Erica is a village 30 km north of Moe and 135 km east of Melbourne.
In the 1860s gold had been found at Walhalla, further into the mountains. From the early 1900s, selectors were attracted to the area and established market gardens on the fertile red soil to supply Walhalla with produce. The district became known as Moondarra, and the area around present Erica as Upper Moondarra.
In 1910, a narrow gauge railway was opened between Moe and Walhalla. The station at Upper Moondarra was renamed Harris, in honour of Albert Harris, the local parliamentarian who had promoted the line. But due to postal confusion with another town, in 1914 it was changed again to Erica, after nearby Mount Erica and the native heath.
A small township had begun to develop in 1906 while the railway line was being constructed. There was soon several stores and post office. Streets were laid out in 1908. A school had operated in the area since 1881 but in 1912 a new building was constructed in the township. A Union Church was established in 1914 in a building moved from Walhalla. The hotel was licensed in 1915.
There had been some sawmilling in the area from the early 1900s, but from the 1920s Erica became the centre of a thriving timber industry. Tramways ran into the bush to bring the timber to Erica and several nearby sidings, from whence it was railed to Moe on the main Gippsland line. Most of the tramways were wooden, but two were of steel construction. One of these, running into the Tyers Valley to the west, served six sawmills at its peak. The other, running into the Thomson Valley to the north, was about 40 km in length.
In the 1930s, there were 13 sawmills working in the vicinity of Erica, which had 208 inhabitants in 1933.
Erica was threatened by serious bushfires every few years. After the 1939 fires, the State sawmill was constructed at Erica to salvage the burnt timber.
Walhalla was already in decline when the railway opened. In 1944, the northern part of the line was closed and by 1952, trains only ran as far as Erica. Timber was the main commodity carried, as well as lime from nearby Cooper’s Creek and dairy produce and potatoes from the surrounding farming district. In the 1950s the timber industry began to decline, with many sawmills closing. In 1953, the State timber mill was destroyed by fire. The loss of its weekly loading of timber led to the complete closure of the rail line the next year. The mill was rebuilt but the timber was hauled by road.
In the early 1900s, a walking track between Warburton and Walhalla passed over Mount Erica, to the north of the town. In the 1930s, the Rover Scout crew from Yallourn cleared ski runs, started a ski club, prepared maps and built a hut at Mushroom Rocks. A development association promoted the mountain as a ski resort, but this was abandoned in 1944 when a road was cut close to the summit of Mount Baw Baw allowing it to be developed. Mount St Gwinear, near Mount Erica, now has a road as far as the snow line and is popular for cross country skiing and tobogganing. The Alpine Walking Track, beginning at Walhalla, follows the old route over Mount Erica.
An annual axemen’s carnival began in 1921 and woodchoppers completed for the title of King of the Mountain. A huge log, timber bogie and tractor stand as a memorial to the bush workers and a museum in the hotel displays the saws and axes used in the past. As well as serving the surrounding farming district, the township now caters to tourists and skiers. Some of the old tramways have been cleared as walking tracks, as well as the route of the rail line from Erica north to Thomson station. The remains of Erica’s last sawmill are south of the village.
Erica has a hall, a general store, a hotel, a recreation reserve, a caravan park and a church. The school closed in 1993. In 2011 a new Erica and District Fire Brigade station was opened to cover Erica and Rawson, Walhalla, Moondarra and Aberfeldy.
Erica’s census populations have been:
J. Adams, Mountain gold: a history of the Baw Baw and Walhalla country of the Narracan Shire, Victoria, 1980
M. Fiddian, The iron road to Walhalla: a history of the Moe-Walhalla railway, 1981
M. McCarthy, Trestle bridges and tramways: the timber industry of Erica district, 1910-1950, 1983