The roads to the diggins

Argus 20 September 1851, 2/4:


A man is reported to have been found dead under his dray at Bate’s Ford [near Geelong], this morning, but I have not yet heard particulars. I should not be much surprised, if we hear of several deaths on the road, for the weather during the last few days, has been the most severe I have known for many years. The Barwon river was very much flooded to-day and yesterday, and the roads in the country are described as being almost impassable.

A man named Lloyd, formerly in the police here, started for the diggings some short time since, with a wheelbarrow, and upwards of a hundred weight of provisions, &c., including his cradle. He was seen about three days ago, within four miles of Buninyong, and is reported to look well, although in many parts of the road he had to carry his load, wheelbarrow and all, on his back, up to his middle in water, surely this fellow will earn whatever gold he may obtain at the mines!

Argus 30 September 1851, 2/4:

(From the Geelong Advertiser.)

The number of travellers on the road is very great. Between Buninyong and Ritchie’s Inn, a distance of twenty-three miles, the escort passed 320, all bound for the diggings. The escort here left the main road; but supposing the number to be in the same proportion between Ritchie’s Inn and Geelong, there is a moving population of 800 on the road. The number of travellers upward from Melbourne, is no doubt three or four times as great; while the roads from other parts of the country are, no doubt, contributing their quota. There is a fair prospect of the army of diggers receiving an accession of 1,000 daily, henceforward.

Geelong Advertiser 7 October 1851, 2/1-2:

In the Argus of the 4th instant, there appears a letter from a correspondent, who subscribes himself "Nugget," of which the following is a sample:—

Do you not think, Sir, that it would be an act of charity to let the good folks in Melbourne know that when they land in Geelong, they are nearly as far from the diggings as when they left Melbourne. From Geelong it is 62 miles; from Melbourne, by way of Keilor, Bacchus Marsh, Ballan, and the new line of road between Mr Inglis and Bacchus’ Station, the whole distance is not more than 68 miles from Melbourne. Thus, to gain six miles they go 44 out of their way.

The Argus may say that it "is not responsible for the statements of its correspondents." It certainly ought to be, especially as it takes care to deny any statements prejudicial to the claims of Melbourne. Would it give currency to a statement that Geelong is nearer than Melbourne to the gold fields by fifty miles? No! and yet the statement would be nearer the truth than the one allowed to pass.

We have so often refuted similar misstatements, and endeavoured in vain to bring our Melbourne contemporaries to the test of measurement, that we are tired of the drudgery of the one-sided debate. We should blush for the provincial paper that would adopt such means as those employed by the would-be leading journals of the metropolis to detract from the claims of a rival township; and would feel ashamed at being associated with an editor who, like he of the Argus, advises the Geelong people to give up taking the Daily News, for an offence which, we have seen, he himself has deliberately repeated in three successive issues of his own journal.

Geelong Advertiser 1 December 1851, 2/6:

(From the Correspondent of the "Argus.")

November 27th.

The Black Forest, more than any place on the road, ought to be guarded. It is nearly nine miles long, a dismal looking place, and one that a gang is most likely to resort to, as they have an almost impassable country to fall back on. A gentleman from Melbourne informs me, that there at least 300 drays on the road. Argus 10 December 1851 , 3/2: [letter from the Mt. Alexander correspondent]:

"Sir,— As I am on the way to the Diggings, I have had an opportunity of observing the vehicle employed to convey the Gold by Escort and, I must say, that I am surprised to see such a paltry cart employed for so important a purpose. In my opinion it ought to be a light, strong, lock-up van, with seats for four outside, and attached to it, plenty of horse-strength. A man overtook me to-day, and showed me his hands, which had the skin stripped between the wrist and the knuckle joints. He said he was attacked in the Black Forest by five men, one with three brace of pistols in his front; they tied him to a tree, took from him a cap, waist-belt, and five pounds in cash, and left him tied. He cooed in vain for help, and remained in that position for two days before he got himself liberated. I must have passed through the Forest myself at the same time and made an observation to my companion, that I did not think it prudent for any one to pass that place without company."

Argus 16 March 1852, 2/3-4: [from the "special commissioner" just appointed by the Argus to investigate and report upon conditions on the goldfields]:

We are now in receipt of [the special commissioner’s] first communication, which is as follows:—

In connection with the diggings, the subject that demands the first consideration is the state of the roads. The brief rains of last week, though confined to the country between Melbourne and Kyneton [and] not reaching the latter place, have given us a foretaste of what the diggings may expect during the approaching winter. Between Keilor and Kyneton at least three hundred drays were camped unable to make the ordinary day’s journey, while very many of the two horse conveyances were compelled to take three days to perform that which they have hitherto been accustomed to do in two. This has at last opened the eyes of the diggers to the very precarious nature of the communication which they have with Melbourne, and to the little chance that exists of the necessary quantity of provisions being supplied during the winter. Even the Government have at length discovered the absolute necessity of doing something, but I rather fear that they are beginning at the wrong end: their exertions being confined to the roads on the diggings only, and not to the main line of traffic by which the requisite supplies must be brought.

Something, however, is to be done, as I am informed, even here[;] at all events it is talked about, and we have only to hope that it may not be vox et præterea nihil; for after the visit of Captain Lonsdale, during which all the requirements of the road must have been made manifest to him, if he do but possess the most ordinary powers of observation, no further excuse can be made for delaying the work. It is not to be expected that anything can be done to the roads themselves by way of levelling, filling up the holes, &c; but what is required is but a mere trifle, that good crossing places should be made over such gullies and water courses as may require them. This is asking by no means a great deal, and from conversation I have had with parties on the line of road, I know that this will satisfy the majority of the travellers. For instance, on the Keilor plains, the second deep gully or watercourse that drays have to pass after leaving the Keilor Inn is bad enough at the present time, but during the rainy season the bed becomes a complete slough, whilst the slippery soil of the steep ridges on either side prevents the efforts of the bullocks from being available. Again, at Aitken’s Gap, the woody ridge over which the drays pass on leaving the Keilor Plains, there is another deep black water course with a steep descent on both sides into it, rendering it all but impassable in winter. Passing on to the newly-formed township of Gisborne[,] we have just at its entrance{,} a similar gully to the above, down which there is a terrific rush of water, wearing away a gap in some places ten and twelve feet deep. At the other end of the township a crossing also requires to be made over the bed of the creek, which is now only made passable by some large stones thrown in to prevent the wheels of vehicles from sinking in the mud. From this to Carlshue [Carlsruhe] we have a line that may be got over with care, and some little use of the whip; but after leaving there, there is again a black-soiled water course, the bed of which is composed of heavy springy soil, making a perfect bog in winter. There is also a similar spot between Kyneton and Coliban, with the difference only that it is ten times worse than the former one, and is the dread of every bullock driver on the road. Of the Coliban and Kyneton bridges I shall say nothing, as I believe it to be the intention of Government to have them repaired forthwith, and they have already received an official visit of inspection from Mr Lennox. From the Coliban to the Diggings a new line has been laid out by the Government Surveyors, a greater portion of which has already been marked out[;] it is therefore needless to point out what further repairs are required for the old line. This new line is to pass to the left of the old road, branching off after crossing the Coliban, and is said to be shorter by some miles, less hilly and more sound.

Geelong Advertiser 3 June 1852, 2/1-2:


Bendigo, May 24th, 1852.

