AUSTRALIA

THE RISE OF BUSHRANGING 

(VICTORIA'S NORTH-EAST CORNER)

            

Gold was an attraction to more than the honest labourer. The promise of easy and instant wealth also brought to the North-east a host of ex-convicts, ruffians and criminals of the worst type whose presence demanded proper law enforcement. Only a few months after the first strikes in the May Day Hills the constabulary erected a primitive slab hut to restrain prisoners. This was soon given over in 1853 to wooden stockade, but even this proved insufficient to cater for the needs of those boisterous times and by 1857 the present gaol was in construction. This massive structure with its huge rugged walls and watchtowers was completed in 1860 for the sum of $94,000 and through its cells passed Ned Kelly, Harry Power and the bushranger Shehan, the last-named being hanged at Beechworth Gaol in 1865.

The difficulty was that the North-east, with its tangled ranges, thinly scattered settlements and natural riches was a perfect invitation to the experienced bushman who left the lure of easy money. The first of any consequence to put his knowledge oft he mountains to dubious purposes was John Payne, a well-educated Englishman who took on the alias of Bogong Jack. Beginning with the mustering and selling of "cleanskins", unbranded cattle on the far-flung portions of the squatter's runs, Jack quickly progressed to the movement of stock between Gippsland and the North-east. In so doing he and his gang in 1857 pioneered new stock routes through the ranges, for they were the first to know of the Dargo High Plains which they used as a grazing stop before taking cattle to Beechworth along the Mt. Fainer Spur and into the Kiewa Valley. Hungry miners asked few questions in those days.

However Bogong Jack saw the chance of even further gains and began trafficking in horses, moving Gippsland stock to the North-east, altering their brands selling them and then taking other horses stolen from the Omeo, Corryong and Monaro districts in the reverse direction. There was little communication between Gippsland and the North-east in those days, so the chances of detection were slight. Nevertheless, Jack had an eye for horses and the value of some of his thefts hurt their owners so keenly that the authorities began to take a close interest in the matter. In the end the gentleman bushranger was taken into custody when he could not resist taking a clearly branded filly, but was released when the only witness failed to testify. Jack took the hint and retired quietly to his hut on the slopes of Mt. Fainter for a period., after which he mysteriously disappeared witho9ut trace. 'Even now cattle easily bolt when mustered in the hollow where his hut once stood for it is said that they can hear the moaning of his restless ghost, still searching for the murderer who cruelly finished him for the gold he had amassed.

Bogong Jack was that oddity among bushrangers, the gentleman who never used a pistol in his escapades. Very different were those to follow, such as "Mad Dan" Morgan. Morgan was the New south Wales criminal who in 1863 began by holding up travellers at pistol point on the roads around Wagga, progressed to the fatal shooting of a policeman without provocation, and finally graduated to gunning down unarmed citizens during his robberies. One of his more endearing acts occurred when he entered the home of a suspected informant to kill and rob him. The man was absent so Morgan, in a nice display of controlled wrath, built up the kitchen fire and forced the terrified wife to sit upon the flames, holding her there until she was well ablaze before he reluctantly doused her.

By April 1865 when the New South Wales police were at their wits end trying to catch Morgan, the Victorian force took smug delight in their public claim that Morgan would be dead within 48 hours if he dared set foot in the southern colony. Morgan heard of the boast and determined to show up the Victorians. In an orgy of theft and destruction he robbed three station properties, held up carriers on the Benalla-Wangaratta road, burnt the barns and granary of a previous adversary and finished his tour at Peechelba station, on the Victorian side of the Murray. Peechelba was run by two partners who lived close to each other. Morgan broke into the one home and, thinking he was safe, settled down to an evening's entertainment at the expense of the residents. He chose poorly. Morgan had had no sleep for three nights and in the chatter and music his guard relaxed, giving a maid the opportunity to slip across to the partner's house unseen and to get back into the house without being missed. By morning the house was surrounded and Morgan was gunned down as he stepped from the verandah. He died before the 48 hours were up.   

