Ben Hall Pt 1

This website is designed, researched and written by Mark Matthews. It may alter with expanded 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 the calamitous life of Australian bushranger Ben Hall. 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 historical related articles incorporated into the narrative are coloured and transcribed as published.)
("A good-looking young man")
Originally held by William Hall.
Ben Hall was born in the British penal colony of New South Wales in May 1837 at Maitland in the Hunter Valley. Both parents originated from the United Kingdom, convicted of stealing goods exceeding the value of one shilling. Their punishment was penal servitude and transportation by convict ship for seven years to Port Jackson. Benjamin Hall Sr was born in Bristol, England, in 1805 and transported in 1827 aboard the 'Midas'. Ben's mother, Eliza Somers, was born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1807 and transported in 1830 aboard the 'Asia 1'. (Ben Hall's Great Grandson, Ben Hall, has stated that Ben was born in February and not May.)

Hall's Creek.
Google Earth image.
Within twelve months of Ben Hall's birth, Eliza and Benjamin Hall commenced preparations for relocation. In late 1838 the family upped stakes departing Maitland for greener pastures. Their destination was a remote area of the Barnard River near Barry, New South Wales, at the eastern foot of the present-day Ben Halls Gap National Park.

The Hall's departed Maitland by bullock dray laden with their chattels and herding a small number of cattle and horses. The journey of 90 miles was another step for a family accustomed to frequent location changes and another adventure for the five Hall children, all under 10 Years of age. No doubt excited at the prospect of a farm of their own. The trek northward took two to three weeks. 

Arriving, the Halls established a modest farmstead alongside a creek that flowed into the Barnard River. The stream on which Ben Hall Sr built the home would become historically known as Ben Hall's Creek. Hall's Creek landscape was chronicled as wild and inhospitable, with extreme cold in winter and often coated in snow. Followed by oppressive summers. Years later, the station and its location were recollected: "Was in a very mountainous country."¹

Remains of the
Halls Creek home.
c. 1932.

Courtesy A.A. McLellan.
Author A. A. McLellan's biography of the Hall family, titled 'Benjamin Hall and Family'. McLellan surmises that Hall's trip from Maitland followed a road carved out by the Australian Agricultural Company some years earlier. Travelling, they passed through Arden Hall, Belltrees to Ellerston, diverting to the Walcha Track towards Glenrock, finally arriving at the Barnard River's junction with Ben Hall's Creek. Ben's father constructed a sturdy bark hut and commenced supplementing his stock from wild cattle and horses roaming the surrounding valleys. 

Note: Old remnants of the home were still visible, and part of the house was still habitable into the nineteen-thirties. Some bricker brack can still be found. Ben Hall's old squatterage is accessible today via the Scone/Nundle Rd.

March 1841.
However, the primitive conditions of remote Hall's Creek did not suit Eliza Hall. Subsequently, after enduring isolation and extreme weather for two years. The Hall's once more relocated. Departing Hall's Creek, the family resettled at Haydonton in 1840. Haydonton was the brainchild of two brothers, Peter and Thomas Haydon. A lack of farm workers for their enterprises needed rectifying. The brothers obtained a large land grant of 1000 acres, which they divided up, offering land of various sizes as building lots for sale. They called the division Haydonton. The prime lots were nestled in a long valley where the river Pages cut through the landholding and provided ample water. Ben Hall Snr was first in line to purchase.

Resettling at Haydonton for Eliza Hall was a marked improvement. Once again, Eliza enjoyed civilised facilities. Haydonton is connected to the settlement of Murrurundi, founded in 1840. However, by 1890, Haydonton merged into Murrurundi.

Clift residence Maitland
'Bridge House'

Courtesy Dr John Turner
(1933 - 1998)
Author's Note: A long-held belief perpetuated through the sands of time is that Ben Hall was born on a property named Breeza. Any reference to the town is incorrect. Breeza is situated on Liverpool Plains, NSW (the name of the current village). However, Ben's older brother Edward was born at Breeza in early 1836. 

Ben Hall was born reputedly at Samuel Clift's residence, named 'Bridge House', Toll Bridge Lane, East Maitland or the home of Eliza's sister Catherine Wynn at Maitland. Samuel Clift passed away at 'Bridge House' in 1862, aged 71.

Evidence indicates that the Hall family never actually resided there. However, Eliza was reputedly employed by Samuel and Ann Clift as a servant, as was her husband, Benjamin, although in another capacity, as a stockkeeper at Clift's Wallis Creek 44-acre property. 

Eliza's sister Catherine (also transported for seven years) was a resident at East Maitland and married Mr John Wynn. (See Hall's page) The two sisters were close and possibly resided together. One of Eliza's children is named after her. Undoubtedly, Catherine would have attended to her sister during the labour and birth of Benjamin Hall. Ben Hall's Great Grandson, Ben Hall, has stated that Ben was born in February and not May.

Benjamin Hall land
purchase Haydonton.

Courtesy Haydon papers
Benjamin Hall senior purchased two acres of land from the Haydon's situated along the banks of Pages River as recorded in the Haydon Family Papers - Volume 3 page 28:

The first parcel to be sold was 2 acres situated on the south side of the main road at the ford and is the parcel of land now bounded by Mayne Adelaide and Liverpool Streets and the Page's River. The Purchaser was Benjamin Hall a ticket of leave holder, but an independent grazier from Breeza where he had been employed by Samuel Clift. He paid £140 a price which indicated that there was probably a hut on the land.

The land also had direct access to the main Great Northern and Southern road, today's New England Highway. As noted Ben paid £140. The higher than average cost reflected that the acreage, as mentioned, already included a dwelling of sorts. Ben Hall Sr set about transforming the house into a substantial home. Constructed with wooden slabs, a bark roof with three bedrooms and subsequently added some outbuildings such as a butcher's shop and a blacksmith shop. Within a short time, the family had established a self-sufficient home and conducted the business of butchering.

Note: New research confirms that Ben's father before his transportation to NSW was a butcher or Skinner by trade. See Hall's Page. 

Reputed home of the
Hall family, 
c. 1900.
Courtesy A.A. McLellan.
In 1854 during one of many marital scuffles between Benjamin and Eliza, an advertisement was placed in the newspapers describing their well-established home for sale:

In the flourishing town of Haydonton, and bounded on the north by Main-street on the east by Adelaide-street on the south by Liverpool street to the River Page on the west by that river on which are erected a snug Cottage, three rooms, Butcher's Shop, Kitchen, Blacksmith's Shop; a splendid Well of Water, communing from 10 to 15 feet of water in dry seasons; a small Orchard, Garden, Three Stock Yards, Two Gallows; and the whole is enclosed by a four-railed fence. The properties situation is eligible, having an extensive frontage, and commands the main thoroughfare to all the Northern Diggings.² 

Note: The home portrayed right may actually be the cottage owned by the Hall's on Mayne Street and rented to Dr Hallett as noted in the Haydon Family Papers - Volume 3: - A bark roofed slab building owned by Benjamin Hall on the opposite side of Mayne Street.

As young Ben grew his home at Haydonton/Murrurundi was illustrated in traveller and adventurer Joseph Phipps Townsend's book titled; 'Rambles and Observations in New South Wales' 1848;

Murrurundi affords a fair specimen of an inland town. We were greeted with the sight of something green, for the rain, probably attracted by the hills, often drives through the deep valleys as through so many open tunnels. We have two inns both well built; and one is kept by a widow of real, homely, English aspect, and as kind and attentive as neat and respectable. Her nicely plaited widow's cap and her fine countenance tell a long and touching tale. There is a slab-built Roman Catholic chapel, with broken windows and otherwise much out of repair; and, behind it, is an open graveyard, with some neat monuments and headstones. There are two or three brick cottages, and a tolerable sprinkling of bark huts; and, at a little distance in the bush, is the courthouse. Here divine service is performed once a month by a clergyman of the Church of England who travels twenty-five miles for the purpose, and the magistrate's clerk gives the responses. A Roman Catholic priest comes from Maitland four times a year to shrive his flock at the slab-built chapel. He also catches every stray drunkard, of whatever denomination, on whom he can lay his hands, and insists on his becoming a tee-totaller. There is a large store, where everything that can possibly be required in the bush is to be bought. In one of the bark huts, you would find a good-natured, intelligent, and comfortable looking medical man, who came out in charge of emigrants, and has not exactly made up his mind when he shall return, but will probably think about it someday or other. In the meantime, he turns his skill to account, and is gradually accumulating cattle and horses; and, for the love he bears them, may perhaps become a fixture. He reads 'Blackwood,' and is fond of talking of 'that fine old fellow, Christopher North, whom he follows through all his fishing excursions. In the climate of NSW, a bark hut is as substantial a dwelling as a man needs; such abodes are often very comfortable; but they do not, unless double roofed, afford sufficient protection from the sun. The river Page runs, or rather lingers, in the rear of the town. The people seem happy and contented; and as all of them have cattle running on the wasteland, they are at no loss either for meat, or a matter of constant interest. (For the full book, see Source page.)

While a boy with older brothers Thomas Wade, William and Edward Hall. Ben Hall rounded up wild cattle and horses roaming the rugged bush hills canvassing Murrurrundi to build up their father's stock. These exploits enabled Ben to develop his bushman and stockman skills. Accordingly, the saying 'born in the saddle fitted a young Ben Hall to a tee. Furthermore, the lessons in bushcraft and animal husbandry would save him in good stead in the future and, on occasion, save his life.

Haydonton and Murrurundi had limited facilities and amenities. Murrurundi, in 1841, had a population of 52 with 11 houses. Haydonton's population was 22, with various cottages. There were two inns, both substantial buildings The White Swan in Murrurundi and the White Hart in Haydonton.

Schooling was limited and administered by t
Hall's, mark.
Marriage Certificate.
he former town gaol lockup keeper Mr James Gowan, more a tutor than class teacher. Thomas Haydon attempted to organise for the establishment of a National School in Murrurundi as there were then about 120 children in the district of school-age and no school, as the previous educator Rev. George Anderson had left. A committee of supporters was organised which called on parents to subscribe £5 annually. Then a very considerable sum as there was no government support and they were expected to meet the cost of the schoolhouse and schoolmaster's residence. 
Many were reluctant to part with £5. By 1851 a school was established headed initially by Alexander Brodie and his sister a Mrs Reid. However, there is no recorded evidence that Ben Hall attended school. In fact, he remained illiterate and placed an X as his mark.

The Hall family were indicative of the small settlers living in the remote towns and villages of NSW. Therefore, horses and cattle were their lifeblood and represented income, wealth, and sustenance. During the early period Benjamin also obtained another home at Hydonton that was rented to the local doctor, Dr Hallett. Haydon Family Papers - Volume 3 page 32:

There also was a medical practitioner residing in Haydonton in a house belonging to Benjamin Hall - Dr  Hallett.

By 1845, some of Hall's funds and animal procurement were questioned when the police sought Ben's father with a warrant. He had already gained a widespread reputation in the district as a known cattle and horse thief. In this period, Haydonton became known as the haunt of seedy characters. Alcohol was a factor in widespread merriment and chicanery. The police participated in many of the town's antics. To counter the boozing, Thomas Haydon introduced a Temperance Society to reduce the evils of drunkenness with limited success. Nevertheless, Thomas Haydon noted, "The change in morals and appearance of the people is wonderful." 'The Australian' Wednesday 5th April 1843 noted the good-time town:

About three weeks since, Mr William Shields, our Chief Constable, met with a serious accident by breaking his leg, and otherwise bruising himself. He at the time was riding a spirited horse, after one that broke away, and came in contact with a stump. Report says, he had imbibed too large a quantity of the strong liquors usually in repute at the "White Hart Inn," and was showing off his abilities in leaping his spirited charger over logs, to the amusement of the bye-standers; (low life characters), who generally congregate at Hydonton, to see the sports of the day, and which is of almost every day occurrence, either horse-racing or cricketing, or some other game, and in which the constables take an active part, the scourger being engaged as a monitor or notcher to the said cricket club. Had the worthy Chief been on Government duty, the accident would have been taken in a different light, and he the more pitied.

The deep suspicion over Benjamin Hall Sr was enacted upon when a warrant was drawn up for his arrest for horse theft. Subsequently, James Gowan, the lock-up keeper and a mate of Hall Sr's, tipped him off that the police were about to arrest him. Unsurprisingly for Gowan, his assistance saw him forfeit his position:

Was dismissed from the lockup in consequence of it having been supposed that he had given or permitted an intimation to Benjamin Hall to keep out of the way.³ 

Without hesitation and the following information from James Gowan, Hall Sr through Eliza and eldest son William and to avoid arrest, escaped from Haydonton. Ben headed 200 miles south to the Lachlan region. 

Furthermore, Hall and others' reputations around the town as thieves were so objectionable it led to the formation of several societies hell-bent on abolishing stock theft. Many of these associations were made up of prominent landholders. Who formed an alliance offering rewards for the blaggards' apprehension over stock losses. These associations included the Upper Hunter District and Scone District Associations for the Suppression of Horse, Cattle and Sheep stealing.

Ben Hall's father

Courtesy N.L.A.
At Ben's disappearance, the Upper Hunter associations for the Suppression of Horse, Cattle stealing in conjunction with the government promulgated a Wanted poster for Hall and his accomplice Alexander Patterson which was widely advertised in newspapers. The reward was £15. (See left.)

However, the long arm of the law was patient, and Benjamin Hall Sr would be arrested in October 1848 at the Lachlan River hold up at Mr Hugh Hamilton's farm near Forbes after an absence of over two years.

During Hall's long absence, Eliza and the children were left responsible for maintaining the stock and store. Earning income by selling their own farm-grown vegetables, fruit, and butchered livestock, thereby muddling through in their father's absence. Accordingly, with Benjamin Hall's fleeing in 1845, the police cast their suspicious eyes upon his eldest son William. William was arrested for horse theft at the tender age of eleven. Charged as an accomplice to his father. William Hall was charged with:

The killing of two mares for their Unbranded foals by slitting the mare's throats and letting them bleed to death.⁴ 

William's arrest and the events surrounding it created a fracture between him and his mother that would endure for the rest of his life. As while kept in the cell, William was noted to cry very much, instilled by fear as the room was sealed in darkness and to add to his terror was placed with another accused the menacing Taylor, where it was said:

William Hall
c. 1910.

The boy cried very much through fear; he was kept there some days. Means had been used to intimidate the boy by placing him in a dark room, the windows of which had been boarded up for the purpose of darkening it, and his mind being overcome by terror at being shut up in a dark place (in which a death, too, had occurred), he was put beside Taylor, who had succeeded, apparently, in moulding him to his purpose.

While held in the lockup Eliza abandoned William after he failed in the old convict adage of  'Keeping Mum' about what he knew. Thomas Blair the Clerk to the Court stated:

The boy was kept by himself for three or four days, and was then put beside Taylor; after the boy gave information his mother utterly refused to send him anything, although she had sent him food previously; food and clothes were then given him by witness. 

On the 4th of October 1845, William was removed from Murrurundi to Parramatta Gaol:

William Hall, twelve or thirteen years of age, was taught his prayers in Parramatta Gaol by the Ladies of Charity and understood the consequences of false swearing.⁶ 

He was returned in March 1846 for the trial. (See below.)
William Hall, aged eleven, Parramatta Gaol Entrance Book, 4th October 1845.
When William's trial commenced at Maitland, the young boy valiantly attempted to protect his father. However, the effort elicited a rebuke from the Judge:

As the son of Benjamin Hall, of Murrurundi, lives close to the lock-up; knew Abbott's run, and went there with the prisoner and another man, but did not think proper to tell that man's name. The witness was here reprimanded by the Judge and informed that what he should say would not incriminate that person, and then said the name of the man was Benjamin Hall, his father.⁷ 

A naive William also professed that:

He had once been engaged in horse stealing himself where he did not "quite help" to kill the mares. William Butler (co-accused) and witness's father helped to kill the mares.⁸ 

Certainly, for this Hall child his father’s lessons in crime and deviousness had been thorough:

But that of Hall, a boy, although young in years, evidently old in crime, and well versed in dissimulation.

Mary Hall
c. 1905.

Furthermore, William’s older sister Mary also appeared as a witness, whereby she gave a different version of events, even to the point of contradicting her brother's evidence. In her testimony, Mary gave the impression that she had been coached by her mother Eliza, a sentiment Mary denied:

No one told her to say so here. She told her mother what she had heard from her brother. Her brother used to ride about after the cattle; her father had 60 or 70 head, and 8 or 10 head of horses.¹⁰ 

Moreover, during the proceedings, it came to light that the only Hall child who had been attending school was Mary, taught by Mr James Gowan mentioned earlier. Gowan stated that:

He had a daughter of Benjamin Hall's at his school, but was not aware of her coming to the Court to contradict her brother; his school was within eighty yards of the lockup and was patronized by the most respectable people in Murrurundi. Considerable laughter was excited by this witness's off-hand manner of giving his evidence.¹¹

William escaped gaol and, upon discharge, faced an Admonishment from the Judge. However, how the other siblings perceived Ben Hall's older brother's treatment by their mother is unknown. Suffice to say that when the time came for Thomas Wade, Mary, William and Ben Hall to leave home and accompany their father to the Lachlan. In what may well have been a pre-emptive move for the whole family, which, in turn, failed to materialise as Eliza Hall was recorded as refusing to depart Murrurundi. Eliza's refusal was on the grounds of her once more being pregnant with the couple's last child, Ellen. A.A. McLellan states in 'Benjamin Hall and Family' pg. 25, Eliza's reluctance:

However, Eliza who was then pregnant objected to moving both on the ground of the long and tedious journey to get to the Lachlan area and that she and the children would be returning to primitive conditions she had endured.

Therefore, the children who accompanied their father did so and never took a backward glance. Ben Hall Sr and the older children's departure created lifelong enmity between Edward Hall left behind and his father. Edward was young Benjamin's older brother. However, young Ben was his father's favourite and selected to go over Edward. The departure of the four children was reputedly the last time Ben Hall ever saw his mother. Eliza passed away in 1869.

Note: An admonition, where the accused is found guilty but is neither imprisoned nor fined. They receive a verbal warning, and the conviction would be made part of the record. The link below is the 1846 newspaper account of the court proceedings of William's trial at Maitland Court.
The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser
Wednesday 18th March 1846

The Lachlan; "He was a good mate at mustering cattle or running wild horses."

Benjamin Hall arrested
30th October 1848
at Hamilton's station.

Courtesy NLA.
In 1850, 13-year-old Ben Hall bid adieu to his family at Haydonton. Saddling up with his father and older siblings for the ride south to the Lachlan district. They included Thomas Wade/Hall (half-brother), William and Mary herding a small amount of stock for sale, travelling to Singleton via Whittingham, Jerrys Plains, Cassilis, through Dubbo arriving in the Lachlan district near Forbes. Upon their arrival, the boys obtained employment in stock-keeping for Mr Hugh Hamilton.

Hamilton was previously acquainted with Ben Hall's father during 1846-48 when Hall Sr was lying low under an assumed name, reputed to be Jack Binding. However, for Mr Hamilton, Ben Hall's father's earlier offence and subsequent arrest in October 1848 by Constable Hoy of the old New South Wales mounted police appeared to have no impact on Hamilton hiring the three lads who, even as young boys, were extremely skillful in the saddle.

Hugh Hamilton's leases.
Squatting Licences, 1848.
Hamilton held the lease for two Lachlan stations. They were Tommanbil and Boyd, which covered 17,520 acres and 26,500 acres. Both stations were located by the Lachlan River, Boyd and Pinnacle Creeks. 

The overseer of the station and head stockman was William Jones. One of Jones' assistants became none other than young Ben Hall, including another who became a long time friend and future harbourer of Hall, James Newell. Newell introduced Ben to his brother-in-law Daniel Charters, who would become Ben Hall's best mate. Newell had married Charters' older sister Agnes in 1850. They also resided at Tommanbil. The Newell's would eventually own hotels, the most notable at Bandon, NSW, near Eugowra.

Note: Interestingly, in August 1865, Agnes gave birth to a son whom she named Benjamin. Tommanbill was reputedly named after two stockmen Tom and Bill.

However, for Jones, his time as overseer and Ben Hall's boss abruptly ended when he was out mustering near Speck's Gap and came off his horse. The horse fall broke his thigh. Here he lay in agony before being discovered by stockmen, including Ben Hall and Cornelius O'Donnell:

Jones was out mustering in the vicinity of Speck's Gap when his horse fell, breaking the rider's thigh. He lay there alone for a considerable time before being discovered. The limb was then roughly set, and Jones was brought to Bathurst. It was some time before he had the use of his leg, and his pronounced limp or hop suggested the nickname 'Hoppy'. One of his assistants was a young man named Benjamin Hall.

The accident produced the nickname 'Hoppy' Jones. Subsequently, Jones went to Bathurst, where he recuperated and became the publican of the 'Lachlan Inn'corner of Seymour and Lambert Street, Bathurst known today as Centennial Park:

Benjamin Hall and his wife patronised his old Boyd friend for about twelve months when Ben's happy days were obsequered. 

Note: Jones would maintain a friendship with his young former stockman until Ben's death.

During these early years, Hall also engaged in mustering on other stations at various times, namely 'Omah' (Oma) adjacent to Tommanbil, owned by horse racing identity Mr John Tait and Green’s 'Uar' station. Hamilton, Ben's employer, was noted as:

The first man to bring pedigreed Short-horn cattle to the district. The man in charge of the cattle was Ben Hall, after bringing out Mr Hamilton's cattle, Hall was for years on the station as a stockman.¹² 

Hamilton's stations were situated within 25 miles of Forbes. Once settled, Hall's older sister Mary married a local stockman William Wright. (A much older ex-convict) Furthermore, with the boys now in full employment, Ben's father by the end of 1851 returned to Eliza and the remaining children, Edward, Catherine, Robert, Henry and Ellen, at Murrurundi.

Authors Note: 
Over time, there has been conjecture that in the 1850 move to the Lachlan, the whole of the Hall family had uprooted again. Ben Hall's youngest sister Ellen's birth was registered during the journey south at Whittingham Post Office at the old junction of the New England Hwy and Bulga Trail. (Putty Rd) However, Ellen's father was responsible for registering her birth. As per the law at the first opportunity when transiting through Whittingham with the four children, it would appear he did so, therein giving the misapprehension of Ellen's birth there, or of the Hall's of ever settling in the Lachlan district as a family. "Ellen E Hall: Birth Date: 1850 Birth Place: New South Wales Registration Year: 1850 Registration Place: Whittingham, New South Wales, Australia Father: Benjamin Hall Mother: Elizabeth- Volume Number: V18501899 71" My ongoing research leads one to believe that Ben Hall's father would have needed dynamite to shift Eliza Hall from her comfortable home at Murrurundi, as alluded too in the 1854 advertisement and dispute over their home as will be seen on Hall's page.

15th April 1843,
Pages River Racing.

Courtesy NLA.
With the commencement of a stockman's life, thirteen-year-old Ben performed tasks of a diverse and often laborious nature. Ben Hall had demonstrated from an early age that he had all the attributes for cattle work and a real gift for reading the animals' ways and habits, including establishing a lifelong passion for quality thoroughbred horses of the racing variety. Ben had a keen eye. 

Ben's passion for racehorses was established when a boy at Murrurundai as Ben's father had a number of quality horses that raced regularly at the rough Murrurundi race track. Prominent landowners of the period such as Charles Dangar, the Single brothers along with Dr Welsh's horse Death and Mr Butt's, Snake, W Wightman‘s, Canonball, Henry O'Neil's, Wallaby and Benjamin Hall’s Jacky Jacky and Roderick held sway over the district. Haydon Family Papers - Volume 3 page 40:

The Murrurundi Race Club course was established opposite the site of the School and continued parallel with Mayne Street to the vicinity of Royal Hotel when it turned north over Little Street and round and back to the start. On this course meetings were frequently held at which Dr Welsh's Death and Mr Butt's Snake, W Wightman‘s Canonball, Benjamin Hall’s Jacky Jacky, Henry O'Neil Wallaby and Charles Dangar and John and Frank Singles's horses were the best. Races were usually run in the heat and attracted large fields. 

Furthermore, Ben displayed, as is often noted, a quiet and reserved demeanour and let his abilities do his talking. His attitude enabled him to handle Hamilton's stock with patience and confidence. Especially during the hectic mustering time when Hall was able to make accurate observations regarding livestock condition and health. One ability enabled Ben to judge an animal's age and condition through ancient techniques by examining only its teeth.

Earnest and sister
Adelaide Bowler.

Private Source.
Highly respected Lachlan squatter, Ernest Bowler had numerous dealings with Ben Hall as both stockman and grazier as a large station owner and country squire. A man of means. On one occasion while travelling in a dog cart with his visiting sister Adelaide a few years before Hall turned bushranger, the pair met Hall carting goods by wagon for Wheogo. In overtaking the dray. Earnest pulled up for a chat on recognising Hall, and pleasantries exchanged, Earnest proceeded with his sister to which the latter casually said, 
"What a good-looking man that was." whereby Earnest replied, "Yes, and a fine fellow he is too. He has a place at Wheogo near Grenfell way. His name is Ben Hall."

Bowler also commented on Hall's work during mustering time a hectic period for all the workers — shone further light on his integrity as well as Ben's uncanny ability when it came to reading cattle as well as his competence in the saddle, 'The Moleskin Gentry' by Frederick Howard:

Ben Hall had a cattle station at Wheogo, and he used to attend all the musters round.  He was one of the smart, devil-may-care bushmen, knew the whole country well, always had a good horse and knew how to ride.  He was a good mate at mustering cattle or running wild horses.  He could "mother" calves; that means, after a day's mustering, he could tell you, which calf belonged to which cow - even if there were a hundred different brands. 

Such qualities were admired and respected throughout the Central West. Ernest's wife, Elizabeth Bowler nee Farrand, arrived in Forbes in 1857 with her father, William Farrand was a magistrate and founding editor of the local newspaper 'Lachlan Observer'. Mrs Bowler married Earnest in February 1872. Elizabeth noted in her remembrance of Ben Hall's early life. Even after as a young girl of 15 in 1865, she was held captive by Hall at Yamma Station. Where Hall had threatened her father with a flogging. The facts of which in later years she related with relish and fondness of 'the good-looking young man':

When cattle were mustered in those days (there were no sheep), they were held in some chosen spot overnight. Next morning squatters who had an interest in the herd came with their riders and the job of cutting-out began. Among the stockmen of those days was one who gained a modicum of fame as being the best of them all. Mrs. Bowler describes him as being a well-built, good looking young man with a pleasant disposition which gained him the friendship of all with whom he came in contact, A splendid rider and a good stockman, his services were frequently in demand.