When I last addressed you, from Forest Creek, I did not contemplate such a speedy flight to this locality; a gold digger’s habits must, under the present system, be nomadic, the people who dwell in tents are ever on the move, so tempted by glowing accounts of success at Bendigo, I placed my swag on a bullock dray, and bolted, self and party.

Migratory as a gold digger’s habits are, still he does not leave his old haunts with total indifference; thus the converse of us Bendigo pilgrims, while colored by that cheerfulness always inspired by the prospect of frsh fields for exertion, was not untainted by regret at leaving the old familiar haunts at Forest Creek, where each nook and corner recalled success or failure—hopes raised high, but, alas, rarely realised.

The best road from Forest Creek to Bendigo, is along Barker’s Creek. Starting from the Commissioner’s tents, we pursued the beaten track north-easterly. The rises and gullies on Barker’s Creek have been worked both by surfacing and sinking; and although just now altogether neglected, will in due time come again into vogue, as it is well known that some parties succeeded pretty well there. The banks of the creek, and surrounding country, bears [sic] a very close resemblance to Winter’s Creek at the Brownbill diggings: it flows in the same direction; the western bank is steep, with gneiss highly tilted cropping out; the eastern bank, gentle rises strewed with quartz, slate &c. Five miles from its junction with Forest Creek, the formation changes to granite, huge masses of which protrude here and there from the fertile plain. The change in the formation is quite visible in the herbage: in the gold country it is of the poorest description—on the granite plain, luxuriant. Three miles more brought us to the Porcupine Inn. The state of matters there, on the day of our visit at 2 o’clock, p.m., I feel bound to detail. All the doors were locked; there was no admission; I halloed through a broken pane (there were a number of broken panes), that we wanted something to eat and drink.

"You can’t come in."
"What! a licensed public house, shut up at two o’clock in the day? I shall take care to inform the magistrates of this."
"You may do as you like and be d—d sir!"

This reply, sufficiently conclusive you will allow, closed the conference. In the yard, a regularly arranged pugilistic encounter was going on, duly divided into rounds, and with full attendance of seconds and bottle-holders. One of the outhouses in the yard was rudely fitted up as a bar, where drinkables were being served out to a clamorous assemblage. At another out-house, with rough deal table, and a couple of forms, dinner was in progress: soup and roast mutton at half-a-crown a head. The Post Office part of the building was closed, and no one in attendance, and no means of ascertaining when there would be. Everything about the inn was neglected and filthy; drunken men staggering about the yard, marked victims, no doubt, of sundry hard-featured lags who prowled about. The fight was now finished, and the fighters recumbent at opposite corners of the yard—the victor surrounded by his backers, washing off the blood, and pouring water on a sprained ancle—the vanquished, equally overcome by Mars and Bacchus, lying neglected at a door step, vainly vociferating for rum{!}[:] "ten shillings for a glass of rum!"

In former letters I have called attention to the unsuitableness of the present licensing system in these gold digging times; I now beg to call attention to the foregoing statement, as an exact description of the state of the Porcupine Inn, on Saturday, 15th May; there is no other licensed house within twenty-five miles; and a circle of twenty-five miles round the Porcupine Inn, contains a population variously estimated at from fifty to seventy thousand.

About nine miles beyond the Porcupine Inn we again meet with the well-known indications of gold; five miles more brings us to Bendigo Creek. The face of the country about Bendigo is very different from all the other diggings; the rises are very gentle, and the gullies long and broad; good surfacing is found at the base of the rises, and in other situations where it has not been usual to find it at any of the other diggings; in sinking holes it is not requisite to go deeper than three to ten feet, the great majority are from four to six feet, when either gneiss or some of the other schistose rocks are reached; the gold, if any, is found resting on or lying between these rocks; the upper strata are clay, gravel, quartz, broken slate, &c., as at the other diggings, these upper strata always contain some gold, but it rarely pays to wash.

I am now located at the newest ‘new diggings,’ yclept ‘Tatiara Gully’ alias Surface Gully. It is the very ultima thule of the diggings, in the midst of an iron-bark forest. Some few have been very successful, and all are doing something. The average gain per man I would set down as decidedly greater than at Forest or Fryer’s Creeks.

Provisions are of course dear. Flour, £12 per bag of 200 lbs; butter, 3s 6d; cheese, 3s 6d; sugar, 9d; ginger wine (sold here openly), 10s per bottle; mutton, fore quarter 4s, hind quarter 5s.

Gold £2 17s per ounce here, there is a rumour that £3 2s is the price at the main Bendigo diggings.

Argus 2 October 1852, 4/1:


SLY GROG SHOPS. —We are glad to see that the Police have at length opened a crusade against the numerous tents on the road to the Diggings where grog is sold, and which are the haunts of the numerous bushrangers that infest the road. On Thursday the following persons were fined 50 leach, or in default committed for six months by the District Court on this charge; their tents were mostly in the neighbourhood of the Deep Creek: Sidney Wegg, Thomas Doggett, E.P. Rainey, Thomas Elster, and Margaret Williams; Philip Hill, who was found in Wegg’s tent, and could not give a satisfactory account of himself, was fined 5 l, or in default committed for a month.

Geelong Advertiser 20 November 1852, Supplement 1/2:

Thursday, November 18th, 1852.
Before His Honor Mr. Justice Williams.


John Flannagan and Thomas Williams pleaded not guilty to the charge of having on the 19th day of October assaulted and robbed one Anthony Waring, near Aitken’s Gap.

The prisoners in this case are two of the bushrangers who have lately put travellers to the diggings in such terror. They are also connected with the Brighton robberies.

Detective Murray took Flanagan [sic] in custody, searched him and found on him £47 10s[,] a pistol heavily loaded and capped, and various other articles.

H. Saunders—On the 19th October was at Aitken’s Gap, going to Melbourne from Bendigo; saw Williams and his mates, where we camped. They came up on horseback, all fully armed; one dismounted and cried "Stand." I said "we are here lying." He replied "I’ll commence with you," and immediately overhauled me, rifling my pockets and taking my purse; when he robbed me he sent me back, and treated my mates similarly. I said to him "Mickey, you have treated me rather hard, give us enough to bring us over the punt." He said "Hold your whist, and you must get it." He then said "will you have a drop?" pulling out a bottle of gin. I said "You have taken my knife; I cannot open it." He replied "Well, I have a corkscrew," and putting his hand in his pocket, he offered me a cigar. I said "You have taken my lucifers." He then gave me the bottle, and I took a drink of gin to keep up my spirits.

A. Waring.—On the 19th October I was at Aitken’s Gap; heard a shot, and turning round saw four men galloping towards me; cried "Halloa, here are the bushrangers." Williams led the troop, and said "Keep still, or I’ll shoot you." Flanagan was also there.

Ed Waring corroborated the testimony of the prosecutor.

The jury found both prisoners guilty.

Sentence—Twelve years on the roads, the first two years in irons.


The same charge being preferred against the same prisoners for the robbery of the man Saunders, who was witness in the last case, they were found guilty, and sentenced to six years on the roads, the first year in irons.


The same prisoners were charged for the above offence, committed at Brighton, on the 15th of October.

From the evidence of Mr. Thomas Newton, it appeared that on the day in question he was proceeding on the Brighton road, in company with two persons, named Farmer and M’Grath, when they were met by the prisoners, one of whom (Williams), placed a gun at witness’s head, and afterwards deprived him of all the money he had, to the amount of 30s. He identified both the prisoners.


Sentence—Hard labour on the roads for 12 years, first 2 in irons.

Argus 28 January 1853, 4/5:


Spring Creek, Jan. 25. 1853.