The history of so many bushrangers has as its background a tale of police harassment leading to conviction at an early age, the result of which was a hardened and defiant criminal totally disillusioned with the benefits of a lawful society. It was said to be true of Morgan and there are those who believe it was also true of Harry Power, who was given a sentence of 14 years' imprisonment in 1855 after a shooting affray, provoked by a challenge over the rightful ownership of Power's horse, and in which a trooper was wounded. Power served his time in Penthridge Prison, escaping by concealing himself in a pile of garbage only several weeks before his was due to be released. He launched himself into his new profession by robbing the mail coach near Porepunkah in 1869 and concentrated his activities in the Ovens and Beechworth districts. 

There must have been considerable disaffection with the police among the residents of the North-east for Power, and later the Kellys, obtained a great deal of support, protection and advice from these people. The bushranger hid himself in the ranges of the head of the King River and for months relied on the warnings given by a peacock and dogs that roamed a property further down the valley. Unfortunately for Power these infallible alarms failed him in the critical test when Supt. Nicholson pursued him to his hideout with blacktrackers, catching him asleep. His camp was located near a hollow tree, through which holes had been bored to give a complete view of the valley approaches. This campsite has now become the tourist viewpoint known as Powers Lookout. Harry Power was taken to Beechworth Prison in a police cart, and gave the event something of a carnival atmosphere, bowing graciously to the many who lined the streets for the occasion. he was sentenced to 15 years and at the end of his term he was engaged by a syndicate to add "live" interest to the disused prison hulk, "The success", which now that the convict days were no more than a memory, had been set up as an exhibition for  tourists. Though part of the show in Sydney and Melbourne, Power died before the vessel could be made ready for the intended trip to London. 

Grave of bushranger, Ben Hall

The most outstanding, the most publicised, and indeed the last of the significant Australian's bushranger gangs was the Kellys. This tragic family, goaded and harassed by the police at every turn, exploded with Irish violence at their treatment and became renegades, eventually pitching themselves at their tormentors in full-scale bloody combat.

John Kelly (Ned's father) was transported from Ireland to Van Dieman's Land as a convict and at the conclusion of his sentence he moved to the diggings and took up a farm at Beveridge. Even in those early days the family was subject to frequent searches without warrant and the father was finally arraigned on a charge of having a cask of meat in his possession without adequate explanation. He received a sentence of six months but the prison term broke his health and he died soon after. His wife, Ellen, and her 8 children then moved to Greta where she had relatives. The police harassment continued leading to a grim antagonism in the mother which soon found a place in the hearts of all her children.

Ned, the eldest, was charged with assisting Harry Power in the exploits by attending his horses, but it was not until a year later, in 1871, that the police managed to successfully convict him. He was sentenced to 3 years' imprisonment at the age of 16 for horse stealing and served part of his time in the Beechworth Gaol and the remainder at Pentridge. The second son, Jim, also received five years' gaol for horse-stealing at the age of 15 in the same year, and upon his release went to New South Wales where he was swiftly caught after a few robberies and given a further 15 year sentence. Dan, the youngest son, did not brush with the law until 1876 when he was sent to gaol for three months for housebreaking. One year later a charge was preferred in Chiltern against Dan and his cousin for horse-stealing and constable Fitzgerald on his way to relive at the Great police station, called at the Kelly homestead to take Dan in at the same time. Fitzgerald, a man later discharged from the force as disreputable and untrustworthy, arrived in a half-drunken state and, pulling Ned's sister Kat on to his knee, decided to play a bit of slap-and-tickle. Dan fought with Fitzgerald. Ned appeared, and in the ensuing  struggle Constable Fitzgerald claimed Ned shot him in the wrist. After this the brothers retired quietly to Stringyrbark Creek to work an old gold claim. The police proceeded with the charge against the mother and her other bystanders, Mrs Kelly receiving a harsh sentence of three years.

