Governor King in his despatch to Earl Camden shifted any responsibility for the fighting on the frontier away from his land grants along the Hawkesbury to the treachery of Aboriginal people. His despatch reinforced the link between the harvesting of the corn and fighting. His comment “no consideration can restrain them from destroying a much greater quantity than they can consume by eating” strongly suggests that the destruction of the corn fields was a strategic act of war on the part of Aboriginal people. How widespread these attacks were is unknown leaving open the question of whether particular settlers only were targeted.
‘Governor King to Earl Camden
30th April, 1805
I am much concerned to state that, within these Three Weeks past, the Natives have been very troublesome among the distant Settlements at the South Creek and the lower part of the Hawkesbury River. It has constantly happened that the moredistant Settlers have been much incommoded by those irruptions at the Time the Maize is ripe, And I am very confident that the Settlers in those Situations have been extremely liberal to the Natives, however, this has not been sufficient to deter the latter from the most ungrateful and Treacherous Conduct at the Moment they have been on the most Friendly Terms with the Settlers, Two recent instances of which I cannot omit communicating to Your Lordship. In My Letter by the Lady Barlow,136* I stated the Circumstance of some Misunderstanding between the Branch†137 Settlers and Natives, and the Measures I had taken in assuring the latter that no more people should be settled below those already fixed. The Tranquillity that ensued led me to hope that mutual Confidence and good-Will was restored; but I am sorry those hopes have been disappointed. A Native, while in the act of eating with one of the Settlers and his Labouring Man, had scarce ended his Meal before he took an opportunity of seizing the Settler's Musket and Powder, and by a Yell summoned his Companions, who instantly put the unfortunate Settler to death and left his Servant, as they thought, in that State. Another Horror, but still more savage than the former, took place the same Day about Three Miles from where the firstMurder was committed. The House belonging to a Settler was set on Fire by the same Band of Natives. After a search the mangled and burnt Limbs of the Settler and his Man were foundsome in the Ashes and others scattered. These Barbarities calling forth Assistance necessary to stop such Acts, I directed a party of Military to take post at the Branch and to drive the Natives from thence, first assuring them that if the Murderers were given up all further Resentment should cease. However, the Velocity with which these people Remove from One place to another put it out of the Guards' power to follow them, and since then they have begun their Depredations at the South Creek, where they have unfortunately murdered Two Stock-keepers. A Detachment has been sent to that Quarter, but I am sorry to say that until some of them are killed there is no hope of their being quiet. Notwithstanding the liberality with which the Settlers supply these people with Corn and many other Comforts to keep on good Terms with them, yet at the period of the Maize Harvest no consideration can restrain them from destroying a much greater quantity than they can consume by eating. The least Check on the part of the Settler is an injury never to be forgiven, and from thence arise those disagreements and the bad consequences attending the partial Broils between the Natives and distant Settlers. That every endeavour has been used to prevent those Events I need only refer Your Lordship to my former Communications on that Head. No complaint of a native has ever been disregarded but an instant Investigation as followed, which was only once in the course of last Year. The White Man's crime did not extend beyond striking the native, who he said designed to plunder him; but as no Act of plunder was committed he was ordered by the Magistrates to Gaol for Six Months. This Reparation at the Time was thought a sufficient Atonement. But it constantly happens that those imaginations are heated and excited to Action by the accidental recollection of an Injury which was expiated long past. This is so often the case among themselves in their Rencounters with each other that it is not, to be wondered the same Idea should obtain with respect to the former real or imaginary Evils they may have received from White People.
In consequence of those unprovoked Acts and the Apprehensions the distant Settlers are under, I found it necessary to give the General Order*138 of the 28th Inst., which I hope will soon put a periodto those partial excesses committed by the Natives.’139
Wednesday 1st May, 1805
The peace conference initiated by the Bidjigal people of Prospect is significant because it largely brought an end to the hostilities and endured for a number of years. As they were largely surrounded by settlement it is logical that the Bidjigal were the initiator of this action. Like most other accounts of interactions between Aboriginal people and settlers the historical record is sparse with many gaps that can only be filled speculatively. However, a careful reading of this document and related documents reveals much. This is the only document that points to the role of Aboriginal women in such negotiations. As well, the Bidjigal played a sophisticated hand in dealing with Marsden. The principals that they identified were all from the Hawkesbury or the Burragorang Valley and the guide who volunteered to help find these men was Tedbury, Pemulwuy’s son, a Bidjigal man and a principal in the attack upon the stockmen. Needless to say Tedbury did not find any of the accused men.
‘Sunday 5th May, 1805
It being intimated to the Reverend Mr. Marsden on Wednesday last that the Natives of Prospect wished a conference with him, with a view of opening the way to a reconciliation, that Gentleman readily undertook the mission, and repaired without hesitation or delay to the appointed place of rendezvous. On his arrival the only persons visible were three native women, by whom he was informed that the men desirous of conversing with him were then in the woods, whither they had betaken themselves with a design of summoning a more general consultation on the subject; but that immediately on their return, a deputation composed of three persons would be dispatched to Parramatta to report the result of their errand. Three men in consequence waited on Mr. Marsden on Thursday, under the guidance and protection of Mr. John Kennedy, a settler.140 Declaring a speedy reconciliation to be the desired object of their embassy, Mr. Marsden acquainted them with the only terms upon which it could be ventured on, namely, the surrender of those who were principally active in the recent horrible enormities; explaining at the same time that until this demand should be complied with, none of them could be admitted on the grounds of any settler. Without starting objection to the demand, they appeared to be somewhat concerned at their inability to render information of more than one of the chief aggressors; but nevertheless pledged themselves that upon the following day he should receive every necessary information from a party at or in the neighbourhood of Prospect; and some of whom they doubted not would readily engage in pursuit of the murderers. Mr. Marsden was exact to this appointment also, and on Friday met them again at Prospect, where, though they were scattered in prodigious numbers through the surrounding wood, yet not more than twenty approached near enough to be conversed with. The information insisted on of the names of the principal murderers was extorted by degrees from the division inhabiting the Cow-pasture Plains; but all positively resisted the demand of aiding in their apprehension, until Mr. Marsden in a determined tone forbade their hope of reconciliation until the terms insisted on should be complied with; when one141 advancing, volunteered himself for the expedition, upon which 6 of the military were detached, accompanied by Warby,142 and a second native who afterwards offered his joint assistance as a guide. The names of the persons accused by their own tribes are, Talboon,143 Corriangee,144 & Doollonn, Mountain natives; Moonaning & Doongial, Branch natives; and Boon-du-dullock, a native of Richmond Hill.’145
5th May, 1805
A Number of Natives, composed of the Families well known about Prospect and Parramatta, with some Strangers from the Cow Pastures having put themselves under the protection of the Magistrates at Parramatta, and are sit down at the Brush between Prospect and George's River, they are not to be molested in that situation; some of them having accompanied a party to apprehend the Murderers of the two Settlers and the two Stockmen.