The escort on Sunday last brought up intelligence of the following Californian outrage perpetrated on Friday afternoon last, near the Honeysuckle Inn, on the Melbourne road. It appears that a party of thirty men, including ten Californians, engaged two drays to carry up their swags to the diggings. When near the above inn, one of the draymen desired two of the party, who had got on to the dray to ride, to get down, which they refused to do. The drayman then went towards them to compel them to leave the dray, when one of them jumped down and seized the carter, who struggled with him, while the man who remained on the dray deliberately fired three shots from a revolver at the drayman, whom he wounded in the side. The escort, at the time, was at the Honeysuckle Inn, and Captain Price, hearing the shots fired, repaired to the spot, and immediately took the two men implicated (both Californians) into custody. I am sorry to record that the greatest reluctance to give evidence was manifested by the men composing the party, some of whom went so far as to say that the unfortunate drayman had only received what he deserved, and that they regretted that the other drayman had not also been shot. The wounded man was conveyed to the Inn, where he was shortly afterwards seen by Dr. Gemmill, then on his way to town, and who despaired of his recovery. I have, however, since heard that the man was still alive at 10 o’clock the next day (Saturday), but still not expected to recover. Captain Price brought the two prisoners on to the Broken River, with the escort, and left them there in charge of the chief constable of Benalla. Immediately on receipt of the above intelligence, the resident Commissioner despatched the coroner, Dr. Green, to the Honeysuckle Inn, to investigate the whole affair, as thanks to the Legislative Council, there is neither a resident magistrate, nor a coroner between the Honeysuckle and the diggings, a distance of 75 miles.

Argus 28 January 1853, 4/5-6:


After leaving Malmesbury, the forest again recedes from the track of the traveller, and the country becomes broken for some miles. At the spots where these clefts occur, impetuous torrents roll down during the rainy season, and find their outlet into the Coliban. In summer their stony beds are alone perceptible. On ascending an eminence over which the road passes, a tolerably close view is obtained of Mount Alexander, which is apt, however, to disappoint the new-comer, who, relying upon its having associated its name with a gold region, is prepared to expect something alpine in point of grandeur and proportion .... After descending from the eminence ..., the forest again intersects the road, and assumes an appearance which leaves little cause for regret at the absence of the more varied characteristics displayed by similar scenery in Europe. A mile or two further on road making is seen to be progressing with some show of activity, but it is without an exception manifested on the very spots that might have been left as they were until the streets of the township had been rendered passable. Apropos of this subject, it may not be improper to mention that what with the sinuosity of the present highway, the devious tracks taken by the bullock-driver, and the obstacles it is necessary to make a detour to clear, considerable doubts are entertained by some well-informed persons as to its remaining permanently as the great thoroughfare to the diggings. A storekeeper at Sawpit Gully, a foreigner, who has been for some years a resident among us, assured me that his acquaintance with the bush enabled him to strike across country to Melbourne on horseback in about fifty-five miles, being twenty miles or thereabouts less than is possible by the present road. This route he states to lie along the eastern instead of the western face of Macedon, and that he clears the ridge through a gap, which agrees sufficiently with my own observations, subsequently made in cutting across country from Carlsruhe to Kilmore.

Sawpit Gully, the next station on the road, is one of those places which, perhaps, had never existed but for the discovery of gold. Under that stimulus it is fast rising into an important township. Already it boasts of two large innes, sufficiently high-priced to guarantee the wayfarer as to its respectability, as many stores and weather-boarded cottages are seen to be springing up where for ages the forest has alone held dominion.

Argus 31 March 1853, 4/6-7:


Mount Emu, March 22nd, 1853.

The elegant author of "The Crescent and the Cross," somewhere remarks that to a person in a strange country, whether he be a moralist or an epicure, the most interesting subject of study is Woman; and he quotes a French proverb to the effect, that woman has something to do with everything that is nice. "Il y a de la femme dans tout ce qu’on aime." How true this is to a travelling stranger! His very shelter for the night must often depend upon hospitality. The nights come on bleak and wintry now, and to pass them al fresco, would be to pass them sleepless. As he walks up to the shut door, the furious barking of the "household dogs" invariably convey a presentiment of anything but a welcome. But I care not for this, or how suspiciously or sternly the individual lord surveys me, if he only says "I’ll speak to Mrs. So-and-so," or "I’ll call the wife." The thing is perfectly settled in my mind immediately, and though there should be only one room, or one blanket in the house, woman’s kind-heartedness and woman’s ingenuity never fail.

The River Moorabool, which runs (when it runs at all) from Ballan down to Geelong, now lies snugged away between its steep and ... timber-covered banks. The three stations of Messrs. Cowie, Stead, and Paterson, are on the upper part of this (sometimes) stream, and would any of them form a pleasing study for the painter. From Ballan to Buninyong, the road, though good, is tedious and uninteresting. It runs through a thickly-wooded level country, shutting out all view on both sides. It is refreshing now and then to go up a small rise, and catch sight of a neighboring hill, or snuff the cool sea-breeze; but this occurs seldom, and at length, on approaching Mount Buninyong, it becomes a very "descensus Averni,"—gloomy, cold, and almost awful. But you rise by degrees, and on the side of the mountain that overlooks the township, you overlook a panorama of great beauty. Disappointment, however, attends a descent into the hamlet.

I arrived during the quarter sessions, which began and ended on Saturday last. Why is this court not held at Balaarat? The circuit consisted of, Chairman, Mr. Wrixon; barrister, Mr. Dawson, and attorney, Mr. McFarlane. Mr. Dawson a young man lately arrived, conducted his cases with great skill, and seems to promise well. One poor fellow who, perhaps, had not the means to employ him, was sentenced to twelve months hard labor for stealing a tub on the diggings, while others—but "Brutus is an honorable man," and the law is a most honorable profession. Let me go on. Michael Lynch, on a charge of stealing gold out of a tent at Balaarat, was acquitted. Harrison, alias Marks, and Donovan, stealing firearms at the same place, both acquitted. Carter, shooting, at the same place, acquitted. Sullivan, stealing a horse at Balaarat, eight years on the roads, for which sentence Mr. Wrixon, in spite of all his peculiarities, deserves the hearty thanks of the diggers. These prisoners were all defended by Messrs. Dawson and McFarlane, which gentlemen must have made a nice little harvest here in one day.

But I was saying that the village of Buninyong disappoints the visitor. On the high road to Balaarat from Geelong, it is anything but orderly and quiet. It boasts—or at least it has two inns, of which, however, there are not two opinions; for, on enquiring for the best, I was told there was no best, but only a least bad. The houses are both wretched wooden buildings. One of them, the Buninyong Hotel, par excellence, has this recommendation,—that there is a very nice cottage, where Mr. Eyre, the Commissioner lives, belonging to the landlady, where the quality are allowed to take their meals as in a private home. The Chairman of the Session stopped at the Crown, which some say is the better house. There is nothing at all pretty or interesting about the appearance of Buninyong. There is a Presbyterian Church and School house—Minister, Mr. Hastie,—also used for a court-house, and sundry other purposes. There is a handsome stone house in the course of erection for an hotel, under the direction of Mr. Kawerau, of German quartet-singing notoriety, who is now more profitably employed in his original profession as an architect at Geelong.

From Buninyong to Balaarat is about six miles. To one who has not visited any diggings for a long time, the present appearance is somewhat strange. The small circular hole with the neat little windlass at the top and invisibility at the bottom,—so different from the immense square opening of former days, with the hand-rope to pull up with, and a bottom you might almost jump down to,—are the principal new features. There is also the steam-engine there, with the puddling-machine, just getting into working order, and the handsome new house built by Mr. Barff, in a good situation, close to the Government quarters, with the hope of obtaining a license in April.

