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Tracking the dragon  Part 2

Research into Chinese history in the central west



Site of capture of Chinese Bushranger Sam Poo. 3

Chinese Store at Cassilis. 6

Winn's Market Garden, Gulgong





Site of capture of Chinese Bushranger

Sam Poo


Location:  122 on the Dubbo Road, in former Coolah Shire, and what is now a travelling stock route near Fly Blowers Creek, Dubbo Road.


This site is now an old travelling stock route. Its open grassland with light bushland.

It is marked by a sign indicating that this is approximately the site where SAM POO Australia’s only Chinese Bush Ranger was captured on the 15 February 1865.

Related sites: there are a number of  other sites related to the Sam Poo Story.

1. the Chinamans dam of lambing Flat (young) where it is believed he first worked in NSW

2. the grave of Constable John Ward at Birriwa Homestead, near Dunedoo, who was the man that Sam Poo shot and killed.

3. The Bathurst Goal where Sam Poo was executed by hanging.


There are a number of versions of the story relating to Sam Poo the bushranger. The NSW police web site provides the following summary in relationship to the murder of Senior Constable John WARD who died from wounds inflicted by the Chinese man Sam Poo on 3 February, 1865

’On the morning of 3 February, 1865 the Senior Constable John Ward was returning to Coonabarabran from a prisoner escort to Mudgee. Near the locality known as Barney's Reef he was informed that a Chinese man had been robbing passing travellers in the vicinity, and was nearby in the scrub. Following a short search, Senior Constable Ward located the offender's camp and approached him. When the offender saw the constable he pointed a shotgun at him. The Constable drew his service revolver and told the offender to put down the shotgun. The offender than fired, the shot striking the Constable in the side of his body. Although the Constable fired at the offender, he managed to escape. The murderer, later identified as the Chinese bushranger Sam Poo, was later captured and hanged. The Senior Constable was born in 1829 and joined the New South Wales Police Force on 1 February, 1858. At the time of his death, he was stationed at Coonabarabran.’

The following is believed to be the story of Li Hang Chiak, provided by a descendant, and now a record retained by the Gulgong Museum. Li Hung Chiak appears to be also Sam Poo.

Li Hang Chiak - his hectic career – (Record of the Gulgong Museum )

‘Li Hang Chiak did not belong to the coolie class of Chinese. He was a dominant figure among his countrymen, who sluiced the gravel at Lambing Flat. Unlike them he did not soil his hands by manual labour, he levied tribute on the toilers. He had all the arrogance of a Mandarin. Even the European and Australians on the field had no wish to clash with him. In statue he was over six feet in height. He fought viciously when, the miners drove his countrymen off the field. Sullenly he lead his countrymen to the Tuena diggings and when that field ceased to pay he trekked to Mudgee. He had seen his countrymen robbed by bushrangers of all their hard won gold.

Perceiving how easy it was for bush rangers to get gold Li Hang Chiak decided to emulate them, his first victim was a settler named Donaldson living some ten miles from Mudgee who was returning home after selling stock. The haul netted the Chinamen thirty six sovereigns. In quick succession robbery after robbery followed.

Police were baffled at not being able to find a Chinaman of his description in the district, every robbery was committed on the lonely Lue road. After making his victims dismount he would turn their horse loose telling them not to look back. A bullet whistling past the head of one man showed that the Chinaman meant business.

For six months the baffled police, who could not get a sight of him. He became known as the phantom Chinaman , however on 1 February 1864 Constable Ward was returning to Coonabarabran from Mudgee when he was informed that a Chinaman had "stuck up" no fewer than six persons that day. One man had watched him go into a thick scrub. The constable took up the trail and followed for over three miles; seeing smoke coming from a gully, he tied his horse up and crept silently to investigate. Parting the bushes he saw his quarry stooping to put wood on the fire. Cocking his pistol the constable came into the open and called Li to surrender. The Chinaman dropped the wood but instead of surrendering he fired his pistol and brought the policeman down with a bullet through the leg. The constable returned the fire. As he lay on the ground the Chinaman fired another shot fortunately missing and disappeared into the dense scrub.

Making his way to a settlers home the wounded constable sent word to Mudgee. A party of horsemen set out after the Chinaman and caught up to him next day ten miles from the scene of the affray. He put up a fight even when disarmed it taking three to hold him whilst the hand cuffs were put on. He was taken to Mudgee and tried and convicted of attempting to murder a policeman in the execution of his duty. He was hanged in Mudgee jail.’

(Note : In the most important areas the stories correspond. The Chinese bushranger shot Constable John Ward in the vicinity of Gulgong in 1864- or 5. (the date 1865 being the correct one.)

The location of the burial of  Constable Ward is Birriwa Homestead, then called Billaroy. It is located at the end of Barneys Reef Road which was at that time an important  road link between Gulgong and Dunedoo district. At that time the land was owned by James Plunkett.

