Howqua shire was proclaimed on 24 December 1874, taking in the mining townships of Gaffneys Creek and Jamieson on the upper reaches of the Goulburn River. The neighbouring shire was Mansfield, to the north.
The shire was named after the Howqua River, which was the site of a goldfield (1866) and of a small mining village also of the same name. It is thought that the name was derived from a popular brand of Chinese tea.
The shire was enlarged in 1894 when it absorbed the Woods Point borough. Its area was 2090 sq km. As the gold deposits in the shire's settlements were worked out the population declined to an estimated 900 people by 1918. On 30 May 1919, the shire was amalgamated with Mansfield shire. In addition to the towns already mentioned, Howqua shire contained A1 Mining Settlement, Ten Mile, Knockwood and Matlock.
Howqua shire's and Howqua settlement's census populations were: