Sir Frederick Pottinger was the officer-in-charge of the Lachlan Police District when he came under official scrutiny for riding in a public horse race on 5 January, 1865 and was suspended from duty. He was subsequently dismissed despite the submission of many letters and petitions from the public. On 5 March, 1865 he set out for Sydney to apply for reinstatement, and en route, the coach stopped at Wascoe’s Inn in the Blue Mountains (now the town of Blaxland). Pottinger left the coach for a short time to get some fruit, and as he reboarded to resume the journey a pocket pistol he was carrying in his waistcoat accidentally discharged. The shot entered his body just below the rib cage. Following treatment he appeared to be progressing well and was eventually conveyed to Sydney to recuperate. His condition, however, took a turn for the worse and he died on 9 April.
He had gained a reputation as a most fearless and tireless police officer at a time when the bushranging plague was at its peak. Pottinger was the original subject of the derogatory term “Blind Freddy” – which he certainly did not earn or deserve. Some sources also allege that he had committed suicide that day, but this is highly unlikely considering all the circumstances. Another version of the incident is that he was “showing off” with his pistol to some ladies on the coach when the pistol discharged, which appears to be a far more likely event.
It was originally believed that the wound suffered by Sir Frederick would not be fatal however the Clarence and Richmond Examiner and New England Advertiser of 11 April, 1865 announced the following.
DEATH OF SIR FREDERICK POTTINGER.
Sir Frederick Pottinger, who it will be remembered by our readers, received a gun-shot wound, from the accidental discharge of a small pistol, which he carried in his waistcoat pocket whilst on his way from the Lachlan to Sydney some few weeks back, the ball from which lodged in his body, and could not be extracted, has terminated fatally, Sir Frederick having expired on Sunday last.
Sir Frederick joined the police force about 1857 as a trooper. In 1862 he became an inspector in the newly-formed New South Wales Police Force. Prior to his dismissal he was stationed at Forbes. He was not a serving member when he died.
Late of ?
New South Wales Police Force
Regd. # ????
Rank: Senior Constable – appointed 1 May 1863
Stations: ?, Coonabarabran – Death
Service: From 1 February 1858 to 4 February 1865 = 6+ years Service
On the morning of 3 February, 1865 Constable Ward was returning to Coonabarabran from a prisoner escort to Mudgee. Near the locality known as Barney’s Reef he was informed that a Chinese gold miner, Sam Poo, thought to be mentally unbalanced, started sticking up people on the road to Mudgee. He also kidnapped and raped a young woman. Ward was told that Poo was nearby in the scrub. After a short search Constable Ward located the offender’s camp and approached him. When the offender saw the constable he ran into the bush. Ward rode after him, and when he caught up, called on him to stand and drop his weapon ( a cut down shotgun ). Sam Poo aimed at the trooper and said “You policeman – me fire”.
The Trooper leapt from his horse and tried to use the animal as cover as he drew his Colt navy revolver. Ward‘s hesitancy in shooting the Chinaman proved to be fatal for him, for Sam Poo fired, hitting the policeman in the pelvic area. Ward fell to the ground, discharging one shot from his Colt in the process. He then fired twice more at the Chinaman, who was running away through the bush.
The trooper lay bleeding on the ground until he was found by Mr M J F Plunkett, the squatter on whose run the shoot out had taken place. Plunkett arranged for Ward to be taken to his homestead, and sent for the doctor who lived 50 miles away. The doctor arrived the next day, but examination showed that Ward was beyond medical help.
The trooper told Mr Plunkett that he knew he was dying and asked what would become of his wife and family. Later he dictated a full statement about his encounter with Sam Poo to the squatter. Ward said he was a member of the Church of England, and asked Plunkett to pray for him. This the squatter did using a book of Common Prayer. The trooper then asked the squatter to send for his wife and family. However, John Ward died shortly after giving his request, passing away on 4th February 1865. His family arrived at the homestead after he had been buried.
A meeting was held in Mudgee, where a large sum of money was raised for Senior-Constable John Ward’s widow and children. This support acknowledged the supreme sacrifice the trooper had made in the performance of this duty.
The murderer, Chinese bushranger Sam Poo, thought to be mentally unbalanced, was later captured and hanged, as described by the Clarence and Richmond Examiner of 2 January, 1866.
EXECUTION, AT BATHURST: Wednesday’s Free Press states that on the previous day, the Chinese convict Sam Poo, who at the last assizes was convicted of the murder of constable Ward, suffered the extreme penalty of the law, within the precincts of the gaol. In the absence of any of his countrymen outside the prison walls, three Chinese prisoners, who are at present confined in Darlinghurst Gaol, were brought to see the end of Sam Poo, there were also about a dozen other persons present besides the police and the officers of the gaol. The wretched man, who, ever since his apprehension has been quite weak in intellect, appeared perfectly unconscious of his fate, and until his arms were pinioned by the executioners, stood in the door of his cell clapping his hands. The ceremony of pinioning over, he was led to the gallows without speaking a word, or even lifting his head. The rope was fixed, the bolt drawn and Sam Poo ceased to exist. The body was, after the lapse of little more than half an hour, cut down, and taken away for burial.
The senior constable was born in England in 1829 and joined the police force on 1 February, 1858. In 1862 he became a member of the newly-formed New South Wales Police Force as a mounted trooper. At the time of his death he was stationed at Coonabarabran.
