George Langlands and his family arrived at the site of Horsham, in the Wimmera, in 1849, and within a few months a store and Post Office had opened. Within a year the township had a pub, the site was surveyed and the first town blocks were offered for sale in Melbourne. It was not until almost 20 years later, with the passing of the Land Act of 1869, that the Wimmera was opened up to closer settlement.
The Wimmera is a highly productive agricultural area and one of the best regarded cropping districts in Australia. Nevertheless, the history of cropping in this area is one of coping with much adversity brought about by variable rainfall and drought, economic downturns, depressions and unstable prices, plant disease, declining soil fertility and soil structure, and the effect of two world wars. The leadership and guidance provided by agricultural societies was important to the local economy and to individual survival.
The Wimmera District Pastoral & Agricultural Society was formed in 1869, with Samuel Wilson as its first president and Nathaniel Swan as its first secretary. Wilson was by this time a very wealthy and influential member of Victorian society and had represented the Wimmera in the Legislative Assembly in 1861-61. He supported the work of the Acclimatization Society by experimenting with ostrich and goat farming. The relationship between the Wimmera District Pastoral & Agricultural Society and the Horsham & Wimmera District Pastoral & Agricultural Society requires further research.
The Horsham & Wimmera District Pastoral & Agricultural Society held regular shows at which medals were awarded, such as bronze and silver prize medals awarded around 1874-75 (for example, NU 20279). In 1871 Swan was quoted in the press as expressing disappointment about the range of entries for the annual show. Swan put this down to animosity between squatters and small selectors.
The first Horsham Show was held on 2 August 1876. The relationship between that show and the Horsham & Wimmera District Pastoral & Agricultural Society shows requires further research. The Horsham Show has been held every year since then with the exception of the three years during World War II. In 1993 an annual public holiday was gazetted for the Horsham Agricultural Society Grand Annual Agricultural Show. Today the Show retains its primary agricultural atmosphere and purpose.
Western Association of Victorian Historical Societies website, 'Luke Miver's Harvest', University of Sydney Library, 2000; http://home.vicnet.net.au/~wvahs/cropping.htm accessed 20/01/2004.
Australian Dictionary of Biography Online Edition.
Horsham Show Opening Speech, 1999, w.gg.gov.au/speeches/rtf/1999/sp990929.rtf accessed 20/1/2004.