• 1872-first-settlers
    Murtoa’s Settlement – 1872
  • 9freezing-works-1920 Rgb-72lpi-r
    Murtoa’s Historical Industry
  • Earlybusinesses
    Murtoa’s Early Businesses
  • Thristy-days
    History of the Thirsty Days
  • Dr.john-cade
    Dr John Cade – Lithium
  • Coromby-brass-band
    Coromby Brass Band
  • Early-school
    Early Schools History
  • Sporting-town
    A Sporting Town
Explore-history Stacked-type Raster Rgb-72lpi

1872: The First Settlers

Pastoral Station leases (very large sheep runs), after decades of occupation were cancelled under the new regulations of the Land Act of 1869.

The country in the immediate vicinity of Lake Marma in 1871 was then part of Longerenong pastoral holding, under lease by Samuel Wilson and known as the Coorong paddock.

An applicant marked the allotment he wanted, by conspicuous posts, cairns or notices at the corners. The license was granted after a few months, then after occupation and improvement of the land with financial returns for seven years, the farmer could apply for a Freehold, and pay £1 per acre.

A party of farmers Martin Uhe, Paul Anders, Gustav Degenhardt, Fred Degenhardt of German descent from Mt Gambier arrived at Marma Gully in late 1871. After pegging out their claims around Lake Marma returned to Mt Gambier to harvest their crops. Early 1872 saw the return of these men with their families to begin the farming of their allotments.

By 29th January 1876, the first freehold landowner at Marma Gully was Henry Friend. Friend was a station hand from Longerenong, who also pegged his claim in October 1871.

In 1873, Marma Gully was surveyed by T H Breen, then it became known as Murtoa, Aboriginal name for ‘Home of the Lizard’.

The population of Murtoa grew quickly and expansion of farming worked in the direction of Coromby, Minyip, Rupanyup, Ashens and Yarriambiack Creek.

Murtoa’s Historical Industry

W C Thomas Flour Mill Murtoa – 1881 to 1977



Wimmera Inland Freezing Works – 1911 to 1926


Excerpts from the publication ‘The Wimmera Inland Freezing Works’.

Murtoa’s Early Businesses

The first issue of the Dunmunkle Standard was produced on 1st December 1878, the editor being Mr Edwin Boase.

The following is a list of businesses who advertised in the first issue:

  • Anderson Bros (general merchants)
  • H T Bennett (ironmonger)
  • Broadbent Bros
  • Colonial Bank
  • Commercial Hotel (agent for Cobb & Co)
  • Criterion Hotel
  • Davidson Forbes & Co (auctioneers)
  • Frank Frauenfelder (general blacksmith)
  • Garland’s Murtoa Saddlery Establishment
  • Henry Bennett & Co (‘The Iron Store’ – general merchants)
  • A B Miller (Murtoa Foundry)
  • W F Warbreck (chemist)

History of the Thirsty Days

  • Bull and Mouth: On the corner of Comyn and Duncan Streets. A popular stop over for travellers & spent horses. Destroyed by fire. Early publicans: Kuhle 1881 – 1882; Wilks 1882 – 1886; Pope 1887 – 1888.
  • Club Hotel: Was known as Criterion and became Club Hotel in 1882 when it reopened after a fire. Early publicans: Coghlan 1878; Mcaskil 1878 – 1879; Holt 1879 – 1900+.
  • Colonial Hotel: On the corner of Lake and Comyn Streets, licence forfeited in 1886. Early publicans: Dreher 1880 – 1885; Muller 1886. Delicenced and closed.
  • Commercial Hotel: Built in 1874, a single storey weatherboard structure on the corner of Marma and Duncan Streets. Later converted to a double storey brick structure between 1911 and 1913 and renamed Marma Gully Hotel in 1977. Early publicans: Jessel 1874 – 1889; Sheridan 1889 – 1900+; Laing 1892.
  • Marma Lake Hotel: Also known as ‘doyle’s pub or shanty’ the 1st pub. Situated opposite Lake Marma. Early publicans: Doyle 1874 - 1876; Brilliant 1877. Delicenced and closed.
  • *Meyers Wine Saloon: Opposite the police station.
  • Railway Hotel: Opened when the railway line came to Murtoa in 1878. Still operating today. Early publicans: Douglas 1879 – 1900+. Lessees: Schmidt 1888 – 1890; Turton 1891; Sampson 1892; Capell 1892 – 1900.
  • Shamrock Hotel: Early publicans: Mcinerny 1880; Bracken 1881; Nisbet 1881 – 1887; Sheridan 1888; Pope 1889 – 1900+
  • *Shanty Corner: Situated north of Murtoa at a crossroads. 1870s’ – 1887.
  • *Turvey’s Wine Bar: Corner of Mcdonald and Degenhardt Streets.
  • Victoria Hotel: Early publicans: Gowers 1878 – 1881; Muller 1882 – 1899+

*A wine shanty licence allowed the publican to sell wine only. The sale of other beverages, such as beer and spirits was prohibited. There were also limits on the amount of accommodation they could offer. There is a long history of many breaches and subsequent loss of licence.

