Passages to the North West Plains by Michael O'Rourke.
Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18
PASSAGES TO THE NORTH-WEST PLAINS P.13
Conflict: October 1825 cont.
Proceeding through the mountains (the present-day Wollemi National Park), the first-mentioned hostile group went down Wollombi Brook. There, says Cunningham, they 'chased several mounted settlers on the Bulgar [sic] Road and visited a stock hut inhabited by three free men at Putty to whom several of them were known' - the significant point being that they knew each other, for Aborigines killing white men rarely killed strangers. The grievances were personal.
On this occasion, the Aboriginal women distracted the white men with an English song. Then their men struck, killing one of the Englishmen and wounding another. The third Englishman escaped south to Richmond to give the alarm. Foot-soldiers from Windsor then pursued and attacked the second-mentioned friendly band in error. A further detachment of foot-soldiers was sent from Newcastle to the Upper Hunter. 'Several Natives, who were known, and others who were suspected to have been concerned in the murders and robberies were apprehended; some of whom got away unperceived and others were fired upon while running away but no shots took effect.'
William Ogilvie, as we have said, took his family up the valley to his 6,000 acre [24 sq km: nearly 5 km x 5 km] selection 'Merton' in February 1826. Pike's farm 'Pickering', near present-day Denman, lay across the river. The Ogilvies, especially one of their sons, Edward, opened very friendly relations with the local Kamilaroi community, the Marowancal. Peter Cunningham, lodging with the Ogilvies for several months, helped in establishing a good understanding, using scisssors and mirrors. He amicably cut hair and handed around a looking-glass or two. The Kamilaroi were keen to have their hair cropped with so efficient an instrument as scissors, and mirrors were a wonder. More importantly, probably, William Ogilvie, as the resident justice of the peace, exercised close supervision of the convicts assigned to him and his neighbours. There was to be no more trouble for some months.
Mounted Police and Foot Soldiers
The new Governor Ralph Darling [1825-31] had to deal with two major challenges to British law and order: from groups of escaped convicts called 'bushrangers', and from hostile Aborigines. The convict bushrangers posed the more serious threat. A 'constant stream' of men was absconding from private service, road-gangs and watch-houses. They were generally more determined or desperate than any unfriendly Aborigines, and, whenever they seized horses, much more mobile.
Shortly before Darling arrived in the colony, Acting Governor Stewart had created two mounted police patrols, recruited from among veteran soldiers. Called police, in reality they were mounted infantry, armed with carbines (short-barrel muskets). One patrol was posted to Bathurst; the other, under Lieutenant Nathaniel Lowe of the 40th Regiment, was sent to the Hunter Valley. Lowe and his 12 men arrived at Maitland ('Wallis Plains') in February 1826.
Governor Darling strengthened the mounted police and made full use of his foot troops, sending to the outlying districts those infantry who could be spared from Sydney. To lessen the likelihood of white men becoming bushrangers, the Governor also ordered that convicts were to be supervised more closely. He tightened the system of passes used by ticket of leave men when moving from one district to another.
Conflict: May-June 1826
The magistrates Scott and McLeod counted about 10 minor ‘collisions’ during 1826. They supplied few details, and most of the incidents have to be dated and located more precisely using other sources. Foot soldiers from Newcastle would be used again, but the burden of reprisals against the Aborigines now fell to the newly formed mounted police and the settlers themselves.
Certain blackfellows, probably from the local Kamilaroi, took ‘corn’ [grain] being grown at 'Invermein' and 'Segenhoe', either for a second time or perhaps for the first time, in about May or June 1826. These estates were still in the process of being consolidated, and presumably the whites were more annoyed than alarmed. Other Aborigines at the same time were gaining a share in the strangers' providence by helping some of the whitefellows with their harvests:
Proceeding up to my farm on Hunter's River (writes Peter Cunningham), I chanced to stop for the night at the house of a gentleman during the maize-harvest, in the pulling and carrying of which about 50 blacks were busied, all of whom he was rewarding with cauldrons of boiled pumpkin for supper ... .
The first really serious incidents in 1826 occurred at 'Edinglassie' and 'Ravensworth'. The Kamilaroi (as we take it they were) speared and wounded a shepherd and killed one of George Forbes' valuable merino sheep at 'Edinglassie' in June. Forbes' men captured one of the raiders, known as 'Billy', and despatched him to Newcastle. Evidently his kinsmen planned to retaliate, for Threlkeld heard even as early as 8 August that 'a great many blacks were coming from the mountains [presumably the Liverpool Ranges or Mt Royal Range] to burn all the houses of the whites, . . . - such is the conversation of the Blacks in the mountains in consequence of the black man [i.e., Billy] being confined in jail at Newcastle'.
