1800-1860 Timeline

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The Min-jan-buttu and Ya-itma-thang aboriginal tribes (the Pallanganmiddang nation) live and roam throughout the area they call Baarmutha – “land of many creeks” and often gather along the Jareelyallock (Reedy Creek). No known European has ever been into the area.

Today in Beechworth, Baarmuth Park is a recreational reserve, the focus of many sporting activities, and the name Baarmutha is used in a number of locations around the area, including a popular winery.


John Joseph William Molesworth Oxley

NSW Surveyor General and explorer John Oxley asserts that “no river could fall into the sea between Cape Otway and Spencer’s Gulf”, and that the country south of parallel of 34 degrees is “uninhabitable and useless for all purposes of civilised men” … resulting in the discouragement of exploration of the area.


Sir Thomas Brisbane – painting by James Faed (1850)National Portrait Gallery

51-year-old Sir Thomas Brisbane – the newly appointed Governor of NSW – disbelieves Oxley’s statement (above) and suggests landing a party of convicts near Wilson’s Promontory and offering a pardon and a land grant to any of the convicts who successfully find their way overland from Wilson’s Promontory back to Sydney. However, his friend Alexander Berry recommends that instead of sending prisoners down south, the Governor should secure the services of 27-year-old explorer Hamilton Hume to lead the expedition party. Hume declines to undertake a trek from down south back up to Sydney but instead offers – if supplied with men and horses – to go from north to south – from Sydney down to Bass Strait. This is not carried out as Brisbane is unable to finance such a long and difficult expedition, but shortly afterwards Hume and his friend 38-year-old Royal Navy Captain William Hilton Hovell – a highly respected navigator living in Minto – agree together to undertake an expedition in the southerly direction at their own expense. They will find men, horses and bullocks, with Governor Brisbane agreeing to furnish them with pack saddles, tarpaulins, tent, arms, ammunition, and basic ‘skeleton’ charts.

1856 Portrait of 75-year-old Alexander Berry (vintage gelatin silver copy print made by Freeman & Co. in 1912 – State Library of New South Wales)
Scottish-born surgeon Alexander Berry first arrives in Australia in July 1819 as a 38-year-old, setting up as a successful merchant in George Street, Sydney with Edward Wollstonecraft, before sailing back to England to secure more merchandise. On the return journey in 1821 on the ship ‘Royal George’ Berry befriends fellow passenger Sir Thomas Brisbane who is on his way to Australia to take up the position of the new Governor. In January 1822 Berry, Hamilton Hume and Lieutenant Robert Johnson set out on a journey of exploration down the coast of New South Wales aboard the ‘Snapper’ where they will investigate the land in Shoalhaven area. After this Sir Thomas Brisbane arranges for Berry to receive a land grant of 10,000 acres (40 km2) and 100 convicts to establish the first European settlement on the south coast of NSW. This settlement becomes known as the Coolangatta Estate and develops into what is now the town of Berry,  named in honour of Alexander and his brother David.

1824 – Oct 2

Hamilton Humea sketch portrait from his later years

27-year-old Hamilton Hume and 38-year-old William Hovell leave Sydney and meet at Hume’s property in Appin (74 km from Sydney) from where their newly formed group start out on the expedition. The party consists of eight people – Hume and his three men – his assigned servants Claude Bossowa (also known as Claude Barrois), Henry Angel, and James Fitzpatrick, along with Hovell and his three assigned servants – Thomas Boyd, William Bollard, and Thomas Smith.

Unlike many others at the time, Hamilton Hume is a ‘Currency Lad’ – that is, actually born in Australia – at Seven Hills near Parramatta in 1797moving with his family at the age of 15 to a large grant of land near Appin and, at age 17, begins exploring the uncharted land to the south, known as the Berrima region. He quickly gains a reputation for his bush skills and knowledge of the area and is asked by Governor Macquarie to take part in several inland journeys of discovery. In 1817, Hume heads off with Deputy Surveyor-General James Meehan and Charles Throsby, during which Lake Bathurst and the Goulburn Plains are sighted. In 1818, he travels to Jervis Bay with Surveyor General John Oxley and James Meehan to Jervis Bay. After his 1822 expedition with Alexander Berry (see previous post), Hume is given a grant of land at Appin (near his parents Andrew and Elizabeth Hume) where he establishes his own farm. He also acquires land near Lake George, where he sets up a second station –‘Wooloobidallah’.

1824 – Oct 13

Hamilton Hume’s ‘Cooma Cottage’ as it looks today at Marchmont, Yass Valley Shire

Hume and Hovell’s group of eight reach Hume’s station ‘Wooloobidallah’ (later called Collingwood Station) near ‘Lake George’ (close to the modern-day town of Gunning). The journey begins in earnest on October 17. The next day they reach a spot (near present-day Yass) that Hume is so impressed with that, some years later, he will build his new residence – ‘Cooma Cottage’ there (above) where he will die on April 19th, 1873, aged 75.

1824 – Nov 6

1866 portrait of Captain William Hilton Hovell, aged 80 (artist unkown)

Hume and Hovell and their party come in sight of the snow-covered Australian Alps. They are impressed with the land they see – “a very rich country, abounding in kangaroos and other animals, with frequent tracks of aborigines”. Ten days later they arrive suddenly on the banks of a “fine river” which they name ‘Hume’s River’ (after Hume’s father Andrew Hamilton Hume). The point at which they camp by the ‘Hume’s River’ is about 50m in breadth and of considerable depth. The current is about three miles an hour, and the water is crystal clear.

1824 – Nov 16      

Hume and Hovell cross Hume’s (Murray) River on Nov 20th 1824

Hamilton Hume and William Hovell cross the Hume [Murray] River just upstream of a bend in the river below what is now Hume Weir Village (the actual ‘crossing place’ is now under the water of Lake Hume), then pass through the hills south-east of Stanley, 9km from present day Beechworth. At the time, the area’s only inhabitants are the Min-jan-buttu and Ya-itma-thang aboriginal tribes, who nurture the rich porous soils in the area with its abundant bird and wildlife.

1824 – Nov 24

In their later years – William Hovell (left) and Hamilton Hume (right). They rarely speak to each other after their expedition.

Near the site of present-day Wangaratta – where the King River joins the Ovens River – Hume and Hovell name the ‘Ovens River’ in honour of Irish-born soldier Major John Ovens (aide-de-camp and secretary to Thomas Brisbane, the Colonial Governor of New South Wales), and the ‘King River’ in honour of Captain Philip Gidley King, the third Governor of New South Wales (1800 to 1806). They also name the (constantly flooding) Reedy Creek, as well as the ‘Oxley Plains’ after the New South Wales Surveyor-General John Oxley.

Aboriginal names: Torryong (Ovens River), Poodumbia (King River), Jareelyallock (Reedy Creek), Kiewa (Sweet Water). Wangaratta is derived from the aboriginal words Wanga (long neck) and Ratta (the cormorant).

1828 – May

John Oxley, the Surveyor-General of New South Wales from 1812 to 1828

Upon the sudden death of 44-year-old John Oxley, 36-year-old Major Thomas Livingstone Mitchell becomes the new Surveyor-General of New South Wales.

Governor Lachlan Macquarie criticises Oxley, calling him ‘factious and dissatisfied’. In 1812 John Macarthur will write warmly of Oxley’s ‘good nature’ upon his arrival in Sydney, but will later speak in a very different vein after ‘his unprincipled conduct made it necessary to drop his acquaintance’ and ‘no more fit to make his way in the midst of the sharks among whom it will be his fate to live than he is qualified to be a Lord Chancellor’. Despite his investments, his fees and his land grants, when Oxley dies at Kirkham on 26 May 1828, he is ‘much embarrassed in his pecuniary circumstances’.


1853 painting of Captain Charles Sturt by J.M. Crossland (Art Gallery of South Australia)

Having explored the regions of the Macquarie River, the Bogan River and Castlereagh River – and discovering the Darling River in 1828 – Captain Charles Sturt now navigates down the Murrumbidgee River to its junction with the impressive wide river that the local indigenous people call the ‘Millewah’. In 1824 it had been named the ‘Hume’s River’ by Hamilton Hume in honour of his father Andrew Hamilton Hume. But now Captain Sturt ‘officially’ renames it the ‘Murray River’, after the then British Secretary of State for the Colonies, Sir George Murray.

Perth in Western Australia is named in honour of Sir George Murray’s place of origin in Scotland and his House of Commons seat.

1835 – May                  

John Batman

34-year-old successful and influential Vandemonian farmer John Batman – motivated by positive reports of Hume and Hovell’s explorations of Corio and surrounds – sails the boat Rebecca across Bass Strait from Launceston to Port Phillip Bay on his mission to settle the Port Phillip District, which will lead to the settlement of what will become the town, and later the city, of Melbourne. He initially proclaims the site ‘Batmania’.


Map showing track of Hume and Hovell across Victoria by H. Hansford, lithographed at the Department of Lands and Survey, Melbourne, by W. J. Butson. (courtesy of State Library of New South Wales)

Following in the footsteps (and the maps) of Hume and Hovell, a number of white settlers begin to make tentative steps overland from New South Wales into the land south of the Hume [Murray] River to establish cattle and sheep runs. (see entries below)

1835 – Sep                            

Sir Charles Hotson Ebden.

William Wyse, in the employ of the wealthy Sir Charles Hotson
Ebden, gathers a mob of cattle near Sydney and, with a party of drovers, follows the now established settlers track along the Murrumbidgee until he reaches the Tarcutta Creek, where he turns south-west and follows the track of the explorers Hume and Hovell (from 11 years before), until reaching the River Murray at the spot of Hume and Hovell’s discovery. Wyse discovers a better “Crossing Place” near the confluence of Bungambrawatha Creek and the River Murray straight across from the “Hovell Tree”. Here he establishes the “Mungabareena Run” (which includes the site of present day of Albury). Within a few weeks, following some straying cattle, Wyse crosses the River Murray and discovers splendid flat land at the junction of the Mitta Mitta River and the Little River (Kiewa River) with the Murray and, at that location, forms the “Bonegilla Run”.

Wyse’s “Crossing Place” at the Murray remains in popular use for the next two decades until the ‘Union Bridge’ is completed in 1861 and the name ‘Albury’ comes into common usage. At times of low to moderate river levels, brave travellers with wagons and carts can still cross the Murray at the “Crossing Place”, although it is also the scene of many drownings and considerable stock losses. 
In 1836, Charles Hotson Ebden will send Charles Bonney to search for a potential overland cattle route from Sydney to the new settlement of Batmania (Melbourne) on Port Phillip Bay. A wealthy man, Ebden will be one of the first men to purchase land at the first Melbourne land sales on June 1st 1837, buying three lots in Collins Street for £136. Two years later he sells the same blocks for a whopping £10,240, telling members of the newly formed Melbourne Club – in the mansion he has built at the top end of Collins Street – “I fear I am becoming disgustingly rich!”. Ebden becomes the Auditor-General in the first Victorian Government, and when he dies in Melbourne in 1867, he is one of the wealthiest men in Victoria, with an estate valued at over £100,000. Over 100 carriages follow his hearse to the Melbourne General Cemetery. 


John Gardiner ‘The Overlander’ in his later years.

38-year-old Irishman John Gardiner, with his friends Joseph Hawdon and John Hepburn, departs Sydney with 400 head of cattle and leads them overland, passing through north-east Victoria, towards the new Port Phillip District of NSW, finally arriving at Kooyong Koot Creek (which he will rename ‘Gardiner’s Creek’) near the new Batmania settlement (Melbourne) on the Yarra. Because of the massive journey, the first with stock, Gardiner is often called ‘the Overlander’. Leaving his cattle and men at Gardiner’s Creek, he returns to Sydney where he arranges to send a further 200 cattle to Port Phillip. He returns (by ship with his wife and daughter) and builds a house at Gardiner’s Creek; makes a purchase at Melbourne’s first land sale (a corner lot at Elizabeth and Little Collins Streets for £22); and establishes a cattle station of 15,000 acres (6070 ha) at Mooroolbark.

Joseph Hawdon (picture from a 75mm x 50mm miniature – Andrew Davison). Hawdon will have the contract for the first mail run from Sydney to Melbourne.
Charles Bonney
In 1837, Joseph Hawdon and his brother John will return to the area over the border and settle on a property of 64,000 acres which they name ‘Howlong [Oolong] Station’. In 1838 Joseph Hawdon and Charles Bonney set off with 340 head of cattle in the first overland drive to South Australia, the longest journey of its kind to be attempted by Europeans in Australia.


David Reid Jnr in his later years.

16-year-old David Reid leaves the King’s School in Sydney so that he can deliver a mob of cattle purchased from John Gardiner (‘The Overlander’ who had just returned from his famous trip to the new settlement at Port Phillip) to David Reid Snr’s newly leased land in the Maneroo (Monaro) District in NSW. After completing the cattle drive, the teen-aged Reid is inspired by ‘The Overlander’ Gardiner to look for his own land south of the Murray River. After being generously equipped by his father with some 500 head of cattle, 2 bullock wagons and teams and 6 assigned servants, over the next year he will head for the area known as Wangaratta by the Ovens River.

David Reid Jnr had arrived in Australia at the age of two in 1823 with his family from England. His father, retired naval officer Surgeon-Lieutenant David Reid Snr (who fought at Waterloo and had later been a naval surgeon on convict ships), is induced to settle in Australia by Governor Lachlan Macquarie in 1823, granting Reid Snr 2,000 acres at Inverary (between Goulburn and the area where Canberra will later be established) for his services to Britain. David Reid Jnr will play a part in the origins of Beechworth and it’s goldrush. Read on …

1836 – Oct                    

Surveyor General of NSW, Major Thomas Mitchell

Surveyor General of NSW, Thomas Livingstone Mitchell passes through North-East Victoria, camping on the banks of the ‘Seven Creeks’ at present-day Euroa (the local word for ‘joyful’) and crosses many rivers including the Broken River (where one of his group, groom and ’bugler’ James “Tally-Ho” Taylor drowns during the river crossing) at a place local Aboriginal people call ‘Benalta’ (the local word for ‘musk duck’) and the Hume [Murray] River near present day Howlong. Upon his return to Sydney, he reports that he has found ‘Australia Felix’ (denoting the country south of the Hume [Murray] River as a ‘pleasant land’). Mitchell makes little of the fact that the lush pastureland is already occupied by indigenous people who have cultivated the land for thousands of years Aboriginal ‘fire-stick farming.’

Plaque on Parfitt Road in Wangaratta commemorating Mitchell’s crossing of the Ovens River on October 15, 1836. (It replaces the original plaque erected on a tree near the bridge and unveiled in 23rd April 1915 by Mr Frank Tate, then Director of Education.)
Major Mitchell departs Sydney in March 1836 on his third expedition into Australia’s interior to complete his survey of the Darling River. At the time, it is the largest and most costly expedition ever mounted in Australia. 11 horses, 52 bullocks, 100 sheep, 22 carts and a boat carriage accompanied Mitchell, his Assistant Surveyor Granville Stapylton, along with a Wiradjuri man named John Piper and 23 convicts and ticket of leave men. From Orange, he follows the Lachlan and Murrumbidgee Rivers to where they join the Hume [Murray] River then continues downstream to a major river junction, proving that this is part of the Darling River system which he had previously explored. Returning upstream along the Murray, he launches his boat at present day ‘Boundary Bend’ and enters what is now Victoria. The lush green landscapes of Victoria’s north-east are a pleasant contrast to some of the drought-stricken districts through which he and his team had initially journeyed. Mitchell names ‘The Grampians’, the ‘Lodden’ ‘Avoca’, ‘Campaspe’ and ‘Wimmera’ rivers; explores the Nangeela (Glenelg) River; visits the Henty family at their new ‘Portland’ settlement; and sights the infant village of ‘Batmania’ (Melbourne)’ from ‘Mount Macedon’ before returning to Sydney in November 1836. He names ‘Mount Macedon’ after Philip II of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great.

1836 – Nov

The Murray River near Wodonga (photo: i-stock by Getty Images)

Yet a third name is given to ‘Hume’s River’ and the ‘Murray River’ when Major Mitchell, on his return journey to Sydney from his trek to Portland, crosses the river near Oolong (Howlong) and, rather than acknowledge the names given by his predecessors, chooses to recognise the vast river by its Aboriginal name Millewa (Milawa). Regardless of this, the name ‘Murray’ will continue to be officially used, though the river above Albury is referred to as ‘The Hume’ for some time.


Joseph Slack becomes the first European to settle at nearby Barnawartha and establishes a pastoral run near Indigo Creek … which he abandons with his cattle after a short time and his ‘Barneywatha Run’ is purchased by George Hume Barber in 1838. Ten years later the lease will consist of over 155 square kilometres, with a carrying capacity for 8,000 sheep.

The name ‘Barnawartha’ or ‘Barnawoodtha’ is given by an early history of the region as meaning ‘a deaf or dumb blackfellow’ or ‘long reeds.’ Another source indicates that the word may properly be pronounced as ‘Barra-na-tha.’


Paul Huon

Paul Huon (son of French nobleman Gabriel M Louis Huon De Kerillea) is the next white man to settle in (what is now) the Albury area, selecting the Wodonga Run which includes Huon Hill near the Wodonga Creek. The Wodonga Run covers a large stretch of country west and south of William Wyse’s Bonegilla Station, on the south bank of the Murray, opposite the site of Albury. Once he is settled, Huon will be officially granted a lease on February 7th, 1837. Paul Huon is closely followed to the area by his younger brothers Charles Huon (taking ‘Baranduda’) and Aimé Huon, who takes up a run at ‘Murramurangbong’. Charles Huon will later become the districts greatest advocate. Huon’s nephew Thomas Mitchell will join his uncle later and take up ‘Mungabareena’ when it is vacated by Charles Hotson Ebden.

Word soon spreads that the area around and south of the Murray River is exceptional in grasslands and abundant permanent water and this quickly gains interest from other squatters desiring to set up stations.


Lieutenant Colonel Lacey Walter Giles Yea.

Five young men travel overland from Goulburn in NSW with their stock and shepherds to settle the area around present day Yea, dividing the district into five large ‘Squatter’s Runs’. The settlement grows and a small township develops as a service centre for grazing, gold-mining and timber harvesting.

The area is originally known as ‘Muddy Creek’ (named by Hume and Hovell when they passed through the area in December 1824). As the small settlement of ‘Muddy Creek’ expands, the township will be surveyed and laid out in 1855 and the name changed to Yea to honour British Lietenant Colonel Yea who had been killed in action just a few weeks earlier in the Crimean War (on June 18th 1855).


William Pitt Faithfull (by convict artist Joseph Backler 1845).

After hearing the glowing reports of fertile land and abundant water in the Port Phillip District, Australian-born brothers 31-year-old William Pitt Faithfull and 23-year-old George Faithfull leave their drought-stricken ‘Springfield Station‘ near Goulburn in New South Wales and travel south with a mob of cattle and a flock of sheep, eventually settling north of Euroa on 11,000 acres at an area that becomes known as Faithfull’s Creek. They then move upstream to Oxley, settling the ‘Oxley Plains Run’ which covers 92,000 acres, including present-day Milawa. William eventually returns to the Faithfull’s ‘Springfield Station‘ near Goulburn, leaving his younger brother George at their ‘Oxley Plains Run’ and the homestead they have named ‘Wangaratta’. The Faithfull’s are the first European settlers specifically in the Wangaratta region.

Younger brother George Faithfull
41 years later, in December 1878, Ned Kelly and his gang will hold up the Faithfull’s Creek homestead, keeping 22 men prisoner at the station for nearly two days before travelling about 3 miles north to Euroa where the Kelly gang robs the National Bank.


Sir Francis Murphy

William Bowman is the first white settler to take up permanent land – a ‘squatters run’ – in the Norh-East, just 10km south of present-day Beechworth. He names it the ‘Tarrawingee Run’ but will give it up for a time because of troubles with the local aborigines – including the proud warrior Merriman (see text box below) – before returning to the run in March 1838 with his wife Eliza, who becomes the first white woman to live east of the Ovens River and their house will be the first to have a wooden floor and glass windows. In 1844 Bowman will lease his 50,000 acre ‘Tarrawingee Run’ to Sir Francis Murphy (who will go on to be the speaker of Victoria’s first Legislative Assembly and become Sir Francis Murphy – above). The property lease will change hands a number of times – George Gray holds it in 1847 and the Reid Brothers in 1851 until 1862 when Dr George MacKay takes over the lease … but Murphy seems to continue his interest until 1862 when Dr George MacKay takes over the lease.

William Bowman expresses hatred of Indigenous people and claims to have shot them wherever he saw them. His stockman, Benjamin Reed is also a known killer of Indigenous people. Tarrawingee is Merriman’s land and the arrival of Benjamin Reed leads to a feud between the two, culminating in the death of Merriman’s brother Harlequin and the loss of Benjamin Reed’s ticket of leave.  

1837 – Apr 10              

The youthful William Lamb – 2nd Viscount Melbourne. (He will be Prime Minister of England in 1834, and again 1835-1841 and later made Lord Melbourne).

Known briefly as ‘Batmania’ (by John Batman), the new settlement at Port Phillip by the Yarra River is officially named ‘Melbourne’ by NSW Governor Richard Bourke after the 55-year-old British Prime Minister, William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne, whose seat is Melbourne Hall (Castle) in the market town of Melbourne in Derbyshire.

Melbourne Castle in the county of Derby.


A 1987 sign at the entrance to Myrtleford – 150 years after the arrival of John Hillas.

17 miles miles from present day Beechworth, overlander John Hillas arrives with a small mob of cattle on the banks of the ‘Myrtle Creek’, named after the myrtle trees (tea trees) which grow along its banks. Hillas builds huts and stockyards beside the creek and names his property the ‘Myrtle Creek Run’. A crossing place – a ford – over the ‘Myrtle Creek’ will eventually develop on the Buckland Road, which will lead to the small settlement at the spot being named Myrtleford in 1871. ‘Myrtle Creek’ – which flows into the Ovens River just outside Myrtleford – will later be renamed ‘Barwidgee Creek’.


After arriving in Australia in 1836, 41-year-old Irishman James Osborne establishes a property – Yackandandah No. 1 Station – 4 miles from present day Yackandandah. He has travelled overland with his wife Isabella and his six children including James Osborne Jnr and Henry Osborne. James Snr will hold his ‘Yackandandah Run’ until 1859 and pass away in 1868. The area becomes known as Osbornes Flat and the name remains to this day.

Osborne, a ‘squatter’, is the first white settler in the Yackandandah district and on one occasion – when a notorious gang of bushrangers led by Black Douglas (aka Charles Russell) holds up his Yackandandah run – Osborne throws all his money out of the window into the chook house to hide it! When gold is found near the Yackandandah Creek in 1852, Osborne refuses to allow anyone to dig on his land. However, after he leaves the property in 1859, mining commences on his property and alluvial gold is found in his vegetable garden!  

1837 – Aug

The winter of 1837 is one of the severest in the history of the colonisation of Australia, with heavy rain falling on 42 consecutive days in the north-east of Victoria!

1837 – Aug

During the wet weather, Joseph Hawdon – who had crossed the Murray River the year before with John Hepburn and John Gardiner  – now returns with his brother, John Hawdon and a young Irish stockman, and convict, John Conway Bourke and they reach the flooded Murray River on their way to Melbourne. Determined to cross the swollen waterway, they remove the wheels from a dray and strap a tarpaulin under the body of the vehicle. They launch the rough punt into the stream in the hope of having it drift across by the aid of a tow rope. However, the rope breaks and, of the three men on the punt, only John Conway Bourke can swim. He bravely dives into the flood and succeeds in guiding the punt across the river. After congratulating Bourke on his rescue, Hawdon begs the young man to re-enter the raging river bearing a rope to help get the rest of their equipment across. After some discussion, Bourke agrees to brave it a second time and, a few hours later, the whole party and their gear are safe on the Victorian side. Hawdon will not forget this act of courage and will convince Governor Sir Richard Bourke to give the young man the job of the new regular mail run from Melbourne to Sydney – and give a JC Bourke a full pardon.

General Sir Richard Bourke, KCB – Governor of New South Wales from 1831 to 1837

1837 – Dec 30

Joseph Hawdon (picture from a 75mm x 50mm miniature – Andrew Davison).

The first overland mail service begins between Sydney and the district of Port Phillip. A fortnight later the mail arrives in the settlement of Melbourne. Experienced horseman and cross country traveller Joseph Hawdon initially wins the £1,200 yearly contract to run this mail service on a horse, followed later by E.B. Green who had purchased ‘Killawarra Station’ close to the Ovens Crossing Place.  Within a few years, a coach will be needed to carry the increasing amount of mail between the two towns.

In 1838, a letter from Sydney to Melbourne – by land – cost fifteen pence and took 2 to 3 weeks, while a letter – transported by ship – cost just three pence, but could take up to 12 weeks. The overland mail run is made throughout the year, over mostly unexplored territory, in all weathers and conditions. It is usually carried by a rider leading a pack horse with the mail weighing up to 15 pounds.

1838 – Jan 1

Former convict John Conway Bourke in his later years when he is employed by the Melbourne Post Office (from 1871 until his retirement in 1883). He will die on August 5, 1902, at the ripe old age of 87.

Brave 23-year-old Irish lad John Conway Bourke departs the ‘Melbourne Post Office’ – a wooden shanty erected on an allotment opposite St. James’ Cathedral – on the first Melbourne to Sydney mail run. The starting of the ‘first intercolonial postman’ from south to north is an important event to the inhabitants of the new town of Melbourne, and many of them gather outside Scott’s Hotel in Collins Street to bid farewell to the adventurous traveller. Bourke is accompanied by young Michael O’Brien, who is to ride with him as far as the Goulburn River. A retinue of 14 squatters, liberally charged with champagne, escort the pair as far as Mount Alexander Road at Flemington and by nightfall the two young men have reached Kilmore. This marks “the end of the known country” and from this point onwards Bourke rides on ahead with compass in hand, while O’Brien blazes the route on the tree trunks all the way to the Goulburn.

Transported Australia as a convict in 1836, John Conway Bourke is under the offer of a pardon if he delivers the mail between Melbourne and over the Murray River for one year. He has a tight time schedule to adhere to if he wishes to be granted his pardon and faces many challenges crossing flooded rivers and navigating the wilderness of ‘The Sydney Road’. Joseph Hawdon had made a contract with Governor Bourke to carry the mail between Sydney and Melbourne for a fee of £1,200 a year and entrusts the undertaking to young Bourke to make the journey from Melbourne to Sydney. Hawdon had met Bourke when he engaged him as a stockman and assisted in taking a herd of cattle from Hawdon’s ‘Howlong Station’ to Port Phillip, and had observed Bourke’s bravery in crossing the flooded Murray River (see earler entry).

1838 – Apr

Scotsman Dr George Edward Mackay

Dr. George Edward Mackay arrives in the district (on the eve of the Faithfull Massacre – see next entry) but on finding his servants are unwilling to stay for fear of an Aboriginal attack, retreats to the Hume [Murray] River, returning in the spring to squat on land at ‘Warrouley’ (Whorouly) 18 km from Beechworth.

1838 – Apr 11              

On the banks of the Broken River at Benalta (Benalla), a band of around 20 Waywurru Aboriginal men alledgedly attack the 18 stockmen of squatters William and George Faithfull. Eight of the white men are speared to death, and in return, one Aboriginal man is killed by musket fire. This guerilla-attack, now known as the ‘Faithfull Massacre’ and the ‘Battle of Broken River’ has been launched as retribution against the stockmen who shot some of their people on the Ovens River seven days earlier or as “revenge for the illicit use of Aboriginal women by the same party several weeks before”. While carrying mail from Holbrook to Melbourne, Joseph Hawdon is the first on the scene at the ‘Faithful Massacre’ – near the spot where the Benalla Botanic Gardens (designed by Alfred Sangwell in 1886) now stand.

In June the same year, the Faithfull brothers and more than 80 other squatters with stations along the Port Phillip route (now the Hume Highway) petition Governor Gipps to launch a counterattack. Gipps refuses their request, stating he will not sanction a war on the Aboriginal population, let alone allow the squatters to take matters into their own hands as they have threatened. The squatters have “knowingly gone beyond the limits of location”, taken that risk, and now they must bear the cost. However, Governor Gipps agrees to establish a ‘Border Force’ along the Port Phillip route, setting up small police posts at several river and creek crossings between Port Phillip (Melbourne) and Sydney. The Faithfulls and some 18 stockmen, shepherds, and hutkeepers – mounted and armed – ignore Governor Gipps and seek their own vengeance. The group of 20 men arrive at a Waywurru camp on the banks of the King River above Oxley and massacre (an estimated) 100 on the spot, with many others pursued for miles up the river, until all, with one or two exceptions, are exterminated. According to young John Conway Bourke – the mailman who rides weekly between Melbourne and the Murray – “one hundred Indigenous people were surrounded and attacked on an open flat plain. As the Indigenous people tried to escape across the King River they were shot, their bodies becoming ‘fish food’”.


While droving his sheep from Manaroo in NSW to Laceby (near the present-day airport at Wangaratta) on the King River, Charles William Cropper camps by a stream (Reedy Creek) below a waterfall, as his sheep are in very poor condition and need shearing. Cropper erects a temporary wooden structure, a woolshed, which David Reid will later rebuild and enlarge. The whole valley becomes known ‘the Woolshed’, and the name remains to this day.


The “Crossing Place” on the Murray River at (present day) Albury. This spot has been under the water of the Hume Weir since it was completed in 1936.

Nearly all the overlanders heading south from New South Wales use Hume & Hovell’s 1824 “Crossing Place” on the Murray River as their access point to Victoria, and the growing settlement at the crossing is named Albury (from villages in Hertfordshire and Oxfordshire, the word deriving from the Old English words ‘eald’ [old] and ‘byrig’ or ‘burg’ [fort], together meaning ‘stronghold’).

1838 – Apr 28              

Following his 1829-1830 Murray River expedition, Charles Sturt now departs Sydney on a new expedition, and by May 8 he has returned to the place where Hume and Hoyell had crossed ‘Hume’s River’ (near the present site of Albury) on their 1824 journey. Near this place is ‘Fowler’s Station’ where Sturt musters a mob of 300 cattle and a party of men and departs on May 22.

1838 – May 29             

Charles Sturt reaches the junction of the Ovens and King Rivers, close to the spot where Wangaratta stands today. Sturts records, with some horror, that the native populations that he had noted in 1829, have now been significantly reduced by disease, and that the faces of many of the survivors are “pitted as if by smallpox”.


Reverend Jospeh Docker

44-year-old Oxford University-educated Reverend Joseph Docker – motivated by Major Mitchell’s positive reports on the land south of the Murray River – realises the new area may offer more congenial and profitable employment as a pastoralist than as a pastor, and resigns from his church in Windsor (near Sydney) and sets out with his wife Sarah, five children, servants, a flock of sheep, some cattle and a boat to the ‘promised land’. They travel in covered bullock-wagons and carts through Goulburn and Yass, cross the Murray at the ‘Crossing-Place’ (at Albury) and, on September 8th 1838, arrive at an area the local aborigines call ‘Bontharambocha’, where they set up camp besie the Ovens River. George Faithfull arrives and informs Docker that he and his brother William have been “obliged to abandon their ‘Bontharambo Plains’ run on account of the depredations of the blacks who had murdered eight of their men” (see previous entry). Joseph Docker rides out, looks at the country, and is so much pleased with it that he decides to take the risk and agrees to take the lease from the Faithfull brothers, taking possession of the hut and quickly obtaining the squatting rights.

