Imbil, a rural town of about 470 people, is in the Mary River Valley, 30 km south of Gympie and 120 km north-west of central Brisbane. Named after the Imbil homestead and pastoral run, it is thought that the name was derived from an Aboriginal word that described scrub vine.
The area was taken up as a sheep-grazing run in the early 1850s, but changed to a cattle run when the sheep were found to suffer from foot rot and the effects of spear grass. In the late 1860s a consolidated Imbil cattle station was formed. By then, gold fossickers were working southwards from Gympie. The Boyd's Hill find (1868) was made about a mile from the Imbil homestead. However, as the easily-won alluvial gold ran out there was some pressure for farm selections, which occurred in the Mary Valley in 1869.
The formation of a township was several decades away: a provisional school was not opened until 1897, and township lots were sold only a short time before the opening of the railway from Gympie in 1915. This activity coincided with the cutting up and sale of the Imbil run.
By the 1920s Imbil had a population of about 600 people. Pugh's Queensland Directory (1925) recorded several stores, a bank, a joinery works and three sawmills in Imbil. The sawmills removed much of the naturally occurring hoop and bunya pine, and by 1919 the Imbil forest station had been opened and a tree nursery established.
Forestry continued to be supported by the State Government, despite agitation by cattle interests for land clearing instead of re-forestation. Timber harvesting - both pine and hardwood - peaked in the 1950s-60s, but by 1968 decreasing hardwood supplies led to the amalgamation of several sawmill licenses. Plantation hoop pine has been substituted, but mechanisation of the industry has led to a decline in local population. Two sawmills continue, supported by over 20,000 ha of Imbil plantation.
Imbil has a combined State primary-secondary school, a hotel, motel, bowling club, a showground, local shops and a caravan park. The railway line was closed in 1995, but reopened in the late 1990s as a tourist railway operated by the Mary Valley Heritage Railway Association.
Imbil's census populations have been:
Lindsay Harris, As I remember: a pictorial story of the early workers in the Imbil Forest, Gympie, the Author, 1999
Joy King, Imbil: jewel of the Mary Valley: an historical collection, Imbil, Joy King, 2001
Ian Pedley, Winds of change: 100 years in Widgee Shire, Gympie, Widgee Shire Council, 1979