Thomas Mitchell was the first European explorer in the Pomonal area, camping near the future town site in 1836 before climbing Mount William in the nearby Grampians mountain range. Squatters soon followed and the town site was part of the "Lexington Run". In 1866, the Frenchman Peter DeMay was he first selector in the area, developing an orchard and small vineyard. The fruit industry developed from the 1890s, reaching a peak around 1913. From 1920, tobacco growing started in the area. The Black Friday bushfires of 1939 destroyed many of the orchards and tobacco properties. Today, while there is one remaining commercial orchard, Pomonal is mainly a grazing district.