William Lawson was officially granted a pre-lease of 640 acres over land in the vicinity of what later became the Birriwa Homestead area in the 1840s.The next known owner was James Francis Plunkett (1825-1911) who was born in Rosscommon, Ireland, and arrived in Sydney in1841. In 1849 he travelled to California and on his return was ship-wrecked on one of the Fijian Islands. Upon his return he purchased "Billaroy'. Although they extended the property the Plunkett family failed to prosper,  and between 1872 and 1874 sold Birriwa to J. De Vlliers Lamb and P. Roberts.

The Sydney Morning Herald gave a number of reports on the capture and trail of          Sam Poo

On 11 October 1865:

Extracts from Sydney Morning Herald,  llth October, 1865

'WILFUL MURDER - Sam Poo was charged with the wilful murder of Constable John Ward on 3rd February, 1865, at Talbragar to which he pleaded not guilty.

Mr. Innes at the request of his Honor (Judge Edward Hargreaves) defended the prisoner.

The Government Interpreter Sing Shigh translated the evidence to the prisoner.

Mr. Butler opened the case - John Clough (John Cluff) was called and disposed: I am in the employ of Mr. Plunkett (James Francis Plunkett) at Talbragar. ‘I remember the day Constable Ward was shot. I saw the prisoner in the neighbourhood the day Ward was shot. I was coming through the scrub and I saw him covering me with a gun. He asked me where was I going. On my telling him I was going to Mr. Plunkett's, he said, "Go on or I will give you one too," pointing to a gun or pistol that was lying near him on a log. The gun shown me (one that had been cut down in the barrel) is the gun he had. It had a piece of leather near the ripple, like that now on the gun. I did not notice the pistol -- could not swear it was a pistol. The prisoner was dressed in a serge suit and corduroy trousers like that worn by the prisoner now. He had a hat like the prisoner's’

Mr. Innes: Never saw the prisoner before that. My brother was with me, when he stopped me, but he stood some way off, I am positive the prisoner is the same man. He did not offer to molest us. He had a swag with him but we had nothing with us. I asked him where was he going and whether he was lost, and I told him I would soon fetch someone to shift him out of that. It was the piece of rag the prisoner had over the nipple of the gun. It did not occur to me that the prisoner might think we were going to stick him up. I could see his face plainly, and I did not think he was an old man. He was rather stouter than he is now.

Elizabeth Golding (wife of Robert Golding and lived later at Cudgegong): ‘I live with my husband at Mr. Plunkett's. On 30th January, I saw the prisoner at my place. He came and spoke to my little girl. It was in the forenoon and he went away. Soon after he returned. I asked him what he came back for. He said, "If I cannot have my will of the girl, I will of you:' He had a gun with him, like that shown me. It has precisely similar piece of leather around the barrel. I ran off to get assistance. The prisoner is the man. The prisoner was dressed then, as he is now. I never saw him before. My husband came back with the prisoner was gone.’

 James Francis Plunkett deposed:’ I live at Talbragar and remember Constable Ward being shot. I found Ward lying in the bush wounded. I remember seeing the prisoner the night before Ward was shot. I remember seeing him in one of my shepherd huts some things strewn in confusion. There was a mess as if a flour bag had been emptied, and on the floor was a piece of leather legging that had been cut. The leather around the gun is similar to that of the leggings. I found the things disturbed in the hut three or four days after Ward was shot. I found Ward wounded and took him into my house, where he died at four o'clock in the afternoon. He said he knew he was dying, and asked repeatedly, "What is to become of my wife and children?' He knew he was dying and I took down a statement in writing. Afterwards, he made other statements which I did not put down.

 No evidence from the prisoner is reported except that he pleaded ‘Not Guilty’  Sam Poo was sentenced to death by Justice John Fletcher Hargrave  at Bathurst on the 10th October 1865. He was hanged on the 19 December 1865 at Bathurst gaol. His age was given as 35 . the Death was certified by John Chippendale, gaoler of Bathurst John Mclean was the undertaker and the body was interred at Bathurst. Witnesses to the burial were Rev. Thomas Ward  and John Elliott.


Sam Poo was captured at or near this site on the 18th February 1865, at B site 122 on the Dubbo Road, and what is now a traveling stock route near Fly Blowers Creek, Dubbo Road.

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Other names:   Kum Chong Yek Store Cassilis.Owned by the Hin(g) Gee family

Location: Branksome St. Cassilis


As you enter the Village of Cassilis and head down Branksome St. To the right is the modest courthouse/police station complex, designed by Alexander Dawson and built of sandstone in 1858. The police residence, designed by Walter Vernon, dates from 1890. Just past them is an old store which is thought to have been run by Chinese residents at the outset of the century.

