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Star Extended Mine Great Alpine Road Harrietville

Eighteen kilometres from Harrietville towards Hotham is a quartz reef mine named the Star Extended. This was a relatively recent reef discovery found by Jim Walsh in the early 1920s. In 1922 Star Extended Amalgamated Gold Mine N.L. was formed to work the reef. A five head battery driven by a water turbine (known as a Pelton wheel) were erected on the river and the mine workings connected to the battery by an aerial tramway. In 1923 and 24 crushings of 185 tons produced a respectable 122 ounces of gold, however the reef was cut off by a fault. Several attempts were made to locate the reef over the years but all attempts failed. The last attempt was in the mid 1930s. The mine, which was located on the East Branch of the Ovens River was accessed by a small bridle track along a narrow spur to the north of todays chain bay.

Reconstruction Illustration Andrew Swift 2013

Olive Branch Mine Great Alpine Road Harrietville

Approaching Mt Hotham 16kms from Harrietville is Chain Bay 5, or Olive Branch. This interesting place name refers to a later chapter the mining history of the area. For many decades into the 20th Century prospectors hopeful of finding their fortune could still be found searching the rugged ranges around Hotham with their picks, pans and shovels. In 1918 a rich reef was found by William Banks and Stan Chamber of Harrietville on a spur just north of this chain bay. The reef crushed an average of 4oz per the ton which was considered to be quite good. For several years previous to this many Australians had been directly affected by the atrocities of the Great War with several young men from Harrietville killed in action. In the year the reef was discovered the peace treaty was signed with Germany, ending World War 1, hence the name ? Olive Branch, reflecting the community sentiments to the closure of this terrible event.

The reef continued to be worked intermittently for many years and was last worked in the late 1930s early 1940s.

Reconstruction Illustration Andrew Swift 2013

Corbett's Shanty Great Alpine Road Harrietville

Passing over the Great Alpine Road between Harrietville and Mt Hotham is a winter Chain Bay marked as Corbett's Flat.

For many recent generations this original place name had long been forgotten, although during the regions goldfield era this place name was common knowledge.

The first building in this locality was that of Polly Corbett's. Polly had established a small wine shanty on the Omeo to Harrietville bridle track. No road then existed and Polly's trade consisted of mining traffic crossing between the Omeo/Gippsland diggings and the Ovens district diggings. It is possible the business was established to cater for increased traffic with the discovery of the Crooked River diggings in 1861, or with the rush to the Upper Dargo diggings in 1863.

Reconstruction sketch by Andrew Swift showing Corbett's Shanty and Mt Feathertop and the Razorback Ridge in the distance.

Reconstruction Illustration Andrew Swift 2013

James Bloomfield - discovery of the Upper Dargo Goldfield 150 years ago

There was much excitement in the mining districts of Bright, Beechworth and Omeo 150 years ago with a gold rush departing for the wild ranges near Mt Hotham in late September 1863.

Rich gold discoveries at Omeo, Beechworth and the Buckland Valley in the early 1850s saw a large and industrious population move to the valleys and foothills of the district for the first time in European history. Prospectors seeking the shortest possible route between the new diggings were among the first to traverse the unexplored wilderness of the Great Dividing Range in vicinity of Mt Hotham. An experienced miner, James Bloomfield, was among the many prospectors to cross the ranges from Omeo to the Buckland River rush in 1853. On his crossing Bloomfield spied several likely-looking creeks, however, more remunerative gold deposits at Woolshed, Beechworth and at Swift?s Creek kept Bloomfield busy for many years.

In early winter 1863, Bloomfield and a small party of men with provisions and packhorses left Bright to prospect the area sighted 10 years earlier. On reaching the head waters of the Dargo River, the prospecting party obtained three ounces of gold per man per day from panning. The party hastily returned to Harrietville to obtain tools, provisions and a carpenter to build a hut and make sluice boxes. However on the returning to the Upper Dargo, heavy snow had fallen and the route to the discovery was obscured.

At the head of the range, Bloomfield, determined to push on, went ahead of the party to find the route. After a brief period the party followed his tracks for six miles until a heavy snow storm during the night covered all signs of Bloomfield?s tracks. The deep snow and poor weather forced the party to return to Harrietville, leaving provisions planted for Bloomfield should he return. Any attempts to find Bloomfield or the new goldfield were forced to be abandoned due to poor weather conditions that winter. Bloomfield was never seen again. In the meantime great preparations were being made around the district for a great rush once the snow had thawed.

