Spotlight: Robberies by Hall & Co. (November 1864)

Empire (Sydney, NSW : 1850 – 1875), Wednesday 16 November 1864, page 3


STICKING-UP OF ROSSIVILLE AND ROBBERY OF THE SYDNEY MAIL BY HALL, DUNN, AND GILBERT.

The town of Goulburn was thrown into a state of great excitement on Wednesday morning last, by a report that Mr. Rossi’s house at Rossiville, only two and a half miles from town had been stuck up the previous night by Hall, Gilbert, and young Dunn. It was at first stated that the robbers had their faces covered when committing the outrage, and this led to the rumour being discredited as to the identity of the men, as it was well known the three individuals named never resort to concealment of their faces; it proved, however, that there had been no concealment.

On inquiry we learnt that about eight o’clock on Tuesday evening three men entered the back yard of Rossiville with revolvers in their hands, and the servant girl seeing them, immediately cried out that there were bushrangers. There were at the time on the premises only William Cushing, the coachman; an old man named Jim; and the servant girl – Mr. and Mrs. Rossi being absent with the Right Rev. Dr. Thomas on his diocesan tour. The inmates were all obliged to go into the kitchen, and the girl was made to fry some eggs for the robbers’ supper. They aIso made them fetch wine, of which, as well as the eggs, they, obliged the servants to partake before touching themselves. Gilbert told them they ought to feel highly honoured at their taking the meal in the kitchen, as it was a thing they never did before, being always accustomed to use the dining room or drawing room for that purpose. They complained of the quality of the bread, saying the flour was very dark, and asked, if that was Mr. Rossi’s fault. Being informed that it was the miller’s, they requested that their compliments should be presented to Mr. Conolly, with the request that he should send a couple of bags of his best flour before their next visit. The bushrangers made a thorough search of the premises at Rossiville and broke open boxes and drawers, but fortunately, all the plate and jewellery had been removed into town for safe custody before Mr. Rossi’s departure. Gilbert, however, selected a pair of new Bedford cord trousers and a new pair of Napoleon boots, and having arrayed himself in them, asked if they did not suit him admirably. They stopped at the house until about ten o’clock, when they left, taking with them three horses — viz., a pair of carriage horses which had been lately sold to Mr. Augustus Morris, M.P., but had not been removed, and Mr. Rossi’s grey Arab — a rifle, a couple of saddles, and some smaller articles. As the inmates of the house, however, were not sure about their departure, it was near eleven before Mr. Jordan, the overseer, who lives close by, could be communicated with and informed of the affair. He immediately accompanied by a young lad, came into town and gave information at the lock-up, viz., at about a quarter before midnight. Owing to our splendid system which leaves the troopers’ barracks two miles away from the centre of the town, it wast near one o’clock before four troopers started for Rossiville senior constable Paget and the lad having gone down to the Old Township to make their report, whilst Mr. Jordan, went to acquaint the Rev. Mr. Sowerby with what had happened. The boy eloquently and forcibly explained how the robbers were armed, by saying that they had “bushels of revolvers,” a not very inapplicable simile, when, as it appeared next morning, Hall alone had no less than eight revolvers in his belt.

Having now stated what occurred at Rossiville, we must turn to the robbery of the Sydney mail. Latterly, owing to the fine weather and excellent state of the roads, Messrs. Cobb and Co.’s coach from Picton with the Sydney mails has arrived punctually to its time, nine o’clook a.m., if not a little earlier. Its non-arrival, therefore, at ten o’clock on Wednesday morning coupled with the previous night’s proceedings, gave reason to believe that the coach had been stuck up, a suspicion that was changed into certainty by the arrival on horseback of Mr. William Sidwell, from Towrang, at a quarter past ten o’clock. Mr. Sidwell stated that a man passing through the bush had seen the coach bailed up and driven off the road, that the man had hastened to let him know, whereupon he had mounted his horse and galloped into town through the bush as hard as be could ride. To make the matter more explicit to our readers, we will give a narrative of the bushrangers’ proceedings, so far as is ascertained.

