Ben Hall Pt 4

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 three
who cultivates any moustache or whiskers, and he is getting fat."

Christmas-New Year arrived, and Ben Hall's son Henry then five years old would attend William Hall's hut at the Pinnacle Range. William had taken the child from Bridget Hall to see his father before Christmas 1863. The animosity between William and his wife Anne and Bridget was long-standing. However, whether by demand from Ben or of an arrangement with Bridget. Henry would live with William for some weeks. (In the years ahead, Henry would spend time residing with William at Parkes, NSW.) Even though Hall left the field of conflict to enjoy family time, reports of Hall's whereabouts still surfaced in various towns and districts. Most sheer invention; BEN HALL, IN BRAIDWOOD."On Thursday evening last a rumour gained currency, that the notorious knight of the road, Ben Hall, had been in Braidwood during the day. A person in the town who knew him in other, and no doubt, to him, happier days, is said to have recognised him at a public-house. There are, however, so many recognitions of these outlaws taking place every day in various parts of the country that they are beginning not to "go down," and the cry of the wolf passes unheeded."Braidwood Dispatch, January 2.

1864 opened with a stream of unbridled newspaper reports of bushranging activity from as far north as the New England tablelands. A new desperado, Fred Ward aka 'Captain Thunderbolt', was breaking out surrounding Glen Innes. Outrages continued as far south as Albury, where the seasoned arch-fiend Daniel 'Mad Dog' Morgan loited. Reported Outrage by Morgan"A painful rumour has reached us with reference to this miscreant to the following effect. Our informant states that a lady and gentleman (whose names we suppress for obvious reasons) travailing on horseback during the past week, left a station in the vicinity of Piney Range. They had not proceeded far when the gentleman discovered he had forgotten something, and returned to the station, requesting his companion to ride slowly on and he would overtake her. Having accomplished his errand, he proceeded on his way, but there was no trace of the lady, nor were any tidings obtained of her till the following morning when she reached her destination. She stated that a short time after her companion left her she was met by an armed man whom she described as Morgan, and he compelled her to go with him into the bush, and detained her at his camp all night, assaulting her in a brutal and revolting manner. He led her back to the road in the morning, and she then made her way home as quickly as possible. If this report be confirmed we shall surely hear no more of the chivalry of these scoundrels, and this arch ruffian Morgan wanted but this display of brutal lust to complete the execration in which he must be held. A further report has reached us that he has paid another visit to Dr Stitt's place, where it was stated they were prepared and armed to meet him, but he went there and met with no resistance, although we hear that a son of Dr Stitt's wished to take a gun and meet him, but was prevented from so doing. We have no further particulars."Wagga Wagga Express, 2 Jan 1864. However, as cruel and vindictive Morgan was, it was generally thought that Morgan was not known to perpetrate acts of misconduct as far as women went. The above article is more than likely exaggerated.

However, rumours reigned supreme in the country newspapers hinting of a joining between Morgan, Hall and Gilbert. However, this was purely fictitious as there is no evidence to suggest that the two Lachlan bushrangers Hall and Gilbert ever came into contact with Morgan. Gilbert, who could read well, kept abreast of the newspaper coverage of not only their antics but also other bushrangers of equal notoriety.; 'The Courier' Wednesday 20th January 1864; "Gilbert and Ben Hall are said to have taken into partnership the ruffian Morgan, together with two others, and thus to have once more formed a strong band. But the news is doubted in priggo-commercial circles, where it is said that Gilbert would scorn the notion to associate with Morgan." 

In December 1863, Hall lying low, separated from John Gilbert, stopped over at his brother William's Pinnacle Range home to see his son Henry. 'Happy Jack' Gilbert disappeared from the scene and is reputed to have returned to Victoria amongst his family, not appearing again till early 1864. However, Gilbert's whereabouts were a mystery. Had Gilbert gone south? In 1913, a story surfaced in the reminiscence of an old Lachlan local highlighting that at that time, Gilbert was ill. The local claimed that Gilbert had not ventured to Victoria but had retired to a favoured gang retreat, the wild confines of Bogan Gate northwest of Forbes in amongst the many small ranges. Stretches of rough country, such as Monumea Gap, Nelungaloo Range and Jemalong Range, also known as Garland Range.

The ranges were part of a pencil-like mountain range stretching from Carawandool State Forest at Back Creek, meandering north as far as Bogan Gate. All these ranges were littered with caves and ridges that provided good cover for Hall and Gilbert. Their proximity to the surrounding stations, such as Bundaburrah, Billabong and Carrawobbity, enabled the bushrangers to steal horses and victuals as required. As Hall remained close to the Pinnacle in the company of his 5yr old son, Gilbert headed further north 40 miles, where he recovered from a bout of Typhoid Fever under the care of a drover named Botfield. 'The Forbes Advocate' Friday 28th February 1913; "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." There was a report that Hall was in his old haunt of Burrowa in late January 1864, suffering fever. Hall at Burrowa may have been that Hall was staying with Susan Prior who in 1864 was pregnant with her son later named Alfred of whom Ben Hall conceivably is the father. As such Hall may have been mistaken for Gilbert after suffering from the bite of a centipede. However, it added weight to the illness claim of Gilbert; "Ben Hall was seen about a fortnight [sic] ago on his old beat. He was suffering from colonial fever."

