An Historic Town
The first settlers in the area were graziers with a township reserve created along the Black Dog Creek in 1854. Development of the township ceased abruptly when John Conness discovered gold at nearby Indigo in 1858. With the influx of miners the focus of settlement shifted from Black Dog Creek to the Chiltern Lead. The population grew along the lead (now Conness Street) and the Beechworth and Indigo gold fields route.
In February 1862 Chiltern was proclaimed a municipality and the first elected Council comprised all representatives from the miners group, believed to be a precedent in Victoria. The Victorian Gazetteer of 1865 lists Chiltern:
“There are two steam sawmills and the district is agricultural and pastoral ... Gold mining – alluvial and quartz, is also carried on in and around the Borough, and alluvial claims being chiefly worked by machinery. Chiltern has a County and Police Court, a Court of Mines, a reading room, a telegraph station and a post and money order office; a newspaper (Federal Standard) ... and branches of the Australasia, New South Wales and Oriental Banks.”
Mining continued until the early 1900s and quartz reef mining finally ceasing in 1911. The principal mines of the area included the Golden Bar Mine 10,200 ounces, the Magneta Mine 9,900 ounces, Golden Bar Extended 4000 ounces and the Pass Poy party crushed 1757 tons for 2843 ounces. At its height, Chiltern had a population around 20,000, including 2000 Chinese. Its present population is around 1000.
Today Chiltern has a tranquil atmosphere and life proceeds at a more leisurely pace. The town's heritage is yours to explore with many buildings retaining their historic integrity. The town has been used as a movie set for a number of major films, needing very few props to recreate the required atmosphere. Films include Ride a Wild Pony (1974) Walt Disney productions, My Brother Tom (1986) Crawford Productions and The True Story of Spit McPhee (1987) Revcom Productions.
Chiltern is readily accessible to visitors from the Hume Freeway and has a range of accommodation, dining and other service facilities. Attractions in town include Lake Anderson, Lake View House, Grapevine Museum and Star Theatre, Athenaeum Museum, Federal Standard Newspaper office and Dow's Pharmacy to name just a few. The Chiltern-Mount Pilot National Park nearly encircles the town and contains a wide range of bushwalks and excellent flora displays during spring and early summer.
Chiltern is an ideal base from which to explore the Rutherglen and Barnawartha wineries as well as the historic towns of Beechworth and Yackandandah. Just a little further a field is Lake Hume and the shops and places of interest in Albury/Wodonga.