After leaving Mr. Rossi’s, their proceedings and whereabouts are unknown, until at early dawn they were seen skirting the outside of the town, though there was then no suspicion who they were. They then appear to have proceeded to Towrang, and remained in the vicinity of the toll-bar till they saw Mr. Thomas Parr, clerk to Mr. C. H. Walsh, the solicitor, who had been driving an invalid lady down to Sydney, in Mr. Walsh’s carriage, and was returning with a female friend who had accompanied her. On seeing Mr. Parr they bailed him up, made him stop the carriage and get out; telling him to go to the horses’ heads, which he did. They then asked him if there were any firearms in the carriage, to which he replied in the negative. Not content with the answer, the junior of the party, young Dunn — who they said they had engaged as apprentice for five years, although he had only served four months — was ordered to search the carriage, which he did, and reported Mr. Parr’s statement to be correct. Mr. Parr was then told he might leave the horses. One of the animals attracted the robbers’ fancy, and they took the harness off it. Mr. Parr attempted to decry it as a saddle horse, but Gilbert seemed inclined to take it, so much so that Mr. Parr said, if they did he hoped they would use it well. They then asked whose horse it was, and being told that it was “Lawyer Walsh’s,” they left it alone, but said that if they could get hold of Mr. Walsh they would make him give them a cheque for a good amount, and keep him in their custody till it was cashed. From Mr. Parr they took £2. Having left Shelly’s Flats that morning, and having had no breakfast, Mr. Parr’s female companion felt the want of it, whereupon the bushrangers obligingly made her some tea, and offered her part of a turkey and some cakes obtained from a traveller.

Soon after Mr. Parr was stuck up, a person named Nye who was riding, and who is a brother to a man who was arrested some twelve months back at Sutton Forest on suspicion of being Gilbert, to whom he bears a great resemblance — was stuck up by them. The bushrangers seem to have known who he was for they would not take his money (£1 11s ), and Gilbert laughingly said he might keep it as some compensation for the inconvenience his brother had suffered.

Some other parties having been stuck up, at eight o’clock the mail was slopped about fifty yards this side of the Towrang toll-bar. Johnny Daly, the coachman, saw a couple of men ride out of the bush, and one of them called out to him to bail up, and told him to drive into the bush which he had to do for a distance of some two hundred yards on the Boxer’s Creek side. The passengers in the coach were Mr. and Mrs. Hoskins and daughters, of Foxlowe, near Bungendore; a Mr. Iredale, from Sydney; and a man named Lee, a Yorkshireman; just arrived in the colony, who had been engaged by Mr. Campbell, of Duntroon. The robbers offered no violence whatever, and told the ladies not to be alarmed, as they would not be interfered with. From the males they demanded their money and valuables. Mr. Hoskins had twenty sovereigns in his purse, and these they took, but returned to him his watch. From Mr. Iredale they took £7 10s.; and from Lee £3, although they gave each back when leaving, 10s. in silver. From Daly they took nothing. They boasted of their doings of the preceding evening, and said that they intended giving Mr. Rossi fifty lashes if they had caught him at home for impounding poor men’s cattle. They observed, however, that the servants had told them Mr. Rossi wasn’t as bad as he was painted! They also said that they had seen the police magistrate, Mr. Allman, out near Rossiville the previous evening. They intimated to the persons stuck up that they intended to keep them there until after the arrival of the mail from Goulburn, as they intended to bail that up. Somehow or other they learnt that the gold escort would be coming down in the mail, but this did not appear at first to alter their determination, as they said they would put the first coach across the road at a turn, and thus blockade the path and take the escort unawares. The mailbags were taken down from the coach and all opened, Gilbert and Hall showing that they were well used to the work of “sorting” the letters. Cheques and bills of exchange they thrust aside with contempt, except in one case when they found, as an eye-witness expressed it, a “fistful” of notes in a letter, and a couple of cheques, which Gilbert remarked he could get cashed. There were a number of photographs in the letters, all of which they looked at and expressed their opinion on. In one case there was the photograph of a policeman, whom they apparently receognised, for one of them, pointing his revolver at the photograph said to the other “Wouldn’t I like to have the original here!” Of their findings generally they expressed their opinion by saying that it wasn’t an over and above good morning’s work. There was a large quantity of stamps going from the Postmaster-General to country postmasters, and these they scattered about in all directions, besides appropriating a few to themselves. Shortly after ten o’clock Dunn, who was acting as scout, gave the alarm that a man bad ridden off through the bush towards Goulburn after seeing them. This led to an immediate abandonment of their prisoners. One of Mr. Rossi’s horses, they said, didn’t suit them, and after saying that any one might take it into town, they left it, and made off.

It appears that the freebooters were at Mummell on Tuesday afternoon, had dinner at Mr. McAIeers; and shouted for all hands, but of course they were not known. Their coats were buttoned up, and there were no signs of arms about them, which is the more remarkable, as when seen “professionally” afterwards, they had each, in addition to an apparently almost unIimited stock of revolvers, a short rifle or carbine.

