History in Brief
The aborigines of the region lead a semi-nomadic existence
The North East region was home of a number of aboriginal clans. Beechworth was occupied by the Min-jan-buttu people. Records indicate there are no remaining descendants of the original clan. The aborigines of the region lead a semi-nomadic existence and followed a seasonal calendar of movement and activity, moving early Spring (October) onto the river flats, then onto the open plains where water and food were abundant. From summer onwards they shifted back to the river flats to gather with other local tribes along the river near Albury to then move into the Alps for the Bogong Moth Feast on the high plains and then spending summer in the cooler climate of the mountains. In February-March when it was time to return to the warmer lowlands, the aborigines would set fire to areas of the high plains to burn dry grasses and ensure regeneration in the following years. Winter was spent in the foothills, where ideal natural shelters amongst rocky outcrops and good tree cover where there havens.
"Hume and Hovell crossed the hills very near to where
Beechworth is today, during their expedition in 1824."
Explorers, Squatters, Pioneers
First named Mayday Hills, early settler David Reid grazed his stock until the discovery of gold in February 1852. By late 1852 thousands of hopefuls rushed to the alluvial gold fields in search of their fortunes and an exploding population escalated to 8,000! Miners came from around the world including Europe, UK, USA and Asia. From a humble settlement of campsites and timber huts, rapid social and economic change occurred with the arrival of mining families and businesses to support the growing community. In 1853 the town was renamed Beechworth. By 1867 more than four million ounces of gold had been discovered!
After The Gold
Beechworth's early administrators had the vision to realise the gold would not last forever. They made substantial investment in public amenities. A hospital for the aged, gaol, general hospital and mental asylum were all constructed or upgraded during the 1850s and 60s. It was the presence of these major institutions that maintained the economic strength of Beechworth after the gold years and into the 1990s.