Beechworth Shire was centered on the gold town of Beechworth, located in the foothills of the Australian Alps, north-east of Melbourne. It existed as a separate municipality from 1856 until 1994.
The main language group of the original Aboriginal inhabitants was the Dudoroa. Not far from where the 'Karawingi' or Emu stalks the alluvial plains towards the Ovens River is 'Carrajarmongui', place of the Goannas. The home of the fish, 'Domma Munggee' Creek, flows across the low plains to the north of 'Mt. Pilot', while 'Barmootha', place of several creeks, is found to the south of Beechworth.
Gold was discovered in the May Day Hills district in 1852. A canvas and timber settlement soon developed as prospectors rushed to the area. Over four million ounces of gold was recovered in the first 14 years. The name Beechworth was coined by surveyor Smyth in July 1853, after his birthplace in Leicestershire, England.
The settlement's early administrators realised that gold would not last forever and made substantial investment in public services. A gaol, hospital for the aged, general hospital and 'lunatic asylum' were all constructed or upgraded in the 1850s and 60s. These institutions sustained Beechworth from the gold years to the 1990s.
Beechworth was declared a district in 1856 and a borough in 1863. A shire was constituted in 1866, and in 1871 the shire and still-existing borough formed the United Shire of Beechworth.
In 1985 the United Shire of Beechworth issued a medal to commemorate the Sesquicentenary of Victoria (NU 20691).
On 18 November 1994 part of the Shires of Beechworth, Benalla and Yarrawonga, the Shires of Wangaratta and Oxley and the City of Wangaratta united to become the Wangaratta Rural City Council. The United Shire of Beechworth and the Shires of Rutherglen and Chiltern Yackandandah united to become the Indigo Shire Council.
Today the town of Beechworth is a significant centre for tourism, with over 30 buildings listed by the National Trust.
Blake, L., (1977). Place Names of Victoria.
People's Voice: Australian Community History On-line website http://www.peoplesvoice.gov.au/stories/vic/beechworth/beech_c.htm
Municipal Assocation of Victoria website http://www.mav.asn.au, accessed 31/12/2003.