The attack described in the following articles probably broke Aboriginal resistance on the Hawkesbury. It is significant that the attack was made possible by two Aboriginal guides who apparently sought Aboriginal women as their reward which suggests that the target group were a clan with women and children, not a group of warriors acting alone with the women and children in safety some distance away.
That these Aboriginal men were prepared to act against other Aboriginal people suggests divisions amongst Aboriginal people as well flagging as the dependence of Aboriginal people upon by Europeans who occupied their land. However, consideration must be given to the possibility that for the Aboriginal guides, this course of action was possibly the only way in which they could save some of the women from rape and murder. It is possible that one of the guides was Colebee, the son of Yellomundee. Certainly Colebee went on to become a guide for Cox in 1814 and the military in 1816. Arming these Aboriginal men with muskets indicates the complexity of relations between Aboriginal people and Europeans and challenges stereotypes about Aboriginal people gaining access to guns.
Yaragowhy, Charley, and others were killed. Both of these men had considerable interaction with the settlers and their deaths in this action highlight the complexity of relations between settlers and Aboriginal people and strongly suggest that the conflict was a typical irregular war where the occupying forces were never certain of the identity of friend or foe.
While the article identifies the Aboriginal people as “Branch natives” the location of the action is near neither the McDonald nor the Colo Rivers, but probably at Shaw’s Creek, above the junction of the Grose and Hawkesbury/Nepean Rivers. Given the geographic confusion that abounded in the Gazette at this time, it is most likely that Howe, under the Governor’s guidance, was attempting to conceal the extent of the conflict from the British government.
The modern reader attempting to follow these maneuvers on a modern map should be warned that the floods of the 1860’s significantly altered the courses of the Nepean, Hawkesbury and Grose Rivers. Weakened by land clearing “the banks of the river and acres and acres of farms nearby were swept away”, shifting the Nepean River half a mile to the east. As well the Grose had “a great washaway” which resulted in the Grose joining the Nepean Hawkesbury River a mile further downstream. The original junction of the Grose with the Hawkesbury River was upstream of the present Yarramundi Bridge.147 ‘The implacable disposition for some weeks manifested by the natives has at length provoked the adoption of coercive measures on the part of the settlers, and which, tho' determined on with reluctance, were yet unfertunately (sic) necessary to the preservation of their lives and property. On Sunday last several groups were assaulted near the Mountains, among whom Yaragowhy, Charley, and four or five are said to have fallen. The latter of the two above mentioned was at one time a subject of dread to the out-settlers and the traveller; but of late has shewn a strong disposition to amity, until the commencement of the present warfare. This fellow, who fell more by accident than from design, had in some measure renounced the native mode of living ; and in contradiction to the idea vulgarly entertained of their innate disgust to Labour, has actually had a small spot of ground for cultivation, in the management of which he imitated the experienced cultor with every success, and patiently awaited the maturity of its produce. Upon the whole, however, he was one of the most dangerous and perfidious, and notwithstanding his numerous obligations to the settler's friendship, could not now refrain from the barbarous habits which formerly distinguished him. Between 11 and 12 during the night of yesterday se'nnight, an attempt was made upon the life of James Dunlap, a settler at Prospect, but failed of its execrable purpose. The wretches made their way into his bed-room and after repeatedly wounding him on thehead with an edged implement or weapon, made off. Next morning some footsteps were traced; but from the circumstance of one of the villains being shod, it is difficult to conjecture of what description they were. It is an odious suggestion, possible as it may be at the same time, that a party of natives might have been conducted to the spot by some abandoned fugitive, whose crimes have rendered him hopeless of an extension of mercy from which none are precluded who have a genuine desire to obtain it. On Sunday last a party of natives visited the Government stock farm at Seven Hills, and after launching several spears at the hut-keeper, happily none of which took effect, contented themselves with stripping the little habitation, with the whole contents of which they made off; and on Tuesday morning the party supposed to have been concerned in the murder of the two stockmen at Capt. McArthur's farm were seen by W. Warby and others, but made off when approached. A second marine attempt from the natives was last week designed at Pittwater, where the William and Mary were palpably attacked the week before. This was upon the sloop Richmond, one of whose people going on shore in the small boat was decoyed into a small inlet by an old native who called himself Grewin, whom he knew to be universally respected by the boatmen, but proved to be the very man that had first attacked Miller's boat. A powerful banditti then shewed themselves : but the Richmond fortunately happening to be landing directly towards them, the ancient impostor enquired if they had any guns, and being assured that they carried at least two thousand, held up his hands in astonishment, and permitted the man's departure.’148
12th May, 1805
‘These people still continue troublesome wherever they find access.149 On Tuesday last150 they made another visit to the Government flock-farm at Seven Hills; but the flockmen were fortunately out of the way; wherefore they were obliged to content themselves with a trifling booty, comprising whatever they could lay their hands on.151 On Wednesday night152 they made a descent on the farm of I. Nichols at Concord;153 and after using their accustomed familiarity with the flockmen’s little property and provision, the man having fortunately fled for safety. They chased and dispersed the flock in all directions. The successful assault made upon the Branch natives by a party of Richmond Hill and adjacent settlers a fortnight since would perhaps have been decisive, as most of the principals must have fallen into our hands, had not the treachery of a man but little suspected prevented their surprise. The country being much inundated at that time the party operating with Mr Thompson,154 set out from the Green Hills for the Nepean, Mr T. having provided a baggage wagon, in which among other necessaries a boat was conveyed for the purpose of crossing the River, not then fordable. The depth of water in many parts of the road approaching the river preventing the wagon from proceeding the boat was of necessity taken apart, and transported by the party on their shoulders for several miles. When they had crossed the river at the spot where the native encampment had been the day before, they perceived that the tents were abandoned; and here the pursuit must have closed had it not been for the assistance rendered by a couple of Richmond Hill natives, who in consequence of repeated proofs of fidelity added to a contempt of their brethren were entrusted with firelocks to attend as guides, with no other desire of reward than a promise of being permitted to seize and retain a wife a-piece. After much additional fatigue the settlers perceived a fire at a distance out of the track they were then in; and taking it for granted they were encamped there, would