Docker had intended to send his wife and children to Port Phillip by a schooner then leaving Sydney, but at the last moment it is decided they should accompany him on the overland journey. This decision proved lucky as the vessel they had planned to take is wrecked on the voyage and all hands are lost.


William Henry Clark – the ‘Father of Wangaratta’.

Thomas Rattray becomes the first white settler at the Ovens River crossing site (at what is now Wangaratta). He establishes a sly grog shop and a punt service adjacent the southern riverbank to capitalise on the growing through-traffic. The following year he sells the enterprise to William Henry Clark who will become known as the ‘Father of Wangaratta’, building a slab-timber store with a bark roof and 4cm slits in the slabs instead of windows, to prevent ingress for attacking Aborigines and to enable the egress of gunfire. As others soon settle beside the Ovens River and a permanent settlement begins to grow, at the beginning of 1843 he will build a larger and better structure which will become known as the ‘Hope Inn’ (on the site where the Sydney Hotel / RSL Club stands today) with a Post Office added on the 1st of February. John Bond then builds a slab-and-bark store and Inn on the other side of the Ovens River, where noted Presbyterian clergyman John Dunmore Lang stays in 1846.

The King River joins the Ovens River at Wangaratta. The Ovens River then meets the mighty Murray River at Bundalong on the Victorian border north-west of Wangaratta.

1838 – Sep 8                 

David Reid in his later years

David Reid reaches the Ovens River, on the exactly same day as Reverend Joseph Docker and his family (see entry above) with their sheep and cattle. Also there is William Bowman (see entry above) – a Scotsman like David’s father. The following day one of Bowman’s men rides out with young Reid to show him some unoccupied land – 60,000 acres known as ‘Carraragarmungee’ (or ‘Carrajarmongei’ or ‘Currargarmonge’) near Wangaratta. This is the sort of land he’d been looking for and he applies for the lease, soon settling there. Held at first in his father’s name, after 1840 it will become a family partnership. Soon 18-year-old Reid will be grazing over 6,000 sheep and is neighbours with William Bowman and his ‘Tarrawingee Run’. Despite an attempted attack by Aboriginals, Reid will harvest his first wheat crop in December 1839.

Today, the Carraragarmungee Primary School (opened  in 1876 on the Wangaratta-Eldorado Road) stills serves the small populations of Londrigan and the nearby township of Eldorado, 16km from Beechworth.

1839 – AprMay

Lady Jane Franklin – detail from an 1816 portrait by Amelie Romilly

48-year-old Lady Jane Franklin – wife of Sir John Franklin, the Lieutenant Governor of Van Diemen’s Land – becomes the first European woman to travel overland from Port Phillip (Melbourne) to Sydney. In her diary she describes the first European dwelling at the Ovens Crossing (Wangaratta): “Saw Rattray’s unfinished hut … he was tipsy at Clark’s when we were there. Is said to sell grog here but has no licence. Two poles for milking cows.”

The view, as seen today, from ‘Mount Lady Jane Franklin’ near Barnawartha
Born Jane Griffin in London in 1791, Lady Jane is a very well educated, well-travelled (including Europe and, later, New Zealand) and well cultured woman, as well being appreciative of other cultures and takes a special interest in the wellbeing of female convicts. She is a ‘Renaissance woman’, extraordinary for the time. ‘Mount Lady Jane Franklin’ in Barnawartha is named after her, as she climbed it on her 1839 journey to view and better appreciate the countryside. After her husband’s disappearance in search of the Northwest Passage in 1845, she will sponsor or otherwise support several expeditions to determine his fate, but his remains are never found. Ballads such as “Lady Franklin’s Lament“, commemorating the searches for her lost husband, become popular in the late 1840s.

1839 – May                  

David Reid explores more of the land on his vast run, focusing on the area upstream of (what will become known as) El Dorado Creek when he comes across the hills above present-day Beechworth. He is so impressed by the beauty of what he sees on this glorious day in May that he nicknames the picturesque spot ‘Mayday Hills’ and names the creek that runs through the area ‘Reid’s Creek’, downstream from the current township.

Except for cattle and sheep grazing and the planting of some wheat crops, no other attempts are made to open up the area for the next 12 years. 

1839 – Aug                  

Henry Bingham, Commissioner for Crown Lands, visits the Ovens region, and finds the local Aboriginal people, for the most part, visibly afraid of white settlers. He states “the Natives appear to have a hostile feeling for the squatters from past transactions”.

1839 – Sep 9

Around 100km from present day Beechworth, the settlement of Violet Town is surveyed, becoming the first inland town to be surveyed in the entire Port Phillip District, although it will not be until the following year that the actual sale of land in Violet Town is held (in Sydney). Speculators pay huge amounts for the blocks of land, some of which are still not built on, well over 100 years later! The spot had been originally named ‘Violet Ponds’ by Major Mitchell and his party in 1836, after the native flowers that Mitchell noted “grow in profusion around the many ponds in the district”. Following the taking up of ‘Honeysuckle Station’ by Mitchell Forbes Scobie and his wife Flora in the 1840s, land selectors and developers arrive, the first Violet Town Post Office opens in 1852 and businesses open and the town grows through the 1860s as a hub from Melbourne connecting to Sydney and Bendigo. In 1873 the township will be split in half with the arrival of the railways, and the orientation of the town will turn from the old highway (now High Street) to Cowslip Street (below).

Violet Town – Cowslip Street looking East in 1898 (photo: Violet Town Action Group)
Following the visit of the Governor of Tasmania, Sir John Franklin, and his wife Lady Jane Franklin whilst travelling from Melbourne to Sydney by coach, the name of the creek that runs through Violet Town is chosen as ‘Honeysuckle’ because of the native honeysuckles that grows along its banks, and Lady Jane is invited to name the streets that are soon to be surveyed, and all, with one exception, are named after flowers.

1839 – Sep

Melbourne to Sydney Mail Coach (photo: Charles Kerry and Co, Photographers, Sydney)

As Melbourne grows, so does the demand for larger mail services to Sydney. Outgrowing a single rider on a horse with a packhorse carrying the mail, the first overland mail service – by coach – begins.


The replacement 1880s ‘Reidsdale’ house at Tarrawingee, photographed in the 1940s.

Just south of present-day Beechworth, near what is now Tarrawingee on the Ovens River, David Reid takes up more grazing land (which he calls ‘Reidsdale’) and builds a hut, before taking control of a vast area of land which stretches almost from Wangaratta to Stanley. Five years later Reid will bring his mother Agnes (widowed in 1840) and younger siblings, including brothers 14-year-old Robert Dyce Reid and 1-year-old Curtis Alexander Reid from Inverary to live at a house he has built for them on the ‘Reidsdale’ property. (Curtis will grow up to make wine under the ‘Reidsdale’ label and become the first secretary of the Melboure Cricket Club in 1877.) The present ‘Reidsdale’ house that stands on the property is built in the late 1880s.

‘Reidsdale’ at 810 Great Alpine Road, Tarrawingee, as it looks today

1840 – May                  

While Dr. George Edward Mackay is away from his ‘Warrouley’ property on business, 21 Aboriginal men, now armed with guns as well as their native weapons, attack his station, killing one of his servants, burning his huts and stores and all of his wheat. Mackay also claims that they slaughter his livestock and that only seven head of cattle, out of nearly 3,000, are left alive on the run. (This last claim seems difficult to fathom and is out of character with aboriginal behaviour.)

The Mackay family property ‘The Grange’. Dr George Mackay’s wife will die at the house in May 1893, fifty years after it was built. Some of the original fabric of
Dr Mackay’s ‘The Grange’ is believed to remain within the present residence
Mackay’s ‘Warrouley’ station borders the Faithfull brother’s ‘Oxley Plains’ run. The small town of Whorouly now stands here, between Wangaratta and Myrtleford.


Retired Royal Navy man, Captain William Fury Baker, purchases the ‘Barambogie’ run (near present day Chiltern) and successfully applies to re-name the run to ‘El Dorado’ (a fictitious country abounding in gold, believed by the Spaniards to exist upon the upper reaches of the Amazon). He soon befriends his neighbours to the south – the Reid brothers.

Gold will not be discovered in the region until 1852, so Captain Baker in naming his run ‘El Dorado’ is either a fortune teller or believed he had found his own pot of gold with his farm! 

1840 – Dec                   

‘Attack on store dray’ (1865 painting by S.T.Gill)

Two Aboriginal men approach David Reid at ‘Reidsdale’ as representatives of their clan ‘without instruments of war’ and with a ‘green bough in each hand’ to make peace, so that they can camp nearby on the Ovens River. Three or four weeks later, by which time Reid’s first crop of wheat is being harvested, Reid and his men spot 15 or 20 Aboriginal men from the same group, now armed with spears and painted with ‘pipe clay’, approaching them from across the river. Assuming an imminent attack, Reid and his men retreat to their nearby hut to gather their double-barrelled guns and shoot at the armed Aborigines.

Reidsdale’ will later become the depot for local Aboriginal people to collect blankets, tomahawks, flour, tea and sugar issued by ‘The Protection Board’. The Reid’s will issue rations, liaise with the board and provide reports in a volunteer capacity. 


Plaque commemoratring John Foord. The John Foord Bridge now spans the Murray River from Corowa in New South Wales to Wahgunyah in Victoria.

The Wahgunyah cattle run is established by John Foord and John Crisp. Their pastoral run extends from the Murray River southwards to Black Dog Creek, occupying about 13,800 hectares. ‘Wahgunyah’ is thought to be an Aboriginal word for ‘big camp’. The area around ‘Black Dog Creek’ will later be known as Chiltern.

In 1853 Foord purchases half a square mile of his holding, on the south-east bank of the Murray river, and three years later has it surveyed for a township. The ‘Wahgunyah Hotel’ opens in 1856. In 1857 Foord installs a punt across the river then replaces it in 1861 with a toll bridge (the first bridge over the Murray River) and he soon becomes known to the locals as the ‘Emperor of Wahgunyah’. He builds a flour mill at Wahgunyah in 1858, which will operate until 1941 and is burnt down in 1956.  

 1843 – Jan                             

The Ovens region – previously regarded as an extension of the Murrumbidgee District – officially becomes part of the newly declared Murray District of Port Phillip, under the supervision of Crown Lands Commissioner Henry Wilson Hutchinson Smythe, known to all as ‘Long’ Smythe as he stands almost 6’ 5” tall (198 cm)!

Stationed at Benalla, ‘Long’ Smythe deals with annual pasturing licences, stock tax returns, boundary disputes and other grievances, and the transfer of runs, which can change hands quite frequently.

1843 – Feb 1

A Post Office opens at the ‘Ovens Crossing’ (now known as Wangaratta). Based inside William Henry Clark’s Hope Inn, people in the area can now both send and receive mail at the Ovens Post Office from the mail coach service (established in 1839) that travels between Melbourne and Sydney. The Ovens Post Office, and a Post Office that opens on the same day in Kilmore, will become the 5th and 6th Post Offices to open in the entire Port Phillip District, and the only two inland Post Offices.

1844 – Feb 29             

David Reid and wife Mary on their 60th wedding anniversary in 1904

David Reid marries Mary Romaine Barber (daughter of Charles Barber and the niece of explorer Hamilton Hume), leaves the partnership with his brother John Reid, and moves with his new wife to live in the Yackandandah district, 41 kilometres upstream along the same creek, where he builds the district’s first water-driven flour mill in 1845.  He takes possession of all the country above Reid’s Woolshed including what are now the townships of Beechworth and Stanley.

When the water-race is being excavated for his flour mill by the Yackandandah Creek, one of the labourers, named Beaton, excitedly shows David Reid some glittering earth, suggesting it might be gold, which Reid quickly dismisses as mica. He later scoffs at a similar suggestion from his brick-master who finds glittering rocks on the opposite side of the creek. In his ignorance, he refuses to believe that gold can be found in Australia.  


Joseph Docker’s ‘Bontharambo’ original house in 1842, inherited from the Faithfull brothers before he bulds a new cottage (drawing by Colin Angus, based on a painting by T. E. Gilbert, the Docker children’s tutor)

The depression and drought of the early 1840s do not affect Reverend Joseph Docker’s ‘Bontharambo Run’ as severely as they do some other stations in the district and by 1844 he has replaced the Faithfull’s original hut with a new, larger timber cottage that has chimneys at either end and a bark roof to provide more comfort for his growing family. Unlike some other white settlers and pastoralists, Docker’s kind and understanding attitude to the local Aborigines is rewarded by their friendship and help, and for many years they hold corroborees on an island in the lagoon not far from his expanding Bontharambo homestead by the Ovens River, 10km from Wangaratta.

A painting of Joseph Docker’s original ‘Bontharambo’ house in 1843
By 1851, when gold is discovered in Beechworth, Docker is running 3,000 head of cattle and 30,000 sheep on his ‘Bartharambo Station’.


The Buckland River, 48 km from Beechworth

Thomas Buckland, a European squatter, establishes his ‘Buckland Run’ 12 miles (20km) from (present day) Bright. The land he settles on is by a river – a tributary of the Ovens River – in a green and plentiful valley. The valley will become known as the Buckland Valley with the Buckland River flowing through it. Gold will be discovered on his land in 1853. (see entry in July 1853)


The Black Dog Inn.

The ‘Black Dog Inn’ opens near Black Dog Creek where it crosses the ‘Melbourne-to-Sydney track’ on John Foord and John Crisp’s ‘Wahgunyah’ cattle run. In 1853, a government surveyor maps out a township by the creek. By 1854 the little town is named Chiltern, after the Chiltern Hills in England but not fully established until gold discoveries in 1858-59. The Chiltern Post Office opens at the start of September 1859.


Eight years after David Reid took the lease on his 60,000 acre ‘Carraragarmungee Run’, William Bowman (his nearest neighbour) offers to sell him the lease on his ‘Woorajay Run’ (also known as ‘Bowman’s Heifer Station’) of 41,000 acres. Reid agrees, giving him two massive runs totalling 101,100 acres – extending all the way from Wangaratta almost to Yackandandah, including Mt Pilot.

David Reid is now aged 26 … and it is just six years before gold is discovered in the land that had been formally been the ‘Woorajay Run’ … now in the possession of Reid!


The first brick building is erected at ‘Ovens Crossing’ – all the other structures are made of slab-and-bark – and the settlement of over 170 people will be surveyed and renamed ‘Wangaratta’ the following year, with 11 streets officially laid out (see entry below).


Paul Huon

After ten years of occupying his licensed area of 41,000 acres, situated south of the Murray River and extending west from the Little River (now the Kiewa River), Paul Huon officially applies for a lease of his “Woodonga Run”. Huon’s application is motivated by the knowledge that Crown Lands Commissioner Henry ‘Long’ Smythe has recommended the establishment of a “Township Reserve at Woodonga Creek” (or Wordonga Creek) with Huon’s station included in this proposed reserve.


Thomas Wedge’s survey map of Wanagratta and the layout of its first 11 streets

At the growing settlement where the Ovens and King Rivers meet – known simply as ‘Oven’s Crossing’ – the government’s Assistant Surveyor, 32-year-old Thomas Wedge officially names it ‘Wangaratta’. Wedge will also survey and name the settlement’s first eleven streets – Ovens Street after the river running through the settlement, along with Faithfull, Reid, Chisholm, Murphy, Baker, Gray, Templeton, Rowan, Ford and Docker after local pioneers. Within the next few years the population will exceed 200, and the new settlement’s first land sale auctions will be held on 26 and 27 November 1855; the first permanent police officers arrive; the first police magistrate, George Harper, is appointed; and Wangaratta’s first school will be established by William Bindall on Chisholm Street with 17 students.

William Pitt Faithfull – 1867 portrait by Myra Felton. Co-owner of the ‘Wangaratta’ homestead, one of Wangaratta’s first streets will be named in Faithfull’s honour
The name of the Faithfull brothers homestead – ‘Wangaratta’ on the largest cattle station in the district – is chosen by Wedge for the name of town. The original indigenous name is believed to mean either “nesting place of long necked cormorants” or “meeting of the waters”.  


At Yackandandah, David Reid’s fine woolclip is one of the first to be handled by the respected Richard Goldsbrough and is claimed to come from sheep descended from stock imported in the 1820s from King George III’s flock.


The Reids, Mackays, Bakers, Huons, Osbornes and other pastoralists send applications for long-term leases to Superintendent Charles La Trobe, motivated by the new March 1847 Order-in-Council rulings.  

Prior to 1847, it has been necessary to pay an annual £10 licence fee and a stock tax to legally run stock on Crown Land. But under the new 1847 rulings, squatters of the unsettled Ovens district may now be entitled to 14-year leases and the right to purchase part of their runs. This will potentially give the pastoralists a more dominant position in the Ovens district for many years to come. If they can control the local pastoral economy, they can also further exert their influence in other local areas of importance. 

1850 – Mar

William Campbell, a squatter at Clunes 20 miles (33 km) north of Ballarat, has enough geographical knowledge to recognise that the region’s vast quartz reefs might contain gold. Over a year before the Victorian Gold Rush begins, Campbell, his brother-in-law Donald Cameron and a few other prospectors find a small amount of gold beside Deep Creek (a tributary of the Lodden River) but keep their find secret to protect their interests.

1851 – Jan

George Bruhn in his later years

After a fruitless search for coal in South Australia in 1849, Dr George Hermann Bruhn, a 41-year-old German physician, chemist, artist and geologist, switches his interest to gold and treks to Victoria alone, heading to the rugged mountain ranges around Daylesford in his quest. Finding only a few tiny specks, he asks locals in the Pyrenees area (15 miles from Clunes) for advice and is introduced to Donald Cameron. In a remarkably generous gesture, Donald shows Dr Bruhn the quartz reefs he and his brother-in-law William Campbell had found at Deep Creek in Clunes in March the year before. Then Dr Bruhn meets young Irishman James Esmond who had come to Australia after trying his luck in California during the gold rush (but arriving too late to strike it rich). However, the 29-year-old Irishman had gained some experience in gold-mining and passes on his knowledge to Dr Bruhn.

1851 – May

Friedrich Gerstäcker

35-year-old German traveller, novelist, and adventurer Friedrich Gerstäcker commences the first “official voyage” down the Murray River. Departing from Albury in a canoe made from a gum tree, he will “travel around the world”. Alas he travels less than 100 miles (160 km) down the vast river when the canoe sinks, forcing him to continue on foot and he walks the 700 miles (1,127 km) to Adelaide, “the wildest and most dangerous march” of his life. However, Gerstäcker’s failure to complete the journey on the water will plant the seed that the Murray could be used for transportation.

1851 – Jun

Masses of people are leaving Melbourne to join the newly-discovered goldfields of New South Wales. To stop these desertions, Melbourne Mayor William Nicholson and Governor Charles La Trobe form the Gold Rewards Committee. The Committee offers 200 guineas (about $15,000 today) to “any person or persons who shall discover to them a gold mine, or deposit within 200 miles (320km) of Melbourne, capable of being worked to advantage”. It doesn’t take long for claims to start rolling in – the first just a few weeks later – and within three months, over 250,000 ounces of gold will be obtained, and by 1852 this has increased to a whopping 2,000,000 ounces!

1851 – Jul 1                          

Charles Joseph La Trobe (1855 portrait by Sir Francis Grant).

The Port Phillip District officially separates from New South Wales, with Captain Charles La Trobe appointed as Lieutenant-Governor to head the new colony of Victoria. This results in Ovens district squatters winning direct representation in the first Legislative Council of Victoria.

1851 – Jul 5                            

James William Esmond in his later years (photo courtesy Ballarat Heritage Services)

First Official Gold Discovery! 29-year-old Irishman James William Esmond, who had been to the goldfields of California, is now in the settlement of Clunes, 20 miles (33 km) north of Ballarat, where he mines some samples from the quartz, then journeys to Geelong and sells eight ounces of gold to jeweller William Patterson. This is the first commercial purchase of gold recorded in Victoria. Patterson quickly reports the discovery.

James Esmond monument at Clunes
While the originalGold Rewards Committeenever actually pays anyone, the Victorian Govenment will later reward James Esmond £1,000 (about $123,500) for organising the first sale of gold, and for introducing Californian gold extraction techniques to Victoria, although he will later claim he had been ‘short changed’ and should have received more. William Campbell will also receive £1,000 for his initial discovery, and Dr George Bruhn will be rewarded with £500 (about $61,750) for his prospecting exploration around central Victoria, and £1,000 is paid to Louis Michel for his discovery at Warrandyte. (see below)

1851 – Jul 17

Following James Esmond’s discovery of gold at Clunes and other discoveries, including Louis Michel’s find near Major Newman’s run at Warrandyte, the Gold Rewards Committee officially announces that gold has been found. “The Committee appointed to promote the discovery of a Gold Field in the Colony of Victoria, have the satisfaction of announcing that unquestionable evidence has been adduced to them, showing the existence of Gold, in considerable quantity, both at the Deep Creek on the Yarra, near Major Newman’s run, and also at the Deep Creek on the Pyrenees near Mr. Donald Cameron’s house.” This news will forever change the colony as thousands of hopeful migrants rush to Victoria and head for the diggings.

Although the ‘Gold Rewards Committees’ report says: “Deep Creek on the Yarra near Major Newman’s Run”, this is incorrect as the find is actually on Anderson’s Creek (at Warrandyte) as a later reward to Louis Michel will prove. Major Newman, a former officer of the Indian Army had purchased the property by the creek from Warrandyte’s first white settler, James Anderson. Michel will lead government officials and prospectors to his newly found gold field on August 6th, and his find will be named the ‘Victoria Field’, in honour of the new colony.  Within a few days, almost 200 miners are working along the banks of Anderson’s Creek, but the tremendously rich gold fields of Ballarat, Clunes and Bendigo will lure many miners away from Anderson’s Creek, and by December 1851, Warrandyte is almost deserted. However, in 1854, when Michel is finally rewarded with £1,000 by the Victorian Government, interest in the area is revived.  By 1855, two stores, an Inn, and an accommodation tent help supply the needs of the 200-odd miners now working in the area again


Alfred William Eustace painting – “Between Beechworth and Chiltern” 1880

Alfred William Eustace arrives in the Ovens Region from England with his wife and two children, gaining employment as a shepherd on the El Dorado Run (near present-day Chiltern) which has been purchased by Jason Withers, who also owns the Ullina Run. With a growing fascination for the landscape around him, Eustace teaches himself to paint, but with canvas and paper not being readily available, he turns to painting on the leaves of the local Red and White Box eucalyptus trees. In 1856 he paints a small picture of the Woolshed gold-rush and during the next few years becomes much admired for his art, holding exhibitions in Albury, Ballarat and Melbourne and, by 1896, Eustace is receiving orders from important European families and acknowledged by Queen Victoria, Emperor Frederick of Germany, the Czar of Russia and the Governors of NSW and Victoria.

Alfred William Eustace – painting on gum leaf.
Along with his artwork, Alfred Eustace becomes a renowned poet and writer with a keen interest in spirituality and ornithology. He turns his hand to taxidermy and many samples of his work are now on display at the Burke Museum in Beechworth. 


George Briscoe Kerferd in his 40s. He will become a leading Beechworth citizen and eventually the 10th Premier of Victoria.

23-year-old George Briscoe Kerferd from Liverpool arrives in Melbourne aboard the ship ‘Albatross’ and promptly heads to Bendigo to search for gold. After a few months of failing to strike it rich, he gains employment with Bendigo merchants W.M. Bell & Co before deciding to move to the Ovens District.


Dr Gemmell’s ‘Wangaratta Private Hospital’ will later become the ‘Royal Hotel’, pictured above in 1921

Dr Gemmell from Wooragee Station builds a two-storey private brick hospital at 20 Reid Street in Wangaratta, the first hospital in the township. It will later become the Royal Hotel with John Crisp as the publican.

In 1917 the ‘Royal Hotel’ will be taken over by Anne Edith Pinsent who remodels and renames it ‘The Pinsent Hotel’ in January 1923. It becomes a very smart establishment and well patronised for both its accommodation and restaurant. It still stands proudly on Reid Street and operates in Wangaratta to this day.


Assistant Surveyor Thomas Wedge surveys the township reserve at Wodonga Creek, naming the new township “Belvoir”. Township allotments of ½ acre each are laid out along the Sydney Road adjoining Paul Huon’s homestead (which he had established in 1836), with 14 agricultural allotments, ranging from 6½ to 28 acres, surveyed at the western end of the township reserve. The first land sales for “Belvoir” are held at Wangaratta on 28th April 1854.

The indigenous name of Wodonga (with altered spelling) will be restored to the township in 1869.  The local Indigenous Waywarra name for the area, “Wordonga”, refers to an edible plant or nut found in lagoons. 

1852 – Feb                   

James Meldrum, an experienced gold prospector and former shepherd and overseer to David Reid, leaves his employment with Reid to purchase his own land on the Ovens River at Wangaratta where he runs the Wangaratta Hotel. In his spare time, he begins leading gold prospecting expeditions up to the granite boulders, valleys and gullies of the Mayday Hills.

On December 13, 1853 James Meldrum sells his ‘Wangaratta Hotel’ to John Rogers who thinks he will make an easy fortune from the travellers on the way to and from the Beechworth gold rush, but due to the numerous sly grog shops and licensed premises that quickly spring up closer to the diggings, John Rogers fails and transfers the license for the ‘Wangaratta Hotel’ back to Meldrum for a much lesser price. James Meldrum will later run Beechworth’s ‘Union Hotel’ on Ford Street and Meldrum Street will be named in his honour.

1852 – May 1               

Lieutenant-Governor Charles La Trobe

Visiting the district on the first day of May, Lieutenant-Governor Charles La Trobe, accompanied and guided by Lands Commissioner Henry ‘Long’ Smythe, officially names the area around present-day Beechworth the ‘Mayday Hills’ (just as David Reid had done 13 years earlier), although for many years people simply refer to the area as ‘The Ovens’ after the Ovens River that flows through nearby Wangaratta.

1852 – Jul                    

The Californian Gold Fields

With their recent experience of gold mining at the 1849 Californian gold rush, David Reid grants permission for two young gold prospectors named Baker and Strickland to prospect for gold on his run, including the surrounding hills, guided by one of Reid’s shepherds named William Howell.

Baker and Strickland have travelled overland from Omeo to reach Spring Creek.

1852 – Aug 3                

After 15 days of futile searching, Baker, Strickland and Howell (David Reid’s shepherd) sink a series of shallow holes near William Howell’s hut beside Spring Creek, upstream from Reid’s Creek where, to their delight, they find a pint-pot amount of gold at Cadman’s Point, 80 yards (74 metres) upstream from the present-day Newtown Bridge near the foot of Newtown Hill (where the current Shell Service Station stands).

1852 – Aug 3

Baker, Strickland and Howell move downstream towards the Woolshed Falls where David Reid, inspecting his property, meets them. He asks if they have had any luck in their search for gold. William Howell replies “Oh, just middling” and shows Reid a small amount of the gold they have found. Reid dismisses their find as “mere moonshine”. Then the three men reveal the full extent of their discovery … a pannikin (pint-pot cup) containing 14 pounds of pure gold (worth over $40,000 today)!  News of their gold discovery spreads like wildfire and a new rush to ‘Mayday Hills’ (aka ‘Spring Creek’) begins, with miners rushing from Bendigo, Ballarat, Castlemaine and other goldmining settlements in Victoria.

The rush for gold in the area is an unexpected development for the 32-year-old David Reid. As the miners literally swarm over his land he realises it will ruin its pastoral value. For a time he sells meat to the new arrivals and establishes a store and a gold-buying business, but by mid-1853 Reid abandons his land at ‘Mayday Hills’ to the thousands of hopefuls who now spread over the alluvial gold fields in search of their fortunes. 

1852 – Sep

‘On Route to the Diggings 1852’ by William Strutt

The rush is on towards the Spring Creek goldfields, and it doesn’t take long for the miners to make their precious finds, with the first gold deposits being mostly found in loose nugget and powder forms in the gold bearing soils.

1852 – Sep                   

Just days after arriving, Peter McCann is considered the ‘Mayday Hills‘ luckiest early miner, washing an incredible £800 worth of gold from Spring Creek in just two weeks (around $100,000 in today’s money)! By the end of October around 1,620 miners have descended on the new diggings and many men make good quick finds, especially from claims in the bed of the creek. Gold discoveries of £15, £20, and £30 ($3,566) a week-per-man is, at one time, quite common, while very few men fail to raise more than £4 to £5 (approx. $600) a week.

The success of small parties working together, and the difficulty of working the ground in the upper part of the creek, will lead to the formation of two joint stock companies for the purpose of thoroughly exhausting the deepest and wettest ground. The first of these companies is the ‘Union Mining Company’ which starts with a capital of £2400 – 12 shares of £200 each – in September 1854, followed by ‘The El Dorado Mining Company’ established in October 1854 with a capital of £2, 000 – made up of 100 shares at £20 each.

1852 – Nov 1               

The Gold Commissioner’s Camp at the Spring Creek diggings, May Day Hills (drawn by Edward La Trobe Bateman in December 1852)

A ‘Gold Commissioner’s Camp’ is quickly established on the northern bank of Reid’s Creek which helps to consolidate its location as the central hub of the rapidly growing settlement. Assistant Gold Commissioner James Maxwell Clow selects the location as it is high enough to overlook the diggings on the other side of the creek, and also high enough to be safe from any marauding miners. With all the trappings of order and authority, the camp features a neat row of official tents enclosed by a post-and-rail fence, guarded by sentries.

Assistant Gold Commissioner James Maxwell Clow
In its first two days of operation, Assistant Gold Commissioner Clow will issue a staggering 637 gold mining licences! But not everyone is happy about having to pay for a licence.

1852 – Nov 3               

Protected by five mounted police, the first ‘Ovens Gold Escort’ leaves the Mayday Hills and Spring Creek diggings carrying 2,453 ounces of gold. Subsequent Gold Escorts from Beechworth will go to carry 5,000, then 10,000, then 20,000, then up to 30,000 ounces (worth around £109,000) at a time!

Over the following 14 years, an incredible 4 million ounces of gold will be taken from the Beechworth gold fields. 

1852 – Nov                  

The diggings are now sprawling four miles downstream from the newly established Commissioner’s Camp.

1852 – Nov

A few determined miners attempt a search for gold at the ‘Woolshed’ on Reedy Creek, about 6 km below Beechworth, but within a few weeks the difficulty and expense of working at this location means that mining at the ‘Woolshed’ is abandoned. (It is not until the close of 1853 that the ‘Woolshed’, which will soon obtain a most enviable notoriety, becomes popular again).

1852 – Nov                   

Hearing about the rush for gold at ‘Mayday Hills’, Richard Mellish leaves Melbourne with fully loaded drays and arrives at the start of November to establish the settlements first ‘general store’. The spot he chooses is close to Scott’s Bakery – the settlement’s first bakery business – beside the main road from Melbourne, where the hut of David Reid’s shepherd had stood, close to the western road to Reid’s Creek and the Spring Creek diggings.

Richard Mellish will be the first person elected to the first Beechworth Municipal Council in 1856. Mellish Street is named in his honour and is located very close to where his first General Store once stood.

1852 – Nov

An 1850s stethoscope

Doctor Harry Green (assistant colonial surgeon and coroner) is the first doctor to arrive at Mayday Hills but he will have his work cut out for him and will last only four months before succumbing to typhoid fever which is running rampant throughout the contaminated water on the diggings.

