Prior to 1860, the land around what is now the Shire of Longreach was peopled by the Iningai, Malintji and Kunngkari.
In 1860, William Landsborough and Nat Buchanan, searching for new grazing land, came upon this area and saw in it a potential not appreciated by former explorers. The verdant Mitchell Grass plains, interspersed with broken boree, gidyea scrub and Flinders grass, and the Thomson River, which had been named after Edward Deas Thomson by Edmund Kennedy in 1847, were deemed suitable for their pastoral aspirations.
In 1863 a pastoral lease was granted to the partnership of the Scottish Australia Company, William Landsborough, Nat Buchanan and Edward Cornish. This lease, named ‘Bowen Downs’, covered an area of approximately 2000 square miles and was eventually stocked with about 350,000 sheep and 35,000 cattle.
In 1872, following management difficulties, not the least of which was the infamous cattle theft by Harry Readford, the company divided ‘Bowen Downs’ in two. ‘Mt Cornish’ covered an area of approximately 2,500,000 acres, extending from near Muttaburra to below Longreach. It was first managed by E. R. Edkins (a family name synonymous with the history of Longreach), who had driven 10,000 cattle down from the company runs near Burketown, which had been wiped out by black fever in 1871.
In 1887 ‘Bowen Downs’ was resumed and blocks of approximately 40,000 acres were thrown open for selection. Many of these selections have changed ownership a number of times since then, but descendents of the original selector families, such as Avery, Coxon, Coade, Edkins and Haywards, can still be found in the district.
In 1886 the railways were surveying for the rail line west of Rockhampton and found the present site of Longreach to be suitable for the terminus of the rail line.
In November 1887, the township of Longreach was gazetted. The name ‘Longreach’ had been used prior to the establishment of the town by an outstation of ‘Mt Cornish’, which was located in the vicinity of the present day ‘Nogo’. This outstation, like the town, may have derived its’ name from the ‘long reach’ of the Thomson River.
In December 1887, the first sale of Longreach town allotments was held at Barcaldine. The first sale was to the Queensland National Bank for 107 pounds. A block of land opposite was purchased by Mr J. M. Savage for 103 pounds, this site is presently occupied by the Video 2000 franchise.
Following the completion of the rail link in 1892, the growth of Longreach accelerated, soon boasting a post office, court house, police station and lockup, a state school, churches, businesses and residences.