Spotlight: An Interior Settlement of White People (19/09/1828)

Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 – 1842), Friday 19 September 1828, page 2

With the following article, an intelligent Correspondent, who was himself one of the victorious party, as well as among the sufferers by the late robberies in the New Country, has obligingly favored us. The same Correspondent most solemnly assures us, that he is quite convinced of the existence of an interior settlement of white people!!! The blacks speak of it with certainty. We shall now give the account in his own words:—

During the last month, a desperate party of bushrangers has been committing a series of depredations in the neighbourhood of Bathurst, and among the out-stations of the settlers. The establishments of Messrs. Arkell, West, Armstrong, James Hassall, Dr. Harris, H. O’Brien, and T. Mein, have been respectively plundered. The party, at the robbery of Mr. Hassall’s station, were five in number, and all well armed. Before the stores were surrendered, three men inside the hut defended themselves to the last shot, and were at last obliged to surrender, on account of the bushrangers placing the other men belonging to the station opposite the door, and daring the offenders to fire on their own men.

Stores to a very considerable amount were then taken, consisting of sugar, tea, tobacco, soap, clothing, fire-arms, &c. &c. The men were obliged to wait upon the banditti, making tea, cooking mutton chops, and bringing up the horses, three of which, together with a servant, they took away. The next morning the servant and one horse returned; and a stockman of Mr. S. Hassall was pressed to assist in driving the two horses, and two of Mr. West’s bullocks. Information was immediately sent to Bathurst, distant 70 miles from the station, to inform the Police. Serjeant Wilcocks, Corporal Prosser, and four privates, were immediately dispatched by Lieut. Brown, to pursue the robbers. Mr. H.’s robbery took place on the 22d of August.

On the 27th the soldiers were on the spot; and were joined the same evening by Messrs. Hassall and Walker, who had returned from a sheep station, about 80 miles farther in the interior. The next day the Police, Messrs. H. and W. with two servants, began the pursuit. At the same moment Mr. S. Hassal’s men, with the two horses returned. The bushrangers had now got six days start; but from the returned man the Serjeant learnt the spot on which the robbers encamped two nights after the robbery. An aboriginal was now wanted to track them; and on the second day’s march one was found. On the 30th the track of the bushrangers was frequently met with; and in the afternoon of the 31st five additional aborigines joined the party to track “the croppies.” The tracking now proceeded at the rate of four miles in the hour, till sun-down. Being near Mr. Hassal’s outermost station, fresh supplies were taken in, and the number of guides reduced, in order to furnish the means of longer pursuit. The Police gained only a few miles this day, on account of the difficulty of tracking over Dr. Harris’s cattle run. After ten hours incessant work the party encamped.

Early on the 2d Sept. the march commenced, and in proceeding over Cunningham’s Plains to the sheep station of Dr. Harris, all hopes of finding the tracks were nearly lost. Success, however, at length crowned the assiduous labours of the natives, who followed the tracks to the hut of Dr. Harris’ men. From this station three men joined the bushrangers, who took the liberty of tasting a sheep of the Doctor’s flock. The Police party recruited their stock of flour; and after gaining all the information the men were willing to give, continued the march to Mr. H. O’Brien’s station. Here the bushrangers had made free with three sheep, three men, one pack bullock, and some sundries, and made a promise to be considerably more free with some fat oxen and dairy cattle. Night prevented a more continued march.

On the 3d, breakfast was over, fresh supplies taken in, and all ready to march at the first dawn. Mr. Gregson, Mr. O’Brien’s overseer, here joined the party. An aboriginal belonging to this part of the country happened to meet with “the croppies,” and took the Police, and their black guides, to the place where he saw them; and by this opportunity a day’s march was gained. About noon a recent encampment of the bushrangers was discovered; the ashes were warm; a kangaroo dog, stolen from Mr. O’B. was also found lying beside it. The tracking operations were continued in the greatest possible silence; not a word spoken but in a whisper. About three in the afternoon, the blacks passed the word – “smoke” – “bullo bullock” – “make a light, croppy sit down.” Serjeant Wilcocks gave them the orders for the attack, expecting to meet with eleven, but only two were at the fire, playing at cards, and cooking a pot of mutton, upon whom a charge was made. They ran; and before they surrendered were both slightly wounded with balls and sword cuts in several places. The prisoners informed the Serjeant that the party was reduced to nine, and that the other men were then on a robbing expedition to Mr. Mein’s station. Serjeant Wilcocks then divided the party; him-self, two privates, and Mr. Hassal, took a station where they could at the same time keep an eye on the property that had been retaken, and on a passage that led to Mr. Mein’s. Corporal Prosser, two privates, Mr. Gregson, and Mr. Hassal’s servant, were stationed convenient to the route the bush-rangers had taken in the morning. Mr. Walker and servant had the custody of the two prisoners. About an hour elapsed when Mr. Hassall discovered the captain of the banditti, six others, a small pack of kangaroo dogs, and a bullock laden with the spoils of the expedition. The captain, soon perceived the Serjeant’s party, called his men together, threw up his hat, and called to the Police that they were ready. “Surrender” was out of the question. Hard firing commenced. The Police were soon together; but could not prevent the bushrangers ascending a very steep rocky precipice. Shelter was at once secured to the bushrangers behind the rocks, where the horses could not reach. Beaten from one fortress, another presented itself immediately; and retreat and fight was the order of the evening, till the want of day-light, and perhaps of ammunition, produced a cessation of hostilities. All the bushrangers escaped; none of the Police were hurt.

Soon as the party had boiled some tea, the fire was put out, some refreshment was hastily taken, the property and horses secured, the sentinels placed at a convenient distance, and “all hands on the look-out” for morning, or an attack from the bushrangers. At midnight it began to rain which was the first wet lodgings for the party. Early the next morning a party of the Police and a black ascended the hills, in order to secure the tracks, but the rain had effaced all traces of them. It was then agreed to find Mr. Mein’s station; and in search for it the party met the captain; a ball had passed through both thighs in the previous engagement. The trowsers, waistcoat, coat, and hat he wore, belonged to Mr. Hassall, a silk handkerchief to Mr. H’s servant, and shirt to Mr. Walker.

“The most notorious “Donohoe” is one of this party. During the engagement one of the bushrangers was seen to fall by three of the party that went with the Police, who, at that time, was wearing the hat and coat taken upon the captain. It is thought, from this fact, that one was killed, and removed by his companions. These mistaken and dangerous men were going to make an establishment of their own, about 300 miles in the interior, where, they maintain, exists a settlement of white people.”

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