Sly-grog-selling appears to be done away with here entirely: there seems to be no occasion for any slyness; there was plenty of that at Mount Alexander twelve months ago; but now at Balaarat, in spite of two years on the roads, the open undisguised sale goes on before the eyes of every one, and drunkenness of course prevails. Canadian Gully is being desperately worked—not that there is any despair either yet; on the contrary, the highest hopes are entertained, and the lapse of a fortnight, it is expected, will bring above ground many more monster nuggets.

The road from Buninyong to Mount Emu passes through the Winter’s Flat diggings, which have been a failure: the miners are deserting rapidly, while at Balaarat "the cry is still ‘They come.’" Carngham is a township on this road. It consists of two or three huts, a small store, and a fine hotel, much in the same style, but not quite so complete as Crook’s at Bacchus Marsh. It seems to be a dull place, and one wonders how such a house can be supported. This used to be the Portland mail road, before the notable plan of making the right-angle at Geelong. Now, if it is wished to send a letter from Ballan to Buninyong, a distance of about twenty miles, the journey must be to Melbourne, fifty-three miles, thence to Geelong, fifty; and thence to Buninyong, fifty—one hundred and fifty three miles. Is this as it should be?

I was told the other day that I should never make a bushman because I could not acknowledge, as a plain unmistakable road, a track that might have been left by a very diminutive mouse indeed, that had passed lightly once over the ground; and next day (dismal corroboration of the ominous prophesy!) wandered into confusion and despair in the middle of a terrible-looking forest. What would your feelings be on such an occasion? I’ll tell you what mine were. The weather being cloudy, I thought the sun was on the point of setting, though in reality it was scarcely noon. I felt a gnawing hunger as if I had not taken food for a week. I thought of the good breakfast I had eaten before starting, and wondered whether it would support me till next day. I wished I was my horse because there was plenty of grass about, and he would be sure to live till morning. I abused the Argus for sending me "all lonely by myself to die"; also, all people making roads in the bush that lead no where. I began to say—

I have lived long enough; my way of life
Is fallen into the sere and yellow—grass—

The grass was so very sere and very yellow that I couldn’t help it, when the noise of a flock of sheep roused me from my despondent reverie, and brought me back to life. I was rather annoyed. I was only a mile from Ballan—it was only twelve o’clock—and, like a man mad with the toothache, arrived at the dentists’ [sic] door, the gnawing pain was gone, and dinner postponed for two hours.

Mount Emu bears every evidence of being an extinct volcano, except that the land round its base is barren instead of fertile. It rears its rocky knobs high above the plain, and is a commanding object for many miles around. I had not time to go to its summit, but the view thence would certainly repay the trouble, and the ascent seems easy in some places. This station, late Wright and Montgomery’s, lies about seven miles to the south of the mountain, and, as I shall return to Melbourne by Fiery Creek, my course will not continue any further in this direction, but turn northwards to Burn Bank, and thence on towards Horsham.

The weather here is cloudy and chilly, with occasional showers, the sun seldom deigning to look down upon the landscape; but the country is more open, and travelling more agreeable.

Argus 14 April 1853, 5/6-7: [a quite hilarious splutter from a squatter regarding purported prostitution in a shepherd’s hut on the road to the diggings]:

To the Editor of the Argus.

SIR ,—As an old colonist, I consider myself at liberty to feel deeply interested in the welfare of this my adopted country, and to raise up my voice against whatever is calculated to destroy the happiness of its people. In one point of view, a cloud has overcast the sun of our happiness; devils, in the form of humanity, crowd upon us, and crime in all its forms reigns almost triumphant. Judges may reason from the seat of judgment, and tell us that crime does not abound; but their data being false, their conclusions are false also. Three-fourths of the crime is never heard of, and the half only of what is heard of is brought to justice.

This is a great evil, but there is another evil coming. A reign of terror is bringing about a reign of despotism. To control devils, we have, as it were, evoked from the regions of Tartarus foul fiends who need themselves to be restrained. Bushranging is bad, but the despotism that will destroy our liberties and all our social and civil rights and privileges, is not to be substituted for it. It is almost better to be robbed by a bushranger than to be robbed by a cranky or ferocious magistrate. It is almost better—it is far better—to be tied to a tree by a bushranger, there to remain for a few hours, than to be consigned to the gaol of Melbourne for twelve months by a wicked magistrate, upon the negative evidence of a ferocious looking constable.

It is now the duty of those who see, or foresee, the evil, to stand up against it. I have experienced it, and I am not the man to let it alone.

At this moment I cannot leave my family for a day without obtaining some one to act as guard or protector from the numerous bushrangers that are on every side. This is bad enough, but when confidence in the administration of justice is felt, the hope that circumstances will become changed eventually, has a tendency to reconcile one to bear with present evils. This, however, so far as I can forsee [sic], is a hope that is not to be entertained for a moment; and those who love peace and safety, order and justice, will very soon not be able to find here either the one or the other.

Enclosed is a case on which I ground these reflections, and I think you will agree with me that it points, like many other instances, to the direction of the foul current.

I am, Sir,
Yours, &c.


Salisbury Plains, River Loddon,
April 4th, 1853.

SIR ,—I have the honor to lay before you the following statement regarding the conduct of a Mr. Maclauchlin, acting as Police Magistrate at Bendigo, and to request that you will bring the same under the notice of His Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor.

A few weeks ago, a man and woman entered my employment as shepherd and hutkeeper, under an agreement for three months. Immediately afterwards I had occasion to visit Melbourne; and, after my return home, I learned that the woman was a common prostitute, and had converted my hut into a brothel,—the resort of numbers of disreputable characters. I may here mention, that my station is on one of the roads between the gold-fields of Bendigo and Korong; and I may also mention, that on one occasion, when I was about to go out on horseback, I received information that a number of men and the said woman were in a hut of mine at my home-station. On my riding to the hut, and enquiring what they wanted, they insulted me in a gross manner, the woman taking the lead in doing so. I then ordered them to come out of my hut, upon which one of them drew out a pistol, and threatened to shoot me. Then, taking a gun from one of the others, he swore, in a horrible manner, that, if he caught me on the run, he would shoot me.

Conceiving it to be inconsistent with my duty as a moral man and a Christian, and also adverse to the spirit and letter of those regulations even by which Crown Lands are occupied, I determined that such a place of infamy should not exist on any establishment of mine. Acting upon this resolution, I desired the man to take a settlement for the time he had been in my employment, and to depart from the station. In the event of his refusing to do so, as he had neglected his flock and his duty, I meant to have taken them before a magistrate, and get the agreement cancelled. He refused to go; but went, unknown to me, and got a summons for me.

The new Police Magistrate at Bendigo had the case brought before him, and his conduct was so disgusting, partial, outrageous, unconstitutional, unprincipled, and blasphemous to the name of the Great Creator of the Universe, that the English language is too poor to express the horror and indignation which I felt, and which I shall feel to the latest hour of my existence; and I should consider myself an enemy to that class to which I have the honor to belong,—an enemy to the lawful Government of this colony,—heedless of the peace, honor, and happiness of my adopted country,—and utterly regardless of the honor of the Great Creator, were I to allow to pass unnoticed the impious conduct of a magistrate who, permitted to administer the laws of man, grossly violates the laws of Almighty God.

