Undated postcard of Latrobe's Memorial Post Office Reserve (Tasmaniana Library, SLT)

Latrobe commenced in 1836 as a farming district. During 1858 a bridge, brewery and public house were established to cater for the needs of local sawyers, shingle-splitters, mariners, and coal-miners, employed by Chartist leader Zephaniah Williams. Latrobe flourished, with shipbuilding, exports of timber and farm produce, the Latrobe Federal Band (1872), an agricultural show (1874), newspapers (187794), railway (1885), gasworks (1888) and piped water (1893), and in 1891 Latrobe, population 1568, was Tasmania's third largest town.

But its importance proved ephemeral. During the 1890s there were disastrous floods, fires and a depression, and shipping relocated to deeper berths downriver. Latrobe slumbered, waking only for its weekly livestock market. In later developments, a converted flourmill supplied hydro-electricity (191035), the Devon Hospital opened (1902), flax and vegetables were grown in the Second World War, grazing flourished after myxomatosis was introduced to reduce rabbit numbers, and Glaxo established a poppy processing plant (1973).

Further reading: Let's talk about Latrobe, 1987, TL.

Snow Thomas