A. L. (Arthur Lincoln) Haydon.

The trooper police of Australia; a record of mounted police work in the commonwealth from the earliest days of settlement to the present time online

. (page 7 of 32)
Online LibraryA. L. (Arthur Lincoln) HaydonThe trooper police of Australia; a record of mounted police work in the commonwealth from the earliest days of settlement to the present time → online text (page 7 of 32)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

been made purely for scientific purposes, and that it required
men with expert mining knowledge to recognise and pro-
perly appraise a goldfield. " That there is payable gold out
there in the mountains," he said, "I'll stake my soul ! And
I'm going back to find it ! "

Hargraves went back, and alone. His mate, unconvinced,
stuck to the Californian diggings. On reaching Sydney in
January of 1851 the returned, gold-seeker raised just enough
money to provide himself with a horse and provisions, and
started out on a journey through the ranges. The llth of
February found him at an inn situated on one of the nearer
slopes. Here he stopped, the landlady promising him that
her son should guide him to the creeks in the neighbourhood.
The next day Hargraves was conducted to Summerhill
Creek, where he found his expectations realised. With pick
and trowel and washing pan he prospected a great part of



the water-course, each trial giving palpable evidence of gold.
He felt he was on the brink of a great discovery, as his record
in his note-book bears witness. For many weeks after
Hargraves devoted himself to prospecting the creeks and
gullies all around, until he was satisfied that he had actually
found an extensive gold-bearing region. Then, with some
pride and exultation, he hastened to inform the Government
of his discoveries.

At the first Hargraves was treated as a visionary, but by
dint of perseverance he obtained recognition from the
Colonial Secretary, Mr. Deas Thompson, and a guarantee of
reward if his story proved to be true. 1 A Government Sur-
veyor, who was instructed to proceed to the Summerhill
Creek district, returned an enthusiastic report, confirming
Hargraves' assertions. The authorities were still doubtful of
the wisdom of proclaiming a goldfield in New South Wales,
having in their mind's eye the wild scenes that had been en-
acted in Calif ornia ; but they at last consented to a trial being
made. In May a body of diggers, to the number of a thou-
sand, went up to the field with Hargraves, and the first
mining camp in Australia was formed. That was the begin-
ning. In a little while news of the riches to be won from the
mountains spread far and wide through the colony, and a wild
rush for claims took place. 2 Men of every rank and pro-
fession flocked to the Turon Gully, to Lewis Ponds and other
points, to the material loss of many industries. In the towns

1 Hargraves' reward was 500, but this was subsequently increased
by the New South Wales and Victorian Governments to 15,000. In 1877
he was voted a pension of 250 per annum.

2 The sensational find of Dr. Kerr may be cited as one among many.
A blackfellow on Kerr's station near the Turon called his master's [atten-
tion to some glittering rock, which was promptly broken up. From the
quartz and gold thus released, 160 Ibs. of pure gold was obtained, the whole
realizing 4,160.



and among the squatters, great apprehension was felt, owing
to the scarcity of labour, and the Government was approached
with a view to closing the diggings. The Governor-General,
Sir Charles Fitzroy, was man of sense enough to see that he
might as well endeavour " to stop the influx of the tide."
He wisely directed his attention to controlling the goldfields,
and drawing up regulations for their proper establishment.

The first step to be taken was to proclaim that gold was
the property of the Crown and that licences must be procured
by miners. 1 In the next place a body of foot and mounted
police was detached for duty in the new fields. On
23rd May, 1851, a Government Order appeared, comprising
clauses to the following effect : Digging was prohibited
after 1st June, without a licence ; " For the present, and
pending further proof of the extent of the goldfield," the
licence fee was to be fixed at thirty shillings per month ;
no person should be eligible to dig for gold unless he could
produce a certificate of discharge, or prove to the satisfaction
of the Commissioner that he was not a person improperly
absent from hired service ; rules adjusting extent and posi-

1 The form of the licence, which varied slightly in wording from time
to time, was as follows :


No 185....

The bearer having paid me the sum of on account

of the territorial revenue, I hereby license him to dig, search for, and re-
move gold on and from any such lands within the as I shall

assign to him for that purpose during the month of 185...., not

within half a mile of any head station.

This licence is not transferable, and must be produced whenever de-
manded by me or any other person acting under the authority of the

(Signed) A. B.