1852 – Nov                             

Sunday Camp Meeting’ (1852) by Samuel Thomas Gill, known by his signature S.T.G – ‘The Artist of the Goldfields’

The first Presbyterian church services take place on the Mayday Hills goldfields, conducted by a visiting minister for the benefit of the Scottish and Ulster Presbyterians who have been rapidly arriving and settling in the ‘Mayday Hills’ township.

1852 – Nov 17                           

A example of an 1850s Victorian Gold Licence which will cause so many problems.

The first major confrontation on the May Day diggings occurs when a group of newly arrived diggers gather at the ‘Gold Commissioner’s Camp’ on the northern bank of Reid’s Creek demanding to meet with Assistant Gold Commissioner James Maxwell Clow to protest about the Victorian Gold Licence. They refuse to pay the required “one pound, 10 shilling licence” before they have even started looking for gold. Clow makes it clear – “no gold licence, no digging for gold”.

The law states that a miner’s Gold Licence must be paid for and then carried at all times. Even if a miner loses his licence or it is destroyed in dirty or wet conditions, very little leniency will be shown, and punishments range from an on-the-spot fine or even gaol.
‘The Licence Inspected 1852’ by Samuel Thomas (S.T.) Gill

1852 – Nov 19             

James Maxwell Clow – Beechworth’s Assistant Gold Commissioner

6’ 5” tall Henry Wilson Hutchinson ‘Long’ Smythe arrives to take up his newly appointed position as resident Commissioner in charge of the Ovens goldfield, joining James Maxwell Clow as his Assistant Commissioner. With the assistance of nine police officers, they are charged with enforcing the unpopular licence tax amongst the widely dispersed and fluctuating population; receive and guard all discovered gold for escort to Melbourne; settle claim disputes, as well as occasionally perform magisterial duties and maintain law and order on the diggings. Smythe and Clow will soon be joined by George Mitchell Harper (Police Magistrate) and William Alexander Abbott (the Magistrate’s Clerk of the Bench); Lieutenant Templeton (Mounted and Foot Police) and his Subaltern, James Mackay; and Dr Henry Green (assistant colonial surgeon and coroner).

Smythe decides that a lock-up and a 30-stall horse stable are required and orders 20 more police officers to reinforce the nine already at his disposal.

1852 – Dec                  

Gold is discovered near the junction of the Yackandandah Creek and Commissioner’s Creek close to what is known as ‘Rowdy Flat’. Soon the creek along its whole length – from its source at Stanley to its entry into the Kiewa River – is covered with prospectors.

1852 – Dec                  

Painting by Edward Hulme – ‘Snake Valley overlooking the plateau and hills’

Successful miner, storekeeper and entrepreneur 26-year-old Joshua Cushman Bigelow (from Maine in America) becomes the first to discover a small amount of gold about 6 miles south-east of Beechworth in the district known as ‘Snake Valley’. As the area is reached by an uphill nine mile track from Beechworth, it will become known as the ‘Upper Nine Mile’. A proper ‘rush’ to the area will not begin until March 1853.

The district is now the home of the small town of Stanley, named after Lord Stanley (Edward Smith-Stanley, 14th Earl of Derby) who serves three terms as British Prime Minister (1852, 1858, 1866). 

1852 – Dec                  

‘Men Working a Cradle on the Goldfields’ by Samuel Thomas (S.T.) Gill

The owners of a little green cradle wash out 7 pounds of gold but, to protect their spot, tell others it comes from a flat south of Spring Creek so miners rush to the location – which looks like a stone quarry – but it yields very little gold, so it is promptly dubbed the ‘Pennyweight Flat’. This flat area will soon be selected as the location of Beechworth’s first racecourse.

A ‘pennyweight’ is the smallest measurement of gold., equivalent to 1/20th of an ounce.

1852 – Dec                  

The first Methodist church service is held in a tent on the diggings at ‘Madman’s Gully’. Its first Methodist Pastor is Mr C. Williams from Tasmania.

1853 – Jan                   

Gold fever has well and truly hit the Ovens diggings, and the population has swelled from 1,500 in November to over 8,000 miners just two months later! The miners are all now trying their luck at ‘Mayday Hills’, with hundreds upon hundreds of hastily erected tents spreading upwards from the slopes on both sides of Spring Creek. The journey from Melbourne, on foot, takes about three weeks. 

1853 – Jan                   

A Gold Escort from the goldfields to Melbourne (image: State Library of Victoria)

Again protected by mounted police, the second ‘Ovens Gold Escort’ leaves the diggings, this time carrying a massive 19,400 ounces of gold to Melbourne.

1853 – Jan                   

‘Diggers Licencing’ – painting by S.T. Gill

Assistant Commissioner Edwin Meyer from the ‘Mayday Hills’ travels to nearby Yackandandah where he issues the first gold licenses for the gold diggings spreading beside Yackandandah Creek. Within 6 months, the population of Yackandandah increases from 50 to 150.

1853 – Jan                   

A Gold Escort on its way from Beechworth to Sydney

Not be outdone by Melbourne, the newly established Sydney Gold Escort Company launch a regular heavily guarded escort service.

1853 – Jan

Hiram Allen Crawford photographed at the age of 53

After excitedly reading about Australia’s gold rush in his hometown of Oakham, Massachusetts in America, 21-year-old Hiram Allen Crawford arrives in Melbourne after a 105-day voyage aboard the ship ‘Texas’. After trying his hand – unsuccessfully – at gold mining at Back Creek near Bendigo, he returns to Melbourne where he meets fellow Americans Adam Snow and Joshua Cushman Bigelow (the man who had first discovered gold at Stanley in December 1852) who plan to establish a store on the Ovens Goldfields and they invite Hiram to travel with them to Beechworth. He accepts their offer, arriving in Beechworth on his 21st birthday – 22nd of July 1853.

1853 – Feb 3               

A party of police – attempting to resolve a disputed claim at the Reid’s Creek diggings – climb down into a pit when Constable Hallet falls, accidentally discharging his musket which strikes and kills a miner named William Guest. Hundreds of angry miners rush to the scene and Constable Hallet is almost beaten to death until rescued by other, more cool-headed miners, allowing the police to retreat. However, the anger grows and soon the number of unhappy miners grow to well over a thousand and they all march to the Assistant Commissioner’s Camp, where Assistant Commissioner Edwin Meyer is pelted with rocks, shot at, and very nearly lynched, the mob going so far as to prepare a rope and noose! They also threaten to hang Constable Hallet. The disturbance is eventually quelled, and no charges are ever laid.

The Reid’s Creek diggings quickly become well known for the number of fights and violent disputes caused, in part, by growing dissatisfaction and unrest regarding the system of mining licences and the method used to calculate licences. 15 murders occur around Reid’s Creek in the first six months of settlement. 
Prior to the establishment of the Victoria Police Force in 1853, several separate policing groups operate in Victoria, including the Gold Escorts, the Gold Fields Police, the Rural Bench Constabulary, the Water Police, the Border Police, the Melbourne Metropolitan Police, the Geelong Police, the Mounted Police, and a Native Police Corps. 

1853 – Feb 9                 

The Honourable Frederick Brown

Frederick Brown arrives at ‘Mayday Hills’ as an agent for the Port Phillip Gold Mining Co. and quickly becomes involved with all business matters of the rapidly growing community.

By 1855, Brown is an important member of the local community, operating a gold agency in the township with an Irishman, Michael Monk, and by 1856 is also an agent for the ‘Liverpool and London Fire and Life Insurance Co.’ Brown & Monk purchase several township allotments and for three years manage the general auctioneering firm of J. H. Gray & Co. In September 1856 Brown will be elected to the first Beechworth Municipal Council, supervising financial proceedings, assisting with the framing of by-laws and plans for the municipal waterworks and guiding the Beechworth Council as chairman until 1860 when he returns to England to study law, returning a few years later to set up a legal practice in Camp Street and re-joining the Beechworth Council.

1853 – Feb

Although no official courthouse has yet been built in Beechworth, and with crime on the rise as the population swells, court cases begin to be heard in a tent at the ‘Gold Commissioner’s Camp’ when ‘Mayday Hills, Ovens River’ is appointed a ‘Court of Petty Sessions’, before being renamed ‘Beechworth Court’ in June the same year. Beechworth is also appointed a ‘County Court’ and ‘Court of General Sessions’, to begin proceedings in 1854.

A ‘Court of Petty Sessions’ hears both criminal and civil cases of minor offences and disputes. Over 100 years later, these courts will be renamed ‘Magistrates’ Courts’ (in 1971).

1853 – Feb

There is a lack of an adequate water supply, sewerage, sanitation or basic conveniences on the goldfields which leads to an outbreak of typhoid. As a result of the lack of hygiene and the prevalence of disease, Doctor Harry Green, the first doctor sent to the diggings, dies only four months after his arrival.

Although the majority of people on the goldfields are men, there are also lots of women and children, brought by their husbands and fathers. Children will suffer the most … Between 1853 and 1860, an average of one child per week will die on the diggings of diseases such as scarlet fever, dysentery, diphtheria, measles, whooping cough, atrophy of the brain and typhoid on Victoria’s goldfields.

1853 – Mar 2               

Fredrick Brown, Richard Mellish, Charles Williams and other local business owners who have come to sell goods to the miners, send a deputation to the Victorian Government with a request that the ‘Mayday Hills’ goldfields be surveyed, and an official township established. The Government agrees and promptly dispatches Government Surveyor General, George Douglas Smythe to ‘Mayday Hills’ and his survey takes place from April to June, marking out roads, building allotments and reserves based on a clear grid plan.

Surveyor General George Douglas Smythe is the brother of Henry Wilson Hutchinson ‘Long’ Smythe (Commissioner in charge of the Ovens goldfield) and brother-in-law of Captain William Lonsdale.  

1853 – Mar                   

Madman’s Gully

People rush to a new find at ‘Madman’s Gully’ just south-west of Beechworth which quickly proves highly lucrative. This is followed, in a matter of days, by second, bigger gold discovery at ‘Nine Mile Creek’.

According to one local newspaper story, the Gully got its name as follows –When it became known that gold was plentiful at this gully (Madman’s Gully) a great number of persons moved there after their day’s labour, and the following morning some altercations about the ground were going on, when one of the diggers, stark naked, ran out of his tent, with a number of small sticks in his hand, and commenced marking out the ground for himself and others, threatening vengeance at the same time to anyone that would oppose him or be dissatisfied; Hence it is said, is derived this singular name, which is likely to pass down to posterity.” 

1853 – Mar

6 miles south-east of Beechworth – at Nine Mile Creek – miners rush to work the ground looking for gold at Long Dick’s Gully. Within weeks more gold will be found at nearby Wombat Gully followed by Nuggety Gully and then, in June 1853, at Europa Gully.

1853 – Apr 2                

A plaque at Madman’s Gully commemerates the public meeting

Around 800 miners gather at Madman’s Gully, just south-west of Beechworth, to hold a public meeting where it is agreed to make a demand for political representation in the Victorian Legislative Council.

The underlying conflict about injustice and civil liberties will continue to grow on all of Victoria’s goldfield and culminate, tragically, in the miner’s rebellion against the government at the Eureka Stockade in Ballarat in 1854.  

1853 – Apr

‘Nine Mile Creek’ and ‘Madman’s Gully’ quickly become popular locations for Scottish, and later Chinese, miners. At the same time, gold is found in Hurdle Flat, Buckland Gap (reef) and a location near Reid’s Woodshed immediately below Reid’s Creek.

One of Nine Mile Creek’s most famous – and outspoken – Scottish miners is John Scarlett who regularly writes to newspapers, calls meetings, and voices his opinions. Known as “The Nine-Mile Warrior” and the “Water Squatter”, he is originally a ‘dry miner’, advocating rights for this type of operation, then – on acquiring access to water – he switches and becomes an advocate for ‘wet mining’ to the exclusion of dry operators! He stands for mining board elections and then Victorian parliament in 1859, eventually becoming Secretary for the local roads board. In 1871 we will be charged with bigamy.

1853 – Apr                           

Gold overtakes wool as Australia’s main export.

1853 – Apr 19

James and Sarah Crampton, who had arrived at the Spring Creek diggings at the start of the year, join the rush up to Nine Mile and, after pitching their tent, Sarah gives birth to their son James, who becomes the first white child born on the Nine Mile diggings.

1853 – Apr                   

After a year of gold-prospecting in Bendigo, George Briscoe Kerferd moves to Mayday Hills with his new wife Ann (with whom he will have 10 children). George sets up business as a wine and spirit merchant and by 1855 he has started a successful brewery. He will become a very important part of the growth of the new town and one of its most notable residents.

Confident that Beechworth will become the permanent centre of a thriving mining and farming district, George Kerferd works with energy and imagination for the development of the town. First elected to the Municipal Council in May 1857, he is chairman for three terms between 1858 and 1864, and the driving force behind the establishment of the district hospital in 1856-57 and the ‘Benevolent Asylum’ in 1861-63. He is largely responsible for the town’s unusual water scheme which, though eventually successful and still in use, is not completed until 1874 because of engineering and funding problems. The water storage area is now known as Lake Kerferd. He will graduate to be a Member of Victoria’s Legislative Assembly, a Judge of the Supreme Court of Victoria and, eventually, the 10th Premier of Victoria. He will also be responsible for bringing the railway to Beechworth. 

1853 – May 4               

Beechworth’s timber 1853 Post Office that replaced the original slab hut.

The first Post Office, essentially a rough slab hut, is opened at the Spring Creek diggings. Known as Spring Creek Post Office, Ovens Goldfields, it stands on the Police Reserve and Government Camp, at the spot where the Gold Office and Sub-Treasury will be built between 1857 and 1860. A few months later it will be replaced by a more substantial timber building further south, with a clock later added (image above). It stands on the corner of the soon-to-be-named Camp and Ford Streets. Postal business is carried out on the veranda. By the following year, mail begins to travel regularly between Albury and Melbourne via Beechworth.

In the early days of the post office in Beechworth, it was not unusual for the postmaster to have to deal with up to 500 unclaimed letters a month waiting to be collected by miners spread over the surrounding goldfields.

1853 – May 10

William Turner arrives on the Beechworth goldfields to take over as Commissioner. Although he will depart Beechworth for Ballarat in 1856, he has made himself so popular and respected as the district’s Commissioner and Mining Warden that Beechworth diggers engrave and decorate a gold cup and present it to him upon his departure.


Pharmacist George Gamon in his later years

21-year-old qualified pharmacist and druggist George Gammon – who had arrived in Victoria from England in October 1852 with his wife Kate Burgis – settles in Beechworth where he establishes his Medical Hall in a small wooden building at 55 Ford Street.

In 1857, George Gammon will sell his successful ‘Medical Hall’ to William Henry Neuber and goes home to England. But Gammon returns to Beechworth in 1859, buying back his old premises from Neuber and resuming his Pharmacy. George Gammon’s ‘Medical Hall’ is the largest of the several Pharmacies that operate in Beechworth at the time.  


Chevalier’s Mill over Spring Creek at Beechworth

Russian-born Louis Chevalier constructs an impressive wooden water-powered sawmill beside Spring Creek at the top of the Newtown Falls (above), spending two years cutting the tailrace through the solid granite which can still be clearly seen today under the Newtown Bridge. Louis, brother of the artist Nicholas Chevalier, will convert his sawmill to steam in the late 1850s with the timber from the sawmill being used extensively in Beechworth.

In 1863 Louis Chevalier imports grindstones from France so that he can convert the mill to flour production, and it will be Beechworth’s main source of flour until it ceases operations in the 1880s.


‘Natives on the tramp’ (1859 painting by Alexander Schramm)

Commissioner of Crown Lands for the Murray district, Henry ‘Long’ Smythe estimates that there are still 399 Aboriginal people living in the Ovens goldmining region, and yet as Smythe notes, “they are not attracted by the prospect of gold due to their natural indolence”.

Henry’s sister Martha marries Captain William Lonsdale in 1835 and the following year Lonsdale is appointed first resident police magistrate at Port Phillip (Victoria). ‘Long’ Smythe is a founding member of the Melbourne Club, a justice of the peace, and a police magistrate. Smythe drowns in the Broken River in 1854. 


Previously an officer on other goldfields, Lieutenant John B. Finch of the 11th Regiment arrives at Mayday Hills as the new ‘Magistrate for the Territory’. He brings with him a ‘military force’ being ‘a detachment of between thirty and eighty pensioners’. George Douglas Smythe will name Finch Street in his honour.

‘Pensioners’ are military men who have retired from service and are recruited to assist police on the goldfields due to the shortage of regular police officers. Most of the police have deserted to the Victorian goldfields to try their luck – on one single day in November 1851, 50 of the 55 Melbourne City Police resign!


Beechworth’s first official cemetery is created in Loch Street. A total of 145 of Beechworth’s pioneers are buried in the Loch Street Cemetery between 1853 and 1855.

Before the creation of the official cemetery on Loch Street, burials have taken place on a small piece of land on Lower Stanley Road. 

1853 – Jul 1                 

The newly named “Beechworth” is officially proclaimed as a town after the Victorian Government’s Surveyor General, George Douglas Smythe, completes his survey of what had been known as the Spring Creek diggings. He officially re-names it “Beechworth” (apparently) after the name of his family’s home “Beechworth House” in Leicestershire, England. He lays out plans for the main streets and public areas. Much like Robert Hoddle’s “grid layout” for Melbourne 16 years earlier, Smythe divides the town into six 1-acre blocks, each block generally made up of 20 quarter-acre allotments and lays out eight main streets that surround these six blocks. He will name them High Street, Camp Street, Short Street, Church Street, Finch Street and Ford Street (which is essentially a cul-de-sac, accessed only from High Street via Short, Church and Camp Streets, and ending at its south-western end, on the edge of the Gorge and at Camp Street in the other direction). He will name Loch Street after his good friend Henry Brougham Loch (who will become Governor of Victoria from 1884 and 1889) and the last street that Smythe lays out is simply named Last Street.

Beechworth’s town population soon swells to an impressive 3,000 and, as George Kerferd predicted, becomes the central town of the Ovens Goldfields, and the Victorian government’s administrative centre for North-East Victoria and, for a while, Beechworth becomes Victoria’s richest alluvial goldfield. The settlement’s early administrators realise that gold will not last forever and will make substantial investment in public services.     

1853 – Jul                    

There are reports in the press that illegal prize-fights organised by gold miners are taking place 3 miles outside Beechworth. “The police interfered and in return were interfered with, but there was no riot”. The area where the fights take place is now known as Fighting Gully Road (below).

1853 – Jul

The Buckland River

American Henry W. Pardoe and a party of six men depart Beechworth with the intention of prospecting for gold on the Buffalo River. Instead they end up making a big discovery at the nearby Buckland River, obtaining 360 ounces of gold in just a couple of days in the Buckland Valley. Determined to keep their discovery a secret, New York-born Pardoe and a couple of the men return to Beechworth to quietly gather enough supplies to enable the group to “hole up” in the Buckland for several months, enough time (they think) to make their pile.  However, one of Pardoe’s men, after having a few too many drinks, brags about how he and his mates are getting £5 of gold per man, per day, on ‘The Buckland’. Within days, a new rush starts to the area and by the end of the year almost 1,000 diggers are working beside the Buckland River – which flows into the Ovens River – with the numbers swelling to almost 3,000 by January 1854. Then typhoid strikes (see 1853 – Dec 15th entry).

1853 – Jul

Another well organised party set out from Beechworth to explore the nearby Buckland Valley. The group is made up of William Howell, Frank Scott, and Daniel Ward, along with brothers Thomas and David Bell. After packing provisions at the Spring Creeks diggings (Beechworth) they begin to pick their way through thick scrub, eventually reaching a spot near the mouth of Murray’s Creek where they commence their search for gold and have some quick success. They are not far from where Henry Pardoe and his party have commenced their own mining operations.  Like Pardoe’s group, they will quietly sneak back over to Beechworth for supplies, keeping their fingers crossed that their little secret will remain so for a bit longer.

1853 – Sep 7                

Notice of the first ’44 Town Lots’ in Beechworth available in the upcoming Government Land Sales – The Melbourne Argus newspaper September 5 1853

Auction Day! Prospective buyers gather at the Beechworth Police Office on the first day of the Government Land Sales, where forty-four of (newly-named) Beechworth’s quarter-acre allotments are auctioned … at extremely low prices! The bargain of the day goes to the first buyer Charles Williams, who pays just £3 for allotments on the corner of Camp and High Streets (where The Beechworth Ice Creamery and The Beechworth Sweet Company now stand).  

By comparison, just three years later, in 1856, the Bank of New South Wales will pay £1,100 for its quarter-acre block on the corner of Camp and Ford Streets – around $575,000 in today’s currency.     

1853 – Oct 22              

The first liquor licences are granted in Beechworth, and 41-year-old German-born musician William Henry Neuber (a popular sight on the goldfields providing musical entertainments) gets in quickly, opening Beechworth’s first licenced hotel, a basic, wooden structure imaginatively named the Beechworth Hotel (although often referred to by regulars as the Neuber Hotel) on the newly named Ford Street. It will quickly become the settlement’s unofficial ‘civic centre’.

Born William Isaac Neubauer in Berlin in 1812, he (somewhat) anglicises his name when he moves to London as a young man and gets married.  As he struggles to maintain a career in his newly adopted country – including stints as a ‘Professor of Languages’ and ‘Liquid Glue Maker’ – Neuber is imprisoned in October 1850 for bankruptcy. Out of jail (and seemingly out of debt) by March 1851, he will soon make the move to Australia with his wife and children

1853 – Oct 28              

The auctioneer’s gavel is banged again as the second day of the “Beechworth Land Auctions” are held. Some storekeepers purchase allotments on which they have already erected buildings, with the Chief Gold Commissioner granting them permission to build on the newly surveyed lots with the assurance that the value of their improvements and structures will be added to reserve price of the land. Some allotments are sold at slightly over the reserve price of £2 each, while other township lots sell at prices ranging from £20 to £130.

Several allotments in the key trading positions of High, Ford and Camp Streets are bought by local businessmen including William Henry Neuber, Richard Mellish, Charles William, E. Vickery, A. Palmer and American baker George Scott and American auctioneers F.H. Morse & Co for its general saleyards.     

1853 – Oct

Eugene von Guerard’s 1854 gold miner painting “I Have Got It!”

After being abandoned as “too difficult” a year earlier, new gold discoveries are made at the ‘Woolshed’ on Reedy Creek, about 6 km below Beechworth. Encouraged by the success of the claims on the upper part of the creek, the ‘Woolshed’ diggings gradually extend to the Lower Woolshed, the Sebastopol Flat, the Napoleon and the El Dorado – a distance of twelve miles.

By 1855 the ‘Woolshed’ diggings have become extraordinarily rich with the ‘Woolshed’ township extending for 2 miles, but it will be almost deserted within a few years.

1853 – Oct                   

William Simpson’s Crimean War painting ‘The Attack on the Malakoff’

The Crimean War begins in Central Asia (including areas of Ukraine), and a number of streets in Beechworth will be named for famous battles during this war (which ends in February 1856). Street names include Balaclava Road (1854), Inkerman Road (1854), Malakoff Road (1855), Alma Road (1954) and Kars Street (1855). Beechworth’s patriotic citizens also name roads after Queen Victoria (on the throne from 1837 to 1901) (Victoria Road) and her husband and consort Albert (served from 1840 to 1861) (Albert Road).

The Crimean War is a 2-year military conflict in which Russia is defeated by an allied force consisting of the United Kingdom, France, the Ottoman Empire and Piedmont-Sardinia.    

1853 – Oct 29              

The first official Beechworth Races are held at Woorajay Station (later known as ‘Wooragee Station’). Local man Bob Sawyer wins the ‘Beechworth Tattersalls’.

1853 – Oct 31              

Beechworth’s second hotel opens just over a week after liquor licences are granted, with C.H. Palmer’s El Dorado Hotel, a wooden structure built on the corner of High and Church Streets (where Warden’s Hotel will later stand) directly across the road from where the large wooden Wesleyan Methodist Chapel will be constructed the following year.

1853 – Nov     

‘The Hermitge’ built by David Reid at Barnawartha

The rush to discover gold in the Mayday Hills, El Dorado, Woolshed, Sebastopol, Magpie Creek and Reid’s Creek are nearly all taking place on land owned by the David Reid and his family, ruining its pastoral value. With so many people invading his land, Reid sells all of his pastoral runs for as much as he can get and turns – with much financial success – to cattle and horse-dealing and general trading between Melbourne and the Riverina and the diggings.

David Reid and wife Mary on their 60th wedding anniversary – 1904
In November 1856 David Reid uses the profits of his latest business ventures to purchase the ‘Barneywatha Run’ at Barnawartha from George Hume Barber (a relative of his) and builds ‘The Hermitage’, now one of Australia’s most treasured homesteads. Constructed from locally quarried granite, the beautiful cedar doors are reputedly carted from Sydney. Local miners are responsible for the building’s construction. The Reids finally move to Moorwartha near Howlong and David Reid becomes the successful candidate for the Murray District of the Victorian Parliament in 1859. In 1865 Reid finds himself in financial trouble and sells ‘The Hermitage’ to successful pastoralist Reverend Joseph Docker – who has built ‘Bontharambo’ near Wangaratta – for Docker’s daughter Charlotte and her husband John Whitehead. David and Mary Reid (above) are married for over 60 years, and both live to be 86 years old. David dies in 1906 and is buried in the Howlong Cemetery.  

1853 – Nov                   

Francis Hodgson Nixon

Because of the escalation of both petty and serious crime on the goldfields, a Gaol is considered a priority, so young Government Architect, 22-year-old Francis Hodgson Nixon is sent to Beechworth to design and supervise the building of a strong, wooden stockade. He oversees the construction of his design – a series of 6 long wooden buildings with shingle roofs  – each 12 feet wide and 14 feet long – enclosed by 8 foot high wooden walls (built from sawn slabs) with spiked tops. The Beechworth Stockade is built upon a slight hill at the northern end of the Police Reserve and Government Camp. The Stockade can hold 36 convicted prisoners, plus a number of other prisoners awaiting trial. The convicted prisoners will be escorted from the Stockade during the day to break rocks in the nearby quarry or undertake road maintenance, sometimes in chains.

Francis Nixon decides to stay in the area and becomes Beechworth’s Mining Camp Inspector and Building Supervisor, overseeing the construction of a number of government buildings, before establishing the “Ovens and Murray Advertiser” newspaper in 1855 and becoming its editor, going on to hold the same position in newspapers across Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. A sufferer of chronic insomnia, 50-year-old Nixon commits suicide (by shooting himself in the head) in Rockhampton in Queensland in 1883, leaving a widow and ten children.

1853 – Nov                  

An 1868 advertisement for the ‘Americn Bowling Alley’ at the Temple Bar Hotel when George Rees is running the hotel.

Beechworth’s third hotel is opened by John Reilly, a Canadian with Californian goldrush connections. His Union Hotel is also on Ford Street and, during the height of the Woolshed goldrush “champagne flows like water”. It will eventually add an ‘American Bowling Alley’ with a floor laid of American pine. The Union Hotel will be re-named the Temple Bar Hotel in 1861 and continue trading on Ford Street until it closes in 1880.

Ford Street, now Beechworth’s central road, is named after one of the settlement’s earliest bullock dray carriers, Ernest Ford.    

1853 – Nov

Punt over the Murray River’ (painting by Arthur Collingridge de Tourcey) where Hiram Allen Crawford will end up working for a time.

After arriving at the gold diggings in Beechworth on his 21st birthday – 22nd of July 1853 – American Hiram Allen Crawford has spent the last four months mining on Spring Creek and along the Two Mile and Three Mile Creeks. Then – along with hundreds of others – he joins the ‘new rush’ to ‘The Buckland’ where, once again, he meets up with fellow Americans Adam Snow and Joshua Cushman Bigelow who offer him the job of managing their latest store on the diggings beside the Buckland River. Crawford agrees and remains on the Buckland until the rush there begins to slow, then is quickly deserted after a break out of ‘colonial fever’ (typhoid) – causing 11 men to be buried on ‘The Buckland’ in just one day! Crawford again returns to Beechworth for a short time and considers returning to America before two more fellow Americans – Adam Casner Kidd and William ‘Billy’ Barnwell Brickell – offer him a job in Albury working on their new Murray River Punt for six weeks at £5 per week with board. He decides to stay in Albury will go on to build a bowling alley with yet another American – Benson Atwood from Maine – at a cost of £400. Selling out, Hiram then builds his own billiard room with a bowling alley attached. During the 18 months he spends in Albury, he falls in love with Anna McNeil, a young woman from the Isle of Skye, and they marry in Beechworth in February 1855.

The ‘Murray River Punt’ at Albury is certainly a nice income-earner for Adam Kidd and Billy Brickell. They had leased the wooden punt from the government for a reputed £40 per annum – making a total profit of more than £10,000 over the eight year duration of their tenure! Kidd and Brickell had arrived in Australia from San Francisco in 1852 and headed straight to Yackandandah hoping to find gold but soon establish themselves as businessmen in Albury. Along with the Murray River Punt, their numerous money-making ventures, Kidd and Brickell open an Albury General Store, the ‘Exchange Hotel’ on the south-east corner of Smollett & Townsend Streets (where the Quest Hotel is built in 2020) and win the contract to build Albury’s first Union Bridge for £7,500, opened in 1861. Kidd will go on to be one of the first Aldermen in the newly formed Municipality of Albury in 1859, while Brickell will meet Mary Bulmer in Albury and marry her in Melbourne in 1862. The very next day the Brickells depart for America. The fortune that William ‘Billy’ Brickell had made in Albury will finance the purchase of a large parcel of land in Florida that will grow into the towns, and later major cities, of Fort Lauderdale and Miami.

1853 – Dec 10

Moses F. Pinchin is granted a licence to establish Beechworth’s fourth hotel – the Freemason’s Arms – on High Street. It will open for business on December 19.

1853 – Dec 15

The Buckland River

Sub-Inspector of Police, Samuel Furnell, is sent from Beechworth to the new goldrush site along the Buckland River to establish a Police Camp. He reports there are already around 500 miners busy at work digging for gold, with many more arriving on a daily basis. He requests a stronger Police presence and recommends ‘foot constables’, suggesting they will be of more use than ‘mounted men’ as the nature of the country makes it nearly impossible to travel on horseback. However, within weeks disaster will strike, with typhoid disease sweeping through the rough camp and ‘The Buckland’ gains the reputation of having the highest mortality rate of any Victorian goldfield. It is said that the valley is “so thickly dotted with graves that the river seems to wind through a churchyard”. 

1853 – Dec 17             

John Duncan Fisher’s ‘Commercial Hotel’ at 50 Ford Street (photographed by Walter Bentley Woodbury in 1855)

A licence is granted to 33-year-old John Duncan Fisher and his brother-in-law 32-year-old Henry Isaac Wyse for the building of their two-storey weatherboard Commercial Hotel on Ford Street. It will be the first two-storey building in Beechworth. Although it will be the fifth hotel to open in Beechworth in just a few weeks, by the end of the following year, local miners and residents will be serviced by an incredible 61 licenced premises! The Commercial Hotel still operates at 50 Ford Street today.

John Duncan Fisher is married to Emma Rachel Wyse, half-sister of Henry Isaac Wyse. The business partnership between Fisher and Wyse will last until 1856, with Fisher continuing with the ‘Commercial Hotel’ by himself until April 1870 when he sells the highly profitable hotel to Thomas Tanswell. John Duncan Fisher then retires and spends the few short remaining years of his life with his wife Emma at ‘Baarmutha House’ on Victoria Road in Beechworth. He will pass away aged 53 in 1873. Emma will die three years later in 1876 aged 43.