have made towards it, but were prevented by the assurance of their conductors that it was only a feint to decoy them into a track which their present prospect commanded; so that if they were once alarmed it would be impossible to come up with them. This assurance proved to be just; and in a short time after they found the natives within gun-shot. But still unperceived, they reconnoitred well the situation of the natives, and soon discovered that they were mostly employed in preparing their weapons for the purpose of destruction. Yaragowhy, who Mr Thompson left the day before at the Green Hills under every assurance of strict friendship, had by a nearer cut made his way to their first encampment, to warn them of the attack designed by the settlers; he was now equipped from head to foot in the spoils of the unfortunate men whom they had murdered; his person was not recognised at the instance, especially as he was supposed to be at the Green Hills; and he was the first of seven or eight that fell.155 Such was the consternation at the appearance of so large a party, that they made off without a stand, leaving behind several thousand spears,156 frightfully jagged, and almost certain of carrying mortality along with them. The faithful guides next prevented a division of the expedition from following a number who retreated towards the foot of a precipice, on the summit of which another party had stationed themselves to hurl stupendous rocks upon their heads.157 All the spears and other war implements were burnt and little molestation has since been felt about Hawkesbury. Before he settlers quitted the Mountains Mr Thompson proposed leaving a defence with Serjeant Aicken, his being a solitary farm on the Mountain side of the Nepean. This was a truly fortunate circumstance for the same evening the well known and little suspected Charley paid a visit to Mr. Aiken, and in a friendly manner requested and obtained such relief pretended want as the house afforded. After making minute enquiry whether any arms were in the house or not, but at the same time breathing the kindest assurances of his protection, he advanced towards the bed room in which the armed persons were concealed; and Mr. Aiken not willing that his state of preparation should be known, requested him not to enter that apartment. A truce to friendship – a volley of abuse was poured forth by the villain. A single call brought Mr. Aiken’s friends from their cover, upon which Charley endeavoured to escape, but was shot dead. The others disappeared in a few minutes; but the next morning rallied and were again repulsed. In consequence a report on Thursday to the Commanding officer of the New South Wales Corps stating that a body of hostile natives were assembled between Sydney the half-way houses, two bodies were detached to disperse them, one by land, and the other by water, in order to examine the numerous creeks and avenues along-shore158:- but upon the strictest search it was clearly determined the information was erroneous, as was happily the report also some barbarities being actually practised at the house of the district constable.159 On Wednesday last160 a party of the Corps detached for the defence of the out-settlers having occasion to cross the Nepean, availed themselves of an offer from two natives who declared themselves amicably disposed to ferry them over one by one in their canoe, but whether from design or accident cannot be exactly be reported, the vehicle was upset in the center (sic) of the river when Robert Rainer was passing over, and he, we are concerned to add, was unfortunately drowned. Yesterday fortnight an attempt was made by a large party to arrest W. Evans on the Parramatta road, three miles beyond the half-way houses.161 He fortunately happened to be well mounted; and had overtaken an unfortunate pedestrian just before the natives shewed themselves on each side of the road. Evans presented a stirrup, of which the other eagerly availed himself; and as the urgency of the moment would not permit the slightest accommodation from a slack pace, the poor fellow was necessitated either to quit his hold and lose all hope of security, or to match himself against the speed of a Pegasus, whose wings were but little shortened by the terror of its rider. The black legion gave chases; but finding themselves out galloped, declined the pursuit after scampering about 300 yards, which one of the parties lengthens to at leastthree miles.’162
13th May, 1805
‘Major Johnston, Commanding officer of the New South Wales Corps, on Monday last163 left Sydney at His EXCELLENCY’s request, on a visit to Hawkesbury for the purpose on enquiring directly into the extent of damage sustained to the settler’s property from the various incursions of the natives; of which we have every reason to believe the reports heretofore published convey but a faint idea, as few, if any of the out-farms have escaped pillage to an amount more or less considerable. The above Officer was attended on the expedition by a single trooper; and after an extensive survey returned to town on Thursday evening. Last Monday a party composed of the settlers on the Northern Boundary and Baulkham Hills, joined by the constables of Parramatta went in quest of the natives in the neighbourhood of Pendant Hills, in order to disperse them, and prevent any ravages in that quarter, having previously driven off a number secreted in the Northern Rocks, who being alarmed by their dogs, escaped, many of the dogs being killed by the settlers.164 At Pendant Hills the same night one of their number was apprehended, whose vices have on many occasions rendered his very name terrifying to the unwary passengers. This fellow proves to be Tedbury, the son of theassassin Pemulwoy, under whose horrible tuition and example he imbibed propensities of the most diabolical complexion. He was conducted in to Parramatta, when in crossing the bridge he slipped his jacket and had nearly escaped from custody; but failing in which he was taken before Major JOHNSTON and the Rev. Mr. MARSDEN, by whom the miscreant was soon brought over, and declared one of the ruffians who volunteered his guidance in quest of the murderers of the stockmen at Prospect to be himself one of the assassins.165 He was further prevailed upon166 to conduct a party to a cavity in the north rocks wherein the property taken from the unfortunate victims to their cruelty lay concealed; and where a tomahawk was found, with which one of their heads was cloven. The party fell in with a small cluster, one of whom, called Bush Muschetta,167saluted them in good English, and declaring a determination to continue their rapacities made off.’168 ‘On Tuesday169 a Richmond Hill native that accompanied Warby to the Mountains in search of some of the chief delinquents of his own colour, fired at and mortally wounded the identical fellow who perpetuated one of the murders at Prospect.They had passed several, whom the guide declared to be innocent of murder; but as soon as the above appeared in view, he burst into a transport of rage, and after pointing him out to Warby, presented his own piece, and shot him.170 A quantity of property of different descriptions has been found at Jerusalem,171near Parramatta, to which Tedbury led the way, having confessed himself a party in most of the robberies committed in that neighbourhood. At least 40 bushels of corn was found secreted in a single cavity.’172
20th May, 1805
Two excerpts from King’s letter to Banks of 20th May, 1805 highlight the contradictions in King’s account of the fighting in 1805. On the one hand King blamed Aboriginal people for starting the fighting by killing settlers and relating these killings to the ripening of crops. On the other hand he lauds the extension of settlement along South Creek. In maintaining his position it was important that King separated these issues.
