History of Mansfield
The Aboriginal people who inhabited the Delatite area for at least 10,00 years before Europeans arrived belonged to the Taungurung clan. The Taungurung people are closely affiliated with their neighbouring tribes through language, ceremonies and kinship ties. They are part of an alliance with the five adjoining tribes to form the Kulin Nation. Courtesy: Taungurung Land and Waters Council TLaWC
“The recorded history of Mansfield which dates back to the 1830’s is a story of adventure, courage and determination, and as was the case with so many other rural settlements, its fortunes fluctuated as it passed from the 19th to the 20th century.
Mansfield is located 200 kilometres north-east of Melbourne, Victoria in a wide valley surrounded by mountain ranges. To the west lie the Strathbogies and The Paps; north-west, Mount Samaria; north, the Tolmie Plateau; east the Great Divide with Mounts Buller, Stirling and Timbertop (or Warrambat as it was called); and to the south, the low hills of the Blue Range. These mountains give raise to the Broken, Howqua, Jamieson, Goulburn, Delatite and Big Rivers.”
“The first European settlers came during the squatting boom of the late 1830’s. Because there was no pasture improvement in place, large runs were needed, and squatters were always in search of good grazing land. In 1838 a company was formed in Scotland headed by the Marquis of Ailsa, and also included George Watson and a lawyer named Alexander Hunter Snr. In 1839 Watson and Alex Hunter Jnr. were sent as company representatives to take up land in Van Diemans’ Land. However, they were quickly attracted to Port Phillip where they found good land at Keilor, and subsequently at ‘Ballowra’ at Seven Creeks near Euroa. Later in 1839 it is reported that an employee, Andrew Ewan, was despatched from ‘Ballowra’ to search for strayed horses. He crossed the Strathbogie Range, came down Merton Creek, found the horses, but more importantly recognised a green lush valley fed by some good streams. Immediately John “howqua” Hunter and Hunter Campbell came to investigate. The legend has it that they camped overnight below the Paps, close to the junction of the Delatite River and Brankeet Creek, and at night were so frightened by sounds of a corroboree being conducted nearby, that they called the spot Devil’s River. As ‘Ballowra’ was already overstocked, the Hunters moved cattle and horses to this new run which they called ‘Wappan’ (after the Aboriginal name for the Delatite River, Wappang).
By 1846 several other squatters had moved into Devil’s River country including Chenery and Goodman on the other side of the Delatite River; David Waugh in the Piries area; Edward Bell a friend of the Hunters at Mimamaluke south of Mr Waugh’s run; Wardrop & Clarke of Change; W.F. Arundel of Barjarg, (a cousin of the Hunters). Taken from The Mansfield Valley, 150 Years of History.
“In 1851 the township and agricultural reserve of Mansfield began to emerge at the foothills of the Victorian North East ranges near Mt. Battery. The land selected for the township bordered Fords Creek at the junction of four of the main Pastoral Runs of this area: Mount Battery Run, Maindample Run, Banumum Run and Loyola Run. An area was excised from the junction of these runs, and a survey into one acre allotments followed.
This, together with a survey of two cross roads, each three chains in width, allowed space for bullock wagons and horse drawn coaches to turn with ease. The main road running East/West was named High Street, and the cross road running North/South was given the name of Highett Street, after William Highett who held a pastoral licence for the Maindample Run at that time.
At the public auction in Benalla in June 1854 the first town lots were sold at an average price of 8 $Pound per acre. Alfred and George Chenery of Delatite Station purchased four allotments, and built an iron structure that incorporated Mansfield’s first Hotel, Store and Post Office – the initiation of Mansfield traders.” Taken from Mansfield High Street Traders 1854-2000 and early Highett Street Traders, published 2004.
A school was opened in 1858 by the Anglicans and Free Presbyterians, who built churches in 1865 and 1866 respectively. Mansfield was proclaimed a shire on 31 December, 1866, by when the township also had two hotels, a courthouse, a steam flour mill and a hospital. In addition to sheep grazing, Mansfield had dairying (butter factory opened in 1893) and cultivation for oats, potatoes and fruit. About 25 km north of Mansfield, near Tolmie, a party of Mansfield police were searching for the Kelly gang in October, 1878. When two of them camped at Stringybark Creek they were bailed up by the outlaws. One of the police made a break for freedom and was killed. Two other police who returned to the camp were also killed. A monument to the three policemen was erected the following year (through public donations) at the intersection of Mansfield’s two main streets. The monument stands at the front of a wide central plantation which runs down the main commercial street.
A school was opened in 1858 by the Anglicans and Free Presbyterians, who built churches in 1865 and 1866 respectively. Mansfield was proclaimed a shire on 31 December, 1866, by when the township also had two hotels, a courthouse, a steam flour mill and a hospital. In addition to sheep grazing, Mansfield had dairying (butter factory opened in 1893) and cultivation for oats, potatoes and fruit.
It was a red letter day when the first train reached Mansfield in 1891. The district never looked back.