Yahl is the aboriginal word for waters, much water. The early residents of the area took on the name. 'Yahl Paddock' was the name given to the land, which was first fenced for housing and consisted of the land bounded by Church Street on two sides.
The records show that at least two schools existed before the current school, which was built in 1878. The church opened in 1876 with great celebration. The small town had a hall built in the early 1900s, which was eventually proven as too small for the community's needs and a new hall was built in 1917.
Early Yahl (1860s) was described as 'dense scrub everywhere and kangaroos by the hundreds - there were no roads, only bush tracks through the trees'. Early homes were built using local timber to build wooden houses.
Hunts were held in the Yahl area and many fine horsemen were born in the area. It was probably one of the earliest sports and one that continued until the late 1900s. Tennis, cricket and football were important. The football team won several premierships including 1936 and 1937. Cricket and tennis have both had very long histories, both dating back to the mid 1890s. Small rural areas like Yahl have a tremendous love of sport and this continues in the town with the 'Royal Yahl' cricket oval still the scene for many a fine cricket match.
1897 was a year that gave the town of Yahl a real shake up. It was early in the morning of May that an earthquake shook much of the south-east of South Australia and the Western Districts of Victoria. Buildings were damaged, crosses fell from churches in Mount Gambier, and crockery on shelves in homes fell and broke. Some considered it was a sign of the end of the world.
The early Pioneers in the area were self-sufficient. Every home had its house cow, producing milk, cream and butter. The Yahl co-operative factory operated from the early 1900s or late 1800s. Prior to this, a privately owned factory had operated. The factory at both local and Adelaide shows won many a prize. In 1948, Borthwicks took over and beef, sheep and pigs were slaughtered, many locals gained employment, and locals bragged that the best small goods were manufactured at Yahl.
Agriculture was extensive in the area with the growing of hops a major industry for some years. Some of the old hop kilns still stand around Yahl. Orchards of fruit trees played host for hives of bees, the fertile soil was ideal for crops of oats and barley and potatoes and the farmers produced good sheep in particular Lincolns and Corriedales. The farmers were self-sufficient, worked hard and had a love of the land.