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Past and Present, and Men of the Times.

Chapter III

page 17

Chapter III.

Johnston's Creek—Ugly Customers—Cattle Lifting—Lynch, a Demon.

Mr. Smith being in want of cattle, I was despatched with three men to Johnston Station, at the head of the Mossiec River, on the Liverpool Plains, to drive a mob down for the Sydney market. While there, another of those tragedies, so common in those days in the bush, occurred. The blacks had surprised and murdered two white women on the station. Although there was a stockade on the plains containing 500 prisoners, guarded by sixty soldiers, the station hands made no appeal to them for assistance, but turned out to the number of twenty and went in search of the offenders. They came up with them and drove them into a stockyard, where fifty of the blacks were slaughtered and their bodies burnt. This severe retaliation attracted the notice of the authorities; and the whole of the party engaged in the work, who were a mixed lot of freemen and convicts, were taken up and tried foe murder, but by some means were acquitted. Mr. J. H. Plunkett, the Crown Prosecutor, was determined, if possible, to put down this bush system of reprisals. Three or four days afterwards seventeen of the same men went out again after the black fellows, and killed a very old one; he was said to be eighty years of age. The Government came down this time with a heavy hand, arrested the whole of the men, and tried them for the murder of this aged native. They were found guilty on this occasion, and the whole of them hanged, and justice, in the person of J. H. Plunkett, was for a time satiated.

My men and I started for Sydney with 200 head of fat cattle, the station owner, Mr. Johnston, accompanying us for the first page 18day's drive, and then returned. We camped that night about fifteen miles from the home station, where there was a large cattle-yard on the bank of a creek known as Johnston's Creek. We yarded the cattle and were cooking supper, when two men came up to us. One of them had convict's fetters on one of his legs and a double-barrelled gun in his hand, and the pair altogether had an ugly look. It appeared that they had made their escape from the stockade before mentioned, on the Liverpool Plains. The fellow with the leg-ornaments asked for a tomahawk, which he obtained, and with the aid of a round stone he succeeded in freeing himself from his shackles. He frankly informed us that he had worked for the Government long enough, and would take good care he would have no more of it. They got some tea and sugar, took a billy belonging to us to boil their tea in, and, saying "we must be off," they departed much to our delight. In the morning two of our horses, with saddles and bridles, had disappeared. The bushrangers, our visitors of the night before, of course, had appropriated them. One of the stockmen and I had to go back to the home station, where I obtained two horses and saddles to replace the stolen pair. We then returned, and made a start with the cattle. Shortly afterwards three men rode up behind us. They were Government officers in pursuit of our visitors of the previous night. We gave them all the particulars of our rencontre with them. The officers told us that one of the men, named Donoghue, if not soon arrested, was likely to commit terrible depredations, as he had hitherto proved himself one of the worst criminals they had ever encountered. His companion's name was "Jackey Jackey." Further on I shall have something more to relate concerning these desperadoes. The officers bid us good-day and continued their search. We kept on our way down to Sydney with our charge.

We had been ten days on the road when we met Mr. Smith about four miles from town. He asked what had become of the horses we had started with. When I informed him of our misfortune he was considerably put out, as one of the stolen pair was a favourite stock horse, and I believe he would sooner have heard of the loss of the mob of cattle than of his favourite steed. The cattle were taken to market and sold.

