Old gold mining town now a small service
Eldorado is located 254 km north east of
Melbourne and 20 km from Wangaratta and 22 km
from Beechworth. Located on the banks of the
Reedy Creek. Although it would seem likely that
its name (Spanish meaning 'the golden one' and
usually associated with vast wealth) from the
imagined riches which were waiting for the gold
miners who poured into the area, in reality the
name was given to the first European property in
the area and was an expression of the confidence
of the owner, a drover named William Baker, who
saw the green pastures and believed that here
was his Eldorado.
Gold was discovered in the district in 1854
and over the next twelve months thousands of
miners arrived hoping to find their fortune. The
town soon moved into deep mining with shafts
being sunk to depths of 100 metres and by 1860
tin was being mined as well. By the 1870s there
were around 4000 people living in the town many
of whom were Cornish miners who had come across
from the copper mines of South Australia.
The technique of deep mining fell into
disrepute when, in 1895, there was a collapse at
McEvoy mine which killed six miners. After that
the town's main gold extraction occurred as a
result of open cut activities. This resulted in
the construction of a huge dredge (now listed by
the National Estate) in 1936. It was reputedly
the largest in the southern hemisphere and
continued to operate until 1954 extracting 2.3
million grams of gold and 1475 tonnes of tin.
Many of the miners houses were removed from the
town in the 1950s.
Things to see:
This is a large steel dredge which was designed
and built by Thompson's Engineering for the
Cocks Eldorado Gold Dredging Company in 1935-36.
By the time it was decommissioned it had dredged
30 million cubic metres from the river flats of
the Eldorado Plain. It has 110 digging buckets
each of which was capable of digging and lifting
0.3 cubic metres of soil.
St Jude's Anglican Church
A reflection of the changing circumstances of
the township this small and attractive church
was built in 1870 when the population was 4000
and the town was looking towards an affluent
future driven by the mining of tin and gold.
Dating from the 1860s there were plans to
demolish this historic building (one of the
oldest in the town) until it was agreed to turn
it into the Eldorado museum. It has a number of
interesting displays which reflect the mining
history of the area.