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The first inhabitants of the Galston area were from the Dharug language group. Located in the shire of Hornsby, in the parish of North Colah, the place was first known to Europeans as North Colah. At one stage it was also known as Upper Dural. But Alexander Hutchison, a well-known property owner, suggested that his birthplace of Galston in Scotland would make a suitable name for the district. In 1887 the name of the local school, which opened the year before, was changed to Galston, and the locality too then became known as Galston.
The early pioneers described the area as dense bush for the most part, with steep gullies. The main means of transport was the bullock team. The teams hauled logs of ironbark, white mahogany and turpentine in jinkers down New Line Road (opened in 1829) to the Parramatta River for delivery to Sydney. As the land was cleared, settlers began farming.
Among the early settlers was Simon Moulds, a convict transported for life in 1798,  who, when granted a pardon, purchased 80 acres (32 hectares) of land at Knights Road, Galston. George and Herbert Hudson were important business people who owned large properties at Galston in the 1870s.
William and Ann Fagan, who arrived in Sydney in 1848 as free settlers, later bought land at Arcadia, and this was the beginning of the Fagan family's vast orchards in Dural, Galston and Arcadia. Ann Fagan came from another early pioneering family of the district, the Waddells. Waddell Cottage, built in 1866 by James Waddell, Ann's father, was the family home until 1969.  The building now stands in the grounds of Galston High School.
Galston began to develop in the 1880s, when crown land was subdivided and people moved into the area, establishing farms and orchards. A public school and post office were opened, quickly followed by the first shop. The last block of the crown land subdivision was sold in 1909.
The changing fortunes of the fruit industry
The depression of 1889–90 had an adverse affect on the fruit industry in the district, but this was followed by a boom which lasted for 20 years. The opening of Galston Road led to the revival of the fruit industry, as it provided a short route to Hornsby station for the delivery of fruit to the city markets.
By the Great Depression of the 1930s, many of the large orchards were reaching the end of their productive life, and many were closed. Samuel Fagan, who owned some of the largest orchards in the district, gradually closed them all down.
The population then increased with the subdivision of many of the large holdings into five-acre (two-hectare) blocks.
Fighting fires and redevelopment
Galston Bushfire Brigade was established in 1952. A fire-spotting tower was built by the brigade in 1977 and, in conjunction with the tower at Berowra, is invaluable for identifying the position and size of fires. In 1985, a new fire station was provided for the brigade on Johnson Road.
Except for the Gorge area, the countryside of Galston is flat, and in 1973 it was proposed as a site for Sydney's second international airport. To the relief of the community, this did not eventuate.
Galston village has grown in recent years with an expanded shopping centre and many new homes.