Our crops the last year have been sufficiently abundant for two years' consumption, notwithstanding the quantity of grain we have sent to the new settlements. We have lately had a misunderstanding with the natives, begun by their killing, in the most unprovoked manner, three settlers and two stock-keepers. I hope we shall be soon reconciled again, as these irruptions always occur when the maize is ripe, which happens to be the case at present. Much good ground has been ascertained in the neighbourhood of the So. Creek,173 which leads from Hawkesbury River, and runs parallel with the Nepean for upwards of thirty miles, which will afford good ground for many settlers.
* For an account of some of these attacks by the natives, see the Sydney Gazette of 21st April, 1805.’174
22nd May, 1805
‘I am sorry to say that some Miles off the Natives still continue their excesses, while the greater part have assembled under the protection of the Magistrates at Parramatta; however, when the Maize is got in their depredations and excesses will probably cease.’
Governor King to Under Secretary Cook175
25th May, 1805
Governor Bligh’s Commission was remarkably similar to Phillip’s, Hunter’s, King’s and Macquarie’s regarding the treatment of Aboriginal people.
‘6th. And whereas we are desirous that some further information should be obtained of the several ports or harbours upon the coasts and the islands contiguous thereto within the limits of your Government, you are, whenever any of our said ships can be conveniently spared .for that purpose, to send one or more of them upon that service. You are to endeavour by every possible means to extend your intercourse with the natives and conciliate their affections, enjoining all our subjects to live in amity and kindness with them; and if any of our subjects shall wantonly destroy them, or give them any unnecessary interruption of the exercise of their several occupations, it is our will and pleasure that you do cause such offenders to be brought to punishment according to the degree of the offence. You will endeavour to procure from time to time accounts of the number of natives inhabiting the neighbourhood of our said settlement, and report your opinions to one of our Secretaries of State in what manner the intercourse with these people may be turned to the advantage thereof.’176
Sunday, 26th May, 1805
The following article is a smug reflection of the effectiveness of the Governor’s General Order banning Aboriginal people from the farms and the operations against Aboriginal people. Tedbury had been captured. Talloon was probably dead and Andrew Thompson had a striking success at or near Shaw’s Creek. The article utilises the concept of the “tabula rasa”, or blank slate, to reduce Aboriginal people to the level of mischievous children and portray the settlers as civilising parents. Despite the smugness and hypocrisy of the article, the reference to “a temporary banishment from their accustomed habitations”, i.e., the farms, demonstrates clearly the interdependent relationship of many Aboriginal people and settlers for food, shelter and protection.
‘The natives tired of their mischiefs, will no doubt sue for the renewal of an intercourse debarred from which their natural wants must be excessive. To those who have witnessed the benefits of civilization, and themselves benefited from the hospitality which it teaches, a separation is less to be endured than every imagination is capable of conceiving; not only because it diminishes their means of support by an exclusion from the settlers' liberality, but as it inflicts a temporary banishment from their accustomed habitations, which forms a principal attachment in the unenlightened mind, and harrows the feelings with the remembrance of absent objects. Had they reflected upon probable consequences, it is possible the majority would never have consented to join the perpetrators of the first excesses; but unhappily, the want of reflection is not totally confined to the barbarous condition of man, and though in a savage it can scarcely be considered a privation, yet in a being, taught from his infancy to respect those laws by wisdom framed, and cautiously adopted by the general consent of millions for their mutual preservation, every violation argues a depravity of mind that renders him noxious to society and by the decree of a whole nation divests him of his civil privileges, it is the duty of a parent to watch attentively the dispositions of his charge, and as they sometimes vary, must their treatment likewise. Indulgence to the undutiful would be injurious to the deserving; and unless vice be early suppressed by exemplary chastisement, virtue may itself become contaminate, merely because the necessary distinctions have been neglected. Until the crop of maize shall be wholly gathered the natives will be more or less troublesome; tho' the last accounts respecting them state nothing further than a party were fallen in with a fortnight .ago, by whose wily conduct the persons stationed for the defence of the out-farms were attempted to be drawn into a valley nearly surrounded by high rocks on the summits of which a number were ready to shower stones and spears down upon their heads, but failing in their design, were very soon dispersed;177 and since the above period a small plantation of maize belonging to Robert Watlon at South Head has by them been almost cleared away.’178 One of the most curious tales of that year of war along the Hawkesbury concerned the burning of a succession of farms housing the family of Henry Lamb. The first account reproduced below described Aboriginal warriors setting the house on fire and fleeing towards “the head of the Nepean”, suggesting that they were warriors from the Burragorang Valley. This identification was probably a fabrication given that the Governor was keen to convince the London authorities that the Hawkesbury was domesticated. Given later reports in the Gazette itis highly unlikely that this attack took place, however, this not to say that it did not enter into the lore of the Hawkesbury.179 ‘Last Wednesday a number of natives assembled near the farm of Henry Lamb, at Portland Head, who was absent from home. After remaining some considerable time without manifesting any discretion to violence, they all ascended a ridge of rocks at a trifling distance from the house, where they kindled their fires; and rising suddenly commenced an assault upon the settler’s little property against which it was impossible to devise any means of security. A number of fire-brands were showered about the house and different sheds, which were thrown from a considerable distance by means of the moutang or fish-gig; and the premises being by this time set fire to, were in a short time wholly consumed, the family being able with some difficulty to save themselves. The settler on his return went immediately in pursuit of the wanton assailants towards the interior of the Mountains; but by a feint they eluded pursuit, having first taken that route and afterwards struck off for the head of the Nepean.’180
Sunday, 2nd June, 1805
