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History of Morwell

A Journey in Time – A Resource for Local History

History of Morwell

A Short History of Morwell

The earliest inhabitants of the Morwell district were the Braiakaulung people, one of the five Indigenous Australian clans of the Gunai/Kurnai nation.

The naming of Morwell is obscure and has many interpretations but is most likely derived from an Aboriginal word.

It is believed that the first written word for ‘Morwell’ was by Tyers the surveyor who worked in the ‘Morwellham area of England before moving to Australia. He named the ‘Morewell River’ in his plans when he surveyed the cattle runs in the area.

The first Europeans to take land in Morwell were squatters and ran pastoral leases such as the 22,900 acre Mary Ville – later called Maryvale and included the present site of Morwell.

In 1873 the government approved the construction of a railway line from Melbourne to Sale and it was this decision which gave rise to the development of the township of Morwell.

The first public sale of land in the town took place in January 1879 but there were at least ten traders operating in the town by that time.

Along this half mile of Commercial Road was a Telegraph Station, Post and Money Order office, a newspaper office and four hotels. Other essential community services were three banks, general stores, emporiums and coffee palaces. Businesses began appearing such as blacksmiths and wheelwrights to supply the mainly agricultural surrounding communities. At the eastern end of the street, a State School was built in 1880 and further east the Catholic church was built in 1906.

A brickworks and a pottery were established in the 1880s and a butter factory was built in 1890.

In 1888 two coal mining companies were established, The Great Morwell Coal Mining Company and the Maryvale Proprietary Coal Mining Company and the development of the Yallourn open cut coal mine and power station in the 1920s contributed to Morwell’s development, providing employment and trade.

On 27th May 1892 Morwell was declared a Shire after severance from the Shire of Traralgon.

The beginning of the motor car age also saw a dealer at the western end of Commercial Road by the early 1920s.

Several devastating fires over the years resulted in the formation of the Morwell Waterworks Trust in 1912 and reticulated water was turned on in December the following year.

In 1884 the population was 550. By 1900 the population was 800 and in 1910 the population had grown to 1365.