1. I solemnly accuse him with conducting himself in a wild and furious manner, being totally destitute of that calmness and dignity which becomes a magistrate;—also with unseemly conduct in frequently declaring how the case would go, even before he had heard the evidence of the complainant, and also with receiving some secret information conveyed in a whisper.

2. I further solemnly accuse him with not giving me a fair and impartial hearing, by constantly stopping me and making some remark quite irrelevant to the case; also, with acting on behalf of the complainant as a special pleader, abruptly answering and contradicting whatever I attempted to say; also, with refusing to allow me to mention the infamous moral delinquencies of the woman, and with refusing to allow me to speak of the false-swearing of the complainant, declaring that he had nothing to do with perjury; and also, with attempting to browbeat, insult, and annoy me.

3. I further solemnly accuse him with the unprincipled conduct of declaring Mr. Winch, the sub-inspector of police, a squatter, and calling upon him as such, to give his opinion, (with the understanding, too, expressed by the magistrate, that he was not on his oath,) as to the custom amongst squatters on a particular point; whereas, it is well known that Mr. Winch is not, and has never been, a squatter; and although it was merely about counting the sheep in the presence of the shepherd, which had not the most remote connection with the complaint or defence, the magistrate took the unwarrantable liberty of censuring me in a most insulting strain; whereas, I conceive he had no right whatever to blame me as to the manner in which I manage my own private affairs.

4. I further do most solemnly accuse him with impiously exclaiming, "Good God Almighty! and what have you to do with the moral conduct of your servants?"

I would beg to direct the attention of His Excellency to this last accusation in particular. Who is this, I would exclaim in the language of astonishment and indignation—who is this from New Zealand or the wild Highlands of Scotland, that presumes in violation of every right principle to enunciate such a doctrine as this—that dares, as a SERVANT of the public, from the seat of public distributive justice, to insult the name of the Great Creator and outrage the feelings of a Christian people.

Apologising for the length of this complaint, in conclusion I would beg to remark, that if masters are to have no right to prevent such evils—if this Bendigo morality is to be upheld, an inducement is now offered to prostitutes of the town to retire to the country, and by attaching themselves to shepherds, to spread moral and social evils of the worst kind; and so long as the man chooses to remain on a station, whether he attends to his duty or not, his woman may open a house of ill-fame, and has the authority and sanction of the Bendigo Police Magistrate for doing so.

I have the honor to be, Sir,
Your most obediant Servant,

The Honorable the Colonial Secretary,

Argus 26 April 1853, 4/4-5:


Forest Creek 21st April, 1853.

With regard to the roads between Melbourne and the diggings, much as the Government have done, you may rest assured that when the winter sets in, the bullock-drays will do more; and except in such parts as are metalled, it will be impossible for any description of vehicle to travel, as the intervening spaces will form most beautiful specimens of "limpid pools of stagnant mud." I can, however, bear testimony that this state of things this season is not the fault of the Government, but owing entirely to the difficulty of getting the necessary number of men who would work . There is fortunately a new cut, and a very good road by Clarke’s Station, by which you avoid the Black Forest, and come out at Rainer’s Inn, on Jackson’s Creek. There is, however, one trifling drawback here, inasmuch as there is no bridge. The new Government line of road through the Black Forest is well conceived, and would, I have no doubt, with a proper supply of labourers, have been well carried out. There is an improvement in the management of some of the inns on the road; at one or two at which I called I found the innkeepers positively civil .


Argus 11 May 1853, 3/5:


Forest Creek, May 9th, 1853.

There has been a great quantity of rain falling within the last week, but the weather promises fair yesterday and to-day. At Bendigo the rains of Saturday and Sunday week flooded out the storekeepers and others on the flats. The roads are represented to be in a deplorable condition, more particularly those places commenced, but left unfinished. The good people of Kyneton are particularly favored in this way. A road was commenced there some time ago, but owing to some unaccountable delay, at this day it is far worse than before it was commenced:—that is, immediately in the township, although at the best of times it could rank amongst the very worst.

Argus 11 May 1853, 3/5:


A public meeting was held at the Township Hill, Castlemaine, on Thursday last, at one o’clock, to take into consideration the propriety of urging upon the Government the necessity of erecting bridges across Forest and Barker’s Creeks. The attendance, which was numerous, consisted of freeholders, storekeepers, diggers, &c. In consequence of the inclemency of the weather, the meeting was adjourned to the Baptist Chapel, where the business opened, the Rev. Mr. Jackson being called to the chair. The speakers were Dr. Preshaw, Messrs. Hitchcock, Aberdeen, Potts, Pohl, Montgomery, Maynard, and Adams.

Proposed by Dr. Preshaw, seconded by Mr. Hitchcock, and carried unanimously—

That it is absolutely necessary that a bridge be constructed across Forest Creek, and that this meeting is therefore convened for the purpose of urging upon the Government the immediate necessity of attending to the wants of the people.

Proposed by Mr. Aberdeen, seconded by Mr. E. Potts, and carried unanimously—

That whilst the meeting gratefully acknowledges the fact that some improvements have been made by the Government in the neighborhood, yet they cannot omit expressing strongly their regret at the apathy and inattention shown to the common matters of the kind generally. Take one instance, viz., the neglect shown in not having as yet repaied the public road at the foot of New Chum Gully, where, for the last twelve months, accidents are occurring, and where unfortunately death has been the consequence.

Proposed by Mr. Pohl, seconded by Mr. I.K. Montgomery, and carried unanimously—

That a committee be now formed, with power to add to their number, for the purpose of carrying out the objects of this meeting, and to watch over the interests of the public, in calling the prompt attention of the Government to the roads, creeks, and other local matters affecting the immediate interests of the people of this district.

Immediately after the passing of this resolution, the committee were duly elected, composed of gentlemen who, it is to be hoped, will prove themselves worthy of the confidence bestowed on them.

Proposed by Mr. Maynard, seconded by Mr. Adams, and carried unanimously—

That the Chairman be requested to sign (on behalf of the meeting), as representing the unanimous feelings of the meeting, and to forward immediately a despatch to the Government, with a copy of these resolutions; and that this meeting signify to the Government the propriety of constructing the principal bridge over the creek opposite Barker street.

With further remarks, and a vote of thanks to the Chairman, the meeting separated.

Argus 26 May 1853, 5/1:


Forest Creek, 21st May, 1853.

Bushranging has commenced again with all its fury. On Wednesday night last, a party of five men, well armed with revolvers and mounted, robbed several persons on Campbell’s Creek. Having completed their depradations at that locality, they proceeded to Golden Point, and called at a store belonging to Mr. Osborne, having represented themselves to that gentleman as belonging to the detective force, and sent by Detective Sergeant Kennedy to get the full particulars of a robbery of some bacon, which occurred at Mr. Osborne’s a night or two previous. That gentleman kindly entertained them, and gave them full particulars as to the whereabouts of everything in the store, and actually commenced an examination of the revolvers and life-protectors which they carried, wishing to know from them the mode of using the life protectors. They answered him by demanding his money, and having only obtained £40, told Mr. Osborne they expected £400 or £500, as the proceeds of an auction sale which he had held a day or two previous. Mr. Osborne told them he was not so foolish as to keep any large sum about him, but they could have the receipts for the cash and gold deposited in the Escort, if they wished it. They declined the offer, and immediately started for Mount M’Ivor, with a body of the Mounted Police in full chase. Three men in custody of the Mounted Police, and answering the description of three of the men in Wednesday night’s affair, passed this office this evening. In justice to the Mounted Police, I must state that no exertions are wanting on their part to capture bushrangers and horsestealers, as of late several of this description have been triumphantly led past this office.

Argus 30 July 1853, 4/5-6:


Spring Creek, 26th July, 1853.

ESCORTS.—The Government Escort from Melbourne arrived here safely yesterday afternoon. The news which it conveyed hither of the bailing up of the Melbourne Private Escort near M’Ivor last week, has caused much sensation here: the full particulars have not yet reached us. It will be well, however, if the Government authorities will take warning by what has happened, and look to the efficiency of their escort service, especially on the Ovens road. I have frequently alluded to the onerous nature of the duties devolving on an escort officer on this road, and [to] the fact that the authorities have of late behaved in a most reckless manner with regard to escort management. Not only is the command of an escort frequently entrusted to very young officers, who, to all appearances, would be more at home in a nursery than in command of an armed troop; but if perchance an efficient officer happens to be detailed for this duty, he is not supported as he ought to be in his position of commanding officer. Take, for instance, the case of a trooper not long since brought before the police bench here for great insolence and insubordination on escort duty, and refusing to obey the orders of Lieut. Barclay, his commanding officer, for which he was fined £2; and another more recent case, in which a trooper was fined a similar amount by the same worshipful bench, for publicly insulting his officer at a road-side public-house, and challenging him to fight. For the information of Melbourne gold-buyers, banks, and agents, who avail themselves of the services of the Government Escort to and from the Ovens, I send you the following facts regarding the manner in which the service has of late been performed. The escort has on some occasions been composed of only five men besides the officer in charge, and three out of the five have had to lead pack-horses, leaving only two men and the officer in a proper position to repel any sudden attack. The escort which has just arrived, were, it seems, on the alert, in consequence of the late bailing-up case, and on the 24th inst., when seven miles this side of Benalla, some doubtful-looking characters being seen abroad, Lieut. Moor, the officer in charge, gave orders to his men to be prepared for action. One of the five defenders of the public treasure clumsily pulled out his pistol without orders, and managed therewith to wound himself in the leg—fine work this after all the drilling and semi-demi-military parade and nonsense we have had of late among the blues! Another of the five troopers had then to be sent back to Benalla for the doctor, to attend to the wounded man, leaving only three troopers and the officer to look after the treasure and pack-horses. Meanwhile, the officer, not deeming it prudent to remain where he was with suspicious-looking characters about, and having a considerable distance of bad road to get over, in order to reach Wangaratta before night, left one trooper with the wounded man, and leading one of the three pack-horses himself, proceeded with only two troopers to Wangaratta, a distance upwards of twenty miles. Such, be it known, is the care which a Government, declaring itself irresponsible for loss sustained by those who employ its escort, takes of treasure entrusted to their charge! No doubt, for the next few months, we shall have things better attended to. The Chief Commissioners of Police and Gold-fields will no doubt chuckle at the idea of the Private Escort being bailed up, and will endeavor to persuade the Executive that such a thing could never have happened to the Government Escort. If these high functionaries are wise, they will not only in future despatch stronger escorts, but they will also put a stop to all private jobbing with funds drawn from the public treasury nominally for the escort service, but virtually expended for the domestic accommodation of officers in receipt of high salaries from the Crown. While making the above remarks on the escort service, it is but right that I should mention that Lieut. Moor in command of the last escort, evinced very great energy as a police officer. The news of the bailing-up of the Private Escort reached him at midnight, at Ferguson’s Hotel; he immediately ordered out his men and proceeded at full gallop to Seymour, in order to gain the punts and to prevent suspicious parties from crossing the Goulburn river. Not finding the police officer of Seymour at his station, Lieut. Moor remained there one day, keeping sentries at both punts and despatching expresses to Maguire’s punt and elsewhere, with descriptions of the bushrangers that had been sent from M’Ivor.

BRIDGES .—Report says that a foot-bridge, over Spring Creek, near the Government camp hospital, is to be made as soon as labor can be obtained for that purpose; but there are no signs of any of the numerous hands now employed in constructing a large ornamental cottage for the Resident Commissioner, with a fenced-in garden around it, being spared for the above public work, though it has so long and so urgently been required.

The bridge on the high road to Albury at Woodanger, built under the auspices of Lord Murphy’s Board, nominally for the public convenience, is still the scene of notoriously illegal exaction. Notwithstanding my previous allusion to the subject, our efficient police take no notice of the matter—it is no business of theirs—they are not asked for toll, and therefore care nothing about this shameful public imposition. Had that useful race of men the late chief-constables of police districts been still in being, I feel sure that the exaction of an unauthorised toll on the main road of the colony by a private individual, enforced, too, by an armed gang, would have resulted in the offending parties having been long ago brought before the magisterial bench, and prosecuted with the utmost rigor of the law. But, alas! bridges may be built, or bridges may be promised, and public money may be fooled away in all manner of fanciful gimcracks, but never do the public find a bridge where it is wanted, and as it is wanted.

Argus 15 August 1853, 5/1-2: [ EDITORIAL : on the trial and conviction of two bushrangers, HENRY TURNER and JOHN SMITH , who operated on the road to the diggins]:


To such of our readers as, in these busy, money-making days, can find time to do more than glance at our Shipping and Commercial Intelligence, we recommend the perusal of the report of the last case tried before Mr. Acting Chief Justice Barry, at Castlemaine. They will there find that two men, Turner and Smith, are sentenced to the last dreadful penalty of the law, for shooting at a man named Hensby, and afterwards robbing him and his companion, under circumstances of great atrocity. Our Mount Alexander correspondent writes that a charge of murder was impending over the same criminals, which was necessarily postponed in consequence of the absence of an important witness.

It is a peculiarity of a hurried and busy place like this, and of the condition of unhealthy excitement in which we live, that events of the most startling kind pass too readily from the memory. The event of the present week obliterates that of the week before; and, horrified as people may be, by something that they hear, a new horror is only too apt to blot out from their remembrance the one that has gone just before. Let the Treasury be attacked and ransacked by armed desperadoes to-day, and before the end of the month, the capture of a gold-laden vessel at sea and the murder of all the passengers and crew, will have erased nearly all particulars of the former outrage from the public mind.

It is the business of the public journalist to be a little more attentive to such things, and there are circumstances of peculiar atrocity about the present case, of so terribly instructive a character, that we cannot do the public better service than by exhibiting them.

In the case reported to-day our readers will see that the man shot at was, with a companion, stopped in broad daylight on the high road; that he showed some disposition to defend his property, and that he was deliberately shot through the face and neck; that he fell insensible, and was so robbed and left.

This is bad enough, but worse still remains to be related.

Some of our readers may recollect the particulars which we published of the coroner’s inquest, upon the subject of the murder referred to in to-day’s report. For those who do not, we will briefly recapitulate them, these same cold-blooded villains being the assassins. On the morning after the very day after they thus shot Hensby, it appeared from the former report that these murderous ruffians called at a tent a little further along the road and partook of breakfast. They saw John Warren, the owner of the tent, dig up some money which he had hidden; they bailed up him and his companion in the tent, threatening to shoot them if they stirred; but something occurring to prevent the completion of their design, they remained for some time with their cowed and trembling victims. One of them took out his revolver and fired off every barrel in the air, reloading it with the greatest care, blowing into the percussion caps, and adopting every precaution to secure the perfect trustworthiness of his pistol. They then demanded a piece of cord, and left the tent, ordering poor Warren to accompany them, which he did. His companion, fancying he heard someone walking up and down outside, was afraid to leave the tent, or even to look out of it. In about half an hour the murderers came back without Warren, and did not say what had become of him. They staid for a short time, and then walked quietly away. Soon after, their miserable victim was found, staggering through the bush, blind and bleeding, his face blackened with gunpowder, one eye shot completely out, and the other destroyed; the poor wretch endeavoring to feel his way with a piece of stick; and when found, the only words he could utter amounted to a panic-stricken request, not to be taken over to his own home [i.e., the tent], "if the men in red shirts were there." We appeal to our readers, and ask any one of them who has a spark of human feeling in his heart, or a drop of really human blood circling in his veins, whether a more pitiable object than this could be conceived?