Next an armed party of Aboriginal men arrived at an out-station on 'Ravensworth' in a hostile mood. 'Ravensworth', it will be remembered, was already nearly two years old as a farm. Peter Cunningham noted that 'extensive buildings for packing and sorting wool are erected here, Mr [sic: Dr] Bowman's flocks being numerous'. The armed party, which included a Big Man called 'Jerry', alias 'Jackey Jackey', killed a convict watchman in his hut while the other shepherds were out with the sheep. As Captain Allman, the Commandant at Newcastle, explained, 'the unfortunate man was murdered by one of the Natives who was in the habit of frequently visiting his hut assisting him in plaiting straw etc' . Once again the victim was well known to his killers.
These attacks rather surprised Commandant Allman, himself the holder of a grant opposite Muswellbrook, because 'the Natives to my personal knowledge are very inoffensive'. Other British land holders were less complacent. As The Australian reported, most of the settler class went about armed, accompanied by foreign Aborigines who had undertaken to track the 'hostile blacks' and help their patrons drive the enemy communities out of the neighbourhood.
Allman sent Lieutenant Nathaniel Lowe from Wallis Plains (present-day Maitland) with his horse-soldiers. 'The mounted police now arrived and were called into action in consequence of an attack by the natives on Mr John Forbes' station [‘Edinglassie’ at Muswellbrook] when one of his men was speared in the shoulder...' Lowe left his sergeant, Lewis Moore, and four troopers on patrol. Although they failed to arrest the men who had raided 'Ravensworth', the presence of Moore's squad seems to have awed the Kamilaroi. Lowe reported to Allman that there was no need to send any foot soldiers from Newcastle, and all violence by the Aborigines ceased from late June until early July.
Conflict: July-August 1826
Lt Lowe's mounted police were even more active after two further incidents at Fal Brook and 'Ravensworth' in late July-early August.
A party of blackfellows ('the same Natives' as in June) attacked James Chilcott's farm at Falbrook [Fal Brook, NE of Singleton] and attempted forcibly to plunder the house. A man the British knew as 'Cato' struggled with Chilcott for a gun, and a clash ensued in which the blacks were driven off. The magistrates Scott and McLeod described this raid dramatically as a 'general engagement' with 'a body of blacks'. They did not specify, however, the number of Aborigines involved. Chilcott's men drove off the Aborigines, 'the white people only firing at their legs'. The resident magistrate, William Ogilvie, declined Allman's offer of foot soldiers from Newcastle so it cannot have been a serious engagement. Probably the 'party of natives' was no more than a handful.
Next 'a Body of Blacks' attacked and severely wounded two white men fencing at 'Ravensworth', one of whom suffered seven spear thrusts. 'The latter event (said the magistrates) appears to have been occasioned by the circumstances of one of their tribe, who had been taken up [seized] for some offence, having been confined for a day or two on Mr Bowman's farm, which it is supposed had induced them to think that Mr Bowman's people [his convict workers] had been concerned in apprehending their comrade.' (In passing, it should be noted that Dr James Bowman held ‘Ravensworth’ on the Muswellbrook side of our Singleton, while Mr George Bowman snr held ‘Archerfield’ on the south side of the Hunter at its junction with Fal Brook, downstream from Singleton.)
Because 'Ravensworth' lay near the frontier between three languages, Wonarua, Darkinung and Kamilaroi, it is not possible to identify definitely the community or communities to which the Aboriginal raiders belonged. Scott and McLeod stated expressly that 'the disturbances are confined to the upper districts of Hunter's River', which was Kamilaroi country. This argues against James Miller's characterisation of the conflict as 'the Wonarua uprising of 1826'. Threlkeld noted that 'Mrs Ogilvie's blacks' - the Marowancal Kamilaroi around Denman - aided the 'soldiers' [meaning Lowe's troopers]. But Lowe's men also arrested two of the young men from 'Merton', Dennis and Ben. Possibly some of the Kamilaroi remained friendly, while others had become hostile, reflecting no doubt good relations with some of the British and feuds with others.
