“As I stood the first intruder on the sublime solitude of these verdant plains as yet untouched by flocks and herds I felt conspicuous of being the harbinger of mighty change there; for my steps would soon be followed by the men and animals for which it seemed to have been made.”
Major Mitchell wrote these words after climbing and naming Mount Hope in 1836. It is said he expected to view the coast and that is the reason for its name. Soon after the land surrounding was occupied and in 1845 Mt. Hope Station was founded occupying 97,000 acres and carrying 100,000 sheep. In 1860 the Burke and Wills passed through the area staying the night at Mt Hope Station homestead before travelling north to meet their fate.
In January 1857 rumours swept the Dunolly goldfields of a gold strike at Mt Hope and it was reported in the Bendigo Advertiser that 3 to 4 hundred diggers had travelled north to Mt Hope across the hot and dry plains in mid summer and failed to find the goldfields. Returning south the exasperated diggers suspected a hoax, and suspicion fell on a storekeeper-publican at Serpentine who started the rumour to increase business. A kangaroo court was held and it decided the suspect should hang. Fortunately the suspect escaped but his premise was burnt to the ground by the vengeful diggers.
In the 1880 with the advent of land selection and the breaking up the large Stations to the smaller holdings of 320 acres the population of the area increased dramatically. Nearby Bald Rock school to the 2 miles to the south had 60 pupils and Mincha West School 2 miles to the north had 30 pupils. A Church was also established at the Willow Springs at the foot of the Mount in an old shearing shed.
One of the identities born at this time who attended the Mincha School was George Angus. George later coached the nearby Bald Rock football team, then the Gunbower team, before moving to Melbourne to play for Collingwood starting in 1902 and playing that year in their first Premiership team. George played for Collingwood for 10 years coaching them 1910 and 1911.
The prominent rock on the north side of Mt Hope is named Suicide Rock. The name originated with the death, in 1897, of a young man who previously lost an arm in a workplace accident in Bendigo. He was given a job at Mt Hope Station, but became increasingly depressed. He went missing and two months later some children on a Sunday school picnic at the rock came across his body. The position of the body and broken branches suggested he had fallen from the rock.
Picnics were common at Mt Hope. Up until recently the springs at the foot of the Mount were a popular venue for Sunday school picnics and many people of the district remember travelling to the Mount by bus and enjoying a picnic and other activities such as sports, novelty events and climbing. A recent innovation is to picnic in the evening and from the top of the Mount, watch the moon rise.
Quarrying was another activity carried on at the Mount. Remnant buildings and machinery are still visible as well as the scars on the hillsides were blasting took place. Quarrying is no longer carried on at Mt Hope.