On Wednesday se’nnight Wm. Stubbs, a settler on the River Hawkesbury,181 was unfortunately drowned in crossing that river in a canoe; a second person was accompanying him, and when in about the center (sic) the vehicle unexpectedly upset, and the above unfortunate man depending on his ability to swim on shore, advised his companion not to quit the boat, as it would be sure to drift, on the banks. He did so, and saved his life and Mr. Stubbs, after very nearly gaining the shore, unfortunately became entangled among a cluster of reeds, from which unable to extricate himself, it was his fate to perish in the presence of one of his children, who witnessed the melancholy disaster from the bank. The accident is the more afflicting, as the deceased leaves a widow and large family to deplore his untimely fate; the circumstances that led to which still heighten the calamity. The house was the day before surrounded by natives, at whose appearance Mrs. Stubbs being excessively alarmed, she fled towards the river side, and would have precipitated herself into the stream, had she not been prevented by assurances from one of the natives that she or her infants should not be harmed. They afterwards gutted the house of its whole contents, and retreated with the plunder, and as soon as the deceased was made acquainted with what had happened, were closely pursued towards the Mountains, but in vain, as no single article of the property was recovered. As not a requisite to comfort remained to the family, Mrs. Stubbs set out that night for Parramatta, in order to procure a few requisites more immediately wanting; and during her absence the unfortunate event of her husband's death took place. In addition to the lamentable circumstances that tend to multiply embarrassment upon the above unfortunate family, we have feelingly to mention that, that within the space of twelve months they have been four times bitterly distressed by hostile natives, who have at either time stripped them of domestic comforts or swept their fields before them. The poor child who sadly witnessed the dying struggles of an unfortunate parent is a fine boy, nearly eight years old; and eldest of four helpless Orphans in the dispensation of the Divine Will left to deplore a father’s loss. For poignant affliction, happy for the unfortunate, Heaven still provides by bestowing its bounties upon some among the many, who by the most delightful application give testimony, that all Mankind are not insensible of what they owe to Providence, and when distress like this presents her claim to sensibility, generously steps forward to discharge the debt.’182
9th June, 1805
‘We are concerned to state that the natives have Lately been very troublesome about the farms on the banks of George's River, Last week they plundered the grounds of Mr. Strode; but were resolutely opposed by one servant and a neighbouring settler who came to his assistance. A prodigious number of spears were thrown, to which musket shot were returned as long as their ammunition lasted; - and just as it was expended they found themselves completely hemmed in upon all sides by the natives, and their retreat effectively cut off by an impassable creek; but favoured in providence in this last extremity a third person whom the report of musketry had alarmed came to their assistance; and the assailants probably supposing others at hand, betook themselves to flight, having first set fire to the dwelling house and done every other mischief in their power. The articles of property belonging to Henry Lamb, last week mentioned to have been fired by the natives and consumed, comprised his dwelling house, barn, a stack of barley, a cask of meat, household furniture, and whole wearing apparel of his family. Mrs. Lamb was at a small distance from the dwelling in which she left an infant asleep; and perceiving a smoke issue from the roof, hastened back to the house, which was in a blaze before she entered it, and scarcely permitted her with safety to rescue the child from the flames. Two labouring servants at work in an adjacent field ran to her assistance; but the fire raged with such violence as to render every exertion to save a single article ineffectual.’183 The following paragraph forms part of the article in which the above entry appears. It is one of the more perceptive that appeared in the Gazette. The observation thatAboriginal people moved around in small family groups reinforces my contention that the attacks made by several hundred warriors probably represented the combined manhood from the Burragorang Valley down to the mouth of the Hawkesbury and into the Hunter. The author’s reason for Aboriginal people moving around in small groups, i.e., “incompetency of subsistence” reinforces his previous assertions on the lowly status of Aboriginal people and implies that settlers with their superior standing in the great chain of being would face no such problems from a hostile environment.
‘The natives do not appear in large numbers; but in small parties, seeming rather as small families separated from their tribes. Their propensity to mischief does not yet abated: and although their numbers are not formidable in one place, yet by treachery they accomplished more than by open menace. The cause of their dividing into considerable parties is apparently in the incompetency of subsistence to be procured for a considerable number.’184
9th June, 1805
While the destruction of the camp near Yarramundi and the dispersal of its people appeared to have brought quiet to the upper Hawkesbury, the fighting continued downstream, on the Georges River and on South Creek. The Bidjigal people appeared to have made their peace and Musquito was apprehended.
THE Natives having solicited to return to Sydney and Parramatta, no molestation is to be offered to those frequenting the above places, provided they behave quietly: Otherwise they are to be reported to the Magistrate, who will order them to be confined. The Natives about Hawkesbury and George's River still continuing their depredations, the General Order of the 27th of April is to continue in force respecting those places; and it is hoped the apprehension of the native called Musquito might effectually prevent any further mischief in those quarters.
By Command of His Excellency,
G. BLAXCELL, Acting Sec. Government House, Sydney,
June 9, 1805.’185
9th June, 1805
Cuddy’s and Crumby’s farms were burnt for a second time, a year after the first attack. Locating Cuddy’s farm at Portland Head may have been a deliberate error to preserve the fiction for English readers that the upper Hawkesbury and South Creek was “domesticated”. ‘Last Sunday186 the natives did considerable damage on Cuddy’s187 farm at Portland Head; and continuing to menace the neighbouring settlers, information was forwarded to the Magistrate at Hawkesbury; who immediately dispatched a party to apprehend if possible the principal aggressors; but the banditti,188 perhaps apprehensive of their danger, had dispersed before the party arrived. In addition to the account contained in the foregoing page of excesses committed very recently on Cuddy’s farm (at Hawkesbury) we are sorry to learn that he mischief is much more serious and alarming than we were at first apprised of: for not content with plunder they wantonly set the house on fire; by the same means destroying the premises of -------- Crombie.’189
Saturday 15th June, 1805
‘The natives on Saturday last190 stripped the farmhouse of William Knight, settler at Boston's Reach191 Portland Head. At about half past three in the afternoon none were visible, and the settler went with his man into an adjoining field; but were not many paces from the house before they were alarmed with the shouts of a number, who were rushing at the door, under cover of about a dozen, who with spears shipped, cut off their communication. Branch Jack brought out the settler's musket, and calling him by name, assured him they were by no means apprehensive of the consequences; they then plundered the place, and carried off every article they could find, of bedding, wearing apparel, tea & sugar, meat, &c &c, to an amount which the sufferers declare one hundred pounds sterling would not replace.’192
15th June, 1805 and following fortnight
The following article is important for two reasons. Firstly, Abraham Yeouler’s farm was not burnt by “a party of natives” as reported in the Gazette. The next Gazette extract revealed that Yeouller’s barn and crops were set on fire by a young girl taken in by the Yeoullers, not this non existent marauding party. Secondly, the capture of the nine people led to the taking of Musquito and Bulldog and the release of Tedbury. Unfortunately there is no other information regarding the identity of these nine people. One can only surmise the importance of these people. The use of the word “apprehended” by the Gazette without any report of wrongdoing carries the implication that these people were deliberately taken as hostages. This is supported by their being taken into Parramatta and being treated well. It is possible that the nine were Bidjigal Elders.
