In 1888 the Transvaal government decided to build a town on the border with Natal where the road from the coast passes through Laing's Nek Pass. Dorie de Jager suggested the name 'Volksrust' ('Peoples Rest') for the new town as it was the place where the Boers had concentrated and rested during the first war of independence (first Anglo-Boer war). Volksrust was proclaimed in 1889 and the first town council elected in 1903.
Volksrust hosted a concentration camp during the second war of independence (Second Anglo-Boer war) and a memorial listing the 772 people who died in the camp was erected in 1918. Volksrust is located about 15km north of Majuba hill where the final battle of the first war of independence took place.