Toolleen is a rural village and district in northern Victoria, 35 km east of Bendigo and 26 km south of Elmore. It is at the junction of the Mount Pleasant Creek and the Northern Highway. The name is thought to be derived from an Aboriginal word meaning tongue.
Toolleen is situated where the Mount Pleasant and Mount Camel pastoral runs were subdivided for farm selections in 1870-74. There was a track through the district, formed mainly by miners travelling from Bendigo to the gold diggings at Rushworth and in the north-east of Victoria during the 1850s. The track became a coach road in 1870s.
During the second period of closer settlement in the 1890s a township site was surveyed and named Toolleen.
The settlement during the 1870s resulted in several schools being opened: Toolleen’s was the first in 1874, and then Cornella (1875), Muskerry (1878) and Myola (1878). All have closed, Toolleen’s being the last in 1991. Muskerry was the district’s centre for Catholics, a particularly fine bluestone church being built in 1876.
The suitability of the soil for farming was variable. Much clearing of box and ironbark was needed, finding a ready market for mine timbers and for firewood. Some soils have needed trace elements. Because of the mainly hilly landscape irrigation has not generally been possible, and wheat and grazing have been main industries. The flats along the Mount Pleasant Creek have provided the best farming land.
In 1905 Toolleen’s Plough Inn and store were replaced with commodious premises making the hotel 'one of the best hostelries in the State'. When it was burnt down in 1926, the replacement building was smaller, attuned to Toolleen’s declining population.
Toolleen has two churches, a hotel, a golf course, an oval and a training track. A State forest is 2 km southwards, and the Mount Camel range with its red volcanic soil is south-east. The soil is home to wineries which fall within the Heathcote wine region.
Toolleen’s census populations have been:
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Harley Forster, Waranga 1865-1965, F.W. Cheshire, 1965
Tribute to Toolleen, Toolleen School Committee, c1974