‘Yesterday fortnight the Farm of Abraham Yeouler at Portland Head was attacked by a party of the natives, who set fire to his barn and stacks which we are sorry to hear were wholly consumed; and after their mischievous inclination, effected their escape. Since the above period nine of these obstinate people have been apprehended and conducted into Parramatta; when, so opposite was their treatment to that which their desperate conduct had taught them to expect, that several of the number immediately made a voluntary tender of their services to guide a Party in quest of their infatuated kinsmen who still wantonly continue to provoke hostility. For this service two were accepted to go in search of Musquetta, who with Branch Jack and one or two more of his desperate associates, still keeps the flame alive. The remaining seven are for the present held in custody.’193
Sunday, 7th July, 1805
Reports of a raiding party of Aboriginal people burning the Lamb’s farm with fiery missiles in the Gazette of 2nd June 1805were proven to be imaginary, as was their burning of Yeuller’s barn and crops as reported on 30th June 1805. The Gazette of 7th July 1805 with all the hyperbole customary to the period revealed that an ungrateful Aboriginal girl taken in by the Lamb’s was responsible. It was a strange case made stranger by the fact that there was an arsonist in the Lamb household. Elizabeth Chambers, Henry Lamb’s partner had set fire to her master’s house in 1791 to cover her thefts.194This article is also important in the way that it signalled the end of hostilities on the Sydney Plain in 1805. Musquito was brought in, the nine captives were released and the Hawkesbury natives were added to those already under the protection of the Governor’s General Orders. From the Colo River downstream hostilities still continued to the end of the year.
‘It has been discovered that the perpetrator in setting fire to the houses lately destroyed at Hawkesbury was no other than a native girl, not exceeding 13 years, reared from her infancy by Henry Lamb, in whose family she had ever remained, and was a perfect stranger as well to the district as the manners of her kindred. This juvenile incendiary was detected in the very act of attempting to destroy with fire-brand the premises of Thomas Chaseland; and immediately acknowledged that she had set fire to the premises of her benefactor and the kind protector of her infant years, who had rescued her when abandoned to famine in the woods, and clinging to the breast of her departed mother, but taken home and cherished, was ordained by fate to attempt to ruin her preserver, who still continued to afford her refuge.195 After Lamb was burnt out he took shelter at the farm of Yeouller196 and here the little miscreant gave a second instance of her monstrous depravity. Chaseland's was the next retreat of the distressed family of which she was still a member; and but for the interposition of providence here also would she have accomplished her execrable purpose - but fortunately fell a sacrifice to her unparalleled depravity, perfidy and ingratitude. To render still more unaccountable the conduct of this juvenile desperado, she had never been observed to intermingle with the native Tribes, nor to hold any intercourse among them though she had frequently been missed of late, until shortly before her excesses commenced she had several times been in conversation with a boy rather older than herself.197 Postscript. – Last week several Natives suspected of being concerned in the late Outrage, were commited to Parramatta Gaol by the Rev. Mr. Marsden; but were liberated on Tuesday last on a promise to use their utmost endeavours to apprehend the native called Musquito, who had been reported by the Natives themselves, and also by the White Men who have gone in search of them, as the Principal in all the wanton sorts of cruelty of Cruelty they have perpetuated. We are happy to add, that they fulfilled their promise, and the above Culprit was last night lodged in Parramatta Gaol.198 GENERAL ORDERS.
The Natives, after giving up the Principal in the late Outrages, having generally expressed a Desire to COME IN and many being on the Road from Hawkesbury199 and other Quarters to meet the Governor at Parramatta, NO MOLESTATION whatever is to be offered them in ANY Part of the Colony --- unless any of them should renew their late Acts, which is not probable, as a RECONCILIATION will take place with the Natives generally.
By Command of His Excellency,
Government House, G. BLAXCELL
Sydney, July 7, 1805200
20th July, 1805
Governor King to Earl Camden
The Governor’s despatch contains the Judge Advocate’s opinion on the treatment of Aboriginal people. Atkins avoided examining the cause of hostilities. He found that Aboriginal people while under the protection of the crown could not participate in the legal system as defendants or as witnesses. His main finding was that if Aboriginal people transgressed they should be pursued and punished. Atkins’s document is also important in its revelation “that a considerable number of them have fallen”, a finding that is not reflected in the governor’s despatches. Unfortunately the letters of Andrew Thompson and Obadiah Iken do not appear to have survived. Apart from this document there is no record of an attack on Dunn.
‘3. Referring to my General letter of the 30th April last I am happy to inform Your Lordship that the Natives’ late excesses are terminated, by their voluntarily giving up the Aggressors who are now at their own Desire and conducted by them lodged in the Gaol at Parramatta which has produced a good Understanding - That the Natives now confined were principally implicated in the Murder of the Two Settlers and Stock men there can be no doubt on the most circumstantial and conclusive proof.201 4. Considering it my duty to cause Justice being done to Natives as well as the Settlers, I required the Judge Advocate’s opinion how far such a Measure could be practicable – His answer I have the honour to enclose, by which Your Lordship will observe the existing Objections and inconvenience of trying the Natives whose Natural inclination for taking the most sanguinary Revenge for trifling supposed ill treatment scarcely makes it a Crime with them – Their customs admitting the Murder of another and his friends to defend himself against the Relations or Tribe of the deceased. The settlers etc. Killed by the natives were four, viz. Two Settlers and Two Stockmen – From the necessity of coercive Measures being taken, Six of the Natives and those the most guilty were Shot in a pursuit by the Settlers – I have therefore impressed on the Natives that altho’ the Delinquents now in custody ought to suffer, Yet as Two Blackmen more than Settlers have been shot, I shall forego any further retaliation, but as they were so desirous of showing their Sorrow for what had passed by giving up the Delinquents202 and requiring they might be punished, I should try the expedient of sending them to another Settlement to labour which has been much approved of by the rest – Thus our late disputes have ended and I hope they will continue in those domestic Habits with the Settlers they have been accustomed to, and are now enjoying. One of the Settlers having engaged Four to stay with him as hired servants for a limited Time, I hope others may be induced to do the same without restraining the Natives’ Inclination.