He was described as 29 years old, 5′ 10 1/2″ tall, had brown hair and blue eyes and his complexion was fair. Ward was promoted to Senior Constable on 1st May 1863.
IT’S not unusual that the state’s most senior policemen, the mayor and local MP would turn out on Monday to attend the memorial service for an officer lost in the line of duty.
Senior Constable John Ward was shot at point blank range and died the next day from his appalling injuries. The dignitaries stood in silence enduring steady rain as the prayers and dedications were delivered at Birriwa Station near Coonabarabran.
What makes the scene rather remarkable is that the officer’s blood was spilt almost one and a half centuries ago.
Sam Poo, who committed the murder, achieved fleeting infamy as Australia’s only Chinese bushranger.
The gold prospector, apparently weary of thin pickings on the Talbragar claims, decided to switch jobs and take up bushranging. Fellow diggers were alarmed by news a man reported to look like a Chinaman had stuck up a woman and her little girl on the Mudgee Road. There were more reports of a Chinaman ”bailing up” travellers.
Ward, married with five children and with five years’ experience in the police force, was soon on his trail. On seeing his man after some hard riding, he called out ”Put down that gun.”
Poo responded: ”Me fire: you policeman.” And he did.
A stockman took the officer to his homestead. The nearest doctor travelled 80 kilometres to tend to him, arriving the next day.
By then Ward was reportedly beyond the reach of human aid and died soon after.
Two weeks later three constables aided by a ”smart half-caste Aboriginal stockman and tracker Harry Hughes” found Poo hiding in scrub. The fugitive was shot in the neck. He recovered at Mudgee Hospital and was later convicted of murder. He was hanged at Bathurst Jail in 1866.
Fast forward to the service last week, part of the NSW Police Force recognition of the sacrifice made by officers over 150 years of policing.
Inspector Scott Tanner, of the Mudgee area command, said: ”We were looking at how to mark the 150 years of policing. We have a plaque in Coonabarabran police station to John Ward and then there was the loss of Dave Rixon [the senior constable shot dead in Tamworth last March] so we started thinking about how to also remember John Ward – he walked the same streets that we walk today. When I first came here I lived in the house he had lived in.”
Homestead’s website to preserve history
The owners of Birriwa Homestead, Mary and Keith Salvat, are working to rediscover and preserve the history of the sandstone house.
The property, on the Dunedoo side of Birriwa, has a long and rich history and often attracts visitors who remember visiting the house as children.
Mrs Salvat said she wanted to use a new website being established at www.birriwahomestead.org to collect the stories surrounding the homestead, the balls it hosted and the families who lived or worked there.
Mrs Salvat said she wanted to create an opportunity for families with connections to the house to reach each other and share stories that could otherwise be lost.
“We’re just beginning a journey of rediscovering the history,” she said.
The website is under development, and currently consists of a form that can be used to submit stories to be published on the website, or to ask to be alerted when the site launches.
“It’s a very democratic website. Everyone owns their own intellectual property,” Mrs Salvat said.
“The purpose is really to act as a library – a 21st Century library.”
She said a house was bricks and mortar, but at the same time, it contained a subtle energy left by the people who had lived there or developed a connection with the place.
The Salvats have owned Birriwa Homestead for 15 years, and maintained and restored it while living in Sydney before moving there permanently in 2009.
They are often visited by descendants of the families who owned the house in the past – the Lanes, Cowards, Lowes and McMasters – including a 90-year-old woman who remembered playing in the garden as a very small child.
The property was opened on Monday for the dedication of a memorial garden surrounding the grave of Senior Constable John Ward, who was shot by a bushranger at Birriwa in 1865.
As well as police and descendents of Senior Constable Ward, guests included people who were raised at the homestead, a former Birriwa jackaroo, and a neighbour whose family had lived on the next property for three generations.
The memorial garden includes infant graves alongside the grave of Senior Constable Ward, and others that are unidentified as the stones and crosses have been washed away.
Mrs Salvat said working with the police on the project had been a wonderful experience.
“They were very respectful and incredibly well-mannered,” she said.
“This has been a beautiful journey for me and my husband over the last 12 months.”
Mr Salvat said the memorial garden made the grave site more approachable for members of the public who wouldn’t like to intrude on a private residence, while the planned website would allow visitors to read about the memorial before visiting.
Mrs Salvat plans to invite people with relatives buried at Birriwa Homestead to visit the property in autumn to plant trees that can bear plaques naming the people interred there.
Service: From 5 August 1857 to 26 January 1865 = 7+ years Service
Born: ? ? 1823 – arrived in N.S.W., from England, aboard the ship ‘ Parsee ‘ in 1855
Died on: 26 January 1865
Cause: Shot – murdered
Location of Event: Collector, NSW
Funeral date: ?
Funeral location: ?
Buried at: Grave in the C of E portion of the Catholic and C of E Cemetery, Collector
Grave: 34 54’54S, 149 25’51E
Monument: 34 54’44S, 149 25’53E
[alert_green]THOMAS IS mentioned on the Police Wall of Remembrance[/alert_green]
Shortly before 6pm on 26 January, 1865 bushrangers Hall, Dunn and Gilbert attacked Kimberley’s Inn at Collector. At the time the local police were out searching the area for the bushrangers, and the only man on duty in town was the lockup-keeper, Constable Nelson. When news of the attack reached the constable, he remarked to his wife that he would simply “have to do his best” against the gang. As he approached the hotel, armed only with a police carbine with bayonet attached, the constable was shot by Dunn who had hidden behind a fence post. Nelson was hit in the chest by a shotgun blast and, as he staggered, Dunn fired again, hitting him in the face. He died almost instantly.