Adding to Ernest's recollections of Ben as a: "young man with a pleasant disposition." The 'Freeman's Journal', recounted in 'The Last of the Bushrangers', 25th September 1930, through some old-timers reminiscences that:

Hall was a popular man in the district, and the circle of his acquaintances was large from Bathurst to Euabalong, and from the Belabula to the Weddin Mountains, where old Walsh, his father-in-law, lived in easy affluence.

There was another view where Ben Hall appeared characterised by a 'certain detachment and shyness,' whereas others such as Mr Thomas Bates who in old age would recall in the 'Bathurst Times' of the 13th December 1924, that Ben, "could spin a good yarn and sing a song in the rough, boisterous fashion of the day."

It was also remarked that Hall;

Had an amiable sincerity of soul, a generosity of spirit, and an honesty in all his dealings with his fellow-settlers that won their friendliest esteem. He was steady, industrious, temperate, keenly intelligent, and, above all, always ready to give a helping hand to a neighbour.¹³

Station Cattle Branding,
by S.T. Gill. 1862.
However, Ben's sine qua non of station life demonstrated a natural ability for the arduous work. Whereby he took to the role like a duck to water and was soon a station favourite. Furthermore, his peers and employers such as Hamilton saw a young man of much promise.

Jack Bradshaw, a wanna be bushranger in a book titled 'Frank Gardiner, Ben Hall & Gang' in the 1920s wrote of Hall's work at Hamilton's. The book draws its story mainly from the memory of Ben's older brother William:

Mr Hamilton grew very fond of young Ben, finding out he possessed great ability as a stockman. Mr Hamilton gave Ben permission to graze horses and cattle on his station, which young Ben did, and purchased out of his salary in about three years a small station. He became full manager for Mr Hamilton. The seasons were good and the grass plentiful, so that young Ben became fairly rich. 

The many responsibilities of young Ben in the stockman's role were wide and varied such as mustering, droving, branding, castrating and preventing wildlife from damaging the herd in the form of wild dogs or dingos. All from sun-up to sundown. Furthermore, station life not only for Hall but for stockmen, in general, continued with little seasonal deviation until the annual break in routine that encompassed horse-breaking, which amongst the men often developed into a test of horsemanship, manliness and courage.

Additionally, a couple of times a year, all station hands not engaged in boundary riding or outstation work assembled at the main homestead. Their ranks swelled with the arrival of stock riders from neighbouring stations. These men rode in for the great musters that took place out on the vast plains of the Bland and Lachlan. Work encompassed by long days spent in the saddle, building makeshift stockyards and camping out in isolated areas sleeping in a swag.

These great stock musters were an environment where the very likable, easy-going Ben Hall excelled. Hall's fine horsemanship was admired as the men were also mustering one of the grand prizes for any stockman, wild horses or Warrigal's ridden down with a skill that would confound most city folk. Ben Hall was in the thick of it. The chase was commented on by a local years later:

The mosquitoes and flies were the most effective agents in driving the warrigal's out of the scrub onto the open plain, where they gathered in mobs for self-protection, standing whisking each other with their tails. This gave the stockmen and others a chance for some sport. The stockman was usually an active, game fellow, and a first-class horseman, with the "bump of locality" exceptionally well developed. He could steer a course through the bush like a blackfellow, confused neither by frequent twist nor turning. Running wild horses was a fascinating but hazardous and exciting part of his work, undertaken for the purpose of recovering a broken-in horse or mare that had joined the mob; to run the warrigals off the station, where they had become a pest, or for the mere love of the sport. And sport it was when the mob could be found in the open as stated above. Driving a bunch of quiet horses to act as "trailers" (frequently with a stallion amongst them, for such was a grand auxiliary equal to half-a-dozen stockmen in rounding up and keeping together the warrigal's), the stockman often succeeded in yarding a mob. But it meant several miles of hard riding through scrub and over broken country. 

As such for Ben Hall and his stockman mates the hunt for Warrigals was incentivised by the money they could earn over and above their wages, as Ray Saint Smith recalled:

The wild horses, when yarded, and brought under control, realised highly satisfactory prices, as much as £15 to £20 per head being paid for them.

However, c. 1853 tragedy struck the young stockman. When as a 16-year old while working horses in a stockyard. Hall attempted to mount a racehorse of some renown from around the bush racetracks of the Western Districts. Consequently, Ben suffered a severely broken leg. The perpetrator was a racehorse named 'Slasher', a reputed fiery animal agisted on Boyd Station. Slasher's reputation was as an outlaw horse and was very tough to handle. Unfortunately for Ben, the broken leg would ultimately leave him noticeably lame for the rest of his life.

Hall's future brother-in-law, John Maguire, wrote an account of Ben's accident in his narrative. 'The Biography of a Reliable Old Native' written by P.H. Pinkstone, owner of the 'Hawkesbury Herald' and first published in his newspaper after many in-depth interviews and fireside talks, c. 1906:

Whilst mounting him one-morning 'Slasher' let out a lasher and poor Ben's leg and hoof met, resulting in a bad smasher for the former.

Accordingly, the severely injured young stockman was transported by wagon to the nearby cattle station, 'Bundaburra'. Here, after enduring an agonizing ride Mrs Mary Strickland, with the aid of her brother Tom Higgins (future owner of the Dog and Duck Hotel, and long-time friend and harbourer of Ben Hall), attended to the severe break. Maguire, in his memoirs, wrote that Tom Higgins was one:

Who had a reputation as a bush surgeon, set the fracture, making a good job of it. In nine or ten weeks Ben was able to get about on crutches, and after that was as lively as ever.

Mary Coneley nee

c. 1862.
During his recovery, Ben Hall developed a close friendship and teenage romance with Mary Strickland, the niece of her namesake and bush doctor, Mary Strickland, during his convalescence. (Believed heartbroken when Ben Hall began courting Bridget Walsh.)

Mary assisted in nursing young Ben. Furthermore, Mary would become the future wife of Bundaburra stockman Michael Coneley, who would play a traitor’s role later in Ben’s life. The pair eventually separated in 1900, and from documents, Coneley reputedly passed away at Nobby Queensland outside of Toowoomba in 1910. (Queensland, Australia, Will Index, 1857-1900 (all districts), 1901-1940 (Southern District. 1910/224 Item ID: 42556 Prev Sys: SCT/P753 Microfilm Number: Z1741 File Name: Wills 1901-1940.

Note: Peter Bradley in his fine investigative book The Judas Covenant reveals the correct spelling of Coneley. There are many alternatives i.e. Connelly, Conley Conerly. I have used the Bradley version. Petersham Sydney has as well been marked as where Coneley's death took place in 1910. Ancestry record.

Nevertheless, long after Ben Hall's demise, this was noted regarding Hall's grave's tendering over many years. 'The Wingham Chronicle and Manning River Observer,' Saturday 5th August 1911:

In the Forbes cemetery, today rest the mortal remains of Ben Hall, and the mound which covers his dust is still tenderly cared for by a female hand—one who, though long years have drifted by since Hall's unfortunate body was riddled with policemen's bullets, still cherishes a kindly regard for a man who, but for a certain set of circumstances, might have earned renown in a different walk of life.

This female hand may well be Mary Strickland for it was recalled that for very many years his grave was carefully tended by a lady who was his boyhood friend, who remained in the Lachlan district until 1910 and would pass away at Redfern, Sydney in 1913 at her children's home. Furthermore, on the day of Hall's death, close to Mary's home at Billabong Creek, a distressed Mary as Hall's body lay bloodied and cut off a piece of Ben's hair as a keepsake. Moreover, as was standard for women out on the remote properties, Mary was also an accomplished horse-woman. In her youth was often a rider at race meetings at Forbes in which large wagers were placed on Mary's race results:

Mrs Newell, whose husband, John Newell, kept the Western Hotel, which stood on the site now occupied by the Metropolitan Hotel. Dora was ridden by Miss Strickland, daughter of Mr Pearce Strickland. There was always great rivalry between those two well-known horse-women, and the match caused much excitement and considerable wagering. After a desperate race, Virginia won.

Note: John Newell is not related to James Newell, who married Agnes Charters.

Mary Strickland nee

c. 1890's
The 'The Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate', Wednesday 16th October 1918, reported that the care and bush doctoring of Mrs Strickland, Tom Higgins and young Mary was a kindness Ben Hall never forgot when he subsequently took to the road: 

The death of Mrs M. A. Strickland, which occurred at Bundaburra Station, Forbes, during the week, has removed one of the real Lachlan pioneers, the deceased lady was 93 years of age, on one occasion Ben Hall was severely kicked by a horse he was breaking in, and Mrs Strickland set the broken leg and nursed Ben back to health. He never forgot Mrs Strickland's kindness, and it is on record that he refused to allow his gang to raid Bundaburra. On several occasions, when hard pressed, his lawless band took valuable horses from the station, but they were always returned within a month or so.

Daniel Charters. This
photo was most
 probably taken at
Mrs Reed’s photographic
gallery Forbes in 1862,
on the same day
as the Ben Hall

By the mid-1850s, Ben had commenced a close friendship with another local grazier Daniel Charters. Charters had arrived in Australia aged three from Ireland, settling in the Carcoar district with his family. The Charters family built up extensive property interests thru marriage and investment between Carcoar and Forbes. Including property at remote Humbug Creek beyond Lake Cowal. Daniel helped manage his sister Agnes Newell's Daroubalgie Station outside of Forbes and another at Bandon, which also had a hotel. Charters was as well involved with the Pinnacle Station, a massive farm owned by his recently widowed sister Margret Feehily where a hotel was also traded. 

Daniel Charters was 6 ft. tall, of stout build, a fresh complexion, light brown hair, blue eyes and could read and write. A beneficial attribute for helping his mate Ben Hall, who could do neither. Furthermore, both men had similar qualities, amiable, excellent riders and bushmen. Charters remarked in 1863:

I have known Ben Hall for six or seven years; I used to be at his place when I was gathering cattle for myself and for my sister.

However, Daniel Charters also had a reputation as a lady's man. Where Charters was outgoing and relaxed in the company of ladies, Ben Hall was noted as shy and unconfident. In 1863, Charters was rumoured to have been in a relationship with Elen Maguire while her husband John Maguire was on trial in Sydney over the Eugowra gold escort robbery of June 1862. 

Furthermore, during Maguire's trial in 1863, Charters was hit with a paternity suit from Miss Charlotte Brandon. As a result, Charters was named the father of her son. However, sadly within a year, the son passed away. 

Although Charters ran cattle at several properties in Forbes' vicinity, he also grazed cattle on Hall's newly acquired Sandy Creek station. Sandy Creek bordered the Pinnacle Station, and as fences were unheard of in those days, cattle from both properties mixed in and then sorted out at muster times.

For Charters, his cattle constituted overall ownership of some 500 head — roughly a value of over £5000. In 1863 Charters revealed his state of affairs as a stock owner:

My business is that of a stockowner, looking after my own and my sister's cattle. I have never been employed as stock-keeper by any one, and have never in my life received wages from any person. My sister's station at the Pinnacle is a large one. She has a good many people employed there, and has about 2000 head of cattle. I have about 500 or 600 head of my own.  

Marriage; "a pert and lively woman"

St Michael's Catholic
Church, Bathurst.
c. 1850's.

Circa 1855, following four years of employment for Hugh Hamilton. Ben Hall transferred his swag and commenced stock work at 'Weeogo Station' (also known as Uoka), a 16,000-acre run owned by an emancipated convict named John Walsh.

However, there was more to the move than just stock work as it enabled Ben to court a lass who had caught his eye. Fifteen-year-old Bridget Walsh, second daughter of John Walsh. Ben was eighteen. It was recalled that John Walsh's daughter Bridget, her two sisters Elen and Catherine, were acclaimed by locals as pure creatures of the Weddin—tough, wild, and untameable. A stark contrast to the quiet, easy-going shy Ben Hall. In turn, relocation to Weeogo (Wheogo) Station for Hall moved him towards independence and opportunity. Weeogo as well solidified Hall's romance, an affair that matured into matrimony.

The very same Alter at
St Michael's Catholic
Church, Bathurst where
Ben and Biddy
exchanged their vows
in 1856.
My Photo.
Consequently, after years of grinding it out for other station squires, Wheogo provided a genuine chance at autonomy and a station of his own. It also led the way to marriage whereby on the 29th February 1856, (a leap year) at the age of 19, Ben Hall married 15yr old Bridget Walsh (1841–1923) "a pert and lively woman" at St Michael's Catholic Church, Bathurst with John and Elen Maguire, her sister, as witnesses. In the 'Grenfell Record and Lachlan District Advertiser,' February 1917, a pioneer reminisced about his memory regarding the happy occasion when Ben and Bridget made the trip to get married:

I saw Ben Hall and his Bridget Walsh when they were going to Burrowa, or Yass, to get married. I think it was about the year 1857, or it might have been 1856. They stayed at our house on their return trip. They were both, young — Ben about 20 years of age, and I think she was under 20. I fancy I see her slender, little white fingers peeling, with a sharp knife, apples for us youngsters.
John Walsh's Uoka (Weeoga) Station, registered under The Squatters Act-1846-47.
Note; John Tait's station Oma.
Preceding Ben's marriage to 15yr old Bridget, there had been a rumour that Ben Hall's father disapproved of the union. Although, whether in 1856 Ben Hall communicated his intentions with his father is conjecture, his father had departed the Lachlan District in 1851 and returned to Murrurundi. Reputedly the two men never communicated with each other again. However, in 1856, marriages between couples under the age of 21 required parental approval. Rumour had it that Ben raised his age to 21 to overcome the legal hurdle. 

The nuptials performed the happy couple spent some time at Bathurst at "Hoppy" Jones Inn:

In the later fifties 'Hoppy's assistant from Wheogo brought a fair damsel, to invoke the aid of a man in holy orders in joining the bond that no man should put asunder, and the Lachlan Inn sheltered the newly wedded couple during their visit to Bathurst. Their friends wished them heal and happiness on their departure for Sandy Creek, a small station which he had stocked with cattle and horses, and where he settled down as a squatter.

However, after three years of marriage, the couple's only child, a son Henry, was born on 7th August 1859, at the home of Ben Hall's close friend Daniel Charters' mother's residence at Carcoar.

Note: In later years, there was speculation that the couple had another child who passed away either as an infant or possibly stillborn, John Maguire wrote in his narrative, 'There had been two children, but the first had died.'

The Charters' former home,
 now  Fern Hill. c. 1970's.
 Reputed birthplace
 of Henry Hall.

Courtesy, Carcoar Historical Society.
However, married and a new father, Ben Hall, was seen to mix with a less-reputable character. Not unusual as the district was alive with shysters. As such, while in Daniel Charters' company, these suspect associations saw both men tapped on the shoulder by the law. One particular occasion regarding police scrutiny related to non-payment for a horse, and together the pair were summoned to appear at the local Burrowa Court in late 1859. The charge was instigated by a known lowlife of the district John Healy. Surprisingly or possibly unsurprisingly, Healy, a small-time hood, was an acquaintance of Charters and Hall's.

However, the summons was issued to Hall to appear as a witness on behalf of Charters. However, Hall was in the end not called to give evidence. Therefore, to alleviate any culpability towards Hall on the matter. Charters stated that Ben Hall was not involved in the affair, although he witnessed Charters obtaining the horse in question:

I was brought up with Ben Hall at the court at Burrowa; I was not brought up there on any charge; I was summoned there about a horse; I had a horse from a man on trial, and he summoned me for payment for the use of it; I swear it was no charge of criminality at all; it is about two years and a half years ago; Ben Hall was present when I borrowed the horse; he was implicated in the matter in no other way, I was summoned by John Healy; the charge was made against me; I was not in custody; I went in and spoke a few words; the verdict was against me, and I paid £2.

Note: John Healy would be sent down to Cockatoo Island for larceny, robbery of a dray with firearms at the O'Meally's Inn at the Weddin Mountains, and sentenced to 15 yrs the first year in Irons in early 1863.

Hall's connection demonstrates that he indeed was mixing with the unsavoury element in the district, however he was not alone. 
Bridget Hall from the Penzig collection.©
In 1859, the advertisement above demonstrates that Ben Hall was a person of good standing in the community supporting Law and Order. Note the commitment of some of the Lachlan's most esteemed citizens marked by a #.
Ben Hall's Marriage Certificate 1856 (above)
Note:  Ben Hall signed his name with an "X" (his mark), demonstrating he was illiterate
Bridget also signed her name with an "X"(her mark)
Bridget's sister, Elen, signed her name as a witness, as did John Maguire.
It is interesting how one sister was literate and not the other.
Henry Hall's (Ben Hall's Son) Birth Certificate 1859 (above)
Note:  Again, Hall signed his name with an "X" as his mark further demonstrated his illiteracy. The certificate also names Dr Rowland (1) in attendance during Henry's birth, assisted by Mrs Charters (2).
The two photos are of, on the left, Bridget Hall, reputedly at the time of her marriage to Ben Hall. As per Penzig. The picture on the right is Bridget's granddaughter Bridget May Costello, daughter of Catherine Costello nee Taylor, Bridget's daughter. Note the similarities in eyes and cheekbone structure and lips. However, the Bridget Hall image is from a drawing of a possible original. There is no doubt that, as observed, Bridget Hall was an attractive woman, as was her granddaughter. The similarities between the two women are striking. I believe the two photos eliminate Bridget from the small locket shown on the Gallery page and indicate that the locket is more than Susan Prior. (See gallery page for an explanation.) Bridget May Costello was born in 1891 and passed away in February 1973. She was never married. Bridget passed away in 1923. Courtesy of a private source.

Sandy Creek Station; "Estimated to be among the very best runs in the Lachlan district."

Ben Hall
During the 1800s portions of Australia's colonial society retained the structured and stoic aristocratic style of old England. An environment where inherited wealth and title determined a path to an assured future, either in government or industry, this, of course, excluded the son of former convicts, Ben Hall.

Ben Hall, a married man also desired a future in Australia's evolving and progressive society. As such the land presented an opportunity for the adventurous to have a go, minus the social judgments that had long handicapped those of limited means or unable to overcome the so-called predetermined order of things.

Nonetheless, for those with courage and determination, the land offered that fighting chance of diversity and position in an emerging beau monde by way of the establishment of a new landed gentry. One that washed away the old and set a new order forged out by the former criminals of England.

Convicts once bound down by iron chains, cast out never to return to England and imprisoned in a new land on the far side of the world. For the released and enterprising former misfits and their offspring opportunities abounded.

A triumph for those exiled and transported on a sailing ship under heinous conditions, enduring imprisonment of seven to fourteen years or the lost hope of a life sentence, enduring a voyage of unimaginable horror and severe physical punishment. 

Therefore, the vast open tracts of land available in colonial New South Wales stocked with cattle and sheep enabled the birth of a new Australian gentility. Where men who had suffered real hardship were more at ease, less pretentious, and, in due course, blurred the origins of their arrival in the colony— old lags who established a wealth more copious than some landed gentry in England.

John M'Guire
Sandy Creek Station.
Gazette, 15th February 1861.
Ben Hall was one who from humble beginnings searched for an opportunity to become a part of the landed gentry and sought out a farm of his own. With his wealth of knowledge, Hall had developed a good relationship with his wife's sister Elen's husband, John Maguire, who agreed to enter into a station partnership. In 1860 at the age of 23, Ben Hall, with his brother-in-law, John Maguire, took the plunge.

NSW Government Gazette
27th March 1860.
Courtesy NLA
Subsequently, in March 1860, Ben Hall tendered for the Runs of Crown Lands (see article right) and was granted the lease and occupancy of Sandy Creek Station in partnership with his brother-in-law. The venture was a bold move for the two experienced stockmen. Furthermore, John Maguire and Ben Hall suffered disabilities, that being, Maguire was blind in his right eye. Sustained as a boy, when he made a gun out of a bullock's leg bone where he had rammed it with powder, then fired it, the bone shattered in the explosion. The injury put him in bed for three months. Ben Hall's disability was from an earlier accident in his youth, lame in one leg.

However, neither affliction restrained the two men from the tough work of establishing Sandy Creek cattle station. Sandy Creek covered an area of 16,000 acres with a carrying capacity of 640 head of cattle. At the time, the station was uncleared and fed by many well-watered creeks running through the property. Extract from a newspaper recounts the standing of Sandy Creek:

Shortly after his marriage, he, in company with Mr John Maguire, obtained a lease of a run adjoining Wheogo, called Sandy Creek, which they stocked with cattle and horses. Sandy Creek, Wheogo, and Bundaburra are estimated to be among the very best runs in the Lachlan district.¹⁴ 

This was also a comment regarding Ben Hall's personal standing as a recently established Grazier:

Hall became the owner of Sandy Creek Station, adjoining Wheogo. He had it on lease, running cattle and horses, and managed it in a business-like way, thereby adding further to his reputation as a young man of fine promise.¹⁵

Sandy Creek c. 1883.
David Geelings.
Cattle prices at the market were excellent for the two new producers, as demonstrated in the following stock report of cattle prices in mid-1861:

This week the supply of good, quality was small and prices advanced about 20s per head no improvement for second and inferior qualities which were abundantly supplied. Prime heavy weights, bullocks brought from £9 to £11.- ditto, ordinary weights from £7 to £8 10s second quality ditto from £4 15s to £5 10s; inferior from £2; Prime cows (ordinary weights) from £5 to £6; second quality ditto from £3 to £4 inferior from 35s upwards. FAT CARVES. — Supply small and the demand good best quality from 40s to 50s.

Before long and enhanced by great timing, gold was found at Young. Almost overnight, Ben Hall became wealthy as beef prices soared. Previous to Sandy Creek, Ben Hall and his wife Bridget and their young son Henry resided at Wheogo homestead. Wheogo property boarded Hall's run, owned by Bridget’s stepmother, Sarah, after Bridget's father's death in 1858.

Note: Sarah Walsh nee Harpur nee Chidley was the mother of well-known Poet Charles Harpur and Josiah J Harpur, NSW Parliamentarian and member for Patrick Plains, 1861-1864 and future provocateur to Sir Frederick Pottinger.

John Maguire.
c. 1880's.
As far as ownership of Sandy Creek, the property may have been split and independently operated by the two men. In his narrative, 'The Biography of a Reliable Old Native'John Maguire stated that Ben Hall reputedly named his portion of Sandy Creek 'Cubbine Bin'. Running his own cattle and horses, and when required, the two men worked together to clear land and form stockyards close to their water supply. A prudent way to operate a new farming enterprise in the 1860s whereby the two squatters shared the government's yearly assessment.

As for acquiring stock for their new enterprise, John Maguire relates that he and Ben Hall did a bit of duffing of unbranded and wild 'Mickie's (Cattle) and 'Warrigals' (Wild Horses):

Ben had always done a bit of duffing. But, for the matter of that, we all duffed, with very few exceptions, it was not considered a great crime - simply a matter of business. The man who could muster and secure unbranded calves was considered a fool if he did not stick his own brand on.

Cattle duffing in many quarters, as Maguire states, was 'not a great crime' and widely practised even amongst the largest of graziers. Where the value of those unbranded animals contributed to supplementing their wealth"

Cattle duffing, in those early days, it may be remarked, was not considered a criminal offence. If one settler took a beast of a neighbour's, the latter simply bided his time until he found an animal belonging to his predatory fellow settler worthy of appropriation. Under such retaliatory system recourse to law proceedings was avoided, because the sinner and sinned against then came on an equal footing. In the days referred to the holdings of Crown leases were unfenced, nothing but ill-defined lines denoting their boundaries. As a result, there was frequently a general mingling of herds, separations only being effected during the periodical musters.¹⁶
Maguire and Hall's Sandy Creek Station still recorded as owners in Bailliere's New South Wales Gazetteer, 1866. Note acreage.
William and Ann Hall.
c. 1910.

Ben's new endeavour at Sandy Creek station required the construction of a home for himself, Bridget and their baby son Henry. Ben Hall undoubtedly worked alongside older brothers Thomas Wade, William Hall, and good friend Daniel Charters during the construction of the home. Furthermore, William and his wife Ann resided with Ben and Bridget during this period. John Maguire constructed his own home some five hundred yards from Ben's.

However, whether under the arrangements, some friction prevailed between William, Anne, and Bridget is speculative. Suffice to say that a great deal of agitation between William and Bridget emerged in the future. At Ben's death, Anne openly accused Bridget of his demise and the circumstances. The agitation may also point to the beginning of marital issues between Benjamin and Bridget, as Ben Hall's loyalty to his older brother was a strong kinship. However, under the circumstances, Bridget may have wished to be the sole mistress of the house. Therefore, with William residing there, it enabled a disgruntled Bridget to take leave and accompany her married sister Catherine Brown in her secret rendezvous with her new lover, the bushranger, Frank Gardiner.

Nevertheless, during these absences, Ann Hall no doubt took care of young Henry and her own two children Mary b. 1858 and John b. 1860. In his later years, young Henry Hall lived with William and Anne while they resided in Parkes, NSW. 

Note: It should also be noted that John Maguire also used the spelling of McGuire with an A, i.e., MaGuire, Maguire as demonstrated on Ben Hall's marriage certificate. However, for the purposes of this bio, I have used Maguire.

Edward Hall, 1879
prison admission

Courtesy NSW
Meanwhile, as Ben was in the process of establishing Sandy Creek at his former home of Murrurundi, his father and brothers were often reported in the colony's newspapers regarding inter-family spats. Including their connections to many and varied thefts throughout the late 1850s and well into the turn of the century. As a result, Ben's brothers repeatedly appeared before a magistrate, even facing periods of incarceration at several gaols. However, in 1860, one incident, in particular, was reported where Ben's brother Edward Hall thrashed his father, Ben Snr, 'The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser' 1860:

Benjamin Hall was charged by Honora Hall with using abusive language towards her. Case dismissed. -Edward Hall was charged with assaulting his father, Benjamin Hall, on the 11th instant. The evidence of the complainant and several witnesses went to shew, that on the day above named Hall senior went to take possession of a bullock, which was also claimed by the defendant. The father and son met in the bed of the river, near the house of the latter, when an altercation arose, which was ended by the son laying his stock-whip pretty smartly across the shoulders of his father. Defendant was ordered to pay a fine of £4 15s., or in default to be imprisoned for two months.

John Wilson freehold
portion of Sandy Creek.
Granted 1868.