Ned Kelly at his trial
The police then determined to hunt out the Kelly brothers, now joined by two friends, Joe Byrne and Steve Hart. The gang received news of their intentions and advanced to meet the police at their campsite. The Kellys found two police in camp and ordered them to put up their arms, but Constable Lonergan jumped for a tree and prepared to fire. Ned shot him dead. The remaining constable, Mcintyre, realised the futility of the situation and surrendered. They all then waited for Sergeant Kennedy and constable Scanlon to return. As the two police approached Mcintyre moved forward and told Kennedy they were surrounded by the Kelly gang. Scanlon immediately levelled his rifle and fired but was brought down before he could try again. Kennedy in turn leapt from his horse to take cover and kept up a running duel with the Kellys before he too was killed. Frightened by the fusilade, Kennedy's horse dashed through the camp and Mcintyhre seized the opportunity for escape by leaping onto its back, taking refuge later in a wombat hole when the horse stumbled and fell. 

 

Mcintyre's dreadful news from Stringybark Creek had an extremely demoralising effect upon the police. In the next two years, despite large contingents of police and a team of blacktrackers from Queensland, the force failed to seize their quarry. A special Act of Parliament passed in the term Sir Redmond Barry and known commonly as the Outlawry Act of 1878 permitted the police to declare the members of the gang outlaws and to take action against those who assisted them. The practice of the Act around Beechworth was to put into prison innocent people on the basis of mere suspicions of assistance, and at the peak of activity 35 people were in the Beechworth cells (often for months at a time) on account of the Kellys. The effect was to intensify further local sympathy for the gang. worst of all, not only was the Act improperly administered and a severe aggravation o to the local people, but it was ineffective. Fathers and sons were put away while the womenfolk regularly rode into the mountains with goods and information for the bushrangers.
 
Ned Kelly, 1874

After the Stringybark Creek massacre in October 1878, the Kellys rode into Euroa and on 11th December robbed the national Bank of $4400. Following the initial hubbub the scene was quiet again until 6th February when, with incredible bravado, the gang held up the town of Jerilderie in New south Wales for three days locking the police in the cells, donning their uniforms, and scrupulously maintaining "law and order" over the weekend until the bank opened on Monday morning. They then stole $4t00, fording the Murray and returning to Greta without incident.

Rewards of $16,000 were now offered by the two colonial governments and the banks for the capture of the Kelly gang, yet despite the temptation of such a large reward the police had no success. The bitterness engendered bye Outlawry Act was such that the farming people of the North-east, many of them Irish with little love for British justice, carefully shielded the Kellys. Even the many informants were well known and supplied with misleading information to keep the police busy. The greatest worry of the bushrangers were the blacktrackers who several times led the police to within striking distance. On one occasion, when all seemed lost to the Kellys, the blacktrackers stopped in their tracks and told the police "Kelly very soon now, you go catch 'im". The police jibbed at the possibility of a bush confrontation and returned to their camp accusing the blackfellows of cowardice (sic!)

The nest 16 months were so quiet that some even believed that the Kellys had left the district, but on 27th June 1880 Joe Byrne went with Dan Kelly to the house of Aaron Sheritt with the aim of murder. Sherritt, a previous comrade of Byrne, was a police informer and had threatened Mrs Byrne (after she accused him of being a traitor) that he intended to kill her son and defile his body. This was too much for Byrne who was well aware that Sherritt had a party of police in his home at Woolshed keeping close watch on his mother's home opposite to try and trap him. Byrne and the younger Kelly bailed up a German settler, Anton Weekes, and forced him to draw Sherritt to the door on the pretext that he had lost his way. When he appeared Byrne stepped forward and killed him with two shots. The four police within drew back into the bedroom using the two women as a shield and a dreadful pantomime then ensued, the killers marching about the house afraid to enter and the police equally terrified to come forth and fight.

The Kelly gang and Dan Kelly rode to Woolshed to murder Sherritt. Ned Kelly an d Steve hart went on to Glenrowan. There they forced the local maintenance gang to ake up the ail-line in readiness for the police train which they knew would come up from Melbourne as soon as news of Sherritt's death was received. They took over the town and forced the entire population of 82 into Jones' hotel where they were later joined by Dan and Joe Byrne. While they waited the train's arrival they passed the time by dancing with the "guests". The Kellys drank solidly through the night. As soon as news of the train's arrival was received the Kellys retired and changed into their armour. However, Curnow, the schoolmaster who had been allowed to leave the hotel to tend his sick wife, had already warned the police of the situation. By the time that Ned (now in armour) had mounted his horse to take charge of the train, the police were beginning to take up positions around the hotel. A number foot he people confined within the hotel began to escape but were confronted by the fire from the police. The situation became confused as Kelly joined in the cross-fire with his Spencer rifle, wounding Supt. hare, the Officer-in-charge, while in turn receiving shots to the foot and firing hand. Kelly melted into the night and Supt. hare retired from the field to Benalia to have his wound dressed. The scene settled down to an uncontrolled series of volleys between the hotel and the police lines as the dawn broke on Glenrowan. 

Ned Kelly in captivity

By morning Ned had moved quietly to the rear of the police lines and to their amazement the beseigers found themselves under fire from a different direction as a huge figure, dressed in nail can and solid plate, emerged from behind a tree drying "You bloody dogs, you can't shoot me'. The first bullets bounced off the heavy plate harmlessly but Sgt. Steel then aimed for the legs and brought Kelly down. When no-one in control the police fire became undisciplined and when the Kelly gang permitted the remaining citizens to leave the hotel hostile fire drove them back, one young lad being killed in the company of his mother as he attempted to escape. Eventually the police permitted a nervous truce and 25 very frightened people escaped from the hotel by crawling towards the police line on their bellies. with the loss of their hostages the Kelly gang forfeited their lives, for Jones' hotel was surrounded by over 50 police and a cannon had been ordered from Melbourne to blow the hotel to pieces if necessary.

Despite the loss of Ned, the rest of the gang continued to fight. Byrne being felled by a bullet as he drank a glass of brandy at the bar. The police then attempted to set fire to the hotel but without immediate effect. Riflefire from the hotel then ceased and as the police were debating their next move the fire took and the hotel became engulfed in flames. A visiting priest, Dean Gibney, courageously dashed into the hotel to find that Dan Kelly and Steve Hart were dead, but was forced out of the hotel as the flames took hold, the police managing to save only Byrne's slightly scorched body.

Ned Kelly was nursed back to health and taken to Beechworth Gaol for that but then remanded to Melbourne because the police feared that public sentiment would not permit the finding of an unprejudiced verdict. There was considerable hassle on the part of the authorities to seek a swift and certain end from the Kelly trial. It began on 28th October 1880 and by 3rd November the Executive Council had fixed the date for Ned's execution. This was to be on 11th November. Despite large public meetings and a petition of 32,000 signatures calling for the death sentence to be commuted to life imprisonment. Kelly was hanged. They all died tragically young; Dan Kelly at 19, Steve Hart at 20, Joe Byrne at 21 and Ned, the leader at 26. But in the 3 short years of their public history they left a legend which has become ingrained in the national consciousness, for their story has as much to do with politics as with crime, and the legend only grows as the details become clearer.

VICTORIA'S NORTH-EAST CORNER

EARLY DAYS

Before the white man came, the North-east was inhabited by two races of aborigines, the tribe which lived on the plains around Wangaratta, the Pangerang, and the tribe which lived in the uplands, the Ya-itma-thang. The Ya-itma-thang were broken into two groups, the Theddore-Mittung who occupied the country around the Mitta Mitta Rir and the Ovens Valley upstream from Myrtleford, and the Kandengora-Mittung who lived on the Omeo plains and along the streams feeding the upper Murray. The Ya-itma-thang wintered in the valleys but each year as soon as the snows melted they would migrate to the Bogong High Plains where they would grow fat and healthy feeding on the scorched bodies of the Bogon Moth, a delicacy rich in fat and protein which breeds prolifically in the cracks between the mountain boulders. The food was so plentiful that other tribes were invited to join them in the annual feast. It was also the time when the annual exchange of wives took place for it was a law of these natives that no man might marry a woman from his own tribe.