Governor King to Earl Camden, 20th July 1805’203
Monday, 8th July, 1805
‘JUDGE-ADVOCATE ATKINS' OPINION ON THE TREATMENT OF NATIVES
In obedience to your Excellency's Injunctions to me, I have given the two Paragraphs in the Letter*204 of H.M. Secretary of State to the Executive Government of this Colony, respecting the Treatment of the Natives, all the consideration in my Power. I have further read the whole of the Correspondence of Mr. Arndell and other with your Excellency's, stating the Outrages committed by the Natives of the Hawkesbury, &c., and I am now to give my Opinion thereon, which I do with the greatest deference. It is in vain to make it a Question from whence those excuses originated - from the inherent brutality of the Natives or from real or supposed Injuries they may have sustained from the Settlers. It becomes more the Object to consider of the best method to prevent it in future; and here two Paths naturally present themselves - that of rigor or lenity. If the first is pursued, can it be done legally? I mean, can it be done conformably to the existing laws? I think it cannot; for the evidence of Persons not bound by any moral or religious Tye can never be considered or construed as legal evidence. Your Excellency well knows that the Members of the Court of Criminal Judicature are sworn to give a true Verdict according to the Evidence; and however strong the necessity of making Public Examples of the Offending Natives may appear, can it supersede that Obligation on their (the Members) consciences? And should the Members of the Court apply to me for my opinion as Judge-Advocate, can I say it is legal, and according to Law? The Natives are within the Pale of H.M. protection; but how can a Native, when brought to Trial, plead Guilty to an Indictment, the meaning and tendency of which they must be totally ignorant of? Plead they must before Evidence can be adduced against them, and Penal Laws cannot be stretched to answer a particular exigency. Under these conclusions, it may be asked, What remedy can be applied? In any other Country Arms would be put into the hands of such persons who might be the most likely to suffer, that they might materially protect each other; but this experiment might be subject in this Colony to great inconveniences, and it is what must be submitted to the Executive Government. It would have been a fortunate Circumstance had Villages been built for the residence of the Settlers, and their farms have radiated, as from a Center; (sic) but as it is, they must devise some means of protecting themselves by dedicating part of their time to their mutual protection, and no doubt will received from Government all that assistance within its power to give. Might not such Settlements most subject to the visits of the Natives be divided into Districts, and a certain number of its Inhabitants be daily employed in guarding that District? Lenient measures with the Natives adjacent to the Hawkesbury I fear (from experience) will avail but little. It appears that the Evidence of Henry Lamb and Richard Morgan goes very much in favour of Dunn; for therein it is stated that Dunn was only defending his own property from common Depredators, who, at the time he wounded one of them, were in the act of Stealing and carrying away that property, and resistance against them the Laws justified.205 Major Johnston's letter to Your Excellency states that Talloon, one of those who Murdered Mrs. McArthur's Stockmen, was shot by the Party. Andrew Thompson's Letter of the 27th April to Mr. Arndell says that a considerable Number of them were killed by his party. Ob. Ikin's letter states his party as having destroyed many of them. It full appears from the above that a considerable number of them have fallen Sacrifices to their excesses. This may possibly (through fear) point out to the Survivors the necessity of regulating their future conduct by other means than those hitherto adopted; if not, self-defence will justify the most coercive measures being exercised against them. The object of this letter is to impress the Idea that the Natives of this Country (generally speaking) are at present incapable of being brought before a Criminal Court, either as Criminals or as Evidences; that it would be a mocking of Judicial Proceedings and a Solecism in Law; and that the only mode at present, when they deserve it, is to pursue and inflict such punishment as they may merit. As Your Excellency wished me to write fully on this subject, the above is submitted to Your Excellency's consideration by
RD. ATKINS, J.A.
Sydney , July 8th, 1805.’206
4th August, 1805
‘Young Tedbury was set at liberty yesterday se’ennight, at the intreaty of the friendly natives who assisted in the capture of Musquito, each having pledged himself to bear every severity that any future mischief on the part of Tedbury should expose them to. The lenity extended to them at all times when the spirit of destruction ceases to predominate, must sooner or later have its natural operation in convincing them how little their safety depends upon their own ability, and consequently how much they are indebted to the liberal clemency of our Government.’207
Sunday, 11th August, 1805
Providence once more intervened to save a life. This time it was an infant of mixed parentage. Already abandoned by his white father his mother had been attacked with a tomahawk. As the child was four years old, when separated from his mother by Thomas Rickerby and baptised John Pilot Rickerby by the Reverend Marsden, it is unlikely that the mother’s offence was to give birth to a child of mixed parentage as asserted by the Gazette. Nor does the Gazette provide proof that the attacker was Aboriginal.