1853 – Dec                  

By year’s end, the gold carried to Melbourne on the fortnightly escorts has amounted to a total of 198,436 ounces.

1854 – Jan                   

The Spring Creek diggings in 1854 with houses in the foreground and the cleared land and white tents in the distance above the creek.

Beechworth continues to grow, as more ‘permanent structures’ spread out around the Spring Creek diggings. In just over twelve months, more than 100,000 ounces of gold has been taken out of the diggings around Spring Creek and the Ovens area.

A minimum of 18,000 ounces of gold (or half a tonne) leave the goldfields on the fortnightly Victorian Government Gold Escorts.
The Woolshed and its tributaries yield tin as well as gold and by 1870 tin mining is proving more profitable than gold mining.


‘Big’ John Johnston’s successful claim at the Woolshed in 1856

‘Big’ John Johnston takes up a small claim at the Woolshed which is worked by a small steam pumping engine and eight men. After four months without a breakthrough, he informs his labourers that he has run out of money, but his men decide to persevere for one more week and, a few days later, strike it so rich that most of them take up their own claims. Johnston goes on to employ as many as
one hundred men on his claim, which takes about eighteen months to work out, and it is estimated that he wins between £50,000 and £100,000!


French Cottage is built at 19 Hodge Street. It still stands today. The fully renovated stone home can now be rented as luxury accommodation.


Not long after Francis Nixon completes building the Beechworth Stockade, prisoners are already attempting – or succeeding – in escaping from the large wooden structure that is surrounded by an eight-foot-high wooden wall. After being locked up for the night in one of the Stockade’s huts, 10 prisoners set about tampering with the bottom of the hut’s door and, when discovered, they have made a hole almost big enough to escape through. In another instance, a prisoner uses the cover of a foggy morning to clamber over the wall and make his escape, while the most infamous escape is by a man who rolls a barrel against the wall then takes a running jump onto the barrel, using it to ‘vault’ over the eight foot wall – in full view of a sentry – and is never seen again!

1854 – Mar

William Henry Gaunt

William Henry Gaunt, born in Staffordshire, is appointed Chief Clerk at Beechworth, and quickly gains an intimate knowledge of the district and the ‘temper and disposition of the miners’. Appointed Sub-Warden in the Beechworth district in January 1856 and the first Chinese Protector in August, he is given control of the extensive Woolshed district. When European miners attack a party of Chinese at the Buckland River diggings in May 1857, Gaunt is sent to restore order. One of his proclamations, issued in Chinese characters, concludes: ‘W. H. Gaunt, your protector – tremble and obey!’ Gaunt will eventually become a County Court Judge in 1891.

William Gaunt’s daughter – novelist and travel writer Mary Gaunt
In 1860 Gaunt marries Elizabeth Mary Palmer and they will raise an extraordinary family. Two of their sons – Ernest Frederick Augustus Gaunt and Guy Reginald Archer Gaunt will become admirals and be knighted; Cecil Robert Gaunt becomes a lieutenant-colonel and career soldier; Clive Herbert Gaunt a government advocate and Crown Prosecutor in Rangoon; and Mary Gaunt is one of the first two female students to enrol at the University of Melbourne (in 1881). Although Mary does not complete her degree, she will go on to become a successful novelist and travel writer. Her first novel ‘Dave’s Sweetheart’ is published in 1894.


With discussions already being held about the possibility of a proper court house being built – the number of cases being heard is growing every month – Beechworth is appointed a place where ‘County Court’ and ‘Court of General Sessions’ can be heard, with proceedings continuing to take place in tents at the ‘Gold Commissioner’s Camp’.

1854 – Apr 27

The Reverend William Butters chairs a meeting at the premises of F.R. Bernard & Co (in which members of the Wesleyan Methodist Church are currently holding their services) where Chales Williams proposes that a proper church building be erected. The proposition is agreed upon by all participants and a committee is formed – led by local store-keeper Eli Abbott – to raise the necessary funds to design and construct a wooden chapel to be used as a place of public worship and school room – on the site at 24 Ford Street which the Government has granted to the Wesleyan Methodist Church. A sum of £300 is immediately donated and construction begins shortly afterwards, with the wooden chapel completed by December the same year at a final cost of £1,500 (see further entry below).


‘Little Canton’ as it develops in Beechworth.

The 1854 Census lists just 33 Chinese people living in the township of Beechworth, but by 1861 there will be 4,568 in the region around the Beechworth, Chiltern and Rutherglen fields, most of them from the Canton Province of Southern China.

In Beechworth, the Chinese are restricted to living in the ‘Little Canton’ encampment (photo above) near what is now Lake Sambell and a Chinese Protector is employed to maintain good relations with the 4,500 Chinese diggers and trades people.

1854 – May 8               

The first meeting of Freemasons in Beechworth takes place at Moses F. Pinchin’s Freemason’s Arms Hotel on High Street. Eleven members of the Craft meet to consider what steps should be taken to form a Masonic Lodge in the township. They agree to form the Beechworth Lodge of St. John, although the matter will lapse until July 1856 when further meetings are held, and permission is sought for approval to form an official Masonic Lodge. The Foundation Stone will finally be laid on September 16 1859.

1854 – Jun 1               

Lieutenant Francis ‘Frank’ Augustus Hare

24-year-old Francis ‘Frank’ Augustus Hare – who had dug up £800 of gold in one day at Bendigo – arrives in Beechworth and is employed as a mounted lieutenant on the regular gold escort delivery from Beechworth to Buckland. The 6’3″ tall South African-born Hare will soon become a police lieutenant based at Wangaratta, moving up the ranks to become a Superintendent.

The track upon which the escort travels is notoriously difficult to traverse, the escort regularly having to swim across floodwaters and rivers and on one occasion a mule bearing 2,000 ounces of gold breaks away from the escort and bolts up a mountain pass and has to be shot to enable the escort to retrieve the gold as it is too treacherous to retrieve the mule as well. It is during this time that the future Superintendent Hare will have his first encounter with bushrangers.


Robert O’Hara Burke

The apparent problems of the police in Beechworth is noted in Melbourne, where a decision is made to address the matter. As a member of the newly formed Victoria Police (1853) and following postings as Acting Inspector at the Parish of Jika Jika in the northern suburbs of Melbourne (renamed Preston in 1885) and at Carlsrhue (between Woodend and Kyneton), the newly promoted Captain Robert O’Hara Burke is transferred to Beechworth to take up the position of Superintendent of Police. He takes leave to go to Europe in the hope of serving in the Crimean war but is too late and returns to Beechworth where he remains until 1858. The rather eccentric Burke becomes known for his habit of taking a relaxing bath in the garden of his police residence in Ford Street, clad in only in his helmet, happily reading books in full view of the public. Despite his unconventional behavior, he proves to be very popular and respected in Beechworth, particularly following his efficient handling of the Buckland Riots near Bright against the Chinese gold miners in 1857. In 1860 he is again given leave, this time to take command of the exploring expedition to cross the continent from south to north organised by the Royal Society of Victoria.

A beautiful magnolia tree is planted behind the Court House in Ford Street – so some people say – by Burke before he leaves Beechworth for Castlemaine, as a symbol of his unrequited love for the goldfield’s 16-year-old star of light opera Julia Matthews. He first proposes marriage to her 1858 when she performs in Beechworth but is rejected outright. Burke is aged 37 at the time. In 1860, prior to his notorious expedition, Burke reiterates his intentions to the now 18-year-old starlet, ‘whose auburn curls and charming voice captured my heart’. His second proposal is also refused, yet Burke’s infatuation is profound: he amends his will to transfer his estate to the teenager. Julia Matthews will die in 1876 in St. Louis, Missouri at the age of just 33.    


Two hotels are now trading at the Reid’s Creek diggings – The Welcome Inn and the Freemason’s Arms, both bark and slab structures. During the winter of 1854, both buildings are regularly crowded with diggers who “prefer the warmth of hotel parlours to their chilly tents”. Reid’s Creek also has eight ‘Refreshment Tents’, commonly referred to as ‘Grog Tents’.


The first (wooden) bridge over Spring Creek at Beechworth

Government surveyor Francis Hodgson Nixon instructs a timber bridge (further upstream of the current Newtown Bridge) be built over Spring Creek to facilitate transport, meaning people no longer need to forge the creek as they come into the settlement. It is lined up to the town’s original main road – High Street.

Once the timber bridge is completed in 1856, it opens development on the hill on the other side of Spring Creek. This new area of town quickly becomes known as ‘New Town’, later styled as ‘Newtown’.        


The recently added sign at the entrance to Nam Shing Lane.

18-year-old Num Shing arrives in Beechworth. Born in Hong Kong, he will add ‘William’ to the start of his name and change the ‘Num’ to ‘Nam’ and establish the popular Sun Quong Goon General Store on the Spring Creek diggings. Withhis natural shrewdness and business acumen. he will be highly successful, running the store in Beechworth for the next 40 years, becoming one of Beechworth’s most prosperous merchants. The wealth that Shing accumulates over the years is devoted to the advancement of the district, with his quiet generosity becoming well known, both to the Chinese community and Europeans alike. A big supporter of local charities, William Nam Shing sits on the Committee of Management of the Ovens District Hospital and will later be appointed a Life Governor of the Oven’s Benelovent Asylum. He will also be prominent in the introduction of the tobacco industry in the area. Today, Nam Shing Lane near Lake Sambell is named after him.

On August 22, 1871, William Nam Shing is baptised into the Church of England, and marries Annie Cohen at Christ Church in Beechworth in July 1881. Following a painful foot infection, Shing will die of blood-poisoning on December 19, 1896, aged 63. He is buried in the Church of England section of the Beechworth Cemetery. He is survived by his wife Annie and three of their five children – Percy, Ada and Amanda.        


James Ingram

After spending two years in Melbourne, 27-year-old James Ingram from Dumfriesshire in Scotland arrives in Beechworth with his wife Margaret. They set up a home for themselves in a tent in Ford Street where James holds the town’s first Disciples of Christ (Baptist) services. For 12 months he acts as Beechworth’s sales agent and correspondent for the Melbourne ‘Argus’ newspaper. Within two years he has established his own business as a bookseller in Spring Street (in a new part of Beechworth, not surprisingly known as ‘New Town’) before moving his successful booksellers into the centre of town, establishing Ingram’s Beechworth Newsagency, which still bears his name on Camp Street.

Ingram often walks the 4 miles from his newsagency to the Woolshed goldfields to sell copies of the Melbourne ‘Argus’ newspaper to the miners. His long life in Beechworth will be devoted to public, philanthropic and charitable movements. 


The diggings at the Woolshed Falls continue to prosper. To tame the water at the falls, American prospector Jack Barton decides to pull the Reid brothers old woolshed apart and use the wood to brace and secure the sides of his claim. He builds a waterwheel and then digs deep high-yielding leads. This results in Jack Barton becoming one of the wealthiest men on the goldfields and earns him the nickname of ‘Woolshed Jack’, which sticks fast.

A 1930 postcard image showing the remains of the 1860s Wallaby Reef Water Wheel, similar to the one used by ‘Woolshed Jack’ Barton near the Woolshed Falls.
About a year after the original woolshed had been erected in the 1830s, a well had been sunk close to the end of the building for the purpose of obtaining cool water. The well is only three metres deep. But after the Woolshed diggings begin, a claim is taken out on the well and the surrounds and, at a depth of 4.5 metres, almost 200 ounces of gold is found! 

1854 – Oct

The El Dorado Mining Company is established with a capital of £2000 – 100 shares of £20 each. Under the management of a Mr Hooper, the company obtains a large claim nearly opposite the busy Spring Creek at the centre of town. While the employees set to work with great spirit, the small claim owners below them complain that the company is absorbing all the water for washing, while they are flooding the lower claims with their tailings. These complaints force the government authorities to intervene, and the El Dorado Mining Company is stopped at the very moment when, having got “a good bottom”, there is a good prospect of large returns. The funds of the company are exhausted and the shareholders unwilling to contest their claim, or to make any arrangements to address the complaints against them by the nearby miners. Until the premature dissolution of the company, they had been employing between 30 to 40 men, who were being paid £6 per week wages per man.


The Criterion Hotel opens for business in High Street in Beechworth.


At the ‘Nine Mile’, eight kilometres south-east of Beechworth – in the vicinity of present-day Stanley – the population stands at 650. There are two diggings at Nine Mile – the Upper and the Lower Nine Mile. The locality is named ‘Nine Mile Creek’ as it is roughly nine miles from Beechworth.


In the hills just south-east of Beechworth, Scottish miner and entrepreneur John Alston Wallace establishes a General Store at the Snake Valley settlement (now known as Stanley). No longer operating as a store, the building still stands today at 4 Beechworth-Stanley Road (below).

The small township of Stanley features a rare cork tree in the village centre (now classified by the National Trust); a Presbyterian church (1870); the ‘Indigo Inn’ (formerly the Star Hotel); a whitewashed gaol and the Library/Athenaeum (1874) with a gable-roofed hall and central vestibule which is attached to the street façade. An oak tree adjacent the building is planted in 1870.
Stanley’s rare Cork Tree


Charlie Rudolf outside his Star Hotel at ‘Snake Valley (aka Stanley)

Charlie Rudolf opens the Star Hotel at ‘Snake Valley’ (now the town of Stanley). Scottish entrepreneur John Alston Wallace – who has established a General Store around the corner – will go on to take over Rudolf’s hotel, which still stands and operates today, now known as ‘The Stanley Pub and General Store’.

The Stanley Pub – 1980s

1854 – Dec 3               

“Eureka Stockade Riot” by John Black Henderson (1827-1918). Written on the back: “The artist was on the spot a few hours after the riot. The uniforms of the soldiers and the dress of the miners are correctly portrayed”.

The Battle of the Eureka Stockade. In Ballarat, 235 miles (378 km) from Beechworth, an armed rebellion by miners against the Victorian government takes place, as the miners protest against mining taxes.

1854 – Dec

The Kelly cottage at Beveridge, constructed by Ned’s father ‘Red’ in 1859. It still stands today (with a replaced corrugated iron roof) but is in a condemnable state.

Edward ‘Ned’ Kelly is born at Beveridge, 54km from Melbourne and 197km from Beechworth. John and Ellen Kelly will have 8 children: Mary, Annie, Ned, Maggie, Jim, Dan, Kate and Grace.

At the start of 1854, after their recent wedding, John ‘Red’ Kelly and Ellen move from Wallan (near the Merri Creek) to Beveridge after ‘Red’ purchases twenty-one acres for £70 – money he has managed to save from gold digging and horse-dealing. In January 1859, when his son Ned is nearly four years old, ‘Red’ Kelly builds the family a timber cottage. It was a typical Irish style of cottage with an earthen floor and drainage running between rooms. Internally, there are only two rooms and there is no ceiling, while the solid bluestone chimney dominates the house

1854 – Dec                   

Wesleyan Chapel, Beechworth (photographed by Walter Bentley Woodbury in 1855)

Beechworth’s first Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, a “basic, dark wood building with a high-pitched roof and relatively squat walls and windows” at 26 Ford Street, is completed. Previous services have been held in a tent and at F.R. Bernard & Co. Auction Rooms. The first wedding held in the wooden chapel takes place on December 24th between hotel-keeper Christian Haeffner and Mary Conway.

1854 – Dec

Francis Hodgson Nixon

24-year-old architect Francis Hodgson Nixon and his business partner, 24-year-old Canadian-born auctioneer John Henry Gray announce plans (and offer a prospectus) for a local newspaper. They employ Cornishman Richard Albert Warren as the newspaper’s overseer.

Richard Albert Warren has been working for Melbourne’s ‘Morning Herald’ newspaper, and he and his brother William Warren are tasked with purchasing and transporting a printing press from Melbourne to Beechworth for the new local paper. John Sitch Clark, who works alongside Richard Warren at the Melbourne ‘Morning Herald’, is hired as the Beechworth paper’s Melbourne agent, but will soon move to Beechworth to work with Richard Warren.

1855 – Jan 6                

The first issue of The Ovens and Murray Advertiser newspaper is published in Beechworth by Francis Hodgson Nixon and John Henry Gray. Coming out once a week on a Saturday, the tabloid, which consists of just a few pages, is considered “very expensive” at two shillings a copy, at a time when the daily Melbourne newspaper The Argus sells for just sixpence. Despite the high price, The Ovens and Murray Advertiser will (eventually) become required reading and a staple of the town and is still published today – one of the oldest continuously operating newspapers in Australia!

Within weeks, the relationship between Nixon and Gray has broken down and in April 1855 their partnership is dissolved. Francis Hodgson Nixon continues alone and quickly halves the price of the ‘Ovens and Murray Advertiser’ to one shilling, but increases the size of the newspaper to a broadsheet. However, Nixon will continue to face financial difficulties and will sell the newpaper four months later (see entry 1855 – Aug)

1855 – Jan                   

Wesleyan Methodist Chapel on Ford Street in Beechworth (1855 photograph by Walter Woodbury)

Beechworth’s first day school opens in the wooden Wesleyan Methodist Chapel at 26 Ford Street.

1855 – Jan                   

The first service of the Congregational Church is held at the Freemason’s Arms Hotel on High Street, followed by services at William Henry Neuber’s Beechworth Hotel and later at the 1856-built the Athenæum Hall.


A regular coach service is established between Melbourne and Beechworth. The new coach line – Green and Connolly – set up their booking office at John Duncan Fisher’s Commercial Hotel on Ford Street, from where their coaches depart and return. Within a year a rival Beechworth coach service, Foster and Vinge, will open their booking office directly across Ford Street from the Commercial Hotel at the Star Hotel.  Eventually both coaching lines will be absorbed by Hiram Allen Crawford and his coach line Crawford & Co, the coaching giant which will defy the mighty Cobb & Co to become the most important coaching line in North-East Victoria and the Riverina.

The ‘Green and Connolly’ coaches that run from Melbourne – including various stops and changes of horses – take just over 24 hour to complete their journey. A coach departs Melbourne at 11.45am and then reaches Kilmore at 4.20pm, Seymour at 8.00pm, Euroa at 1.45am, Benalla at 6.00am and then (hopefully) arrive in Beechworth by 12 noon. Coaches heading to Melbourne depart Beechworth at 7.00am and arrive in Melbourne at around 6.00am the following day

1855 – Feb

American Freeman ‘King’ Cobb – based in Victoria from 1853 to 1856

After finishing his job on the punt across the Murray River in Albury, and selling his Albury billiard room and bowling alley, American Hiram Allen Crawford and his new bride Anna decide to move to the ‘Woolshed’ near Beechworth where a goldrush is in full swing. Upon their arrival, Crawford joins fellow American John Barton – “Woolshed Jack” – who had taken up the first prospecting claim on the field. Together Barton and Crawford introduce the first steam engine for mining purposes used in the Ovens district. Crawford – who had received a good technical education at East Hampton in America – is able to take sole control of the engine and steam pumping plant. For the next 18 months, Hiram finally finds great success gold mining and he and his wife have two daughters. Richer by a thousand ounces of gold, Hiram Crawford then travels to Melbourne to seek advice about his future business opportunities from his old Massachusetts friend Freeman ‘King’ Cobb (of ‘Cobb & Co’ coaching fame) who strongly advises Crawford to enter into the coaching business, promising that if he does so, Cobb will agree not to compete with him in North-East Victoria. Hiram Crawford likes the idea and returns to Beechworth … going on to become one of Beechworth’s most important citizens. (see further entries below)


‘Big’ John Johnston follows the lead of fellow Woolshed gold miners – Americans John ‘Woolshed Jack’ Barton and his partner Hiram Crawford – and begins using a steam-driven pump on his Woolshed claim and soon obtains rich rewards. Johnston is said to have made between £50,000 and £100,000, although he will die almost penniless in Queensland’s Warwick Hospital in 1902.

1855 – Feb 12                            

Wangaratta’s first ‘proper’ bridge over the Ovens River

Although there has been a punt at Wangaratta, allowing people and animals to cross the Ovens River, along with three or four very small ‘rickety’ bridges (for foot traffic only), the first ‘proper’ bridge over the river is completed, making it easier for people, horses, carts, carriages and livestock to reach the goldfields at Beechworth from Melbourne. (A tender is quickly called for the erection of a toll gate on the new bridge.) Built to a Canadian design, spanning the Ovens River in a single narrow arch, the bridge is constructed by gangs of men using newly imported American axes for the first time in the colony. Murphy Street in Wangaratta replaces Ovens Street as the town’s main thoroughfare, so William Henry Clark – the ‘Father of Wangaratta’ who owns dozens of blocks of land all over town – builds the two storey Commercial Inn (later the Commercial Hotel) on the south-east corner of Murphy and Reid Streets. At the same time, Wangaratta’s first church services are being held, and the Wangaratta Agricultural Society is founded.

The ‘Royal Victoria Hotel’ is built at 25 Faithfull Street in Wangaratta at a cost of £10,000 by Thomas Millard in 1854. By 1864 it has its own theatre and Millard is selling ice from the hotel.
Previously, a punt, commissioned by William Henry Clark in 1848 and operated by ‘Billy the Puntman’ has been the only way of crossing the Ovens River at Wangaratta. The strong boat is constructed, at a cost of £500, of hand sawn red gum, 30 feet long and 11 feet wide with several rope lines tethered on each side of the river, taking the strength of two men to haul it across the wide stretch of water. The ‘Wangaratta Punt’ will cease operations once the bridge is opened in 1855 and Billy the Puntman’ (real name: John Hyde), now out of a job, turns to bushranging.


The Wangaratta Toll Gates and Office. This 1863 image is taken from the southern side of the Ovens River looking north, with the river flats in the backgound.

At Wangaratta, a Toll Gate is added to the bridge over the Ovens River. The gatehouse keeper, Mr P. Hanna, lives in a residence at the gates to charge users when they cross.

Restored Toll Gates standing beside the footbridge over the Ovens River at Wangaratta today. For a while they had been used as the gates to the Wangaratta Cemetery by the Cemetery Trust. They are restored in the early 2000s by students from GoTafe.


Self portrait of photographer Walter Bentley Woodbury.

21-year-old inventor and pioneering English photographer Walter Bentley Woodbury bases himself in Beechworth for a few months and, with a business partner named Spencer, establishes a photographic studio, shooting portraits of local miners as well taking many early photographs of the Spring Creek and Woolshed Creek diggings and surrounds. One of his Beechworth photographs is below.

1855 – Mar 31             

Thomas Allen, a veteran of the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, arrives in Beechworth. He was wounded in the battle and, after trying his luck on the Ballarat goldfields where he is caught up in the Eureka Stockade and loses his tent and all his possessions to a fire, is now down on his luck, after his horse collapses and dies as he approaches Beechworth. Local miners and storekeepers rally around Allen, running a successful appeal to buy him a new horse, tent and basic supplies.


The ‘Beechworth Gold Fields Local Court District’ is established – as the Ovens district is divided into the Beechworth and Yackandandah districts – and Beechworth will be included in the ‘Supreme Court Circuit’ from 1856 (until 1919).


Linden Cottage is built at 24 Ford Street, next door to the wooden Wesleyan Methodist Chapel.


26-year-old Scotsman Donald Fletcher arrives in Beechworth. His first gold claim is a sluicing operation at Pennyweight Flat, followed by successful mining at Silver Creek, Eldorado, Clear Creek, Hurdle Flat and Yackandandah. He will, eventually, become one of the wealthiest men in Beechworth and build Beechworth’s grandest Victorian-era residence Myrla in 1875.

1855 – May 19             

Rapidly growing Yackandandah opens its first Public Hall. The Hall of Apollo is a 60 ft x 24 ft structure, attached to the Clarence Hotel (built in 1854 by Mr Jarvis). The opening is celebrated with a lavish ball, and one of the evening’s performers is Mr Barlow – “the inimitable buffo singer” (a male opera singer who specialises in comic roles).


Emma Eliza Hazelton establishes her Mrs Hazelton’s Ladies and Children’s Drapery Store on Ford Street Beechworth. Emma and her husband William Styles Hazelton will close the store at the end of 1857.


Donald and William Fiddes at work at Fiddes Quarry, cutting granite for some of Beechworth’s most important buildings.

30-year-old architect Donald Fiddes arrives in Beechworth with his younger brother William Fiddes. Natives of Scotland, they had been carried away by the exciting news of the Australian goldfields and booked two tickets on a ship which sailed into Melbourne in 1854. After a few months in Castlemaine, they head to the diggings at Mayday Hills to try their luck. They will remain in Beechworth for the rest of their lives, quickly establishing the Donald Fiddes & Co. Quarry near the Woolshed. Using the granite from his quarry, Donald will supervise the construction of dozens of buildings that begin to make their solid appearance, as Ford and Camp streets take permanent form, along with the Newtown Bridge in 1875. He will also open a thriving furniture and upholstery warehouse at the upper end of Ford Street.

D. Fiddes Furniture Store (at left) on Ford Street in the 1870s

1855 – Jun 23

Francis ‘Frank’ Augustus Hare

6’3″ tall South African-born Francis ‘Frank’ Augustus Hare (a 25-year-old lieutenant stationed at Wangaratta) is at a dinner party at Dr Mackay’s property at Tarrawingee by the Ovens River when they are rudely interrupted by the bushranger Meakin (or Meaken) in search of £700 in cash Dr. Mackay had been paid the day before for horses. Meakin threatens two of the female guests with a gun and a large knife. Lieutenant Hare chases Meakin out into the garden and, after a protracted struggle, grasps Meakin’s colt revolver in his right hand and, with his left hand, repeatedly pounds Meakin between the eyes! Dr Mackay keeps Meakin tied up with saddle straps until a constable arrives from Beechworth the next morning. As a gesture of thanks and respect, Dr Mackay will present Hare with a handsome gold watch inscribed: “Presented to Lieutenant Frances Hare for his gallant capture of an armed bushranger at Tarrawingee, the 23rd June 1855”.  Deeply grateful, Hare will carry the watch with him until the day he dies.

Meakin is tried for burglary, having committed numerous similar offences. Kept under guard by Hare at the Wangaratta police station which is little more than a slab hut with earth floor. During the night Meakin attempts to escape by digging the earth floor of his cell and piling the dirt underneath his blanket to give the impression he is still asleep. Unfortunately, the process takes longer than expected and he is caught in the act the next morning. Later, he will be transferred to Benalla where, still determined, he escapes through the roof of his cell, still in his irons, and this time he is successful … Meakin is never seen or heard of again! On the other hand, Francis Hare will certainly be heard of again … becoming famous for his capture of Harry Power and Ned Kelly and his gang.

1855 – Jul 9                 

A record 7,316 ounces of gold are received at the Beechworth Gold Office on this one day! At the current rate of AU $2,2885 per ounce, that would be valued at over AU $21 million today!


Popular Wooragee dairy farmer John Brewer in his late 70s.

Cornish-born John Brewer arrives in Beechworth with his new wife Charlotte. He had arrived in Australia in 1849 as a 17-year-old where he was quickly engaged in taking cattle and sheep from Australia to New Zealand on sailing vessels, but once gold is discovered he heads to try his luck Ballarat and is there during the ‘Eureka’ riots. Brewer then makes his way to the Beechworth gold fields and, after not having much luck, establishes a dairy on the Wooragee Road about three miles from Beechworth. He prospers through hard work and later purchases more valuable properties at Wooragee vastly increasing the size of his dairy. John and Charlotte Brewer produce 9 children in the 1860s and 1870s. His successful dairy operates for decades, and Brewer personally delivers milk to his customers, and becomes famous for his punctuality, even into his early 80s. He passes away peacefully a few days shy of his 83rd birthday in August 1915.

Just before Christmas Day in 1899 John Brewer, along with David Murray, his nearest neighbour at Wooragee, have their homestead leases destroyed by the infamous ‘1899 Bushfire’, with a massive loss of grass, cattle and sheep. Both will rebuild and continue to run their successful farms.


John Alston Wallace’s re-built two-storey Star Hotel (photograph taken 1856)

The widow of the recently deceased William Henry Neuber sells his basic timber Beechworth Hotel (aka Neuber Hotel) on Ford Street to flamboyant Scottish entrepreneur and wealthy miner John Alston Wallace who rebuilds it as a long two-storey wooden structure with weatherboard walls and a shingle roof, renaming it the Star Hotel (to add to his existing ‘chain’ of hotels, including the Star Hotel in Stanley and the Star Hotel in Yackandandah, which still operates today). Wallace also builds a large ‘Assembly Hall’ next to his new hotel, with seating for 500.  It will later be renamed as Beechworth’s Star Theatre.

John Alston Wallace – the ‘Mining Colossus of the North-East’
Known as the ‘Mining Colossus of the North-East’, Wallace creates a new type of hotel in Beechworth, with the ‘Star’ featuring 24 bedrooms, a dining room seating 100 people, a theatre that can seat up to 500 people, rear stables containing 40 stalls and a Blacksmith, and its own orchid and vegetable garden. The ‘Star Hotel’ dominates the commercial centre of Beechworth and is claimed to be the biggest and most commodious hotel in the Ovens district. Peter Wallace, John’s brother, manages the Bewechworth hotel in John’s many business-related absences.


Gold crushing works at Three Mile Creek in 1856

One, Two and Three Mile Creeks reach their peak when Chinese miners arrive at the previously worked One and Two Mile Creeks. By 1857 there are 2,000 miners at Three Mile Creek, with many miners washing up to 17 ounces of gold a day!


Alfred William Ladson in his later years

Having arrived in Australia from England at the age of 13 with his older brother 21-year-old Thomas Taylor Ladson, the now 15-year-old Alfred William Ladson and his brother move to Beechworth when it is basically still a ‘canvas town’. After a largely unsuccessful trip to the Californian goldfields, teenage Alfred returns to his brother in Beechworth and builds himself a hut on the Sydney Road and puts in a couple of years at wood chopping before gaining a position as a warder at the new Beechworth Gaol in 1859 which he does not enjoy. Alfred turns to manufacturing ink, blacking, and baking powder, successfully travelling around the country in a waggonette. He will eventually open a number of popular and profitable ‘Ladson’s Stores’ in Beechworth.


The Mackenzie Family Store on Newtown Hill in 1856

The Mackenzie Family Store is established. Situated on the very steep Newtown Hill, it will remain in business for over 100 years. In the late 1940s it is run by Harry Price, and in the 1950s John Hunt takes over and the main building becomes his grain store. In the 1970s it is run as a fruit and vegetable shop by George and Mary Harding. It is finally sold in the mid-1990s.

By the 1870s a small brick residence is added to the ‘Mackenzie Family Store’ and Thomas Pratten has established his Grocer’s Store next door.


William Lawrence Zincke becomes the clerk of the court in Beechworth before setting up his own legal practice with his senior legal partner Frederick Martin at 22 Camp Street in 1863. The building has been a solicitor’s office ever since.

Zincke is a sought-after solicitor in the North-East of Victoria and represents Kelly gang members Joe Byrne and Aaron Sherritt, and defends Ned Kelly’s mother Ellen Kelly when she is charged, along with William Skillion and William Williamson, for the attempted murder of Constable Alexander Fitzpatrick. At the Glenrowan siege of 1880, the entrepreneurial lawyer offers his services to those involved and ends up acting for more than 20 Kelly sympathisers who are being held in the Beechworth Gaol. 