The attack on the 'Ravensworth' fencers brought the mounted police to the scene. Sergeant Moore arrived 'the next day' and 'came up to the [local] tribe'. Unfortunately, the exact sequence of events, and the number of Aborigines 'executed', remains obscure. The relevant passage in the magistrates' report reads thus:
... the party of Mounted Police ... succeeded in taking one of the Natives, who murdered Dr Bowman's watchman, who was shot [ = 'Jackey Jackey', shot at Maitland]. Shortly after, several more Natives were taken by the Police, three of whom were shot [probably 'Cato', 'Cabon' and 'Boss'] ... About the same time, two more Blacks ['Dennis and 'Ben'], suspected of being concerned in the murders at Mr Grieg's and at Booty [Putty], were apprehended and lodged in Newcastle Gaol; one [i.e., Dennis] has since been liberated.
According to Roger Milliss, 'Jackey Jackey', alias 'Commandant', alias 'Jerry', the man accused of killing Bowman's watchman, was arrested in early August and taken to Wallis Plains (Maitland). The local bush constable at McIntyre’s, Thomas Farnham arrested him at Little's estate 'Invermein' [Scone], took him down river and handed him over to Sgt Moore at Wallis Plains. Alternatively, he may have been taken at or near 'Ravensworth' itself. 'Jackey Jackey' reached Wallis Plains alive, only to be shot there without trial on Lowe's personal orders.
Lowe then rode back up the valley, as Threlkeld puts it, 'in pursuit of two other Blacks', namely 'Dennis' and 'Ben'. According to Milliss, Moore's squad captured five more men - Cabon, Billy (not the earlier Billy of 'Edinglassie'), Dennis, Boss, and Cato - on or after 12 August, the date Moore gave for his arrival at Glennies' farm 'Dulwich' at Patricks Plains [Singleton]. These six, 'Jackey Jackey' and the others, were accused of participating in the raids on Chilcott's and Bowman's. Mirroul, nicknamed 'Dennis', belonged to the Kamilaroi community of the Denman ['Merton'] district. Presumably he and a seventh suspect, Tolou, called 'Ben' by the Ogilvies, were arrested at 'Merton'. They were 'taken about to the different places, where depredations had been committed, and identified [ie, by the shepherds and labourers].' This would have included McIntyre’s farm ‘Blairmore’ near our Aberdeen, mentioned by The Monitor as subject of an act of depredation.
Three of the captured Aborigines - Cato, Cabon and Boss, as it appears - were shot on or about 15 August, allegedly while attempting to escape. Cato first of all was captured and shot dead, it seems, at or near Glennie's farm. The body of a second man, either Cabon or Boss, was 'hung up by the Men [convict workers] on the Farm [i.e., 'Ravensworth'] as a terror to the other Blacks'. The fate of the third man is not clear, except that he too was shot. The others - Dennis and Ben, and presumably the second Billy too - survived their journey under escort to the Wallis Plains lock-up.
In what looks to have been a quite distinct case, a further Aboriginal man, identified as one who had raided 'Ravensworth', was found hanged from a tree in the back country ('in the forest'). The troopers denied this execution was their work.
Previous | Content | Next
Michael O'Rourke has kindly given us permission to reproduce this literary work in web form on this site.
Support local history
103. Foley in HRA xii: 617 (August 1826), emphasis added. Cf the magistrates' report (HRA xii: 610 f), and Darling's comments to London (HRA xii: 575 and 609-610). See also Threlkeld (Gunson 1974); James Miller 1985: 34-36; Milliss 1985 and 1992: 61. Regrettably, Miller's and Milliss' simplifications have been adopted by university historians, eg Jan Kociumbas. The latter writes of the asserted 'combined resistance of the Wonarua and Wiradjuri people' (Kociumbas 1992: 143). In fact, the upper Hunter valley belonged to the Kamilaroi (see earlier in this paper).
104. Foot-soldiers: The new Mounted Police—regular soldiers serving as frontier police—did not reach Maitland until February 1826 (Connor 2002: 62; also this paper, below). The Australian 10.11.1825; Scott and Macleod, HRA xii: 611; Cunningham 1827, ii: 38 ff, emphasis added; Wood 1972: 114; Milliss 1992: 55. The affiliation of the Aborigines attacked by the Windsor troops is not clear in the main source (HRA)
105.Cunningham 1827 (1966: 201). Ogilvie and Cunningham, with their assigned convicts, were living at 'Merton' as bachelors while the Ogilvie family house was being constructed. Setting out from Newcastle in January 1826, Mary Ogilvie and the children were delayed by floods for several weeks at Maitland (Wood 1972: 102). Wood supposes that the 'two settlers' who found Greig's men dead at 'Martindale' in October 1825 were 'Grieg's nearest neighbours Ogilvie and (Peter) Cunningham (1972; 109, 111). This is an error (as earlier noted).
