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Early White History

our sweet little tucked away town

The first European in the area was Major Mitchell on his journey into ‘Australia Felix’ in 1836-37. Reflecting an era steeped in classical history and literature, he named Mt Alexander after Alexander the Great due to its proximity to Mt Macedon, for Alexander was the son of Phillip of Macedonia. The Aborigines knew it as ‘Lianganook’.

The first white settler in the region was a Dr Barker whose Ravenswood No.1 Run encompassed the present townsite. His homestead was located at what is now the northern end of town (the site is indicated by a roadside plaque on the eastern side of Eagles Rd, near Barkers Creek).

It was on this property that a shepherd named John Worley found gold in 1851. Subsequently, thousands of prospectors from around the globe descended on the Mt Alexander area. So prominent a destination was it that the road out of Melbourne was known as Mount Alexander Rd.

One arrival was notorious bushranger ‘Mad Dog’ Morgan who was arrested for the first time at Barker’s Creek (just to the south-west of town) where he ran a slaughterhouse.

an unlikely local character, Mad Dog Morgan

When the railway arrived in 1862 the line of road between Castlemaine and Bendigo shifted to meet it and the township of Harcourt emerged on that road.

our amazing bridge

Although the Harcourt Valley did not turn up the quantity of gold found in adjacent fields the climate and soils proved ideal for the cultivation of fruit and vegetables and it was in the Harcourt Valley that fresh food was first grown for the miners. Harcourt soon became known as one of the state’s major apple centres. It also became known as a producer of high quality granite which has been used all over Australia. Granite from Harcourt was used for Parliament House in Canberra, the John Flynn Memorial at Alice Springs and the pedestal of the Burke and Wills statue in Melbourne.

Bladen Neill made an attempt to establish a Victorian silk industry on the slopes of Mt Alexander between 1873 and 1877. The venture, called the Ladies’ Sericultural Company, was intended, in part, to offer employment to women.