1855 – Aug                   

The Ovens and Murray Advertiser office – with overseer Richard Warren (with) beard) at centre

After just a few months in business, and facing financial difficulties, Francis Hodgson Nixon sells The Ovens and Murray Advertiser newspaper to its overseer Richard Albert Warren and his friend John Sitch Clark for £600. With the offer of quarter share in the newspaper, Warren and Clark recruit George Henry Mott, the Melbourne Herald’s Castlemaine correspondent, to become the paper’s editor, as well as recruiting American George Judah Lyon from the Mount Alexander Mail to come to Beechworth. Although it is always printed as a weekly newspaper (on Saturdays), it will be published as a ‘daily’ paper during three separate periods: January 1, 1857, to March 31, 1860; January 11-16, 1866 (during the final stages of an election campaign); and, under Richard Warren’s determined leadership, from April 2, 1872 to December 31, 1873. Warren will remain the newspaper’s proprietor and editor right up until his death in 1906 at the age of 75, considered to be the oldest active newspaper proprietor in Victoria at the time.

Richard Albert Warren becomes a wealthy and respected member of the Beechworth community, one of Beechworth’s ‘pioneers’. He is a committee member and trustee of important organisations including the Board of Directors of the Beechworth Hospital, the Beechworth Asylum, and the ‘Rocky Mountain Sluicing Company’.  Despite his up-coming jail conviction, he will even serve as the Sunday school teacher at the Christ Church in his later years. He survives financial ups-and-downs and, at the time of his death in 1906, he owns twenty-six properties in Beechworth. His wife Mary Ann, a very strong and community minded woman, becomes President of the ‘Women’s Christian Temperance Union’.  It is said that she convinces many of the 170 Beechworth women to sign the ‘Women’s Suffrage Petition’. This petition plays a large part in women gaining the right to vote when Australian Federation is established in 1901.                      

1855 – Oct                   

Beechworth newspaperman Richard Warren sentenced to nine months behind bars.

Richard Albert Warren, the new owner of the Ovens and Murray Advertiser is “indicted for wilful and corrupt perjury” and sentenced to nine months hard labour after falsely denying, under oath, that he had advised “the men employed by Mr F.H. Nixon should sue him for wages … and smash Mr Nixon” and recommending “a Melbourne print-broker refuse Nixon credit”.

Not long after Warren’s release from prison in 1856, George Henry Mott moves to Albury to establish ‘The Border Post’ and John Sitch Clark decides to go back to running hotels, so Richard and William Warren buy out both men from ‘The Ovens and Murray Advertiser’ for a total of £2,000.                      

1855 – Nov 15

The rapidly growing Woolshed Diggings – an 1855 photograph by Walter Woodbury

A school opens at the Woolshed diggings to educate the settlement’s growing population of children. Mr Ednot Burbank is employed as Head Teacher at the Woolshed School No. 660 which is situated between Reid’s Creek and El Dorado. Another school – O’Donoghue’s Catholic School – will be established a few months later in 1856 by Cornelius O’Donoghue, where both Aaron Sherritt and Joe Byrne (later members of Ned Kelly’s gang) are students. Their teacher is James Doherty.

Butchers on the goldfields. Every settlement needed them.
At the height of the mining activity in 1857, businesses and traders at the Woolshed include 29 storekeepers 7 butchers, 14 hotels and 6 bookmakers.          

1855 – Nov 15                  

A recreation of the Golden Horseshoes – made in 2001 by Robert Bremner

Election Day. Rivalry between two local mining groups, the “Monkeys” and “Punchers” sees them both forward a candidate to represent them in the ‘Ovens Electorate’ in Victoria’s first ever parliamentary elections. The “Monkeys” (or ‘wet diggers’) work the creek at the Woolshed and wear black woollen trousers and large, coloured handkerchiefs, while the “Punchers” (or ‘dry diggers’) work the dry banks and gullies and wear moleskins. On nomination day, a large procession of flag-waving, banner-carrying “Punchers” follow their candidate John C. Lyons to Beechworth, while the “Monkey” miners are led by their candidate, 36-year-old Woolshed storekeeper Daniel Cameron.  The “Monkey” miners and Cameron march from the Woolshed to the Vine Hotel, a mile out of town, where Cameron’s horse ‘Castor’ is shod with horseshoes made from 24-carat gold supplied by American ‘Big’ John Johnston (or Johnson), who now has the biggest gold mining lease in the whole district. Each shoe weighs 7ozs and 4dwts (pennyweight). When the procession sets off again, Cameron jubilantly rides at the head of the procession while his supporters run beside him handing out free pannikins of beer, which are replenished by runners from the Vine Hotel. As the procession nears the centre of town it is joined by colourfully dressed members of “Williams Browns Circus”, brass bands and 80 men on horseback. (The horseshoes are quietly removed when Cameron dismounts ‘Castor’ at the rear of the Star Hotel.) The huge crowd and free beer add to the day’s chaos, and although the police place a cordon across the main street, they eventually give up trying to control the crowd. Finally, both candidates – Lyons and Cameron – appear at the balcony of the Star Hotel and, by a simple show of hands (holding their miners’ rights documents), Daniel Cameron is declared “elected” but, not surprisingly, the “Punchers” demand a ‘formal poll’ rather than a show of hands, which will be duly held two days later. More festivities will follow when the result of the recount is announced (see next entry).

At today’s prices, Castor’s golden horseshoes would be worth approximately $10,000 each.  Since the 1960s a “Golden Horseshoe Festival” and Parade has been annually in Beechworth on the Easter Weekend.                   

1855 – Nov 17

In the recount of the election, Woolshed storekeeper Daniel Cameron is again declared the elected candidate for the ‘Ovens Electorate’ and “Big” John Johnston (or Johnson) celebrates the ‘official win’ with a £300 shout of “champagne for all” at Reilly’s Union Hotel, where five hundred bottles of champagne are (reportedly) brought out and poured into buckets for the crowd! Daniel Cameron ends the day by making a tour of his new electorate in a gaily decorated carriage. That night, the local Chinese community stage a display of “several huge and marvellously illuminated fish that float across the sky with tails and fins flapping” and end the celebrations with “the greatest display of fireworks ever seen in Beechworth” featuring “huge rockets lighting up the entire reserve with the brilliancy of daylight”

Born in Perthshire, Scotland, Daniel Cameron arrives in Beechworth as a 34-year-old at the start of 1853, initially mining for gold, before becoming a gold buyer for the Bank of New South Wales and then establishing a store on the Woolshed diggings. Deciding to run for the unicameral (single legislative chamber) Victorian Legislative Council for the seat of Ovens, he lacks the £2,000 required to run, so his friends on the Woolshed raise the funds for him. Once he is successfully elected, Cameron will hold the seat until the original Council is abolished in March 1856.  He will then be elected to the Legislative Assembly seat of Ovens in November 1856 before resigning in March 1857. He dies in Lilydale on 3 January 1906 aged 87. He never marries and leaves no descendants.   

1855 – Dec                  

Ford Street is extended, beyond where it had ended at the junction with Camp Street, as far as the junction with the newly named Kars Street (named after the Siege of Kars which had taken place in the Crimean War a month earlier).

1855 – Dec                   

“The Invalid Digger” (1852) by Samuel Thomas Gill (known by his signature S.T.G. – Artist of the Goldfields) Injuries and illness are common on the goldfield, and most miners can not afford the attentions of a doctor and have no relatives to care for them.

With miners being regularly injured on the goldfields, and some becoming invalids – with no source of income – 28-year-old James Ingram calls a public meeting to discuss the urgent need for a public hospital. The meeting ends with a ‘hospital committee’ being formed – led by Ingram and George Briscoe Kerferd – and fundraising commences immediately. The idea of a hospital is met with a generous response across the Ovens goldfields and funds are raised quickly. The committee choose a site for the proposed hospital – land that slopes down to the Gorge south of Church Street – and it is quickly procured. Plans are drawn up by architect James Harold Dobbyn and, ten months later, on September 1st, the foundation stone for the new Ovens Goldfields Hospital will be laid. (see 1856 – Sep 1 entry below)

James Ingram – the driving force behind the creation of the new Ovens Goldfields Hospital


John Alston Wallace’s Star Hotel on Ford Street becomes the headquarters of Beechworth’s second coach line company Foster and Vinge, in direct competition with the Green and Connolly coach service established across the road at John Duncan Fisher’s Commercial Hotel a year earlier. George Foster and George Vinge run their regular mail and passenger coach services between Beechworth and Melbourne, along with Sandhurst (Bendigo), Castlemaine and Maryborough.

At the age of 21, London-born George Vinge had been transported to Australia in 1830 for stealing £37. After completing his sentence in Van Diemen’s Land, he moved to Melbourne in 1838, where he appeared before Magistrate William Lonsdale, charged with absconding from his master Mr Charles Hodden and is given one month imprisonment. Then, amazingly, one month later, he is appointed a Police Constable by the same Magistrate, because he could read and write! In 1842 Vinge marries Elizabeth Hale in Melbourne and they have 13 children. Moving with his family to Beechworth in 1855 he establishes his coach line and mail service with George Foster – contributing £6,000 to start the business. George Foster dies suddenly in 1857 and the following year George Vinge will sell their ‘Beechworth to Melbourne’ service to Hiram Allen Crawford’s newly established Beechworth coach company, with their other routes sold to ‘Cobb & Co.’   


Beechworth is referred to as “Ultima Thule” – “[the place to the furthest north] of North-Eastern Victoria”.


Aerial image of the green open space of the ‘Police Reserve’ as it looks today, with the public buildings to the left and the Beechworth Gaol at the top on the picture.

Having already been in use for three years, Beechworth’s ‘Police Reserve’ is officially gazetted. Between 1857 and 1867 the numerous makeshift timber government buildings around the reserve will be replaced by more substantial and solid public buildings, constructed of local honey-coloured granite. These buildings (below) are now considered unique and historically significant in Victoria, and have been given an ‘A’ classification by the National Trust, the highest classification possible.

The government buildings built in front of the ‘Police Reserve’ between 1857 and 1867 (sketch by Graham Hawley)

1856 – Mar

Governor John Castieau

26-year-old John Buckley Castieau is appointed Governor of the Beechworth Gaol. When he arrives the Gaol is still a wooden stockade but, in 1858, he will oversee the construction of the granite Gaol that stands today (referred to as ‘Castieau’s Castle’ in Bill Wilson’s fascinating 2018 book).

Throughout his career in the colonial prison service, Castieau keeps a detailed diary which is later edited by Mark Finnane and published in 2004 as “The Difficulties of My Position: The diaries of Prison Governor John Buckley Castieau, 1855-1884”.

1856 – May 13

A new Beechworth society is foundedthe Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Development Group – which is made up of the more scholarly-minded in Beechworth’s mining community. Desiring a permanant Reading Room and a Hall for discussions and lectures, the ‘Beechworth Athenæum’ is officially instituted. 

1856 – May 17                                     

George Henry Mott, former editor of ‘The Ovens and Murray Advetiser’, starts printing an opposition newspaper in Beechworth (photo courtesy of Rob Lacey and Dr Richard Hamilton)

Beechworth’s second newspaper is established by George Henry Mott (formerly of Beechworth’s Ovens and Murray Advertiser) and his editor George Henderson. The Constitution and Ovens Mining Intelligencer is published once a week before becoming a daily paper on August 17, 1857. Becoming known to locals simply as ‘The Constitution’, the anti-Catholic paper quickly becomes a fierce rival of The Ovens and Murray Advertiser. It ceases publication on March 28, 1863.

The personal conflicts between the Advertiser’s Anglican editor, Richard Warren and the Constitution’s Freemason editor, George Henderson, result in a libel case in 1859, where Henderson wins one shilling in damages. Both editors generate loyalty or opposition among Beechworth’s competing social groups. The Advertiser and the Constitution both follow a four-page format, with the front
page reserved for advertisements, and both papers
comprise broadsheet formats across 7 columns, devoid of artwork or pictures, with blocks of quite small print.

1856 – May 22

The Bank of New South Wales pays the astronomical sum of £1,000 for a prime site – a quarter-acre block – in the centre of Beechworth and starts to build an impressive branch on the corner of Ford and Camp Streets – the town’s first proper bank building – which will open in 1857. (An agency for the ‘Bank of New South Wales’ had been opened in Beechworth in 1853). It is designed in the conservative classical style known as ‘Renaissance Revival’ by the renowned architectural firm of Robertson & Hale. (Today it is one of the few known surviving works in Victoria of Robertson and Hale). The two-storey building is built for maximum security, with thick stone walls, a strong, heavily-bolted corner entrance door, barred ground floor windows and a high rubble wall enclosing the rear. The business interior, with its solid cedar fittings and stunning semi-circular cedar bank counter, is designed to inspire confidence in the bank’s proceedings. The front of the building features a unique parapet decoration with a superb coat of arms. A separate entrance in Ford Street provides direct access to the ‘Gold Buying Office’ with a recessed strong room, where gold can be stored while awaiting transfer to the nearby Gold Office and Sub-Treasury for escort. The upper floor features a comfortable Bank Manager’s Residence. High granite walls, which surround the rear yard of the property for security, still stand today, albeit with minor alterations, and is the home of Beechworth Honey Discovery.

Detail of the papapet on top of the Beechworth’s ‘Bank of New South Wales’ building as it looks today … featuring a distinctive Coat of Arms consisting of a kangaroo, emu, lion, and rising sun.
Between April 1855 and March 1857, the Beechworth branch purchases 303,582 ounces of gold for £1,148,545.     
The Bank of NSW building in Beechworth is one of the few 1850s bank buildings still proudly standing in Victoria. It is now the ‘Beechworth Honey Centre’ but most of the bank’s original features remain intact. The former bank manager’s residence on the first floor now operates as the “Hive Apartment” luxury accommodation. 

1856 – Jun 1               

The Belvoir Post Office opens and will retain that name until 26 July 1869 when the name of the town is changed from Belvoir to Wodonga.


Hungarian photographer Julius Albert von Rochlitz plants the region’s first vineyards in Havelock Road and creates a market garden and nursery business, growing rare types of vines, fruit trees and vegetables. Rochlitz’s gardens will supply Beechworth with much propagation material and his knowledge and experience with plants will lead him to win the design competition for the layout of Beechworth’s ‘Botanical Reserve’ in 1861.

Born in Hungary in 1824, Rochlitz had been a professional soldier in Europe before arriving in Geelong in 1853, then relocated to Beechworth. He is also a music and language teacher and an accomplished composer.


Magpie Creek diggings (later known as Wooragee)

Miners rush to a new gold discovery at Magpie Creek (later called Wooragee) 9km north of Beechworth.


The long front of the Star Hotel (at top of picture)

A Casino for Beechworth?! The Constitution and Ovens Mining Intelligencer newspaper reports that flamboyant Scottish entrepreneur and wealthy miner John Alston Wallace plans to open a casino at his newly built Star Hotel on Beechworth’s Ford Street … This does not eventuate! (And today, Beechworth is a “no pokies zone’!)


Lincolnshire-born William Thompson Soulby arrives in Beechworth with his parents Michael and Jane Soulby. The business-minded 26-year-old Soulby quickly sees opportunities and on March 23rd 1857 he has built and opened the two-storey weatherboard Victoria Dining Rooms on the corner of High and Short Streets. By December the affable pipe-smoking Soulby secures a publican’s licence and renames the business The Victoria Hotel and Dining Rooms. It features seven guest bedrooms. He then purchases a quarter-acre block of land on Camp Street on which he will eventually build the London Tavern – the first hotel in Beechworth built of brick.

Once William Thompson Soulby has opened his new ‘London Tavern’ in September 1859 he will install his father Michael Soulby as the new licensee of the ‘Victoria Hotel and Dining Rooms’. In June 1869 the Soulby’s sell the freehold of the ‘Victoria Hotel’ to Mark Baldwin for £350. The hotel will finish trading – and be demolished – by around 1888.


Scottish-born Andrew Galbraith arrives in Beechworth as a 19-year-old and quickly establishes a Bakery and Confectionary business (his trade since the age of 14). Andrew marries Sarah Ross in 1859 but in 1877 Andrew and Sarah and their family will leave Beechworth to take up land in Gippsland, taking advantage of the Government Land Act opening up settlement selections at Tyers.


The ‘Star Hotel’ in Stanley (aka Snake Valley)

A party of Chinese working on the rise behind John Alston Wallace’s Star Hotel in Stanley uncover several good sized gold nuggets, the largest weighing over 5 ounces.


‘W. Andrews and Son’ store (far right) in Camp Street in the 1920s

Messrs. Forman and Company is established in Beechworth, and will become the longest-lasting ironmongery and furnishing businesses in the North-Eastern district. In 1880 it will be taken over William Frederick Andrews and Son who steadily increase the business.


Large advertising banner on the Star Hotel balcony for Acley Rochlitz Portrait Store’

Julius Albert von Rochlitz begins a partnership with fellow photographer, American R.H. Acley, at their Acley and Rochlitz: Daguerrean Artists Studio, operating initially from the Star Hotel on Ford Street. A daguerreotype is an early photographic process employing an iodine-sensitized silvered plate and mercury vapour.

Rochlitz is not only a professional photographer but also a composer, music and language teacher, author, civil engineer, landscape gardener and winemaker. He later returns to Hungary, where he dies in 1886.


39-year-old George Billson arrives at Wooragee (9km from Beechworth) where he purchases 140 acres of land and builds a two-storey hotel. He marries Isabella on 26 March 1864 at St. Pauls Church in Melbourne. From 1864 to 1867 Billson will be a publican in the Wood’s Point District near Mansfield, before finally settling in Beechworth where he will quickly become one of Beechworth’s most prominent citizens.

British-born Billson had arrived in Adelaide in 1848 at the age of 31 before heading to the gold rush in California the following year. Attracted back to Australia in 1852 by the local gold rushes, he opens a store at Sandhurst (Bendigo) which he runs for the next two years before heading back to England. He returns in 1856 and, at the age of 39, settles at Wooragee.  


A weatherboard house is erected on the corner of Camp and Loch Streets which will become home to a succession of Beechworth’s doctors and their families. Dr David Skinner builds the current brick building on the same site in 1892 and it still stands proudly today.


Beechworth’s Apple Box Tree (Eucalyptus bridgesiana) known as the ‘But But Tree’

The massive trunk of the 400 year old ‘But But Tree’ beside Spring Creek has now become the place for miners to leave messages and announcements – including missing persons notices – like an unofficial post office. The vast number of steel spikes and horseshoes nailed to its trunk will eventually cause the Apple Box tree (probably a union of two trees with a cavity in the centre) to become extremely galled.

Originally the site of the first miners’ church services, the distinctive tree is also used by blacksmiths as a canopy to shield the sun. The ‘But-But Tree’ still stands on the corner of Tanswell Street and Dowling Court but suffers severe storm damage in 1991 necessitating the removal of several major branches. 


The tail race cut through granite rock at the ‘Spring Creek Flats’ between 1856 and 1869 as it looks today.

With a combined capital of £2,400, a small group of miners form the Union Mining Company when they win the right to run a tail race to drain the Spring Creek Flats. by draining water from the ‘Flats’ it will lower the water table so shafts can reach bedrock. A thin layer of gold is often found on top of the bedrock, covered with black sand. The company procure cheap labour from Melbourne – around 100 workers – and the work proceeds slowly. About a quarter of a mile of the great drainage race is cut, and a tramway is built to assist in carting the refuse down to the falls. Over the course of 18 months – and at a cost of £3,500 – the Union Mining Company cut the tail race through solid granite rock to a point above the Spring Creek Gorge (later known as the Newtown Falls) below the town, that give a fall of 2 inches in 12 feet. However, they aren’t able to drain the lower part of the flat with the race’s current depth and, with the company’s finances exhausted (the small quantities of gold obtained are insufficient to justify greater outlay) the shareholders agree to close the company. The men are sadly now each £150 out of pocket beyond the amount of their shares.

The miners sell the rights to their ‘Union Mining Company’ to William Telford and Mr Ransome in 1863, who also purchase the three adjoining leases. A new company is formed – ‘The Rocky Mountain Company’ – with a capital of £6,000 in 600 shares of £10 each. Between October 1867 and July 1869, the existing tail race is cut again, even deeper, to a depth of 8 feet, through 450 yards of solid rock. Tragically, a contractor is killed during the blasting operations. Over the following seven years ‘The Rocky Mountain Company’ obtains 6,500 ounces of gold from its claim. 


A horse racing event in front of the grandsatnd at Baarmutha Park in the 1906.

Beechworth’s second horse racing course, along with a new cricket pitch, is laid out on the Public Recreation Reserve (now Baarmutha Park). Early race meetings are usually a three or four-day affair!

The first Beechworth horse races are held on a makeshift course at ‘Pennyweight Flat’ as the ground is desirably flat!    


A Beechworth branch of the Bank of Australasia opens at 86 Ford Street. The grand building features 6m ceilings, ornate rosettes, arched windows, and a large bank vault built with thick granite blocks.

Although headquartered in London, the Bank of Australasia is an Australian bank which operates from 1835 to 1951. Its first branch opens in Sydney in December 1835, followed by Hobart and Launceston in January 1836, and Melbourne in August 1838. In 1951 it will merge with ‘Union Bank of Australia’ to form the ANZ – the ‘Australia and New Zealand Bank’.


Plans are made for ‘New Ford Street’ (later known as ‘Upper Ford Street’) allowing Ford Street to continue in a curve along the rim of the Gorge so that it can connect with the Spring Creek diggings.

Although Government Surveyor George Smythe designs High Street as Beechworth’s main thoroughfare, following along beside Spring Creek, it soon becomes apparent that High Street will not work in that capacity. Firstly, it is very difficult to build on the creek side of High Street because the land falls away too steeply towards the creek; of all Beechworth’s streets, it is the narrowest (because of the creek) at just 66 feet wide (while the others are 99 feet wide); and the success of so many new hotels and other businesses on Ford Street, it is where most of the people gather. Inevitably Ford Street will become the ‘centre of town’.


The 1856 building at 39 Ford Street built by James Kyle

30-year-old Scottish builder James Kyle arrives in Beechworth with his wife and young son. He builds a new shop at 39 Ford Street from where he will run his ‘Beechworth Undertaker’ business and use as the base for his successful building company. The shop at 39 Ford Street still stands today (above).

Kyle arrived from Scotland on 13 September 1853, landing at Port Phillip Bay in Melbourne aboard the ship ‘Sophia Burbidge’ with his wife Elizabeth and their 3-year-old son Alexander. Another son, 10-month-old David, had died during the sea voyage. James Kyle will live a long life, passing away aged 90, on July 8th, 1916. He is buried at the Beechworth Cemetery.


Chiltern artist Alfred William Eustace paints a small picture of the Woolshed gold diggings and during the next few years becomes well known in North-East Victoria, holding exhibitions of his art in Albury, Ballarat and Melbourne and by 1896 he is receiving orders from many of Europe’s most important families. Examples of his work are acknowledged by Queen Victoria, Emperor Frederick of Germany, the Czar of Russia along with the Governors of NSW and Victoria.

Eustace is also a skilful taxidermist and many pieces prepared by him are now among the collection of birds and animals in the Beechworth Museum. He is a contributor of letters and verse to the Chiltern newspaper and in the 1870s shares in a lively debate on spiritualism. 


The Ovens and Murray Advertiser newspaper reports local Aboriginal people continue to hold their annual corroborees in Beechworth – “camping a short distance from town, near the [race]course” (now Baarmutha Park). Similar reports are published in the newspaper over the following three years.

King Billy, photographed in 1870 by Thomas J. Washbourne
Towards the end of 1856, a remnant of the Barwidgee aborigines is still in existence, King Billy Barwidgee (or King Billy Elengeist) (above), their leader, being a familiar character. He is “adorned with a brass plate suspended from his neck with his name engraved on it, which he was very proud”. “The moon was at its full. They were painted with white lines that gave them the resemblance to skeletons, and danced round a fire, while two old gins kept up a tattoo with sticks and made a droning kind of noise. There was no melody in it, but the time was perfect.” 


Albert Road Bridge at centre of photo surrounded by white balustrades.

A second bridge is built in Beechworth. This one is a small wooden bridge over Spring Creek at the foot of Camp Street (leading up to what is later named Albert Road towards the Mayday Hill). In June 1863 the little bridge is seriously damaged when Spring Creek floods. It is quickly repaired but in June 1870 it is “entirely swept away” when the creek floods again, then rebuilt … again, where it will stay in use until 1929 before being replaced by the current stone and concrete structure.

Albert Road Bridge – early 1900s. Note the sign on the left forHodge & Hughes Monumental Masons’. John Hodge and Charles Richard Hughes complete orders for the design, creation and erection of monuments in the Beechworth Cemetery and other cemeteries in the district, which are “distinguished by their superior  workmanship”.
Albert Road is named for Queen Victoria’s husband Prince Albert who dies in December 1861.


Richard Finch takes over the business operated by G.W. Withers in Ford Street and operates his men’s outfitter shop until his retirement in 1902 when his sons Richard and William take over the business.

1856 – Aug 7               

Philip Le Couteur.

30-year-old plasterer Philip Le Couteur arrives in Beechworth to help lay the floor of the new Bank of NSW building.  Le Couteur, who had arrived in Australia from Jersey on January 1st, 1855, quickly becomes involved with the early development of Beechworth’s Congregational Church.


Gladstone House today

Ebenezer Gladstone Flint builds ‘Gladstone House’ at 56 Camp Street.

1856 – Aug 11             

After the first Anglican services began in a tent in 1855, a small hall is completed at 29 Ford Street – on the corner of Church Street – to service the township’s Anglican followers and for use as a school. The first Rector is the Reverend Cooper Searle and a rectory is built for him next door.

The following year a new granite church – Christ Church – will be constructed, and James Goldsworthy will take over the hall to establish his ‘Beechworth Grammar School‘.

1856 – Aug 23

Sir Edward Macarthur (above) will act of the Governor of Victoria for 12 months, between the death of Sir Charles Hotham in December 1855 and the arrival of Sir Henry Barkly in December 1856

By the proclamation of Sir Edward Macarthur – Acting Governor of the Colony of Victoria – Beechworth is officially created as a Municipality which will be “under the control of a Council of seven”. It embraces an area of 1,562 acres (approximately 2 square miles and 282 acres), including the portion of the Ovens Gold Field known as Spring Creek. The Beechworth District Road Board is also established on the same date.

1856 – Sep 1

The ‘Ovens Goldfields Hospital’ will later be renamed the ‘Ovens District Hospital’

Beechworth holds one of its first big processions and pageants for the official laying of the foundation stone for the new Ovens Goldfields Hospital on Church Street. Led by a German brass band and the two men instrumental in promoting the idea of a hospital in Beechworth – James Ingram and George Briscoe Kerferd – they will be followed by an estimated crowd of 4,000 people! Mr Price, the Beechworth Gold Warden, wields a specially created trowel – with a blade of solid gold and a handle crafted from Woolshed tin – to cement the foundation stone. This will be followed by a sumptuous banquet in the newly designated ‘Hospital Reserve’.

The Ovens Goldfields Hospital will be built, in stages, between 1856 and 1864 with the hospital’s ‘crowning glory’ – the magnificent (and still standing) stone façade – completed in 1862. Further additions are made in the 1890s including the creation of the ‘Isolation Ward’ which will become known as ‘Little Canada” after the Canadian miner who loved the similarity of Beechworth’s pine covered slopes to those in his native country so much that he built a log cabin on the spot where the ‘Isolation Ward’ later stands. The Ovens Goldfields Hospital will receive patients from all over the district.

1856 – Sep 26              

The first ‘Beechworth Council’. Following the declaration of Beechworth as a ‘Municipal District’ under the presidency of William Corbett Jones Parry, a local barrister, elections are held for the first Beechworth Municipal Council with Richard Mellish the first person elected, followed by Alexander Pritchard, Frederick Brown, Robert Winter, John C. Gray, Charles Williams and Henry Robertson, while John Alston Wallace is disappointed to be unsuccessful in getting a seat on the council. The first meeting of the new eight member council will take place two weeks later on October 10th where Richard Mellish is unanimously elected Chairman of the Municipal District with Alexander Pritchard elected Honorary Secretary.

The main township of Beechworth comprises 10 main streets, laid out at a uniform width of 99 feet, and 15 roads with a uniform width of 66 feet, with the exception of two, each of 3 chains in width.

1856 – Sep 26

Eli Abbott, popular local grocer and a founding member of the Wesleyan Methodist Church in Beechworth, is the eighth member elected to the first Beechworth Municipal Council and will serve two terms.

Eli Abbott and his wife Emma arrive in Beechworth from England in 1853 where Eli quickly finds employment as an assistant in Edmund Vickery’s grocery store in the Spring Creek diggings. Eli does well and soon buys out Vickery, taking over the business. His brother-in-law, pharmacist William Witt and his wife Sarah arrive in Beechworth four years later and join Eli and Emma, William’s sister, in establishing a combined grocery store and pharmacy on Ford Street in 1857. Sadly, Eli will die on May 16th 1861 after a short illness.  

1856 – Sep 26-30

Sir Richard Graves Macdonnell

The Governor of South Australia, Sir Richard Graves Macdonnell and his wife Lady Blanche Macdonnell, visit Beechworth. The official party travels from South Australia by river, travelling up the Murray on board the City of Melbourne – the first river steamer to ever make the trip all the way to Albury, with Captain Cadell (pioneer of the Murray River navigation) piloting the vessel past the many shoals and snags. The Governor’s party then travel to Beechworth on horseback where they stay at the El Dorado Hotel. At noon the following day they are met by a welcoming committee, in front of an audience of 200 people, at the Star Assembly Room. They will go to visit the Woolshed and other nearby goldfields, then honour photographers Julius Abbott von Rochlitz and R.H. Acley by posing for daguerreotyypes (photographs) at their Acley and Rochlitz: Daguerrean Artists Studio at the Star Hotel in Beechworth.

Lady Blanche Macdonnell
Beechworth composer and photographer Julius Albert von Rochlitz composes a popular piece of music in honour of the Governor’s visit – the ‘Lady MacDonnell Schottisch’ – which is performed by Rochlitz on piano “to much delight” upon their arrival. The composition is later included in a collection of Rochlitz’s musical works which also features ‘The Geelong-Melbourne Railway Polka’ (either composed in celebration of the inaguration of the Geelong Railway project in 1853, or its official opening in 1857) (below).

1856 – Sep 29

A most lavish evening banquet is presented in Beechworth at the Star Assembly Hall for the visiting Governor of South Australia, Sir Richard Graves Macdonnell. The dinner has been financed by John Alston Wallace, with Beehworth’s finest chefs and culinary experts spending the weekend preparing the sumptuous menu – entrees of Murray cod, oysters and lobsters; main dishes of turkey, pork, tongue, chicken pie, jellied fowl, cutlets of port, mutton and veal, and roast mutton; followed by souffles, puddings, fruit pies, jellies, blancmanges, cakes and pastries. The entire menu is written in French. Preparations are supervised by James Ellis, renowned in London for originating its first casino, the Adelaide Gallery in the Strand and the Cremorne Gardens.  

1856 – Sep 30

Wesleyan Chapel, Beechworth (photographed by Walter Bentley Woodbury in 1855)

Departing Beechworth, the Governor of South Australia Sir Richard Graves Macdonnell makes the point of saying how impressed he is with the 1854-built Wesleyan Methodist Chapel“The largest and most conspicuous place of public worship at Beechworth”.


A local by-law is introduced, prohibiting the erection of any further canvas-built shops or homes in the main streets of Beechworth. (Until the mid-1850s most buildings in the town are of wood, bark or canvas.)