Peter Bradley.
Author's Note: 
The reputed positions of the homesteads on Sandy Creek station of partners Ben Hall and John Maguire have been the subject of much speculation for many years. In 2013, I searched the current marked site (See Video.) and unearthed many fired nails, charcoal and small bricks from a fireplace buried underground. The current area surrounding the Peter C Smith marker is now cultivated cropping. However, information has come to light that questions the site's accuracy. Recently I received a document demonstrating that John Wilson, the purchaser of Sandy Creek, in 1868 was granted 40 acres of freehold land on the southern extremity. The title map of the 40 acres also has marked a hut (see document right) that coincides with the current marker long believed to have been Hall's home incinerated in March 1863. Hall and Maguire's huts were reputedly some five hundred yards apart. However, the direction of North, south, east, or west is debatable. In 1909, a Mr Pearse burnt and removed all past buildings on the Sandy Creek run of Hall and Maguire's time. Extract from 'The Grenfell Record and Lachlan District Advertiser' Saturday 30th January 1909;

Sandy Creek Station is a historical spot, having been the erstwhile property and occasional home of Ben Hall. The present owner, Mr J. S. Pearce, has pulled down all the old buildings and yards so curious and credulous tourists, if any ever penetrate into this part of the bush, can no longer gaze at imaginary bullet holes and speculate how closely the valiant police shot to the bold bushranger's anatomy. In overhauling one of the defunct Mr Hall's humpies, before putting a firestick in it, an ancient pistol and one shilling were raked out of the accumulated debris within. These now form the nucleus of a local buccaneer's museum. The magnificent willow-fringed dam below the hill had water in but was lower than it generally is at this time of the year. Mr Pearse has built a new and roomy house, also stables and shed on the hill near the Pullabooka and Ironbarks road. He has only had the property two years, but in that time has done a lot to improve its condition and is yet busy ringing the country. Out of 2000 acres, there are only some 150 which cannot be ploughed. From a rise beyond the dam by the old diggings hills towards Wyalong are visible in a most varied and extensive landscape. 

However, regardless of whose hut was who's the whole of Sandy Creek and adjoining stations Uoka (Wheogo) and Pinnacle and parts further afield are most important to the Ben Hall story.

Ben Hall's knowledge or reaction to those troubling events between his father and brothers are not recorded. Still, for the young cattleman and horse fancier, life became very lucrative with Gold's discovery near his station. Gold was a treasure that bewitched thousands worldwide and encouraged them to throw their lives into turmoil descending from all compass points to the new New South Wales goldfields. First, at Burrangong (Lambing Flat), then as rumours spread, an avalanche slid into the Lachlan district. Consequently, it turned the backwater town of Forbes, previously known as 'Black Ridge', into a thriving new Gold township. The transformation was astounding as reported:

The Black Ridge its dense scrub and sombre foliage justified the title which had been bestowed upon it, and it was regarded by its then owners as so much wasteland in the middle of a splendid run. Then the magic cry of "Gold!" went forth, and thousands flocked to the new El Dorado. No longer a desert, no longer a wilderness, the blows of the axe resounded through the forest, and a busy hive of humanity had its place, where but few weeks before was solitude of the bush. Then it was that the faint outlines of our fair town of Forbes were traced, and the solid foundations laid, on which has been reared the structure of later times.

George Ranken.
Forbes rapidly mushroomed out of the drive of the gold-diggers. The discovery brought with it a cavalcade of merchants, hoteliers, carpenters, entertainers and butchers etc. However, Gold also drew such men who desired its riches through less reputable means. Those being criminals and opportunists ranging about the towns and countryside, waylaying travellers left and right at the point of a gun. Some of these culprits were failed miners down on their luck stealing to survive. Whereas colloquially, others were referred to as Bushrangers. So great was the influx that many stations had hoards of cattle stolen, so much so that Mr George Ranken of Bogabigal station, after suffering heavy losses, sued the Government for £10,000. Following protracted litigation, Ranken recovered about £1000. (Rankin St Forbes is named in his honour, although incorrectly spelt.)

However, the title bushranger once addressed the escaped convict who broke free of the oppression of the chain gang. To survive, they robbed the remote settlers during Australia's foundation period, with many once recaptured were dropped unceremoniously through the Gallows floor. However, as the goldfields swelled, the title bushranger no longer referred to a runaway convict, but to dedicated men hell-bent on evil with a cry of "Bail-up," "Stand and deliver," and  "money or your life." In all its forms, this nexus of humanity appeared as Ben Hall was in the throes of establishing an excellent and prosperous cattle station. As luck would have it for the two new graziers, Sandy Creek would be positioned beautifully between two goldfields with thousands hungry for beef.

Forbes' overnight invasion and new-found prosperity were expressed in a newspaper description in late 1861:

We never saw a place of the same age in such a state of forwardness as this. Several good streets give an appearance of regularity to the rows of calico and bark, and the existence of an unlimited supply of excellent pine timber close at hand has led to the erection of buildings much more substantial, and sightly than those we have been accustomed to see in other new townships. A bi-weekly Court of Petty Sessions has already been established; of amusements, we have no lack of music and dancing, while billiard tables, a rifle gallery, and ten pins seem as popular as ever. The banking and gold buying business, of the "Oriental", and also of the post office are transacted at the stores of Mr Greig. Mrs Reed has a photographic gallery. Coaches ply frequently during the day between the crossing place at Fenn’s. (Wowingragong) and also these diggings a distance of nearly five miles. The Cowra coaches and mails from Sydney and the Flat run three times a week. Thus it will be seen that Forbes is not a place to be lightly esteemed.¹⁷ 

Note: The Ben Hall, Susan Prior and Charters photographs may well have been taken at Mrs Reed's studio. Photographs were both a novelty and expensive.

Another article describes the life and times in the frontier town of Forbes as it appeared during Ben Hall's time:

This important town is situated on the north bank of the Lachlan River, at a point almost midway in between Cowra and Condobolin. It is 82 miles from Orange, and 245 miles from Sydney, Tens of thousands of miners went out to their work at sunrise, and returned at 6 in the evening. Then, many thousands of fires were lighted, and the diggers prepared their evening meal. Comparative quiet reigned while they were partaking of it; but, that over, all is bustle again, for, with few exceptions, the diggers betook themselves to the theaters, concert halls, dancing Saloons, or public-houses, and many did not return to their tents until dawn. Scores of shoeblacks took up positions in the streets, and did a wonderful trade; hurdy-gurdy girls and other itinerant musicians played and sang, and reaped a rich harvest; mounted troopers and policemen (under Sir F. Pottinger) moved to and from among the masses; coaches were running at all hours, and in all directions, as well as actors and singers, sawyers, doctors, clergy, tradespeople, menagerie-men, and men of almost every nation, rank, and condition were on the field in incongruous medley.¹⁸

It was also noted as the influx of people descended on to the gold-diggings and that those who were leaving the town of Sydney paid £5 one way:

Ford and Co, are the most complete and stylish things imaginable; well horsed well driven, and every way comfortable. The fare, I understand, all the way from Sydney either by Burrangong or the Lachlan diggings is £5. A new coach is to be laid on by Messrs Ford and Co, capable I am told, of carrying 16 passengers.

Ben Hall had moved from working stockman into the realms of a wealthy squatter and became flushed with cash as gold fever raged through the Burrangong and the fledgling Forbes goldfields. 

Ben Hall, instead of gold mining, worked his stock and dabbled with the 'Wild Colonial Boys' and a revolver. Hall's home and its surroundings would become a nexus for bushranging activity over the next four years.

Francis Christie,
alias Francis Clarke,
Frank Gardiner.
c. 1862.
However, before long, a dark shadow emerged over the Wheogo district that would change the dynamics of the serene farming community when the well-known bushranger, Frank Gardiner, known also as 'The Darkie', commenced adopting the district as a hideaway. Gardiner was the New South Wales police's latest tormentor and was acclaimed as the man singularly responsible for the downfall of many a young colonial boy. 

Frank Gardiner was a pseudonym of Francis Christie, born in Scotland in 1829 and arrived in the colony of NSW in 1834 as a five-year-old with his parents. His family then resettled in pre-statehood Victoria. However, by the time he was twenty, Christie had fallen foul of the law. Consequently, after a brush with the justice system in Victoria and a guilty verdict. Christie was sentenced to five years at the Pentridge Stockade, Coburg, Melbourne, for horse stealing from where after one year, he escaped to NSW in late 1851. (See Gardiner page.)

Now under the pseudonyms of Gardiner and Clarke, he was soon apprehended for horse theft, in February 1854 at Yass New South Wales. Found guilty, under the name Clarke, was sentenced to fourteen years consisting of two seven-year sentences to be served consecutively at the harsh Cockatoo Island prison in Sydney.


Never before published.
However, granted a 'Ticket of Leave' in December 1859 from Cockatoo Island after serving five years. Christie, as per his conditions of release, was required to remain in the Carcoar district. Instead, Christie abused his release conditions and a warrant for arrest was issued after fleeing the Carcoar region and failing to report to the police. Shortly after, the now self-named Frank Gardiner in company with a close friend, William Fogg, formed a butchering business on the fledgling Lambing Flat goldfield 100 miles from the Carcoar district, in mid-1860.

While Gardiner's Lambing Flat butcher's shop was in full swing, it is beyond question that Gardiner made the acquaintance of the two local graziers Ben Hall and John Maguire. The cry for beef on the goldfield had Hall and Maguire herding cattle to the lucrative Burrangong field. The two cattlemen, along with Gardiner, were raking it in. 

However, suspected of cattle theft Gardiner and Fogg shot through to the familiar territory around the Fish (Lachlan) River district, Christie/Frank Gardiner holed up at Fogg's. While laying low, the police arrived, seeking his apprehension. A confrontation ensued in a gunfight and brawl whereby the two police officers Middleton and Hosie, were severely wounded and Gardiner, beaten to a pulp. Gardiner, however, under suspicious circumstances, was able to escape. Now free, he suddenly appeared at Wheogo no doubt due to his connection to John Gilbert and John O'Meally, who duffed cattle for Gardiner at Young as well as Frank's intimate and steamy relationship with a beautiful married woman named Catherine Brown, nee Walsh, Bridget Hall's younger sister. 18 yrs of age who resided with her husband John Brown in a hut a short distance from the family's Wheogo homestead. Gardiner was 14 yrs. Catherine's senior.

Sir Frederick
c. 1863.
As Gardiner commenced his reign, the Lachlan district's police came under the command of a newly appointed police inspector, Sir Frederick Pottinger. The Baronet had arrived in the colony in 1859 under mysterious circumstances. However, after failing at the Victorian goldfields, Pottinger came to New South Wales and took a position with the police as a mounted trooper on the southern gold escort at Gundagi until his Baronet status was inadvertently or deliberately exposed. Having been uncovered, Pottinger rose rapidly thru the government's employ. The first appointment was Clerk of Petty Sessions at Dubbo. Then a Magistrate during the Chinese Lambing Flat riots 1861. Finally, as the Police Inspector in charge of the Lachlan District headquartered at Forbes under the new Police Act of 1862.

However, Pottinger's top priority was to apprehend the newly arrived and elusive bushranger, Gardiner. Pottinger spent many weeks searching the bush in the Wheogo and nearby Bland districts for the phantom fugitive in unison with other stalwarts in bushranger hunting Captain's Battye and Zouch. The disdain for the police by the small landowners and grog shop traders allowed Gardiner to be aided and abetted by inhabitants such as Mrs Feehiley. Owner of the notorious 'Pinnacle Station.' 

Kitty's hut, Wheogo Station.
c. 1920's.

Courtesy Gordon Piper.
Many district stations came under Pottinger's scrutiny and suspicion, including Ben Hall and John Maguire's station. Maguire commented: 

I knew Sir Frederick well. He used to stay at Sandy Creek whenever he was making round my way. 

In the hunt for Gardiner, Pottinger showed little respect to anyone he perceived rightly or wrongly to be connected with the bushranger. Therefore, the locals on his radar were all in his mind guilty of something. Thus, knowing Gardiner's hot relationship with 'Kitty' Brown drew her brother-in-law Hall's Sandy Creek station under police suspicion. The police inspector often arrived unannounced to capture Gardiner or discover some other nefarious activity. However, these punitive measures invariably drove a wedge between cooperation and support for the police. In turn, creating outright hostility in many quarters; however, Ben Hall himself in time came to see Pottinger purely as an adversary.

In 1861/62, to apprehend Frank Gardiner, the New South Wales Police created a detailed map of the bushranger's known and suspected haunts. The hand-drawn map listed many people long suspected of secreting the bushranger. However, the detailed map became the 'key' for the police in tracking Gardiner. Although evidently without much success. (For more on Pottinger, see Traps page.)

Moreover, the map's layout highlighted the character of those people the police considered criminal or just plain reprehensible as protectors of 'The Darkie'. As such, two names which figured prominently on the highly confidential map are surprisingly the young wife of Ben Hall and her sister Mrs Catherine Brown, both women noted as 'bad', and at one station the map states: "Harbourer, Yorkshire Jack, good man bad women, the retreat of Mrs Hall and Brown."  (See map below)

The map gives a clear insight into the close ties both married 'wild Weddin girls' had with the many shady characters earmarked as suspects by the police. No doubt people the girls had known all their life.

The comprehensive map was forwarded to the Inspector-General of police in Sydney under the strictest confidence. For if it leaked out, it could spook those who aided and abetted Gardiner as well as unwittingly set the police intelligence effort backwards through possible reprisals against those citizens seen as supportive of the New South Wales police.

The Map drawn by NSW police c 1861, shows the Routs and Harbourer's of Frank Gardiner living in the western districts and notes Mrs Ben Hall and her sister Mrs Catherine Brown as Women of Interest. ( I have edited the map to make it more legible.)
Ben Hall's son
Henry, aged 56.
Note; Henry's big solid
frame. A dead ringer
for his Father.
c. 1915.
Courtesy Noel Thurgood

Nevertheless, the naming of the two married sisters on a highly confidential document reveals that Bridget Hall and her sister Catherine mixed with the riffraff element. It also indicates that Bridget's frequent absences from Sandy Creek indicate that her marriage of nearly five years was already on rocky ground with Bridget's undoubted vexation over William Hall's presence.

It is also a period where a new man would make his presence felt in Bridget Hall's life. That man was James Taylor, a friend of Gardiner. Subsequently, Bridget spent time at the homes of the known harbourers of the 'Darkie' minus her young son Henry.

Besides, there is no doubt that Ben Hall himself had a friendship with Gardiner, whereby at first Hall possibly kept the association at arm's length as a business concern from the days of delivering cattle to Young. However, his cattle station partner John Maguire was on very close terms with the bushranger. Furthermore, Hall had also been linked to Gardiner's close companions, the younger and notorious emerging bushrangers John Gilbert and the O'Meally brothers John and Patrick. They hailed from the nearby Weddin Mountains. A long-time resident of the Lachlan wrote in 1863 addressing Ben Hall's friendship circa 1859 with  John O'Meally and 

About four years since, whilst taking some cattle overland from my station on the Lachlan, I fell in with young Hall, who was then stock-keeping for his brother near Bundaburra. He, O'Meally, Gilbert, and some others had all just returned from their usual trip after cattle, and on my asking them what luck they had met with, they replied: "they had camped out for three nights at a place called Humbug Creek, but had met with little or no cattle, only in one mob there were a few duffers." The term "duffer" is too well known to need description here; it simply means clean-skinned animals, which are appropriated by whoever can get them into a yard.¹⁹ See full letter below link.
The Newcastle Chronicle and Hunter River District News
Wednesday 4th November 1863 
Years later, the friendship between Hall and the young tearaway's Gilbert and O'Meally, which by 1862 was long-standing, was recorded by a Pulpiteer of the cloth while on his ministrations in the salvation of his flock. The Minister passed close to Wheogo and Sandy Creek Stations. Here the churchman came across Ben Hall and John Gilbert together fencing and reportedly admonished the pair for working on the Sabbath:

On one occasion the same preacher was travelling near the residence of Hall, on a Sunday, when he discovered Ben, Gilbert and others doing some fencing. Reminding them of the sacred character of the day, the preacher was surprised to learn that they did not know it was the Sabbath. They referred the point to a lady who happened to live in a homestead near, and on the statement of the preacher being confirmed they, immediately ceased their work for the day. Facilus descensus averni.²⁰ (Descent to hell is easy.)

Bridget Hall
c. 1919.
Note Wedding ring.
Private Source.
Never before published.
These observations illustrate long-held mateship between Ben Hall, and the associates of Gardiner, previously theorised as distant. For Ben Hall, however, the quiet farming world he resided in and all he had achieved was about to turn on its head.

Accordingly, with Bridget Hall's frequent absences from her home with her younger sister Catherine, Bridget enjoyed the boisterous company of Gardiner's satellites. In contrast, her sister's love affair with the celebrated bushranger sizzled.

While absent from Sandy Creek, Bridget became re-acquainted with James Taylor, regarded as a somewhat flashy effervescent stockman. Taylor appeared to infatuate then woo the flighty 20 yr. old and was ten years older than the young wife of Ben Hall.

There has long been a thought that Taylor was unknown to the wife of Ben Hall. However, evidence suggests otherwise, as before Bridget's marriage to Ben Hall, a quietly spoken, somewhat shy easy-going man and in some reports quoted as dull compared to Bridget's pre-marriage wild teenage reputation. However, in her earlier knowledge of the much older Jim Taylor, Bridget projects a strong knowledge. There is no doubt that interaction amongst the settlers out on the socially deprived isolated stations existed. They thought nothing of riding spirited horses on journeys of 50 or 60 miles to visit neighbours or attend social bush functions.

Documentation indicates that many of these families in and around the Weddin Mountains and Bland district had intimate knowledge of each other. Where in many cases, were interwoven through marriage.

Therefore, Taylor's knowledge of Bridget Hall had been established much earlier through the association of Taylor's ex-wife Emma (Nee Dower),  whom he deserted, and her sister Mary Jamieson's family. (Nee Dower) The Jamieson's held property at Back Creek, The Bland, some miles from Bridget's father's station, 'Wheogo'. Its sphere included Ben's, Sandy Creek. Taylor's family held two properties called Balabla 30000 acres and the Rocks 16000 acres since 1848 and were close to Bimbi and the O'Meally's former Arramagong Station Weddin Mountains. Also, property at Reid's Flat on the Fish River.

William Fogg and Mary Fogg,
nee Taylor.
c. 1870's

Taylor's older sister Mary was connected to Frank Gardiner and married Gardiner's mate, the wily old fox, William Fogg. The Fogg family were also well-known as thieves and scoundrels. However, through their association with the Foggs, Taylor's brothers were widely suspected by the police and often linked to cattle and horse theft.

The closeness of the relationship between Fogg and Gardiner was demonstrated when Mary Fogg displayed to visitors the symbol of victory over authority in the form of Gardiner's shredded and bloodied shirt from his close encounter in 1861 with troopers Middleton and Hosie. Something she held dear to her heart; 'Empire', Saturday, 14 March 1863:

Mrs Fogg is in the habit of showing the shirt that the desperado wore in that encounter, or rather the shreds of it that were picked up after his escape. I am given to understand that it is prized as a relic, and when shown to the rising generation, it in conjunction with the embellished narrative, will, I've no doubt, exercise a beneficial influence over that portion of the particular community in question, viz., The Abercrombie Ranges. 

When re-acquainting with Bridget, Taylor remained a married man who wed Miss Emma Dower in 1849 at Yass. When Bridget Hall began her affair with Taylor, he had recently deserted his alcoholic wife Emma at Narrawa, Bennet Springs near Reids Flat, NSW—also leaving his wife with a newborn babe in arms. Furthermore, Taylor abandoned his children Sophie, born in 1851, plus three other children, Mary b. 1858, John b. 1859. Lastly and most interestingly, the babe in arms, Jameison, was born on 14th April 1861.

Note: Many have also linked Taylor with the NSW police, but this is inaccurate and often confused with his transported father, who on release, held a constabulary position at Penrith. Before settling at Balabla.

Moreover, Taylor's relationship with Bridget blossomed in the second half of 1861 following Taylor's return to the Lachlan district. Furthermore, Taylor suffered from alcoholism, which would eventually cause his death in 1877.

Under the guise of friendship, Taylor became a frequent visitor to Ben Hall's station. Before long, it would be revealed that Taylor's visits were not for Ben's friendship but for Bridget Hall's affection. Taylor was the complete antithesis of Ben Hall.

Accordingly, Ben Hall's good nature was about to be abused and then exposed by John Maguire. Maguire wrote in 'The Biography of a Reliable Old Native' that he informed Benjamin of Bridget's questionable association with Taylor. Maguire disclosed that Taylor was:

A pretend friend of Ben, but, as the after events showed, his visits were more on account of Ben's wife, who was a fine-looking woman.

Maguire ventured on that:

I suspected his little game myself and had dropped hints to Ben.

Furthermore, after those hints, Maguire revealed Ben's reaction:

Ben cautioned his wife, in very threatening language, what would happen if he ever discovered anything between her and Taylor. Later on, Ben actually came across some of Taylor’s letters, and there was such a row that the latter kept a civil distance.

Bridget's infidelity and absence from her home and a good time was the beginning of the end for the young couple and would throw the once steady, respectable, hardworking, loving father, Ben Hall, into becoming the most feared man in New South Wales.

Consequently, treachery lay in wait as at the beginning of spring 1861, Ben Hall had prepared to depart Sandy Creek for the task of mustering. He had taken "a most affectionate leave of his wife" and, after ruffling his young son Henry's hair, bid farewell unknowingly for the last time. Then, with a last look at his cara sposa, Hall rode off for the annual mustering of branded and unbranded cattle and wild horses on the vast plains of the Bland and Lachlan. Where regardless of their stature or station, all the districts' squatters participated in these great round-ups when the spring mornings were still chilly and the days lengthened.

Described here by Clarence Paget Bayly:

Wire fences were unknown, and wild horses and cattle roamed the bush at will, and you would see from 20 to 30 men saddle up in the morning to take part at these great musters, and the stockwhips would sound like thunder coming home to the yards at nightfall. Up would go the slip-rails. Off would come the saddles, when supper would be partaken of, and then you would see as jolly a lot of fellows as ever smoked a pipe.²¹

However, on Hall's return to Sandy Creek. A homecoming that should have been joyous turned sour at discovering his wife's sordid actions and the disappearance of his son. A pain too great to bear. Anger flared, followed by darkness, breaking Ben Hall:

When Hall returned to Sandy Creek a few weeks later. He found the homestead hut deserted and learned from neighbours that the wife he had so greatly loved and so entirely trusted, had gone off.²² 

Unfortunately, Ben Hall learnt for himself that Taylor was indeed doubly traitorous. For while pretending to be a good friend, Taylor had encouraged Ben Hall's wife's infidelity.

Subsequently, Jim Taylor swept young Bridget away. By Hall's return from mustering, the pair had eloped and carried off Ben Hall's young son Henry. The couple fled to Bigga some 80 miles out of the way of Hall's station. Maguire wrote Ben was:

Cut up terribly, for he had been fond of his wife, and the little boy was the sunshine of his home.

The 'Adelong and Tumut Express and Tumbarumba Post' of Friday 22 August 1924 looked back at the circumstances, offering an early insight from an old friend of Hall's who reminisced on the effect the desertion had after learning of his wife's faithless actions:

Ben was dumbfounded, and on recovering from his shock, said, "For God's sake, don't say that." It was abundantly clear that Hall was a changed man, and that he had received a wound that no skilled surgeon could heal. He raved and acted like a madman. The agitated father inquired eagerly after his child, only to be told that they had taken it with them. That night he saddled his horse, then procured a loaded revolver, and within a short space of time was on his way to search for the despoiler of his home and happiness. For a whole week, he continued the search, and then returned to Wheogo a completely changed man. Instead of being the industrious, hardworking grazier, he became sullen, restless and ill-tempered. He said it was useless working as he had no home nor anything to which was worthwhile living for. He had no wife, no child to cheer him at the end of the day's toil. As time wore on he became more reconciled to his lot and began to enjoy the company of others. He made frequent excursions to Lambing Flat, then a prosperous gold-digging field.

However, frustration developed into full-blown bitterness as Ben conducted a fruitless search for the lovers. Unknowing that their destination was the Fish River and the Fogg's home. Maguire recalled:

For three or four days Ben raced about, but could not get a clue as to the direction taken by the pair. He abandoned the search in despair.

Following a period out of the way of a furious Ben Hall, Bridget and Taylor returned to The Bland, stopping at a property between Humbug Creek and Lake Cowal owned by Alice Gibson. Roughly some 45 miles from Sandy Creek Station.

Nevertheless, in addition to Bridget's desertion, John Maguire, in his memoirs, believed that her betrayal was a key factor if not the critical factor in his once amiable brother-in-law's tumultuous fall from grace that led to bushranging. In turn, Jack Bradshaw, a former (bungling) bushranger, wrote in 'Frank Gardiner, Ben Hall & Gang', recounted mainly from Ben's older brother William Hall's recollections. (Even plagiarised in some sections from John Maguire's narrative.) William Hall claimed that Bridget supposedly left Ben Hall a letter of apology over her faithlessness:

Ben, my boy, try and forget me; I do not think it is in the power of God to forgive. I love a scoundrel—that is, if it be love at all, which I know the world will say it was not. Call it what you wish. ‘The hellish promptings of the devil,’ Taylor destroyed my duty to you as a wife, and I have destroyed your happiness for life. Something was in me that I had not fortitude to resist, however, hope that you will possess sufficient manliness to bear up against the conduct of a runaway strumpet. If you have not, I can't help it. Follow not. You have always been too good a man for me. Two villains are more suitable, possessing no love nor yet even the fear of God or the eternal flames of hell. Poor Ben, good-bye.

The above letter, whose authenticity is questionable, but if true, would most probably have been written on Bridget's behalf by her older sister Elen Maguire. (Who would maintain a close relationship with Ben Hall until his death.) Elen could write, whereas Bridget was illiterate (see marriage certificate above), as was Ben, as both she and Hall signed their names with an "X". However, Elen Maguire was well aware of Taylor's affection for her sister, for she ultimately informed her husband Maguire of the affair.

Subsequently, Bridget's elopement, a futile search, many reports indicate that Ben was devastated at being deprived of his son Henry, 'the sunshine of his home.' Furthermore, the thought of Taylor's duplicity, saw Ben 
for the first time reputedly turn to the gun filled with rage as well as bloody revenge against the usurper of his home. Maguire commented:

I witnessed Ben’s first essay at pulling the trigger. It was a revolver that he had picked up on the road one day while we were out riding together a six-chambered weapon that had evidently fallen from someone’s belt. Getting a supply of ammunition, Ben used to pass his lonely moments at home practising at a target.

Jack Bradshaw,
Bradshaw corroborates John Maguire's conviction that Hall's life became a "reckless one". Stating that one might imagine the frame of mind after receiving the heartbreaking news:

He rode about the country like a madman, hardly knowing what he was doing, and mixed up with all kinds of company.

To put the nail in the coffin, John Maguire commented on Ben's loss of interest in his share of Sandy Creek:

Ben soon lost interest in his station and started roaming about, so often that I missed him for days together.

Brother William assumed management. Before long Hall was linked turning up at grog shops, often the haunts of drunkards, hooligans and the lazy of the district. This layabout class were exposed in The Yass Courier, 22nd April 1862:

It behoves our protectors, the police, to have a keen eye upon all those young men who appear to have plenty of idle time to own and ride flash horses, and knock about public-houses, with apparently plenty of spare cash, and no ostensible means of earning or replacing the same; also, they are generally surrounded by old "loafers" of a shabby appearance, which fact ought to be enough to a sharp policeman for 'noscitur a sciios.' (It is known by the company it keeps.)

Rev. John Dunmore
b. 1799 - d. 1878.

Courtesy University
of Wollongong.
M.P., Rev. John Dunmore Lang known as the Stormy Petrel on a visit through the Western Districts noted in an article in 1862, titled 'Notes of a trip to the Westward and Southward, by the Rev Dr Lang, M.P.' of those miscreants who frequented the many seedy haunts surrounding Burrangong/Lachlan goldfields and those citizens inclined to turn a blind eye to that dubious element of villain entrenched in the area. Villains who Ben Hall was not only drawn to but often seen cavorting with:

All along these routes there are these places of accommodation, shanties, sly grog shops, etc., of the most questionable character and it is in these places that our modern bushrangers obtain occasional shelter and general information.

Ben Hall was a step closer to the prophesied 'reckless life'. Whereby, the turmoil in Hall's home life based on the evidence, Hall may have undergone a nervous breakdown. A colloquial term for an acute psychiatric disorder that manifests primarily as severe depression, anxiety or dissociation in a previously functional individual. To the extent that they are no longer able to function on a day-to-day basis. However, this nervous breakdown is defined by its 'temporary nature.' 

MacAlister's former
 Great Eastern Hotel,
 Forbes, frequented by
Ben Hall.

c. 1862.
Subsequently, Hall disregarded his years of hard-won respect in the district and threw caution to the wind embarking upon associations that would lead him to an ignoble death.

Consequently, Ben roamed throughout the surrounding districts. Time and time again Hall appeared at local shanties and public houses neighbouring Sandy Creek Station, i.e., Forbes, Lambing Flat, the Pinnacle and the O'Meally's Inn in the Weddin Mountains. As reported by a drayman:

The last two trips we have made, on both occasions, I saw him at the Pinnacle Station Mrs Feehiely's public house.

Mr Charles MacAlister, as a former Forbes publican and confidant of Frank Gardiner,  recounted in his memoirs titled 'Old Pioneering Days in the Sunny South,' of Ben's devil may care associations with men no longer considered on the fringe of bushranging but in the thick of it. Subsequently, MacAlister's comments provide insight as well as highlight just how far Ben Hall had fallen. In MacAlister's view, 1861/2 that Hall was no longer only suspected but widely believed by the leading citizens of Forbes and other prominent graziers to have thrown his hat into the ring with the bushrangers. However, to disguise Hall's association during robberies, it may also have been that in those first forays with 'the boys' in sticking-up, Hall may have first availed himself of the widespread practice of blackening his face or wearing a Crape or Calico mask as a disguise.

Accordingly, Ben's current path and newfound reputation and associations would bring him into eye contact with the head of the Lachlan police, Sir Frederick Pottinger. Furthermore, most historians dispute Hall's early connections and participation in bushranging activities. However, Hall's collaboration with Gardiner and Company, when adequately researched, is evident. Otherwise, why would prominent men such as MacAlister and others of the period make such remarks beyond doubt and whose comments are indeed not flights of fancy? MacAlister wrote:

The news was brought in on the sticking up of Mr Horsington, the Lambing Flat storekeeper, at Big Wombat, by Gardiner and his gang, Horsington having to part with £500 odd in money and over 200 ozs. in gold dust. Up to that time, this was the biggest coup the Darkie (Gardiner) had made. Ben Hall, Gilbert, Fordyce, Charters, and others of the bushrangers had drinks on many occasions at the Great Eastern Hotel in Forbes, and in broad daylight, too. This was prior to the Eugowra affair, and up to that event, Ben Hall and Gilbert were only suspected of a bushranging kinship with Gardiner. For though several of them had been before the Forbes Bench on suspicion (Ben Hall and O’Malley were repeatedly brought up), the law had failed to sheet the guilt home to them to the satisfaction of the local J.P.

In 1863, Hall himself corroborated MacAlister's assessment of his being hauled before magistrates. Hall stated during the capture of a police inspector bemoaned of being harassed. However, when put into context, the arrests were fully warranted:

Ben Hall referred to the trouble Sir Frederick Pottinger had given him in having him taken into Forbes so many times before the magistrates for nothing.

Note: MacAlister had built and was the former owner of the Great Eastern Hotel in Forbes a regular drinking hole for Ben Hall, Gilbert etc. MacAlister's book may be accessed on the Links page.

Illustration of hotel
festivities on the
Gold Fields.

c. 1860's.
Image courtesy NLA.
Consequently, a loss of interest in Sandy Creek station and many witnessed appearances in the thriving township of Forbes in the company of Gardiner's known disciples, which through MacAlister's memoirs reveal the bushrangers enjoying drinking and carousing in hotels and dance-hall establishments of the Gold town.

Furthermore, these distractions may have eased the bitterness of Hall's domestic life. With Hall hitting the nightspots there was at the core of these distractions the dancing Hurdy-Gurdy Girls.

For men who outnumbered women 50-1, these much-admired ladies danced with the stockmen and miners for a shilling to dance. Some took advantage of the free-flowing gold nuggets and the inebriated men to charge as much as five pounds for a whirl to the desperate male inhabitants starved of those sweet feminine charms. The men danced to the rhythms and beat made by the musicians, who reportedly sang and played very loudly so the music could rise above the noise of the stamping feet of those rambunctious excited men. Others were melancholy and down in their cups when Ballads of home faraway were sung. 

Charles MacAlister recollects brutal fistfights breaking out amongst revellers and the shenanigans of the cashed-up bushrangers, such as Gilbert. As well as the so not uncommon sight of the NSW police often being bamboozled while attempting to secure instigators of rough and tumble brawls during those raucous festivities. Activities where even barmaids were fair game:

The barmaid was shying empty bottles and, pewters at the head of a young fellow who, she said, had insulted her, and the air was full of smash and frenzy. The great Sir F. Pottinger (then head of the police) was riding by at the time with one of his troopers, and he and his subordinate rushed into the bar, leaving their horses tethered to a tree nearby. While the police were inside quelling the row, someone made off with their horses, and we doubt if they were ever recovered. Johnny Gilbert, it was said, had a hand in the business; but whoever took them reduced the awful Pottinger to the level of an old vituperative fish-fag and he threatened several bystanders with summary punishment if the prads were not returned.

Ted Plunkett

Private Source.
Ben Hall, reputedly loitered from one hotel or dance hall to another. As Forbes swelled, the wide range of indulgences, including various liquor types was readily on hand. The most popular to those on a spree was recounted by long time resident Ted Plunkett:

There was no such thing as whisky in the hotels. Whisky is a comparatively late drink. Pale and dark brandy was sold, then, and it was quite effective, too.

Plunkett provides an insight into the revelry and mischief in the gold town:

Everybody played practical jokes taking wheels off buggies, or removing signs from one shop and placing them elsewhere. Blazing tar balls were rolled up and down the streets, and everywhere there was skylarking going on. There was a crowd we called the Donegallers, and they were always looking for a fight. You might see one fight start away in the distance, and before you could reach it there would be half a dozen more.

Another former old-hand recalled life in the new sin city of Forbes; 'Western Herald', October 1908:

It was a motley crowd one saw in Forbes along in '62 and '63, pressmen, lawyers, magistrates, surveyors, actors, demireps, unfrocked parsons, gamblers, pugilists, golden hole men, "all sorts and conditions of men," cheek by jowl. Vice and villainy were rampant, needy adventurers on the make, bushrangers in faint—very faint, disguise; bars and dancing saloons full to o'er flowing, cafe chantants better patronised than churches. Money was flung about anyhow; it seemed as if Sheol itself was let loose. Fast and fair women danced, or drank for wagers, and boasted that they could hold-up the police—or any other body in fact. One woman backed herself to waltz "either man or woman blind for £50," and declined to dance with any ordinary mortal for less than a fiver. (Sheol is ancient Greek for Hades.)

Furthermore, a well-known scribe Dan Mayne recalled during Hall's reign in the 'Freeman's Journal', 10th November 1906. The ease with which men dispatched or flung gold nuggets along with the excitement and wild nights of singing, dancing and boozing as well as the Forbes ladies' charms as Ben Hall jostled from place to place in the crowded streets:

When Maggie Oliver and Joey Gogenheim were playing with old Bill Holloway's company the diggers were so delighted with the sight of those ladies' fair forms and the sound of their sweet voices that (as bouquets were unknown) they threw valuable nuggets of gold on the stage to them instead. It was the liveliest place I was ever in, and many a jolly night I spent with M'Guire's friend, Ted Barry, who kept the hotel where old John Toohey drove the mail coach too, and Ted's pretty sister sweetened the sherry with her sunny smiles. Money was thrown about in the most reckless fashion.

Every entrepreneur was vying for the patronage of the cashed-up prospectors, graziers and station hands. A Forbes theatre advertisement 1862:

Wigram's Exhibition Concert, legitimate amusement, light, laughable, and agreeable. Every evening from 7.30 to 11, by an unrivalled company of vocalists, musicians, and dancers. Reserved seats 1/-: Cushioned seats 2/-. 

Many of these establishments were well patronised and for those less lucky free theatre shows were available but would include a small stipend:

Also there were several free theaters—but everyone who went in was expected to buy a drink; and whether they wanted it or not, they had to pay sixpence for it. 

Not only were people pouring into town looking for fast money but there were also others cashing in on the towns burgeoning population and growth, setting up then selling up as soon as possible. These included boarding-houses and hotels for sale at top dollar as portrayed in this hotel for sale early 1862:

For Sale.— A Public House on the South Lead, 4 bedrooms, kitchen and oven. 50 boarders now in residence. Price £150.

Furthermore, as the hotels swelled with patrons, the prevalence of weapons and their variety was a common sight, carried by most of those mixing throughout the Forbes festive houses, and a gunshot often heard:

It was a curious crowd to look at. Nearly, all the men had revolvers or pistols in their belts, few wore coats, nearly all had flannels, some red ones, and moleskin trousers; some wore riding pants, and these could easily be picked out as stock dealers or stockmen, bringing stock for sale to the diggings. 

"Gold man gold! said he have I died and gone to heaven." Forbes was flying as men and women from all walks of life continuously converged on the timber and canvas tent town seeking their fortune, before long:

Gold Warden Captain

Courtesy HHS.
There were fully 50,000 people on the field. The Warden Captain Brown, himself informed me that up to that date over 25,000 miners’ licenses had been issued and scores were applied for every day, and truly the Forbes rush at its height was a pandemonium.

However, Hall took the wildness in his stride, often running with Gilbert, O'Meally and others, putting up at the various public house's filled with wine, spirits, women and song. Inn's such as the Montgomery's Rising Sun Hotel, Great Eastern, Cohen's Inn, and 50 others sprawled on every corner, including sojourns at the Harp of Erin Inn, and Maguire's mate John Wilson's, The White Hart Inn. It was said that at one time, Hall took to shacking-up with a woman named Betsy: "Knew Hall to be staying in the same house as Betsy."

However, Betsy only lasted a week and cleared off with another. Accordingly, for Ben Hall and his associates' entertainment, Forbes also spawned the Sly Grog shops (An unlicensed hotel or liquor store selling poor-quality liquor.) filled with shady characters. With one den conducted by John Gilbert and John O'Meally on the road from Lambing Flat to Forbes, the Gold highway as it meandered past the Weddin Mountains. Highlighted below:

The existence of places on the diggings at which grog is sold in defiance of the law, maybe excused by the peculiar circumstances of the population, constantly shifting from one locality to another, but we see no good reason why they should be tolerated in out of the way places in the bush, where they benefit no one except the class who live by cattle stealing. It is a veil known fact that the unlicensed grog-shops on by-roads, and in other quiet spots, are the very places where the professed horse and cattle thieves meet, concoct their plans, or effect changes in the property they have appropriated. We have known of half the carcass of a bullock (of course a stolen one) given for a bottle of rum at one of these dens, and the other day we were told of a mare of considerable value being swapped away for half a gallon of the same liquor. Of course, while men risk the chances of detection so rashly, it is not to be wondered at that they will filch a dozen foals from a herd of mares, drive them away, and brand them. As these grog-shops are out of the usual line of traffic, and as the police never bother their heads to shape that way, the trade is carried on with impunity, the customers consisting wholly of those to whom the existence of such places is of incalculable advantage. 

These establishments were also excellent information reservoirs for prospective highway deeds and the unloading of stolen goods. The sly grog establishments also offered a cheaper booze alternative to the more expensive and often overcrowded dance halls and hotels. Presiding at these more affordable taverns included gangs of dissolute characters who were in the habit of frequenting the many sparring saloons (Bare-knuckle boxing for a wager.) on the fringe of the goldfields and who wished to stay off the police radar. These shady hotels were as well blitzed by the law, where surprisingly women operated many of them; The 'Sydney Morning Herald Tuesday', 7th January 1862:

The police have commenced prosecutions against the sly grog sellers. Five were summoned to appear before the court yesterday-Captain Browne and Commissioner Grenfell on the bench. Samuel Richards, James Pattison, and Margaret Scully were severally fined £30. The case against one Elizabeth Marshall was remanded for a week. A warrant was issued for one Helen Berriman, she not appearing to the summons.

Long after the gold rush had faded, and recounting the heady days of life in Forbes, an old resident mused over the throngs of people parading the streets circa 1862. 'The Forbes Advocate', Wednesday 4th April 1928:

I have not as yet given you any idea of the diggings. Well, it opened my eyes. I never saw anything approaching it; it was simply impossible for you to get down Rankin Street with a mate without losing him. The people were like sardines in a tin, it was simply wonderful. The hotels were packed, you had to wait your turn to get into them as well as other places of business. I do not think there was a country on the face of the earth which was not represented.

Ben Hall had thrown off the reputation 'as a young man of fine promise.'

Before Hall's marriage breakdown, and in joyous times he and Bridget were known to visit Bathurst. A trip to break the monotony of station life allowed the young couple to let their hair down. However, in 1858 while at the 'Australian Hotel' on Bentick Street, Bridget was embroiled in a verbal altercation with another woman Mrs Elizabeth Fitkin which was referred to as a 'casus belli' (An act or situation that provokes or justifies a war.) landing both women in the Bathurst court. Moreover, as one of the wild Weddin Girl's, language for Bridget was as good a weapon as any pistol, which Bridget levelled and fired at Elizabeth Fitkin. The language raised the hair of those within earshot. The barman of the hotel, Mr Murray, was so offended at the verbal abuse thrown between the two that he was placed in contempt of court for failing to appear as a witness when called. Murray was eventually escorted into court under the charge of a policeman. When asked of his reluctance, Murray told the judge:

Because he did not wish to mix himself up with anything so filthy and disgusting as the case in question. and I am disgusted, your Worships beyond measure, at being in any way connected with the transaction. I am an unwilling witness and will say no more than I am compelled.

The reporter in court also appeared to take a civil view and refrained to layout the ribald vitriol except to write:

It appeared that Mrs Bridget Hall had made certain references to Mrs Fitkins', chastity, in language which could scarcely be equalled by either the celebrated Mrs Moriarty or the great Daniel O'Connell, and which is therefore hardly fit for print. A portion of the language was given by Mr Murray, but as he had not taken notes of the belligerent interview he could not undertake to give the whole.

Murray concluded:

For forty years I have been occupied in that vocation, and little imagined it would be my lot, being moreover the father of a family, to figure in a dirty, filthy obscene, piece of business such as this.

The case was finalised and dismissed; 

After some little discussion, the Bench concurred in that reading of the law and dismissed the case, at the same time releasing Mr Murray from custody, who left the Court with a polite bow.

Ben Hall had been married to a hellcat!

Authors Note: Elizabeth Fitkin arrived in New South Wales in 1839 as a convict on board the Margaret and received a Ticket of Leave in 1855. Fitkin had several arrests for assault, drunkenness and disorderly conduct in Bathurst:

The Margaret, Captain Canney, with 166 female convicts from Ireland, and 56 free emigrants, under the superintendence of Dr Moxey, R.N. Passengers - Rev Mr Wilkinson, Mrs Wilkinson and family, left the Cape of Good Hope same day at the Boyne, bound to Sydney. She also spoke of the Prince George, with emigrants for South Australia, to the northward of the line. Margaret arrived in Port Jackson on 1st April 1839.

Conversely, in 1921, an old-stager reminisced in the 'National Advocate', Friday 30th, September, of another evening in Bathurst, when Ben Hall, in company with his brother Bill, attended a dance at a local hotel:

Talking of dances did it. Alec declared that he had danced with Ben Hall. "Ben Hall wasn't a bushranger, then," protested Alec. "That was before he broke out. A lot of young fellows came into a hotel in William Street and made themselves known. I was only 17 or 18 then, (around 1860) and I didn't know them. One was Ben Hall, and another was his brother Bill. Ben looked a fine young fellow. They said, "Let's have a buck set." That meant all men. And we had a buck set. I took "tops" with Ben. And the only woman in the set was the publican's daughter.

Bridget Taylor,
Cobargo NSW.
c. 1919.

Author's Note: March 1876 Taylor's first wife, Emma, died near Crookwell "from acutely drinking spirits". When Taylor heard the news, he immediately married Bridget Hall at Forbes on 1st June 1876. Bridget bore two sons and a daughter to Taylor; John, 1st January 1869. James, 14th April 1871 and Catherine Ellen, 20th July 1873. Over time there had been reports that Taylor was an ex-constable, but this is untrue. When his father Adam Taylor arrived in the colony, his occupation was recorded as a former constable. It was convicted at Derby near Nottingham, England and was sentenced to seven years arriving on the 'Baring' in 1819. In 1825 Taylor's father was granted a 'Certificate of Freedom' and was reinstated as a constable at Penrith in 1827.

Furthermore, Jim Taylor was nine years older than Bridget and died 13 months after their marriage on 21st July 1877, at Cadalgulee near Forbes "from the effects of drink" aged 46 years. The twice-widowed Bridget was 37 years of age. After Taylor's death, Bridget moved to Fords Bridge, Bourke NSW, to start a new life with her sister Ellen and her younger sister Kitty's husband, John Brown. Whilst in Bourke, Bridget appeared in court for failing to send her children to school under the new 'Public Instruction Act' and where Henry Hall, Ben's son, appeared on her behalf; "Bridget Taylor (for whom her son appeared) was also fined 2s 6d and 4s 10d in costs for an infringement of the Public Instruction Act." 

Bridget departed Fords Bridge Bourke c. 1904 finally settling at Cobargo, where she died on 9th July 1923 and was buried there in an unmarked grave. The relationship between Ben Hall's son Henry and his mother Bridget may have been a tenuous one as Henry left Bourke and resided in Condobolin. In 1884, Henry married Ellen Barnes and had one son Arthur, but as with his father, Ben Hall, Henry would suffer the same fate, and his wife Ellen would run off with another man, Charles Keightley, and they wed in 1892. Henry Hall then married Kate Fullbrook, an English immigrant, in 1899.

In the face of Ben Hall's domestic upheaval, once again, his family at Murrurundi erupted in malice, and the standing feud between father, son Edward and his wife Honora appeared unabated when Ben's 56-year-old father was once more in the news of December 1861. On this occasion, Hall's father was attacked and suffered a brutal physical assault by a person believed 'known' to him while on his trek home after a well! A quiet night out at Thomas Abbott's Plough Inn at Blandford'The Newcastle Chronicle and Hunter River District News', Wednesday 8th January 1862:

On Friday last, as poor old Ben Hall, of Blandford, was on his road home, a "little the worse for beer," and as Benjamin resided a distance of half-a-mile from the public house where he had been spending the evening, and felt tired, he sat down to rest awhile, and unfortunately fell into a sound sleep, when some villain poured over his head and face a quantity of hot water, scalding poor Hall in a fearful manner. The police have a clue to the monster who committed this atrocious act.

However, the nature of the attack on Ben Hall's father indicates that boiling water was a woman's modus operandi. Perchance thrown over the sleeping man by Edward Hall's wife, Honora, there was no love lost between her and Ben Hall snr. Once more, Ben Hall's reaction to his older brother's ongoing disputes and dealings with his father is not recorded.

Ben Hall c. 1862.
Accordingly, in low spirits and 
"no child to cheer him at the end of the day's toil," Ben was fashioning a new reputation. Embracing the fast and loose behaviour of his new companions. Therefore, Bridget's desertion and the manner of its deceitfulness which "no skilled surgeon could heal," transformed Hall from the quiet, amiable man into a swashbuckling Gardiner archetype. A proclamation to Bridget perhaps that he too could throw caution to the wind and raise Cain with the best of them. After all, Taylor was a drunk, and he was a "good-looking man."

Therefore, in those final weeks of 1861 into early 1862, Ben persisted in a closer relationship with Frank Gardiner, 'Prince of Tobymen'. Gardiner became the one person who would wield the most influence over Ben and is also widely claimed to be the father of the modern bushranger: Maguire wrote:

Things got from bad to worse, till Frank Gardiner, the bushranger came. He capped the lot. Now under 'The King of the Road's influence, Ben started on his notorious career.

Flamboyant, Claude Du Val.
William Powell Firth (1819-1909)
Frank Gardiner was irrepressible and appeared characterised in the mould of the famous 17th-century English Highwayman Claude Du Val (b.1643-d.1670.) As reported:

A gallant and courteous rogue, probably the most dashing highwayman ever to haunt the roads of England. He was known as a “true gentleman of the road.

Gardiner embraced this beau ideal and continually scanned the newspapers for positive reviews of his robberies. When misrepresented, he would take umbrage by writing to the editor of newspapers, such as the 'Burrangong Star' refuting fake news and false assumptions that may impune his character.

Furthermore, Gardiner was the first bushranger to embrace public perception and celebrity power through the press. In utilising this power, Gardiner would always take care during hold-ups to be egalitarian with those held under his revolver and displayed great panache in his manners, dress and appearance, knowing full well that his every action would be soaked up by the correspondents:

Gardiner wore breeches and high boots, cabbage-tree hat with a black band, and black poncho spotted on the inside of like the skin of a leopard.

A standard that would also be embraced by accomplice John Gilbert who also styled himself as a flash cove, as in due course would a more conservative, Ben Hall who was also noted as always being rather proud of his personal appearance. Therefore, in the majority of Gilbert, O'Meally and Hall's robberies, the Lachlan bushrangers were often noted as appearing clean, smartly dressed and dignified. As commented on:

Hall had a quiet and respectable air—by wearing nicely-shaped high boots and a well-fitting pair of brown cord pants, with fashionably cut cloth coat and vest of the same colour, and only one gold chain, and not much of that to be seen.

Furthermore, even those with a gun held to their heads and stripped of their valuables and cash. Were never left without a shilling to get by on. Silver was a coin that Hall's mentor Gardiner never made off with and one which Hall only held on to when hard pressed. All these actions enhanced not only Gardiner's prestige but later Hall's as well:

There have been few instances where violence has been used by these modern highwaymen, they will often leave a few shillings with their victims, so that they may not be on the road quite destitute.

These egalitarian standards laid out by Gardiner were the blueprint for John Gilbert, O'Meally and Ben Hall's activities.

The new alliance with Frank Gardiner and Hall's long-standing friendships with John O'Meally and John Gilbert matched with their gun-toting free-spirited lifestyle elicited a new devil may care outlook for the grazier. Moreover, the association was luring him further into a collision course with justice. First, the affiliation with 'The Darkie' and his companions drew a bead by Sir Frederick Pottinger. Then, between March and April 1862, several highway robberies within a few miles of Sandy Creek drew that bead onto Ben Hall as an accomplice. Subsequently, arrested dragged handcuffed off the Forbes racecourse to the lock-up. Many local's were stunned by the arrest, even unbelieving that one of theirs was carted off. However, the general public was aware that Gardiner was undisputed 'King of the Road.' But Hall that left some knocked for six. With Gardiner controlling all movement it was said that free passes could be gained for unencumbered passage:

It asserted that the bushranger Gardiner is supplied with information by numberless accomplices both in the township and along the roads; a journalist has had it said of him that he can secure any friend from Gardiner by giving "passes."

Subsequently, Ben's new mates were usually found lounging about like dingos in the various sly grog shops and rough Shanties surrounding the goldfields. Here these minions gravitated to Gardiner's leadership and undeniable charisma. However, oft waiting for the chance to obtain easy cash riding on 'The Darkies' coattails. These men included previously mentioned John Davis, John McGuinness, 'Paddy' Connolly, the emerging 15yr old's Johnny Walsh (Bridget's Hall's brother) and 15yr old John Jameison (Taylor's nephew), all well known to Ben Hall.

However, many down on their luck became a part of Gardiner's ever-changing band of bushrangers. Gardiner's exploits at holding a pistol to any traveller unlucky to fall under his gaze were demonstrated in the New South Wales 'Parliamentary Hansard' and published in the 'Sydney Morning Herald', 19th August 1863. Covering the period March 1862 - April 1862:

March 25th, 1862.-Telegram, Forbes. Gardiner stuck-up and robbed two drays (between this and Lambing Flat) of provisions, spirits, and winter clothing; April 12th, Gardiner went to Mrs Chisholm station, at Bland, and stole a horse; 17th, telegram, from Forbes, sticking-up is still the order of the day between here and Lambing Flat, 20th, Gardiner stuck-up about twenty-five men on the Lachlan Road a few days ago, and several drays. 23rd, Gardiner and four armed men dashed in front of Greig's coach, on the road from the Lachlan to Burrangong and turned into the bush again; on the same day, they stuck up and robbed a dray, belonging to Moses and Son and the other day, they stuck up and robbed Mr Greig's dray on the Lachlan road.

There can be no doubt that Hall's current alliances and forays into sticking up would link him to many of the above incidents, notably the last three. (Robbery dates and the reporting of them could often differ by days.)

