Old news from Armidale and New England

Local news from newspaper archives

A week on the Macleay – article 4 of 5 (1928).

leave a comment »

The Port Macquarie News and Hastings River Advocate (NSW), Saturday 19 May 1928

A Week on the Macleay

Interview with Mrs. H. A. McMaugh at Kempsey.



Article No. 4.


Opposite the mouth of the Nulla Creek, and on the opposite side of the river, is the picturesque little home of Elsinore. In the early forties, before Pee Dee was formed, J. McMaugh, senr., purchased Elsinore, and went to live there. It was during his residence in that place that the wild blacks were so troublesome, and Mrs. McMaugh, senr., used to dress in her husband’s clothes when the men were away, to frighten them. It was almost a common occurrence to see their camp-fires on the mountain at the back of the house. After a time a dispute arose about the boundaries between Wabro and Elsinore. At last it was decided that the Elsinore home stead was on the Wabro boundary. Consequently, the home was abandoned and the run known as Pee Dee Station was formed.

A few miles above Bellbrook, on the other side of the river, is Burrega Farm, the property of the Scott family. In 1854 Eardley Murray Scott, then a mere youth, came to the MacLeay and found a home at Pee Dee, where he secured some education from the tutor who was employed to teach the young McMaughs. He became an expert horseman, and obtained a good knowledge of stock. When William Smith purchased Long Flat Station, and his manager (Stewart) was killed, he gave Eardley Scott the management of’ the station. Scott remained there for several years, and married my sister. Subsequently he purchased Burrega, and as the years went by he added to the place by buying adjacent land, and so formed a good home and a valuable property. He had a large family of sons and daughters, most of whom were born at Burrega. He was much respected by all who knew him, and was an industrious, honest, high-principled man. His death a few years ago was greatly regretted, and a great loss to the district.

The next place of interest is Pee Dee Station, the old home of the McMaugh family. Before the station was formed John McMaugh, senr., had charge of the different places owned by Captain Steele, who was a great speculator, and owned much property in different districts at that time. He was first at Five Day Creek, and then Towal Creek. The latter place was later sold to J. Warne.

After leaving Elsinore, Pee Dee was the McMaughs’ permanent home. My husband’s earliest recollections are of the mobs of cattle galloping with noise like thunder, being pursued by the blacks; and some of the milkers would come home with spears stuck in them, and he often saw the men pulling them out. Many of the cows were killed and eaten by the blacks.

In the year 1854 a traveller came one day to Pee Dee, and asked Mrs. McMaugh for a night’s lodging. During the afternoon another man arrived – a man named, Dr. Milham — who said he had been stuck up by a masked man, and robbed of his watch and chain, but stated that the robber did not get any money, as he had it hid den in his shirt. He had £200, and was on his way to New England to buy horses. The traveller who had arrived before Dr. Milham left Pee Dee very early next morning, and when the latter arrived at a place called Trappo, a few miles on his journey to New England, the same masked man who had robbed him before came out of the scrub, and covering him with a revolver said ‘Hand out that £200 you have in your shirt.’ The masked man was the traveller who asked for a night’s lodging at Pee Dee the night before, and of course overheard Dr. Milham’s statement about the hidden money, and having his mask off he was not recognised. The bushranger was a man named Wilson, and he took his quarters up in a scrubby creek near Burrega, and continued his evil doings for some time, defying the police and causing much excitement.

Inspector Ross was in charge of the police then, and the men were named : Clogger, Sergeant Dempster, and a few years, later Dangar, and Porter were in the Force. Lieutenant Polding and Sergeant Scott had charge of the black trackers, and when the wild blacks attacked the whites or did any misdeeds, these men came up and took heavy toll of the marauders — shooting them down without mercy.

As Wilson continued his daring robberies, the police were kept busy, and often arrived at Pee Dee at midnight and demanded the assistance of John McMaugh, senr., to help them try and secure the bushranger. However, they were not successful but they must have given him a fright, as he made his escape to New England, and was shot there. The police seem to have had great power in those bygone days, as a man named Anderson, who had a place called McKenzie’s Creek ,not far from Bellbrook, was called upon to supply rations to the police when they were hunting the bushranger. He refused to comply with their request and on their return to the police station at Belgrave, they reported the matter to the Commissioner, who at once sent Clogger to burn Anderson’s hut down — which they did very effectively.

The conveyance of the mail up to a few years after the cuttings were completed, was carried out on a packhorse, and arrived only once a week, and was very often detained a fortnight at Pee Dee or some other place, owing to the river and creeks being in flood.

There was no resident Clergyman in Kempsey, and about every two years Caonon O’Reilly, from Port Macquarie, and the Rev. T. Tyrill (afterwards Bishop of Newcastle), called at various places on the upper river on their way to New England, and baptised the children, etc.

Duffy, who was overseer of Towal Creek, then the property of’ Mr. Warne, was fishing in the river, when the blacks speared him, and the weapon passed through the flap of his trousers. My husband remembers seeing the garment and having the holes pointed out to him where the spear went through.

