The Shire of Ripon was located 156kms north west of Melbourne on the Western Highway. Beaufort was the largest town in the Shire. The area was originally occupied by the Jajowarrung people, who called the area 'Peerick'.
The first European in the area was Major Sir Thomas Mitchell, in 1836. The first squatters were the Kirklands and a Mr Hamilton, who took up land in 1838. Hamilton's 'Trawalla' station was taken over by Adolphus Goldsmith in 1841, who established a rich grazing enterprise.
Gold was discovered in the region in 1852, with another rush at nearby Fiery Creek in 1854. Four settlements sprung up on the Fiery Creek Diggings, one of which was Beaufort. The town site was surveyed in 1857 and town allotments were sold from 1858. A Catholic church was built in the early 1860s.
The Shire of Ripon was declared on 18 December 1863. It was named after Earl Ripon, Secretary of State for the Colonies. The following year the town's first primary school was established.
There may have been as many as 10,000 prospectors in the immediate area at the peak of the rush, but by the mid 1860s the alluvial gold was gone. However, reef mining continued until 1914. In its place grazing regained importance, with some ex-miners taking up selections in the district, and logging commenced. The area provided ever-increasing opportunities for a range of goods and services to the local population and beyond. A flour mill opened in 1865 and in 1868 a James Frazer Watkin established a vineyard, the start of an important local industry during the twentieth century. The railway connected the area from 1874.
In 1887 the Shire of Ripon issued a medal to celebrate Queen Victoria's jubilee [NU 32593]. It named T.R. Oddie as Shire President.
On 23 September 1994 the Shire of Ripon united with the shires of Avoca and Lexton to form the Pyrenees Shire Council.
Today Beaufort is a service centre to the area which produces beef, fat lambs, wool, cereals and timber. There is a timber-treatment plant in town.
Wilkins Tourist Maps website http://www.wilmap.com.au/beaufort.htm
Blake, L. (1977). Place Names of Victoria.
Pyrenees Tourism website http://www.pyreneestourism.com.au/history.htm
Municipal Association of Victoria website http://www.mav.asn.au/