Ben Hall's association with Gardiner dates back to November/December 1861. Attested to and highlighted by a mail contract rider held up at Binalong in 1863 by Ben Hall and John Gilbert. The postman confirmed the link between the bushrangers. 'Geelong Advertiser' December 1863:

Richard Henry, in the employ of Mr Jacob Marks, the contractor, was conveying the mails from Binalong to Yass, he was stuck up by Gilbert and Hall. As to the identity of the bushrangers there can be no doubt, as their faces were not disguised in any manner, and Richard (or Dick, as he is better known by, a half-caste aboriginal) had the opportunity of fully recognising them as those well known bushrangers, who, in company with Gardiner, waited upon him professionally while he was conveying the mails in the neighbourhood of Murrumburrah, some two years past.

Ben Hall description
NSW Police Gazette,
for 8th April 1862,

2nd villain. Others
no doubt 1. Gardiner, 3. Gilbert
and 4. O'Meally.
In early 1862 Ben Hall's current recklessness would rise up to bite him and bite him hard as while in company with Frank Gardiner and John Gilbert, Ben Hall gambled all and participated in his first published involvement in 'highway robbery'.

Robberies had become a dime a dozen since the rush of the Burrangong (Lambing Flat) and Forbes goldfields. Therefore, Ben Hall had unquestionably participated in earlier holdups, but as luck would have it, none were able to be pinned to him as attested to by Charles MacAlister:

Ben Hall and Gilbert were only suspected of a bushranging kinship with Gardiner. For though several of them had been before the Forbes Bench on suspicion (Ben Hall and O’Malley were repeatedly brought up), the law had failed to sheet the guilt home to them to the satisfaction of the local J.P.

Ben Hall woodcut
image, c. 1865.

Courtesy NLA.
As such, NSW Police Gazettes of the period reported robberies with descriptions strongly attributed to Ben Hall. Benjamin Hall was described in the NSW Police Gazette 1862 as

Rather above the medium height, 5ft 6-8in tall and rather stoutly built, lame in one leg and weighed 13 st 7 lbs.

Which for the men of the 1860s, in today's terms, would be considered overweight. (according to today's standard B.M.I.) Maguire stated as well that Hall was some three stone heavier (42lbs/19.05kg) than himself, and Maguire was of slim build 140lbs and stood 5ft 9in tall:

Although he was a much bigger man than I was, for he was nearly three stone heavier than I.

Frank Gardiner was as well recorded as 5ft 9in and 145lbs or 10 stone. During a later robbery in 1864, Ben Hall’s appearance was noted:

Hall is the only one of the three who cultivates any moustache or whiskers, and he is getting fat.²³

Many contemporary writers today always sight Hall as slim and tall, under the evidence that is pure fantasy, he was short and heavyset. Furthermore, his lameness was also expressed in 1863 at the time of the October Canowindra raid when Hall was observed by a detainee;

Ben Hall is a quiet, good-looking fellow, lame, one leg having been broken. He is the eldest of the party and the leader--I fancy about 28 at years of age.  

Bushranging; "Next time they take me, they'll have something to take me for."

It is 14th April 1862; Frank Gardiner and John Gilbert approach the transport dray of William Bacon drawing their revolvers. Edward Horsenail, an employee of Bacon's, later attested:

I noticed two men ride out of the bush, and cried out to Bacon, "Look out, Bill, here are the boys!" they came up and presented their revolvers, and ordered us into the bush.²⁴

Gardiner ordered Bacon to turn his wagons into the scrub where Ben Hall and another man, John Youngman, reputedly an employee of Ben Hall were waiting. Hall is holding the reigns of a pack-horse to load their ill-gotten gains. Two passing travellers were spotted on the road from the scrub. Gardiner orders Ben Hall and Gilbert to fetch them. They bail them up, steal a saddle and hold the men as prisoners. On completion, the four bushrangers depart. Newspapers at the time reported Gardiner's command of the Queen's highway and that his current actions could only end in misery:

Gardiner is a bold rogue and a very great fool, because, he not only braves the police and levies toll along the whole line of road from Burrangong to the Lachlan, but he risks his liberty or neck for the paltry equivalent of a few months defiance of the law. A pity it is that so bold a spirit should be occupied in so bad a cause, and should have to look forward to so contemptible an end.²⁵

Forbes Annual Horse
Racing results,
April 22,23 and
24, 1862.

Proceeds in his pocket Hall loaf's around for the annual Forbes horse races. A favourite indulgence. Consequently, with the Easter holidays of 1862, Forbes held a race meeting running over three days at Wowingragong from the 22nd-24th April 1862. Hall is an attendee. The three-day race meeting was held in a carnival atmosphere and drew the upper echelon of Forbes society and all types of other shady characters:

The attendance was reputed to be large, but the gathering was not altogether free from the presence of notorious "sovereign-sellers," "urgers," "teardowns," "pluguglies," "pea and thimble" tricksters, and "go-getters?' of that day. 

However, on the second day of the meeting 23rd April 1862, Ben Hall was arrested by Sir Frederick Pottinger:

Benjamin Hall, described as a settler in the Wheogo district, was brought before the Court charged with highway robbery under arms.

Hall's arrest was from information received through the bullock-dray robbery victim William Bacon. (Benkin) Pottinger, who harboured suspicions regarding Hall and his associates, slapped Hall with handcuffs and presented him in court where Pottinger stated to the magistrate:

From information received I apprehended the prisoner on Wednesday last on the racecourse, charged with highway robbery, in company with others, on the road between the Lachlan and Lambing Flat”;  It was noted that; "Ben Hall denied the charge.²⁶ (See article right)

On the day of the arrest an old-timer later noted that:

It was at these races that Ben Hall, who was at that time looked upon as being in a fair way well to do, was first arrested for horse stealing or something of the kind. I remember he was dressed in knee-breeches and boots and wore a cabbage-tree hat, which were generally used at that time.

With Hall locked up it was reported of Ben's connection to Gardiner:

One of Gardner's band was arrested, mounted on a fine powerful brown horse, superior to anything belonging to the mounted force.

(At the Forbes race meeting one horse entered was called 'Don't You Know' a beautiful brown bay trained by Tom Higgins and reputedly owned by Frank Gardiner.)

Now the thing was, the victim of the robbery, William Bacon, had known Ben Hall personally and in his statement at Hall’s subsequent remand hearing, positively identifies Ben Hall as one of the assailants:

Prisoners opened a case of tobacco; the man supposed to be Gardner told prisoner to strap the tobacco and bottles of gin on the pack-horse, which he did; I was requested to help him, which I did; in doing so prisoner said to me, "You never saw me before," to which I replied that I had, and drank with him; they then ordered us to pack up and left us, prisoner leading the pack-horse away; I swear positively that the prisoner is the man; I cannot be mistaken - when he robbed the drays some chaff passed between us with respect to a woman I knew he was acquainted with.²⁷ 

William Bacon, by his evidence, had nothing to gain or lose and knew Ben Hall well. Well enough to have positively identified him. Another eyewitness, Edward Horsenail, corroborated Bacon’s evidence and also claimed to have known Ben Hall on sight from many previous social occasions:

I am driving for the last witness, I have been in his employ fully fifteen months; I know the prisoner-have seen him on several occasions; on Monday week last, as far as I can judge about ten o'clock, when about two or three miles from Green's, I noticed two men ride out of the bush, and cried out to Bacon, "Look out, Bill, here are the boys!" they came up and presented their revolvers, and ordered us into the bush, one kept near the dray I was driving, the other by the side of Bacon's dray; when a short distance off the road, two other men rode up, one the prisoner, leading a pack-horse on which there were two or three saddles; I can positively swear to the prisoner; the man we supposed to be Gardner then commenced to open the cases on the dray; prisoner stood by with a revolver in his hand; a case of gin was opened, and a bottle passed round for all hands to drink; prisoner and another left by order of the man supposed to be Gardner, and brought two other men from the road; prisoner, by order of the same man, searched my dray; he broke a case of tobacco open, and packed two bags containing tobacco and other things on a horse; they soon after left; I know prisoner; the last two trips we have made, on both occasions I saw him at the Pinnacle Station (Mrs. Feehiely's public house); I can positively swear to him; I cannot be mistaken." "Prisoner, who declined to say anything, was remanded until Saturday (this day) when he was again brought before the Court and committed for trial: bail refused.²⁸

Of all the drays in all the districts to rob. Ben Hall had to pick the one where they all knew him and knew him well
Clerk of the Peace, Forbes, Depositions received an entry book for Ben Hall, 1862.
Never before published.
The Sydney Morning Herald
Thursday 1st May 1862
Ben Hall's appearance at Forbes following his arrest.
The evidence was damning. Therefore, Ben Hall was remanded to custody for several weeks awaiting transfer to the provincial town of Orange for trial. The transfer from Forbes was due to the lack of a Forbes Sessions Court. However, the grievous crime of 'Robbery Under Arms' had severe ramifications for Ben Hall, in that if found guilty, it could result in a lengthy goal term. Forbes, a town packed with thousands and with significant crime a constant. The absence of a higher court to deal with offenders such as Hall was lamented by its citizens'Empire', 23rd May 1862:

Amongst our many wants perhaps none is more imperatively felt than that of a session court somewhere in the district. At present, we have to go to Orange, a distance of eighty miles.

Understandably, Ben Hall denied any involvement claiming he and co-accused John Youngman happened upon the robbery and that the revolver in Hall's possession had been found earlier in the bush. Furthermore, Hall claimed that Frank had ridden over and told the two to remain where they were! Hall then states he and Youngman sat on their horses and did as Frank bid, nothing! Why did Frank not rob them too? As had happened to some others who passed at the time and were bailed-up under Gardiner's orders. No! Hall was definitely a mate of Gardiner's:

Prisoner and another left by order of the man supposed to be Gardner, and brought two other men from the road.
In light of the evidence, the spectacle of Ben Hall watching men at the point of a revolver being forced to hand over their valuable loading no matter what century is offensive to anyone. Then on completion of the robbery for Hall and Youngman to ride off, offering no assistance or failing to provide evidence as a witness to the crime is also troublesome even when the offended parties were known to each other. The fact is, Hall was working with Gardiner and for some time was embedded in Gardiner's inner circle! The poor sitting ducks of the dray robbery had no ulterior motive or vindictiveness to fabricate evidence implicating Hall and Youngman, as they were all friends.

Therefore, Hall's culpability is self-evident, as exhibited through Hall's inability to achieve bail. The facts more than substantiate the strength of evidence provided by those bailed-up and had witnessed against him. The lock-up holding Hall was a cramped, cold, depressing gaol and a primitive structure. As well as effortless to flee. For a town with thousands on the goldfield, the Forbes lock-up was indescribably inadequate; 'Empire', Monday 28th April 1862:

On mentioning our Government buildings in my last, I forgot to mention our lock-up; it is a log hut, about twenty by twelve feet, anything but secure. 

The scant arrangements in the lockup created an environment for an easy escape, which occurred during the time of Hall's incarceration:

For a few nights ago, nine prisoners escaped by burrowing a hole under the logs with their knives; in the morning it was discovered that the birds had flown, and no one to go after them, our inspector and posse being on a wild goose chase after Gardiner, the bushranger." Those who shot through were named as "Richard Eady, John Lewis, James M'Grain, John Donovan, Sydney Reece, James Taylor, and David Fraser, and they had all been committed and sentenced for various offences. There must be some neglect somewhere. 

However, Hall surprisingly never apprised the opportunity to join in the mass escape. Moreover, in the local paper, Hall's arrest was commented on:

Things are assuming a quiet aspect since Davis was captured, and Benjamin Hall committed for trial for robbing Mr Greig's team, on Friday last, by Sir F. Pottinger.

While brooding in gaol, the many friends that had previously stood by him slowly began to wane in their support. No doubt due to the widely acknowledged amity with Gardiner, John Gilbert and O'Meally. Hall's April 1862 arrest was overriding any past loyalties or sympathy. Furthermore, Sir Frederick Pottinger had been a regular visitor to Sandy Creek while trekking through the scrub, searching for Gardiner and others. The visits from Pottinger appeared based on suspicions regarding who was harbouring bushrangers. Therefore, Hall's notoriety was as someone known to be consorting with bushrangers. Pottinger's suspicions regularly brought the inspector to Hall and Maguire's door. Sandy Creek's reputation had become as iniquitous as Arramagong (O'Meally's) or the Pinnacle. (Feehiely/Charters)

Pottinger's instincts dictated that Hall and Maguire were bent. Therefore the prevailing view of the inspector was that no one was above the law. For Pottinger, based on Bacon's convincing deposition in court, finally had one of Gardiner's men locked up with the belief that Hall was a shoo-in for a guilty verdict. A success Pottinger craved. However, Ben saw things differently and had witnessed Pottinger's heavy-handed actions in the manner of his own arrest at Easter Wowingragong race meeting. Therefore, as Ben sat in the Forbes lock-up, Pottinger became central to his anger. Anger where Hall failed to grasp or accept his culpability in criminal matters. 

Nonetheless, Pottinger, as a means to compromise Ben, 
NSW Police Gazette,
14th May 1862.
in his neighbour's 
eyes the Baronet placed a notice in the 'NSW Police Gazette', no doubt deliberately, linking Hall to bushranging with the tag line; 'Ben Hall, a bushranger'; NSW Police Gazette, 14th May 1862:

Found in possession of Benjamin Hall a bushranger, a light chestnut horse, 16½ hands high, BB near shoulder, small star; also, a saddle and double reined bridle; Colonial made; the seat and knee pads are hogskin. The above are now in possession of the police at Forbes.

However, what is mystifying with the above gazette notice is that if Pottinger had thought the horse in Hall possession stolen, why did he not add this to Hall's highway robbery charge? Horse stealing was serious, almost on par with Robbery Under Arms. However, it may well have been that Pottinger had had enough of the stonewalling by those he knew were protecting Gardiner or those in cahoots with the bushranger. Ben Hall was widely believed to be one of Gardiner's men. Therefore, this move was undoubtedly a sly way to discredit Ben Hall in his neighbours' eyes and elicit information. (See article above.)

Orange Courthouse,
c. 1860's.
Here Hall's trial took place on
19th May 1862. Hall had been
transported to Orange under
escort by Sgt Condell.

Image courtesy NLA.
Subsequently, held in remand a manacled Ben Hall was transported under guard to Orange NSW for trial in conjunction with co-accused John Youngman; ‘Lachlan Observer’ of the 25th April 1862:

At the Lachlan police-court, John Thomas Youngman, was charged with having, in company with three other men (one of them supposed to have been the bushranger, Gardiner) robbed the dray of William Benkin on the road between Lambing flat and the Lachlan. From the evidence of the prosecutor and his assistant, it appeared that on the 14th April, they were on the road to Lambing Flat with the dray, when they were met by the prisoner, and three other men, one of whom they believed was Gardiner. The prisoner was riding a brown horse, and leading a grey one. The man supposed to be Gardiner handed fire-arms to the prisoner, who stood with them until Gardiner and his mates commenced to break open the goods on the dray. The robbers took clothing, tobacco, spirits, and other goods, and then went away. The prisoner was subsequently arrested by order of Sir F. Pottinger. The prisoner reserved his defence, and was committed to taking his trial at the ensuing quarter-sessions to be held at Orange, on Monday, the 19th May.

View overlooking the street
from the Orange Courthouse.

c. 1860's.
Image courtesy NLA.
The coach trip to Orange was under the watchful eye of Sgt Condell, who was to weave in and out of Ben Hall's life from this moment on and ultimately Ben Hall's dramatic end. However, before Hall's removal to Orange NSW and while languishing in the Forbes lock-up. At Bathurst Gaol, Gardiner's good mate John Peisley was recently convicted of murder. An aboriginal named Jackey Bullfrog, also convicted of murder and together they were was hung side by side on the 28th of April 1862.

Therefore, as Hall prepared for his court date on the 19th May 1862, a strategy for release transpired through the help of brother-in-law John Maguire and brother Tom Wade.

The subsequent execution of Peisley and aboriginal Jackey was summarised in the 'Empire', of  Tuesday 29th April 1862, describing Jackey Bullfrog's demeanour and Peisley's last words as they prepared for the next world:

During the last two or three days, Jackey Bullfrog became more resigned and attentive, The Rev. Thomas Sharps had also very frequently attended him, and notwithstanding the difficulties of the case, succeeded at length in convincing him of the existence of a Supreme Being, the certainty of a future state, and the necessity of seeking salvation through the redeemer; and being satisfied that he so far understood the leading doctrine of Christianity, the rite of baptism was administered yesterday morning. Exactly at nine o’clock the criminals, having been previously pinioned were led forth from their cells, and conducted towards the scaffold, accompanied by the Revs. Messrs. Sharpe and Hillyer, who read a portion of the funeral service as they proceeded. On reaching the foot of the gallows, the clergymen and the prisoners knelt dawn, and after prayer, in which Piesley appeared to engage very devoutly, the men ascended the scaffold. He (Piesley) concluded, by saying, "Goodbye gentlemen, and God bless you." The fatal rope was then adjusted, and the white caps being drawn over the faces of the culprits, at a signal from the acting sheriff the drop fell, and the two unfortunates were launched into eternity. Piesley did not appear to suffer much for long, but the poor blackfellow was for several minutes frightfully convulsed. After hanging the usual time, the bodies were cut down, and, being placed in coffins, were conveyed to their last resting place.

George Colquhoun.
c. 1890.

While Hall sat in the Orange courthouse cells, John Maguire duly arrived with Hall's half-brother Thomas Wade. Maguire engaged solicitor Mr George Colquhoun, who instructed Mr Edward Lee, a well-respected barrister, to defend Hall. Ben Hall's co-accused John Youngman was also to face the Orange Court after Ben's trial. Luckily though for Youngman, the Crown Prosecutor was doubtful regarding the evidence against him. Therefore he was bound over on bail. However, having insufficient funds for his release. Youngman turned to Maguire and another friend Peter Murray, who went bondsman with £40 each. However, Youngman used this opportunity to 'abscond' and faded from the pages of bushranging history. Maguire did his dough.

Furthermore, with Youngman's absconding, Hall's guilt appeared assured. Accordingly, Hall's trial commenced on Monday, 19th May 1862. Hall stood in the dock, indifferent to the proceedings as Bill Bacon (Benkin) testified of Hall's involvement in the robbery. The prosecution asked Bacon if the person involved was present. Whereby Bacon once more pointed out Hall as the man in company with Gardiner at the time.

In a shocking turn of events, one of Bacon's employees, believed to be one Mr Ferguson, a driver, inexplicably altered his testimony. Ferguson had at the Forbes Court positively identified Ben Hall as one of the offenders in a deposition to the Clerk of the Court R.B. Mitchell. However, Ferguson declared at Orange he was unsure that Ben Hall was the same person he saw during the wagon robbery. This revelation stunned the Court officials; thus, the jury retired for deliberation regarding the new tainted evidence. Following a short review, the jury returned a verdict of 'Not Guilty by Reasonable Doubt'.

Mr Mitchell's

Moreover, following Ferguson's sudden change, it became widely believed by members of the NSW Police and NSW Court officials that the witness had been tampered with and accepted an inducement to alter his original testimony at Maguire's behest. Hall rode his luck, and the Judge dismissed Hall, who was a relieved and jubilant man. Happy at his restoration of freedom, Hall and his half-brother Tom Wade and Maguire enjoyed the fruits of their subterfuge with a night of revelry and departed Orange in a joyous mood. Upon the return journey home, the trio met up with Bacon and Ferguson:

About three miles along the road we overtook Bacon and Ferguson. As we bore them no malice, we entered into conversation with them, and we all rode together for 40 miles.

The verdict, however, incensed  the Forbes court official, Mr R. B. Mitchell (son of explorer and Surveyor-General of NSW, Sir Thomas Mitchell, 1792-1855), who consequently, after the court case, wrote a scathing letter about the terrible miscarriage of justice over Hall’s trial and his acquittal on 19th May 1862. At the time of Hall’s death, R. B. Mitchell once more reiterated those facts. (See article right, a must-read. Open link in new tab to enlarge.)

Author's Note: There has been a concerted effort over the years by writers from the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries to deflect Ben Hall's involvement in criminal activities by claiming in some instances coincidence in Ben Hall's appearance and presence at or near places where hold-up's occurred. As such the select group of sympathisers attempts at rewriting the events of known eyewitness accounts and recorded history of Ben Hall's criminal activities is demonstrated by a piece written in the 'Scone Advocate' in 1934. It claims that Hall's arrest for the Bacon robbery appeared instigated out of the fear felt by James Taylor and Bridget Hall. The article is consistent with many published since Ben Hall's death that has attempted to portray Ben Hall as a tortured soul, haunted by his past, haunted by what? The ghost of Mrs Hall. The parable "if you lay with dogs, you get fleas" sums up Hall's life or that Hall was an"amiable man with a generosity of spirit, and an honesty in all his dealings with his fellow-settlers."

Undoubtedly dramatic sympathy to justify the unjustifiable, as the 'Scone Advocate' attempts to portray; "but the wrong which Taylor had done did not rest there. Whether on his own initiative or at the instigation of the fly-by-night wife, is not known. Possibly it was a mutual, conspiracy born of fear, to get the outraged husband out of the way lest he might follow the traitorous pair and be avenged. In any case, Taylor supplied spurious information to the police at Forbes, implicating Ben Hall, in a recent bushranging exploit. 

Soon after came the Easter meeting at the Wowingragong racecourse, out from Forbes, and it was here that Sir Frederick Pottinger, Bart., head of the police district centered on Forbes, decided to act on the false information secretly supplied by the traitorous Taylor, and in the full publicity of the race assemblage, he arrested Ben Hall on a charge of highway robbery underarms. The meeting was amazed, left breathless, as the news raced about the course. It was impossible — that decent, likeable, well-respected young fellow charged with bushranging.

This amazement was one of the surest indications of his innocence Bushranging was so woven into the social fabric of the district and the period, and its practitioners had so many sympathisers, assistants, bush telegraphs, and such, while so many, others not actually concerned were passively acquiescent of these activities, that it would have been impossible for Ben Hall to take any part without the fact being generally known. His arrest created much indignation and served to deepen the conspiracy of silence which constituted such a barrier between the police on one side and the bushrangers and citizenry on the other. It served also to increase the contempt in which the police were then held."

Furthermore, inducements paid to have witnesses alter their testimonies appeared common among the lowly paid workers and carters. £50 could go a long way. As in the case of John Maguire's payment to Ferguson; unfortunately, the transcript of the Orange court appearance no longer exists, from all accounts, William Bacon, who also gave evidence, was a well-respected businessman who had nothing to gain only to lose, as he stated at the first hearing:

I swear positively that the prisoner (Hall) is the man; I cannot be mistaken-when he robbed the drays some chaff passed between us with respect to a woman I knew he was acquainted with; my loading was for Mr. Greig, storekeeper on these diggings, for whom I have carried, almost exclusively, more than fourteen months; I have not yet been paid for the loading. 

Ben Hall had choices, and he chose poorly! Recently I was at a premiere of the film Legend of Ben Hall, where someone asked the question, "What is Ben Hall's legacy". His legacy substantiates that murder, attempted murder, kidnapping, assault, arson, flogging, and crime, in general, do not pay!

R.B. Mitchell
c. 1882.
Courtesy Penzig Collection.
In the eyes of the law, Maguire had done himself no favours. He knowingly had cast suspicion over the evidence of one of the witnesses:

On assisting Ben in his trouble, I did so believing him innocent of any crime. It cost me a tidy sum; and, moreover, was a bad day for me, as I left the impression with the police that I had tampered with witnesses.

However, the diabolical plan of corrupting a witness with a financial incentive had succeeded. Following Hall's acquittal, Maguire stated that he overheard the Judge, Mr Casey, cast his thoughts on Hall's circumstances to their defence counsel Mr Lee and in the Judge's opinion, Hall was indeed guilty:

After the court was cleared the judge and our counsel, Mr Lee, were walking to the hotel to dinner. I was just behind them. I heard the judge say that he believed Hall was guilty. Mr Lee said, "I was paid well to defend him, and I did so, by getting him off." "The judge replied, "Mr Lee, it was not you that did it — it was done outside." "Next morning our party rode home jubilant—all but Ben Hall, who had celebrated the victory by getting immovably drunk. Ben Hall, and Tom Wade (Ben's half-brother) left for Forbes.

Hall, upon returning from Orange following the trial and success in hoodwinking the judicial system. Ben Hall's life in the interim resumed normalcy at Sandy Creek. However, fate is the hunter and Ben Hall would once more test its virtue. Furthermore, following an earlier run down to Lambing Flat on a spree, Hall had returned home in February/March 1862 with a young woman who struck his fancy and where she had commenced residing at the Sandy Creek home. The young woman was Susan Prior aged 17 years, originally from Tasmania.

Moreover, following some romantic affection, Susan fell pregnant. Ben's homestead was also home to his brother Bill Hall and his wife Ann and their two children Mary b. 1858 and John b. 1860, including frequent stopovers by Frank Gardiner and his brigade. While mustering Ben's partner, Maguire infers in his memoirs that 'The Darkie' upon hearing the news of Ben's acquittal, appeared at Sandy Creek offering Hall an apology for his lagging over the dray affair:

Next day Gardiner called Ben, and expressed regret that Ben had got into trouble through him.

Hall shrugged it off in reply, stated:

Next time they take me they'll have something to take me for.

Following their meeting, Maguire noted that:

From that out, Ben and Gardiner were often together.

The inference by Maguire that Hall was innocent and that Gardiner palled up with an 'I'm sorry' runs counter to the known facts of Hall's complicity in the Bacon Robbery and other matters! Well! For Ben Hall, the next time the law was to lag him was rapidly approaching.

Sydney Telegraph Office
c. 1862.
Image courtesy NLA.

As Ben Hall continued aligning himself closer to Gardiner, the reporting of hold-ups and general news, as well as gossip from all the cross-sections of society, began to infiltrate into every nook and cranny. It was generated by a new and expeditious means of communication. How? Through the unveiling of the new-fangled electric telegraph. (the 1860's internet) This advanced technology would see a wider variety and number of crimes reported at a moment's notice. Furthermore, this rapid communication system launched Frank Gardiner and others' bushranging into the forefront of the public's mind. It turned them into 1860s sensations and celebrities as citizens soaked up the news of their bold and defying exploits and children in the streets playing bushranger in their image.