This licence is to be carried on the person, to be produced whenever
demanded by any Commissioner, Peace Officer, or other duly authorised
person, and is not transferable.



tion of land to be covered by each licence, and for the pre-
vention of confusion, should be the subject of early regulation.
It was provided by Mr. Deas Thompson that the revenue
arising from the issue of licences should be placed at the dis-
posal of the Colonial Government to meet the extraordinary
expenditure incurred by this new development.

That a corps of mounted police could be formed and
kept up to the required strength for service on the goldfields
may well be wondered at in the light of the poor pay offered
and the tempting inducements to desert. At the Turon, in
1851, a sergeant received (with provisions) 85. $d. per day,
and a trooper 85. 3d. It speaks highly for the character of
the men that they remained loyal to their oath with very
few exceptions. While people of all professions and trades
were deserting $heir employment in towns, and sailors were
running away from their vessels in harbour, to pick up ready-
made fortunes on the goldfields, the police sat tight. Many
of them, it should be said, were old hands, troopers who had
served the Queen in line regiments previous to joining the
mounted police of the colony. In this fine material the
authorities had a force far superior to the Mounted Border
Police, which had been formed in the squatting districts
and since disbanded. Less care had been taken in the com-
position of the latter body.

Owing to the Colonial Secretary's care in drafting a scheme
for the working of the fields, comparatively little difficulty
was experienced from the outset. The precautions for
keeping order, too, were rendered easier by the nature of the
population. The majority of the miners were of the genuine
kind, colonial born, and amenable to discipline. As they were
scattered broadcast over several hundreds of miles along
the main range they were better placed for police supervision



than if they had been compressed into one small area. But
one disorder of any magnitude occurred. This was on the
Turon goldfield, where a large number of diggers refused
to pay the licence fee. Four hundred or more of them armed
in readiness to resist the authorities by force, but on a
strong body of mounted police and soldiers being dispatched
to the scene the rioters lost heart and no further opposition
was encountered.

The discovery of gold in Victoria followed close upon that
in the sister colony. So many hundreds of men had deserted
the Port Phillip district for the diggings, and depleted it of
population at a critical period in its history, 1 that it was felt
incumbent to provide a counter-attraction. At a public
meeting held in Melbourne in 1851 a " Gold Discovery
Committee " was formed to encourage search for payable
goldfields within the State boundaries. A reward of 200
was offered to the first who discovered a field within a couple
of hundred miles of Melbourne.

Gold-seekers were quick to set to work. The precious
metal had been found already in some places, at Smythesdale
in 1849, at Clunes in the following year, and in the Pyrenees
by Dr. Bruhn, a German mineralogist. A discovery that
made some stir was that of James Esmond, a one-time driver
of the mail-coach between Buninyong and Horsham, in the
vicinity of Ballarat. Like Hargraves, Esmond had tried his
luck at the Calif ornian diggings and, meeting with no success,
had returned home in the same ship as the New South Wales
man. To obtain a living he became a bushman on a station
in the Pyrenees, where he chanced, one day, to meet Dr.
Bruhn. The latter talked so glowingly of the prospects of

1 The separation of Port Phillip from New South Wales, and its procla-
mation as the colony of Victoria, was on the point of accomplishment.



gold-finding in that district that Esmond and a companion
who shared his hut determined to go a-venturing. What
clinched the matter was the sight of some quartz specimens
which the Doctor exhibited.

The two men " struck rich " at their first attempt. Deep
Creek, a small stream running into the Loddon River, yielded
gold in good quantities, and early in July a little band of
diggers were hard at work with him developing the find.
Esmond's discovery, however, proved to be an alluvial de-
posit which in time became exhausted. This brought disap-
pointment, but in the meantime other prospectors had been
busy, andjiew fields were being opened up. Gold was found
near the Yarra River, only a few miles from Melbourne.
More important still, it was reported from Buninyong, where a
Mr. Hiscock had some remarkable specimens to show. After
Buninyong came the revelation of the Golden Point and
Specimen Gully finds, these leading immediately to the open-
ing of the Ballarat goldfields.