Snow was still lying on the ground in places in late September 1863 when the rush began. Stores, slaughter yards and canvas tents sprang up amidst the rugged wilderness. The initial rush however was a bit of a disappointment as mining activity was hampered by the high level of the river due to the snow-melt. By November the river had dropped and a settled population of about 200 was well established and obtaining fair returns. In 1865 the locality was rushed again with a rich crushing of 400 ounces of gold from 116 tons of stone from the Eureka quartz reef. Over the next decade the flats along the river would be occupied by huts, tents, shanties, and stamp batteries. Mining townships of Louisville, Verdon and Brocket also flourished for a brief time, with the river seeing a peak population of nearly 500 people, including the wives and children of miners and a significant number of Chinese miners.

Mining activity had all but ceased by the early 20th Century with two small quartz reef shows being worked up until the outbreak of WW2. Today the Upper Dargo Goldfield has returned to the wilderness and the bones of old ?Jemmy Bloomfield? are still yet to be found!

Reconstruction Illustration Andrew Swift 2013

2013 Harrietville Bushfires

Bushfires have again devastated the mountains of North Eastern Victoria around Harrietville. Many historic mining sites that were revealed in 2003 have again been laid bare of vegetation. Extreme rain events have however caused a great deal of damage to many fragile historic features. A rare brief opportunity now exists for mining history enthusiasts to discover the mining history of the Victorian Alps. Happy exploring and take only photographs!

Beyond Hotham - 14th - 24th March 2013

Unfortunately due to the Harrietville bushfires, this years event has been cancelled. Stay tuned next year will be even bigger, with more mining history!

Harrietville Chinese History Celebrations - October 12th - 14th 2012

October 12th to 14th 2012 will see Harrietville host a celebration of Chinese history on the Upper Ovens Goldfields. A full program includes Chinese family history display, gold panning, re-enactments, film night, Chinese artefact displays, guided tours and much more. Organised by the Harrietville Historical Society.

Keep this weekend free for the whole family.

The Cobungra Township - Cobungra Diggings

With the rush to the Cobungra River diggings and the Brandy Creek deep lead in 1882, and the subsequent large investment by the Cobungra GMCo, a population of about 400 moved into the area. Many were nvolved in the construction of this water race, others worked various claims on Swindler's Creek and the Cobungra River - while others saw an opportunity to open businesses.

Immediately below the Brandy Creek workings a small commercial center evolved around the growing mining camp.

The township of Cobungra proper is built on the north side of a ridge from the main range leading down to the river, and is about as uninviting a spot as could be well determined upon in the ranges. A four-roomed house of galvanized iron does the duty of hotel, three stores, a bakery, a butcher's
establishment, and the huts and the tents of the
miners comprise the hamlet. Similar in surroundings to the mining camps of the pioneers of the western wilds of California is this young settlement in our
Australian Alps, but lacking that element of ribaldry and excitement that characterized the earlier days of gold-seeking both in Victoria and America. No bowie-knives, six-shooters projecting from gaudy-coloured waistbelts; no nights rendered hideous by scenes of drunken
dissipation. The Argus, Monday 2nd February 1885

Today nothing is left of the township, which has become a true mountain ghost town!

The Cobungra Ditch Protest

In November 1884 the Cobungra GMCo. suddenly dismissed the majority of hands employed in the construction of the water race that was to provide water for the hydraulic sluicing operations of the company. In protest the workers held a march.

Reference courtesy Luke Steehuis (Ghost Towns of the High Country)

Bright P12- Freeburgh School

The Freeburgh School opened in 1865 but didn't become a State school until 1st July 1867. The school committee built a 24ft x 18ft timber school room and two room residence. The school was extended by 20ft in 1870. A new 36ft x 20ft timber school was completed in May 1878. The old shcool building was sold for one pound and used to build the Freeburgh Public Library. In 1948 enrolments at the school dropped from 5 to 4 and the school was closed in April 1948. The building was moved to the Myrtleford School in May 1951 by the Dept. of Public Works.

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