However, on the 22nd of January 1864, Hall's short time with his son came to an abrupt end as Bridget Hall applied to the Forbes Court for the return of young Henry Hall. Jim Taylor, accompanied by Bridget, took out a summons against William Hall for the illegal detention of Henry. The matter never made court as the issue was settled, and Henry surrendered to his mother and Taylor; FORBES. Friday, 5 pm. "Mrs Hall, wife of Ben Hall the bushranger, accompanied by the notorious Jim Taylor, recently took out a summons against Bill Hall, the brother, for the illegal detention of Ben Hall's child. The case was to have come off on Thursday, but the parties concerned made no appearance, the child having been surrendered to Taylor, who assumes its guardianship." 

(Australia day robberies to be inserted.)

NSW Police Gazette.
Feb 1864.
Re-appearing on the 28th January 1864 Hall arrived at the Dowd's farm at Kangarooby close to the settlement of Gooloogong. On entering Hall and another demanded supper. Dowds were long time residents and were the owners of Croote Cottage, established c. 1827. After dinner, the pair made the three ladies present, possibly Mary, Margaret and Mrs Rose Dowd, play the piano and dance with them for over two hours. However, Ben Hall's companion may have been James Mount alias the 'Old Man' alias Gordon. Mount was a career criminal, having received a 'Ticket-of-Leave' in September 1862 for the Mudgee district. Mount was 47 years of age and stood 5ft 11in with brown hair and grey eyes. (See Gang Page.) The coming together of Hall and Mount is vague and may have occurred while Mount was a Farm Labourer in the Cowra area. In one report, Hall's companion Mount was thought to be the terror of the Riverina 'Mad Dog' Morgan'; "Hall's present confederate in-arms is a long-legged, slop-made, [sic] middle-aged, black whiskered truculent-looking vagabond, supposed by many to be Morgan" Morgan it was not. (Croote Cottage is often open for tours and is a must-visit when at Gooloogong.)

Ben Hall's notoriety as bushranger supreme drew some to believe that the chance to join Hall was an easy process. A few would avail themselves of the idea of becoming a part of the gang over the next few months. One incident of a rouge who talked of joining Hall was John M'Kail, an American who had given himself the nickname 'Flying Barber'. M'Kail had for some time been a driver for prominent coach provider Greig's in the transport of passengers between Forbes and Lambing Flat, whereby the coachman had undoubtedly come into Hall and Gilbert's presence. "McKail will be well remembered as [sic] having for a length of time-driven Mr. Greig's coach between Forbes and Lambing Flat, and since the earliest days of this gold-field he has been connected with it." However, M'Kail was a married man and was sent down for six months at Bathurst in March 1863 for beating his wife unmercifully. To escape his clutches on his release from prison, Mrs M'Kail commenced work for a Mrs Folkard of the Franklyn Hotel, Billabong outside Forbes. M'Kail's wife believed his conduct toward her had become so violent that she thought M'Kail to be insane. Undeterred, M'Kail sought his wife out, whereby an altercation ensued with her employer Octavius Folkard. Folkard refused to allow M'Kail's wife to leave for her own safety. M'Kail then threatened vengeance against her and those who harboured her. A few days after his threat, M'Kail appeared at the hotel's bar in an excited state and took up his position at the end of the counter, behind which Mr. Folkhard was in the act of serving two customers with a glass of grog each when suddenly M'Kail called out, "Folkard, Folkard, look!" at the same time drawing a pistol from his trousers pocket, and as in doing so, there followed immediately a loud explosion putting the bar into darkness. A candle was sought, and on lighting, M'Kail was found laying on the floor bleeding with a gunshot wound to his right side. Within ten minutes, the would-be assassin was dead. Before his confrontation, M'Kail had made it known that he intended to join Gilbert and Hall if he succeeded in shooting Folkard.

While Hall commenced a new partnership with Mount, rumours arose that Hall and Gilbert had another significant falling out. One allegedly spread that the pair again quarrelled over a woman resulting in Hall shooting Gilbert dead. Another belief which captured the imagination was that Hall had not had an altercation but that Gilbert's revolver exploded while skylarking in front of female admirers. However, all was not as it seemed. Gilbert had not yet made a reappearance in Hall's company, thereby solidifying the rumours. 'The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser' Thursday 11th February 1864; Ben Hall And Gilbert.- The Marengo correspondent of the Yass Courier, writing on the 1st, says:- "For some weeks past various rumours have been current as to the whereabouts or fate of Gilbert; some say that he is gone north, to what is called the new country, others that he and Hall had quarrelled about a woman, the rupture culminating in Hall pistolling Gilbert dead on the spot. But yesterday a settler told me for a fact, that Gilbert was not only dead but buried, and that he and Hall never quarrelled, for no one was more "cut up" at Gilbert's fate than Hall himself, and that Gilbert's death was purely accidental; for a while, he was what is vulgarly termed skylarking with the daughters of a settler not a hundred miles off, one of his numerous revolvers exploded, the contents entering his abdomen, and he would not allow a doctor to be sent for, saying "it was no ---- use, as he knew it was a case;" so after lingering for ten or twelve hours, he died, and was buried "on the quiet." Though all this may be only a canard or a ruse to "wet blanket" the ardour of the police, yet it is the general belief around here that something of the kind has occurred. One thing is certain, that, as far as highway robbery is concerned, Hall and Gilbert are now-in thieves vernacular-"pals no longer."

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