Boisdale is situated on the Avon River 10 km north of Maffra and about 212 km east of Melbourne. The Boisdale run, taken up for Lachlan Macalister in 1842, stretched from the Avon River west to the Macalister River. It is thought to be named after a village in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland. In 1850, the lease was secured by John Foster, one of many runs he held in Gippsland. In 1861 he still controlled about 6000 acres at Boisdale.
In 1892 a son, Askin Foster, took over the management of the property. Previously thousands of cattle and sheep had been grazed on the undulating plains. From 1896 Askin Foster subdivided part of the property into smallholdings of 120 to 260 acres for dairy farming. Each farmer was provided with house, sheds, dairy herd and tools. By 1901 there were 31 farms and eventually 35. Advances in technology in the dairy industry assisted their success. This private settlement scheme brought an influx of population, establishing families who are still represented in the area.
A butter and cheese factory was built in 1900 to process the milk and cream, and the village of Boisdale was built around the factory to house its employees. There was a store and bakery, butchery, confectionery shop, stables and blacksmith. A hall was built in 1904. It contained a library and was used as church and school until a school was built in 1910.
In 1911 a portion of the Boisdale Estate was purchased for closer settlement. Blocks were taken up immediately, but the settlers suffered several poor seasons and drought. One of the conditions of settlement was a commitment to grow sugar beet to supply the beet sugar factory at Maffra. After poor crops and a scarcity of labour during World War I, the compulsory beet growing clause was removed. The need for a permanent water supply had also become apparent. Glenmaggie weir was constructed on the Macalister River, providing the first irrigation water in 1925. By the early 1940s, dairying had become more profitable and the beet sugar factory closed in 1946. The Boisdale butter and cheese factory closed in 1921, but there were factories in Maffra and Newry.
In 1892 Askin Foster had a new house built on a ridge overlooking the plain. It was constructed of Hawthorn bricks and Marseilles tiles, with red pine used internally. Its modern design included electricity, running hot water and drainage. The stables were equally modern, and of the same brick and tiles. Seven acres of garden and orchard surrounded the homestead. The estate, now reduced in size, has been kept in very good condition.
Boisdale is the location of a Consolidated School formed by the amalgamation of seven small schools, including Boisdale and Boisdale Estate and as far afield as Tinamba. The Consolidated School opened in 1951 with 265 pupils, providing primary and secondary education with an emphasis on agricultural interests. In 2014 the enrolment was 102.
In 1911, the population was 274 and in 1933 was 479. According to the 1994 Victorian municipal directory Boisdale is only a small township, but has many social organisations to serve its closely settled farming community, including a consolidated school, mechanics' institute, general store and shops, hall, two churches, fire brigade, Red Cross, and scouts, football, netball, cricket, and tennis clubs. The community celebrated 100 years of closer settlement in 2011.
Boisdale's census populations have been:
|Boisdale and environs||2011||
At the 2011 census, dairy farming accounted for 18.0% of employment and other farming 3.8%.
Florence Pearce, Boisdale, from squatter to settler: a pictorial history of the Boisdale closer settlement scheme, 1980
Helen Montague, Fields of learning: a history of the consolidation of seven rural schools, Newry, 2001
Helen Montague, Boisdale Public Hall 1904-2004 : bookings, balls and bazaars: one hundred years of community service, Maffra, 2004