Proud and warlike in character, they opposed the European exploration and settlement of their mountain country and for a short time were successful. However their pitiful arms ill matched their courage and they soon succumbed to the organised reprisals mounted in retaliation to their attacks. Squatter bands of vigilantes slaughtered the aborigines wherever they were found so that by the 1860s only four remained. On the High Plains today it is only the large flocks of crows which celebrate the annual festival of the Bogong Moth.

It was not until October 1824 that the land of this ancient people was disturbed by Europeans. A journey of exploration was commissioned by Governor Brisbane to determine whethr any large and navigable rivers flowed over the territory between the Goulburn Plains of New South Wales and the southern coast of the continent. At its head was placed Hamilton Hume, 27, the Parramatta son of an overseer of convicts. Hume, al confident and experienced bushman had established his own out-station at Lake George, near Canberra, and was entirely capable of leading the expedition alone. However not only was he forced to sell his own possessions (including his specially imported plough) to finance the purchase of necessary equipment which the government had failed to provide, but he also found to his chagrin that he was required to suffer the presence of a member of the gentry. Captain William Hovell, as equal partner, Hovell understood nothing of the bush and relied purely on measurements of the sun and stars to find a path through the endless scrub; this failing irritated Hume and he never wasted an opportunity to ridicule the Englishman for his lack of bush skill.

Despite these frictions the expedition was a great success. The party crossed the Murray upstream of its junction with the Kiewa river and then each of the major North-eastern tributaries in turn - the Mitta, Kiewa, Ovens and King - passing within 13 km of the site of Beechworth. Hume wrote of the Ovens Valley this -

"The banks and all the nearby country, which is very beautiful, is one of the finest possible, scantily wooded, but with timber trees of the most valuable description, and the land as valuable as any i have seen since leaving home."

In December after reaching Corio Bay near the present site of Geelong, the expedition started for home along a route which is closely followed today by the Hume Highway. After recrossing the Murray their return journey became a race, for on one occasion Hovell attempted to outpace Hume by breaking camp alone in the middle of the night. Hume swiftly caught him up and as fate had it both entered Sydney town together. The acrimony between the men was fanned by inaccurate reports of their journey and the heated public debate lasted well in to the 1850s, some thirty years later.

The good reports of the country traversed were rewarded by generous land grants to the leaders and free pardons to the convicts, but the government did nothing to encourage settlement south of the Murrumbidgee for a further 13 years. With too few soldiers to protect administration tried to contain the boundaries of the continent to artificial lines on a map and the minor barriers provided by nature. The attempt was doomed to failure. The population continued to swell, the hunger for land grew as the herds of sheep and cattle expanded, and the British demand for these products (especially wool) seemed inexhaustible. Squatters began to take their stock beyond the legal boundaries to graze them on unleased land of the Crown.

Disease among stock was a contributing factor to the movement south. In those days of primitive veterinary services the only safe escape from infectious diseases such as scab, liver fluke and pleuro-pneumonia was isolation. In a country without fences this meant more than settling o0utlying districts; it meant finding new virgin lands to graze. The turning point for many was the drought of 1835. The resolve of the government began to falter under the continued political attack and in the following year, following Mitchell's glowing reports of the "Australia Felix" (the rich Western district of Victoria), the Squatting Act of 1836 was passed and the pioneers began their great push into the new southlands.

In the east, McKillop blazed a route from the Maneroo Plains (the Monaro) as far as Strathdownie (Omeo) crossing the Snowy river three times. This was followed to years later by Edward Buckley who pushed on beyond Strathdownie along the Tambo River to tongio-Mungie (Ensay). It was to fall to Angus McMillan to discover the border fertile grass plains of Gippsland in 1838 and to press on, in his fifth attempt, to successfully reach the coast of Corner Inlet and find a place (Port Albert) from which to ship his cattle.