There can be no doubt now, from what we have since heard, that it was Ben Hall’s party or their accomplices that put the logs across the culvert near the Redhouse, on the Yass road, on Tuesday morning, as it is positively stated that the party working on the roads had nothing to do with it. A Mr. Griffiths, who was passing, had them removed immediately that they were seen. Very probably they intended to stick up the mail from Yass on that day, unaware of the fact that it being escort day, the mail came down in a buggy, which probably passed them without particular notice. A curious coincidence, if it be nothing more, may also be remarked in connection with this barricading of the Yass road, and that is, that although when the driver of the Braidwood mail passed a particular spot about three miles this side of the Shoalhaven, at six o’clock p.m., on Tuesday evening the road was clear, yet on his return by the same spot at two o’clock a.m., towards Goulburn, it was barricaded with branches of trees, quite newly cut down, at the time, the coach was among them before the driver had observed them. He immediately dismounted, however, and removed the obstruction, expecting every moment to be stuck up; having put the branches on one side, however, be proceeded on his route and reached town in safety.

On Thursday morning, a rumour prevailed, that the three bushrangers had been at Collector and had stuck up a store there. The sticking up turned out not to be correct, and it is doubtful if any of the trio were concerned in the affair, though if they were not, there is no doubt some of their confederates were. The facts appear to be these. Two men, well mounted on horses somewhat resembling those ridden by two of the bushrangers, and dressed very similarly, rode up to Mr. Wheatley’s store, in Collector, about 6 p.m. One of them having dismounted, entered the shop and made some purchases including a pair of spurs, the latter he put on, but the other things were put in a bundle, and he gave £5 note in payment, then went outside with the bundle and mounted. Mr. Wheatley, on looking at the note, saw that it consisted of two different halves joined together. Immediately suspecting the character of his visitors, he ran outside, and showing the note to the man, who had the bundle, he pointed out the error. The man replied, taking the note, “Well, you won’t get any other,”, and the two rode off. Mr. Wheatley, however, made a snatch at the bundle and secured it. No arms were seen on either of the men, but these might easily have been concealed by their coats, and if it was two of the three bushrangers, the third, we may be sure, was with the other horses, and guns, not far distant in the bush.

Since the preceding was written, we have heard that the gang were seen at the back of the Governor’s’ Hill, near Boxer’s Creek, about 11 o’clock on Wednesday after the mail was robbed, which would lead probably to the supposition that they were at Collector that evening.

Goulburn Argus


ROBBERY OF THE YASS MAIL.

YESTERDAY morning at half past eight o’clock the mail from Yass, Young, Tumut, Albury, &c., an unusually heavy one, was stuck up by Hall, Gilbert and Dunn, about a mile on the Gunning side of Mr, T. J. Lodge’s, on the Breadalbane Plains, some sixteen miles from Goulburn.

There was only one passenger in the coach a Mr. William Dawson, a messenger in the Insolvent Court. From him they took his watch, a silver one, Gilbert saying be wanted one. Thinking from the appearance and costume of Mr. Dawson — he being dressed in dark blue, and wearing high boots — that he was, a member of the police force, they searched him closely for firearms, and it was only on production of his warrant as insolvency messenger, that they believed his assertions that he was in no ways connected with the “blues.” This time they did not oblige the driver to take the coach off the road, nor did they examine the letters there; but all of the bags were opened, and the letters, thrust indiscriminately into a couple of bags, which were strapped on in front of their saddles and took away with them. Hall was mounted on one of Mr. Rossi’s bays, Dunn on the same gentleman’s grey, and Gilbert on a very dark iron grey. Having taken what they wanted, they told Thomas Jenkins, the coachman, to drive on to Lodge’s, where they also went. There they treated all hands, including six or seven men belonging to a road party, and Gilbert, in payment, threw down a one pound note, declining to take any change. In reply to a question whether they had not been at Collector on Wednesday evening, Hall said “No, the fellows there were two chaps in our employ, whom we give £3 10s. a week to, and in six months’ time they can go on their own hook.” In all probability, however, the two men at Collector were part of the gang. When the news of this last mail robbery reached town, it did not cause the slightest astonishment, as everyone had been expecting to hear of another outrage ere the week was out. The bushrangers are evidently intending to pay frequent visits to this district. Mail robberies are already a constant occurrence, and no doubt, when it is seen that they can be accomplished with such ease, and that they go where they like with but with little chance of interference from the police, these robberies will become even more frequent. Respecting the movements of the police, all we can say is that “they are out.”

Yesterday afternoon, between one and two o’clock the bushrangers were seen at Mummell; going apparently in the direction of Laggan. — Goulburn Argus.

2 thoughts on “Spotlight: Robberies by Hall & Co. (November 1864)

  1. Great post. I wish there were more such posts relating conversations between the bushrangers and their victims. Quite few laughs in the post too. The bushrangers had a droll sense of humour. interesting, the hold up of the Yass mail must have been very close to Byrnes farm at Mutbilly.

    Liked by 1 person

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