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Early Communities

The pioneers did not leave their selections very often. A trip to buy supplies once a month may have been the only outing. Once the land was cleared visiting neighbours was the only form of social contact. As more people came into the area small settlements began providing services such as hotels, stores, churches, tennis courts and schools.


Above: Leongatha Historical Society




The Buffalo Store, a typical South Gippsland general store.

Leongatha Historical Society

Essential for the flow of food, clothing, lighting and building materials, early stores played a crucial role in the life of the early settlements.

Nothing was more important to a pioneer community than its store. Once a settlement of any size was established some one started a store. The store provided food stuffs such as flour, sugar, tea and salted meat, tools, building materials, kerosene and basic clothing. The better the transport the better the supplies. As a result early South Gippsland stores were very basic in the early days before the railway in 1891.


Bellingham's Butchers

Leongatha Historical Society



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In many areas of Gippsland the first structure in a settlement was the hotel. Often someone would establish a sly grog shop which was a hut or tent and sell grog from there. When a license was obtained a more substantial building was erected. The original Bair’s and McCartin’s hotels in Leongatha are examples of this phenomena. Many decisions were made in the hotel because it was the only solid building to meet in. Hotels even bark and slab structures were important as places of entertainment and accommodation.


Bairs Hotel, Leongatha Historical Society


McCartins Hotel, Leongatha Historical Society


The first school in South Gippsland was at Woolamai in 1866, then Grantville in 1874.

When families settled an area the provision of a school was important and members of the community wrote to the education department requesting a school and teacher. In Poowong the community volunteered to construct a school building so a school could be established in 1878. It was compulsory for children to attend school for 30 days each quarter but even this was difficult especially in winter. Early schools were very simple buildings. They were often chock and log or slab structures and it took many years for the proper weather board buildings to be constructed.


A typical bush school made of slabs with a bark roof.

Leongatha Historical Society



Leongatha South School

Leongatha Historical Society


Mardan South School

Donated by Coulter Family


Before chuech buildings were established, travelling clergy would meet in homes, stores and the great outdoors.

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The people of the late nineteenth century were keen to have religious services. Travelling clergymen held services in peoples homes, in stores and in the open but these visits were few and far between. It took many years for the pioneers to gain regular visits and actual church buildings. Churches were great places for social contact and many community activities revolved around the church.

Above Left:

Leongatha Anglican Church Illustration

Leongatha Historical Society

Above Right:

Interior of the Church of England, Leongatha.

Donated by the Edney Family


The focal point of many small communities, also serving as school and church where needed.


Above Left: 

Picnics in the forest especially in the tree ferns were a popular form of social activity.

Donated by Leongatha Secondary College

Above Right: 

Pound Creek Hall

Leongatha Historical Society

Simple community halls were also built so members of the community could meet and organise social functions. Often the simple slab hall also served as the school and the church.

Sporting in Gippsland


The first sport to organise clubs was shooting. It was seen as important for men and boys to be taught to shoot. It was also important to practise and shooting clubs were formed and competitions held.


Mardan Rifle Club

Donated by the McKinnon Family


Rifle Shooting

Unknown, Right Jean Young (nee Steele)

Donated by the Young Family


It is interesting to note that tennis courts were probably the first sporting facilities built, and one of if not the first to build clubrooms. Often a court was constructed next to the hall or school and all society members could enjoy a game.


Mardan Tennis Club

Donated by the Campbell Family


Tennis at Leongatha

Leongatha Historical Society

Bowling Clubs

Bowls Clubs were another early recreational activity. The first one in Leongatha was built near the railway station.



Original Bowling Club at Leongatha

Leongatha Historical Society

Recreation Reserves

Surveyor Lardner surveyed a Recreation Reserve for each surveyed township. These were used for early sporting events such as cricket, football and athletics then later Agricultural Shows. They were important for the community and still are. We should be grateful for the forward thinking of these early government surveyors.



Grandstand Leongatha

Leongatha Historical Society



Leongatha Recreation Reserve

Leongatha Historical Society

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