I did not have a very long spell this time and was despatched with four men to bring down a flock of sheep. On the first day, page 19about four miles out of town, we met six soldiers bringing in Lynch, a noted bushranger, a perfect fiend in human form, who when put upon his trial, confessed to having murdered twenty-five people—killing five in one family. He was the worst ruffian who ever got loose in New South Wales. He had escaped from custody and taken to the bush. He had been transported for life to the colony. At this time a great many settlers were moving up-country and squatting on the land. Among them was a family named Jones, consisting of Jones, his wife, two sons, and one daughter. One day Jones and his son were engaged building a stockyard, when Lynch appeared and asked for work, stating that he was a "ticket of leave" man. Jones did not ask him for his ticket, but told him he had no work for him just then. However, he could stop the night. Lynch mentioned that he had seen two horses, probably Jones's, a short distance away in a bog, and volunteered to show him where they were. Jones went with him into the bush, taking with him his little boy, aged six years. Lynch lagged behind, and called out to Jones to lend him the axe he was carrying, as there was a tree with a lot of wild honey in it, which he wanted to fell. He went back to where Lynch was leaning against the tree, and handed him the axe. Lynch took it, and immediately struck him on the head with it, killing him instantly. He then struck the boy, and nearly severed his head from his shoulders. The villain then returned to the house, and found Mrs. Jones alone, her son and daughter having gone to bring home the cows. He told her that a small tree had fallen on her husband and boy, and they were slightly hurt. She accompanied Lynch unsuspectingly, and on coming in sight of the bodies she fainted, and Lynch immediately despatched her also. He again returned to the house, and found the son and daughter had come home. The son asked where his father was. Lynch replied, "He is in the bush, and has found a lot of wild honey, and your mother has gone with a billy to put it in, but it is not large enough, and your sister is to take another to them; they are not far off." The sister asked her brother to accompany them, when Lynch said, "You can go by yourselves." However, the brother went with him, letting his sister stay behind. When they came near the scene of the previous murders, Lynch threw the lad down and killed him with a pocket-knife. He then dragged the bodies into a heap, and page 20covered them with brushwood. It was getting late in the evening when Lynch got back to the house. Miss Jones asked where were her father and mother. Lynch replied, "They and your brother are all right; they are asleep in the bush; and if you say a word about it, I will serve you as I have served the others; I tell yon they are sleeping in the bush." He then ordered her to go to bed. The poor girl had to obey the ruffian, who then tied her hands and feet. She was at this time seventeen years old. He now went to the bush, set fire to the scrub he had piled over the bodies of his miserable victims, and burnt them. On the completion of this diabolical work he returned to the house and told the girl what he had done. She begged earnestly for her life. He said he would do her no harm if she would tell him where her father kept his money. She replied that, if there was any, it would he kept in the box in his bedroom. He searched the whole house and found none, but managed to secure a watch and a shot-gun. Before leaving, he went into the girl's room and attempted to murder her also. He struck her in the face with a billet of wood, but hearing a noise outside, decamped into the bush, carrying the gun with him. The noise which disturbed him was caused by two stockmen, who were bringing in cattle bought by Mr. Jones a few days before. They dismounted, and saw no one about; but hearing a noise of some one sobbing, called out, "Is there anyone at home?" Receiving no answer, they entered, and, following the sound, saw the young woman lying on the bed bleeding profusely from wounds on the face, and a piece of wood covered with blood lying near her. One said to the other, "Jack, there has been some foul work done here; who can have been at it?" The poor victim then spoke, and said, "Don't let me lie like this; kill me at once, for mercy's sake." The men told her not to be afraid, as they were not going to hurt her. They then got some warm water and washed the blood from her wounds, and bound them up as well as they could. Her forehead and nose were terribly smashed; and while the men were attending to her she fainted. On recovering consciousness she told them of the shocking occurrence, as related to her by the monster Lynch, who, before striking her, had told his name and his manner of committing the crimes. The men stopped all that day, and the girl appeared to grow better and easier. One of them then mounted his horse to go for assistance. He rode all night, and page 21reached Brown's Station, thirty-five miles away. On relating the story to Mr. Brown, he got some necessaries and medicine, and started back with three men, and reached the scene of the tragedy at nightfall. He found Miss Jones much better, and after hearing from her lips a recital of the horrible story, went in search of the bodies of her murdered family. He found them half a mile from the house, lying in a heap, charred and burnt beyond recognition. The men then returned after burying the remains, but made no mention of the facts to the poor girl. Shortly afterwards, Mr. Brown caused her to beremoved to his own house, where she lived until Lynch was apprehended. She gave evidence at the trial, and died shortly afterwards, the murderer of her parents having, in the meantime, met his end at the hands of the hangman.

I may have dwelt at some length on this terrible affair, but I merely wished to show what manner of ruffians the colonists in the early days had to deal with, and their name was legion.