This website is designed, researched and written by Mark Matthews. It may alter with updated information and research as it comes to hand. This section is a work in progress...
"Ben Hall! Stockman, Squatter, Bushranger, from these personas, his character has remained an enigma. From a man held in high regard by all who knew him to a man through his own actions became one of the most hunted in colonial history, and who would ultimately die a violent and bloody death at the hands of his pursuers."- Mark Matthews.
This website aims to provide a comprehensive, chronological account of Australian bushranger Ben Hall's calamitous life. Gathered through the accounts of eyewitnesses, former gang members, government documents, as well as the reproduction of historical newspaper and N.S.W. Police Gazette records of Ben Hall and his associates' bushranging activities. (All related articles incorporated into the narrative are coloured and transcribed as originally published.)
|"Hall is the only one of the three who cultivates any mustache or whiskers, and he is getting fat."|
Hall kept a low profile at William's place until January 22nd. Meanwhile, numerous newspaper reports speculated about Hall's whereabouts, suggesting he was in various towns and districts, such as Braidwood, which is 320 km from Forbes. However, these reports were purely speculative and lacked any factual basis.. 'Braidwood Dispatch' January 2nd 1864:
Rumors circulated widely in the country newspapers, suggesting a possible alliance between Morgan, Hall, and Gilbert. However, these speculations were purely fictional, as there is no evidence to indicate that the two Lachlan bushrangers ever crossed paths with the notorious Riverina outlaw, Morgan. Nevertheless, Gilbert, being literate, kept himself informed about the newspaper coverage of their exploits and those of other equally infamous bushrangers. 'The Courier' Wednesday 20th January 1864:
Gilbert's whereabouts during this period remained a mystery to many. Had he traveled south? Had there been a disagreement between him and Ben Hall? Regardless of the circumstances, the two were not seen together, and Gilbert was reportedly spotted alone in late February in the town of Burrowa, at a store. 'The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser' Tuesday 9th February 1864:
Another theory for the pair's separation was that they had once again quarreled over a woman, resulting in Hall fatally shooting Gilbert. An alternative version that sparked public interest was that Gilbert's revolver had accidentally discharged while he was showing off in front of female admirers. However, the truth was not as straightforward as these rumors suggested. Gilbert had not yet reunited with Hall, which only served to fuel the speculation. 'The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser' Thursday 11th February 1864:
This region, characterized by large expanses of rugged terrain and hills such as Monumea Gap, Nelungaloo Range, and Jemalong Range, also known as Garland Range, provided an ideal refuge for Hall and Gilbert. These ranges were part of a slender mountain range that stretched from Carawandool State Forest at Back Creek, winding north to Bogan Gate. The area was dotted with caves and ridges, offering excellent hideouts.
Moreover, the vicinity of nearby stations like Bundaburrah, Billabong, and Carrawobbity, as well as Forbes and the Dog and Duck Hotel, was advantageous. The hotel was owned by Tom Higgins, one of Hall's closest allies and the man who had treated Hall's severely injured leg a year earlier. Higgins supplied the bushrangers with food and information about police movements, allowing them to replenish their supplies as needed. There were even stories that when the authorities were closing in, the bushrangers would retreat to this area to help some graziers muster cattle.
However, while Hall was spending time with his five-year-old son at the Pinnacle, Gilbert, according to the old-timer's account, supposedly traveled further north, about 40 miles. There, he reportedly fell ill with Typhoid Fever and was cared for by a drover named Botfield. 'The Forbes Advocate' Friday 28th February 1913:
A BOTFIELD EPISODE. There is a little siding out on the Parkes to Bogan Gate railway line called Botfield, and when I was out that way a couple of weeks ago I little dreamt that the peaceful little railway siding was once the spot on which a great act of "man's humanity to man" was enacted. A drover named Botfield was taking a mob of sheep across that part of the country and coming to a creek that contained good water, he decided to camp to rest his mob. He camped on there for such a long time that people began to speak of it as Botfield's Creek. One day Gilbert, one of Ben Hall's gang, rode up to the camp, suffering from typhoid fever, and Mr and Mrs Botfield made a bunk under their wagon and nursed him right through his illness. The police often rode up making inquiries about the bushrangers and even went so far as to look under the wagon round which the tarpaulin was hung, but Botfield put them off by telling them that it was only a sick drover under there.
