"The Colonial Times" Hobart, V.D.L. (Tasmania),
Tuesday, 13th September 1842.
We have received the first number of two Journals just established at this new Settlement ; one entitled the Portland Mercury and Normanby Advertiser, the other the Portland Guardian and Normanby General Advertiser. These journals are neatly got up, and promise to be of essential benefit to the community of a part of the country the transactions in which have hitherto been so little known ; the publicity given thereto is also of importance to every party having any stake or interest in that district. The following intelligence from the first named journal will, we trust, impel the immediate attention of the proper authorities towards the prevention of such abominable occurrences for the future. How a few hundred inhabitants can support two newspapers we know not ; it would, in our opinion, have been more beneficial, had both parties combined their energies and capital in the establishment of one :--
On the 4th July, Mr. Ricketts' station, on the Glenelg, was visited by a tribe of natives who had for some time been very troublesome to the neighbouring settlers. They were under the direction of one of their number, named Bob, who had formerly been domesticated at the station, and had received at Mr. Ricketts' hands innumerable acts of considerate kindness. Under the guidance of this base ingrate, the natives drove away a flock of sheep, and forcibly carried with them the shepherd, a man named Freeman. As soon as intelligence of the outrage reached Portland, Mr. Blair dispatched a party of mounted police to capture the marauders, and liberate Freeman ; but, unfortunately, success did not await their exertions. A party of men, however, who had started from the station of Mr. Ricketts, shortly after the perpetration of the outrage came upon the track of the sheep, and found the boots of Freeman, with the strings broken, as if they had been taken forcibly from his feet. By the side of these laid a faithful dog, owned by the unfortunate shepherd, covered with wounds, had evidently been received in a spirited defence of his master. On the following day they came upon the camp of the natives, who saluted them with a shower of spears, and then took to flight, all escaping save one woman, who was not sufficiently swift to elude pursuit. The only trace of Freeman at the camp was his gun, which the party found with the breech taken out, but the woman they had taken prisoner informed them that the tribe had killed Freeman, chopped him into pieces, which they had eaten as they proceeded on their march with the sheep. The sheep were all recovered with the exception of forty, and these had their legs broken, and were otherwise so dreadfully mutilated that the men found it necessary to put an end to their sufferings on the spot. About a week since Mr. Ricketts' station was again attacked, one of the shepherds speared, and a quantity of sheep driven off. A few of those were destroyed, but the greater portion regained.
A short time since Mr. Winter's station, adjoining that of his cousins, the Messrs. Winter Brothers, upon the Wannon, was attacked by the blacks, and two hundred sheep taken away. A party of four persons started on horseback to recover them, but being surrounded by the savages, were glad to escape unharmed. A second party, six in number, afterwards ventured in pursuit, and found the lifeless carcases of the sheep, but the natives had disappeared. A number of the bodies of the stolen animals had been thrown into a swamp, evidently for the purpose of forming a bridge, over which the blacks might pass. It is worthy of remark--to show that cunning and knowledge of committing wrong, of the possession of which the mock humanity-mongers of the day would fain deny them--that when they perceived one of the Messrs. Winter Brothers among the first party who attempted to regain the sheep, "What for you sulky ; not tak'em your sheep ?" evidently implying that as he was not the unfortunate sufferer he had no right to be angry on the occasion.
Mr. Carey's station, on the head of the Crawford, has recently been attacked, and upwards of one hundred sheep taken away, none of which have been recovered.
Mr. Cameron's station on the Crawford, which has been subject to repeated depredations, was recently visited by about two hundred and fifty blacks, among whom were identified several of the men concerned in the murder of Mackenzie ; they endeavoured to drive off the sheep, but Mr. Cameron taking the alarm, procured assistance from an adjoining station, and kept them at bay. Foiled in this part of their design, they proceeded to the huts, the whites remaining to guard the sheep. They drove the hut keeper away, robbed the huts, and then burned them down. Elated by their success, the rascals then returned to the men in charge of the sheep and holding up the ammunition they had taken from Mr. Cameron's hut, defied them to fire, as, if they did so, they said their ammunition would be soon exhausted. One fellow, named Charley, who had been in the habit of frequenting the station, exhibited from behind a tree a portion of his body, and told the whites to fire at him, saying, if they dared, Mr. Sievewright would plenty wigel, wigel (hang) them. The blacks at last left the run, and the sheep were driven to Mr. O'Neil's station. They are at present near the crossing place of the Crawford, almost in a state of starvation ; and there we suppose they must remain, until a new run has been discovered ; for after the repeated outrages committed by the blacks at the abandoned station, it would be imprudent in the highest degree to return thither. Mr. Cameron, we understand, is now endeavouring to effect a sale of his sheep, at about half their value, being fully determined to quit the province forthwith.
Mr. Thomson's station on the Yohoo Ponds has been attacked, and two hundred old sheep, and three hundred lambs driven off ; these have not been regained.
A short time since the blacks visited the station of Messrs. Corny, of Wando Vale, at about nine o'clock at night, and drove off one hundred sheep. As soon as the theft was discovered, several persons on the station set out in pursuit, and succeeded in tracing the blacks, by means of their fire sticks, to the head of the creek. The natives, on observing their pursuers, immediately fled, and the dead bodies of the sheep were found lying in and about the creek.