The Beechworth Athenæum Lecture Hall and Reading Room is opened. It is used exclusively for the meetings of Beechworth’s newly formed Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Development Group. By 1858 the group will have 150 members and subscribers and appoint a permanent curator to look after their rapidly growing collections. They hold discussions at the Athenæum Hall on subjects as varied as local geography and geology, local flora and fauna, and current political events. Admission is restricted to subscribers of the Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Development Group. However, by 1860 the subscribers are obliged to ask the Beechworth Municipal Council for help in maintaining the building. This is granted – on the condition that the building should be open to the public – and the building becomes the Beechworth Athenæum and Public Library (above).

In 1863, following the tragic death of Robert O’Hara Burke at Cooper Creek in June 1861 in his attempt to cross Australia, the Beechworth Council will purchase the ‘Athenæum and Public Library’ outright and add a ‘Museum of Science’ to the building, renaming it the ‘Beechworth Public Library and Burke Memorial Museum’ as a tribute to Beechworth’s former Police Superintendent. The popular ‘Burke Museum’ still operates today, and is one of Victoria’s oldest. 

1856 – Oct 10              

The first meeting of the newly elected Beechworth Municpal Council is held, led by Richard Mellish. One of the Council’s first tasks is achieving a secure water supply for the town, which it has been lacking. The initial (proposed) water scheme consists of bringing water from the Little or Ovens Rivers with a canal to be cut from the Ovens River, via Stanley (9km from Beechworth) and through to Beechworth. Although The Ovens Diggings Water Company is formed specifically to undertake this work, the scheme does not eventuate.

The water scheme will take 19 years to come to fruition, with the eventual official supply of water in 1874 filled with setbacks and disputes, all at a substantial cost to the fledgling Council.  

1856 – Oct 10

The new Beechworth Municipal Council looks through the 31 applications it has received for the new position of a Beechworth Town Clerk. The man selected by the Council (by six votes to one) is Henry Charles Darvall, a stranger who has only just arrived in the township! He proves both successful and popular in the role and stays in the post for many years.


With the formation of the Beechworth Municipal Council, a grant of a large section of land on Ford Street – opposite the Police Reserve – is made for the new council’s use, with plans to (eventually) build Council Chambers. Today, this is the site of the Beechworth Visitor Centre.

1856 – Oct 14

George Henry Mott (photo courtesy of Rob Lacey and Dr Richard Hamilton)

The population of nearby Albury continues to grow and now stands at 645 people. Seeing the future for potential growth, George Henry Mott (former editor of Beechworth’s ‘Ovens and Murray Advertiser‘ and owner of Beechworth’s ‘Constitution and Ovens Mining Intelligencer’) and his printer friend George Robinson publish the inaugural issue of Albury’s first newspaper, the Border Post. George Mott will later own the Ovens Tribune and the Chiltern Standard newspapers.

George Henry Mott will become an important citizen of Albury. He agitates for the separation of the Riverina from NSW; establishes an ‘Anti-Customs League’ and, in 1868, becomes the Mayor of Albury. He also helps form the ‘North-Eastern Railway League’, which works for the completion of the Melbourne to Wodonga line. He will pass away on January 7, 1906 and his wife Allegra dies nine months later on October 16, 1906. 


Hiram Allen Crawford in his fire brigade uniform. He will be Captain of the Beechworth Volunteer Fire Brigade for 25 years (1885 photo by Stewart & Co. Melbourne).

On the advice of fellow American Freeman ‘King’ Cobb – 24-year-old Hiram Allen Crawford uses his winnings – ‘a thousand ounces gold’ -from the Woolshed goldfields to establish the coach firm ‘H.A. Crawford and Co’ in Beechworth. Starting with a single cart and two horses, he begins with runs between Beechworth and Yackandandah before his first official ‘big run’, in September 1857, from Beechworth to Albury. He grooms, feeds and breaks in the horses himself. The small business grows rapidly and the ‘H.A. Crawford and Co’ coach routes expand to include regular mail contracts.

A Crawford & Co. coach crosses the Snowy Creek
Hiram Crawford’s stables at the rear of 44 Ford Street burn down in 1891 but are subsequently rebuilt. Crawford goes on to purchase the ‘Star Hotel’ in nearby Chiltern, eventually becoming the Mayor of Chiltern in 1863 then the Mayor of Beechworth, and is instrumental in bringing gas light to Beechworth, the formation of the Victorian Fire Brigade Act and the Fire Brigade Board. He will later turn to farming on a property by the Ovens River near Everton which he names ‘Brookfield’ after his birthplace in America. ‘Brookfield’ will have its own railway stop on the Wangaratta to Bright Railway Line. Hiram Crawford dies in 1916 at the age of 84.

1856 – Nov 18             

The headstone of Robert Murdock at Beechworth Cemetery. He is often referred to (in articles and news reports) as Robert Murdoch.

Murder in Beechworth! Charles Jansen (or Johanson or Johnson), a Swedish miner working the diggings at Woolshed, visits John Wallace’s Star Hotel and, after becoming drunk and aggressive and refusing to pay, is asked to leave by a waiter. A fight breaks out and Jansen is punched to the ground by the waiter. Jansen then produces a knife. The hotel’s landlord, 27-year-old Scotsman Robert Murdock attempts to calm the situation when Jansen stabs Murdock who screams “I am stabbed! I am stabbed!” Jansen is arrested in the hotel and Murdock dies from his injuries two days later. A post-mortem is carried out on the stage of the Star Hotel’s Assembly Hall (aka the Star Theatre). Murdock’s funeral is one of the largest seen in Beechworth. As the coffin is carried out of the Star Hotel to a carriage, all businesses in the town close and all the shop windows have their curtains drawn whilst their owners stand in mourning as the carriage goes past. Over 3,000 men, women and children are waiting for the carriage at the cemetery for Murdock’s burial and he will become the first person interred at the new cemetery. He leaves a widow, Isabella.

In Jansen’s murder trial, Judge Whipham agrees that “under circumstances of provocation, the offence be reduced to manslaughter” as “Mr Jansen was proved to have been under the influence of liquor, and while in that state he had been struck and beaten very harshly by a man, his superior in size and strength”. The jury returns a verdict of manslaughter and Jansen is sentenced to seven years hard labour on the roads. After the trial, it is revealed that Jensen had murdered a person in Egypt on his way to Australia. 

1856 – Nov                  

Future member of the Kelly Gang, Joe Byrne is born in the Woolshed Valley to Patrick and Margaret Byrne.

1856 – Nov

38-year-old Scotsman David Dunlop arrives in Beechworth with his wife Mary (sister of baker James MacMaster). Dunlop, who has been running a confectionery business in Collins Street in Melbourne, soon establishes a successful bakery and pastry shop – the Scotch Pie Shop – on Camp Street. Originally a single-story shop, a second storey and balcony are added in 1900.

The building will continue to be associated with food, dining, baking and pastry cooks, later becoming the ‘Ideal Café & Milk Bar’. In 1984 it is renovated by Tom O’Toole who will relaunch it as the ‘Beechworth Bakery’. 


The Burke Museum’s 1979-built ‘Street of Shops” features a recreation of the front of Sidney Rundle’s ‘London House’

24-year-old Irishman Sidney Henry Rundle establishes the London House store on Ford Street. It will serve the citizens of Beechworth for many years, selling everything from manchester, drapery, and a vast range of men’s and women’s clothing. A few years later Sid’s younger brother Charles Alfred Rundle, a trained chemist, will arrive from Ireland and also find work in Beechworth, as a 21-year-old assistant to pharmacist William Witt. Impressed by the younger Rundle’s pharmacy work, Witt puts him in charge of Witt’s new branch in Chiltern, a business which Rundle eventually buys. In February 1865, Charles Rundle purchases Ford’s Pharmacy in Wangaratta and successfully runs the Wangaratta business – with his wife and one of his daughters (who are also qualified chemists) – until his death 30 years later in 1896.

Sidney Henry Rundle will build a home on 5 acres of land on Sydney Road. His ‘Mayday House’ will become known for its beautiful gardens. He will pass away in 1902 aged 70.


An aerial view of Beechworth Cemetery on Balaclava Road as it looks today. The red roof of the rotunda is clearly noticeable in the centre of the cememtery.

Beechworth’s third Cemetery (the current cemetery) is opened on Balaclava Road. Representatives of each of the six local churches make up the Cemetery Trust and each church is allotted a section of ground within the new Cemetery, each section reflecting the size of the congregation of each church, with the sections given the name of the church it represents. Thus the Cemetery is laid out in denominational order with denominational names. There is also a section for Beechworth’s large Chinese community which, during the gold rush, and for a long time afterwards, numbers over 5,000.

The Trustees of the Cemetery create one more section – the ‘Strangers’ area, where those who do not belong to the main-stream churches, or who are non-Christian – such as Hindus and Buddhists – can be buried.  Those whose religions are non-denominational, or unknown, are also buried as ‘Strangers’. In this section today there are also a vast number of unmarked graves, little humps and hollows, side by side, in long rows.  


Gold Office and Sub-Treasury (later the Beechworth Police Station, until 1997)
Building is now classified by the National Trust. 

Construction commences on the Gold Office and Sub-Treasury building in front of the Police Reserve on Ford Street. Built over 18 months by contractors Martell & Rogers at a cost of £892, it features distinctive local granite, a slate roof and comprises two offices in the principal gable roof section with a projecting stone vestibule at the front of the building which is entered from either of the flanking verandahs. In 1861 a substantial addition is made to the rear of the building which includes a large strong room and two more offices at a further cost of £525. All gold from the diggings are deposited at the Gold Office before being transported to Melbourne. In the 1880s the Gold Office and Sub-Treasury is converted into the Beechworth Police Station which remains in operation until the new Beechworth Police Station is built around the corner in 1997.

Gold Office and Sub-Treasury converted into Beechworth Police Station
At the peak of the goldrush the ‘Sub-Treasury’ is used to store up to 14,000 ounces of gold each fortnight which, at the end of each fortnight, would be escorted to the Treasury in Melbourne. 

1857 – Jan 1                

Reverend John C. Symons lays the foundation stone for a new Wesleyan Methodist Chapel – to replace the wooden chapel (above) – and construction starts immediately. The architects are Powell & Clarke. The stone building will be completed by Easter Sunday, April 12th the same year.

1857 – Jan

Following the murder of his friend Robert Murdock at his Star Hotel on Ford Street in November 1856, John Alston Wallace decides to sell the Star to Henry Robertson and Robert Quirk for £9,000 (Robert Quirk had previously owned the Freemason’s Arms Hotel on Reid’s Creek). But Robertson and Quirk quickly default on their payments and Wallace (and his brother Peter Wallace) take back control of the Star Hotel, which they will retain until 1863.  

1857 – Jan 15              

The flourishing Beechworth Chinese community celebrate the completion of their first Joss House (initially built of wood and canvas) at the Chinese diggings in the area known as Little Canton.


A temporary wooden Catholic Church is erected at 9 Church Street.


The ‘Commercial Hotel’ after its 1857 improvements.

John Duncan Fisher extends and improves his two-story Commercial Hotel on Ford Street. Remodeling inside and out, he adds a larger bar, additional accommodation rooms, a large dining and concert room, a billiard room, and an ‘Oddfellows Lodge’, along with larger stables next door.


At least 14,000 ounces of gold is leaving Beechworth for Melbourne each fortnight on the gold escorts.

Between 1852 and 1866 the Ovens goldfields yield 3,121,918 ounces of gold!

1857 – Feb 7                  

The only hospital between Melbourne and Goulburn, the ‘Ovens Goldfields Hospital’ will later be renamed the ‘Ovens District Hospital’

With much fanfare and ceremony, the first stage of the Ovens Goldfields Hospital is officially opened to patients on Church Street. It is completed at a cost of £2,347 pounds – with the aid of public subscriptions and Government grants – and for the next 50 years it will be North-East Victoria’s leading hospital. The initial building, designed by James Harold Dobbyn in the classical ‘Palladian’ classical style, comprises two wards accommodating 20 patients, along with apartments for the resident surgeon and matron and an area that serves as a dispensary, operating theatre and board room. The hospital cares mainly for those who cannot afford to consult doctors. Within a year, the rapidly increasing number of patients will lead to the construction of another wing in 1858 costing £1,000. This two-storey wing – with five medium-sized wards – doubles the size of the hospital and is built entirely by subscription. In 1861 a further wing, costing £1,158, is added to accommodate a further 20 patients. A ‘Chinese Ward’ will be added in 1883 and an ‘Isolation Ward’, designed by Donald Fiddes, is completed in 1890. In 1874 the ‘Hospital Gardens’ are laid out by R.H. Jenkyns and planted with over 200 species of trees, including fruit trees, and shrubs, as well as colourful flower beds and orchards and kitchen gardens for food production. The hospital receives many generous donations and gifts, especially from the local Chinese community.

The hospital will close in 1940 and, except for the façade, is demolished in 1941. The hospital grounds become known as ‘Centennial Park’ and the Beechworth Scout Hall will be built in ‘Centennial Park’ in 1962. Restoration work on the hospital façade is undertaken in 1964 by the Beechworth Lions Club. 


St. Joseph’s wooden school building at left, on the corner of Loch and Church Streets

The St Joseph’s Catholic School begins as a wooden structure beside the temporary St. Joseph’s Catholic Church at 9 Church Street. By 1886 the school is staffed by lay teachers until negotiations with the Superioress of the Brigidine Convent at Abbeylei in Ireland secures four Brigidine Sisters to come to Beechworth. The ‘Brigidine Sisters’ arrive in December 1886 and take permanent charge of St Joseph’s Primary School in January 1887.


The population of the Beechworth township and the various goldfields in the surrounding Ovens District has reached 16,000. (By comparison, the current population of Beechworth is around 3,000.)


The Bank of Victoria building erected after the fire in 1867 by Smith & Watts. (Photograph taken in 1877 by the American and Australasian Photographic Company)

The architectural firm of Robertson & Hale, who designed Beechworth’s impressive Bank of New South Wales a year earlier, now design a new branch for the Bank of Victoria on the opposite corner of Camp and Ford Streets. It will be destroyed in the ‘Great Beechworth Fire’ and replaced in 1867 by a larger stone building erected by Smith & Watts (photo above). The Bank of Victoria Limited had been founded in Melbourne in 1852 by Dr Thomas Black, a physician from Richmond.

In 1927 ‘The Bank of Victoria’ amalgamates with the ‘Commercial Banking Company of Sydney Limited’ (CBC) and subsequently with the ‘National Bank of Australia’ (NAB) in 1981 to become part of the NAB group. The Beechworth branch building will later become the home of the ‘Rock Cavern’ and the ‘Beechworth Gold Gemstone and Gold Gallery’.


The Congregational Church purchases land in Loch Street with plans to build a church. Until it is built, the land is used for open-air meetings and services. The site is originally a cemetery; those interred are removed to Beechworth Cemetery. The Congregational Church’s Sunday School will open on January 19 1858, and used as a church until 1869, located behind present church.


The completed ‘Council Chambers and Clock Tower’ (on the right of picture) on Ford Street (photographed in 1880)

A year after the election of the first ‘Beechworth Municipal Council’, plans are submitted for the construction of Beechworth’s first Council Chambers. A tender of £1,580 will finally be accepted in May 1858 and work begins on the solid single-storey building at 103 Ford Street, with plans to include an impressive Clock Tower.


William Witt (photo courtesy Stonnington History Service)

Pharmacist William Witt and his wife Sarah arrive in Beechworth and join Eli Abbott and his wife Emma – William Witt’s sister – in establishing a combined grocery store and pharmacy on Ford Street.

William Witt’s Beechworth pharmacy is very successful, and Witt will go on to open further Victorian branches in Chiltern, Tallangatta and Rutherglen, along with Wagga Wagga and Parkes in NSW. He also establishes a sales and auction business in Beechworth; will act as the Beechworth agent for the ‘Colonial Insurance Company’ (see below); and sit on the board of three local mining companies. Within two years of his arrival in town, Witt will be elected to the Beechworth Council and will later serve a 12-month term as the Beechworth Mayor.
Advertisement from the Ovens and Murray Advertiser, September 1859



Construction is completed on Farland Cottage at 50 High Street. The delightful cottage, with rear access to the creek, still stands today.


The Star Theatre at the Star Hotel on Ford Street hosts a performance by Madame Della Casse & Company, where “Madame will perform her grand leap over 12 soldiers and their 12 bayonets”! Anna Della Casse tours the country performing a range of feats and stunts, including walking the tightrope and is promoted as a “fair and daring artiste”.  


22-year-old James McMaster – whose sister is married to David Dunlop who operates the successful Scotch Pie Shop on Camp Street – arrives in Beechworth and joins his sister and Dunlop in their successful baking, pastry and confectionary business.

A popular local citizen, David Dunlop will be elected to the Beechworth Shire Council in August 1876. Sadly, he will die after suffering a very bad cold in June 1887, aged 67. James McMaster will take over Dunlop’s popular ‘Scotch Pie Shop’ on Camp Street.


Beechworth Municipal Council sinks a well at the bottom of Short Street and then builds a horse-driven pump above it. In November 1858 the Council will appoint a special ‘Water Committee’ to plan a better water supply for the township.

The Beechworth ‘Water Committee’ will be headed by Councillor Frederick Brown who will be responsible for what will become known as ‘Brown’s Folly’ (see below).
The Water Committee initiates what is later known as ‘Brown’s Folly’ (named after Councillor Frederick Brown). An immense iron tank is installed upon massive granite pillars at the intersection of Ford and Church Streets – the highest point in town – into which water is pumped from the town well (see above). The tank is 20ft x 25ft x 6ft and holds 22,500 gallons of water. The tank and well are connected by pipes, with pipes also connecting the tank to the centre of town. However, the size and positioning of the tank impacts on the room available for vehicles to pass and this, together with the cost (some thousands of pounds) and much negative public opinion about the aesthetics of the tank, result in the tank being removed within two years.

1857 – Apr 7                 

The first sitting of the Supreme Court (Circuit Court) is held in Beechworth, with the first case – heard under the court of ‘Criminal Assizes’ – is that of the unfortunate Rosanna Nicholls. She is convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of her three-month-old son who had died of neglect and starvation. The evidence at both the Inquest and the trial focuses on Rosanna’s “dissolute way of life” and she is branded an “unnatural woman”. However, her case attracts public sympathy and, following the intervention of the trial judge, J. Williams – to the effect that her crime is really one of manslaughter – Rosanna’s sentence is commuted to seven years imprisonment.

1857 – Apr 12              

It’s Easter, and the new Wesleyan Methodist Chapel is completed, becoming the first permanent stone church building on the Ovens goldfields with the ‘official’ opening taking place on Easter Sunday, conducted by Wesleyan pastor Mr C. Williams from Tasmania. Located at the top of Ford Street (24 Ford Street) the ‘gothich-style’ building will replace the wooden structure next door for all church services, with the original wooden chapel building converted into one large schoolroom, known as the Wesleyan School. Extensions to the new chapel will be made the following year.

1857 – May                  

Sir Henry Barkly

His Excellency Sir Henry Barkly, the Governor of the Victoria, and Captain McMahon, the Commissioner of Police, head to Beechworth for a private visit. John Buckley Castieau (Governor of the Beechworth Gaol), Robert O’Hara Burke (Superintendent of Police), various Beechworth Government officials, an escort of mounted troopers, and a cortege of leading citizens of the town, meet his Excellency and the Captain at Black Springs, then escort them the 3 miles into Beechworth. They are keen to inspect “the system of working peculiar to the Ovens Goldfields”. During their three-day visit they stay at John Alston Wallace’s Star Hotel on Ford Street. Owing to heavy rain, they are unable to visit the Woolshed as planned, but during the intervals of fine weather, they visit the Ovens Goldfields Hospital, the Bank of New South Wales and the Beechworth Stockade. His Excellency also inspects some of the Camp buildings and, having been shown the locality of the present Camp Garden – on which the Municipal Council propose to erect more public buildings – the Governor intimates his opinion that it is a better site than the vicinity of the “huge rock beyond the camp”. His Excellency also traverses several Beechworth streets, noting the Public Baths, at the intersection of Ford and Camp Streets, generously provides for all classes of human beings and animals.

The British Sir Henry Barkly serves as Governor of Victoria from 1856 to 1863 and is noted for his support of philanthropic and intellectual movements. He is a founder and president of the Royal Society of Victoria from 1860–63, and helps to found the National Gallery of Victoria, the Acclimatization Society, and the National Observatory.

1857 – Jul 1                 

The Empire Hotel opens its doors for the first time in Camp Street. The building is in fact the Smithville Hotel which has been transported, in pieces, by owner John Sitch Clark from its original location at Upper Woolshed. The wooden building, which includes eight bedrooms and three sitting rooms, is re-erected in Beechworth (where the today’s Beechworth Emporium now stands at 24 Camp Street) and a brick frontage is added to the wooden structure.

1857 – Jul 4                 

An anti-Chinese race riot – known as the Buckland Riot – takes place on the goldfields of the Buckland Valley near the present-day towns of Porepunkah and Bright. Approximately 2,000 Chinese and 700 European gold miners are living and working in the Buckland area. After deciding they will attempt to expel all the Chinese in the Buckland Valley during a heated public meeting at the Buckland Hotel, around 100 white men – mostly Americans who are “inflamed by liquor” during their July 4th celebrations – head out to attack Chinese settlements. During the riot, Chinese miners are beaten and robbed then driven across the Buckland River. At least three Chinese miners die and entire Chinese encampments, and a recently constructed Joss House, are destroyed.

Buckland Riots – 1987 painting by Thomas Lawler
Police, including Beechworth’s Robert O’Hara Burke, arrest 13 of the accused American rioters, however a jury acquit all 13 “amid the cheers of bystanders”. The Chinese miners are invited to return to the Buckland Valley, however only fifty do so. The ‘Buckland Riot’ is sometimes compared to Ballarat’s Eureka Stockade uprising in size and intensity.

1857 – Jul 6                 

The Foundation Stone for Beechworth’s first Presbyterian Church is laid by the Reverend James Nish from Sandhurst (Bendigo) as plans for St. Andrew’s Church are drawn up by architect Thomas Turnbull. It will be built on the corner of Ford and Williams Streets, across the road from the Beechworth Stockade and completed by February 25th 1858 (see further entry below).

Presbyterian church services have previously been held in the assembly rooms at the ‘Star Hotel’. 


There are now almost 800 houses in Beechworth, with new houses replacing the tents that have previously been erected in the central part of the town. 

The first brick houses begin appearing early in 1855 in Camp Street, and soon brick, stone and weatherboard houses are being constructed. With the introduction of building regulations in 1856, housing standards in Beechworth improve markedly. Substantial residential building continues during the 1860s-70s, and many early makeshift houses are converted into more substantial structures. The main residential streets are gradually filled with rows of houses of weatherboard or brick, and occasionally granite, with gables or hipped roofs, often decorated with ornamental bargeboards in the gables or iron lacework on the verandahs. Occasional grander residences are also built. 


‘New Penny Cottage’ is erected at 18a Bridge Road. It still stands today, operating as ‘Bridge Road Retreat’ holiday accommodation.


Gold Fields Regulation – Gold Fields Act – distrubuted to Chinese Miners

In an effort to forge better relations on the Spring Creek goldfields, the Chinese Protectors Office is established. It wll look after the local Chinese community and collects Chinese miner’s rights and licenses.            

The Chinese population of Beechworth grows quickly during the gold rush in the wake of the Buckland Valley riot that drives the Chinese to Beechworth from the troubled area around Porepunkah and Bright. The Beechworth Chinese community become centered in an area now named Temple Street (off the Lower Stanley Road – above) where a temple, four ‘Joss Houses’ and several stores operate. At the time, the area on the high side of where Lake Sambell is now situated, is dubbed ‘Little Canton’ and ‘Chinatown’.     

1857 – Aug

William Henry Drummond

William Henry Drummond is appointed the Chinese Protector on the Ovens Goldfields. A stern and disciplined soldier of the British Empire who had served with Queen Victoria’s 89th Regiment of Foot, he approaches his new role in Beechworth with firm resolve and a strong arm, although he relies heavily on the support of his assistant wardens and protectors John Stephen Morphy and William Henry Gaunt. Drummond is transferred to the Rutherglen District in 1861 and from there he moves to Daylesford in 1864 to become their Police Magistrate. He will die four years later in Melbourne – as a result of allowing a tiger snake to bite him, in order to disprove the effectiveness of an anti-venom being promoted by Joseph Shires, a self-proclaimed ‘medicine man!

1857 – Aug 13                           

TheAlliance Hotel’ in 1870 when its licensee is Carl Esther, who is featured in the photograph with his wife and daughter Sophie.

After buying a vacant block of land on the corner of Camp Street and High Street – a prime location – local barrister William Corbert Jones Parry finances the building of a single storey premises that opens to the public on August 13. Originally registered under the name – the Miner’s Rest Hotel – the name is changed to the Alliance Hotel just before opening. It is run by Bordeaux-born chef Camille Réau who had been working as the chef at the nearby El Dorado Hotel on High Street.

The white building in the foreground is the ‘Alliance Hotel’, with the imposing long frontage of John Alston Wallace’s ‘Star Hotel’ behind and above
With the coming of the Great Northern Railway to Beechworth in 1876, the ‘Alliance Hotel’ is renamed the ‘Railway Hotel’ as it is the closest hotel to the new Beechworth Railway Station. Walter John Nicholas will purchase the hotel in 1931, add a second storey and change the name again, this time to ‘The Nicholas Hotel’, the name that remains today.


Woolshed Creek Diggings (photograph by (photographed by Walter Bentley Woodbury, 1855)

The Woolshed goldfields now have a population of around 8,000 people, with numerous businesses flourishing, including 29 stores, 8 restaurants, 14 hotels, several breweries, four doctors, a professor of music and two racecourses.


The kindly and respected (and very wealthy) Joseph Docker in his later years.

At ‘Bontharambo’ near Wangaratta, Joseph Docker’s farming industry continues to grow on a large scale with some 1,500 acres of land being cropped by him between 1857 and 1865. At an auction sale in 1858 Docker purchases a further 4,000 acres of land adjoining his selection at £1 per acre. This additional property is rapidly fenced, wells are sunk, and cottages built on areas of about 200 acres each and then leased for seven years from February 1860 to tenants at £1 per acre. Also in 1858, Docker hires Thomas Watts to design and build a two-storey brick and granite ‘Bontharambo‘ Italianate mansion and improve other station buildings on the large property.

A detailed painting by Nicholas Chevalier showing both the old timber house at ‘Bontharambo’ (foreground) and the new two-storey brick and granite home in the background
Always financially astute, just a year after he arrived at the Ovens River, Joseph Docker travels to the recently named settlement of Melbourne in 1839 where he sees land for sale in an area near the Yarra known as ‘Richmond’. Impressed with the blocks on the hill that overlook the river and small but growing town of Melbourne, he purchases 50 acres (200,000 square metres) for £975. Later, in the 1850s, seeking to take advantage of the dramatic increase in the people arriving in Melbourne after the discovery of gold, Docker and his nephew, William Workman, will subdivide and develop both Richmond and Clifton Hill, building numerous houses in both areas. It is a profitable exercise and by 1857 Docker owns 57 houses in the Richmond area alone! He will go on to invest in property in the new beachside area of Elwood.  


Twin Chinese ‘Burning Towers’ are erected at the Beechworth Cemetery in the section allocated for the Chinese. They are used for ceremonial purposes like burning paper money and prayers in memory of the dead. A Shrine (or Altar) is added in front of two towers in 1883 so that Beechworth’s many Chinese citizens may leave food for the dead.

Around 2,000 Chinese gold seekers and settlers are buried in the Chinese section of Beechworth Cemetery. Male Chinese miners are often referred to as ‘Celestial gentlemen’ or the Chinese as a whole as ‘The Celestials’.

1857 – Aug 25

The first (wooden) single-storey ‘Oriental Bank’ building at 97 Ford Street.

The Oriental Bank a British Imperial bank founded in India in 1842is granted land at 97 Ford Street and a small Beechworth branch building is constructed. In 1876 it will be demolished to make way for a larger brick building to house the Beechworth branch of the Oriental Bank.


8 Albert Road

An impressive two-storey building, with a large cellar, is completed at 8 Albert Road (on the corner of Albert Road and the Buckland Gap Road, now Kerferd Road) and trades as a wine and spirit merchant. The two-storey brick building still stands today (below).


A splendid stone house is built at 67 Finch Street. Featuring a bullnose veranda, the home’s formal entrance leads into the 30 foot hallway with four large rooms leading off from the hallway, all with open fire places with mantles, and 12 foot high ceilings. The house includes ornate cornice and ceiling rose plaster moulds, decorative stencilling and a claw foot bath. An extension will be added in 1925, with a kitchen and large living room featuring a ‘Wunderlich’ ceiling and rose coloured, gold infused windows.

The 1925 addition to the house looking down the hallway to the front entrance


A solid stone-built shop, with a private residence on the second story, is constructed at 89 Ford Street next door to the Bank of New South Wales. The original custodian of the property is pharmacist J.H Mathews and the small original dispensary and serving window is still visible at the bottom of the stairs. (The building is fully renovated and restored in 2022, below).

J.H Mathews Pharmacy is fully renovated and restored in 2022 (above)
The pharmacy’s small ‘Dispensing Window’ is still visible below the stairs today.
It would appear that Police Superintendent Robert O’Hara Burke (briefly) resided in the upstairs residence at 89 Ford Street before he departed Beechworth late in 1858.


Isaac Phillips, one of the first Jewish settlers in the area, is granted 1,900 acres of land at what is now 1175 Beechworth-Wangaratta Road, Everton Upper. It is the first piece of Crown Land sold off by the government in the Everton parish. Phillips names his new property Golden Ball after a spherical piece of gold found nearby and the granite house he builds on the property will soon be converted into the Golden Ball Hotel – frequented by passing travellers on the road to Beechworth.

Although no longer a hotel, the granite building still stands today. The property will be purchased in 1996 by James McLaurin who plants vines on the property and establishes ‘Golden Ball Wines’.  


The The London Chartered Bank of Australia opens a branch in Beechworth.

In deference to the town’s main source of wealth, the early banks will sometimes display gold purchased during the week in their windows on Saturdays, which often draws a crowd of admiring spectators.


The Oriental Hotel opens on the corner of Bridge Road and Mellish Street, a few yards away from the Newtown Falls and the site of the original discovery of gold in Spring Creek.

The ‘Oriental Hotel’ is destroyed by fire on April 1st, 1886. The owner, William Andrews, his wife and children escape the blaze, but all their possessions are lost. A private home now stands on the site.

1857 – Sep 1                

A solemn procession takes place to accompany 64 exhumed bodies (out of the 145 buried) from the earlier Beechworth cemetery at the site of the soon-to-be built Congregational Church Hall in Loch Street to where they will be re-buried in a special ‘Pioneers Section’ of the new Beechworth Cemetery in Balaclava Road, opened the previous year.

Sadly, the original Cemetery Burial Records will be destroyed in the ‘Great Beechworth Fire’ of 1867, resulting in the loss of these burial records. James Ingram, head of the Cemetery Trust at the time, will painstakingly reconstruct the names and dates of death of these Pioneers from newspapers and church records meaning that the Beechworth Cemetery now has a complete list.  
Among the many interesting graves at the new Beechworth Cemetery are those of Beechworth’s ‘grand old man’ James Ingram; Dame Jean McNamara, world authority on myxomatosis; John Watt, shot and killed by bushrangers Smith and Brady; and German immigrant Anton Wick who was used as a pawn in the shooting of Ned Kelly’s nemesis, Aaron Sherritt.   