The bushrangers then stole the constable’s personal belongings and the carbine, and escaped. The entire incident had been witnessed by young Frederick Nelson, one of the constable’s nine children, who was also fired at by Dunn. Frederick Nelson would later go on to have a long and successful police career himself. Hall, Dunn and Gilbert all met with violent deaths shortly after this incident. Hall and Gilbert were shot dead by police, and Dunn was convicted of Constable Nelson’s murder and was hanged: fitting results for this extremely violent gang of criminals.
Many years after the murder the Australian Town and Country Journal dated 27 November, 1907 printed the following story.
BUSH RANGING DAYS RECALLED.
When Mr. Carruthers, in his capacity of Premier, visited the country some time ago, a spot was pointed out to him at Collector, in the Goulburn district, at which Constable Nelson was shot dead over 40 years ago, while assisting in the capture of the notorious bushranger, John Dunn. The then Premier promised that a suitable monument would be erected to mark the spot, and that has just been completed by Messrs. Ross and Bowman, of Pitt-street. It will be unveiled at an early date by the Treasurer, Mr. Waddell. The Metropolitan Superintendent of Police, Mr. Sherwood, has received a photo of the monument, which stands 9ft 6in high. It shows the stump of what “was at that time a tree near where Nelson stood when he received the fatal wound, and another higher stump behind which some of those held up by the outlaws took refuge. The monument bears the following inscription near the base: “Erected by the Government of New South Wales to the memory of Constable Samuel Nelson, who was shot dead on this spot while in the execution of his duty, by the outlaw John Dunn, January 26, 1865.” On the other side are the words, “In memory of a brave officer”.
The constable was born in 1823 and joined the police force on 5 August, 1857. In 1862 he became a member of the newly-formed New South Wales Police Force. At the time of his death he was stationed at Collector.
Wollongong police memorials
The NSW Police Force carries on its logo the phrase “Proud Traditions since 1862“, but capturing the history of these traditions at an operational level has never been a priority for the force.
However, almost 150 years after it was first formed, NSW Police – and Acting Southern Region Commander Gary Worboys in particular – is using history as a tool to instil pride in those wearing the uniform.
Three memorials for Wollongong police officers who died while serving the community were unveiled at Wollongong Police Station yesterday at a ceremony attended by family members and former colleagues of the deceased officers.
The memorials, located in the hallway of the detectives’ floor, feature images and biographies of the men as well as an account of the incidents that led to their deaths.
The memorial wall was Mr Worboys’ idea, with Senior Constable Dave Henderson given the task of completing the project.
Snr Const Henderson said the project had involved research through police archives, old copies of the Illawarra Mercury and interviews with family members.
Mr Worboys, who will return to his former role as Wollongong Local Area Commander at the end of the month, said he became inspired to record police history during his time as commander of the Goulburn LAC. It was there he heard about a policeman who’d been shot by bushranger Ben Hall’s gang at Collector.
Mr Worboys said research led to the discovery of the grave of the officer, Samuel Nelson, in a cemetery near the police station, but it was found to be an “absolute shambles“.
The grave was restored and distant family members invited to take part in a subsequent ceremony, proving to Mr Worboys the value of history to the police force.
“There is so much history associated with police stations, but as walls get painted and people move on we don’t capture that history.”
“The memorials and the stories they have attached to them provide officers with a link to the past and makes them realise they are not the only ones who have walked these corridors.”
Mr Worboys said the memorials not only represented distinguished service, but the trauma, grief and heartache suffered by families.
He said the last death of a Wollongong officer on duty was in 1969, and he hoped no more stories would be added to the wall: but the memorials were a reminder that policing was a dangerous occupation.
Grave in the C of E portion of the Catholic and C of E Cemetery, Collector.
Sydney Mail Saturday 4 February 1865 page 6 of 12
Inquest on Constable Nelson.
( From the Herald’s Correspondent. )
On Friday last Dr. Waugh, coroner, held an inquest at Mr. Kimberley’s Inn, Collector, on the body of Samuel Nelson, who was shot by the bushrangers on the previous evening.
The following witnesses were examined : —
Mr. Edwards, who gave similar evidence to that given at the magisterial investigation, and which has been already published.
Maurie Mellan deposed : I am a labouring man, looking for work; yesterday afternoon I was stuck-up by bushrangers and detained till near dark ; I remained at the spot all night and this morning, coming towards Collector, when within about a hundred and thirty yards of this house I found two single barrelled fowling-pieces which had apparently been thrown carelessly down beside a tree ; I gave them to the police ; I believe the bushrangers were Gilbert, Hall, and Dunn.
Constable Bourke deposed that one of those guns was leaded with two balls, the other was not loaded.
