Indigenous people inhabited the region for thousands of years, and it is thought Numurkah derives from an aboriginal word meaning “The Warshield”.
In 1834 white settlement began, and in the following years, many explorers and settlers arrived in the area. A number of sheep and cattle runs were established in what is today the Numurkah district. To the North was the Strathmerton (or Ulupna) Pastoral Run, which was later divided into Strathmerton East and Strathmerton West. South was the Tallygaroopna Run, west was the Mundoona Run and east was the Katandra Run. Eventually, these runs were broken up and sold off as much small lots.
The township of Numurkah was proclaimed on 8 February 1875. Peter McCaskill was the first white settler in what is now the commercial hub of Numurkah. He established a store-hotel-post office, which served as the focal point of the community in the early days. Others to join McCaskill in the settlement of Numurkah in Alexander Meiklejohn & William Saxton (see if you can find the streets named after them).
By 1878, the township was thriving, with a large number of buildings, shops and hotels servicing the growing community. By 1881, there were four hotels in town – the Farmers Arms, Commercial Hotel, Royal Mail Hotel and The Globe – and the first newspaper, The Numurkah Standard, was established. In 1884, a second newspaper, The Guardian, came to town.
1881 also saw the extension of the railway to Numurkah, and welcomed the first policeman (Constable Michael Forestal and Constable Loftus) and the first doctor (Dr M U O’Sullivan, fresh from Ireland).
The Numurkah Agricultural Society was established in 1887. After the Second World War, many soldier settlers came to Numurkah to settle on farming blocks. Access to irrigation water was crucial to the development of these farms, and allowed greater opportunities for cropping and dairy farming.
The Numurkah War Memorial Hospital officially opened on 13 April 1957, although there had been less formal private hospitals in town before this time.
For more information see “Numurkah” by W.H. Bossence.