106. Milliss 1992: 55 writes of 'the valley' being 'in turmoil' for 'several months' (i.e., late 1825 - early 1826), with 'hostilities' reaching 'a peak' in June 1826. None of the sources I have consulted, however, lists any fatal clashes between the attack on Greig's men (October 1825) and the killing of a shepherd at 'Edinglassie' (June 1826).
107. Bramble 1981: 70-72.
108. Major challenges: Fletcher 1984: 180-182; see also Austin 1980; and Wood 1972: 103. 'Constant stream': Kociumbas 1992: 167. Maitland: Connor 2002: 62.
109. Cunningham 1827 (1966: 193) - probably on a farm near Singleton, and probably to be dated to mid 1826. As noted above, maize was planted in October-December. If a first crop was planted in 1825 the green kernels would have been available for the taking in, say, January-March 1826; they would have been ripe by mid 1826. Fourteen convicts were employed on Cunningham's estate 'Dalswinton'. Mills were built with convict labour at 'Segenhoe' in 1826, even before permanent farm buildings. Peter McIntyre, while still manager for Macqueen at ‘Segenhoe’, was seeking - in vain at first - to extend his personal holdings. He applied unsuccessfully to the Governor for the whole of the left bank of the Hunter River above Muswellbrook.
110. Threlkeld to Saxe Bannister, 8.8.1826 (in Gunson 1974: 92). William Ridley seems to have heard of these threats as remembered many years later: 'The first colonists (i.e., in the Hunter Valley) (he wrote) were told that the Commeroy would come down from the north and sweep them away' (1873: 291).
111. Allman: report of 27 June, in HRA xii: 621, emphasis added; Wood 1972: 118, citing The Australian 26.8.1826. Buildings: Cunningham 1827, i: 153. There were at least two, and possibly three, different men nicknamed 'Jerry'. One of the surviving Jerrys was still issuing threats against 'a well known and respectable settler' the following year.
113. Scott and Macleod; Allman to de la Condamine 27 June and 18 July, in HRA xii: 620 ff; Milliss 1992: 55.
114. Scott and Macleod in HRA xii: 661; Darling's report to London HRA xii: 574; Wood 1972: 116; Threlkeld 1974: 93; Milliss 1985 and 1992: 55. Cato is a Latin name, applied no doubt by a settler with a Classical education. Cato the Younger (M Porcius Cato) (died 46 BC) was a Stoic philosopher. Threlkeld interviewed one of the wounded men from 'Ravensworth' in hospital at Newcastle on 21 August.
115. As explained earlier in this paper, the Darkinung or Daaginyaang held the southern side of the Hunter Valley in the Singleton, Bulga and Broke districts. The Wonarua or Wanaaru-waa held the northern side of the Hunter Valley downstream from Singleton (O’Rourke 1997: 38 ff).
116. Magistrates' report, 3 June 1826, in Governor's despatches and HRA xii: 612, emphasis added; Miller 1985: 35 and map; Milliss 1992: 55. Milliss calls the descent on 'Merton' (described later in the text) as “something like the general rising the whites ... feared”.
117. Connor 2002: 64. Primary sources: Allman 18 July 1826 (in Wood 1972: 116); Threlkeld, memorandum of 24.7.1826 and letter of 4.9.1826 (Gunson 1974: 92-93 and 213), Macleay to Allman 28 September in HRA xii: 624, and Wood 1972. Milliss 1992: 67 and 68 cites testimony by constable Farnham and another eye-witness, Salisbury. Farnham was the convict constable at McIntyre's. It would appear that Farnham, although stationed at McIntyre's, captured 'Jackey Jackey' at ‘Invermein’. Or rather (see court transcript R v Lowe), Dr Little “apprehended” him and placed himn in Fanham’s charge, who took him to Newscatle and gave him over to the Mounted Police. The Sydney Gazette, 21 May 1827 gives his alias as “Jerry’; the name “Jeffery” used at Lowe’s trial seems to be a mistake.
118. Depositions by Glennie, Larnach and Moore in HRA xii: 625-626 (Milliss loc cit.), and Threlkeld 1974: 93. The Monitor, 1 September 1826.
119. Ibid. Connor 2002: 64.