In October 1849 George Langlands arrived in the area known as 'Horsham'. When he arrived it consisted of a police outpost, a lockup and a handful of huts.
He established a store and post office at what is now 74 Hamilton Street. By 1852 Horsham's population had grown to a few dozen people, including innkeeper John Campbell.
The village of about 20 buildings supported the region's large sheep runs, leased from the Crown by squatters. The first record of health care in Horsham comes from November 1852 when a drunken shearing gang became riotous and broke into the innkeeper's house and threatened the whole family.
The innkeeper shot at two gang members in self-defence. One was killed and the other, Henry Mason, was severely wounded.
IN OTHER NEWS:
At the trial of the innkeeper in February 1853, evidence was heard from Dr James (or John) Denniston who said that he treated Mason for "a gunshot wound on the upper side of the right breast" and he was "kept in hospital for two months".
It is probable that the 'hospital' was no more than a room in the doctor's house and that Dr Denniston, who'd had a practice in Collins Street, Melbourne, was drawn to the Wimmera by a contract, funded by public subscription, so that the region's increasing population could have access to professional health care.
By 1855 Dr Denniston had moved to the goldfields to practise medicine and was replaced in Horsham by Dr Whitcombe. A typical contract period seems to have been two or three years.
In 1864 Dr Watson and surgeon, W F McDonald, are recorded as practising in Horsham by the Australian Medical Association.
The Shire of Horsham was formed in 1863 and funds now came from property rates enabling basic services, such as putting crushed rock on the town's very rough roads to make them more easily travelled in wet conditions.
Doctors still had to travel over appalling tracks to reach dangerously ill or injured people. Their only aids were whatever they carried in their doctor's bag.
The 1869 Land Act opened up the land, originally occupied by the squatters, to ordinary citizens. It caused a land rush.
The population of Horsham, and the Wimmera generally, swelled enormously and with that increase came an urgent need for better health care.
Influential people on the Council, flour miller and property owner Robert Clark being in the forefront, committed public funds, augmented by their own, towards the construction of a Public Hospital, which was completed in 1874. It was built on a large block of land to the east of Robinson Street and south of Baillie Street. The hospital had to continually expand to keep pace with the rapid growth of Horsham. The need for additional health care was filled by several private hospitals. These were often little more than a house converted for the purpose and usually run by an experienced nurse.
Most private hospitals were lying-in hospitals for women to give birth and to treat diseases specific to women and children. They were in all parts of Horsham and its suburbs, such as Green Park, south of the river, and Church Hill, an old name for the region between Baillie Street and Railway Avenue that grew around the May and Millar foundry.
A few private hospitals carried out a full range of medical care. One was Abbotsleigh Hospital in Roberts Avenue and another was Wembley Private Hospital, initially located in Pynsent Street then later in Baillie Street. These were also managed by experienced nurses as managers with doctors on call.
This series of historical articles will cover all of the known hospitals over the years.
Subject to health rules governing the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the Horsham Historical Society is open to the public on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons, at 33 Pynsent Street. Web: www.vicnet.net.au/~hhs, email: email@example.com. Photos are available for sale.
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content:
Did you know you can receive updates straight to your inbox? To make sure you're up-to-date with news from across the region, sign up here.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.