Similar to the rest of the region, the Barraba area was originally occupied by the Kamilaroi people before white settlement. In 1827 the first white man named Allan Cunningham crossed the Manilla River which he named Buddle's Creek, a little to the west of where the town is located today.

Cunningham Memorial, a roadside obelisk 7km west of the town, is the nearest that he came to where Barraba is today. Barraba Station was taken up in 1838. Its name is derived from an Aboriginal term, said to mean ‘camp by the riverbank'. In the mid-1840s Scotsman John McKid opened the first store on the future town site which was surveyed in 1852.

Later in the decade gold was discovered in the area at Woodsreef, Ironbark Creek and Crow Mountain. Woods Reef became a vital village at this time but virtually disappeared when the gold was exhausted. In 1861 the first school was opened at Barraba in rented premises. A post office was built in 1866, at which time the population was 80. The first Anglican Church was erected in 1874-75 and the first bank, the Commercial Banking Company (CBC), was established in 1876. Another boom period developed when copper was discovered at Gulf Creek in 1889.

The first mine was established in 1892. At its peak in 1901, 200 men were employed in conjunction with the copper mine which was one of the largest in the state. A prosperous village developed with bark-hut residences, stores, a school, a hotel and a post office. However, the last major company pulled out in 1911 although the mine continued on for some years with a handful of employees. The school eventually closed in 1957 and the post office in 1965. All that remains today are the old school (built in 1896) and a poppet head.

The Clay Pan and Fuller Gallery is an experience not to be missed. The guild started more than 30 years ago and currently has more than 100 members. The Clay Pan officially opened in 1975 in what was a butcher’s shop while the Fuller Gallery opened later in the adjoining shopfront which was the former premises of a town newspaper. Both display a high standard of work from local artists, potters, patch workers, needleworkers, sculptors and woodworkers which can be viewed and bought weekdays and the first Saturday of the month.