Frederick Nelson, aged about eighteen, oldest son of deceased, deposed : I am farming about Collector, and resided with my father, the deceased ; my father was named Samuel Nelson, and was lock-up keeper here ; he was aged about thirty-eight years, and had been in the police force here about seven years and a half, and had previously been in the police force at Moreton Bay ; I had tea with my father yesterday evening, and afterwards went over to Mr. Waddell’s and remained there about half an hour and on leaving I saw my father in constable Bourke’s yard ; he left and walked towards home ; I did not speak to him as he was a good way off ; I had heard that the bushrangers were at Kimberley’s, and went towards there to see if it was true ; on my way I met Mr. Edwards, who told me it was true ; while I was going towards Kimberley’s my father was also doing so, but from a different direction, and got near the house before I did ; when my father got near a fence close by the house, a bushranger sprang from behind the fence and called to my father to stand, and fired immediately afterwards, on winch my father staggered into the road and called out ” Oh! ” the bushranger fired again, and my father fell ; I was inside the fence at this time, and about ten yards from my father; the bushranger called on me to stand, but I ran away, on which the bushranger fired at me, but did not hit me ; it was light enough for me to see, but not to recognise the man who shot my father ; I spread the alarm through the township of what was going on, and after a while my brother came and said that the bushrangers had gone, on which I went up to Kimberley’s and found my father’s body had been taken inside the house ; he was quite dead ; while this took place my brother was compelled to hold the bushrangers horses outside Kimberley’s house, having before this been compelled to march there, a distance of three miles ; when my father fell I heard his carbine fall from his hands on to the ground.
Dr. Hanford deposed : I have made a post-mortem examination of the body of the deceased ; on examining the body externally, I found a bullet wound midway between the nose and the ear on the left side of the face ; also a wound, two inches long and two and a half inches broad, on the left side of the chest, and twenty shot marks round the wound ; the wound took an oblique direction downwards ; the stomach was protruding through the opening ; on examining the cavity of the chest, I found the heart lacerated to the extent of one and a half inch at the anterior and lower half towards the left side; the remaining viscera wore healthy ; on examining the abdomen, I found several shots in the liver, and a portion of a wire cartridge with several shots in it, which I produce ; the shots correspond with those I have just taken from a wire cartridge given to me now; the stomach was perforated, but the other viscera were healthy ; the fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth ribs on the left side were fractured; the brain and membranes were uninjured ; the ball most probably, passed into the deep muscles of the neck, as I could not trace its course ; death resulted from the wound I have described and no other cause.
Elizabeth Nelson, widow of the deceased, deposed : Yesterday evening I got word that the bushrangers were at Kimberley’s ; deceased was out but was speedily found, ran home, put on his belt, took his loaded carbine with the bayonet on it, and left the house saying, ” now, I am just going to do my best ; ” I did not again see him alive.
Thomas Kimberley gave evidence to that a already published, and added : The bushrangers brought down from upstairs and took away two single-barrelled fowling-pieces, both loaded with cartridge ; the guns now produced are the same ; the bushrangers took from me property to the value of about £26, consisting of boots and men’s and boys’ clothing, and a six-barrelled revolver ; directly after they went away some of the people who had been brought here or stuck-up by them, went to deceased and found him quite dead ; I have examined the place where deceased was found, and ascertained that it is about twenty yards from where the bushranger stood when he fired.
Thomas Mensey, a bootmaker, deposed to having been stuck up by three bushrangers and kept in custody till nearly dark ; afterwards returned to Mr. Kimberley’s, when he met the same parties within a hundred and fifty yards of the house ; believed them to be Ben Hall, Gilbert, and Dunn ; at Kimberley’s was told the bushrangers had just left.
Eliza Mensey, servant at Kimberley’s, deposed: I was here yesterday when the house was stuck-up by bushrangers ; I went upstairs with one of the bushrangers with the keys to open the drawers; he remained there a few minutes and conversed with me ; he told me his name was Hall, and that the man outside on guard was Dunn ; I was standing on the step outside the front door when the shot was fired ; the man who fired the shot was the man Hall called Dunn.
The jury returned a verdict that deceased was wilfully murdered by John Dunn, and that Benjamin Hall and John Gilbert were aiding and abetting. The jury added a rider strongly recommending the family of the deceased to the favourable consideration of the Government.
Sydney Morning Herald, 28 January 1865, p 7
Nelson, Samuel (1827–1865)
Goulburn correspondent:—Yesterday Hall’s gang stuck up about thirty pcrsons on the road, taking from them various amounts, from half-a-crown to £11 12s. Twelve drays were stopped. The robbers broke open cases, took a little clothing, and a double barrel gun. They drank bottled porter, and gave some to the people. Two watches were stolen, one horse, saddle and bridle. Judge Meymot passed along the road just before escorted by two troopers, Gilbert rode out from the bush, and constable Gray gave chase, but was called back by the Judge. The police on reaching Collector, were joined by two others, and accompanied by Mr. Voss and a magistrate, went in search of the bushrangers. After they had gone, Hall, Gilbert and Dunn, went into Collector and stuck up Kimberley’s Inn. On this reaching the ears of the lock-up keeper, Samuel Nelson, who was the only policeman there, he took his carbine and went up towards Kimberley’s. Dunn met him on the road, called upon him to stand, firing at the same instant. Nelson cried out “stop,” and fell. Dunn fired again. Both shots took effect, one on the head or neck, the other in the heart. Nelson never spoke after receiving the second wound. After he committed this murder, Dunn went to Kimberley’s Inn, and the bushrangers left the township. Subsequently the police sighted them on the brow of a hill and charged them, the bushrangers leaped their horses over logs and made off, and were lost sight of, the evening being intensely dark. They abandoned a stolen horse.
