaning turn back).
The Huguenots who settled at the Cape from April 1688 onwards were allotted farms in Drakenstein, on the Cape Town side of the Berg River. They became dissatisfied with the quality of the soil however, and applied to Governor Simon van der Stel for permission to obtain better farms. He agreed to this and on 18th October, 1694 the following nine farms were allocated to them in the Oliphantshoek area:
- La Dauphiné, to Estienne Niel;
- Bourgogne to Pierre de Villiers;
- La Bri to Jacob de Villiers;
- Champagne to Abraham de Villiers;
- La Motte (at present Bo La Motte) to Jean Jourdan;
- Cabrière to Pierre Jourdan;
- La Cotte to Jean Gardiol;
- La Terra de Luc to Matthieu Amiel and
- La Provence to Pierre Joubert.
In 1713 this area was first referred to as de france hoek (the French corner) because it was inhabited mainly by French-speakers. On a map (drawn by L S de la Rochette in 1795) the name is given as FRANS HOECK or la Petite Rochelle. In 1805 the Commissioner-General of the Batavian Republic at the Cape, J A U de Mist, named the new field-cornetcy FRANSCHHOEK. The name also applied to the congregation established in 1845 as well as to the Municipality which came into being in 1881.