In the early 1800s the Kingborough area was the homeland of the Mouheneenner people who belonged to the South East Tribe. Despite more than 35,000 years of Aboriginal presence on this landscape, their footsteps have been light. The most obvious traces are the vast areas of shell middens lining the coastline.
French navigators were the first Europeans to explore the area of Kingston and its municipality, from as early as 1792. In 1808 the first white settlers arrived in the district at what is now known as Brown’s River, named after botanist Mr Robert Brown. The Aboriginal people from the area had given the river the lyrical name of ‘Promenalinah’. Before European settlement, this tannin-coloured river provided shellfish and crayfish for the 300 natives who camped nearby, hunting wallaby and kangaroo in the dense scrub.
By the 1830s the district was still sparsely populated by European settlers. There was no church, no school, no post office – in fact, no regular communication with Hobart Town.
In 1835, a farmer by the name of Proctor completed a road between Hobart Town and his property at Brown’s River. The Government, having refused to provide any financial assistance to Mr Proctor in the five year building project, declared the road a public thoroughfare – providing a much-needed link between Brown’s River and Hobart Town.
Governor Denison proclaimed the district a township on 27 January 1851. The reason behind the name Kingston is unknown, though theories include links to the capital of Norfolk Island, Kingston, or the Governor of Norfolk Island, a man named King, because of links between Norfolk Island and the district’s first settlers Thomas and Anne Lucas. It may also be named after New Kingston in Surrey England. Whatever the reason, the district became known as Kingston and over the years the old name of Brown’s River was gradually dropped.
The municipality had a number of thriving townships outside Kingston. Snug had settlers as early as 1822 and Woodbridge, once known as Peppermint Bay, was settled in 1847. Taroona, one of the first settled districts in the area, is noted for historic landmark the Shot Tower, which was established as a flourishing industry in l870.
The district has one special claim to fame – it was the birthplace of the now famous Keen’s Curry. In about 1877 Joseph Keen, the local baker, created the distinctive flavour of Keens’ Curry using coriander and various herbs grown at nearby Tinderbox.
Kingston developed into a holiday village, a weekend and summer holiday retreat. A number of the early holiday dwellings still exist at Kingston Beach and in the older part of Blackmans Bay.
The surrounding rural area concentrated on timber felling, fishing, fruit production and dairying. The settlements at Kingston, Margate, Snug, Kettering and Woodbridge operated small fishing fleets on the D’Entrecasteaux Channel fishing grounds and small local timber mills were established to make use of the available timber resources.
With the clearing of land for timber production, agriculture became established on the lower and flatter land around each of the settlements. Early crops were orchard and stone fruits and berry fruits, and pasture for dairy and meat production.
The apple industry began to decline due to the collapse of the export fruit market in the 1960s. Then in 1967 bushfires virtually ended large-scale fruit production in the municipality and many orchards were not re-established after the devastation they caused.
In 1969 the Southern Outlet road was completed from Hobart to Kingston. This road brought Kingston and Blackmans Bay within easy commuting range of Hobart and Kingborough began to experience rapid urban growth.