In the west, overlanders began pushing their stock in the thousands along Hume's route to Port Phillip and Western Port Bays, commencing with Hawdon, Hawdon, Gardiner and Hepburn in 1836. An incredible world of new opportunity had opened up before any who had the energy, initiative and capital to buy stock and move south. With no thought to the problems of warlike natives, it seemed to the herdsman that he had only to keep his stock alive to guarantee himself a fortune in the rich pastures of the Port Phillip district. In 1837 George and William Faithful left the Hunter River district and pushed south of the Murray to open a new station on the Oxley Plains. George, leading with the cattle, depastured his stock in unoccupied country near Wangaratta, but William decided to press on until he reached Winding Swamp at what is now Benaila. It was impossible to move the stock any distance in the scorching summer heat until the next permanent creek had been located, so Faithful left his sheep and the 17 men behind while he scouted the countryside. Two seeks later he sent word for the others to follow.

The stock were broken into two herds, each under the control of two stockmen, while the remaining Europeans made ready with the stores and provisions. During the two weeks' stop aborigines had gathered in the hills around the encampment planning their attack. The first two shepherds were killed within a mile of breaking camp but the second pair managed miraculously to escape. The aborigines then concentrated their attention on the main party which they attacked with a force of about 300. Eight Europeans were killed and the sheep scattered. A number of aborigines died in the battle, but he slaughter continued as organised bands of men from Wangaratta rode down with arms towards Broken river to destroy the aboriginal resistance. The number of native dead was never known as the bodies were burnt and buried for concealment, it being illegal to kill aborigines under colonial law. 

The Faithfull Massacre, as it became known, had a tremendous influence on the pioneers of those times. John Hume's house west of Yarrawonga, for example, was constructed on a hexagonal pattern with a central room giving a view in all directions to guard against surprise attack. There are records of other pioneer homes built on a fortress-like pattern in the Devil's River (Mansfield) district. After the massacre the Faithfull Brothers returned to the Ovens district near Wangaratta had continuing aboriginal attacks forced them to retire to the King River district where they finally settled. another early settler, Dr. G.E. Mackay, settled at Myrhee, but was driven away by aborigines to settle at Whorouly. William Bowman took up the Tarrawingie run in 1837 on the north bank of the Ovens

The troubles continued. In 1839 Dr. Mackay experienced further attacks by hostile natives, and this time they were armed with guns as well as spears. One of his servants was killed, four horses worth $200 each were slain, 3000 cattle were driven from his property into the bush and all his wheat, stores and huts were burnt. Mackay lamented in a letter to Governor La Trobe 14 years later.

"I have lost my capital. I have lost my health. I have lost fifteen years of the best period of my life."

The squatters had taken advantage of the Squatting Act to move beyond the protection of the law and now the penalties were being paid, increased pressure was exerted on the Government of New south Wales to protect the lives and properties of the squatters, resulting in the Squatting Act of 1839 under which grazing fees per head of stock were raised to finance the establishment of a constabulary in these districts. In those days of the unfenced runs the government sanctioned squatting by charging an annual licence fee of $20 per year and a sum for every beast depastured. Control was exerted through the appointment of Crown Land commissioners who had absolute power in sorting out disputes over land occupation. The requirements to retain a run were simple - one had only to be the first occupant and to pay the licence fees. There were few real laws as to the size of a run, but it was the custom for newly arrived squatters to settle at least six miles beyond his forerunner's farthesest hut. Very great fortunes were made in the Port Phillip district from wool in those early days of the vast runs.

Another run of significance in those early days was Bontharambo, taken up by the Rev. Joseph Docker after the Faithfulls retreated in the wake of the black attack. Bontharambo run was huge in size, occupying some 100,000 ha between Wangaratta and the Murray though whittled down appreciably by excisions between 1839 and 1845 to a mere 41,000 ha. Docker, by contrast with many other settlers, had no trouble at all with the local aborigines, treating them with respect and kindness and demonstrating that other methods of dealing with the aborigines could be successful.

