A HISTORY OF NAPOLEONS: In August, 1837, a small band of settlers started from Corio shore to explore the unknown country to the north-west. This expedition reached Mount Buninyong, a native name that signifies a big hill. But because they failed to meet up with a cart carrying provisions, they were forced to return to Geelong. On or about the 20th of January, 1838, a second exploring party, that Thomas and Somerville Learmonth accompanied, set out to explore the area in the general vicinity of what was to become Ballarat and Burrumbeet. On the 25th of the same month, the first named of the brothers started with the intention of taking up a run near Buninyong, and pitched his tent or rather camped under a tree, on the banks of a large water hole that had been formed by the junction of the Dog Trap Creek with the river Leigh. So it was that Napoleons was one of the first areas in the Ballarat district to be settled by white men. The district was not named until some twenty years later. Napoleons was first known as Napoleons Lead.
Napoleons is a rural/residential village 14 km south of Ballarat on the road to Colac. Gold was discovered at Napoleons in 1857, and the Napoleons lead became one of the most important in the Buninyong district. The Lead was discovered by Cosgrove and his party in 1857. One of the party was a miner who reportedly resembled Napoleon or wore a hat like Napoleon’s. ‘Napoleon’s Lead’ was later shortened to Napoleon, then later (and still) was called Napoleons. Thomas Learmonth appears to have used Napoleons as his headquarters for some time before moving some two miles closer to Buninyong where he established the Buninyong Station. As many as 60,000 sheep were shorn in one season at Buninyong., all the flocks from Burrumbeet and elsewhere being brought there for that purpose. Although the period of time that Learmonth used Napoleons as his headquarters was brief, many evidences of their occupation were still visible in the shape of plough burrows, old fences, blocks upon which buildings had been erected and boxes sunk in the ground beside the river (the purpose of which is not too apparent). It would seem that very little development occurred in the district during the period of 1838 - 1856. A few settlers, including James Davies, William Bray and Lewis Moore had settled on various parts of Dog trap Creek by the mid 1850s. These men and their families appear to have made a living by dairying and no doubt growing vegetables for sale at the Ballarat and Buninyong diggings. By the mid-1860s it had a post office, a Methodist church (1862), a Congregational church (1863), an Anglican school (1864), upwards of ten mining companies and four hotels. Nearby mining localities included Scotchmans Lead, Black Lead and Cambrian Hill. A government school replaced the Anglican one in 1870, and a Catholic church was opened in 1871. A racecourse west of Napoleons was open from 1858 to 1886. The undulating land around Napoleons was suitable for agriculture, enabling population to stay in the area when mining declined. Sports clubs were formed – cricket (1880), football (c1914), tennis (1913). In 1953 a public hall was begun by acquiring a former school building, and enlarged in 1984. During the 1990s Napoleons underwent some rural/residential development. Napoleons has two churches, a public reserve, a school (100 pupils, 2018), a general store, a hall and tennis courts. Its census populations have been: Census date Population 1871 484 1911 240 1933 147 1961 109 2011 535
The school: Napoleons Primary school has a unique history, with the old Napoleons school dating back to 1870. In 2002, a new school was built on a new site nearby. In 2019 the school had a population of 102 students and the future growth trend seems to be established. The school grounds are expansive, but there is a need to ensure sustainable practices are encouraged. Napoleons Primary school continually strives to celebrate our successes and improvement is always on the agenda. We believe that the locality of the school itself is not only very attractive, but also conducive to a curriculum very much associated with hands on, personalised learning. We provide both a Reading Recovery and numeracy intervention program, a developing environmental program and Chinese, Physical Education and Music specialist programs. We also provide a significant Information and Communication Technology (ICT) program to up-skill and enhance the learning for the students and staff. Our emphasis is on providing engaging programs supportive of our literacy and numeracy objectives. We are also seeking a learning environment that is caring and considerate of others. As a school our purpose is to provide programs and opportunities for students to develop their academic, social, emotional and physical potential in a supported and dynamic learning environment.