The hidden riches of Victoria were laid bare at last. No
more did the eager gold-seekers betake themselves over the
border into New South Wales ; there were more alluring
opportunities for wealth close at hand. Ballarat received its
" rush " in August of 1851. In the following month, so
quickly did events move, Mount Alexander leapt into notor-
iety, and three weeks later the golden harvest of Bendigo was
announced, a harvest which was to eclipse all others hi

Within a brief period the new goldfields were literally
swarming with people. Diggers to the number of eighty
thousand spread themselves over Ballarat, Mount Alexander
and Bendigo, bringing with them many elements which,
unfortunately, did not promise well for the future. Of the




65,000 immigrants who landed in Melbourne during the
first year of the gold-rush a large proportion were undesirables
ex-convicts from Van Diemen's Land (soon to be known as
Tasmania) ; adventurers of all nations, ripe for any chance to
batten on the profits of others ; and the rag-tag-and-bob-
tail of the Western American diggings. It was a motley crowd,
and the Victorian Government had good reason to view it with
apprehension. As a safeguard against an illimitable inrush
of ex-convicts an " Influx of Criminals Prevention Act "
was hastily passed in 1852. By this measure everyone
coming into the state from Van Diemen's Land was required
to prove that he was not a convict of less than three years'
freedom, otherwise he was refused permission to land. A
heavy fine was the penalty for any ship's captain who
brought over a convict to any Victorian port. But this pre-
cautionary legislation was somewhat late in the day. Too
many of the scourings of Van Diemen's Land had already
crossed the narrow straits.

To enforce the mining laws based on those formulated by
Mr. Deas Thompson in New South Wales Mr. Latrobe,
now Lieutenant-Governor, had but a small body of native
mounted police at his command. The duties of the black
troopers, or " Joes," l as they were commonly called, were
by no means light. In addition to ordinary police work, the
maintenance of law and order in a mixed community, they
had to constantly patrol the diggings and inspect mining
licences, always a difficult and unpopular task. Many of the
miners tried to evade what they considered to be an impo-
sition and an annoyance, while others, for various reasons
of ineligibility, had been unable to obtain licences. One

1 This cant term for the police owes its origin to the fact that official
mandates were signed " Joseph Charles Latrobe."

8l G


source of irritation was the insertion of a clause in the licence
enjoining Sunday observance on the fields.

To provide a more efficient force of police for the gold-
fields Mr. Latrobe appointed Mr. (afterwards Sir) William
Mitchell to the Chief Commissionership. This officer was
successful to a great degree, and was the initiator of the cadet
system, to which reference will be made later. At this
period, 1852, there were two constabulary forces in Victoria,
the County of Bourke Police (under that Captain Sturt who
tracked down the Nelson goldship pirates), and the native
Goldfields Police (under Captain Mair). It was Mitchell's
proposal to combine these bodies into one, and this was in
due course carried out.

The first open opposition to the licence fee was made at
Golden Point towards the end of 1852, when the Govern-
ment had announced that free digging would be permitted
for the month of September. The object in view was the
encouragement of what was then a new field. On the Gold
Commissioners proceeding to these claims, however, they
gathered that the yield had been an exceedingly rich one, and,
wisely or unwisely, they attempted to levy a licence fee of
fifteen shillings, half the customary amount. A storm
of indignation at once broke out. With a man named
Swindells as leader, the miners refused to comply with the
demand. Violent meetings were held, one digger who had
paid the tax was roughly treated, and for a time it looked as
if a riot would follow. Happily, better counsels prevailed,
and eventually the Government had its way.

An entertaining description of this tax-collecting at Bal-
larat is given by the author of Life in Victoria, who himself
figured in many such scenes. He says :

" W shouted down, * Come up, boys come along



quick ; the game is started ! ' And as I was being hoisted
up I heard the swelling uproar and the loud chorus of ' Joes '
from every side. As I gained the surface everybody was in
commotion diggers with their licences lowering down their
mates without them ; some, with folded arms, cursing the
system and damning the Government ; others stealing away
like hares when hounds are in the neighbourhood. Several
' tally-ho 'd,' bursting from points where they could escape
arrest, while ' Joe ! Joe ! Joe ! Joe ! Joe ! Joe ! ' resounded
on all sides ; ] the half-clad Amazons running up the hill
slopes, like so many bearers of the ' fiery cross,' to spread
to the neighbouring gullies the commencement of the police
foray. The police, acting on a preconcerted plan of attack,
kept closing in upon their prey : the mounted portion, under
the commander-in-chief, occupying commanding positions
on the elevated ranges to intercept escape or retreat. A
strong body of the foot force, fully armed, swept down the
gully in extended line, attended by a corps of light infantry
' traps ' in loose attire, like greyhounds in the slip, ready to
rush from the leash as the quarry started. But the orders of
the officers could not be heard from the loud and continuous
roars of ' Joe ! Joe ! Joe ! ' ' Curse the Government !
the beaks, the traps, Commissioners, and all ' ' the
robbers,' 'the bushrangers,' and every vile epithet that
could be remembered, almost into their ears.