By degrees, those who found poor Warren in this miserable condition, extracted from him that the murderers had tied him to a tree and robbed him; that he called out; and that they then "cut him down, and shot him." This was on the 8th July. The afternoon before they had shot Hensby.

Their second victim lingered for some days, the bullet pressing on his brain; but never again could he be brought to relate what had taken place. The whole affair had impressed him with such an incontrollable terror, that the slightest reference to it always threw him into a state of the wildest excitement; and he died, giving no further information.

We have narrated these particulars, of men going along a road, and thus shooting their fellow-men like dogs, because not only is such fiend-like wickedness almost incredible to English ears, but that these men are but a type of a large class amongst us. Thanks to Lord Grey and Sir William Dennison; they are here by hundreds; and it will be necessary for us always to found our calculations, our legislation, &c., upon that distinct understanding. It requires the perfecting process of such a seminary of crime as is established by the transportation system, so to harden men’s natures as to fit them for such deeds; and no place in the British dominions could furnish them but the "devil’s den" created by that accursed system.

Months ago we warned the public of what was going on; and urged the adoption of the only remedy, the passing of a Preventive Act, and the carrying it out with honesty and vigor. The Act indeed was passed, after delay and objections of all sorts from the Government benches; and being passed, the working of it was entrusted to the most unsuitable instruments that could be found, till it was virtually shelved altogether; and the peaceful people of this colony were handed over by their false and heartless rulers, to the outrages of such monsters as are here presented to their view.

That we saw what was going on, and protested loudly and constantly against this felon-invasion, we refer to our own files and the memory of our readers. Week after week, however, came the Yarra Yarra, the Clarence, and the Tasmania, each bringing, in brazen defiance of the law, its contribution to swell the list; and those who were paid to protect us stood by, and quietly looked on. And when the Argus, in the honest execution of its duty, bared its right arm and struck its hardest and its heaviest at the captains who were deluging us with such a flood, how was it aided, or how were its efforts appreciated? "Oh!" said the citizens, "what a shame to speak thus of such a nice man as Capt. Gilmore; a gentleman known to us all; so old a colonist, and so popular with everybody! How can it be possible that he can do anything wrong; so bland, and mild, and courteous; so pleasant to his passengers; so affable at his cabin table, so polished and gentle at his evening rubber? How savage of the Argus —how cruel and unjust!"

It will be said that these villains [i.e., Turner and Smith] are not yet proved to be from Van Diemen’s Land. Let such persons enquire of keepers of our gaols and stockades; of our police; of any one who knows anything of the subject; and they will learn that nine-tenths of all our crime is from Van Diemen’s Land, and nearly all the very worst of it. There is an idiosyncrasy of crime which stamps its origin; and that of cold-blooded sacrifice of life is peculiarly Tasmanian.

Now, if the captain of a vessel were detected in introducing here a few cages of rattlesnakes, or cobras, and turning them loose upon our shores; if he brought, and sent adrift into our scrubs, the tiger, or the wolf, or the grizzly bear, what fierce denunciations would be hurled against him; how society would point him out with execration; how eager the demand would be for punishment the most summary and condign! Yet, these two-legged tigers are turned loose amongst us by scores, more bloody, dangerous, and cruel than either snake or carnivorous beast; and the smug captains who import them, veiling their importations under the technical term of "steerage passengers," not only go unpunished, but continue on the best of terms with themselves, their owners, their personal acquaintances, and the Government.

The thing is monstrous, and the blood of scores of men, like Warren deliberately butchered, cried aloud for vengeance!

Argus 15 August 1853, 5/2: [on the bushrangers Turner and Smith]:


Forest Creek, 11th August, 1853.

The criminal cases have now fairly terminated, and out of the number we have two men condemned to death, viz., John Smith and Henry Turner. The charge on which these two men were committed, and for which they were to be tried, was one of wilful murder; but owing to the absence of the principal witness, a man named John Williams, they would have been remanded until the next sittings of the Circuit Court, had not a man named Hensby identified the prisoners on Wednesday last as the two men who shot at and robbed him on the 7th of July. Owing to this identity, the two men were brought before the magistrates on Wednesday evening, and the case postponed until this morning to enable them to bring forward witnesses in their behalf. This morning these witnesses were not forthcoming, and they were committed to take their trial on a charge of robbery, with violence, and shooting, and wounding. After a little delay, to enable the prisoners’ counsel to look over the depositions and prepare for the trial, the two prisoners were arraigned before the judge, and found guilty, for which they are now under sentence of death. Of two more incorrigible villains than these I do not know. Of all the bloodthirsty villains and bushrangers on record, I do not know of any to be ranked with these two men, Smith and Turner. Since their apprehension on a charge of murder they have been identified by several parties, as the men who robbed them on the highways. The offence under which they now stand condemned was perpetrated the day before that of the murder of which they were found guilty by a coroner’s jury, a report of which has appeared a short time back in the columns of the Argus. Their career for some time back has been marked with bloodshed and murder, but luckily their career has now terminated by a just forfeiture of their lives to the laws of their country. Since their confinement these men have worked most vigorously to effect their escape, but thanks to the vigilance of the gaolers, their attempts have been frustrated. Let us hope that the short time they have now to remain in this world will be devoted to some better purpose than contemplating more bloodshed.

Argus 15 August 1853, 5/5-6: [report of the trial of the bushrangers Turner and Smith]:

(Before His Honor Mr. Acting Chief Justice Barry.)

Henry Turner, and John Smith being placed at the bar.

Mr. Thompson [for the defendants] applied for a postponement on the grounds that the prisoners have not had time to produce witnesses in their behalf, they having been committed from the police court only that morning to take their trial at the present sittings of this Court.

The Attorney-General opposed the application, urging that it was not unusual for prisoners, in endeavoring to defeat the ends of justice, to apply for a postponement. He stated that the two prisoners were already committed by a coroner’s jury on a charge of wilful murder, and that the offence now alleged against them being committed only the day previous to the murder, it would appear that their witnesses could not have been subpœnaed on the former charge. He would not object to the postponement until the following day, as the witnesses resided at Fryer’s Creek, only a few miles distant, could be subpœnaed for the morning.

His Honor having perused the affidavit, did not consider it a safe document to work upon. Although he did not wish to hurry a trial through, but at the same time he should strictly adhere to the rules of the Court, and not have them tampered with by the prisoners. He ordered the case to proceed.

(Before the following Jury.)

J. Davis (foreman), J. Eastwood, W. Guymer, W. Finney, S. Eukret, J. George, A. Decker, J. Englass, W. Adams, J. Day, M. Edgar, G. Fox.

John Smith and Henry Turner pleaded not guilty to an information charging them with violently assaulting and robbing one Frederick Gowan Hensby of forty-seven pounds in money, and one pistol, and also wounding him before the robbery. Mr. P. Thompson appeared for the prisoners.

