Philippolis was founded in 1823 as a mission station for the local Khoi people by the London Missionary Society, represented by John Phillip, after whom the town is named. This makes it the oldest settlement in the Free State. Adam Kok II, a Griqua leader, settled here with his people in 1826 and was made the protector of the mission station. Kok's son Adam Kok III and his followers later migrated across the Drakensberg mountains to settle in Kokstad. The old church was replaced with a Dutch Reformed Church, which was consecrated in 1871. The pulpit, which is cut of olive wood, is a tourist attraction. The first school was opened in 1873. Today the town is becoming a popular tourist destination because of its historical value, architecture and rural lifestyle.