Kowree Shire (26 January 1872-1995) was in the Wimmera region, north-west Victoria, adjoining the South Australian border. Its southern border was the Glenelg River, from Rocklands Reservoir to west of Harrow, and then by an irregular line to South Australia. Its northern border lay across the Little Desert. The shire’s area was 5379 sq km.
Before the formation of the shire there were villages established at Apsley (on a road to Adelaide) and at Harrow (a crossing place on the Glenelg River.) The remaining area was mainly large pastoral properties. Harrow was the shire’s administrative centre until about 1887, when it was transferred to Edenhope which is on the Wimmera Highway.
None of these places had railway services. A railway line in the north of the shire (1927-1980s) ran westwards through Goroke. The extreme north-west settlement was Minimay, chiefly known for having provided back-breaking farm labour to John Shaw Neilson and his father on their selection in the 1880s. He began writing his poetry at Minimay.
Edenhope grew as the shire’s main town, and in the early postwar years it, Goroke and Apsley had influxes of population from soldier-settlement farms. In 1946 the shire was described in the Australian blue book:
Between 1947 and 1961 the shire’s population increased by more than 1000 people to 5426. During the next 30 years farm amalgamations took their toll, brining the population down by 1900.
In 1994 farming occupied 66% of Kowree shire’s area, carrying 917,600 sheep, 202,700 lambs and 20,000 cattle. Only Dundas shire carried more sheep and lambs. Wheat totalling 64,553 tonnes and barley totalling 5668 tonnes were harvested.
On 20 January 1995, most of Kowree shire was united with parts of Arapiles and Glenelg shires to form West Wimmera shire. Like Kowree, West Wimmera shire is headquartered at Edenhope.
Kowree shire’s census populations were:
J. Kenyon, ‘The early history of Kowree’, Kowree Advocate [newspaper], 28 January 1958
Apsley, Edenhope, Goroke and Harrow entries