Cowwarr History

Cowwarr was of great importance when it was established in the 1860's as a result of the Victorian goldrush!

It was a food supply, with early selections under Section 42, to feed the nearby goldfields around Walhalla. In fact it's first name was "The 42nd". It also marked one of the spots where the supply route to the goldfields left the plains and rose into the foothills. Here supplies were transferred from bullock wagons to pack horses for the more difficult journey into the mountains.

Establishing the Town...

The Post Office was opened in 1869 as "Upper Heyfield" and was renamed Cowwarr in 1870.

St. Brigid's Church foundation stone was laid in 1870 and upon completion has been in operation ever since. There was a Catholic school in town from 1874 to 1877 and the Cowwarr State School opened in 1877. During this period of time there was also a Protestant school of some form in town.

The railway made its way to Cowwarr in 1883. The railway house still stands in close proximity to a telling mound of dirt where trains once came to rest at the platform.

Dairying became more prominent as the land was gradually cleared, a creamery was established in the 1880s and the butter factory which remains today as an art gallery was built in 1897.

The Cowwarr Convent School began taking enrolments in 1919, conducted by St. Mary of the Cross McKillop's sisters.

In it's heyday, Cowwarr boasted a general store, a post master, several banks, at least two churches, two schools, a community hall, a shoemaker, a bakery, a butcher, a coach proprieter and four hotels.

Establising the Town...

The town of Heyfield grew up as a stopping point for diggers on their way to the Gippsland Goldfields and the Post Office was opened in 1870. Heyfield State School No. 1108 was opened in 1871 with 40 pupils, but St. Michael's school wasn't opened until 1954.

The railway came through from Traralgon to Heyfield in 1883 and continued on through Tinamba to Maffra by 1887.

The Heyfield Methodist Church began to hold services in 1866, the St. James Church of England was built in 1874 with Miss Marie Temple laying the foundation stone and St. Michael's Roman Catholic Church was opened in 1889. Four local streets still bare the names of MacFarlane, Firebrace, Tyson and Temple.

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Hotels and Horse Races...

The Retreat Hotel was the last hotel on the route to Walhalla. Nothing is left today, but some fruit trees marking the spot.

The Cowwarr Hotel burnt down whilst unlicensed and the Prince of Wales Hotel which was built from bricks, has since been demolished.

The Cricket Club Hotel, the only remaining one, was established in 1880 as a wooden building and in 1930 was reconstructed as the concrete art deco building we know today.

At it's peak the Cowwarr community was a hive of activity and even boasted such celebrations at Christmas time as horse racing and bullfighting!

Fun facts

  • Cowwarr was first called "The 42nd" as property selections under Section 42 supplied food to the Gippsland Goldfields.

  • Cowwarr means mountain in local Gunai/Kurnai language.

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References:

  • Film Gippsland Township Tour www.filmgippsland.com.au

  • Local Knowledge

  • Heyfield & District Historical Society

  • Linda Barraclough

  • Wikipedia