Before the establishment of Melbourne in 1834, the area known as Upper Yarra was inhabited by the Yarra Yarra aboriginal tribe. Food was plentiful. With the arrival of white settlers, the tribal numbers declined.
The upper reaches of the Yarra were explored and mapped in 1845 by Surveyor General, Robert Hoddle, after whom Hoddles Creek was named.
Gold mining commenced in the Upper Yarra at Britannia Creek at about the same time as gold was discovered at nearby Emerald for which a Discovery Award was paid in 1858. Yankee Jim's Creek goldfield opened in 1859 and was renamed Warburton in 1863 after the Gold Warden for the district, Charles Warburton Carr. A liquor licence was issued to EJ Buller in 1864 and his hotel helped to serve the needs of the mining community.
The gold mined was mainly alluvial (as opposed to reef) and deposits were reported to be "of the most substantial character". The wash was 2 feet (600 mm.) Truck at a depth of 70 feet (21 m.) resting on a granite bottom with nuggets of 7 ounces (200 gms.) in weight. In 1870 a waterwheel was built at Warburton to drive a battery to crush gold bearing rock. This was located at the Shining Star mine, one of the few reef mines. As alluvial deposits became exhausted, miners went on to Woods Point where much larger reefs existed. By the late l 890s most of the "easy" gold had been found and prospectors had moved on leaving only a few settlers in the town.
The timber industry started in Warburton as gold ran out. Axemen cut wagon loads of palings which were taken over rough bush tracks to Lilydale, which was the railhead at the time. The railway was extended to Warburton in 190I. Numerous sawmills and timber tramways developed throughout the area feeding the train line supplying timber to Melbourne. The tramways were narrow gauge lines but, because of an Act of Parliament preventing anyone but the government from operating, train lines, they were called tramways.
Steam and diesel engines were used to power the sawmills and haul the logs. In some cases the logs were lifted by cable and pulley high above the ground to transport them to the tramways, where narrow gauge engines hauled them to mills and railheads. In more remote areas, horses were used to pull empty bogies up graded tines. When loaded, the logs would run downhill under the control of braking systems. The mills provided work for all who wanted it and towns (such as Powelltown) sprang up around the mills. Some of the timber tramways still remain open to walkers but chainsaws, bulldozers and timber jinkers replace the old method of getting timber.
Warburton went through a period where guest houses, close to the railway line, provided accommodation for city holiday makers. The railway line closed in 1965. Today the area is served with hotels, motels, conference centres, bed and breakfast accommodation. Warburton, nestled between mountains, has become a new centre of tourism.
Source/Reference : Earle Parkinson, Warburton Ways, Signs Publishing Company.