John Conness shows the way


In 1858, John Conness, a veteran of the Ballarat, Bendigo and Beechworth rushes, registered a prospecting claim on the Indigo Lead near the present Chiltern-Howlong Road and Rileys Road.

Within months 20,000 miners of all nationalities, including 2000 Chinese, rushed to the area, creating virtually overnight the town of Indigo, equipped with stores, hotels, shops, shanties and dance halls built of slab, bark, calico and brush.

In 1859 Conness's Nil Desperandum Company discovered gold on the Chiltern Lead, near the present day football ground.

This discovery led to the formation of the town of Chiltern. Within 12 months the old Indigo township was deserted as miners and businesses moved to the new town of Chiltern. Within a year the gold escort was carrying 1212 oz of gold. The entire site of Chiltern was once a goldfield.

Today, 22 National Trust listed and three Trust-owned properties are included in the perfectly preserved Gold Era streetscape.

The Wallace Legacy

The Chiltern Valley Gold Mining Co was one of the most successful gold producers in the area, working the Chiltern Lead along the present day Chiltern Valley Road until 1920.

It was formed in 1876 by the Scottish entrepreneur John Wallace who made his fortune on the Victorian goldfields opening supplies stores and hotels in Bendigo, Bright, Stanley, Beechworth and Chiltern, investing in small goldmining operations and later pursuing major interests in many deep lead companies across the Ovens and Indigo goldfields regions.

He introduced dredging to Yackandandah and the Woolshed diggings. The Chiltern Valley mines pioneered underground electric traction to haul the ore up the shaft, replacing the manual labour of pit ponies and men.