100 years ago
In 1899 it was 70 odd years since the mountains had been first noticed by Hume and Hovell on their trek from NSW to Port Phillip, 50 years had passed since the early explorers and cattlemen traversed and named the high peaks. Cattle had been grazing the high plains for 40 years, and George Maddison rode his horse onto Mount Bogong’s Tops some 16 years before.
Gold, grazing and track cutting had opened the country up, and many of todays landmarks were already in existance. The alluvial rushes of the valley’s had passed and prospectors had pushed deep into the mountains. The travelled newly constructed mining roads and tracks that traversed the open plains and timbered spurs.
Dungey’s track built some decades before by Detective Dungey in his relentless search for cattle duffers, had by this time been closed over by fallen timber and was not to be reopened until 1922. However Jack and George Fitzgerald had only completed the first pole line across the plains from Rocky Valley to Tawonga in 1896. Cattle tracks and mining roads connected the high plains to the Kiewa, Ovens, Mitta Mitta and Cobungra river valleys, and huts were appearing in the mountain landscape.
Tawonga hut, near the site of today’s Tawonga huts was built in1888, and Wallaces hut, still standing today was only 8 years old in 1897. To the south Osborne Young probably had a hut on Young’s Tops where his horses grazed. Decendants of those animals make the basis of the brumbys roaming the tops today.
Not far away in the Glen Wills-Sunnyside area mining was at its peak. In 1897 the Meerschaum Mine crushed 179 tones of ore for 840 ounces of gold. The rich lodes of the Red Robin mine on Mt Loch were undiscovered, and remained so until Bill Spargo came along 44 years later.
Across on the skyline at Mt Hotham a Coach service The Bright Alpine Club was formed in the late 1880’s and tourist traffic to Mt Buffalo increased. There were two establishments on the Plateau, Carliles Buffalo Hospice and Manfields Chalet. The modern ski industry had begun. The efforts of the Alpine Club were about to be realised, and in 1898 Victoria’s first National Park was established at Mount Buffalo.