" At length the excitement got perfectly wild as a smart
fellow, closely pursued, took a line of the gully cut up with
yawning holes, from which the cross planks had been
purposely removed ; every extraordinary spring just carry-
ing him beyond the grasp of capture, his tracks being filled
the instant he left them, and the outstretched arm of the
police within an inch of seizure in the following leap. I



myself was strangely inoculated with the nervous quiver of
excitement, and I think I gave an involuntary cheer as the
game and mettle of the digger began to tell. But there
arose a terrific menacing outcry of ' Shame ! shame !
treachery ! meanness ! ' which a glance in the direction of
the general gaze showed me was caused by a charge of the
mounted men on the high ground to head back the poor
fugitive. I really thought a conflict would have ensued,
for there was a mad rush to the point where the collision
was likely to take place, and fierce vows of vengeance
registered by many a stalwart fellow who bounded past me
to join in the fray. A moment after the mounted men
wheeled at a sharp angle, and a fresh shout arose as another
smart young fellow flew before them with almost super-
natural fleetness, like a fresh hare started as the hunted one
was on the point of being run down. I marvelled to see
him keep the unbroken ground, with the gully at his side
impracticable for cavalry ; but no, he made straight on for
a bunch of tents with a speed I never saw equalled by a
pedestrian. It was even betting, too, that he would have
reached the screen first, when lo ! he stopped short so sud-
denly as only just to escape being ridden down by the Com-
missioner the Cardigan of the charge who seized him by
the shirt collar in passing.

" The rush of diggers now became diverted to the scene of
capture. I hurried forward there, too, although fearing I
should witness the shedding of blood and the sacrifice of
human life. But as I approached I was agreeably disap-
pointed at hearing loud roars of laughter and jeering out-
bursts of ' Joe ! Joe ! ' amidst which the crowd opened out a
passage for the crestfallen heroes, who rode away under such
a salute of opprobrious epithets as I never heard before, for



the young fellow who led them the idle chase stopped short
the moment he saw the real fugitive was safe, coolly inquir-
ing of his captor ' What crime he was guilty of, to be hunted
like a felon ? ' ' Your licence, you scoundrel ! ' was the
curt reply. Upon which he put his hand in his pocket and
pulled out the document, to the ineffable disgust of the
police, who in grasping at the shadow had lost the substance."

The merry game of " Joe-dodging " had several varia-
tions. Sometimes the police would be lured below ground,
whence they rarely emerged without having had to crawl
through wet, muddy " drives," to the serious detriment of
their clothes and persons. But that is only one side of the
shield. Often enough the constables were successful in
running down the non-licence holders, and had the satis-
faction of marching off their prisoners for judgment. The
usual fine, when a genuine digger was concerned, amounted
to 5 ; in other cases terms of imprisonment were imposed.

More serious work awaited the mounted police when, as
was frequently the case, acts of bushranging were reported.
The gold escorts which left the fields en route for Melbourne
offered strong temptations to the lawless element. Such a
train would carry many thousands of ounces of gold, for the
protection of which, often enough, only a handful of troopers
could be spared. In dealing with Gardiner and other
notorious raiders in a later chapter some account of notable
gold-train " stick-ups " will be given. An instance of an
attempt that failed in this connection occurs to us, and as
the redoubtable Gardiner figures in it the story is worth
telling. Our informant is Ex-Superintendent Martin Bren-
nan, of the New South Wales Police, an officer who began
his service in the old days of the Southern Patrol, under
Captain Zouch.