The station of Mr. Norris, on the Glenelg, was attacked for six consecutive nights. We are not aware of the amount of injury sustained, but we believe it to be considerable.
Two flocks of sheep were driven from the station of the Messrs. Henty, on the Wannon ; the shepherds tending the sheep received spears through their clothes, and were compelled to seek safety in flight. Fortunately, the sheep being accustomed to the run, made off to the home station instead of to the scrub, and were all recovered with the exception of twelve.
Mr. French's station on the Grange has also been attacked, and a considerable number destroyed and driven off.
Seven hundred sheep have been destroyed in recent and repeated attacks on the station of Messrs. Winter Brothers, on the Wannon.
A few days ago, a shepherd in the service of Mr. Desailly, was entrusted with the care of fifteen hundred wethers. Not returning at the usual hour, an alarm was created, and on a search being instituted, the lifeless body of the unfortunate shepherd was discovered in a state of nudity, every article of clothing having been taken off, with the exception of his shoes. The body was much mutilated, being covered with spear wounds, and the back of the head laid open, apparently by the stroke of an axe. A party went in search of the sheep, and tracked them a distance of sixty miles, into one of the Grampians, where a body of natives had encamped but who immediately fled on the approach of the whites. A double-barrelled gun, which had belonged to the murdered man, was found at the native camp, and, somewhat to the surprise of the party, was loaded. As the sheep were feeding in an almost treeless plain at the time of the attack, it is supposed that the nipples of the gun had been rendered useless by a shower of rain, and had in consequence missed fire. Eleven hundred sheep were recovered, but many even of these were dreadfully mangled.
The station of Mr. Hunter, near Mount Ecles, has been attacked, the shepherd speared, and five hundred sheep utterly lost.
Mr. J. H. Patterson's sheep station on the Grange has been subject to repeated depredatons and a large number of sheep taken away.
A tribe of aborigines have encamped on the same gentleman's cattle station, near Mount Napier. The cattle, with the usual and singular aversion entertained by all of their kind towards the effluvia arising from the sable race, are scattered over the run. The blacks kill and eat them as they want them. This is putting Mr. Patterson's lately published scheme for their amelioration into operation with a vengeance.
Two hundred sheep have been driven from Mr. Riley's station on the Wannon, and totally lost.
A large number of sheep were driven away from Mr. Purbrick's station on the Wannon, but were fortunately recovered.
The station of Mr. T. W. Watson, on the Wando, was recently visited by a tribe of blacks, and a large number of sheep driven away. Mr. Watson, accompanied by two of his servants, started on foot, in pursuit, and came upon the blacks at night. They were sitting round their fires, and were supposed to be about one hundred in number. The men, appalled at the sight of so many natives, when they expected to meet comparatively few, refused to approach the encampment. Mr. Watson was consequently compelled to return home, and to give up all hope of regaining his property.
Several nightly attacks have been made upon the station of Mr. Duncan M'Crae, situated on the borders of the Merino Downs, and upwards of two hundred sheep have been destroyed.
Since the murder of the ill-fated Mackenzie, the station occupied by him at Emu Creek has been abandoned, and the sheep removed to a station on the Smoky River, under the charge of a Mr. O'Neil, the tribe of natives who were concerned in the murder of the deceased, having intimated to Mr. O'Neill their intention of driving the sheep away. Messrs Henty, the executors to the estate, have consequently been compelled to send additional men to the station, that efficient resistance may be offered to the blacks in the event of their endeavouring to carry their threat into execution.
The last accounts from Port Fairy state that "the blacks are extremely troublesome, driving away sheep at their leisure."
These, however, are not all the atrocities committed within a brief period of eight weeks by the "poor blacks," as certain philanthropic gentlemen, who know little or nothing of the peculiarities and habits of the Australian savage, designate a race of beings, possessing all the worst passions of man, with scarcely any of his redeeming qualities. During the past four months, 3,500 sheep have been destroyed, four men have been killed, and two men seriously wounded. To use the graphic language of one gentleman possessing large flocks in the district, "the country might as well be in a state of civil war, as few but the boldest of the settlers will move from their home stations."
Many of the principal sufferers from the depredations of the blacks, are now running from two to three thousand sheep in a flock, and these are tended by as large a number of shepherds as they can afford to hire. As it is impossible that such large flocks can be properly fed, the consequences will soon evince themselves in the ill-condition of the animals, the prevalence amongst them of scab, and the consequent deterioration, both in quality and quantity, of their wools.
We would earnestly implore the attention of His Excellency Sir George Gipps, and the Executive Council, to the fearful list of murders and robberies we have narrated, and which we have purposely worded in as matter-of-fact a manner as possible, lest it might be said of us that we were dealing in gross perversions of truth. Can it be expected, we would ask, that the settlers of this district, that any man, any body of men, with the feelings universally implanted in our nature, will sullenly fold their arms, and look passively on while their friends, their servants and themselves know not the hour nor the day when their hithorto peaceful homes may not be converted into houses of wailing, dismay and despair.
God forbid that we should advocate other than an implicit obedience to the laws. But, if protection is longer withheld, if victim upon victim is to be added to the hetacomb already reared, we much fear that a cry of vengeance will shortly ring throughout the length and breadth of the land, the disastrous sating of which will long be remembered with horror and awe.