‘Divine Service will be performed this day at Hawkesbury by the Rev. Mr. MARSDEN, with the ceremony of holy Baptism to such children as shall be presented to receive the sacred benefit; among the little candidates for which we are gratified in mentioning a native boy three years old, rescued from a barbarous fate shortly after his birth by Mr. Thomas Rickerby, in whose humanity it finds a benevolent asylum. The offence attributed to the unhappy infant was its colour, and his mother's incontinence condemned, both to destruction. She was barbarously mangled with a tomahawk, and left to expire of her wounds, the faultless innocent, clinging to her breast, mercilessly abandoned to the severe pangs of famine. The account of this horrible transaction accidentally reaching the settlement, Mr. R. went to the spot, where he found them covered with flakes of bark, to which the slaughterers in a returning paroxysm of resentment might possibly have set fire. But providence interposing, the child was saved unhurt, and every care being paid to the woman. She was removed to a place of security and medical aid restored. During the night of Monday last two Natives confined in Parramatta gaol as the most active in the late unprovoked barbarities attempted to break from custody, but were prevented by a prisoner, who overhearing them alarmed the turnkey. They had ingeniously contrived to loosen some of the stone work by the help of a spike nail, having previously avowed a determination to set fire to the building, and destroy every white man with in it. They attacked the man who had occasioned their disappointment: but were secured without mischief; and in consideration of his good conduct in preventing the escape of two criminals whose turpitude might have engendered new excesses, the informer was set at liberty by order of the resident Magistrate.’208
Early September, 1805
‘A Hawkesbury boat was attacked in the River at the beginning of last week by a banditti of branch natives, but failed in their attempt to take the vessel, and were repelled with the loss of Woglomigh; who was shot through the head; and there was much reason to suppose Branch Jack shared a like fate.’209
Monday 2nd September, 1805
‘The assault made by the natives upon the Hawkesbury vessel,210 mentioned last week, took place off Mangrove Point. There were five persons on board one of whom had set out in a small boat for Mr. Thompson’s saltpans at Mullet Island; but being menaced by the natives availed himself of the offer to go in the vessel. This man and Pendegrass, who had charge of her, went down the after hatch, and the others the fore hatch to take an hour’s rest, being fatigued: the natives had been on board, but prevailed on by presents lo leave the vessel. All were asleep but Pendergrass, and he, slumbering off, conjectured he heard a whisper upon deck.; he started suddenly, and looking up the hatchway, beheld several natives with spears, the foremost of whom, Woglomigh, seized hold of him and the old man gaining the deck, maintained a struggle unheard by any of his companions. Giving way to superior strength, and numbers having now surrounded him, he was thrown across the fire-tub and received a wound in the hand from the jag of a spear he caught hold of as one of the assailants was about to thrust it into his breast. Another weapon was raised by Woglomigh himself, and upon the very point of being lunged into his body, when the salt boiler, who had been awakened by his cries, sprung upon deck with a pistol and applying its muzzle to the ear of the assassin, sent him to the Hades. A dismal yell alarmed the whole and overboard they leaped. The report of the pistol alarmed the men forward, who immediately went up to, the aid of their companions, but by this time their antagonists were overboard and swimming for the shore, where numbers of both sexes continued to howl & shriek. Among those that leaped overboard was Branch Jack, the leader and chief aggressor in the last barbarities exercised by the natives, and the villain that murdered the late unfortunate Llewellen. This wretch was thrice fired at in the water, as he rose to breathe, and to all appearance severely if not mortally wounded in the head. He gained the shore, however, but was unable to totter many paces before he threw himself on the ground, and in a languid tone declared himself m a dying state. His father was among; the shore party who went to his assistance; while several of the boarders were clinging to the stern of the little vessel’s boat supplicating quarter, which they obtained-as the ammunition was expended. A number of jagged spears were found in their canoes and destroyed; those that still conceived themselves in danger were permitted to paddle themselves on shore upon a promise of future amendment; and as an early proof of their contrition, exposed a jacket with some other articles they had stolen, at the same time inviting one of the people to come for them - with what design the menaces and imprecations that succeeded their disappointment was a sufficient testimony. Thus were the lives of five persons preserved by the merest accident that could possibly have been ordained by a protecting providence; and even after the danger was discovered, without arms their resistance might have availed but little. That the death of one of the most noxious and rancorous pests of that part of the river Hawkesbury, and probable death of another, may open a prospect of security is much to be hoped, but the survivors of their impetuous and daring tribe equally t o be dreaded. To be vigilantly prepared and well guarded must therefore constitute the hope of future safety,’211
5th December, 1805
The Gazette reported another apparent attack by the “Branch Natives” on the 8th of December 1805. However, suspicions were aroused, and the Gazette, on the 9th of March 1806 reported that the wife and servant had been arrested for his murder. ‘On Thursday a Coroner's Inquest assembled at Hawkesbury on the body of WilliamYardley, a settler down the River,212 whose death was occasioned by the following melancholy circumstances: A considerable time after himself and family were in bed Wednesday night, the house took fire, and burned with such rapidity as to render their escape difficult: he succeeded nevertheless, with his wife's assistance, in snatching his children from the flames, and then unhappily returned to save some little cloathing, but the roof falling in, he perished in the attempt. The body of the deceased presented a ghastly spectacle to the jurors, whose verdict was appropriate to the event. As the accident of the house taking fire was most unaccountable and mysterious, many people attributed it to the lightning, which was very vivid at the time; but it is a much more probable conjecture that the disaster originated in the rancour of the Branch natives, to whose excesses his activity was a constant curb, and whose hostile inclinations are as manifest as ever. So long as they content themselves with pillaging the settlers' grounds they experience civility and hospitable treatment: but tiring with this comparative moderation, they rush into acts of open and declared hostility; and it is much to be lamented that possibly from the want of sufficient caution, the first objects of their treachery have too frequently become its easy victims.’213
22nd December, 1805
‘The implacable spirit of the Branch natives suffers no opportunity of mischief to escape. Since the commencement of the harvest they have made repeated attempts to set fire to the wheat of different settlers, but from some fortunate accident their odious project has failed of success. In one instance they were detected with firebrands in a field of Thos. Duggan, who with assistance repelled them. Every effort has been made by the Magistrate, Gentlemen, and settlers throughout the district to tranquillize them, but to no effect. Mr. Thompson, chief constable has been repeatedly missioned to enquire into their grievances; and while they offer no subject of complaint, yet they admit the justice of accusation, and promise to desist; but their promises are known to be subject to caprice. The Resource214 on her way from Hawkesbury was attacked at the first branch with a shower of stones, thrown under cover of the brush wood. The first missile salutation taking her hands unprepared, had nearly been attended with disagreeable consequences, as the fragments were weighty, and their velocity excessive'.’215 In 1805 there were no land grants made on the Hawkesbury.
The extension of settlement to the Cow Pastures in 1805 may well have been the trigger for a Aboriginal alliance that stretched the length of the Nepean and Hawkesbury Rivers. Governor King’s General Orders, Andrew Thompson’s operations at Shaw’s Creek plus the peace overtures at Prospect brought hostilities to a close. A careful reading of the Gazette and the Governor’s despatches strongly suggests the authorities took nine Elders hostage as a means of breaking resistance. This led to the imprisonment of Musquito and Bull Dog and the subsequent release of Tedbury. Exactly why Musquito was so important is unclear from the records. My personal opinion is that Samuel Marsden was not unhappy at his imprisonmement.