Another family of historical importance which settled in the North-east was that of Surgeon-Lieutenant David Reid, a former naval officer who served with distinction at the Battle of Trafalgar. The records of 1848 show Agnes Reid as holding 24,000 ha of Currargarmongie (immediately north-east of Wangaratta) with her sons holding 16,600 ha in Bowman's Heifer run (Beechworth-Stanley) and 5400 ha in Yackindandah. Thus the Reids were sitting on the great gold finds of the fifties. In 1845, when excavating the water-race to power Reid's new flour mill at Yhackandandah one of the workers told Reid that he had discovered what looked like gold. Reid's reply was very revealing - "Thee is no gold in this colony or in this part of the world. If you want gold you will have to go to the Ural Mountains in Russia." the squatters at that time were struggling to build up their properties and looked to a cheap and dependable supply of labour to assist them. a gold find was just what they did not want at that time. News of the finding of gold in Australia was therefore suppressed and tales of its presence ridiculed. 

One of the smaller holdings for the time was the Pelican Lagoons Station of 5200 ha held by George Grey. On 13th February 1851, severe and widespread fires, following a long period of drought, denuded the countryside of grass and Grey was forced to search for forage for those cattle which had survived. with James Brown, John Wells and two other stockmen he proceeded via Lockhart's Gap and the Gibbo Range until he reached Hinnomunjie Station. There the party joined up with an aboriginal named Larnie who directed them to good grassland at Karbungarra. Grey took up the first grazing licence in June 1851 for Cobungra Station, deep in the moutain ranges, and Brown and Wells remained on the station for some years in charge of the cattle. These two skilled bushmen first cut the track from the Bogong High Plains to the North-east along the spur which leads north from Mt. Fainter towards Tawonga. They also pioneered the route which leads over Mt. Hothaminto the Ovens Valley and this early track was much used in the early 1850s by gold miners travelling to the Omeo fields. In those days Jim Brown and Johnny Wells had the Bogong High Plains to themselves, and they visited every part of it naming most of the prominent features. Mt. Feathertop, the Fainter, the Niggerheads, the Razorback, Blowhard, Bucketty Plain, rocky Valley, Pretty Valley, the Rocky Knobs and Mt. Jim were all named by the two stockmen.

Following Grey's initiative it gradually became the practice to graze cattle on the sweet herbs and grasses of the High Plains during the summer dry, and to winter them in the valleys of the home stations. This became critical when selection intensified in the 1870s and the Irish began to take up the less productive land on the fringe of the wealthy holdings. Upland winter grazing became more a necessity and less an assistance and has continued uninterrupted for almost 120 years. The cattlemen's huts were built as a refuge during the annual muster and for those periods when the herds are inspected and salted.

Cattle grazing on the high ranges is not without risk. In 1923, a year of severe drought, cattle were left on the Bogong High Plains until very late in the season, as there was very little grass in the valley. On the evening of the muster a massive snowfall caught the entire herd floundering in one and a half metres of snow, with half mustered at Tawonga Hut and the other half at Campbell's yards. Despite desperate efforts to get the beasts but by makeshift tracks, the cattle panicked and galloped to the tracks they knew and became hopelessly caught in deep drifts. Fog and continuous rain and snow made it difficult to find them and many beasts perished when they could not escape from the deep hollows they had tramped in the soft snow. In that one season 3000 head perished, without doubt one of the greatest natural losses the mountain cattlemen have sustained.

GOLD IN THE HILLS

The land south of the Murray proved extremely rich and by August 1850 there was much agitation on the part of businessmen and land holders for partition, since both groups believed they could do better without the encumbrance of the nineteen counties. In August of that year New south Wales was formally broken into two self-governing Colonies. The governor of the new colony of Victoria celebrated the occasion by opening the new bridge spanning the River Yarra and the capital went wild with high spirits. Guns boomed from Melbourne's Flagstaff Hill, a public holiday was declared and the provincial towns, Geelong and Kilmore, blazed with lights. Two months later the Legislative council of New South Wales passed a resolution which had the effect of preventing the landing of convicts on the mainland. Events were moving fast. The climax came when Edward Hargraves, dressed in top hat and morning coat for the occasion, panned in a creek near Bathurst and announced solemnly that he had, on 12th February 1851, discovered gold in new south Wales.

Australia - Gold Prospecting

A SHORT HISTORY OF AUSTRALIA

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