In light of the bushrangers depredations. Their wildness began to thrust a spear into the corridors of power in Sydney, where since the start of gold fever, the government was grappling with a tsunami of unparalleled lawlessness:

There is scarcely a nook of the colony which has any population that does not possess its press. The wires make us acquainted with every outrage committed on the great lines of communication almost as soon as it has happened. The various stages of prosecution cause a repetition of the same facts in different phraseology; and thus, a single crime becomes multiplied to the imagination of the reader, who loses the clue of identity, and takes every repetition as a now incident.³¹ 

Although Ben resumed his enterprise at Sandy Creek and a new love at his side, the ordeal at the Forbes lock-up and the subsequent close call at Orange failed to make Ben aware of the fatality of lawlessness. Accordingly, within weeks, Ben Hall would rub his hands together and help plan and execute the most spectacular heist in Australian colonial history. The attack on the 'Forbes Gold Escort'.

Gold! Some say it is the 'root of all evil'. Since the Egyptian Pharaoh's days some 5,000 years ago, gold has represented power and prestige. It has created Kings and Queens and where even the poorest could change their lives instantly with a strike of the precious metal. Consequently, for the Australian colony, this precious metal would change not only the status quo but would turn many stockmen and cockatoo farmers of the remote interior into overnight millionaires. It also brought on an immigration boom from the Americas, Europe and China as tens of thousands rallied on ships pouring into Australia.

An NSW mounted gold
escort preparing
to depart.
Image courtesy NLA.

However, obtaining gold was hard yakka (work) and required exploring remote rivers and creeks searching for the signs. In turn, there was also reef gold, which required deep shafts sunk into the ground. Where men would drop from 100 to 300 ft. to obtain the highly prized treasure, for some, the process would cost them their lives. Subsequently, for others, there was an alternate way to procure gold. That course of action was the Frank Gardiner method, where the riches were seconded at the end of a revolver. An experience many innocent victims were to suffer.

However, by early 1861 Frank Gardiner was in love and therefore, a desire to quit bushranging was starting to play on his mind. Subsequently, the daily robberies of cash, jewellery and gold Gardiner extracted from the unfortunates who happened to fall under his revolvers was inadequate to his needs. The constant life of living rough became more uncomfortable, and even being harboured brought danger and became humdrum and expensive.

On the other hand, Gardiner's sticking up antics broadened his celebrity and newspaper coverage. Coverage enabled the police to gather valuable information for his apprehension. Although at times, his ability to encounter them undetected was mind-boggling. Gardiner even took advantage by writing to newspapers, highlighting even bragging at the ease in which he moved amongst the police:

Three of your troopers were at a house the other night and got drinking and gambling till all hours. I came there towards morning when all was silent. The first room that I went into I found revolvers and carbines to any amount, but seeing none as good as my own, left them. I then went out, and in the verandah found the troopers sound asleep. Satisfying myself that neither Battye nor Pottinger were there, I left them as I found them, in the arms of Morpheus.

Therefore, the mundane pursuit of reward-less robbery after the payoffs to his harbourers resulted in setting forth a plan to obtain in a flash the gold riches he needed for a new life with his lover Catherine Brown far from the haunts and eyes of the Lachlan.

S.M.H. 8th May 1862.

Subsequently, Frank commenced organising an audacious robbery of a Royal Mail Escort. Frank had been following the gold escorts movements in and around the Forbes and Lambing Flat goldfields over months. He was recording their routes and departure times and the number of ounces of gold on-board each coach. What made it easier for the King of the Road was that the details he needed frequently appeared in local newspapers' columns. Moreover, Gardiner's inspiration for success may well have sprung from his recall of a daring and widely publicised robbery in Victoria in 1853. A private gold escort under strong guard by the Victorian police was travelling from the McIvor diggings to Bendigo to connect with the Melbourne escort and was attacked and robbed by a gang of six men. They split into two groups, with one section firing on the police while the others snatched the gold.

The gang affected their escape after wounding four police officers. At the time, it was a sensation. The banditos cleared out with over 2,300 ounces of gold and £800 in cash. Nevertheless, while Gardiner was reconnoitering for his robbery, serious concerns were being raised by the very newspapers Gardiner had been perusing regarding the escorts lack of sufficient police protection;  The 'Western Examiner' expressed this concern on 30th January 1862:

Lachlan escort has, for some time, past, formed a subject of comment here. It consists of four men only, and as if to facilitate their destruction by any gang of ruffians that may take it in their heads to "stick them up," they are cooped up, two in a row, in the vehicle containing the gold. It is pretty generally admitted that our whole escort system is faulty. The men should be mounted in order to be effective in an emergency. Under the present system what would be easier than for half a dozen determined fellows-of which there are numbers on the Lachlan-to fell a tree, and when the coach had pulled up, to fire into the escort, the robbers all the time undercover. Such things have occurred in these colonies since the discovery of gold and may occur again. It certainly shows a want of prudence on the part of the authorities to do things in this half-and-half way. What possible effective resistance could four armed men, cooped up in a coach, and placed in a row to be shot at, offer to the same number, undercover none whatever. On full consideration, it appears little short of recklessly jeopardising the lives of public servants, and indirectly holding out a premium to the gang of marauders who have so long infested these districts, to continue the present system.

Frank Gardiner was also cognizant of that sentiment and amazingly almost followed the above paper's analysis to the letter. Therefore, comfortable in knowing that the small number of police guards could be overcome. Gardiner set about finalising the logistics. John Maguire recalled Frank's ambition. Remembering that Maguire was an eyewitness to the events both before and after:

It was with Gardiner that the idea of taking the escort originated and took a fortnight to prepare for the attack. For some months before Gilbert and O'Meally were Gardiner's constant companions, and they had been talking about it together. They were getting full of the petty bailing-up business, and wanted to make a grand haul and then quit the country.

All 'The Darkie' needed was a perfect place to ambush a gold escort. New companion Ben Hall revealed that spot following discussions of various locations. The area required that it not be well patronised, such as the main road between Lambing Flat and Forbes; therefore, Ben proposed Eugowra Rocks, an area of large granite rocks and boulders shouldering the road the escort would travel over between Forbes and Orange. Ben Hall's knowledge of that particular area came from his many journeys there with his close friend Daniel Charters, and it as well had formed part of the conversation which included Maguire as recounted by Tom Richards:

I was speaking to Maguire about the escort some two weeks previous at Forbes; he said what a good place the "Rocks" would be to stick up the escort.

Next, Gardiner set about recruiting willing participants. Accordingly, Gardiner had found no trouble recruiting his accomplices once the sweet riches the recruits would receive were revealed. Gardiner in command recruited seven men: John Gilbert, John O'Meally, Daniel Charters, Alex Fordyce, John Bow, Henry Manns and Ben Hall. Final preparations for the bold attack now began in earnest. Planning arose over several weeks, with the gang rendezvousing at both John Maguire and Ben Hall's homes at Sandy Creek station with some members camping in the stations home paddocks:

Evidence which went to show that Maguire's house was the rendezvous of Gardiner and his gang, where the attack on the escort was planned.

William Hall.
c. 1910. (Penzig)
Bill Hall, Ben's older brother, recounted to Jack Bradshaw during their 1912 interviews for 'Frank Gardiner, Ben Hall & Gang' the whole picture, including the pre-planning activities and subsequent departure for the Eugowra Rocks. Bill Hall did not shy away in revealing all his knowledge regarding the events and frankly destroys any notion that Ben Hall was not an active and willing participant or that Hall was somehow coerced into Gardiner's robbery. No! Ben Hall was well and truly bushranging:

Ben Hall knew the place well and had a good knowledge of the surrounding country. He was also appointed pilot. Ben Hall was likewise chosen to go into Forbes and inquire particulars as to the escort. Hall found out that the escort would be leaving Forbes on Sunday. Word was passed around for another meeting on the Friday before. True to their promise, the lot turned up on that day. After receiving instructions on how to act, they rode away, and camped that night near Mrs Feeley’s pub.

Daniel Charters.
c. 1862.

Courtesy Mrs Fred Wells
(Coloured by Author)
The armed robbery was to take place 3 miles to the northeast of the hamlet of Eugowra, 25 miles from Forbes late on the afternoon of Sunday, 15th June 1862. In the planning stage, the closeness of the friendship between Dan Charters and Ben appeared to draw Charters into the daring once in a lifetime get-rich-quick scheme. Moreover, information was required and equipment needed, again Bill Hall recounted Charters' willingness to take part and how Bill's brother Ben in company with Daniel Charters travelled to Forbes and purchased the required supplies:

When spoken to about it Charters said, “I am your Moses. A really good thing. To miss such a buss as this would cause me a shock in the stuffing of life.” “We knew this, old hoss, and that is why we called on you. Come over to us to-night. You and Ben Hall are required to go for the necessary equipment.” “I will do anything, lads, for my share of such a beautiful haul." Charters came to the camp and willingly agreed to do everything proposed to him. He and Hall started out the next morning for everything required and returned with six double-barrelled muzzle-loading guns, and moulds for making bullets. They also brought back with them black crape for making masks and other articles for disguise. After having dinner Hall and Charters went over to Jack Healey’s, where lived a young lad of 19 Henry Manns, and Charters persuaded him to join them also. At about 3 o’clock in the afternoon Ben Hall, Charters, and Manns joined the rest of the band.

Next Gardiner then:

Spoke to Charters and said: "Now, go and lead us through the bush to Eugowra and keep off the roads; if there are any fences we will chop them down. Charters knew every inch of the country and had never been away from it for a day, and took the party to a creek near Mr Clements station at Eugowra rocks. On Sunday morning, the gang crossed the creek and reached the Eugowra mountain, where the attack on the escort was to be made.

Foreground view of 
Escort Rock as Fagan would
have seen on approach,

My photo.
Meanwhile, as the bushrangers rode to Eugowra, in Forbes on Sunday morning 15th June 1862, the Escort coach prepared to depart for its fateful journey. The Escort would have generally been under the charge of sergeant McClure. However, on this occasion, Sergeant Condell had temporary command of the coach as he was to travel to Sydney for drill instruction to transfer from the foot police to the mounted force:

The escort left Forbes on Sunday morning, under the immediate charge of sergeant Condell, seated on the box alongside the driver, Mr Fagan; the remainder of the escort, three men, were seated in the body of the coach; their names, were senior constable Moran, constable Haviland, and another constable, Rafferty a stranger on the escort. The treasure consisted of 2719 ounces of gold, and £3700 in cash; there were also the usual mails, which were heavy. The escort proceeded on its way without any unusual occurrence to warn them of impending danger; at about half-past 4 o'clock, on arriving at Coobong, a distance of 27 miles from Forbes, and immediately in the vicinity of Mr Clement's station, two teams were observed in the roadway, no uncommon circumstance. As the coach drew near, it became evident there was but one passage, and that between the obstructing teams, and a mass of broken, perpendicular rocks, overhanging the narrow passage; the peculiarity of the situation never for a moment excited suspicion, but the driver brought his horses into a walk, in order to steer between the drays and the rocks.³²

View from behind
Eugowra Rock
as the coach
approached the hidden
bushrangers, 2013.
My photo.
What's more, before the coach arrived at Eugowra on that fateful Sunday afternoon, it was reported that:

Gardiner hid his men behind some large rocks by the roadside, having first forced a number of carriers to block up the road with their wagons. The long-expected coach came in sight. "Make way for the Royal mail," cried the driver John Fagan, as he noticed the teams on the road. There was no answer, and again he repeated the order. There was no answer but the echo of his voice.³³

As the echo of Fagan's voice faded, the crack of gunfire suddenly followed by a barrage of bullets splintering the coach's timbre wounding some unsuspecting police officers, including Sergeant Condell. The rapid-fire startled the horses, which bolted, flipping over the gold coach. The escorting troopers outgunned and, under intense fire, managed to retreat into the nearby scrub, where they covered the short distance to Mr Hanbury Clement's farm. Clement's had heard the gunfire and was in the process of investigating as the armed robbers Gardiner, Hall and company quickly descended on and ransacked the coach, clearing out with over £14,000 worth of gold and cash. Roughly $6,662,500 in today’s value. (Spot Gold 2020 $2,438.64 per ounce Aud)

Sgt James Condell.
Coloured by me.
The result of the successful attack and raking gunfire, Sgt Condell was shot in the ribs explains:

When the first volley came, I felt I was hit in the side; I put my hand to my side, and found a hole in my coat and blood coming from it; when I got to Mr, Clements' I examined my side, and found there were two holes in it; about 2½ inches apart; the holes were of the same size; they were in a position so that a bullet going in at one would go out at the other. Both holes bled; Sir Frederick Pottinger saw the wound four or five hours after.

Snr. Constable Henry Moran was wounded in the groin explains:

I turned, and to the right, on the rocks, I saw four men in front and two behind them; they had guns pointed down at us; I heard the word "fire," and a volley was fired; I was wounded, and I called out to my mates, "lookout, I'm wounded;" we fired in return, and the horses took fright and ran up a shelving rock, and I was flung wounded out of the coach; constable Haveland assisted me to get out of the way, and I afterwards got to Clements' station. I was wounded in the testicle.

However, for Condell and Moran, the wounds upon further investigation were not considered life-threatening. Constables Havilland and Rafferty providentially appeared unhurt, including the coach driver, Mr Fagan, who in turn had been very lucky as many whizzing bullets passed through his hat and coat. The whip or driver of the coach John Fagan describes his close encounter: 

I was mail-driver of the escort on the 15th; I had four horses in my coach; I lost some of the horses in the attack; they were the property of Ford and Co,; Phil. Mylecharane was one of the owners; I was in the coach when it was attacked; I then lost all four horses; next morning saw two of them at Clements', where they went after getting away; about a week after saw a black horse, one of the leaders, and afterwards at Forbes the other; it was at the Camp; a dark brown horse with a switch tail; I received it from Sanderson; I was not wounded, but a ball went through my hat and another through my coat; there were eight or ten bullets in the coach; the gold boxes were gone when we came back to the coach; the mail-bags were opened, and the contents scattered about; I lost two coats from the coach belonging to myself.

The men made their way to nearby Hanbury Clements' Eugowra station, some individually while Rafferty made for Forbes.

Jack Fagan.
c. 1900's.
Coloured by me.
Authors Note; John Fagan died in 1912, and it was noted that he drove the coach when the memorable robbery of the escort occurred near the rocks at Eugowra. On that occasion, he was almost shot, a bullet perforating his hat as he ran for shelter from the flying shots of Gardiner, Ben Hall and Co., fired at the police escort, and himself.³⁴ In July 1863, Mr Fagan was a bus driver for a short period in Sydney. That hat is now in possession of his family, upon his death, Mr Fagan left an estate valued at £257 970 = $21,400,000 today.

Upon coming into contact with Hanbury Clements, who and his brother William made their way towards the scene, the Grazier observed the police as they trickled out of the bush and accompanied them to his homestead providing first aid to the injured men. Shortly after, Hanbury took off to Forbes a ride of 25 miles to “carry intelligence of the affair”. When news broke of the brazen robbery, the whole colony was stunned, and Gardiner became an instant sensation'Sydney Morning Herald', Saturday 21st June 1862:

Our citizens are awaiting with some impatience the result of the efforts that are being made to get upon the trail of the villains implicated. The Escort consisted of 2067 oz. 18 dwts. of gold, and £700 in cash belonging to the Oriental Bank; 521 oz. 13 dwts and 6 grs. to the bank of New South Wales; and 129 oz. and upwards of gold, £3000 in cash, to the Commercial Bank.

Sub Commissioner for
J.G. Grenfell.
 Newspaper Image c. 1867. 
However, in a little-known incident regarding the day of the robbery, it was revealed that some hours before the Gold Escort departed Forbes for Orange, there were to be two other passengers, and the police troopers embarked. Those travellers were Police Magistrate for Forbes, Captain Brown, a long-time friend of Captain M’Lerie, Inspector-General of NSW police, and the Gold Commissioner for Forbes, Mr Grenfell. In the previous May, Grenfell had sent Ben Hall to Orange for trial over the Bacon (Benkin) Dray Robbery. Before the departure, the two men had decided to leave Forbes by horseback instead of the coach; 'The Courier' Tuesday 8th July 1862:

Captain Brown and Mr Commissioner Grenfell were to have come down by the escort, but owing to special instructions from Inspector General M'Lerie, they came on horseback and were some miles in advance of the escort when the attack was made. These gentlemen arrived in Orange on Monday forenoon, and took their departure for Bathurst in the mail.

Whether as the gang waited for the approaching coach and before blocking the road, the robbers watched the two men pass by is unknown.
My video of the 1862 Eugowra hold-up site.

Hanbury Clements.
c. 1881.

Private Source.
First time published.
On word reaching Forbes through Hanbury Clements, Clements alerted a stunned Sir Frederick Pottinger after accomplishing a three-hour ride of twenty-seven miles at night. Pottinger gathered his forces and duly arrived at Clement’s home at 6 a.m. on Monday 16th, accompanied by eleven troopers, 20 settlers and two black trackers. In American parlance, a good old fashioned Posse. En-route to Clements, Pottinger fell in with the draymen who were questioned by the inspector regarding the events:

The troopers fell across the owners of the bullock-teams, who had been stuck up by the bushrangers. The unfortunate men state that they had been made to lie upon the ground, face downwards, for several hours; and that whilst the firing was going on between the bushrangers and escort they were exposed to the bullets. After urgent entreaty, they were removed from this perilous position by the bushrangers.

Upon Pottinger's arrival at Clements' Eugowra Station, he received a briefing of the events, checking on the troopers' injuries. Pottinger proceeded to put his trackers to the scent and commenced the task of hunting down the bushrangers:

About six o'clock yesterday morning Sir F. Pottinger, with eleven troopers, twenty settlers, and two trackers got on the track of the bushrangers. About three miles from the coach they found, near a camp fire, the gold boxes, which had been opened.³⁵
Hanbury Clements station Eugowra.
Bailliere's New South Wales Gazetteer and Road Guide, 1866
NSW Police Gazette,
August 1862.
After discovering the robbery's remnants, Sir Frederick divided his force to cover a broader area. However, as news raced through the colony, other police swung into action and troopers were quickly brought in to the district supplement those already searching:

Early on Tuesday morning, Mr Superintendent Morrisset, with a detachment of six troopers, passed through this town en route for the scene of attack; and on Wednesday morning a couple of troopers from Stoney Creek also set out for the same destination. On the arrival of the Forbes mail-in Orange, on Wednesday, we were informed that two troopers belonging to Sir Frederick Pottinger's party had returned to Forbes to obtain fresh horses, theirs being knocked up. These men report that they had tracked the bushrangers to within a short distance of Finn's public-house on the Lachlan, and within ten miles of Forbes. The rain had, however, set in, and destroyed the tracks. The black trackers could only discover the tracks of six horsemen. 

Authors Note: Mr Hanbury Clements died in January 1912; "The death occurred at "Kilmessan," Freeman's Beach, near Sydney, on January 11, 1912, of Mr Hanbury Clements passed away aged of 84 years. Deceased was the third son of the late Lieut. Hanbury Clements, R.N., and at one time owned Eugowra station, and at the time of the robbery of the gold escort, he, with Mr C. W. Cropper, the owner of Yamma station, took an active part in the pursuit of the bushrangers. Eugowra station, a few years after, was cut up, and the owner left these parts, being a single man at that time."³⁶

Mr Charles Cropper.
c. 1900.

Never before published.
Influential citizens of the surrounding area volunteered their assistance in the search. They included Mr Suttor, Mr Clements and Mr Cropper, who was the owner of Yamma Station. Mr Cropper was a long time advocate for the destruction of the bushranging scourge described their efforts in the hunt for the perpetrators as Ben Hall, Charters, and Gardiner wound their way to the seclusion of Wheogo Hill not far from Hall's home:

I live about fifteen miles from the Eugowra rocks. I recollect hearing of the escort robbery, and on the night of the 15th, I went in search of the robbers, with Mr. Clements, and my stockman. We went first to Mr. Clements' station. On the following morning, we set out to Eugowra rocks. From Eugowra rocks to the junction of the creek with the Lachlan River is about ten miles; the crossing place is near Newell's. At the back of the rocks, and on the bank of the river, were the only two places where we saw that horses had been tied; the rocks lie to the east of the road; there is a mountain between the road and where the horses had been tied at the rocks. The escort in coming from Forbes would have the rocks on the right hand. We saw traces there of the coach, and of men. We next went over the range and saw tracks up a path. We found tracks for about a quarter of a mile, when we came on some boxes and red comforters; there were four iron boxes broken open; there was the remains of a fire, and portion of burnt comforters; we then got on the tracks of horses; there were shod horses among them; we crossed a creek and got to a pine scrub; the tracks then went to the Canowindra road, and on by the side of a fence to the Eugowra Creek again; I was running the right hand track which led down the creek to a place where the horse had evidently slipped; I went down from my horse, and in the bed of the creek found a bottle of Old Tom; we followed on and joined the other persons tracking, and further on we crossed a creek, and on to a fence, where the rails were cut down; the mortice-holes were cut; we passed through, and followed the tracks till we got on to the Orange road; the tracks ran down the road a little way, and then went off to the right, as if in the direction of Forbes or my own place; after going some distance, the tracks bore in towards the river again, and kept along the bank; we saw no teams there; when we got on to the Forbes Road, we saw some teams; the tracks went near the teams, passing through two paddocks; the tracks went in a zigzag sort of way, and it was after passing the slip panels that we saw the teams; we saw where the tracks crossed the river, and on the other side we saw the remains of a small fire and where horses had been tied; this was in Newell's paddock; the fire was close to the river bank; we found here some beef on a bone and some envelopes; we followed the tracks across Newell's paddock and into another paddock through slip rails; the tracks went crooked, and led away to the left of Mr. Suttor's; the tracks turned off from where the dray was camped; we followed them down nearly parallel with the road; we ran them down that night to within five miles of Fenn's public-house; we followed them up till dark when we could no longer see; in the morning we resumed the track; it led in the direction of what I believe to be the Wheogo Mountain; after this, two or three days after, I noticed that my fence was cut in the way the other fence was; there was a track through my fence which led in the direction of Eugowra; the other tracks that I now speak of led from Eugowra; the track came near Newell's; they led past a sawyer's hut. We tracked a distance of about forty miles; We ran them down that night to within five miles of Fenn's public-house; Fenn's from Eugowra rocks to the junction of the creek with the Lachlan River is about ten miles; the crossing place it near Newell's, the first day we tracked a distance of about forty miles. In a straight line, the course we tracked would be about 20 or 25 miles. Near the Eugowra rocks, when starting, I found a spur and a coat; I saw where horses had been tied; the spot was about a quarter of a mile behind the rocks.³⁷ (Remembering that Newell is Charters' brother in law.)

Eugowra Escort Coach.
Photograph was taken
in 1917 at Orange,
by W. H. Burgess.
This was also the coach
in which Cost Haviland
Many thanks to Dick Adams.
Following the affray and instructions from Sir Frederick Pottinger, the battered and bullet-riddled escort coach the next day resumed its journey, finally entering Orange at 7 pm on Monday, travelling up Summer Street headed for the Post Office. Those onboard were Driver John Fagan, Sgt Condell, Const Moran, Const Havilland, Mr Boynton 
(Manager of the coach company involved Ford & Co.,) Ellen Chandler, her servant and child. Here Haviland and the troopers deposited the undamaged mail. The coach then set off for Dalton's Inn (O'Connell Inn). However, as the coach departed the post office proceeding to the Inn in Byng St, there was a gunshot. Constable Haviland seated inside the coach was killed instantly by a single shot from Constable Moran's revolver, which had in the melee with the bushrangers fallen to the floor and had gone unnoticed under Haviland's seat.

Authors Note; The image right was believed photographed in the yard of Dr Roberts property in Moulder St Orange 1917 and is of a Concord Coach the property of Ford & Mylecharane. John Fagan the driver at the time of the robbery stated; "I had four horses in my coach; I lost some of the horses in the attack; they were the property of Ford and Co,; Phil. Mylecharane was one of the owners." The reverse of the photograph states "This photograph was taken by me, W.H. Burgess of Calias, Bay Road, North Sydney. It is of a stage coach owned by Cobb & Co., and was stuck-up in the vicinity of Euganda by Gardiner's bushranger gang. At the time it had the gold escort with it. The bit of wood accompanying this photo was taken by me from the body of the coach as it stood in 1917 in the backyard of Dr. Robert's of Moulder St., Orange. W.H. Burgess." (Source: 'A Yankee Mounted Trooper' by Dick Adams.)

Constable Moran described the tragedy at Haviland’s inquest into his death:

We left Mr Clement’s yesterday morning; the sergeant was on the box with Haviland, and a passenger in the coach; deceased said during the day he would not come on the escort any more unless there was a mounted party along with us; deceased had no spirits or wine that I know of; he was perfectly sober; yesterday evening between six and seven o’clock we arrived at Orange; we had taken up a lady passenger, with her servant and child; I and a lady and the other male passenger were sitting with our backs towards the driver; the female passenger was sitting in the middle; we heard the report of a revolver after leaving the Orange Post-office; the female passenger exclaimed, “My God the man is shot!” Haviland was sitting at the back of the coach opposite me; I said “No! It can’t be!” I saw the flash from the revolver in a line with deceased’s chest; the female put her hand over first; I then put out my hand and felt the blood pouring down quite warm; I said, “he is shot in the stomach”; the coach was going on all the time; I said it might be from the sergeant’s rifle; he said “no it could not be”’ in reply to a question from the sergeant I said deceased was shot; in the coach, there was my revolver, and a revolver case empty.³⁸

Haviland's limp body was placed on a bed at the Inn, and Dr Warren was called for, immediately pronounced the trooper dead. Dr Warren deposed at the inquest:

Last night, about seven o'clock, I was sent for to see deceased. Arriving at Dalton's inn, I found him lying on the bed in the verandah-room, with blood- running out of his mouth and out of a wound in his neck; he was quiet dead; this morning, I traced the course of the bullet — it entered the throat below the chin — just above pomun-Adami its course was backward and slightly upward— passing through the larynx and through the pharynx back to the spine at the junction of the skull; I believe the immediate cause of death was effusion of blood into the windpipe; the wound would cause almost instant death; it is my opinion he might have been stooping down to pick up the pistol, it being just the close of the journey.

Mrs Haviland's gratuity.
The doctor's opinion was that seeing the pistol on the floor, Haviland stooped down to retrieve it after the mail bags were delivered and the revolver discharged.

The subsequent verdict at the inquest held at O'Connell Inn by Coroner Mr John Templer found that Haviland; "Died from a wound by a bullet, whether by intent or accident not known.³⁹ Consequently, William Haviland's death would be the first by a member of the newly formed and restructured NSW Police Force whilst on duty. In a twist to his untimely death, it was noted:

Amongst other observations made by the deceased prior to the tragic event, was one to the effect that so soon as he arrived at Orange, he would telegraph to his wife in Sydney, to allay any alarm she might entertain for his safety.

