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New South Wales Police Force

Regd. #  ?
Rank:  Constable
Stations:  Moreton Bay, Collector ( 7.5 years )
ServiceFrom  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
Age:  38
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]

Constable Samuel Nelson ( 1865 )Constable Samuel NELSON - gravestoneShortly 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.



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.

Among those at yesterday’s ceremony were Constable David Reiher‘s father Bruce, and Constable Ray Paff‘s widow Valerie, who described the memorial as “a wonderful tribute” to her late husband.

“It may have been a long time ago. But you never forget,” she said.





Sam Nelson's monument - 1992
This is what Sam Nelson’s monument looked like in 1992.  Better then, but it wasn’t looked after very well then or now, by the look of it. Posted on 26 Jan 2013
Samuel NELSON & SenSgt Mark ELM
Samuel NELSON & SenSgt Mark ELM
Constable Sam Nelson's monument - Collector NSW
The Bushranger Hotel at Collector (formerly Kimberley’s Inn) showing Constable Sam Nelson’s monument.  A memorial to a very brave (and probably very stubborn) man. RIP.
Samuel NELSON – Memorial at the location he was shot.


Samuel NELSON – grave

Grave in the C of E portion of the Catholic and C of E Cemetery, Collector.


The plaque on Constable Nelson’s resting place reads: On 26th Jan. 1865. The Bushrangers Ben Hall. John Gilbert & John Dunn bailed up Kimberley’s Inn at Collector Constable Samuel Nelson the Lock-Up Keeper, courageously challenged the bushrangers and was shot dead by Dunn. Erected on Australia Day 26.1.1965 by the Wild Colonial Days Society NSW Branch And the Goulburn & District Historical Society.
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.



Goulburn, January 28th.

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


(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, 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.
Samuel was also the father of Jonas Goode NELSON – NSW Police – Mounted Constable who died in 1924 aged 72.
19 February 2014
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
Canberra Times
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.

Scan of photo from The Canberra Times of the re-enactment at the 100th anniversary of the shooting of Constable Nelson (played by Edgar Penzig) by bushranger John Dunn (played by Chris Woodland) on January 26, 1965. (Photo: Courtesy Chris Woodland) Collector re-enactment 2 CT.jpg Photo: Chris Woodland
Scan of photo from The Canberra Times of the re-enactment at the 100th anniversary of the shooting of Constable Nelson (played by Edgar Penzig) by bushranger John Dunn (played by Chris Woodland) on January 26, 1965. (Photo: Courtesy Chris Woodland) Collector re-enactment 2 CT.jpg Photo: Chris Woodland
Constable Samuel Nelson (date unknown and thought to be damaged/altered from the original). Photo: Boyd Trevithick Collection
Constable Samuel Nelson (date unknown and thought to be damaged/altered from the original). Photo: Boyd Trevithick Collection















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.

This pistol, which supposedly once belonged to bushranger Ben Hall and held pride of place on the wall of the Bushranger Hotel late last century, but has since gone missing. Photo: Tim the Yowie Man
This pistol, which supposedly once belonged to bushranger Ben Hall and held pride of place on the wall of the Bushranger Hotel late last century, but has since gone missing. Photo: Tim the Yowie Man

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.


1. Stumped

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 …”

The final resting place of Constable Nelson, or is it? Photo: Tim the Yowie Man
The final resting place of Constable Nelson, or is it? Photo: Tim the Yowie Man

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’.

The Bushranger Hotel. Photo: Colleen Petch
The Bushranger Hotel. Photo: Colleen Petch

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.


Fact file

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.

More: or ph: 0423 672 153




Canberra Times
January 27, 2015

Gang-gang: 150 years ago – Constable Samuel Nelson shot in Collector

  • Ian Warden
The bushrangers (left to right) Dunn, Gilbert and Hall
The bushrangers (left to right) Dunn, Gilbert and Hall

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.”–constable-samuel-nelson-shot-in-collector-20150126-12yg5f.html




The New City of Canterbury Bankstown

Samuel Nelson

NSW Police Slain On Duty
NSW Police Slain On Duty

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.[1]

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.[2]

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.[3]

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.[4]

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.






8 thoughts on “Samuel NELSON

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  • Keith Nelson

    Now looking for information on Constable Samuel Nelson .son Fredrick Nelson also Policeman at Moreton Bay NSW..

    • Frederick NELSON # 1927 ( pre NSWPF ), Born 1844 in England. Appointed Policeman on 21 Jan 1869.

      • Sorry Keith. The about Frederick NELSON would NOT be the son of this Samuel. This Frederick would have been too old at the time of the Murder.

  • Rose Lagoon or Lake George? It can’t be both, I know Rose Lagoon well, and it was reported so by a Yarra resident, a contemporary map supports the topography and one of Nelson’s sons came across the bushrangers 4mile from Collector on the Taradale Road – that road is e/never of Collector so too is the Lagoon. John

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  • Mr. Ivo Ostyn

    A true Australian hero, a man forgotten by time and history and in need of more recognition. Better to honour him than those that killed him. We seem to forget that bushrangers were basically small time crooks somehow transformed into heroes by a biased media trying to sensationalise and romantasize a bunch of worthless individuals. I for one will not forget constable Nelson and his brave performance of duty at Collector.


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