Mr. Voss held a magisterial inquiry on the body of Nelson last evening, and the coroner held an inquest to-day.
Nelson had been in the police force for some years, and was much respected. He leaves a wife and eight children. Two of his sons saw him shot; one was holding the bushrangers’ horses at the time.
The outrages by Hall’s gang cause great excitement here.
We have been kindly favoured with the following extracts of a letter from Mr. District Judge Meymott to his brother. Dr. Meymott. It bears date, Gunning, January 28th, and the writer says : —
I am thankful to be able to tell you that I have arrived safely at this place, about halfway between Goulburn and Yass. But though my journey from Goulburn has been safe, it has not been without adventure.
I left Goulburn about eleven forenoon, on Thursday, the 26th, escorted by two mounted troopers, one in advance, and the other immediately behind my carriage. I came by way of Collector, partly to visit Mr. Murray and partly in hopes of avoiding the bushrangers who were known or believed to be between this place and Goulburn. However instead of avoiding them, I fell in with them.
After having journeyed about eighteen miles, we had to descend rather a long hill winding through thickly wooded country. At the bottom of the hill was open country, and a lagoon called Rose’s Lagoon on the left ; on the right, rising hills highly timbered near the base, but increasing in thickness of bush towards the top, where it became dense forest. When near the lagoon, the trooper in advance galloped on towards the hill on the right, making signs to the man behind to follow, which he very soon did, and away they went at high speed up this hill. I drove gently down towards the lake, and, on nearing it, I saw eight or ten people under a tree near the water, about fifty yards off the road, and two drays and a cart, and several horses. I drove up to them and found they had been there, some two or three of them, since six in the morning (it was then past two), having been stuck-up by Ben Hall, Gilbert, and Dunn ; the number of persons stuck-up increasing as the day wore on. The spokesman told me that the ruffians had only a short time before lit a fire and ordered him to make tea for them, and they were about to have a meal (other prisoners being found in the cart) when Dunn who was on the look-out, spied my advance guard through the trees about half a mile off, and called out ” Here’s a — trap! ” Gilbert said, ” If there’s only one let’s face him. ” Directly afterwards, my carriage and the other trooper coming in sight, Ben Hall said, ” No, there’s more of them, let us be off. ” So saying, they leaped on their horses and galloped away as hard as they could up the hill I have described, and it was on my advance guard seeing them in the distance, that he put spurs to his horse and made towards that hill.
A few moments after I had joined the bailed-up party, my troopers returned, having lost sight of the bushrangers in the thickness of the bush. When the police heard who the men were, for they did not and could not know before (especially as they were fully a mile ahead when the trooper first saw them), they were desirous of going in pursuit. Mr. Voss, a magistrate, came up at that time, and, after a little consultation, it was thought best for us to come on to Collector. So we parted from the captives, who were very glad to be released, and came on to Collector, Mr. Voss, with what force he could collect, intending to go in pursuit of the bushrangers, and myself proceeding onward to Mr. Murray’s, about a mile and a half farther, which I reached in safety shortly after four o’clock.
But the exciting events of the day we not yet over, the worst part remains to be told. About eight o’clock in the evening, Mr. Edwards (Mrs. Murray’s brother), came in with the news that the highwaymen had been in to Collector, and had robbed one or two stores, and that while Hall and Gilbert were in a public-house and store kept by Mr. Kindesley, or some such name, (Dunn watching outside,) a policeman was seen to approach, and Dunn shot him dead on the spot. The gang then made off from the place, and, according to rumour, fell in with Mr. Voss and his party. Some shots were exchanged, and the thieves escaped, minus one horse, saddle, and bridle, which are now in custody of the police at Collector.
Mr. Edwards also said he had heard that before leaving Collector, the robbers had been heard to state that they meant to visit Mr. Murray’s.
This news, of course, created some excitement, but I am pleased to say, no weak, foolish fear among the household.
All the available men and arms were, as speedily as possible, collected, the entrances secured, and watch was kept by turns all night. About ten yesterday, the police came to Mr. Murray’s, to escort me onwards ; but as the bushrangers were still hovering about in the neighbourhood, I thought it best not to take away two out of the three policemen in the place, and that it was much better for them to stay where they were, in case their services might be needed. So we kept watch, and were all day under arms at Mr. Murray’s, and the police kept a good look-out about the town ; but all remained quiet.
This morning I heard of one report, that the gang had come on this way with the determination of attacking me for interfering with them the day before; but another report seemed to be more likely to be correct, viz. that they intended to waylay me and see me safe on the road for some miles with the police, and then to go back and finish robbing the town.
I left Mr. Murray’s about 10.30 a.m. with the two troopers and a civilian who was coming this way, and arrived here in safety. We met two villainous looking fellows on the road, whom the senior constable (Bourke) questioned, but could elicit nothing from them. They were doubtless Ben Hall’s scouts, and I think it very possible these fellows would soon have told Hall that I had passed on and that the gang would return to finish their work at Collector. If they do, they will meet with a warm reception, for special constables have been sworn in, and everybody round is prepared to give them battle.
Queanbeyan Age and General Advertiser Thursday 29 March 1866 page 4 of 4
EXECUTION OF JOHN DUNN FOR THE MURDER OF CONSTABLE NELSON.
(From the Empire.)