The Store was known as: KUM CHONG YEK. And was one of four stores owned by the HIN GEE family.

The Gulgong Pioneers Museum retains a ledger from this store which contains detailed record of the goods sold in the shop.


Chung Hing Gee was the owner of four stores: at Cassilis, Binnaway, Merriwa and Gundagai. Chung Hing Gee is recorded as being killed by bandits in 1925 in China. This differs slightly from the following records supplied by the Gulgong Museum.

The Store was known as: KUM CHONG YEK. Proprietors of the store were JUNG/CHEUNG HIN GEE & his wife  GO MOY YEE who came from Canton, Guangdong Province, South China.

Children of the marriage were:

Albert Edward   Born 1902 Cassilis (Chinese name = Hue Mung)  Married 1924 Ella Leanfore at Ashfield (arranged marriage) Children :

Doreen Eileen (born Cassilis) Christopher Albert Edward (Chung Ying) Ellen Lesley (Chung Yook Wah)

Lucy E        Born 1904 Cassilis Married 1927 George C Keesing at Mudgee

George H    Born 1905 Cassilis  Married 1934 Ivy T Tow, Sydney

Alice M        Born 1907 Cassilis  Married Noble Leanfore

William        Born China Married 1937 Vida Evelyn Jensen, Sydney

James            Born China

The entire family returned to China in 1908 so that the children could be educated in the Chinese way. They were living in the village of Bietall when Jung Hin Gee was kidnapped and held for ransom by bandits who came down from the hills smashing their way through the wall to gain entry into their home. The children were hidden so that they were not taken as well. Moy Yee took three months to come up with the demanded amount of money. Moy Yee paid the bandits and Jung was returned to her but he was in such bad health that he died shortly after. The family returned to Australia on the Empire in 1915.


Winn’s market garden Gulgong

An old fruit cart on the site of Winn's market Garden. Part of the property where Winn's market garden existed.

Location  Old Barnie’s Reef Road Gulgong which joins into New Barney Reef Road


Winn Hong and his family developed market gardens along the creek at old Barney’s Reef Road. The market gardens were very extensive along Wades’ gully and along the road – towards the creek is Wendean where Mick worked for Wendean (No. 71) The valley contains the Chinese market garden. Percy Winn, Mick Victor Winn and Bert  Winn’s.

The flat paddocks along the side of the creek once contained the extensive vegetable gardens of the Win’s.

Wade’s gully was named after a local family group: Willow Glen – was part of the Winn’s gardens. Victor Winn’s garden was nearest the water hole. The creek through the Wade’s gully provided the water supply to the gardens. It had  some very deep holes where the young people could swim – but today is nearly dry, shrouded by casuarinas.

Mick – (Victor Claude) Winn’s garden is now called ‘Willow Glen’.

The following notes were made from conversations with Mick Pickett.

The Chinese gardens were all terraced for watering purposes. In Mick’s time there the water was pumped up through 3” (75 mm) pipes then it gradually irrigated all the paddocks through level terracing. Someone had the job to just look after the water and the pumps.

The Win’s were very large market gardeners. Initially the land was all levelled with a horse drawn single furrow plow. In later years Percy bought a tractor with a two furrow plow on it. One major crop was onions of which there were many acres.

The Winn’s horse was a half draught horse and he pulled the vegetable cart to the railway and into Gulgong to sell locally. He would pull a plow at other times.

Ah Lee was another Chinese  farming in the area and Ah Lee’s place bought by Bert Winn – now called Glen Oak – it was only a few acres in size.

Mick, Percy and Bert’s vegetables were packed up and sent to Sydney by train. Every week a consignment – Main products onions, potatoes, cabbage, cauliflowers, tomatoes.

Old man Winn – and his three sons: Mick (Victory), Percy and Bert. Each Christmas day old man Winn would have a great deal of food prepared which he took to the cemetery and laid out – as some type of ancestral worship. Then they would pack up the food and bring it home. If was never left or wasted.

One Christmas Mick helped Win. – perhaps he had no ancestors as such, but he did visit other Chinese graves, and the grave of one son – who had died of diphtheria at Gulgong cemetery.

Mick worked for Percy for a wage and he worked for two- 3.50 years stints – making it 7 years altogether.

Occasionally Mick was sent to help out on another Winn’s garden – such as to pack tomatoes when they were being sent to the markets. All tomatoes were hand picked and packed and there were many thousands of plants and many days work – they were packed in a big tent. You were paid so much a case to pack the tomatoes.

To catch the good markets, when tomatoes were expensive, everyone would help get them packed and away to market. Packing cases were plain, but the Win’s had their own ‘Winn tomato tags’ which were nailed onto the outside of the box.

