If you drive into mid-western Victoria in Australia it is impossible to escape the references to Major Thomas Mitchell and his trail
Major Mitchell was born in 1792 in Stirlingshire Scotland. He was a surveyor and in 1827 he took up the position of Surveyor-General of NSW. In 1836 Major Mitchell became the first European to travel across the plains of Western Victoria.
Just out of Dunkeld
The purpose his mission was to follow the Darling River to discover if it flowed into sea or into the Murray. He was then instructed to follow the most promising stream from the Murray and see in which direction it went. This resulted in him crossing Victoria’s western plains. Which is described in his diary thus:
“The scene was different from any I had seen in New South Wales or elsewhere. A land so inviting, and still without inhabitants. As I stood, the first European intruder of the sublime solitude of these verdant plains, as yet untouched by flocks and herds; I felt conscious of being the harbinger of mighty changes; and that our steps would soon be followed by the men and animals for which it seemed to have been prepared.” In fact he thought the land was so good he called it the Australian Felix
I would like to take this moment to point out that the land was far from uninhabited as it was home to several groups of indigenous Australians. In fact Mitchell certainly encountered some of them because in “December 1836 the Executive Council conducted an inquiry into the killing of Aborigines near Mount Dispersion. It regretted that Mitchell had not made sufficient efforts to conciliate the natives, but in view of their numbers and threatening aspect the council could not severely blame ‘a want of coolness and presence of mind which it is the lot of few men to possess’.” From records it seems that Major Mitchell’s group was followed by a group of Aboriginal people and they felt threatened so they planned an ambush in which 7Aboriginal people were killed. While he was acquitted by an enquiry, as explained above, the incident tarnished his reputation for the rest of his career.
Mitchell’s names for many of the places in the area are still used today and many of them still carry a certain Scottish flavour.
Grampians from a distance
Half way up one of The Grampians
A very dry Lake Linlithgow
The side of Mount Rouse
Mount Rouse from the road
Mount Sturgeon and Mount Abrupt
Mitchell was also the first European to truly explore the Glenelg river.
The Glenelg in mid western Victoria near Harrow.
The Glenelg much further down stream near Nelson on the Sth Australian border
Mitchell surveyed the area as he went and this resulted in what was known as Major Mitchell’s trail. You can still follow the trail today, there are marked points and a map.
Monument just out of Dunkeld
Monument just out of Harrow
Other settlers soon followed Mitchell and the European colonisation of western Victoria had begun. Today it is still very much farming country with small towns often bearing very European names, as is true of much of Australia.Balmoral
Rail bridge over the Wannon in Cavendish
While Major Mitchell’s trek heralded the influx of European settlement to this part of Victoria, he was a skilled surveyor and his diaries give an extraordinary glimpse into what the country would have been like in the mid 1800s.
Australian Dictionary of Biography
Major Mitchell Expedition
Penshurst Portraits. ISBN: 9780646515939
The photos are all mine
 Major Mitchell ADB http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/mitchell-sir-thomas-livingstone-2463