John Dunn, the notorious bushranger, paid the penalty of his misdeeds yesterday morning, upon the scaffold inside the walls of Darlinghurst Gaol.
At 9 o’ clock precisely the death-bell tolled, and the prisoner, attended by the Revds. Fathers Dwyer and McCarthy, came forth pinioned from his cell. These reverend gentlemen had been with him since eight o’clock, and it is satisfactory to know, that since his conviction he received their ministrations, and those of the Sisters of Charity, with sincere good will.
As they walked towards the scaffold the prisoner repeated in an audible voice the prayers after the Rev. Father McCarthy. Owing to the wound received at his capture, the unfortunate man limped along painfully, but still he bore himself bravely up, and appeared as cool and collected as any of the spectators. At the foot of the scaffold, Father McCarthy bade him adieu, and he dragged himself up the ladder, accompanied by the Rev Father Dwyer, who remained with him to the latest moment. When the rope was adjusted round his neck, he still continued to pray, and his lips were moving when the white cap shut out from him the crowd who faced him and the bright sunshiny morning. At this time, when only a moment intervened between him and death, he clasped his hands together, and not a quiver or tremor of the limbs betokened that he was afraid to die. He died indeed like a penitent Christian, without fear, and without bravado.
His death, owing to the length of rope allowed him, was instantaneous. As he hung suspended, he was absolutely motionless, and it is most likely, from the absence of nervous or muscular contraction, that the spinal marrow was completely disjointed. After hanging the prescribed time, his body was cut down, put into a coffin provided for him by his godmother, Mrs Pickard, and then carried to the hearse outside the gaol walls, where it was received with wailings and moanings from a great number of women collected there. Mrs Pickard, with the dead man’s brother and his uncle, followed the body in a mourning coach, which proceeded to the Catholic burial ground, near the Railway Station. The rites of the church having been duly performed, the body was interred amidst the tears and groans of a very motley lot of people, old women prevailing, the majority of whom seemed to have but little regard to the precept of the Apostle, that, “Cleanliness is next to Godliness;” and so ended the career of the youngest of Frank Gardiner’s gang.
Dunn, in conversation with the gaol authorities, attributed his fate to Gilbert and Ben Hall’s “Old Man ” who pursuaded him to leave his parents roof for a lawless and murderous life.
When he was received into the gaol he was in very bad condition, owing to the hard life he had led in the bush, and the suffering produced by his wound. He then weighed only 9 st. 6 lbs., but yesterday he weighed 10 st 8 lbs., thus showing that regular food and a resigned mind are conductive to health. Those who saw him at his trial were struck by his greatly improved appearance yesterday.
A day or two before his execution he wrote a letter to the governor of the gaol, and thanked him for his kindness and attention, and also to Mr Carroll, a warder, who was his chief attendant for a fortnight. On Sunday he was engaged up till midnight in religious duties. He then went to bed, and slept soundly till half past 6, when he rose, washed himself, and ate a hearty breakfast, and concluded his last meal with a pipe of tobacco. He then gave himself up entirely to the priests, from whose ministrations he derived great consolation; and he asked Father John to “stand close to him till the last moment.” He made no regular confession to any of the officials, nor did he deny his guilt.
An unusually large number of people assembled to see him hanged, and amongst them was a man who came from Windsor for that purpose. The spectators, amounting to about seventy, were deeply impressed with this last act in the career of Dunn.
We learn from reliable authority, that Dunn was born December 14th, 1846. His mother was in the service of Mr James Manning, brother of Sir William Manning, and was married to Dunn’s Father at the age of seventeen. Mrs Pickard, who is the wife of Mr W. P. Pickard, storekeeper to Mr Keele, merchant, was present at Dunn’s birth, and became godmother to him. She had a special order from the Colonial Secretary to visit the condemned criminal, and we understand she called to see him daily. She may be truly said to have behaved like a mother to him, and to have acted like a noble, kindhearted, good woman. When Dunn joined the bushrangers, his father rode in search of him in the hope of rescuing him from an evil life but his horse died from over-exertion, and he was compelled to return home from his unsuccessful search. Dunn’s parents are settled on a small farm and are in poor circumstances.
Queanbeyan Age ( NSW ) Tuesday 7 April 1914 Page 2 of 4
MRS. ELIZABETH NELSON.
MRS. ELIZABETH NELSON, relict of the late Constable Samuel Nelson, of Collector, died at her late residence, Goulburn, aged 85 years, the cause of death being senile decay.
She leaves three daughters and five sons, also 44 grand children, 14 great grand children, and 5 great great grand-children.
The funeral took place on Thursday morning at half past 10 o’clock.
The late Constable Samuel Nelson was shot by Bushranger Dunn at Collector on 16th January, 1864. He was aged 40 years, and left a widow and eight children.
The story of the bailing up of the township of Collector by the notorious bushrangers, Ben Hall, Gilbert, and Dunn, on the evening of January, 26 1865, is well-known to the older residents of the district.
The bushrangers took charge of the Commercial Hotel and store at one end of the town, conducted by Mr. and Mrs. T. Kimberly. A little girl brought word to Nelson that the bushrangers were at Kimberly’s. Though advised not to go near them single handed, the brave fellow, arming himself with his carbine, said his duty commanded him to go. Dunn, who was in front of the hotel on seeing Nelson approach shot him as he stood behind a post. The constable staggered and fell, whereupon Dunn killed him outright with another shot. Dunn was after wards caught, found guilty, and hanged.