" When I was a trooper," he said to the writer, " I was
three years doing gold escort duty on the goldfields. On one
occasion I formed one of a party of four men in charge of a
consignment of specie and gold dust that totalled nearly
4,000 oz. We were detailed to convoy it from the Braid-
wood fields to Goulburn, about sixty miles distant. When
we started the order was as follows : I rode in front as ad-
vance guard, then came a trooper leading the pack-horse
laden with the gold, a third trooper rode alongside with a
whip, and behind was Corporal Stafford, who was in charge.
All of us were armed. We had been told to be exceptionally
wary, as Gardiner, the bushranger, was known to be in the
neighbourhood. He had stuck up one or two banks some
days previously.

" The main road that we followed led through the town-
ship of Tarago, at which place there was a hotel. Here we
intended to make a brief halt for refreshment and rest, and
here it was that any attack contemplated would be made.
Gardiner, I may say, was born near this part and was well
acquainted with the road. As some precaution against
surprise, therefore, we started out on our journey a full hour
earlier than had been arranged. As a still further precaution
I suggested to Stafford that we should take a short cut to
Tarago by way of Lake Bathurst. He agreed, and I accord-
ingly turned off sharp from the road at a certain point and
struck into the bush.

" All the time, you may be sure, I kept my eyes wide
open, but when, on nearing the lake, I saw a couple of men
bathing I felt no cause for alarm. To my astonishment,
however, the two no sooner caught sight of the police riding
towards them than they promptly rushed from the water,
seized their clothes and, nude as they were, jumped on their



horses, which were tethered close by. They rode off at full
gallop. I spurred after them immediately, for I had recog-
nised one of the men as Gardiner, and fired off my pistol.
This weapon was a clumsy one of an old type and, I remem-
ber, made a noise like the report of a cannon ! Then Stafford
called to me to come back, and I gave up the chase.

" On the lake bank we found a pair of riding boots and
a mackintosh, both of which articles belonged to Gardiner.
These we appropriated before continuing our march. At
Tarago we met two other mounted constables, and, without
making our intended halt, exchanged our horses for their
fresher ones in order to push on to Goulburn. We had not
left the station at Tarago very long before six bushrangers,
headed by Gardiner, arrived on the scene to bail up our
escort. But for once in his life, at least, our worthy friend
was disappointed. We made good progress to Goulburn
and so escaped his clutches ! "

Of Corporal Stafford and Gardiner there is another
story told which throws an interesting sidelight on the bush-
ranger's character. The police officer had known Gardiner
before the latter took to evil ways, and always entertained
some regard for him. Even as a trooper he was inclined to
stand up for the other, declaring that he was not so black as
he was painted. One day Stafford was in charge of a gold
escort when he was suddenly ordered to bail up. A party of
armed bushrangers had leapt out upon the police, who were
three in number, from a well-chosen ambush.

At the summons Stafford rode forward, and recognising
Gardiner among the rest, called out, " Hallo, Frank ! Is
that you ? "

" Hallo, Stafford ! " was the response ; " so you're
here ! "



There was a quick interchange of friendly salutations, a
grasp of the hand, and then the bushranger drew his men to
one side.

" You can go on, old man," he said, " all's well."

Gardiner shortly afterwards rode in the direction of
Stafford's house, and stopped to tell Mrs. Stafford of the

" If your husband hadn't been in charge of the gold," he
remarked grimly, " there'd have been some black business ! "


a g



in '~




The Nelson gold-ship robbery Mounted Police in pursuit Attacks on
the Government Capture of the pirates Transportation to Van
Diemen's Land abolished Turbulence on the goldfields Mail-coach
robberies The licence fee agitation Proposed increase of tax
More misunderstandings A police blunder Riot at Forest Creek
Bendigo the centre of disaffection Resignation of Mr. Latrobe Sir
Charles Hotham/Governor " Digger-hunting " and other grievances
The Eureka Hotel murder Ballarat in ferment Obduracy of the
authorities The call to arms Peter Lalor The Eureka stockade
Concessions by the Government Constitutional changes.

HOW serious was the menace of the escapee or ticket-of-
leave man who made his way by hook or by crook into
Victoria from Van Diemen's Land was evidenced early in

Online LibraryA. L. (Arthur Lincoln) HaydonThe trooper police of Australia; a record of mounted police work in the commonwealth from the earliest days of settlement to the present time → online text (page 7 of 32)