1857 – Sep 1

English magician ‘Professor’ James Eagle – The Wizard of the World – opens a season at Beechworth’s El Dorado Hotel on High Street “and every evening during the week”, supported by a concert troupe of five. From September 16 to 18, the Professor performs at the Freemason’s Arms Hotel in High Street supported by his comic assistant, named “Sprightly” (James Bodell) and from September 24 to 26 he will perform at John Wallace’s Star Hotel at Nine Mile Creek (Stanley), for what he announces will be his “last appearance in the district”.

The hundreds of diggers in Beechworth and surrounds demand constant entertainment and recreation and, during the same month that ‘Professor’ Eagles is performing in Beechworth, newspapers are also advertising ‘Ashton’s Royal Olympian Circus’, the ‘Chinese Brothers Gymnastics’, a singing concert by a Mrs. Vincent, along with four dances and Grand Balls in the township! 

1857 – Sep 7                

To ease the now chronic shortage of accommodation, four ‘transportable buildings’ arrive in Beechworth. Manufactured in England, mainly using corrugated iron, they arrive in numbered sections with attached instructions for easy erection. These iron buildings will initially be used to house the swelling number of local police members which have increased following the Buckland Riots.


The Bendigo ‘Powder Magazine’ – constructed in 1864 on Forest Drive, Heathcote in Bendigo – as it looks today. Beechworth’s ‘Powder Magazine’ will be larger and more elaborate.

The Victorian Government passes an “Act to Regulate the Importation, Carriage and Custody of Gun Powder” which provides for the construction of ‘Powder Magazines’, to be paid for by the Treasury, but administered locally. Anyone bringing more than 100 pounds of powder into a district possessing a ‘Powder Magazine’ must store it in the district’s magazine and pay a small rental. Within the next few years over twenty five new ‘Powder Magazines’ will be erected in Victoria, and older magazines will be improved and extended. Beechworth will get its own ‘Powder Magazine’ in 1859. (see further entry below)  


10km from Beechworth, citizens of Snake Valley (Stanley) get together to construct a ‘Public Room’. It will serve a number of purposes including a meeting place, a church and a school.

When the ‘Public Room’ is destroyed by fire in the late 1860s, it is replaced with a brick building – the ‘Stanley Athenaeum and Reading Room’ – which is completed in 1874 and still stands at 2 Beechworth-Stanley Road today (above).


Jacob and Christina Vandenberg (or Van Den Berg) and their five children arrive at the Woolshed diggings and take over the Brittania Hotel, established by William Hill in 1856. Originally from Rotterdam in Holland, after a stay in England, they travel to Australia and choose to head to the north-east.

One of Jacob’s sons, Henry Vandenberg becomes a Justice of the Peace and Shire Councillor and will serve as Shire President. He forms Beechworth’s first orchestra, he himself later gathers together his own musical contemporaries into ‘Vandenberg’s Beechworth Brass Band’ which is the forerunner of the later ‘Beechworth Town Band’. He also conducts an orchestra of seven, which includes his daughter Christina and sons Jack, Harry, George and Bob, each of whom play many different instruments, and are in great demand together and individually. The next generation to be reared in Beechworth are three of his grandchildren – Mary and Nola, and their cousin, Moyra. Each generation in turn is connected with any activity where the cultural, social, or sporting progress of Beechworth has needed active support.


‘Stonehaven’ as it looks today on Finch Street

A beautiful cottage is built at 26 Finch Street. Set in a magnificent garden allotment, Stonehaven is a two-storey Gothic Style home that is now classified by The National Trust and listed with Heritage Victoria.

1857 – Sep 12

Beechworth is full of excitement as James Henry Ashton brings his Ashton’s Royal Olympian Circus to town.

James Henry Ashton, aged 45, in 1864.
Henry James Ashton (born in Colchester, Essex in England) begins his performing career as a child clog-dancer and circus performer. Migrating to Australia in the 1840s, he finds success as a ‘bold and fearless’ equestrian at Radford’s Amphitheatre, Hobart Town, in 1848-49. In February 1850, Ashton acquires ‘Mollor’s Circus’ founded in Hobart in 1847 by Thomas Mollor. Renaming the circus after himself, James Ashton grows the business substantially and, at its height, ‘Ashton’s Circus’ has more than 180 personnel and 80 animals and thousands of pounds worth of equipment. He will tour the Australian colonies for at least 40 years, along with New Zealand and Papua New Guinea. He will die at the age of 70 at the Metropolitan Hotel in Gladstone on January 17, 1889 while on tour on Queensland.


The Ovens gold rushes peak, and during the following two decades the population of Beechworth decreases (though the last mining company in the district won’t close until 1956).

1858 – Jan                   

Beechworth Telegraph Station today

Built by Edwin Carter and William McLuckie, the Beechworth Telegraph Station is opened in front of the Police Reserve on Ford Street, quickly becoming the key point of communication throughout the district and the main connection hub from regional centres to Melbourne and Sydney. It will operate for many years, functioning as an independent branch of the Postal Service. A single telegraph line connects Melbourne, Kilmore, Seymour, Euroa, Benalla and then Wangaratta to Beechworth, which then proceeds to Belvoir (Wodonga), crossing the Murray River into New South Wales at Albury. In the late 1850s, Woolshed, Stanley and Yackandandah still lack telegraphic links to Beechworth or the outside world.

In 1865 the telegraph line from Beechworth to Belvoir is re-routed from Wangaratta to Albury via Chiltern, leaving Beechworth connected via a spur wire. In the 1880s the ‘Telegraph Station’ is remodelled to become the ‘District Survey Office of the Lands Department’.

1858 – Jan 4                

The Governor-in-Council officially establishes six mining districts in Victoria, including the ‘Beechworth Mining District’. This District is further divided into seven Divisions: Spring Creek, Snake Valley, Three Mile Creek, Buckland, Woolshed, Yackandandah and Omeo.

By 1890 these seven Divisions has grown to seventeen Divisions within the Beechworth District, but that number falls to fourteen by 1917, twelve by 1934 and six by 1967.  

1858 – Jan 4                

Following the Friday and Saturday Races at the Reid’s Creek settlement, Smith’s Welcome Inn hotel is destroyed by fire at around 2am on the Sunday morning. While Daniel and Mary Smith and many patrons are rescued from the crowded slab and bark building as it goes up in flames, six bodies will be recovered from the hotel’s charred remains the next morning. Four more will die from the injuries over the following days. The victims include Sarah Ann and William Newey (the daughter and son-in-law of Daniel and Mary Smith) and their two-year-old son George; a musician, name unknown; and a tall athletic man, a splitter from Woorajay.

The shock of the fire and loss of 10 lives will bring about the formation of a basic ‘Beechworth Fire Brigade’ within a few weeks.


Built of hand-hewn timbers and local granite stone, an impressive new home is completed at 37 Malakoff Road. Timber shelving in the kitchen is later added from reclaimed materials from the Melba Theatre (later renamed the Odeon Cinema) in Melbourne during the house’s refurbishment in the pre-war years. The large stone cellar below the house features a small stage at one end for musical performances.

The stone cellar and small stage at 37 Malakoff Road.

1858 – Feb

Thomas Mooney is the first licensee of a new single-storey wooden hotel on Ford Street (‘Mooney’s Hotel’, next to the ‘Oriental Bank’) but just four months after opening will change its name to the ‘Telegraph Hotel’ due to its proximity to the newly opened Telegraph Station across the road.

1858 – Feb 8               

British opera star Walter Sherwin

Sporting a new balcony and other improved amenities for theatrical performances, crowds flock to the newly renamed Star Theatre (formerly known as the Assembly Hall) at the Star Hotel for opening night, where they will witness the premiere performance of the opera “La Sonambula” starring Walter Sherwin and Julia Harland. However, the audience is dismayed to discover that most of the scenery and costumes have failed to arrive in time for the performance, having been sent by a slower means of transport than the passenger coach! The first show goes on despite the lack of ‘dressings’.

In 1866 Walter Sherwin loses a forearm in a shooting accident, but continues to perform in concerts throughout Australia, New Zealand, America, Japan and China. In the 1870s he survives a shipwreck, but on his return from Asia in 1881 Sherwin is taken ill and dies soon after in hospital in Sydney. 

1858 – Feb

Catherine Morton is taken to J.H. Mathews Pharmacy at 89 Ford Street next to the Bank of New South Wales (above)

The attempted abduction and rape of Catherine Morton. Catherine lives with her brother and her father in a tent on the gold diggings. One night, Michael Meard, who lives in a tent about 200 yards away, cuts the wall of the Morton’s tent, attempts to anaesthetise Catherine with (what appears to be) chloroform, intending to carry her off and “have his way with her”. But Catherine wakes up and screams, and her father and brother seize Meard and call for the police. Meard is arrested and the subsequent investigation is quite scientific. Amongts other procedures, the police take Catherine to J.H. Mathews, the pharmacist at 89 Ford Street next to the Bank of New South Wales, and get her to smell the contents of three different bottles, and from her reaction they confirm that chloroform was used. Beechworth’s other pharmacist William Witt then confirms that Meard had purchased some chloroform for his pharmacy sometime previously. Michael Meard is found guilty at trial and sentenced to “five years forced hard labour on the roads”.

The ‘Bank of New South Wales’ building is within twenty metres of the Courthouse on the Police Reserve. It is now the ‘Beechworth Honey Discovery Centre and Bee School’.

1858 – Feb 24           

Independent minister, the Reverend Thomas Hinton Jackson, arrives in Beechworth and conducts his first service in the hall of the 1856-built ‘Beechworth Athenæum’ (now known as the Burke Museum). The ‘Independent Church’ (also known as the Congregational Church) quickly put together a committee and hold their first meeting at James Ingram’s reading room. Presided over by Reverend Jackson, 13 members are in attendance, including Philip Le Couteur.

From the time the goldfields developed in the Beechworth area, efforts are made to establish a church of the ‘Independent Order’ but owing to various circumstances – and the want of a minister – the movement fails; not, however, without the ‘Independents’ leaving to their successors a block of land on the corner of Camp and Loch Streets on which a church will eventually be built as the fruit of their labors – not as a gift received from the state – but with their own voluntary offerings of £275.

1858 – Feb

Waterloo-veteran John Drummond, and now Beechworth resident, donates his valuable military pension to the widows and children of soldiers who have died fighting in the Crimean War. Born in Scotland, at age 15 Drummond joins the army (lying about his age, telling them he is 18) and fights against Napoleon’s troops in 11 battles beginning in 1807, culminating in fighting in the ‘Battle of Waterloo’ in 1815. Discharged from the military in 1828, he immigrates to Australia in 1831 and works for a number of years on a farm in Goulburn in New South Wales before moving to Beechworth in the early 1850s to work for David Reid.  He will pass away at the age of 74 in 1865 and is buried at the Beechworth Cemetery – one of only a handful of Waterloo veterans buried in Victoria.

1858 – Feb 25             

St. Andrews Presbyterian Church foundation stone laid by Reverend James Nish on July 6th 1857.

The building of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church is completed and officially opened by the Reverend James John Grant. It stands at 115 Ford Street, on the corner of Ford and Williams Streets, across the road from the Beechworth Stockade. The town’s first Presbyterian church is designed by architect Thomas Turnbull, and built by Smith, Bank & Cranston at a cost of £2,500. The rendered brick church features buttressed walls and lancet windows with label mouldings and is dominated by a square tower with a short spire. The tower has pairs of tiered buttresses in each corner which are surrounded by pinnacles. (A wooden ceiling and shingle roof are added in the early 1870s). On March 21, 1883 the Foundation Stone for the ‘Sabbath School’ – to be built of exposed brick at the rear of the church – is laid by the Reverend John Gordon Mackie. It will be completed by the end of the year.

St. Andrews Uniting Church today
St. Andrews will become a ‘Uniting Church’ when the Methodist & Presbyterian congregations combine in 1977. St. Andrew’s Uniting Church of Beechworth today consists of the 1857 stone church, the 1883 red brick Sunday school and hall at the rear, the gateposts on the Ford Street corner and the Grey Myrtle (Backhousia myrtifolia) in front of the church.  


A small hall is finally completed and opened on the site of the (recently moved) Beechworth Cemetery on the corner of Loch and Camp Streets, to be used by the Congregational Church for their services and their Sunday School. The Congregational Church will erect a proper church on the block next door in 1869.


Beechworth Councillor George Briscoe Kerferd

Beechworth Councillor George Briscoe Kerferd puts forward a proposition that tollgates should be installed at the north and south entrances to the town. Kerferd proposes one tollgate should be installed at the Newtown Bridge and another near the Vine Hotel, at the junction of the Woolshed, Chiltern and Yackandandah Roads. Although the proposal is discussed, at length, it is eventually dismissed as “Tollgates would effectively cut Beechworth off from the outside world”.

1858 – Mar

Edward George Geoffrey Smith-Stanley, 14th Earl of Derby, known as Lord Stanley from 1834 to 1851

The name of the settlement at Upper Nine Mile Creek (also known as Snake Valley) is officially changed to Stanley in honour of the British Prime Minister Lord Stanley (Edward Smith-Stanley, 14th Earl of Derby) who will serve three terms as British Prime Minister (1852, 1858, 1866) and (to date) the longest serving leader of Britain’s Conervative (Tory) Party.

By 1858, the newly renamed township of Stanley has numerous thriving businesses, including ‘The Star Hotel’, Hopton Nolan’s ‘Sun Hotel’, Peter Donald Ramsay’s ‘Bush Inn’, John Dowling’s ‘Times Hotel’, W.H. Manton’s Butcher Shop, John Alston Wallace’s General Store and many more, along with Stanley’s own newspaper, the ‘Stanley Times’ published by Thomas Affleck who will go on to become editor of the ‘Albury Border Post’.


Chinese Miners head to the goldfields from Flemington in Melbourne (1856 painting by Samuel Charles Brees – courtesy State Library, Victoria)

Not only are Chinese miners heading to Beechworth from Melboutrne, but in 1858 The Constitution and Ovens Mining Intelligencer reports that in just one week, 150 Chinese cross the Murray River at Albury as they head towards the Beechworth diggings and that some attempt to avoid the £1 entry tax.

After the Buckland Riots of 1857, the Victorian government enact a series of anti-Chinese laws that regulate movement, living areas and mining laws and impose a ‘residence tax’ of £4 per immigrant. The Chinese Emigration Act denies Chinese holding ‘The Miner Right’ from voting in a Mining Board election, providing penalties up to £10 for Chinese failing to pay the residence tax within two months of entering the Colony. The Act also prohibits any immigrant from instituting proceedings in the Mining Court, or any other Court, or before a goldfields Warden ‘to recover possession of any land occupied by virtue of a miner’s right’. In short, the Act decrees that the Chinese, though taxed, are non-citizens.  

1858 – Apr 23-25              

Julia Matthews at age 20 (photographed in 1862 by William Davies. Courtesy National Portait Gallery)

The infamous ‘Spider Dance’ finally comes to Beechworth! After Lola Montez had to cancel her performance in Beechworth in May 1856 (for undisclosed reasons), young Julia Matthews arrives in town and performs the much discussed ‘Spider Dance’ to an enchanted audience, including Beechworth’s police inspector, 37-year-old Robert O’Hara Burke, who is so smitten by the 16-year-old English-born actress and singer that he propses marriage, telling people her ‘auburn curls and charming voice captured my heart’. She declines the proposal. Two years later she will receive a second marriage proposal from Burke shortly before he leaves for his great Expedition in 1860. Again, she declines.

Julia Matthews will die in America aged just 33.
On tour in New Zealand in 1864, 22-year-old Julia marries her manager William Mumford and they have three children. In 1867, with their children, they travel to England where Julia has the distinction of being the first Australian-trained singer to appear at the Covent Garden Opera House.  In 1870 Julia obtains a judicial separation from the faithless and alcoholic Mumford who, it is said – “is a machine for grinding out golden sovereigns for him to waste in drink and debauchery”. Julia then goes on tour, performing in Europe and then America to support her three children. Sadly, in St Louis, Missouri, she contracts a malarial disease and dies at Mullanphy Hospital on May 19th 1876, aged just 33.

1858 – Jun 2    

Beechworth’s shopping hub on Ford Street in 1859

The Beechworth Chamber of Commerce is established, the first of its kind in north-east Victoria. The President is Mr. A.H. Lissack with John Sitch Clark elected as Vice President.                     


A timber grandstand is erected at the Public Recreation Reserve.

1858 – Jun 22             

In its first two days after opening, the ‘Beechworth Courthouse’ will hear 21 cases!

The new Beechworth Courthouse is officially opened. Built of granite by contractors Smith, Bank and Chambers at a cost of £3,730, it stands next to the Gold Administration buildings in Ford Street. It will be the scene for countless trials involving the likes of bushranger Harry Power, Ned Kelly and his mother Ellen, and Elizabeth Scott. As the number of cases being heard in Beechworth grows, sometimes the small building proves inadequate and other buildings are occasionally called into use to hear cases, including the Beechworth Town Hall. The Beechworth Courthouse will be in use until 1989, and be officially closed on January 1st 1990, after 131 years of service.

Beechworth Courthouse interior.
Sir Redmond Barry presides over several cases at the Courthouse. Ned Kelly appears at his committal hearing at the Beechworth Courthouse in August 1880 before his murder trial continues in Melbourne.


With the opening of the new Beechworth Courthouse, the ‘Local Court District’ is reappointed as the ‘Beechworth Mining District’, and the ‘Beechworth Court of Mines’ is established, with cases heard in the Beechworth Courthouse.


Thomas Spencer Cope, LL.B. – who had studied law at the London University and been called to the bar in 1845 – arrives in Beechworth after being appointed Judge of the Court of Mines and the County Court and Chairman of General Sessions for the district of Beechworth. He remains in Beechworth as a respected judge for the next ten years before being appointed a County Court Judge in Melbourne.

‘Walworth’ built in Beechworth for Justice Thomas Spencer Cope
The beautiful home ‘Walworth’ is built for him in the 1860s at 12 Kars Street. The two-storey solid red brick Victorian residence still stands today. 

1858 – Jul 2                 

Newtown Hotel on Bridge Road

Charles Albert Ewins, a 26-year-old American, opens the Carriers Arms Hotel on Bridge Road. Built of stone, it is a small but comfortable hotel with a well- stocked cellar. It will later be renamed the Newtown Hotel before closing in 1870.

1858 – Jul 5

English magician ‘Professor’ James Eagle – The Wizard of the World – has returned to the Beechworth area and is performing his show at Yackandandah when a member of the audience disputes his “catching a bullet in his mouth trick”, claiming the gun could not have been loaded. So, ‘Professor’ Eagle invites the audience member to watch as he reloads the gun with a real bullet and asks him to fire it again. This time, the bullet hits “The Wizard” and he goes down! Some in the crowd initially think it’s all part of the show, but it soon become obvious that it is not a joke, as blood flows from a flesh wound in James Eagle’s arm! (He is not seriously injured and goes on to continue his tour).

Eagle lists the names of some of his feats as ‘Le Chancelies Cabilistiques’, ‘Mysterious Lavatory’, ‘Devil’s Punch Bowl’, ‘Rifle Gallery’, ‘Inexhaustible Bottle’, ‘Half-an-hour with the Spirits’, and placing one of his audience in the ‘Mystic Sleep’!

1858 – Jul 26

The second building on the Myrtle Creek Post Office site. It houses postal and telegraph facilities, a court house and a private residence where Postmistress Mrs Golden resides. She is the widow of Euroa’s physician Dr Golden. 

17 miles from Beechworth – near the crossing place (a ford) over the ‘Myrtle Creek’ on the Buckland Road – the Myrtle Creek Post Office opens shortly after the settlement has been officially surveyed. Standing on the corner of the newly named Albert and Myrtle Streets, the small post office is also the settlement’s general store, serving the needs of diggers flocking along the Buckland Road to the Ovens goldfields. Mail is conveyed to and from the post office by several coach companies – including Beechworth’s H.A. Crawford and Co – on the difficult roads from Beechworth, enroute to Porepunkah, the Buckland, and further afield. Deliveries initially arrive twice a week but, by 1865, have grown to six times a week.

First settled in 1837 by overlander John Hillas as the ‘Myrtle Creek Run’, when gold diggers begin to flock to the Buckland Valley from late 1852, a small township develops around where the Buckland Road fords the Myrtle Creek. The ‘Myrtle Creek’ settlement will be officially renamed ‘Myrtleford’ in 1871. ‘Myrtle Creek’ has since been renamed ‘Barwidgee Creek’.



Octivia Hamilton with members of ‘Lyster’s Opera Company’ – grand operatic entertainment at the ‘Star Theatre’ next to the ‘Star Hotel’

Now the central hub of entertainment in Beechworth, the Star Theatre at the Star Hotel on Ford Street present a marvellous array of entertainment including the popular U.S. Minstrels, Howard Payn’s thrilling drama “Heroes of Waterloo”, the screaming comedy “The Quiet Family”, the popular farce “Irish Tutor” and an evening of dance by The Chambers family “featuring J. Chambers Jnr appearing in his burlesque of the infamous Lola Montez Spider Dance”! The Star Theatre will also present the first performance of opera in Beechworth – Bellini’s “La Sonnambula”. Other touring performers who are booked at the Star Theatre include Walter Sherwin, Octivia Hamilton from Lyster’s Opera Company, and Julia Harland, the leading lady of Henri Corri’s English Opera Company.


Matthew Dodd in his later years

The Ovens Tannery is established by two Irishmen – Dennis Hallahan and 22-year-old Matthew Dodd. The tannery, which initially consists of four small buildings, is built adjacent to Gimlet Creek in remote bushland about 3km south-west of town, on what is now known as Malakoff Road and Old Tannery Road. Hallahan leaves the partnership after 8 years and Dodd’s brothers Thomas and John join the company. The Ovens Tannery becomes a major source of regular employment in Beechworth and remains under the control of the Dodd family for the next 30 years.

Suspension bridge used by the Tannery workers to move between the town and the Ovens Tannery.
Due to the remote bush location of the ‘Ovens Tannery’ beside Gimlet Creek south-west of Beechworth, a suspension rope and wooden plank bridge is built to span the gorge across Spring Creek so that workers who have walked the three kilometres from Beechworth through bushland can more easily reach the tannery. By 1870 a small village with gardens of vines and fruit trees has been created around the tannery, and by 1887 the Tannery employs fifteen men.


After serving 4 years as the town’s popular and high-profile Superintendent of Police, Robert O’Hara Burke departs Beechworth to take up a new position at Castlemaine.

As a mark of gratitude before he is transferred to Castlemaine, Burke is presented with a set of pistols in appreciation of his service in Beechworth. One of these pistols will be found next to his body after his ill-fated 1860-1861 crossing of the Australian continent with William Wills. It is inscribed: “Presented to Captain Burke by the residents of Beechworth, Victoria”.          


The New Ford Street Foundry is established by Mr A. Roger on the steep Newtown Hill at the entrance to Beechworth. The foundry is vital to the industry of the developing township and surrounding districts. The foundry stands close to the popular Mackenzie Family Store. In 1867 the foundry will be taken by over by Mark Straughair and Scotsman John Laidley Duncan (below).

Successful Scotsman John Laidley Duncan

1858 – Aug 19

The remains of the ‘Australian Arms’ hotel at Silver Creek

Having made decent money from their goldmining activities at the Silver Creek diggings, Edwin ‘Teddy’ Warden and William Henry Foster establish the Australian Arms hotel at the growing settlement of Silver Creek, 5km from Beechworth. In 1869 they will sell the hotel to George Ellis of Yackandandah for £300 and Warden will move into Beechworth where he establishes the Midland Counties Hotel (later known as Warden’s Hotel)

In January 1872, George Ellis is advertising that the ‘Australian Arms’ hotel now has ‘swimming baths’ with “fresh water three or four times a week – two days reserved for ladies!”

1858 – Sep                   

Beechworth’s Police Reserve in 1858. Many of the town’s most important buildings are here – The Telegraph Station, Court House, (the first) Town Hall, and the Sub-Treasury. (image courtesy Dixson Library, State Library of New South Wales)

The Mining Surveyor reports a growing population in the Beechworth regional mining vicinity. It now stands at 12,343 people, up from 10,800 in June.

However, much of the mining population are experiencing hard times and there are concerns about the restlessness surrounding Beechworth. Within a year, enrolment at the Catholic school falls by 30 pupils as miners depart for new goldfields. The Surveyor’s report suggests there have been few new leads or discoveries, and that many miners are simply reworking old claims and that not enough water is available for sluicing, with many miners resorting to rocking cradles for a hard-won income of 5/- per day. Were more sluicing water available, the report says, the area of Pennyweight Flat outside Beechworth, could sustain 1,000 miners for three years. 

1858 – Sep 22

Another new rush begins, this time after reports of gold discoveries along the Indigo Creek, 8km south-east of Rutherglen. The excitement about the ‘Indigo Gold Lead’ is intense and miners begin to abandon the diggings at Beechworth and the Woolshed to head to the ‘Indigo’. Carts start every morning, heavily laden with ropes, buckets, tools and swags, and every evening sees horsemen returning home elated with hope and crying out “It’s all right mates, it’s all right!”. Within four months there are over 12,000 miners on the field and numbers grow over the next few months to an estimated 20,000. A gold town of hessian and canvas, sly-grog shops and 32 hotels are established.

By the end of 1859 it will all be over. The easily-obtainable gold from the ‘Indigo Gold Lead’ had been worked out and the majority of alluvial miners will push on to other fields.


A section of the granite walls of the new Beechworth Gaol.

Following the suicide of prisoner John Williams – who drinks strychnine in front of a guard at the Stockade in 1857 – and the growing number of prisoners, it is decided to replace the now outdated wooden Beechworth Stockade with a bigger, stronger granite Beechworth Gaol. It will be built around the existing wooden Stockade huts (which will later be demolished). Work begins on the construction of the first section – two Cell Blocks radiating from a central Observation Tower. Originally designed to have five two-storey wings, it will be scaled back to just two wings, an observation circle and an administration wing, due to high costs and an over-estimation of the number of potential prisoners. Fireplaces will be built to provide heating for prison staff, while the cells have no heating. Each of the two Cell Blocks will have a fireplace in the roof space, but this will be used to draw stale air out of the building, and louvered ventilators will also be built on the roof of each cell block (later replaced by skylights). The two Cell Blocks will take in their first prisoners at the start of July 1860, with staff quarters, watch towers, perimeter walls, entrance gateways, underground water tanks and cesspits completed over the next few years, although the gaol will not be fully completed – with a watch tower behind the north-eastern cell block – until 1873.

The cells in Beechworth Gaol are not sewered and remain so until 1993. Prisoners – both male and female – use buckets for toilets which they have to take out of their cell each morning and empty into a trough in the exercise yard.


The new Beechworth Post Office, before the clock is installed in the granite Clock Tower.

The (much disliked) 1853 timber Beechworth Post Office, on the corner of Camp and Fords Streets, is replaced by a single-storey granite building at the same location in the centre of town. The new Beechworth Post Office features a slate roof and a triple arched arcade. Like the earlier building, postal services are conducted through an open window onto the arcade’s arches. A square granite tower with provision for a clock is set above the arcade.

Funded by public subscriptions, the clock is imported from England in 1860 and finally installed into the post office tower in 1862.


Successful Beechworth jeweller and businessman 26-year-old Thomas Taylor Ladson and his wife of three years, Mary Ann Crawford, move to Tarrawingee to open a post office in the small settlement 21km from Beechworth.

Thomas and Mary Ladson will have 13 children but, tragically, only one of them – a daughter named Miniam – will survive to adulthood. Most of the children – born between 1864 and 1913 – will die from tuberculosis.


Beechworth Council, assisted by the Central Board of Health, secures a public garden – ‘The Botanical Reserve’ – of 18 acres and let a contract for fencing, with a main gate and turnstile. It will eventually feature a picket fence; an ‘Acacia Walk’ along Sydney Road; a rotunda; a bowling green and even an open-air theatre, showing silent films from the early 1900s.

Known by many locals simply as ‘The Rock Park’ and the ‘Giant’s Grave’ for its large granite dome, since 1891 it has featured two cannons mounted on top and facing to the South. It will be officially named ‘Queen Victoria Park’ in 1902 in memory of the recently deceased Queen. It is also known as ‘Beechworth Park’. 

1858 – Nov                  

Beechwoth National School / Common School No. 36 – 17 Loch Street

For some time, the citizens of Beechworth have been lobbying the government to establish a public school, as the only schools in the town have been conducted solely by the denominational schools of the Church of England, the Methodists, Wesleyans and St. Joseph’s Catholic School (opened in 1857). Finally the first government school – the Beechworth National School – opens with 65 pupils in a small building on Loch Street, before moving to a slightly larger building on Ford Street near the Wesleyan Methodist Church. In 1861 it will move again, this time to a purpose-built schoolhouse at 17 Loch Street and be renamed ‘Common School No. 36’ in 1862. The school’s new red brick building – which still stands today (above) – is designed by Thomas Dalziel. The school will go on to be re-named the Beechworth Academy before being taken over by the Education Department in 1873 but, within two years, it has outgrown the building at 17 Loch Street.

The 1861 purpose-built Common School building becomes theOvens & Murray Advertiser Printing Office after 1875.
Once the new ‘Beechworth Primary School’ is completed in 1875, the original red brick school building in Loch Street will become the office of the ‘Ovens & Murray Advertiser’ newspaper (above in 1900). The building is now a private residence. 

1858 – Dec 2               

2011 Rededecation of original Foundation Stone. (The original Foundation Stone will be hiiden by the new Tower added in 1864)

The Foundation Stone for the first stage (the nave) of Beechworth’s Anglican Christ Church is laid by Court of Mines and County Court judge Thomas Spencer Cope, chair of Beechworth General Sessions. Located on a landmark position – the crest of Ford Street (on the corner of Church Street) – it is to be designed by local architect James Dobbyn and constructed by Stevens and Balfour. Built using local granite – hand-chiseled and cornered on site – the Victorian Government will provide two-thirds of the cost.

The stone and brick 1857-built Hall to the rear of the new building is used as both the church and a Sunday school until Christ Church is completed at the start of October 1859 (see further entry below). 


A stone bridge is constructed to allow easier crossing over Commissioner’s Creek at Yackandandah on the main Melbourne to Sydney route, via the Beechworth goldfields. However, not long after the completion of the bridge, authorities agree the grade is easier and flatter near Chiltern, so the main route is changed. Coaches travelling to Sydney begin to bypass Beechworth and hilly Yackandandah and instead travel between Wangaratta and Wodonga, via Chiltern … the route that will become the Hume Highway. Despite this, the fine stone Yackandandah Bridge still stands today and is on the register of the National Estate, the Victorian Heritage Register and is classified by the National Trust.

The 1859 stone Yackandandah Bridge today


With all the miners now digging at the ‘Indigo Gold Lead’, a the small settlement of Indigo begins to grow along the Indigo Creek and it will become one of three small gold-mining villages located at intervals of about 1 km on the ‘Indigo Gold Lead’, the others being Cornishtown and Christmastown.

In 1865, ‘Bailliere’s Victorian Gazetteer’ describes Indigo as “a postal and road board town situated among several gold diggings”. There is an Indigo Mining Division with 1,634 miners, over a third of them Chinese, mainly working alluvial claims. The ‘Shire of Indigo’ is created in 1994.