The unfortunate Haviland left a wife and two children. Therefore, Ben Hall's actions contributed to William Haviland's death. Furthermore, and sadly in 1890, Henry Moran, 63, who had survived the Eugowra onslaught in 1862, died tragically after falling from a cart at Hilton Grove, Hartley.

"Make way for
the Royal Mail."

Sketch by Percy Lindsay. c. 1935.
Following the robbery, the whips (drivers) of the Bullock drays placed by order of Gardiner to block the road to hinder the coach's progress duly arrived in Forbes to great excitement and rumour regarding the dramatic events. Consequently, one of the drivers, possibly Dick Bloomfield, gave a first-hand account of the great calamity:

Since our last we have little to communicate in reference to the robbery of the Escort which can enlighten the public mind, On Wednesday one of the bullock drivers who was stopped by the robbers arrived in Forbes, and reported that his own team and another was stopped and drawn across the road two hours before the Escort arrived, when the bandits made free with two bottles of spirits, and placed the drivers some distance from the rest, compelling them to lie faces downwards.⁴⁰ 

Amazingly, at the future trial of the captured escort robbers conducted in February 1863, the dray operators were never called as witnesses, either by the defence or prosecution. Their testimony may well have saved the hung Henry Manns' life.

The police in pursuit and the gang were dispersing, Hanbury Clement's penned a letter to an acquaintance in Bathurst providing a good account of the robbery and its after-effects praising Sgt Condell for his cool-headedness during the onslaught. Clement's highlights that three bullock teams were blocking the road, and the only member not in disguise was Frank Gardiner. Amazingly one of the guards covered the twenty-five miles back to Forbes through the bush; The following extract from a letter received by a gentleman in Bathurst is published in the Free Press 24th June 1862:

You will have heard, before this reaches you that the Escort was stopped, and of course robbed. It occurred at the head of the blind gully, on the right of the double gate. The Escort goes by Eugowra at about four p.m. I do not know whether you recollect a big rock in the gully, about twenty yards to the right of the road; from behind this a number of men (the troopers say fifteen) jumped up, all dressed in red, apparently red shirts, with red comforter on, night-cap fashion; They let drive at the guard at once. I was in the paddock on horseback, and, on bearing the firing, galloped over at once. I met Fagan, the driver, at the big stockyard, and asked him what was the matter. He said the troopers were all shot, and the coach and horses gone, but where he did not know. I went on, and met one of the troopers, who told me that he thought the others were killed. He was wounded in the side. Whilst talking to him, I saw two men at the top of the paddock; I went towards them, found they were two troopers, and brought them down, one of them was wounded in the region of the groin."

"The sergeant, or corporal, who was the only cool man of the lot, was wounded in the side, the ball having entered between the short ribs and passed through the flesh out again; another ball went through the arm of his jacket. Another out the rim of the driver's hat and a piece out of the crown. Another stuck in the wood of the seat. The coachman was fearfully frightened and jumped off the coach, the horses then ran away taking three of the guard with them until they dashed up the rocks when the men were thrown out and took to their heels. The road was blocked up by putting three bullock teams across. The fellows had blackened faces, excepting one who appeared to be the leader.

"I started at once to Forbes, and some time after my arrival the missing trooper made his appearance there, but knew nothing of his comrades, whom he supposed were all killed.

George Burgess.
c. 1930's

Very rare photo.
Private Source.
However, another one of those direct witnesses was George Burgess, then a thirteen-year-old. Burgess is the only other person outside of the police involved to relate a detailed account of the events of that day at Eugowra in June 1862. Although a boy at the time George was as well never called to give evidence; George Burgess:

My father had four horses and dray, and wished to take advantage of the great prices. In June 1862, he loaded up with one ton of hay, half-ton potatoes and five cwt. bacon, engaged Dick Bloomfield as driver, and I was sent as offsider or, as called in those days, his billy boiler; On the fifth day out, at about 11 o'clock; I went into a pine scrub about two miles, from Eugowra to cut a whip handle when I came out I saw the driver in conversation with a man wearing white moles and Wellington boots, with a red comforter round his head and his face blackened, who I afterwards heard was the notorious Frank Gardiner. He was leaning on a double-barrelled gun, and he said, "I want you fellows, come along". We then turned a corner in the road and came in sight of two bullock teams right across the road, ours was put in the same position and made a barricade. Our hats were pulled over our faces and tied in that position with handkerchiefs. My hat, which was an old cabbage tree one, had a hole in the crown, and I could see what was going on. We were placed behind a small rock and threatened, under pain of death, not to look up or remove our hats.

Mr Penzig's re-drawn Map from the 
originally sketched NSW Police
at the time of the Robbery.©
There were about seven of us in all, including a swagman. In about 20 minutes’ time along came the gold escort of four horses, and manned by four police. A strange thing, two mounted troopers were a few miles ahead of the escort, and never knew, that it was stuck up until they reached Orange. When the escort came up against the barricaded road, about seven bushrangers, who were concealed behind the rocks, rushed out and fired a volley at the coach, saying "bail up". The shots frightened the horses, and they became frantic. Jack Fagan, the driver, jumped off his seat and tried to steady them, but they did not go 20 yards before the coach was upset, and all was confusion in a few minutes, all the occupants scampering through the scrub in the direction of Eugowra station, then owned by a Mr. Clements, who, after attending to the wounds of his visitors, galloped to Forbes to inform the police. In very quick time the coach was, rifled, the gold: — about 5000 ounces was packed on the coach horses, and when everything was in readiness one of the bushrangers came over to us, took our blindfolds off, broke open a case of grog from one of the teams, and gave us a drink and £1 each. With my £1, I ate lollies continuously for about two weeks. As we pushed our way on towards Eugowra we saw the bushrangers pass over the mountains, in the direction of the Weddin Ranges. In due course, we reached Forbes, a huge canvas town of nearly 30,000- people.⁴¹

Back to Molong Celebrations.
Authors Note: George Burgess died on 12th June 1945; GEO. BURGESS PASSES AT 96. WITNESSED FAMOUS GOLD HOLD-UP; -"Molong 's oldest identity in the person of Mr George Burgess, of Hospital Hill, passed away on Tuesday night, at the grand old- age of 96 years and 4 months. Born at Bathurst in 1849, he came to Molong in 1860 and has resided here almost continuously for 85 years. The late Mr Burgess worked for years at shearing and other bush work. When the late John Black opened his flour mill in 1876, he was an engine driver for over 25 years. He then conducted a bakery business in Bank Street for many years until he retired. His wife predeceased him some years ago, and he is survived by two sons, George (Wellington), Alfred (Sydney), and one daughter, Miss Annie, who nursed him to the end with the fortitude and patience of a saint. The other daughter Jessie (Mrs Rodgers), is deceased. Three brothers survive — Harry (Manildra, 85), Frank (Manildra, 82), James (Parkes, 80). Unlike most old people, Mr Burgess' mind was as vivid and as clear as any man of 30 years of age. George Burgess was the only living individual who witnessed the greatest gold robbery in Australia—the Eugowra Escort Robbery in June 1862."

The police original map
of bushrangers track too
and from Eugowra.

Bathurst Historical Museum.
The colony was horrified. The press was outraged over the ease with which the robbery occurred went rabid in its criticism at the Cowper Government. Castigating them vehemently at the failure to curb the outbreak of lawlessness infesting greater NSW. More specifically, the Western Districts. Therefore, enormous scrutiny and pressure mounted on the NSW Police. The press could smell political blood in the water and baying for arrests.

Fortuitously for the police, within days of the robbery, a valuable victory was achieved by Sgt Charles Sanderson accompanied by senior constables Armour and Burke, constables Powell and Westhead and the tracker Charlie through the discovery of the gang's hideout on Wheogo Hill, 32 miles from Forbes and 60 miles from Eugowra and a very short distance from Ben Hall's hut. Maguire states:

Sanderson had his suspicions, made straight for Ben Hall's house, which he reached about 10 or 11 on Tuesday morning. Bill Hall and his wife lived at Ben's house.

However, Ben Hall was absent, but only a short distance away atop of Wheogo Hill counting his loot. Sanderson zeroing in on Hall's home indicates without a doubt that Ben Hall was under police suspicion and in their cross-hairs regarding his long-suspected links to bushranging activity.

The Forbes police could not have asked for a more diligent trooper than Sanderson to set the game afoot. Sanderson was blooded into the force during the upheaval of the Chinese riots at Lambing Flat in 1861 and was instrumental as Captain Zouch's right-hand man in taking the anti-Chinese rioters on. The police and the large stations were having difficulty holding strong and true men whose pay was insignificant compared to the prospect of instant fortune. Men who, without a thought, dropped everything to strike it rich at the goldfields. However, men of the caliber of Charles Sanderson were emerging as the backbone of the police effort in handling the rampant crime wave:

Sanderson thirty-two years of age, was a Cockney born and bred. In the year 1848, he joined the London police, then newly established by Sir Robert Peel and known as Peelers. He won rapid promotion and came to New South Wales in 1855 under three years' contract with the government. He was sent to the goldfields, liked the life and remained in the force after his three years had expired, being raised to the rank of senior-sergeant. A policeman to the core, by training and temperament, he was one of the most reliable officers in the force, steadfast in his duty, the scourge of criminals, as brave as a bulldog, and completely lacking in imagination, as a good policeman should be. There was a need for men like Sanderson to steady the police force at a time when constables were hard to recruit and harder to keep - for who would be a policeman at 5s. 6d. a day when fortunes were being made by diggers from the golden gravel? Dozens of constables had deserted their posts during the decade of golden glory. The substitutes, hastily recruited to cope with the ever-expanding population and increase of crime, were seldom satisfactory. Many a constable was dismissed for drunkenness and other vices. A policeman's lot was "not a happy one" in New South Wales in the Furious Fifties and Sensational Sixties. - Clune.

View from Gardiner's camp
Wheogo Hill. Weddin
Mountains in the

Courtesy Peter C Smith
Having traversed a track to Wheogo Hill from Eugowra, the gang safely secreted themselves at their lair. Charters in evidence at the later trials commented on the sharing of the bounty, and that pre-robbery Gardiner had deposited the weighing scales and some supplies atop the hill for their return:

After camping, Gardiner went down to some rocks, and brought back a pair of scales, some weights, and some grog; we remained there for that evening. On Tuesday night it rained; we rigged a tent with a blanket; we weighed the gold, rigging up three sticks to support the scales. I assisted along with the others; as Gardiner weighed the gold, he put the gold on a newspaper on a sheepskin; he also counted the notes; I heard him say there was £3561 in notes; he weighed the gold off in lots and said, "there was about 22 lbs. weight for each man." Each man's share was put up in lots; Gardiner shared out the gold and notes.

The 'Bathurst Free Press and Mining Journal' on the 28th June 1862 provided a further account of the police pursuit from Eugowra of the escort robbers via Ben Hall's house and a startling turn of events which had the bushrangers scatter in all directions:

Starting from the scene of the outrage, the track was taken up and continued with various turnings and windings down the Lachlan, till they found themselves near Finn's public house, not far from the diggings. Here the track turned off to the left and made for the Pinnacle, near which the track was lost; the party, however, searched round and roundabout, and as night had set in by this time they had to give up the search camping where the track was last seen. Next morning they started, still in company with the black-fellow Charlie, taking the direction of a mountain named Wheogo; when near the place of a person named Ben Hall, the party came upon very recent tracks, apparently of a horse at full speed, well-shod, and well ridden, (a thing rather unusual in that out of the way part of the country) they kept this trail for some time till they came in sight of a man on horseback, who on getting a sight of the pursuing party went off at the top speed on his horse followed by the troopers also at full gallop. Our men continued the chase for two miles when the man they were pursuing appeared to have vanished into the side of a creek, the tracks suddenly ceased, on this deep creek both up and down, the pursuers came to a stand thinking the man might have jumped into the creek. On close search, however, he appeared to have leapt the creek at a bound, as his tracks were observable on the other side, the party crossed over, and took up the trail, which was followed up to the top of Wheogo mount, when at the back of Mr Walsh's station.

" see him"
The newspaper continues:

In this camp were found various articles of bedding, bread and beef, and some tea ready-made and nicely warm, also the envelope of a letter bearing the Burrowa postmark. There were marks where several horses had been tied up to some trees. Circling round this camp, the troopers came upon the tracks of what appeared to be 5 horses, and these tracks were making for the dense pine scrubs surrounding the west point or entrance to the Weddin mountains. The broad trail was followed for a long time when on the party entering one of the densest scrubs of pine in that region, the black-fellow called out “me see him”. The pursuers charged after, but the fellows ahead were too quick for them, and making a short turn through the pines, were lost to the sight. Following on, however, a horse was observed without a rider, and thinking this might be some ruse, the pursuing party separated, and taking what cover they could find, and in expectation of a shot every moment, they bore down upon the horse, which turned out to be the pack horse of the flying bushrangers, and laden with a costly treasure; as when it was caught, a large amount of gold was found on it, supposed at the time to be some 1200 or 1500 ounces; the gold was in 4 bags and were lashed to a trooper's saddle, there were also 2 carbines strapped to the saddle; From this point, the tracks of only 4 horses were found, and these were followed all-round the Weddin, till it got dark, and then the party made the best of their way to Forbes, and gave up the recovered treasure, to the authorities.

View of Wheogo Hill
from Deaths Lane. 2013.

My photo.
Under Sgt Sanderson's command on sighting the rider turning tail and galloping off piqued their interest, and off like a shot, the chase for the man began. Unknowingly the police were on the trail of who has long been believed to be Charters. It is even a probability that the rider was Johnny Walsh. (See Frank Gardiner page.) As the police bounded after the mystery man, they reached the base of Wheogo Hill, watching as the rider mounted the crest. Charters gives his version of the police approaching Wheogo Hill and the panic that lost the gold-carrying pack-horse:

A lot of police coming from the direction of Hall's towards M'guire's. After that we all got ready to start; after we got ready, we could hear the tramp of the police horses coming up the mountain; we left the bottles and several other things; we had no time to shift them; we were then five in number myself, Gardiner, Gilbert, Fordyce, and Bow; we travelled through some thick scrub, and Gardiner had got off his horse to take a drink of spirits and water, when I heard the police horses behind us. Gardiner was with me. I looked back, and saw what I thought was a black-fellow on a white horse; he was about 400 yards behind me; I could just see him through the scrub. I pointed him out to Gardiner; he said, " O'Christ, here they are." I then cantered away; Gardiner called to me not to go away that way. Gilbert went in one direction, Fordyce in another; Gardiner was prodding his packhorse with the end of his gun to urge him along, till finding he could not get him along he left him. This was in a very scrubby place, close to the Weddin Mountains. Gardiner galloped after me, and said "pull up." He said, "he had lost the gold and it was a bad job." We asked to go back, as they might miss the pack horse; we turned, and looking through the scrub, saw three men on foot catching the horse. I went to Nowlan's; there were several patrons there, amongst others Johnny Welsh, Nowlan and his son.

In all the years that followed and the obfuscated evidence of the pursuit from Ben Hall's whom Charters claimed was Gilbert and Maguire claimed was Charters, there can be no doubt that Johnny Walsh was the rider Sanderson pursued.

Retiring in 1903, Charles Sanderson gave a version of his effort in searching for the gang separate from Sir Frederick Pottinger and making for Hall's home, finally securing the packhorse in the 'Old Times' May 1903

On leaving Forbes, I took four men and a black tracker, with the object of moving in a different direction, as it was only natural to suppose such a large party of bushrangers would separate. I camped by the banks of the Lachlan, and as there were no tracks on the opposite bank, I presumed some of the men had made for the Weddin Mountains. When we reached Ben Hall's house near Wheogo, the tracker noticed a man riding from it for all he was worth. Surmising this was a bush telegraph, we followed him immediately, and in course of time, his tracks brought us to a camp, which had evidently been abandoned in a hurry. We pushed on as fast as we could and were soon rewarded by seeing a packhorse in the trees ahead. When we came up with it, we found four bags of gold, containing 1239 ounces, strapped to the saddle. It was then dark, and as we consequently could follow the tracks no further with them in that condition, we returned to Forbes, consoling ourselves that if we hadn't caught anyone, we had recovered part of the gold.

Once again, the reference to bush telegraph alludes to the rider as being Johnny Walsh.

Triumphant, the troopers return to Forbes with the treasure. Their success was reported in the newspapers expressing the jubilation of an estimated crowd of 3000 who had been eagerly awaiting news and watched as the police rode past the merriment of the Tracker Charlie who had led Sgt Sanderson to victory:

On the arrival of the little band with the treasure-viz., a pack horse carrying about 1600 z° of gold, two rifles and a trooper's coat, they were loudly cheered, and surrounded by some 3000 people, eager to learn the news and see how affairs stood. The horses and men appeared knocked-up, the black fellow who had served as tracker appearing the least fatigued, to judge by his self-satisfied and merry countenance.⁴³

Luckily for Ben Hall by the time of the police arrival at Sandy Creek, Maguire stated that Ben Hall had been in the process of heading home with his share of the spoils and therefore missed Sanderson:

He had 22lb of gold strapped to his saddle and £460 in notes in his pockets, he galloped down the other side of the hill until he found a nice, convenient hollow log. Into this, he thrust the whole of his share of the spoils. Then he coolly cantered away home as if nothing had happened. And he always pretended, even to myself and his other relatives and friends, that he knew nothing of the robbery. 

Note: 22lbs of gold equates to 325 oz. and is worth in 2020 $800,000 and £460 = $38,600 for a total of $838,600.

Johnny Gilbert.
Coloured by me.
However, Sanderson's great success was not as forthcoming for Sir Frederick Pottinger. After splitting his tracking parties, he headed south and arrived as far as Hay, some 225 miles from Eugowra, without crossing the tracks of the suspected bushrangers. However, Pottinger believed that the robbers hailed from Victoria, and although he saw signs of riders making for the Victorian border, they were not his quarry. Arriving at Hay without a hint of the bushrangers, Pottinger decided to return to Forbes. A despondent Pottinger in company with Detective Lyons and a civilian court official Mr Mitchell and a tracker, all refreshed, commenced the long ride back to Forbes. 

Note: Trackers were invariably discounted in articles that highlighted the police against the bushrangers. Pottinger's run to Hay undoubtedly included a tracker, most notably Billy Dargin, who was generally a constant fixture in Pottinger's patrols.

Charles Gilbert.
However, during the ride with Mitchell 
(Son of the famous explorer Sir Thomas Mitchell.) ridding some distance ahead of Pottinger and Lyons, he approached three riders at Merool near Temora. The riders were unknown to Mitchell, but surprisingly one turned out to be the bushranger John Gilbert in company with another escort robber Henry Manns and Gilbert's older brother Charles. Charles had been working in and around the Weddin Mountains, possibly the Pinnacle Station. Pottinger rode up and, unaware that the man Mitchell was chatting with was John Gilbert questioned Gilbert regarding the quality horse he rode:

Pottinger said to Gilbert: 'That's a nice looking horse you're riding, young man.' Gilbert replied 'Yes.' Asked if it was his own, Gilbert again replied 'Yes.' The inspector asked to be shown a receipt for the horse. Gilbert halted as if to produce it, but, standing in his stirrups, put spurs to his horse and galloped away.

Pandemonium ensured the police drew their revolvers captured his two companions. Arrested were Gilbert's brother Charles and Henry Manns, both using an alias at the time.

Marker commemorating the
gunfight opposite Mrs
Sproules Station.

My photo 12/03/20
Crashing through the scrub, Gilbert commenced his much-heralded 120-mile round trip to the Weddin Mountains to gather men to help in the rescue of his partners. The men sought out by Gilbert are suspected of being John O'Meally, Patsy Daley, Ben Hall and an unknown. Furthermore, in the melee that ensued which released Manns and Charles, Ben Hall, whose hatred of Pottinger was well known and undisguised, is thought to have exchanged words with Pottinger during the attack, the abuser was described as the 'well-built, bearded buccaneer'; 'Sydney Mail' Saturday 26th July 1862:

One of them, apparently, addressed himself principally to Sir Frederick Pottinger, saying, "I know you, you bl---y ba---rd, Pottinger: "I'll put a pill through you, you ba---rd," &c. Sir Frederick fired at this fellow three times, Mr Mitchell, at his side, being also fully occupied with their assailants, and discharging shot for shot.

Ultimately those involved in the attack on Pottinger retreated to the Weddin Mountains, and Gilbert with his brother made tracks for Victoria and soon after departed for New Zealand. (See Gilbert Page.) Manns headed back to his old haunt near Burrowa. However, within two weeks of the melee at Merool, Pottinger confronted Hall at Sandy Creek and clapped him in irons.

The arrest of Ben Hall, William Hall,
and Dan Charters,
by Sir Frederick Pottinger
depicted by Monty Wedd,
from Bold Ben Hall.

c. 1970's ©

After Gilbert's fight and flight, Sir Frederick Pottinger maintained deep suspicions regarding those involved with his attempted murder at Merool and the Eugowra affair. Pottinger correlated his information, and with Gardiner sprung at Wheogo Hill very close to Hall and Maguire's place, Pottinger put two and two together. Undaunted, the inspector on return to Forbes closed in and in rapid succession started making carte blanche arrests of those persons he knew to be associates of Frank Gardiner. Therefore, Ben Hall was the first in Pottinger's sights due to the fiasco of the Bacon dray affair and Hall's earlier association and antics in Forbes and the heated exchange during the gunfight Merool.

On the 27th July 1862, six weeks after the Eugowra heist Ben Hall was arrested, his brother William Hall and two brothers-in-law John Brown (husband of Catherine Brown.) John Maguire and Hall's best friend Daniel Charters were also detained at Sandy Creek. Sir Frederick Pottinger had received reliable information regarding the men's knowledge and participation in the events at Eugowra. The informant was Maguire's friend Tom Richards, who became a voluntary crown witness during the Escort Trial's and had been present at Maguire's during the planning stage for the Eugowra robbery. A £1000 reward was an excellent incentive to spill the beans and cover his arse. There can be no doubt as well that Bill Hall was also appraised of the events surrounding Eugowra. Bill Hall's complete knowledge of his brother's guilt was brought to light in his telling of the events to Jack Bradshaw. Bill knew everything:

Hearing afterwards of the robbery, he (Richards) was forced to combine the one set of facts with the other, and on this, before any charge was brought against him, he gave information to the police.

After their arrest, Charters explained his presence with Ben Hall:

Hall was gathering cattle; getting fat cattle for market, and I was there to get mine and my sister's cattle that might be brought in.⁴⁴

Unfortunately, these arrests and the long incarcerations to follow would be a death knell for Hall and Maguire's Sandy Creek station. However, arrested the five manacled suspects appeared at Forbes court, whereby Sir Frederick Pottinger charged them before a magistrate:

On Tuesday, last, at the Lachlan police-court, four men, named Benjamin Hall, William Hall, John Maguire, John Brown, and Daniel Charters, were brought up charged with being concerned in the late escort robbery. The only evidence taken was that of Sir Frederick Pottinger, who deposed to having received information to the effect that prisoners were concerned in the robbery; he prayed for a remand, for the purpose of obtaining further evidence. The prisoners were remanded accordingly.⁴⁵

Sir Frederick
c. 1863.
John Maguire (who was blind in his right eye) gives an eyewitness account in his memoirs, 'The Biography of a Reliable Old Native', of the happenings on their arrest:

Sir Frederick turned to the men and ordered them to put the handcuffs on me, two of the men (police) were then sent off to Browns, a similar mission was made to Ben Hall’s house, where Ben and Charters were secured, about 4 o’clock the police decided to stay for the night, so my wife proceeded to get supper for the crowd. When bedtime came round Hall, Charters, Brown and I were handcuffed together and had to doss (sleep) in our clothes on a rough shakedown, whilst Sir Frederick took possession of the sofa, in the morning we were roused up and paired off again, after breakfast Sir Frederick gave orders to start for Forbes.

Maguire continued:

Each of us was now handcuffed singly and bidden to mount our horses. Our hands were then strapped to the pommel of the saddle, and with a trooper each holding our reins, Sir Frederick giving orders that should anyone appear on the road suspected of having intentions to rescue us, each trooper was to shoot his man dead.

Ben Hall & others court
appearance August 1862.
Under the threat of execution, the five manacled men were incarcerated in the Forbes lock-up, where they were arraigned and remanded for seven days. (See article right) As they languished in gaol, Maguire witnessed Ben Hall and Daniel Charters constantly in deep conversation together:

I often noticed Hall and Charters whispering together apart from the rest of the prisoners; I began to suspect that they knew something about the robbery.

Maguire also stated that he overheard Ben Hall tell Charters:

They haven’t found anything on us, and they can do nothing to us.

Maguire continues:

We noticed Sir Frederick in conversation with James Newland, a brother in law to Charters, Sir Frederick then came and took Charters away. On his return Charters told us he was going to get bail whilst we could not, I watched Ben’s countenance, and noticed that he looked a bit upset when Charters got his freedom.

Daniel Charters was admitted to bail with two sureties of £250 each and his own recognisance of £500, to appear when called upon. Whilst held on remand, Maguire highlighted Hall, confessing his involvement at Eugowra;

Ben and I were now left alone together, and next morning he confided to me a full account of the robbery and the names of the men who took part, they were himself, Gardiner, young O'Meally, Gilbert, Charters, Bow, Fordyce and the only man I was not acquainted with-Henry Manns. This I declare, was the first time I really knew who the culprits were, although as I said before, I had my suspicions as to some of the gang, at any rate.

Maguire continues:

I remonstrated with Ben, as there had been no occasion for him to take that game on, but he said he had been run on to it by Gardiner.

Daniel Charters.
c. 1862.
Interestingly, Charters later denied any contact or conversation with Hall in the Forbes Lock-up contrary to Maguire's recollection when cross-examined in both escort trial's of February 1863. Charters did state that he had had conversations with Maguire:

I have had conversations with Maguire in regard to this matter while in the lock-up; but I had none with Hall whilst there. It was nothing particular, only about what a job it was to be kept in the lock-up on this account.⁴⁶

Charters also denied that he had been offered an inducement to leave Ben Hall and John O'Meally out of it:

I was not confined in the same cell as Ben Hall. I was under the same roof, but not in the same apartment. I was confined for about eight days at the same time as Hall. I had no communication with Hall at that time; nor had I any with him on this matter after my release, neither directly nor indirectly have I had any communication with O’Mealy or Hall relative to this matter. I will swear that I have not been offered a sum of money to leave their names out of the information I have given in regard to this robbery.⁴⁷

This contradicted Maguire’s statement regarding their arrest in his memoirs transcribed many years later.

