Prior to European settlement the area is thought to have been occupied by the Wiradjuri or Gandangara Indigenous Australians. It is believed that the name ‘Burrowa’, the original spelling, derives from the local aboriginal language and refers to a native bird the plains turkey.
The first European to travel through what is now Boorowa Shire was surveyor George Evans, in 1815. Unofficial occupation of the district began in 1821 with Irishmen Rodger Corcoran and Ned Ryan, both former convicts who had received their ‘ticket of leave’ from the Governor. The first land grant in the general area was issued to Thomas Icely in 1829. A mill was operating on the future town site of Boorowa by 1837, along with an inn and several houses.
Governor Gipps proposed the creation of a village named ‘Burrowa’ in 1842, to be located 9 km north-east of the present site at Kings Plains which had been surveyed in 1828. However, that spot proved unsuitable and the village was established on its present site in 1843. The early years in the district saw lawlessness and mayhem as a result of long running boundary disputes, theft of livestock and arson, even murders; the cause being remoteness and lack of law and order. Bushrangers roamed the surrounding unsettled wild mountainous land, making raids into the town and stations of the district.
Squatters took up large tracts of land in the Boorowa area but the introduction of the Robertson Land Acts in 1861 resulted in a new land grab where large numbers of settlers, particularly ‘ticket of leave’ men, applied for a ‘selection’ of land with low cost land parcels available.
The district was given over to farming, although it received a push along when gold was found at Carcoar, Browns Creek and Kings Plains. Gold mines were established although copper and iron were also extracted. Samuel Marsden’s copper mine operated until 1900.
The town’s rugby league team competed for the Maher Cup during the 20th century.