1859 – Feb 19             

‘On The Black Dog Creek’ – painting by Alfred William Eustace 1870

Realising that the ‘Indigo Gold Lead’ is starting to run out, John Connors and his prospecting party travel about one mile from where they have been digging – with thousands of others – along the Indigo Creek and travel to a small settlement known as ‘Black Dog Creek’ (reputedly because a black dingo is shot by a white settler in the area in the 1830s). They promptly discover gold and word quickly reaches Beechworth, 15 miles away, with many miners deserting Beechworth for this new find, and the small town grows very rapidly and quickly christened ‘New Ballarat on the Lower Indigo’ until it is given the official name of ‘Chiltern’ (after the Chiltern Hills in England) when the first post office opens in September on 1st 1859. Chiltern’s first town allotments go on sale on September 20th 1861.

At its gold-mining peak, Chiltern’s population will swell to almost 20,000 with numerous mines working full shifts. One of them, the ‘Chiltern Valley Mine’ will produce an impressive £1,250 of gold between 1878 and 1914 when big mining operations in the town cease.


While most miners give up on the ‘Indigo Gold Lead’ after realising the ‘easy finds’ are becoming exhausted, a few miners remain and decide to sink a shaft (now in Chiltern Park) and will soon strike the ‘Chiltern Gold Lead’. A new rush begins, until these leads become too deep, and the water too difficult to remove for the small parties to continue work. It is then left to larger companies to recover the deeper gold through the use of better lifting and pumping gear. Shaft depths of 80 to 150 metres are common. Some of the companies which work the field are ‘Barambogie’, ‘Chiltern Valley Consols’, ‘Great Southern and Chiltern Valley United’, ‘North Prentice’, and the ‘Chiltern Scotchman’s Company’.


Many nearby towns are still known by the original ‘white-settler’ names – Separation (Shepperton), Belvoir (Wodonga), New Ballarat on the Lower Indigo and/or Black Dog Creek (Chiltern), Barkly (Rutherglen) and Morse’s Creek (Bright).


27-year-old Hiram Allen Crawford is joined at his Beechworth coach firm ‘H.A. Crawford and Co’ by Irishman Michael “Mick” Connolly who manages the firm’s horses. They will soon open a new coach booking office at 44 Ford Street, with stables and a large coach house at the rear of the Commercial Hotel, followed by their own stables in Wangaratta. The company will eventually be renamed ‘Crawford and Connolly’. Both great innovators, Crawford and Connolly will develop massive 16-seat coaches to carry more passengers per trip – with an extra brake to handle the steep north-east Victorian roads, especially the Buckland Gap! ‘Crawford and Connolly’ coaches eventually run all over North-East Victoria and into New South Wales and will become the longest running and most successful coaching company in Victoria.

Sadly, Michael ‘Mick’ Connolly will die young, but Hiram Crawford will continue the ‘Crawford and Connolly’ business with Mick’s brother Thomas Augustus Connolly, who will become managing director of the firm.

1859 – Feb 25             

The Beechworth Council’s Botanical Garden Committee select a design from five competition entries for the layout of the new Botanical Reserve. The winning design is by Hungarian photographer and artist, Beehworth citizen Julius Albert von Rochlitz. By November the Council has received a government subsidy of £300 for work on the garden. Prison labour is employed to help clear the site and by February 1861 the first exotic trees are planted and one pathway has been completed, with another to be formed parallel to High Street.

It is unclear whether Rochlitz’s design is ever fully implemented. The ‘Botanical Reserve’ suffers from neglect for most of the 19th century. In September 1876 the Ovens and Murray Advertiser’s article on the primary school, newly erected in part of the Garden, observes: “Beyond the school lies the other half of the so-called Botanical Reserve. It was bad enough before, but now, by contrast it is simply abominable and disgraceful”.

1859 – Jun                   

A tree is planted on the corner outside the Beechworth Post Office, growing to become a well-known landmark at the ‘centre’ of town. As it grows larger and the trunk gets thicker, it will replace the ‘But-But Tree’ in Tanswell Street as Beechworth’s unofficial “noticeboard”, with locals pinning, nailing and tacking thousands of signs into the large tree’s trunk.


A site plan of the ‘Beechworth Gaol’ location between Ford, Williams and High Streets and Queen Victoria Park. (courtesy Heritage Council Victoria)

Work continues on the construction of the new Beechworth Gaol using granite quarried, on site, by inmates of the Beechworth Stockade – as part of their ‘hard labour’ – under the watchful eye of Prison Guards and Stone Masons. The cost to the Victorian Public Works Department will be £46,763 (roughly $3.7 million today), with work contracted to H. Dalrymple and George Simmie. The Beechworth Gaol is originally designed by architect Carl Gustav Joachimi (the Old Melbourne Gaol, Pentridge Prison, Victoria Barracks, Benalla Courthouse), based loosley on Sir Joshua Jebb’s model prison in Pentonville, although William Wardell of Melbourne will become the chief architect from 1859 and will have the final say in design decisions. Beechworth Gaol will be one of nine prisons constructed around Victoria between 1859 and 1864.

The Gaol’s slate roof – which sits on top of a solid brick roof completely enclosing the space beneath – will be replaced by corrugated iron laid on wooden battens in 1925.

1859 – May 22

Protesting the Victorian government’s new ‘Chinese Poll Tax’, between 300 and 500 Chinese miners and storekeepers gather outside the ‘Shang Yick’ store at Beechworth to stage a rally. They resent having to pay the £4 tax which clearly discriminates against them. In the days leading up to the rally, Chinese placards circulate around Spring Creek warning their countrymen not to pay the new ‘residence tax’ and threatening those who do. An elderly Chinese man is observed urging a ‘knot’ of his countrymen to go to prison rather than submit to the tax. To lead the rally, noted orator and agitator, Pig Mon, arrives from Bendigo and urges the Beechworth Chinese to take action as the miner’s had done at the Eureka Stockade (for a different tax four years earlier). As the Sunday morning rally swells, Sergeant Kelly arrives on the scene and drags Pig Mon back to the Beechworth Stockade as reinforcements rush from Beechworth to curtail any ‘molestation of the police’. Twenty or more Europeans armed with ‘sticks’ stand at the edge of the camp, ready to assist police. Twenty-four Chinese later appear in court and receive fines for failure to pay the tax, while one receives three months imprisonment with hard labour. Pig Mon is fined £20 and returned to Bendigo.


The Municipality of Albury is formed with the first meeting of the new municipal council held at the Rose Hotel on Kiewa Street on July 27.


Beechworth Powder Magazine (1859) with added wall (1860)

The Beechworth ‘Powder Magazine’ is constructed by T. Dawson and Company as a place to safely store all the gunpowder used by miners. A different building firm, Atchison and Lumsden, is employed a year later to construct the massive walls around the building. Total cost is £1,500. Holding large quantities of gunpowder, the building’s safety features include double arched foundations and an arched inner roof, which will deflect any explosive blasts upwards, minimising damage. Also, a series of lighting conductors, ventilation and heavy granite walls are incorporated into the design. It will operate for almost 60 years without an explosion ever taking place!

The ‘Beechworth Powder Magazine’ is one of many constructed by the government for the storage of gunpowder. Beechworth companies such as the ‘Rocky Mountain Extended Mining Company’ store their black gunpowder in the ‘Powder Magazine’, always keeping records and receipts for the expense of storing their powder in the solid building with the ‘Post-Keeper’. The ‘Post-Keeper’ is a part-time position, as the building is only used on request. As mining decreases in the area at the start of the 20th century and the invention of nitro-glycerine compounds become more commonly used, the ‘Powder Magazine’ eventually stops being used in 1918 and falls into disrepair. 
The lighting conductors along the roof of the Beechworth Powder Magazine.


Religious differences – particularly Protestants and Catholics – continue to simmer. In a court appearance, the magistrate is told that Helen O’Brien and Ann Brady argued in public, exchanging the words “bloody God-damned Protestant” and “Papist whore”. Ann Brady is fined £3 with 8/6 costs, plus a £25 surety on both women to ‘keep the peace for 6 months’ and both are locked-up until their sureties are paid.

The 1861 census lists the following for the township of Beechworth – Church of England, Protestants: 384, Presbyterian, Church of Scotland: 302, Catholic: 344, Wesleyan Methodists: 272, and Congregational Baptist Lutheran Unitarian: 160. 


The original ‘Beechworth Council Chambers and Clock Tower’ on Ford Street with the new Town Hall standing behind it.

With the Beechworth Council Chambers and Clock Tower completed at 103 Ford Street, a new tender is announced … to build a formal Town Hall behind the Council Chambers. The tender is awarded to architects J.J. Coe and Thomas Dalziel and built in granite by local contractors Donald and William Fiddes. The formal hall is designed in a classical idiom and will consist of five bays intersected by pilasters. However, as plans for the new building are being designed, things change when the Council acquire a new Fire Engine which they decide should be housed under the new Town Hall. The building plans are quickly altered, and the height of the building is raised accordingly to accommodate the Fire Engine. To obtain further funds to complete the new building, the Council offers the use of the Hall as a second Courthouse, and the project proceeds as a joint “Town Hall and Courthouse”. It will now include three small ‘holding cells’ in the basement (next to the ‘Fire Engine House’) with a small staircase leading directly from the cells up to the Town Hall so that prisoners can be brought up to appear before a magistrate in the ‘Court of Petty Sessions’. While the Formal Hall still stands today (below), the Council Chambers at front of the building will be replaced by a larger two-storey building in 1888.


Interior of the rear Formal Hall
A sketch of the rear of the ‘Town Hall’ showing the entrance to the basement gaol cells (sketch by Graham Hawley, 1972)
The first Beechworth Council Chambers facing onto Ford Street (blue arrow) with the new Formal Hall added at the rear (red arrow). The front Council Chambers, including the Clock Tower, will be completely replaced in 1888.


The original Council Chambers with Clock Tower (at right) photographed in 1880, with new plantings of elm trees along Ford Street.

With the opening of the Council Chambers and the construction of the new Town Hall, and a growing number of other important buildings – including the Bank of Victoria, the Ovens Goldfields Hospital and the new Courthouse, Beechworth becomes the major administrative centre for the whole of north-east Victoria.

A Share Certificate for the Bank of Victoria Limited (courtey: Public Record Office Victoria)


Barnsley House today

Robert Barnes – owner of a popular Beechworth grocery store and a photographic shop, and a stalwart of the town – builds a beautiful weatherboard family home at 5 John Street, just across the tailings-strewn gully from High Street. In 1987 the house is fully restored, and new landscaped formal gardens are added, and the property is named Barnsley House.

1859 – Aug

The printing press at the ‘Federal Standard Printing Works’ in Chiltern, one of the few substantially intact provincial newspaper printeries from the 1850s.

Publishing of Beechworth newspaper The Constitution and Ovens Mining Intelligencer is moved to the printing press at the newly established Chiltern Standard newspaper and Printing Works in Chiltern. The Constitution and Ovens Mining Intelligencer will cease daily issues on March 28, 1863.

‘The Chiltern Standard’ – established by Felix Ashworth, George Boyer and George Henry Mott – has its first issue printed on August 24, 1859, and will later be renamed the ‘Federal Standard’. It is published in conjunction with George Mott’s other newspapers – Albury’s ‘Border Post’ and Beechworth’s ‘Constitution and Ovens Mining Intelligencer’. The three newspapers – which often share some of the same stories – will become fully owned by Mott whose descendants will be involved in the publishing of some 45 newspapers throughout Victoria – almost without interruption – for the next one hundred years. The Mott family will launch what is now Albury’s ‘Border Mail’ on October 23, 1903.
The ‘Federal Standard’ building in Chiltern, still standing proudly today.

1859 – Aug                  

Philip Le Couteur

Having successfully planted various vegetables and flowers at his ‘Beaumont Farm’, Philip Le Couteur now starts planting vines and “the first vinegar plant in Beechworth”. Jersey-born Le Couteur also breeds what he calls ‘Fleury’ Jersey cows, renowned for the quality of their milk, and supplies fresh milk to many families in Beechworth.

In about 1815 Thomas Le Couteur had married Elizabeth Fleury which probably gives rise to Philip Le Couteur naming his Jersey milking cows ‘Fleury Jerseys’.
Much of the land where Beechworth Secondary College, The Beechworth Motor Inn and the Beechworth Hospital now all stand along Sydney Road was originally owned by the Le Couteur family and their Beaumont Farm. Fleury Court behind the Hospital is named in honour of the Le Couteur family and their milking cows, as is Beaumont Drive.

1859 – Sep 5                

Tragedy strikes at the Star Theatre when 29-year-old actor James Coyne Riley (stage name James C. Campbell) is accidentally stabbed by his leading lady during a production of “The Flowers of the Forest”. Although it is assumed after the performance that he has not been seriously injured, Riley becomes more and more ill as infections from the stab wound spread and, as death seems imminent, he marries his 7-months pregnant sweetheart Mary Ann Lake (a seamstress with the theatre company) in a bedside ceremony on January 17th, 1860, then dies two days later on January 19.

1859 – Sep 6

September 1859 advertisement from the ‘Ovens and Murray Advertiser’

William Thompson Soulby, owner of the Victoria Hotel, opens his brand new London Tavern – Beechworth’s first ‘”men only” hotel – on a quarter-acre block on the corner of Camp and Finch Streets. Arranged around a courtyard with a verandah, it is the first complete brick and stone hotel in Beechworth and includes public rooms at the front and bedrooms opening off rear verandahs, with all rooms ‘plastered throughout’. The bedrooms all feature 13 foot high ceilings. In 1862 further structures are added, including an new accommodation wing and a bath house in the courtyard – at a time when separate bathroom facilities in goldfield hotels are rare. The bath house also doubles as a ‘Summerhouse’. The new additions also incorporate ‘Judge’s Apartments ‘which are larger and more lavishly decorated rooms for ‘any visiting members of the judiciary’. The ‘Tavern’ quickly becomes one of the most popular hotels (for men) on the Beechworth goldfields.

Over the following 40 years a number of judges, including Sir Redmond Barry and Sir William Stawell, often choose to stay in the warm comfort of the ‘Judge’s Apartments’ at the ‘London Tavern’, rather than the cold austerity of the Judge’s Rooms at the Courthouse. 
The front of the ‘London Tavern’ at 43 Camp Street as it looks today


Beechworth traders Gray and Co. recognise the commercial value of the local Chinese population, displaying ‘two placards in Chinese characters’ in their shop window advertising that they sell ‘sundry Chinese fixings’. The Constitution and Ovens Mining Intelligencer reports that Gray and Co. have for, “the first time since the Asiatic element entered upon these diggings, acknowledged the uses and advantages of Chinese as customers”, suggesting “the next step will be the issue of a Chinese Newspaper”.


After the failure of the ‘Brown’s Folly’ water scheme, the Beechworth Municipal Council accepts a recommendation from Surveyor Henry Grimes to build a dam at Hurdle Flat Swamp. However, this is fraught with issues. The area contains several private springs and is under the control of the Mining Board, with a number of leases already sold. After making the area into a reserve, Council’s application is turned down.


Looking down Camp Street – the small Post Office Tower, still with no clock.

George Briscoe Kerferd, chairman of Beechworth’s Municipal Council, proposes that William J. Turner, the respected Beechworth Watchmaker and Jeweller, should arrange for the purchase of a large clock for the Post Office tower, built in 1858. Funded by public subscriptions, it will be purchased from England at a cost of £150, payable over two years. Kerferd states that the clock “will be heard at a distance of two miles” and he will “apply to have the post-office tower raised”. The clock is finally installed in 1862 and is to have four faces (later just three faces), each three feet in diameter. In 1911 the clock faces are painted black with silver numerals.

1859 – Sep 16

Beechworth’s Lodge of St. John Masonic Hall at 19 Loch Street
Foundation Stone laid on September 16 1859

The Foundation Stone is laid for the Beechworth’s Lodge of St. John Masonic Hall at 19 Loch Street, and the building will be completed in 1860 ready for its first official meeting. Today it is the longest continuously used purpose-built Freemason Masonic Lodge in Australia.


‘Constructed of 400 tons of granite – carted from Beechworth by bullock-wagon – Reverend Joseph Docker’s magnificent ‘Bontharambo‘ mansion is finally finished and a lavish Grand Ball is held to celebrate the occasion. Designed by architect Thomas Watts, the two-storey Italianate mansion has taken two years to complete – at a massive cost of £19,000 – and stands proudly on Docker Plains – fifteen square miles of land on the north side of the Oven River, 10 km from Wangarratta. The vast property features several other buildings including the original smaller homestead, a Chinese gardener’s cottage, a private family cemetery, along with stables and other outbuildings. Docker plants oranges, a large vineyard and several olive groves.

An aerial view of part of the vast Bontharambo property on the Docker Plains.
‘Bontharambo’ remains in the possession of the Docker family to this day and has become famous for its stud of ‘Aberdeen Angus’ cattle. The house is preserved in almost its original state, but the pioneer’s vineyard, orangery and some other features have disappeared. Docker died on 10 April 1865, survived by six of his eleven children.

1859 – Oct 2                

Christ Church in Beechworth – the Tower and Chancel will be added in 1864.

With the first part of the new Anglican Christ Church completed at 29 Church Street, the inaugural service is held in the church on this Sunday morning. Before the new church’s construction, services had been held in a tent, followed by the church hall, which still stands behind the new church today.

A castellated 17 metre-high square tower (above) and a polygonal apsidal chancel will be added in 1864 as will a set of beautiful stained-glass windows dedicated to early parishioners. The original church at the rear of the new church continues to be used as a hall, adjoining the ‘Beechworth Grammar School’ established in 1856.  

1859 – Nov                  

Standing well over 6 feet, 33-year-old Edward Thomas Barnard, formerly a Gold Commissioner in Bendigo, arrives in Beechworth to take up the position of Resident Warden and Coroner. He will also become a Police Magistrate and Justice of the Peace.

In 1865, Barnard becomes involved in a dispute with Judge Thomas Spencer Cope – allegedly caused by the wives of two men – during which Barnard strikes Judge Cope. This unforgiveable “breach of manners” leads to Barnard being forced to leave Beechworth. Despite this ‘black mark’ on his reputation, Barnard Street in Beechworth is named in his honour, while no street is named after Judge Cope!

1860 – Jan                  

Gold Warden’s Office as it looks today

The new Gold Warden’s Office is completed in front of the ‘Police Reserve’ on Ford Street. Designed by F. Reagan of Melbourne, to a standard design of the Public Works Department, it is built at the same time as the adjacent Chinese Protector’s Office at a cost of £365. Additional work is then carried out on the buildings by local architect and builder Donald Fiddes at a further cost of £160. The Warden’s Office and the Chinese Protector’s Office will eventually be taken over by the Department of Forestry with extensive renovations carried out in the mid-1960s including the erection of a connecting link between the two buildings. The two buildings continue to operate as the Beechworth Forestry Office until the mid-1980s.

The Gold Warden is responsible for the collection of miner’s rights, business licences and for enforcing the rules of the goldfields.    


Ford Street photographed in 1859

Beechworth becomes a contender for a proposed Australian capital city due, in most part, to its wealth from gold.


Chinese Protector’s Office today

The solid granite ‘Chinese Protector’s Office’ opens on Ford Street.


Scottish brothers Donald and William Fiddes construct a solid home at 30 Finch Street using granite from their Fiddes Quarry near the Woolshed. William Fiddes will live in the house until his death in 1906. It still stands today.

1860 – Jan 25              

80km from Beechworth, a Post Office opens at Morse’s Creek (named after F.H. Morse, a former worker on George Edward Mackay’s ‘Warrouley’ run) but the settlement’s name will be officially changed to Bright in 1866.


The area of Newtown (or New Town) – on the rocky sloping hillside just over the bridge from the main township of Beechworth – continues to develop. The image above shows a row of five business buildings – left to right – Joseph E. Bishop – Coach Builders; Straughair Duncan – Engineers, Blacksmiths & Farriers; Straughair Duncan – Beechworth Foundry; Mackenzie Family Store – Wholesale & Retail (established in 1855); and Thomas Pratten – Grocer. The Beechworth Mental Asylum can be seen on the hill in the background.


The 36-kilometre (22 miles) ascent from Wangaratta to Beechworth takes 4 hours, longer in times of floods and wet tracks. (Now the same trip can be completed in a car on a well-sealed road in less than 25 minutes.)


There are now 2,310 European miners and 2,139 Chinese miners working in the area. The Upper Three-Mile Creek (worked since 1852) is now chiefly taken up by Chinese miners, who mainly sluicing for gold.


American-born miner James Ring gives evidence in court that he had buried gold valued at more than £1,500 (around $175,000 today) near a well on land that he owns with his brother, Patrick, at Three Mile Creek and that it has been stolen! James states that he returned from a hospital stay to find the treasure missing and accuses his brother Patrick of taking it. However, the case is dismissed when the court hears that James had told his brother “to make use of the gold should he need of it”. The gold is never recovered!

Seven years later, on December 13th 1867, James Ring will suffer severe burns in a fire in the house – ‘Beaumaris’ – that he shares with his brother Partick on the Three Mile Creek. After suffering for over two weeks, he will succumb to his injuries at the ‘Ovens Goldfields Hospital’ on December 28th.  


The Athenæum transitions from being a Private Libray to a Public Library

The Beechworth Municipal Council, having agreed to assist in financially maintaining the Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Development Group‘s private Athenæum on Loch Street – which comprises “a commodious reading room and extensive library” – will make the library open to the public, and it now becomes the Beechworth Athenæum and Public Library.

In 1863, in order to pay tribute to the “much lamented” explorer Robert O’Hara Burke (formerly Superintendent of Beechworth Police), the Beechworth Municipal Council‘ decide to add a Museum of Science to the building, and the ‘Burke Memorial Museum’ is established. The ‘Beechworth Public Library and Burke Memorial Museum‘ will be under the management of a committee of subscribers, acting on behalf of the ‘Beechworth Municipal Council‘.  

1860 – May 16

A Camman’s Stethoscope c1900

A gentleman calling himself ‘Doctor Radley’ – who has been practicing medicine in Chiltern – is arrested and sent to the Beechworth Stockade after one of his ‘patients’ dies following treatment. Charged with manslaughter, there is considerable doubt as to whether the man is actually a qualified doctor. Popular opinion is that he is an English aristocrat named Jowitt who fled to Australia following a scandal in London.

While awaiting trial in Beechworth, the man – Radley or Jowitt – will help other inmates in the Stockade prepare for their own trials. They appear to be happy to take his advice, whether he is actually a doctor … or even a lawyer! 


An interesting brick and granite home is constructed at 1 Loch Street. Featuring granite foundations, a large cellar and Baltic pine floors.


There are now over 60 drinking establishments on the local goldmining fields at Beechworth, with the town and surrounding goldmining districts population sitting between 20,000 and 40,000 people (depending on which records are relied upon!).


Many single Irish women arriving by ship in Melbourne wait around the Melbourne markets seeking employment, with many often ‘going astray’. James Doyle of the St. Patrick’s Society writes to the Beechworth Catholic community, requesting it assist these new arrivals with employment. Doyle’s plea works, with George Joseph Cooper, owner of the Criterion Hotel on Camp Street giving work to a number of these young woman. However, their treatment in Beechworth is often questionable, with the Criterion Hotel featured in several cases brought by former female employees. Margaret Simmons, who arrives in Beechworth on a six-month contract, soon charges Joseph Cooper for outstanding wages of £15 after Mrs. Cooper fires Simmons for disobedience. The court rules in Simmons’ favour, with costs against the Coopers of £2, in default 14 days. Mrs. Cooper engages Annie Savage as a cook’s assistant, brings her up from Melbourne and expects her to dance and drink with drunken diggers. Annie refuses and is fired. Annie Savage sues the Coopers for eight weeks’ wages, £3. The court awards Annie outstanding wages with costs. Catherine Kelly a laundress recruited in Melbourne, sues George Cooper for £4 in unpaid wages following her dismissal when Cooper’s barman strikes her for refusing to dance with Cooper. The court awards outstanding wages and costs. This pattern of exploitation towards some female employees is not isolated to George Cooper. Recruiting women from Melbourne touches on a deeper social issue and the St. Patrick’s Society establishes a Beechworth chapter in 1863.


The Star Theatre at the Star Hotel on Ford Street hosts a performance by ‘Professor’ Bushell and his experiments in Electro Biology. He presents a number of “instructive electrical experiments” and then completes the evening by “hypnotising volunteers from the audience”, instructing them to “do the most uncharacteristic things”!


Ovens and Murray Advertiser Office.
Richard Warren (with white beard) stands in the doorway

(Photo by R & M Harvey)

Brothers Richard and William Warren dissolve their partnership in The Ovens and Murray Advertiser, with Richard Warren becoming the sole owner.


The discovery of gold at Rutherglen (first called the ‘Wahgunyah Rush’) brings increased population and river trade. Boats from Wahgunyah carry goods and passengers to Echuca (for connecting rail service to Melbourne when the line is opened in 1864), and beyond Echuca to South Australia


Daniel ‘Mad Dog’ Morgan

Bushranger Daniel Morgan passes through the district after breaching his ticket-of-leave conditions. Born as William Moran in Sydney in 1830, this ‘native-born son’ grows up learning how to survive in the bush and gains the nickname ‘Bill the Native’.


The highly succesful John Alston Wallace

The nearby town of Barkly is renamed ‘Rutherglen’ in honour of John Alston Wallace and his 1824 Scottish birthplace of Rutherglen in Lanarkshire. From 1855 John and his brother Peter establish a chain of Star Hotels in the north-east. John Wallace often rides through the night to supervise his various ventures, as far away as Bright! In 1859 John extends his interests to the new Indigo goldfield near Chiltern and in 1860 he becomes a director of the Ovens Gold Fields Water Company, promoting a bold (though abortive) project of water conservation for sluicing.

1860 – Jul 3

The first cell blocks of the new Beechworth Gaol are officially opened, even though the building project is still incomplete. Chinese prisoners held in the wooden Beechworth Stockade are the first to be moved into the new cell block because of the reported “appalling state of the Chinese Hut within the Stockade”. A wooden picket fence is built to surround the new building, extending along the Williams Street frontage onto High Street, with a formal gateway aligned with the entrance to the Gaol providing entry to the site. The Governor of Beechworth Gaol – John Buckley Castieau – is assisted by a Matron, seven male ‘Turnkey’s’ and one female Warder.

1860 – Jul 4

Crawford & Connolly coaches advertise the following prices for their coach trips – travel from Albury-Melbourne is £4/5/- and £5/5/- on a mail coach. The trip takes two days. By 1864 the Beechworth-Albury-Beechworth mail run is the backbone of the Beechworth-based company. The distance covered per annum under the Yackandandah-Albury mail contract is 16,224 miles.


Joshua Cushman Bigelow (centre) with his wife Maggie and some of their children, in front of ‘Bloomfield House’ in Stanley

American miner, storekeeper and entrepreneur 34-year-old Joshua Cushman Bigelow – who had been one of the first to discover gold at Snake Gully (Stanley) in December 1852 – has now accumulated enough wealth to build an impressive new home in Stanely, where he will live for the rest of his life. Joshua had married Margaret ‘Maggie’ Bigelow (née Thompson) in Ballarat in November 1856 and together they oversee construction of Bloomfield House on Little Scotland Road in Stanley. The impressive house is built of hand-made bricks with French doors opening out onto a verandah. After his family grows to 11 children, Bigelow will extend the house in 1873, adding two new bedrooms, a sitting room and a formal dining room. Bloomfield House still stands today (below).

1860 – Aug 20

Burke and Wills – ‘Memorandum of the Start of the Exploring Expedition, 1860’ by artist Nicholas Chevalier

With much excitement, an estimated crowd of 15,000 spectators gather at Melbourne’s Royal Park to watch Beechworth’s former Superintendent of Police Robert O’Hara Burke begin his ‘Great Victorian Exploring Expedition’ funded by the Victorian Government and the Royal Society of Victoria. Wearing a top hat astride his charger ‘Billy’, Burke departs at 4.00pm, leading his men out of Royal Park on to Flemington Road and thence to Mount Alexander Road heading for Essendon and distant parts north. The expedition sets out with 23 horses, 6 wagons and 26 camels, with the 19 men of the expedition made up of six Irishmen, five Englishmen, three Germans, an American, and four camel drivers from South Asia. No indigenous men are included in the expedition party – which will turn out to be a serious error. Burke, an Irishman with no exploration experience or skills in surveying or navigation, does “not trust aborigines”.

The Burke and Wills exploration is one of the best funded expeditions ever mounted in Australia. Not being short of funds and going into the unknown, the expedition takes a vast quantity of supplies and equipment, including enough food and firewood to last two years. But they also take a lot of ‘equipment’ that defy explanation, including a heavy cedar-topped oak dining table with matching chairs, a piano, a Chinese gong, twelve dandruff brushes, four enema kits, fifty gallons of rum (to revive tired camels). a generous wardrobe of fine clothes, and a large desk for Burke to sit on to write journals (that he never writes).  Altogether this ‘special equipment’ weighs over 20 tonnes and clearly slows them down. Most of it is disposed of along the way. While a few members of the expedition will reach the shores of the Gulf of Carpentaria on February 11th 1861, Burke and Wills and others will perish on the return journey at the end of June 1861.
“Death of Burke” painted in 1892 by Portugese artist Artur Jose Loureiro


Florence Rose Morphy, later ‘Countess of Darnley’ (photo by Popperfoto)

Florence Rose Morphy is born in Beechworth, the youngest daughter of John Stephen ‘James’ Morphy, Beechworth’s police magistrate and Gold Commissioner. (He will die a year after her birth.) By 1883 Florence is employed as the music teacher to the children of Sir William Clarke and Janet Lady Clarke at ‘Rupertswood’ in Sunbury (50km from Melbourne), where she meets Ivo Bligh, the tall, handsome and articulate captain of the touring English cricket team of 1882/83. They fall in love and Ivo and Florence marry on the 9th of February 1884 at St. Mary’s Church in Sunbury, with a glamorous reception held at ‘Rupertswood’. Ivo Bligh takes his new bride back to England and in 1900, he succeeds to the title of the 8th Earl of Darnley, and Florence becomes ‘Countess of Darnley’.

At ‘Rupertswood’ Florence is instrumental in the creation of ‘The Ashes’. During WWI Florence opens the Darnley manner home of ‘Cobham Hall’ for use as a hospital. After the war, her generous work is recognised and she is made a ‘Dame of the British Empire’ (the female equivalent of a knighthood). With much local excitement, the ‘Countess of Darnley’ will return to Beechworth for a visit in December 1903 where she officially opens the ‘Beechworth Bowls Club’ at ‘Queen Victoria Park’. 


11 Ford Street in 1976 (photo: George Tibbits, University of Melbourne. Faculty of Architecture, Building and Town & Regional Planning)

A weatherboard, brick and granite residence is built at 11 Ford Street. One of the home’s most notable features is its spectacular views toward the gorge from the back of the property (below). Over 160 years later, in the early 2020s, the house will receive an extensive makeover (below) and rear extensions and be offered for sale at just under $1 million.


Bishop James Goold

James Alipius Goold – Melbourne’s founding Roman Catholic Bishop – visits the Ovens District, focusing on religious activities to the ‘Catholic Mission of Beechworth’.

1860 – Dec

The northern end of Ford Street photographed around 1865. Note the wooden fences in front of all the Government buildings. The fences are no longer there. And the first section of the Beechworth Gaol and its new high surrounding wall is looming large over the town.

The northern end of Ford Street has grown rapidly and is now home to the Gold Wardens Office, Chinese Protectors Office, Gold Vault, Courthouse and the first cell blocks of the new Beechworth Goal. The high surrounding wall will be completed by 1864.