Early history

von guerard
(Updated 21/4/2014)

Before European settlement
There has been enormous change to the landscape in the long term past. Much is covered in the "Geology" section.
The eruptions would also have changed the water courses and formed many of the lakes in the district. Some are fresh and some are saline. This provides food for large numbers of birds.
Many fly down the western edge of the pacific ocean from north asia and Russia to feed here over the southern summer, then to return north for the northern summer.
So lakes Corangamite, Gnarpurt and Terangpom are designated RAMSAR wetlands.

Aboriginal settlement.
The area was probably settled by aborigines during the period of eruptions about 7,000 to 20,000 years ago. There are some legends which describe the activity. Click here for a dreamtime legend of the area.
The area seems to be on the boundary between 3 language groups. It it likely that all used it for ceremonial purposes.
Click here for a map of the group names and boundaries.
Click here for a Wikipedia reference to the Aboriginal settlement of the area.

After European settlement

Click here for National Library of Australia "Trove" search of newspaper articles about Mount Elephant.

Click here for a "Trove" article about the rail line and the branch line to the scoria pit.

Europeans settled in the district in the 1840s. There was a dry period then and the only nearby fresh water was from a spring several km to the south of Mount Elephant.
The land was leased by the government to several pastoralists, and it is believed that the junction of 3 properties was in the crater of Mount Elephant.
The remains of the iron post and "bullwire" fences certainly meet there and run over the rim to join with diagonal fences on the plains outside.
An 1893 map of land titles shows the lines of these fences. It also notes the area is lightly covered with lightwoods and honeysuckles (Acacia and Banksia).
Rabbits and weeds began to appear in the early 1900s and are mentioned in early newspaper articles.

Early paintings and photographs showed a dense stand of trees (sheoaks?) in the 1840s, but becoming thinner over the next 100 years.
Many were cut for firewood, fence posts, and fuel for the Derrinallum butter factory.
The fires in 1944 burned any remaining trees, and the rabbits and sheep ate any seedlings.
The 1977 fires burned most of the remaining fallen timber, But it is possible to see the odd stump.
There are 5 shrubs of tree violet still surviving in the south side of the crater. One shrub on the southern rim is 10cm high and is where the hawks perch to eat their rabbits.
Probably it is the nearest thing to a tree they can find.

The railways in about 1910 ran a line to the north side of the mount and mined the scoria for ballast. this is the site of the present car park.
In the 1950s the farmer who owned the mount at the time started a private quarry on the western face.
He sold scoria to local farms, and the Shire worked a pit in the same area for scoria for  the local roads. Both pits ceased operations in the 1990s.