Beechworth's annual Golden Horseshoes Festival now celebrates these
historic and turbulent political times and a gold legend.
A colourful election in September 1855 followed bitter clashes between the two factions of rivalry miners ('Monkeys' and 'Punchers'), and the birth of the Golden Horseshoes legend.
The most popular belief is that the horseshoes were made from gold supplied by "Big" Johnston, owner of the Woolshed field's richest claim. To support their candidate on polling day, a procession of flag-waving, banner-carrying 'Monkeys' marched to Beechworth from the Woolshed diggings. The golden horseshoes were not fitted to the horse until the procession reached the old Vine Hotel, one mile from Beechworth, and they were removed upon arrival into town. Legend has it that they were one ounce lighter after the one mile!
Huge crowds, free beer and brass bands added to the day's chaos, and although at one stage the police placed a cordon across the main street, they eventually gave up trying to control the crowds. Finally, both candidates appeared at the balcony of the Star Hotel and by a show of hands (holding their miners' rights documents) - Daniel Cameron, the man with the Golden Horseshoes - was declared elected. It is no surprise that the 'Puncher' demanded a recount, which was duly held at the Courthouse the following day. Cameron was again declared the elected candidate and "Big" Johnston celebrated the win with a 300 pound champagne shout.