St James 3727St. James, a rural township in northern Victoria, is 12 km. south of Tungamah and 190 km. north-north-east of Melbourne. It is on the railway line between Benalla and Yarrawonga.
The name came from a pastoral station. In 1855 the holder of the Cobram station divided it into two, naming the new portion St. James. Later St. James was the name given to the local parish. In 1883 the railway line from Benalla, destined to terminate at Yarrawonga, was built as far as St. James. It remained thus for three years before being completed.
St. James is situated in a flat landscape, there being no significant stream or waterway; the temporary railway terminus was the motive for the township. A school was opened in 1884. Ten years later St. James had five hotels, two bank branches, two churches, two stores and a creamery.
In 1892 a storekeeper, George Coles, bought a shop in St. James and another in Lake Rowan, six kilometres eastwards on the road between Benalla and Yarrawonga. Three years later he built a family home in St. James. In 1910 his son, George junior, after having worked for several rural and Melbourne retailers, acquired the St. James business, which was the genesis of the G.J. Coles and Coy. chain of variety stores. Coles "North Eastern Store"was in the main street a few doors east of the railway crossing.
The main farming activity in the St. James district is wheat growing. There are large silos at the railway station, and bunkers at Lake Rowan to hold excess quantities.
Lake Rowan is on the road between Benalla and Yarrawonga and was probably bypassed by the railway because of the Lake Rowan swamp. It has two churches and a mechanics' institute, and productive farm land.
St. James has a church, a hall, hotel, store , and bowling, golf and tennis clubs. The golf club and recreation reserve were financially assisted by Sir George Coles to commemorate the 1977 Back-to-St. James celebrations. The school closed in 1993.
St. James census populations have been 131 (1891). 427 (1911) and 198 (1961).
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