The Winn’s would phone their agent in Sydney to let him know that a consignment of tomatoes or onions or whatever the case or season maybe, on a certain train and the agent would pick them up put them through the markets, selling them for the Winns.

They didn’t grow any fruit, no trees.

The only animals they had were the horses who worked in the garden, and Percy had two blue cattle dogs, whose job it was to guard the vegetables. They were let loose at night and tied up through the day. A sign on the gate warned of the savage dogs.

Mick was single and he slept on the verandah of Percy’s house – a verandah that he helped enclose 1939 – till mid 1942 then again 1946 to 1949/50.

Two others were employed along with Mick. They all shared the house – (now called ‘Wendean’).

All around the house were the vegetable gardens.

Up the back area of the house old sheds and an old stables and yard evident – some were built there in Mick’s time. There were no shed’s there before Mick’s time. C. 1941. Onions were dried in the sheds. The shed were extended later to accommodate shearing.

Mick believes there were other Chinese market gardeners on their land by 1920. Percy brought the property when he married in the 1930’s – 1936 or 1937 he finally had enough money to start his garden.

Before that he worked for his father over in the other garden at Will Glen. Percy extended his holdings over his lifetime till he had extensive lands extending almost to the rail line. He also had other property at Guntawang located halfway between Mudgee and Gulgong.

Percy’s place is close by the race track that he liked so much. He owned several race horses another interest and form of recreation.



(Win was also spelt WINN in the death records.).

Wing Hong (Hong Winn, Loon Lee and John Winn) married Catherine Francis Kirk in Mudgee in 1896. They had eight children and developed extensive market gardens in Gulgong.

Mick Pickett came to Gulgong as a young man of 18 years where he obtained work on the Win’s market garden. Mick’s sister Loretta was married to Percy Winn – Hong’s third son.

Mick had come in 1944 initially for a ‘holiday’ but stayed to work – he never went away it looked like WWII may occur so Mick tried unsuccessfully to get into the army – failing the health test due to deafness in one ear.

His brother went overseas in the army and then WWII did break out – but again Mick was rejected.

Reference:  Mick Pickett.



Evidence of earlier market gardeners

From issues of Gulgong Advertiser

Gulgong Advertiser Issue No 43,  9th December 1871


Between the Canadian and Helvetia Leads, two Chinamen driving a cart loaded with vegetables etc. Upon nearing the Wine Shop where the hill slopes, the horse shied. The Chinamen commenced to shout, but the horse it appears did not understand the Mongolian dialect, and got the bit between its teeth and bolted at a furious pace down the hill, scattering vegetables in all directions. Chinaman No. 1. jumped out landing on his back.  He quickly recovered his equilibrium and took off after the cart gathering up the vegetables.  The horse in the mean time made acquaintance  with a stump that put the animal on his nose and shot Chinaman No. 2 through the air landing onto the stump and covering him in vegetables.


Vegetable Vendor

Gulgong Advertiser Issue 159  22nd February 1873

Assault – Ah Ching v Daniel Russell. Ah Ching a vender of vegetables and fruit, was at Canadian on February 15th, defendant  purchased a water melon from him, price 9d., defendant refused to pay and threw a fourpenny piece down, the plaintiff followed him with another Chineseman  to get the balance, Russell struck him several times. Johnny Hong gave evidence.  Defence said the Chinaman kicked first.  Fined 40/- and Court costs or one months gaol, fine paid.



Gulgong  Evening Argus  January  21  1875

Wounding a Horse  Mum Lee and Ah Look charged with offence, the horse belonged to James Cooney of Reedy Creek.  Lee and Look are market gardeners and Cooney is a miner and carter, they were neighbours.  Cooney had seen Mum Lee chasing the horse with and axe some months previous and on the fourth instant the horse had been found with a stab wound to the jaw.  Cooney had not asked for any money, several witness for and against; but there was no positive proof and the case was dismissed







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 Dear Ms Simmonds,

I read with interest your history section pertaining to the Chinese bushranger Sam Poo on your Golden History website and wanted to mention two discrepancies.


The Judge of the Bathurst Circuit Court on 9th October 1865 was not Edward Hargreaves (the supposed discoverer of gold in Australia) but Justice John Fletcher Hargrave.


There is no evidence that Sam Poo raped a settlers wife. This story comes from his trial where Elizabeth Golding stated that she saw Sam Poo talking to her daughter and then he left. He later returned and when asked by Elizabeth why he said, “If I cannot have my will of the girl, I will of you.” Elizabeth then “ran off to get assistance.”


Had Sam Poo raped a settler’s wife it would have definitely been used as further evidence at his trial. The full account of the trial will be found in the Sydney Mail, 14th October 1865.


Yours faithfully

Brian McDonald


Brian McDonald

Australian History Promotions

Thank you for your input Brian - Editor