THE ATTORNEY- GENERAL having prefaced the opening of the case by requesting the jury to put aside all they may have previously heard about the prisoners, and to consider this case upon its merits alone. He would call

FREDERICK GOWAN HENSBY , who, being sworn, stated, I was employed gold digging at German Gully in July last. I know John Buckhurst. We left for Melbourne on the 7th July. We went the road by Mr. Henry Orr’s station to the Coliban. About two miles from the station, and when we had gone about seven miles, at two o’clock in the day, my attention was suddenly attracted to two men, who turned around a point of land. As they approached, the prisoner Smith threw off his coat and pulled out a revolver. I was assisting Buckhurst to carry some things, and I called out, "Lookout, John; these men are no good." They were within twelve yards of us. Smith approached and told us to stand. I put up my left hand and said, "Now, my man, take care; this will do you no good." I endeavored to extricate a pistol from my breast. They were standing about seven yards off. Smith called out to Turner to blow my brains out. Turner came over in a hurry, and handed me the bridle of his horse. He had a Colt’s revolver in his hand. I endeavored to get the horse to evade his pistol, thinking to get my revolver out. Smith fired at me, and the ball entered my cheek, fracturing my jaw, and lodging in my neck. When Smith fired at me I recollect jumping in the air, and falling on the ground. I remember no more. I had £47 in money, and my revolver, a knife with four blades, with other articles, which were all missing when I recovered myself, in about ten minutes. I can identify one of the notes produced, in consequence of the marks of two stitches, where I sewed it to my shirt the morning before. The one pound note is the one, the others answer the description of those I lost. When I recovered, I felt some blood under my cheek, and missed my property.

BY MR. THOMPSON .—I can only say to the best of my belief, for at the time I was stunned. I have no hesitation whatever in saying that these are the men. I am perfectly satisfied. I cannot account for Turner getting off the horse unless to intimidate me. I would have availed myself of the horse if I had not been shot. He held a pistol at me and called out to "stand." Turner offered me the bridle. He got off the horse at the bidding of Smith. I did not see a third person.

JOHN BUCKHURST .—I was in company with Mr. Hensby on 7th July last, going from Fryer’s Creek to Melbourne. When near Mr. Orr’s station I saw two men on horseback: they came up to us; they told us to stand. One of them pulled a pistol out and presented it at Hensby. It was the prisoner Smith: he was six or seven yards off at the time. I was near Mr. Hensby: Mr. Hensby told them not to be in a hurry for they would be sorry for what they were doing. Smith then fired and turned the pistol at me. Hensby jumped in the air and fell. Turner then fell upon him. I dod not see what they had done to him as my eye was kept on Smith’s pistol. I said, "For God’s sake don’t shoot." He demanded all I had. I gave him six ounces of gold, and some specimens, which I got from a person named Peeden. I cannot identify the specimens. Mr. Peeden gave them to me to take to Hobart Town. Turner came over to me and searched me, and then they both rode off. Another man then came up, and joined the prisoners, and the three rode on together. I then went up to Mr. Hensby, and found his shirt all over blood. I found that his money and pistols were gone.

BY MR. THOMPSON .—I am certain these are the men. They were dressed different to now. I was much alarmed, but not so much as to forget their features. I picked them out in the gaol. It was Smith fired at Hensby. I could not mistake the third party for one of these.

JAMES PEEDEN , being sworn, stated.—I was living at Fryer’s Creek in July last. I know the last witness. I gave him some specimens for the Rev. Mr. Nicholson at Hobart Town. Three of these produced are the same. I am confident of that.

BY MR. THOMPSON .—I have had the specimens twelve months, and can positively swear to them by the quartz and formation.

FREDERICK BOUQUAY .—I am Inspector of Police. I was in charge of the escorton the 8th of July. From information received I went in search of two men, while returning from Melbourne with the Government escort. I saw two men about two miles from Elphinstone. They were running. When they saw me they laid down on the ground; Turner had a pistol in his hand. I pointed a pistol at them and told them to lie still[,] then I went and searched them and found a pistol on the ground. I arrested the two of them. I caused them to be searched, and found on Smith one Colt’s revolver, one single-barrelled pistol, with brass barrel, one gold watch and chain, two knives, three specimens, and £135 13s. 4d. in money. On Turner two single-barrelled pistols, £18 13s. 4d. in money. The specimens produced are the ones taken from them. The revolver was loaded in three barrels. The last fired was the brass-barrelled pistol.

BY MR. THOMPSON .—Turner had a pistol in his hand, but did not attempt to shoot me.

HENRY KENNEDY sworn, stated.—I am a sergeant of police. I received the property produced [i.e., in court] from Mr. Bouquay.

BY MR. THOMPSON .—The property remained in my possession ever since. I got them from the watch-house table, where Mr. Bouquay left them.

This being the case for the Crown,

MR. THOMPSON addressed the jury by regretting that the case should be so hurried through, for had the case been postponed, evidence would have been brought forward in their behalf. These prisoners had been only committed by the magistrates this morning. For his part, he also was quite unprepared to conduct the case as he should wish. He furnished several instances of mistaken identity, showing the jury that although the evidence of Hensby and Buckhurst were very pointed as to the identity, still there was a possibility, considering the state of excitement in which the witnesses must have been {in} at the time. He concluded by impressing on the jury, that in their hands now rested the lives of the two prisoners, and he entreated them to weigh well the evidence before they gave in their verdict.

HIS HONOR , in charging the jury, told them that they were to look at the evidence, and feel perfectly satisfied as to the identity of the prisoners, and also that the shot was really fired before the robbery. Without much comment, he would read over the evidence, and leave the remainder to the jury.

THE JURY , having retired for about five minutes brought in a verdict of guilty against both prisoners.

HIS HONOR having, through the Deputy Sheriff, proclaimed silence in the Court, proceeded in the following affecting address to pass sentence upon the prisoners. His Honor said—

You, John Smith, and you, Henry Turner, have been indicted on a charge of robbery with violence, having inflicted a wound when you assaulted and robbed Mr. Hensby. The evidence throughout has been so conclusive, that you could not have expected the jury to consider upon their verdict much longer than what they had done, the testimony of the witnesses being so calm and collected. You say that you have been hurried for trial—(the prisoner Turner, "I have, your Honor.")—had you been prepared with satisfactory instruments, I would have been bound in duty to comply: but having carefully scanned your affidavits, I did not feel justified in ordering the postponement. The offence of which you have been found guilty, is only one step before that of murder. It was the intention of you, John Smith, to deprive Hensby of his life, and you have to thank Providence that you did not succeed. I entreat you to make good use of the time left you. I must not now conceal from you, that I am aware of your having been in custody under committal for wilful murder. The present charge, of which you are now found guilty, is not the only one you will hereafter have to account for; I warn you, therefore, to prepare for another judgment seat, before which you will soon have to appear. Your example, I trust, will be the means of putting down the ungovernable spirits, and that the peace and quiet of this district will not be disturbed. I hope the example you will show, will deter others from walking in your steps. The sentence of this Court is, that you John Smith, and you Henry Turner, be taken from the place where you now stand, to the place from whence you came; from thence to such place and time as His Excellency the Governor shall determine, then you and each of you to be hung by the neck until you are dead, and may the Lord have mercy on your souls.

After the passing of the sentence the prisoner Turner said—"Never was such a case known in all the world—a man is not allowed to prove his own innocence." They were then removed.

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