Reference: Ashens People by Leigh Hammerton

Dr John Cade - Lithium

A world changing discovery and use of Lithium to treat bipolar disorders.

Dr John Cade: Born 18th January 1912 in Murtoa.

Dr John Frederick Joseph Cade (1912 – 1980) was an Australian psychiatrist who in 1948 discovered the effects of lithium carbonate as a mood stabilizer in the treatment of bipolar disorder, then known as manic depression.

The Cade family have made significant contributions to both Murtoa and the global community.

John’s Father was Dr David Duncan CADE: General Practitioner in Murtoa from 1908 to 1920. He served in WWI and returned suffering from ‘war weariness’. He sold his general practice in Murtoa and accepted a position with the Mental Hygiene Department of Victoria. John and his brothers spent many of their younger years living in the grounds of various mental institutions around Melbourne.


Coromby Brass Band

Walter Brinkman, a cornet player who wanted to form a band at Coromby, in 1891, held a meeting of 25 interested people at Coromby State School.

Edward Sprangler of Stawell accepted the offer to teach the band at a weekly practice session. Instruments of the Reynolds model were ordered, costing £50. Several members dropped out, being too difficult to master the instrument, but the band grew and played on for over a century.

In 1947 the band purchased two airforce huts from Nhill aerodrome and erected their own hall and practice room in Coromby. Prior to this practice was held in the Holtkamp family home. The band regarded itself as a service to the community and so over the years raised thousands of dollars for various charities. While many other small bands folded, Coromby band continued to play for many types of ceremonies in the local district, including an appearance in the mini-series ‘Flying Doctors’ in 1984, the fee enabled them to purchase new uniforms.

In 1973 an appeal for $3,000 was launched to purchase new instruments. The public response was overwhelming.

The Coromby band celebrated its 100th anniversary in 1991, a weekend of music enjoyed by all, however by 2010 there were only 5 members in the band. It is reputed that the Coromby Brass Band is the longest serving brass band in the world!

Early Schools History

Murtoa and district schools 1844 - 2017

Prior to 1872, during the period of Pastoral Stations, education was provided through religious or private means. The establishment in 1872 of the Free, Compulsory and Secular Education Act saw the rapid growth of State Schools. Schools represented the growth and patterns of settlements. In the Murtoa district, 35 schools were established between 1845 and 1900. School buildings, often relocated according to the greatest need or temporary buildings provided.

After WWII school closures accelerated because of the diminishing populations in rural areas. By this time, buses could transport children to larger town schools. By the 1980’s most one-room schools had closed.



Excerpts from ‘Murtoa & District Schools - A Brief History 1844 - 2017’. Available from Murtoa Museum.

A Sporting Town

From the earliest days Murtoa has been a town involved in all varieties of sporting activities.

  • Athletics – Len Sprague won the Stawell Gift in 1939 & 1945, achieved an Australian sprint record not broken until 1950. Winner of the Port Fairy Gift, Adelaide Gift & Warnambool Gift, in 1946 he set the Australian Pro 300 yards record and in 1947 was Australian Sprint Champion.
  • Table Tennis – The Tepper family, Kerri, Glenn, Jan & Ross Tepper all competed at major events around the world, achieving many awards and medals.
  • Australian Rules – First known as the Magpies and later the Burras, premiership holders and winners since the late 1800’s. Winners of the Stawell Gift Football Relay in 1956, 1957 & 1960.
  • Netball – Several times winners of the Wimmera Premiership formed in 1953.
  • Tennis – Railway Tennis Club & Lake Tennis Club. Competitions since 1903.
  • Horse Racing – First meeting 1879. Currently two race meetings held every year.
  • Greyhound (Coursing) Racing – Began 1900 but since ceased.
  • Golf – Club formed in 1890’s. First course was 9 holes in the middle of the Racecourse. The current 18 hole course was established south of Murtoa in 1946.
  • Rifle Shooting – Luke Walker from Lubeck, at the age of 17 won a gold medal competing in the 1997 Shooting World Championships in the USA. Rifle club formed in 1884 but the range was closed in 1983.
  • Lawn Bowls – Since 1922.
  • Cricket – Since 1920’s.
  • Angling Club – Founded in 1882 and still active.

Murtoa Museum holds current and past sporting records.

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