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A photo of Beechworth looking north towards the goal.
A photo of the Beechworth Post Office and looking east along Camp Street.
FOUNDED ON GOLD
Originally named Mayday Hills, the area was used for grazing by the settler David Reid, until the discovery of Gold in February 1852. Reid abandoned Mayday Hills to the thousands of hopefuls who rushed to the alluvial gold fields in search of their fortunes. There was a population of 8,000 in the area by late 1852.
Wallaby Mine Battery
From a canvas and timber settlement, rapid social and economic change occurred with the arrival of miners' families and businesses to support the growing community. The town was renamed Beechworth in 1853. Over four million ounces of gold were found in the first 14 years after its discovery.
Old Telegraph Office.
The town's early administrators had the vision to realise that gold would not last forever and made substantial investment in public services. A hospital for the aged, gaol, general hospital and lunatic asylum were all constucted or upgraded during the 1850's and 60's. It was the presence of these institutions that maintained the economic strength of Beechworth after the Gold years.
Beechworth is one of only two towns in Victoria classified as "Notable" by the National Trust with over 30 local buildings on the Trust's Register.
Following the Gold Rush came characters and events that have become enshrined in Australian folklore.
Rivalry between two local mining groups, the "monkeys" and ""punchers" saw them both forward a candidate for Victoria's first parliamentary elections. On nomination day 1855 a large procession organised by the "monkeys" was led by their successful candidate Daniel Cameron through the streets of Beechworth. An influential miner John "Woolshed" Johnson had Cameron's horse shod with Gloden Horseshoes for the occasion. At today's prices, each horseshoe would be worth approximately $10,000.
ROBERT O'HARA BOURKE
Born in Ireland about 1821, Bourke served in the Hungarian Hussars and with the Royal Irish Constabulary before settling in Victoria and joining the Police Force on 1st April 1853. He was Police Superintendant in Beechworth from 1854 to 1858. Described as an essentric by his peers, he was non the less well respected and liked by the local community. A capable police officer, he was much admired for his handling of the Buckland situation following riots against Chinese Miners in 1857.
In 1860 Bourke led the ill fated Bourke and Wills expedition to Northern Australia. Both Bourke and Wills perished on the return trip in 1861. As a mark of respect the residents of Beechworth renamed the public library and Athenaeum to the Robert O'Hara Bourke Memorial Museum.
The Bushranger was prominent throughout much of north east Victoria and in his younger days spent time in the Beechworth Gaol. After his capture at Glenrowan, he was sent to Beechworth, charged with the murder of two policemen at Stringybark Creek, and remanded for trial. Proving impossible to find an impartial local jury, Kelly was transfered to Melbourne and there found guilty of murder and executed in 1880.
Beechworth is one of Australia's best preserved Gold Mining Towns. Many of the buildings are in remarkedly good condition and have attracted A classification from the National Trust.
Hume and Hovell explored this area in 1824, and Robert O' Hara Bourke, from the explorers Bourke and Wills, was the Police Superintendent at Beechworth from 1854 to 1858.
In 1852 Gold was discovered, and by 1854 the population had swollen to over 9000. Reedy Creek and the Woolshed area became the richest fields in the North East. (For more information see El Dorado).
A minimum of 18,000 ounces of gold or half a tonne of gold left the goldfields on the fortnightly Victorian Government escorts. Approximately 4,000,000 ounces of gold were obtained from the area between 1852 and 1866. At the current price of Gold of say $260 American, equates to about $500 Australian per ounce, which means that there was 2 Billion Dollars worth of gold extracted during those 14 years.
At its peak Beechworth was the major town of the North East and was therefore the Government, Service and Finance Centre of the huge district.
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