After the settlement of South Australia began in 1836, Pastoralists spread north from Adelaide. Droving their sheep and cattle south to ports and livestock markets, stock routes were created between the hills.
Terowie, whose name is derived from a local Aboriginal word meaning 'hidden water' was originally a watering pause on a stock route from the north-east of South Australia.
Following several good seasons, the Hundred of Terowie was surveyed, proclaimed and land sales commenced in 1871. Terowie is, however, outside Goyders Line. Goyders Line was established following the severe drought of 1864 to define a boundary beyond which agriculture was not sustainable. Despite the line, wheat farmers moved into the area previously grazed by Pastoralists. The town of Terowie was surveyed in 1877 and proclaimed in 1878.
When the broad gauge railway was extended from Adelaide/Burra to Terowie in 1880, Terowie boomed, and for almost 90 years Terowie was the break of gauge going North and South. All freight and passengers changed trains at Terowie. In its heyday (1940-50s) there was a population of over 2,000 people - with the rail industry being the main employer.
In 1969, the broad gauge was extended to Peterborough and so Terowie began to decline, with many leaving and businesses closing. In 1989, the railways finally left Terowie and the line was ripped up.
Now bypassed by the Barrier Highway midway between Adelaide and Broken Hill the population is only 150 but the Terowie Citizens Association Inc have bought
and restored seven of the buildings and, in 1985, the town was
declared an 'historic town'.
Terowie’s heritage-listed buildings include the Post Office, the Pioneer Gallery, a small museum with photographs and display of woman’s work, the Blacksmith Museum in the original Blacksmith Shop, and Simpson Museum.
Terowie became a large military camp in 1942. When US General Douglas MacArthur arrived on our platform in
March 1942 with his wife and son after escaping from the
Philippines his famous words ”l came out of Bataan and I
shall return" were reported here.
Hollywood actor-director John Patterson McGowan was born
in Terowie in February 1880, his father was a railway man
and many of JP movies have trains.
Terowie was awarded with South Australia Community
Event of the Year for Terowie Days of Rail and Screen in 2003,
celebrating the famous sons of Terowie.