Land in the region was advertised for sale in 1849. The district was called 'Mintara' in the advertisements and it was promoted as being ideal for carters because there was plenty of feed and water. The town site was laid out in 1854 by Joseph and Henry Gilbert. No one knows where the name comes from. Some sources claim it is a corruption of an Aboriginal word 'mintadloo' or 'Minta - Ngadlu' meaning 'netted water' and others claim it derives from a Spanish word meaning 'camp or resting place'. The latter argument is based on the fact that the Burra Mining Company imported Spanish-speaking mule drivers from Uruguay to transport copper from Burra to Port Wakefield. It is certainly true that the town's early history records that as many as 100 Spanish mule drivers were passing through the town each day.
At the same time there were dozens of bullock drivers (mostly Irish) bringing copper to Port Wakefield through the town. The mules were obviously faster as the bullocks were only capable of doing 9 miles (14.5 km) a day consequently a series of tiny towns grew up at 9 mile intervals along the route. These were the evening watering holes for the bullock drivers who took the copper ingots to Port Wakefield and then brought coal (much of it from Newcastle-on-Tyne) back to fuel the smelters at Burra. The route was Burra to Hanson. Hanson to Farrell Flat. Then Farrell Flat to Mintaro. Then to either Watervale or Leasingham and so on until it got to Port Wakefield.
The town's economy collapsed when the copper from Burra was moved by railway. The result was that Mintaro was held in aspic. Such is its charm that in 1984 it became the first entire township in South Australia to be classified as a 'State Heritage Area'.