St Arnaud was named after the marshal who led the French Army into the Crimean War. The field was discovered by a prospecting party of seven, led by Richard Higgs, who were apparently more interested in seeking government rewards than trying their fortunes at mining. The gold was deemed insufficient to obtain a reward. The field was successfully opened up in January 1855, by a digger named Pilchard. Pilchard was reputedly so excited by what he had found that he ran from the gully he was prospecting declaring that he had found another Bendigo. The first St Arnaud gold rush peaked in April 1855, with a reported three thousand diggers on the field.