On Gilbert's whereabouts a correspondent while canvassing the trail had it indicated to him that Gilbert had indeed gone north:
On January 22, 1864, Hall's brief reunion with his son came to an abrupt end. Bridget Hall sought the intervention of the Forbes Court to reclaim young Henry Hall. Accompanied by Jim Taylor, Bridget issued a summons against William Hall for the unlawful detention of their son. However, the case never reached the courtroom as the dispute was resolved outside of court, and Henry was returned to his mother and Taylor.
In 1864, the 26th of January was a day of celebration, marking these remarkable achievements. Horse racing was deemed a fitting way to celebrate, reflecting the festive mood of the country. In towns scattered across the nation, lavish events were held for the local citizens. The town of Burrowa was no exception to this tradition.
|NSW Police Gazette|
Ben Hall and his New Force.— Information reached Young, on Thursday, of some ten persons, including several of the fair sex, having been stuck up while on their way to the Anniversary races on Tuesday last, by (it is supposed), the notorious bushranger Ben Hall, who allowed, them to pass upon the ladies' assurance that their finances were not in flourishing state. On information reaching Burrowa, the police went next morning in pursuit, but without success.
The circumstances of how Hall and Mount came together are unclear, but it's speculated that they might have met while Mount was working as a farm laborer in the Cowra area. Mount was linked to a robbery near Forbes on January 24, 1864, where two men, Bell and McMahon, were relieved of 110 oz. of gold. In another account, Hall's accomplice was thought to be the notorious 'Mad Dog' Morgan, a figure who instilled fear in the Riverina region.:
Hall, seemingly appeased, engaged in friendly conversation with the men. However, when the horse's handler appeared and realized their intentions, he quickly fled. This unexpected turn of events prompted Hall and his accomplice to give chase. 'Sydney Mail' Saturday 6th February 1864:
One such individual was John M'Kail, an American who had self-styled himself as the 'Flying Barber'. M'Kail had previously worked as a driver for the well-known coach service, Greig's, ferrying passengers between Forbes and Lambing Flat. It was during this time that M'Kail likely crossed paths with Hall and Gilbert.
M'Kail, however, was not deterred. He sought out his wife, leading to a confrontation with her employer, Octavius Folkard. Folkard refused to let Mrs. M'Kail leave, prioritizing her safety. M'Kail, vowing revenge against his wife and those protecting her, returned to the Franklyn Hotel a few days later. He entered the bar in a heightened state of agitation, positioning himself at the end of the counter where Folkard was serving two customers. Suddenly, M'Kail shouted, "Folkard, Folkard, look!" and pulled out a pistol from his pocket. The weapon discharged in the process, plunging the bar into darkness.
When a candle was lit, M'Kail was found on the floor, bleeding from a gunshot wound to his right side. The man who had intended to be an assassin was dead within ten minutes. Prior to this fatal confrontation, M'Kail had expressed his intention to join Gilbert and Hall, had he succeeded in shooting Folkard.
Ben Hall visited a doctor at Cowra a short time since to consult about his leg, which had been bitten by a centipede. He has since made a call at Oma station, of Messrs. West, Brothers', and took a police horse from the paddock. He is frequently seen about.
Shadforth managed to secure employment in various government roles following his departure from the police force. However, he found it challenging to maintain these positions in the long run. By 1873, Shadforth's struggles led him to serve a three-year sentence at Beechworth Gaol for forgery. This wasn't his first brush with the law; in 1865, he had spent a month in prison for obtaining money under false pretenses in Gundagai..
The local Traps, seemed to be perpetually behind. Despite their best efforts, they were unable to catch up with Hall and Mount. On several occasions, they arrived at the scene of a robbery only to find that the culprits had already fled, leaving behind a trail of frustrated victims and baffled lawmen.
Whispers were maintained among the townsfolk that the Traps were disinterested in pursuing Hall and Mount. Some speculated that they were afraid, that the reputation of the bushrangers had instilled fear in the hearts of the mounted troopers.
Regardless of the truth, the result was the same. Hall and Mount continued their spree: