Fosterville Flashbacks - The story of Fosterville’s golden past

Welcome to our Fosterville Flashbacks page!

Although the Fosterville Gold Mine of today had its beginnings in 2001, the history of gold mining in the area began 130 years ago in the 1890s, when several companies and individuals operated mines. 

In fact, it is believed that by the end of 1896, there were 800 mine employees in the region, which is similar to the number of workers Fosterville Gold Mine employs today!

Follow the fascinating story that has led to Fosterville as we know it today.

In this article, we will share some of this story with you by continually adding interesting tidbits about Fosterville’s gold mining story over the next year or so.

The information we will be sharing is being sourced from several people who have a family history in the area and have kindly agreed to share their stories with us, starting with (we will no doubt be adding to this list as we go):

  • John McCormick 

Additional information and images have been sourced from Allan Stewart's book, “History of Fosterville: A pictorial history of the mining town of Fosterville from 1890 to 2001”. 

So be sure to keep a lookout on our social pages for our Flashback Friday posts as we retrace the history of Fosterville’s golden past.

If you would like to share your stories and connection to Fosterville, please contact the FGM Community Team at

Who first found gold in Fosterville?

It depends who you ask! As was often the case with these things, the discovery of gold in the area was a contested subject, with a number of families laying claim to the title.

In his book the “History of Fosterville: A pictorial history of the mining town of Fosterville from 1890 to 2001” Allan Stewart explains:

“The first discovery of gold in the Ellesmere parish was credited to Mr O’Donnell by the Minister for Mines Mr Foster. Thomas O’Donnell and his son, Thomas, found a seam of coarse gold nearly a metre wide near their homestead in the Axedale area (Bendigo Advertiser, 15 June 1894). Five tons of the ore was crushed in Bendigo and yielded more than 12 ounces of gold, better than 2 ounces per tone (over 64 grams per ton of rock). 

“The original discovery of gold has been attributed to a number of well known Fosterville identities, two being the Hunt brothers and it has been passed down through the Stewart family that Ewan Stewart and Ted Buckland first discovered gold at Fosterville and it was where they developed their first mine (Bendigo Advertiser, 14 July 1894).”

How did Fosterville get its name?

The Fosterville township and Fosterville Gold Mine owe their names to Henry Foster, who was the esteemed Victorian Minister for Mines from 1894 to 1899.

As Minister for Mines, Foster was a staunch advocate for the regions and even suggested the need for decentralising control from Melbourne and energising the mining industry, which he believed was essential for Victoria's continued growth and prosperity.

In one of his speeches to Parliament, Foster said, “It would be very much to the advantage of Melbourne, if a more decentralising policy were carried out in the future than has been carried out in the past. I observe that in the speech of His Excellency the Administrator of the Government, whatever reference is made to mining is made with regard to mining in the past. I don't think for one moment that the government mean to imply that mining is on the decline and that it is an expiring industry. Certainly the miners of the colony do not regard it as a dying industry, and I think that when it is considered that since 1852 this industry has raised more than £220,000,000 worth of gold, it will be admitted on all hands that mining must have been a very important factor in bringing about the present state of prosperity in Victoria.” 

His policies against delays in issuing mining licenses and his push for the development of tailings retreatment methods within Victoria instead of sending tailings overseas made him a very popular figure.

You can view Henry Foster's Ministerial profile here.

 Henry Foster's Address in Reply to the then Governor's speech provides some insight into why he was so popular with Victoria's regional constituents. You can read it here