An old shepherd named Carrol was minding some sheep at a place called Smith’s Flat, 15 miles from Pee Dee. John McMaugh, senr. (my husband’s father), went up to count the sheep, and when he arrived there were no sheep or shepherd visible. While he stood at the door of the hut, wondering what had become of them, a huge blackfellow wearing Carrol’s shirt came in view, and on being asked where Carrol was he struck his chest defiantly. McMaugh had a gun and powder, but no shot, so he drew a nail from the hut wall, rammed it in the gun, and fired, hitting the black in the leg. Immediately about a hundred blacks appeared; but they were often frightened when one of their number was hit, and so in this instance they all ran for their lives. McMaugh then went lo look for Carrol, and found him two miles further on with his throat and head cut by a tomahawk. He rendered what assistance he could and then took the wounded man to Five Day Creek, where he was then living. Mrs. McMaugh helped to bind up the man’s wounds; and some idea can be gathered of the extent of his injuries, when the gruel they tried to strengthen him with came out through the hole in his throat when he tried to swallow. Yet he eventually recovered, although it was weeks before a medical man could be procured from Port Macquarie — there being none on the Macleay.

In 1845 Kunderang Station was the property of a Captain Goblin. He had two shepherds and their wives there, and they were found dead — murdered by the blacks. It was quite a week after the tragedy that the bodies were found, and about 800 sheep were also missing. The matter was reported to the Commissioner (named Massey) at Kempsey, and he in company with John McMaugh and several men from the station, tracked the sheep to where the blacks had driven them. They found a large number of blacks camped under a cliff, who immediately showed fight. A battle ensued, but the white men were well armed, and a great number of the blacks were killed. The only casualty on the other side was a horse. The men took cover behind the trees and fired on the murderers. A few of the sheep were found; but the blacks were so numerous that they killed and ate twenty a night.

About the year 1849 a man named Chisholm had charge of Kunderang. He was a married man and had a family, the youngest a boy of three years of age who was in the habit of going to the milking yard for a pannikin of milk. While his mother was milking one morning, he got his milk as usual, and when his mother returned to the hut be was nowhere to be found. A search was made by all hands far and near, and kept up for a week; but the unfortunate child was never found. It was always supposed that the blacks were hiding in a thick scrub near by, and carried off the boy; so his fate will never be known.

The cedar cutters killed by the blacks, the only escapee of the party being G. Spokes, were getting cedar at the head of the Wilson River, very near the Macleay. They were supposed to be free men, and may have been working for Major Innes.

The first cedar cutters on the Upper Macleay were a family named Thompson. As there were no roads then, the timber was floated down the river and creeks to Kempsey. As many as 200 logs have been counted at the one time lying at the mouth of the Nulla Creek, and there must have been a great many more uncounted.

Of all the stations on the Upper Macleay in the old days Moparrabah was the largest. It was then owned by Major Innes, and had about 3000 head of cattle on it, of no special breed — Durhams, Herefords, etc., had of then come into fashion.

Wabro and Towal Creel were the next largest, and carried nearly the same amount of stock. At Wabro there was upwards of 1000 head of horses as well — many of them wild — and traps were built to catch them in, and in latter days, they were shot.

Each station had its own brand. They used a diamond at Moparrabah; Wabro, B.P.; Towal Creek, W.; Long Flat, M.I.; Pee Dee used the well known I.M.;. Toorooka’s brand was S within a circle. The runs of those stations were unlimited — there being no selectors in those days of wild blacks. Some of them had 100,000 acres, some 60,000, and so on.

The notorious blackfellow, Blue Shirt, was responsible for many murders. He belonged to a tribe on the Nambucca, and was never employed by white people, as he was always wanted for his crimes, and a reward was offered for him.

Previous to, the arrival of the German family on the Nulla Creek, named Sauer, and in the very early days, a man named Sparks formed a station there and had two men in charge. One of them showed great kindness to the blacks, and gave them tobacco and rations. He was often warned of their treacherous nature. One morning his mate, a man named Dick Sole, was Milking the cows some distance from the hut when he saw the blacks dragging, the body of his mate towards the creek. He at once made his escape, and got to Elsinore, 8 miles way and reported what had happened. The police were sent for and they found the body in the creek. They then, went in search of the blacks, some of whom were shot, and others taken prisoner. Through an interpreter they gathered from one of the captive blacks that the murdered man employed two friendly blacks to cut a tree down, and while be was showing them the place to cut it, they hit him on the head with the axe and killed him. The place was then abandoned as a cattle station— the stock all being purchased by John McMaugh. Many years afterwards a police station was formed there.

A man named Duffety left his wife unprotected at Towal Creek Station, when the blacks surrounded the house and carried the woman away a prisoner. So cunning were they that they carried her away to the head of the Macleay, and hid her for three weeks in a gorge under the tablelands, at a place called Boosers, at Moonee Plains. She was at last recovered by her husband, assisted by the police and other men. The blacks did her no harm, and having the rations they had stolen from the station, they had plenty of food, it seemed a trying ordeal for a woman to be forced to live three weeks with wild blacks, but in those days, most of the females were hardened and indifferent to what fate had in store for them. Then they were more like men. It was a common occurrence for stockmen to change their wives with one another, or sell them for a pound of tobacco or a bottle of rum. Some of these women had never seen a side-saddle, and when Mrs. McMaugh arrived with hers, they eyed it as a curiosity, and made trips on purpose to see it.

Coming events cast their shadows before — and like the girls of today, they all rode astride. Most of them were wonderful horsewomen. Mrs. Supple, senr., especially, could break in a young horse with the best of the men, and yard a beast with the most expert stockmen at that time.

John McMaugh, senr., seems to have been a man of great character. He was very hospitable, a good manager, generous to a fault, and perfectly fearless. Pee Dee Station was known from New England to the mouth of the Macleay for its kindness and hospitality. There was ever an open door, and no one was ever sent away empty. He was the first man to find a track from George’s Creek to the tableland (Geogla), one of the first stations formed on New England.

(To be continued.)

Written by macalba

July 3, 2013 at 8:00 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: