A Brief Recent History of the Area

The first discovery of gold at Moliagul in January 1853, was to bring about changes to the district that can hardly be comprehended today. Gold rushes in Clunes and Ballarat, along with various rushes in the Dunolly district, virtually emptied Melbourne and Geelong of men folk. Office workers dropped their pens, farmers walked off their properties, sailors deserted ships in port, even police and police wardens left their posts. At one stage there was only eleven policemen left on duty in all of Melbourne, schools were closed and public works suspended.

The well-to-do purchased horse and cart to travel to the Goldfields; others had pack horses, wheelbarrows, carts and even prams loaded high. However most had only what they could carry on their backs - bush blanket, some food and clothes wrapped in a tarp. The usual dress code was heavy boots, moleskin trousers, flannel shirt, sweater, coat and calico cap. They walked along rough dirt tracks for days, even weeks, before reaching their destination. If they were lucky they might score a ride with one of the bullock teams coming in with machinery, stores and food.

On reaching the digging the new arrivals were welcomed by chaos. Thousands of diggers; every race, creed and culture represented; spread across the flats. Each with a 12-foot square claim, barely enough room to set up camp let alone dig for gold. Canvas tents and rough log cabins were erected along a strip to act as the commercial precinct, which included butchers, bakers, banks, blacksmiths, general stores, drapery, doctors (legal and illegal), dance halls, theatres and countless hotels and brothels. With the main dietary intake being liquor, the levels of violence and number of murders were inconceivable. The local paper of the time, the Dunolly Advertiser once reportedů.' Our readers must not scribe to a morbid craving after the horrible, if they notice scarcely a week elapses without several of our columns being devoted to descriptions of murders and other crimes. The blame does not lie with us, - we do not create, we simply relate the events that pass around us.' Yet the paper only reported the most gruesome and appalling crimes of the time, many more went undetected or unreported.

However, one should consider when travelling through the area that the gold rush only lasted a few years. It has been a combination of very diverse factors that have shaped Dunolly and district into its present day. Gold mining/prospecting, farming, timber, indigenous history and flora and fauna of the Box-Ironbark forest have all contributed to make the district unique.

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