Travelled across from Gunning to Collector yesterday and checked out the monument to Samuel Nelson and his grave.
GPS Co-ordinates for grave 34 54’54S/149 25’51E for monument 34 54’44S/149 25’53E
Page 48 in Beyond Courage
January 16, 2015
Hall gang re-enactment in Collector for 150th anniversary
Tim the Yowie Man takes a look at Collector’s Wild Colonial Day over the Australia Day long weekend. A re-enactment will commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Hall gang’s hold-up, which resulted in John Dunn killing Constable Samuel Nelson.
Tim the Yowie Man
It’s the murderous event which put the village of Collector on the map. On January 26, 1865, outlaw John Dunn shot dead Constable Samuel Nelson outside the Kimberley Inn while his partners in crime, the notorious Ben Hall and Johnny Gilbert raided the hotel.
The brave Nelson, on being informed that the Hall Gang was in town, had earlier marched defiantly from the nearby police station towards the hotel with the aim of stopping the infamous mob of bushrangers in their tracks.
Next Sunday, to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the dramatic hold-up, a Wild Colonial Day is being held in Collector in which descendants of both Nelson and the Hall Gang will converge on the town.
One of the most anticipated highlights of the day is the planned re-enactment of the tragic events of January 26, 1865. Although playing out such a momentous event in our region’s history will be no doubt be entertaining for the crowd, I don’t envy the performers of the Gold Trails Re-enactment Group who will need to settle on an agreed sequence of events that unfolded on that fateful day in 1865, the exact details of which appear to have been lost in the mists of time.
One person who has spent months poring over the evidence is Boyd Trevithick, Nelson’s great-great-grandson. In doing research for his family history book, Believe Nothing That You Hear and Only Half of What You See: a compilation of sundry articles, facts, photographs, maps, poems and family anecdotes dating back to 1087AD, (self-published, 2011) Trevithick reports he was “constantly confronted with conflicting accounts”.
“Discrepancies exist as to precisely where John Dunn stood to shoot, what course Nelson took, the distance from which the shooting occurred, the times of the day, the words uttered, whether Nelson staggered forwards, backwards or towards the road and where exactly Nelson fell,” explains Trevithick.
Trevithick isn’t the only one to have struggled to provide a definitive account of the details leading up to Nelson’s death. Respected historian, the late Stuart Hume, whose widely lauded article published in the Goulburn Evening Post on January 26, 1965, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Nelson’s death, wrote “to try and get an accurate account of what actually did occur is to find the wayside strewn with garbled, highly coloured accounts from old hands who’d ‘heered telled’ arguments from bush lawyers with a misguided sympathy for the bushrangers and bush balladists using poetic licence to cover a multitude of sins”.
Two of the most contentious issues concern what have subsequently become Collector landmarks – first, a rotting wooden stump standing next to the Bushranger Hotel, and second, Nelson’s final resting place.
Trevithick reports that his “family members have handed down two versions of the role the stump played in events of 26 January 1865,” and he cites the following references to illustrate these disparate accounts.
The Queanbeyan Age (11/2/1908) reports “… The railing encloses the stump near which Nelson stood when he received his fatal wound.” Meanwhile, The Sydney Morning Herald (10/2/1908) reports “. Inside the railing [of the memorial] is one of the posts of the fence behind which Dunn concealed himself on approach of the Constable …”
Regardless of the significance of the stump, cynics have questioned whether it’s plausible that a 150-year-old stump could still be standing, suggesting that perhaps the stump isn’t the original from 1865 and, is, in fact, a ‘replacement’.
2. Grave diggers
Nelson died during the height of summer and with no morgue within cooee of the Collector, Hume reports, “research indicates that he was hastily buried without the aid of a minister in the grounds of the police station [still operational] … over the grave they struck a willow stave which grew, and, in the course of time, only the willow wept there”.
“Although there is currently no marked grave in the grounds of the police station, some old-timers did recall a willow growing there mid last century,” reports life-long local Gary Poile. However, the precise location of the willow may be a moot point for those who wish to pay their respects to the slain police officer, for it appears that Nelson was unlawfully exhumed about 50 years later.
Hume reveals that “just after World War I someone decided to remove Nelson’s remains from the Police Station without an exhumation order or permission from the family”. “Not knowing exactly where Nelson lay…they sank several ‘duffers’ till they struck paydust in the shape of the constable’s bones. These they reverently gathered and crawling through a hole in the dividing fence put them in a grave alongside the Kimberleys [in the neighbouring cemetery].”
According to Hume, with the public becoming more history conscious, some years later a cross was placed on the freshly dug unmarked grave in the cemetery and inscribed “Constable Nelson 1865”.
Neither Hume (nor Trevithick) uncovered the identity of those who allegedly moved Nelson’s bones, nor their motives. Trevithick hypothesises that it may have been “so that Nelson was buried in consecrated ground”.
While snooping around Collector this week I bumped into a couple of bushranger-era enthusiasts who questioned whether Nelson’s remains were moved at all. The duo suggested that a ground-penetrating radar, or perhaps something even more invasive, ought to be employed to prove the presence of remains.
I don’t know about you, but I think poor old Constable Nelson suffered enough trauma in the final moments of his life and that he should be left to lie in peace, wherever that may be.
Collector Wild Colonial Day: Commemorating the 150th anniversary of the day Constable Samuel Nelson was killed on duty by John Dunn outside the Bushranger Hotel. Next Sunday, January 25, from 10am–4pm in Collector Village (about a 30-minute drive north of Canberra on the Federal Highway). Free admission.
Expect: Historical displays, re-enactments, bush poetry, author talks, food, wine, local produce, art and craft. Devonshire tea and all day barbecue.
For the kids: Horse and cart rides, face painting (small charge) and bushranger activities (if you dare!) all day.
Shoot-outs: The Gold Trails Re-enactment Group will perform a realistic re-enactment of the murder of Constable Nelson at 3pm near the Collector Police Station (Bourke St) and again outside the Bushranger Hotel (Church St) about 6pm.
Become a star: At midday, there will be a re-enactment of the trial of John Dunn, including an opportunity for “extras” to participate (scripts will be provided).
Don’t miss: The rare collection of guns and equipment used by bushrangers and police during the colonial period (in the Memorial Hall).
Nelson’s Grave: Located in the Anglican Cemetery in Bourke St. About 3.30pm, the NSW Police Chaplain will lead a graveside Memorial Service, followed by a wreath-laying ceremony.
The stump: Takes pride of place next to Nelson’s Memorial outside the Bushranger Hotel. Unfortunately, there’s precious little information on the state of the stump in 1865, so it’s difficult to determine if it’s the original. However, if any suitably qualified foresters would like to offer an educated opinion, I’d love to hear from you.
Gang-gang: 150 years ago – Constable Samuel Nelson shot in Collector
One hundred and fifty years ago this week the brigands Ben Hall, John Gilbert and John Dunn descended on Collector and Dunn shot dead brave constable Samuel Nelson. The gang fled. The Sydney press throbbed with the news. The murder was on 26 January and the inquest, held at Collector the next day, was reported in great and grisly detail by the Sydney Morning Herald.
Frederick Nelson, 18, eldest son of the dead man’s many children, saw his father shot dead.
” ‘A bushranger sprang from behind the fence and called to my father to stand, and fired immediately afterwards [with a shotgun], on which my father staggered into the road and called out “Oh!”. The bushranger fired again and my father fell. I heard his carbine fall from his hands on to the ground.
“Dr. Hanford deposed: I have made a post-mortem examination of the body of the deceased; I found a bullet wound midway between the nose and the ear on the left side of the face; also a wound, two inches long and two and a half inches broad, on the left side of the chest, and twenty shot marks round the wound; on examining the cavity of the chest, I found the heart lacerated … I found several shots in the liver … the stomach was perforated. Death resulted from the wounds I have described and no other cause.
“The jury returned a verdict that deceased was wilfully murdered by John Dunn, and that Benjamin Hall and John Gilbert were aiding and abetting.”
Samuel Nelson was born in 1828 in Chesterton, Oxfordshire, England. His Father was Samuel Nelson and mother Elizabeth Taylor. In England he married Elizabeth Goode who was born in 1828.
They came on the ship called “Parcee” and arrived in Sydney on 11th January 1853. Samuel and Elizabeth could both read and write. They came with their three children who were born in England, Fredrick 6 years born 1846, Henry 1848 4 years, Jonas 2 years 1850. While the ship was at sea Elizabeth Nelson gave birth to Matilda Parcee Nelson. The ship anchored in Sydney and then proceeded to Queensland.
Samuel Nelson worked at Drayton Darling Down’s then made his way to Collector N.S.W. which is between Canberra and Goulburn. Four more children were born at Collector Emma born 1857, Samuel 1860, David 1862 and Thomas 1864.
It was on a Thursday, Foundation Day 26th January 1865 in the country town of Collector, when the team of bushrangers, John Dunn and his group, were spotted in the District. They had bailed up Judge F.W. Meymott and two escorting troopers at Geary’s Gap a few miles south of the town. The gang of bushrangers were almost on the outskirts of Collector, when they bailed up a bootmaker named Tom Menzy; three farmers named Mitchell and William Deveron and James Bull; and a 16 year old boy named Henry Nelson – the constable’s son.
At the police station Constable Samuel Nelson was studying his day’s labour. He had chopped a good supply of wood and his gardens were in fine shape. He was looking forward to cleaning up a hearty supper and a quiet evening with his family, including his wife who was eight months pregnant with their ninth child. Suddenly, a young girl came running towards him calling “Mr Nelson come quickly the bushrangers are at the Kimberley’s Inn”, then shots from Dunn’s gun were heard.
Samuel Nelson entered the station and put on his uniform, jacket and belt while Elizabeth his wife looked on in surprise. At the trial of Dunn, Kimberley’s Inn Keeper said “John Dunn came back from direction and said there one of your bloody are down”. When somebody asked who was shot Dunn said “a little sandy bugger”. Kimberley replied “I felt sure it was Nelson knowing he was a short sandy man”.
Some of the other people brought in the dead body of Constable Samuel Nelson who had a wound on his cheek and a large wound over his heart. Fredrick Nelson was fired upon by the accused. Henry Nelson was forced to hold the estranger’s horses under the threat of having his brains blown out.
The trial of John Dunn on the 19th February 1866 jury returned the verdict of guilty, the sentence of John Dunn was to be hanged by the neck till he was dead. On the 19th March 1866 the 19 year old murderer was taken from Darlinghurst to the place of execution and was hanged.