Author's Note; Even 40 years after the Escort Robbery, Maguire attempted in his memoirs to be totally ignorant of the planning of the escort robbery. In fact, Maguire knew full well who the participants were in the robbery, as the whole affair was planned at his and Ben's residence. Even after the robbery, he was supplying the gang with food and equipment. After having been charged for his part in the robbery, Maguire was transported to Sydney for one of the most sensational trials in the history of the young colony and appeared before the special commission established for the escort trial and bushranging. The first escort trial took place in February 1863 with a result of a hung jury. The government immediately placed the defendants back in the dock for a second trial. After all the evidence was heard again, Bow, Fordyce and Manns were found guilty and sentenced to death. John Maguire was found not guilty by his peers (he was rearrested over the bond still outstanding for Youngman, which was paid by a benefactor). Manns would be the only bushranger from the escort robbery (see “In Company” page) to be executed and died a long and horrible death at the hands of the bungling hangman. Bow and Fordyce’s death sentences were commuted to life, whereby they served 12 years and ironically enough were released from prison with the man who had led them there…, Frank Gardiner. After the convictions and Maguire's acquittal, this sentiment was also noted, from; 'The Manaro Mercury, and Cooma and Bombala Advertiser', Friday 6th March 1863; "the Escort Robbers have been sentenced to death, except for Maguire, who is acquitted. I have no doubt he is the biggest scoundrel of the three. The evidence showed clearly enough, in my opinion, that he was an accomplice of the gang from the beginning to end: at any rate, that he was cognizant of the intended robbery. The prisoners will, I am afraid, be strung up without mercy." 
John Maguire's Darlinghurst Gaol entry log February 1863.
Note that John Maguire was blind in his right eye until now; this information was unknown.
Subsequently, under pressure from his devoted sisters, Charters turned Queen's evidence in the hope of the full pardon on offer. He informed on the gold heist's participants but failed to implicate his close friend Ben Hall and the wild John O'Meally. However, in due course, it would come to light that Charters had indeed perjured himself over Ben and Jack O'Meally's involvement at Eugowra:

Charters' evidence was false, and consequently would not bear the production of those men; it was a lie from beginning to end. That perjured villain had not only made up his mind as to what men should be condemned, but he had also received money to swear that certain individuals who did take part in the robbery were not present. Charters swore that Ben Hall and O'Meally were not present at the escort robbery, but those men were present; Charters knew well.

(O’Meally would no doubt have harmed Charters had he been implicated or more than likely the pair did pay Charters to keep them out of it. Charters would be protected by the police for some months following the trial and was horse breaking at Longbottom near Concord.)

Ben Hall, seething, was granted bail at the end of August 1862 on £500 and two sureties of £250. His bail conditions were to 'appear when called upon'. Hall never would see the inside of a court or gaol cell again. However, it was noted when Hall was released; words had reputedly passed between Hall and Pottinger:

On the last occasion, that Sir Frederick had Ben Hall brought up in Forbes, as Ben was leaving the Courthouse, Pottinger remarked, "Well, Hall, you have escaped again." ''Yes," replied Ben," and the next time you bring me here it will be for something, and don't you forget it.  And if all be true that I hear, when I get home you'll get cause to remember me.⁴⁸

Note; £1,000 in 1862 is worth today around $83,000, demonstrating that Ben Hall appeared to be in an excellent financial position or at least asset-rich to raise that amount of money. However, with the bush and bushranging Hall's new home Sandy Creek would pass through sale to John Wilson, thus providing the funding or Hall may have fenced off his proceeds from Eugowra. Whether Hall lost the funds is unclear as records indicate he was never called as he had crossed the point of no return. It may well be that the loss of £1000 also feeds Hall's desire to wage war with the authorities.

Author's Note; A surety is someone who is often mentioned in a bail undertaking. If the defendant fails to appear, the money or property may be 'forfeited to the court'. Another condition used when defendants apply for bail is the naming of a surety. A surety is a person who guarantees that the defendant will attend her or his court hearing. The surety is sometimes required to deposit the security as a commitment that the defendant will appear. This security is returned when the hearing has finished. If the defendant does not turn up to court, the surety loses the security, and the court may keep it. (Source; Supreme Court NSW.)
Robert Hall, Maitland Gaol 1862, released in 1863.
In what was becoming a Hall criminal tradition, as Ben Hall was released on bail in Forbes, his younger brother Robert was sentenced to six months gaol at Maitland for 'Illegally working two Bullocks'.

Robert Hall.
c. 1870.
Months after Hall's release from Forbes, a 'Special Criminal Commission' was called not only for the Escort Robbery of June 1862 but bushranging per se. It was established in February 1863 and held at the Sydney Criminal Court Darlinghurst. During the trial of the four accused Escort robbers Bow, Fordyce, Manns and Maguire, Sgt Sanderson, the hero of Wheogo, was called upon to give evidence regarding his sterling efforts recapturing half of the proceeds of the escort robbery. Sanderson gave an insight into Gardiner's camp on Wheogo Hill. Wheogo Hill rose to 430 meters with a marvelous all-around view and was situated within a mile's ride of Ben Hall Maguire's homes at Sandy Creek station and adjacent to Wheogo Station. In his own words, Sanderson described the spectacle at the bushrangers camp following his departure from Hall's home in pursuit of a reputed Daniel Charters, whom they galloped after to the summit of Wheogo Hill:

I saw a horseman coming towards me from the Wheoga Mountains, in the direction of Hall's or McGuire’s house; when he caught sight of me he turned round and bolted into the mountains; I followed him with my party; by the aid of our black tracker we got on the tracks; we followed him by roundabout course up to the top of the Wheogo Mountain; the top of the mountain was about a mile and a half from McGuire’s place; at the top of the mountain I found the remnants of a camp; there were sixteen empty bottles; some contained remnants of port wine, some of gin, some of rum, some of ale; there were biscuits about and tea with milk in it; I did not see how the robbers could have got milk on the spot without going to the stations round about; there were remnants of beef, bits of bread! pieces of green hide tied to bushes, and bits of red tape; I found the top of the hill very stoney, and consequently very difficult to keep the track; we lost it for a time; in about a quarter of an hour it was found by the black tracker, and we proceeded on it a distance of about twenty or twenty-six miles, through a dense scrub; the black tracker rode a white horse; as far as I could judge the man who evaded me at the foot of the Wheogo Mountain rode a bright bay horse; we found the track of several horses; I could not say how many; one of them was shod; we followed in these tracks about twenty-five miles; when we came upon a shod horse with a pack on his back; the pack contained a bag with 1239 ounces of gold, a bag similar to that which I saw put into the escort which started on Sunday, 15th June, from Forbes.

Authors Note: There is sufficient evidence that the rider fleeing Hall's place was young Warrigal Walsh dispatched by Gardiner to gather some more saddlebags to carry the gold and that his identity was protected by all involved.

Report of the hold-up of  Sale
of Sandy Creek in 1865,
for £3000.
Meanwhile, as Ben had been held in custody at Forbes, events were developing that would continue to transform and affect the course of Hall's reckless life. In turn, Ben's neighbours and friends who had long considered the grazier an honourable friend and first-class fellow waned. Nevertheless, the perception of his character from late-1862 became somewhat shattered due to Hall's two recent arrests and published links to Gardiner. Moreover, in light of the problematic situation of both Maguire and Ben's legal position. A Forbes publican John Wilson, who owned the White Hart Inn, was a good friend of John Maguire's and knew Hall well was preparing to take control of Sandy Creek Station.

July 1862.
As such, Wilson reputedly provided monies to Maguire (who was to face a lengthy, expensive trial at Sydney), and it was more than likely that Ben Hall may have received funding as well for his bail. After all, the £1000 Hall required did not grow on trees! Furthermore, John Wilson, at the time of Hall and Maguire's incarceration, was reported as commencing to raise capital through the selling off of his assets in local gold mining enterprises around Forbes. In order, no doubt, to supplement the costs associated with his upcoming Sandy Creek station lease purchase:

John Wilson, of the White Hart Inn, Rankin-street, has for sale a full share in the Britannia Prospecting Claim and a sleeping half share in the same claim, including a share in 200 tons’ quartz now ready for crushing as soon as machinery is ready.

Accordingly, Maguire revealed that he and Hall ultimately disposed of Sandy Creek station to Wilson while in custody. Consequently, Maguire's incarceration in Sydney and Hall's inability to work the station due to the police's interest still housed his brother Bill Hall and girlfriend Susan Prior. They all remained there following Wilson's take over. Wilson's ownership took some time to become Gazetted:

My wife and children were living at the White Hart Inn kept by a man named Wilson, to whom I had transferred the Sandy Creek Station whilst in gaol, in order to raise the wind.

Furthermore, upon Maguire’s return to Forbes, he stated:

I made over to Wilson's to see my wife and two children; Next day I arranged with Wilson to take over his hotel, as he wished to go out and work the station.

Subsequently, Wilson would commence working at the station whereby he resided in Maguire's old home. It was also said that Bill Hall's resettled Elen Maguire from Thomas Richards' Forbes home to the Harp of Erin Hotel. No doubt at Maguire's request. Richards said:

Mrs. Maguire was stopping at my house whilst Maguire was in custody. She stopped eight or nine days. After she left my house, she went to the Harp of Erin. Mrs. Maguire left my house because William Hall, who had been taken up about having some of these notes, came to my house, and my wife kicked up a row, and said she would not have people coming about the house at all hours, and then she left next day. 

New South Wales
Government Gazette
Friday, 23rd October 1863.
Furthermore, Wilson also had a debt with Sarah Walsh, Bridget's Hall's step-mother over Uoka (Wheogo) Station, regarding her stepson young 'Warrigal' Walsh, aged 16. Bridget's younger brother, a burgeoning horse and cattle thief, and reputed groom to 'The Darkie' Frank Gardiner was in custody. (Evidence strongly indicates that the Warrigal was at Wheogo Hill when Sanderson arrived and had been heading to Hall's and was the one who no doubt leapt the creek while in pursuit and not either Charters or Gilbert.) Wilson eventually took control of Uoka (Wheogo) but later sold the lease in 1866. There is no doubt that the actual market value of Sandy Creek ranged between £3,000/£8,000, including dwellings, stock and improvements. In 1864, John Maguire and Ben Hall still had an outstanding debt of rent to the NSW government over Sandy Creek from November 1862, of £5 10s. However, some outstanding rent was paid in the sum of £3 15s in late 1863 as Sandy Creek was still under Hall and Maguire's control.
Uoka Station, Bailliere's New South Wales Gazetteer, 1866.

NSW Gazette November
1862, a notice of forfeiture.
However, the small debt is mystifying when one considers that the total yearly rent was £5 10s, and a twenty-pound assessment. All indications are that the Hall and Maguire had enough stock for sale to cover any costs, even acquired stock. Although in late 1861 early 1862 there had been a drought, a not uncommon event, there is no indication of it affecting Hall and Maguire's cash flow. (Not including the Gold Robbery monies.) A cash flow easily supplemented by the sale of beef to the Goldfields of nearby Forbes and Lambing Flat-forty-five miles away. Charters also stated at the Special Commission that he and Hall were gathering in cattle for the market when Pottinger swooped in 1862. And William Hall, also arrested, had over £60 in his possession.

Furthermore, Maguire could afford to employ a cook and housekeeper named Mrs Shanahan, indicating nil money worries. However, in Hall's reckless way of life, it just may be that Ben succumbed to the lure of easy pickings and fast money offered by Gardiner. Thereby Hall was unencumbered with responsibility, no home, no family, no sunshine in the form of little Henry to enjoy at the end of a days toil. Notwithstanding, Hall became a new father to baby Mary. However, Hall abandons all for a fast horse and a six-gun.

Authors Note on Maguire; I have utilised Maguire's memoirs, and in doing so, note that much of his narrative is out of context to the facts regarding times and places during his friendship with Ben Hall. Maguire recounted his memories near the end of his life, and as such, I have tirelessly cross-referenced much of and disregarded the erroneous information such as the Gardiner references. However, the bulk of his reminiscence is solid and most useful.

Nevertheless, although Wilson had become the lessee of Sandy Creek, his tenure over the station only became Gazetted at the end of 1867, some 18 months after Ben Hall's death. Moreover, beforehand, it would appear that it required Ben Hall's signature to be administered and witnessed before a Magistrate for any transfer to occur. Although still married to Hall, Bridget does not appear to have had any legal say in the station's sale. However, Hall's signature was something that the notorious bushranger was incapable of providing without arrest. Nevertheless, with Sandy Creek transferred. Ben plunges deeper into lawlessness.

Subsequently, on Ben Hall and Maguire's departure from Sandy Creek, there was a dramatic increase in the lease value to be paid by Wilson, from the original rent of £5 10s per annum, increased to £40 per annum, which demonstrated the solid work in upgrading the station from rough scrub-land to an excellent property with stockyards and dwelling's. Therefore, it is a significant increase over a brief period by any standard, which exemplifies that the two men had developed a beautiful run. However, through misadventure, they lost everything. (See article above right.)

The Peak Hill Express,
5th July 1907.

Maguire stated in 'The Biography of a Reliable Old Native' that the sale of Sandy Creek has split four ways between the Hall's, Maguire's wife Elen and himself;

My wife was entitled to 640 pounds as a fourth part of the proceeds, but by some manner of means the executor never handed over a copper of it.

Maguire and his wife Elen had separated at the time, which led to divorce, possibly in c. 1867. (There is evidence that one more child was born to the couple, a girl. However, she passed away in 1867. This death may have been too much to bear for the pair.) There was reputed to have been an alleged indiscretion on the part of Elen with Daniel Charters while Maguire was held in remand at Sydney for the Escort robbery. Therefore, it would seem that any monies owed to Elen, John Maguire no doubt kept for himself as a form of retribution. (See article above right.)

Susan Prior
c. 1862.
The 'Peak Hill Express' newspaper of 1907 also gives credence to Maguire and Hall receiving money for Sandy Creek's sale. (See article right.) However, to compound Ben Hall's current situation of late 1862, Ben once again faced fatherhood. Ben Hall's new live-in love Susan Prior who had met Hall at Lambing Flat shortly after Bridget's desertion with James Taylor, had moved with her family into Hall's old station hut and was soon pregnant. Susan Prior fell pregnant in March 1862. (This is before the Bacon Robbery and Eugowra heist.) Consequently, this new relationship became compromised as Hall continued his deeper association with Gardiner, including the April 1862 Bacon dray robbery and the June 1862 Escort robbery. With Susan's presence, it may have indicated that for a brief moment preceding his participation with Gardiner, Gilbert and O'Meally, Ben may have been straightening up and attempting to fly, right? However, this attempt does appear somewhat fleeting. 
Furthermore, the controversial portrait (seen below) often claimed to be Bridget is not so as by the end of 1861, Bridget was in a relationship with James  Taylor. Therefore, it would be doubtful that Bridget sat for a portrait with her former husband. A relationship governed by acrimony by the commencement of 1862. Whatever Taylor's failings were, Bridget stuck by him until he died in 1877.

Locket reputed to be among
Ben Hall's effects when
shot dead on 5th May 1865.
Susan Prior.
Note no wedding ring.
Unlikely Bridget Hall.
Forbes Historical Museum.
'The Gundagai Times and Tumut, Adelong and Murrumbidgee District Advertiser', 26th August 1924 gave an interesting account of the newly established relationship between Ben and Susan Prior and that Bridget's family appeared indifferent to the relationship:

During one of these weekend visits, he met a handsome young girl of 16 summers named Susan Pryor, whom he induced to go and live with him at his home at Wheogo. This action, or mode of life, provoked no resentment on the part, of the Walsh family. Ben now resumed his former energies and appeared as much enamoured of his mistress as he was of his wife.

Note: Little else is recorded of Susan Prior after 1864. Susan gave birth to their child, a daughter named Mary, born in January 1863. Mary died in Newton, Sydney, in 1922. However, it has been noted that in old age, Susan was a very bitter woman. However, Susan would come to live at Burrowa in 1864, and due course, forms a relationship with one Alfred Stonham where Susan Prior gave birth to a son, Alfred. The delivery was registered at Yass with Alfred Stonham named as the father. However, Alfred was still married to Mahalah Dengate, and in 1867 the couple had another child, Ambrose Stonham. By 1875 the marriage of Alfred and Mahalah collapsed. Therefore, it may well be that Alfred could in all probability be another son of Ben Hall and that the birth was attributed to Alfred to deflect any link to Ben Hall. ( See BH pt. 3.)

However, with the transfer of ownership settled, Wilson had taken up residency at the station in Maguire's former home. Maguire became Wilson's White Hart Inn manager in Forbes and was initially joined by Elen and their children. Hall's hut at Sandy Creek was a full house as another person of interest to the police and a friend of John Gilbert's, was staying, one Henry Gibson (Henry Gibson arrived in the colony via Victoria as a nineteen-year-old free settler in 1853, from Middlesex, England) including Ben's older brother William and wife Ann Hall and their two children:

Bill Hall never turned out on the road, though he remained in the district whilst his notorious brother went through all his exciting experiences; in fact, he lived in Ben's house until it was burnt down by the Police.

Susan Prior and her
youngest daughter Esther
Stonham. Note the striking
resemblance between Mother
and Daughter. Susan right. 
c. 1862, aged 17.

Esther Stonham never published before.
Private Source.
William Hall would eventually move to the Pinnacle station and commenced gold mining at the Pinnacle Reef, also known as Maguire's Reef. Finally settling in Parkes, where he lived out the remainder of his days, The Pinnacle Reef was utilised by Ben Hall while laying low as times became too hot. 

However, apart from William and Ann Hall, Susan Prior, her mother Mary, sister Charlotte, and brother William lived at Hall's former home. Furthermore, Susan gave birth to a daughter named Mary, born at Sandy Creek in January 1863, where from time to time, the new father Ben Hall returned when not in Pottinger's gun-sight. However, the birth of Mary curiously was registered at Wellington roughly one hundred miles to the northeast. Possibly as the child was born illegitimate and the mother unknown in the district.

Author's Note: Historically, there has been a long-held belief that during Ben Hall's incarceration at Forbes over the Escort Robbery. That while in custody, Ben Hall's property, Sandy Creek station, was abandoned and livestock supposedly yarded at the time of his arrest by Sir Frederick Pottinger in August 1862 had been left to die a painful and horrible death from starvation and thirst. However! It is entirely untrue, and in the long years after Hall's death, the folktale appears as fact. In turn, the tale rears up as a form of excuse, and dare I say even misguided sympathy for a man who was at one time considered by many of his friends as a fine fellow. A judgement that quickly dissipated upon his arrests. Subsequently, as a consequence, this yarn became characterised to ameliorate Ben Hall's complicity in bushranging. How? By deflecting Hall's factual route to his criminal activities through forming an opinion that the NSW police were to blame over their perceived persecution of Ben Hall, complete nonsense!

Furthermore, and this is a fact! Sandy Creek's situation in 1862 was that William Hall, his wife Ann, the then-pregnant Susan Prior and another ruffian Henry Gibson all resided at Hall's homestead. Furthermore, Hall's ex-in-laws, the Walsh's including John Brown, also lived close, and his partner John Maguire resided 500yds from Hall's. Therefore, to state that these people would have sat idly by and allowed livestock to perish so horribly would and could never have transpired when one considers the value, the importance and need for these animals for income and survival in a remote, lonely area. At the second escort trial of 1863, Sir Frederick Pottinger, when questioned about Ben and William Hall and Dan Charters' arrests, answered under oath in regards to the three men's demeanour at Pottinger's arrival and the situation of the livestock, as well as some suspicious cash found on Bill Hall at the time;

Nothing was said beyond the expression of surprise. I took them to Maguire's, where I had arrested Maguire and Brown, and took them all into town. I did not notice any cattle in Hall's stockyard. They might have been mustering, but I saw nothing of it. I found £50 or £60 in notes on Hall. A great deal was said about them, and a long investigation was had into the matter, about there being notes that had been taken from the escort, I took some notes from the house of Ben Hall, and they were claimed by William Hall, to whom they were returned. There was an investigation before the Bench, and then they were returned. I took possession of them and produced them before the Bench with a view to show that they were taken from the escort. They were placed before several witnesses; Mr. Weakes, and a clerk of the Commercial Bank who is not here." By the Judgean investigation took place; the notes were examined by witnesses, and the magistrates dismissed the case and returned the notes to William Hall.

It must also be noted that £1 in 1862 is equal today to around $83.04. Therefore, I urge anyone who wishes to peddle this misnomer to conduct authentic and in-depth research. Conversely, the other often spread untruth is the comment attributed to Hall. He reputedly states that he was driven to bushranging and "his wife ran off, me house burnt and me cattle were left to die," is complete and utter nonsense and unsafe as a historical reference. Except maybe in fiction!  

However, Sir Frederick Pottinger could not shake off his suspicions and remained convinced that 'Sandy Creek' was a haven for bushrangers. Therefore with good intelligence, Pottinger stepped up patrols around Wheogo, including the Pinnacle and the nearby Weddin Mountains..., O'Meally territory!

Mary's Baptism

Purchased by author.
Accordingly, a letter was published in the newspapers by a resident of the Lachlan depicting those bushranger friendly inhabitants that were both harbourers and telegraphs and who invoked the old 16th century saying in assistance to the bushrangers that 'a nod is as good as a wink to a blind horse:

On the Billibong and Bland Plains are several stations; many of the residents there, to my certain knowledge, having been at one time hut mates and companions of the now noted bushrangers, whilst after cattle in bye-gone days; consequently, though these residents may not go out and stop persons on the roads still there is little doubt they do wink at the evil practice of their former companions, and, when they see them, give them food and shelter. It is impossible the police can take the bushrangers whilst they have such means afforded them of escape with scouts in all directions — "bush telegrams" as they are called. They may be within an hour's ride of the police, and still escape them. They will never take these bushrangers openly, or in uniform; it will be done simply by stratagem, Humbug Creek, and Weddin Mountains used to be their haunts when they were stockkeepers; consequently, they know the ground well now — every bush and tree is familiar to them.⁴⁹

The Empire. 16th August,
However, in light of his limited success against the bushrangers, Sir Frederick Pottinger was more and more determined to bring the law to the wild west. Especially concerning those residing at the stations mentioned above. Sir Frederick saw them as the centre of flagrant anarchical activities. Therefore, Pottinger was extremely frustrated that people associated with the Escort Robbery (and there were many) had so far managed to escape justice. Furthermore, to rub salt into the wound, Sir Frederick was still smarting from the humiliation of failing to capture his nemesis, Frank Gardiner, on Saturday the 9th of August 1862.

Pottinger had staked out Gardiner's paramour Catherine Brown's home at Wheogo with eight officers after the Inspector had received reliable information that 'The Darkie' would appear or be present for a romantic liaison with Mrs Brown. Pottinger's information proved correct when in the midnight hour, Gardiner was returning mounted on his white charger when Pottinger, with complete surprise on his side, rose abruptly firing point-blank at Gardiner, who was completely startled. However, due to Pottinger's rifle misfiring, Gardiner escaped from the eight carefully positioned troopers, two of which also discharged their weapons and missed Gardiner, who vanished into the night.

Furthermore, as they say, there are two sides to every story as another version of that evening stated that:

There is indeed, as will be seen, another version of the story, which is that Gardiner was actually in the house, and in bed when the police surrounded it and yet he slipped through their fingers. As this, however, is positively contradictory of Sir Frederick Pottinger's affidavit, of course, it cannot be accepted on mere hearsay.

Moreover, it was reported that Gardiner having bolted reined his horse some five hundred yards away:

Gardiner, cantered away into the bush on his white horse, and seems to have felt quite secure that nobody would follow him, for he dismounted and sat down at his ease when he got about five hundred yards away. The Battle of Wheogo was over, and the nine men remained masters of a barren field.

Unrepentant at his failure, Pottinger proceeded to Kitty's hut where she did not deny that indeed the Darkie had been present:

Rather than go home empty-handed, it seems they took a little boy out of bed, where they found him asleep, and carried him off to Forbes, on suspicion of having held Gardiner's horse.

Unfortunately, an action brought much ridicule from the NSW press towards Sir Frederick Pottinger as he carted Catherine's young brother, 'Warrigal' Walsh, away.

However, the draw of the bushrangers exploits and their extensive coverage in newspapers and the topic of conversation around dinner tables, restaurants and hotels, brought this comment regarding the new fade of playing of bushranger amongst children. It also raised the alarm over the children's idol worship of Gardiner. In due course, Ben Hall, 'The Goulburn Chronicle' of October 24, 1862, stated that it was deeply worried by the number of town children playing bushrangers. It warned its readers:

The amusement of playing bushrangers and sticking up one another may prove very exciting to the juvenile mind, but such amusements must necessarily tend to loss of moral principles and disregard of right and wrong.

NSW Police Gazette, 1863.
Furthermore, the Inspector-General of Police Captain McLeire had the final approval on all reports published in the NSW Police Gazette. The gazette chronicled robberies and hold-ups that Ben Hall and his current associations were connected to. Following Capt. McLerie's approval, the police gazettes were then distributed to the district officers. The NSW Police Gazette carried descriptions of perpetrators closely resembling the known physical attributes of Gardiner, Gilbert, O'Meally and Hall, and other known acquaintances such as the three Jack's, Patsy Daley and another emerging bushranger young John Jameison, John Walsh's good mate. (See above.)

NSW Police Gazette,
14th January 1863.
Therefore, Ben Hall's description as published closely fitted a robbery against one Henry Theobald, a Young resident. The hold-up took place on the Marengo road on the 13th of January 1863. However, this incident also saw the return of John Gilbert, who had recently resurfaced in the district having left New Zealand and resumed bushranging with Hall and O'Meally. The three also included a new member Patrick Daley, John O'Meally's first cousin, and John Jameison. Daley had on and off participated with Jack O'Meally early on in various criminal activities and was mixed up in a reported rape case against the two of them at the beginning of 1862. However, on the following day, 14th January 1863, the bushrangers again appeared and robbed Mr David M'Veigh 10 miles outside of Forbes on the busy road to Lambing Flat:

On the 14th instant, Mr. David M'Veigh of Forbes was stuck up on the road about 10 miles from Forbes, by three mounted men, armed with revolvers and robbed of 13s. in silver. 1st described as being young, fair, no hair on face; dressed in flash striped trousers and cabbage tree hat; The other two men had their faces covered with crape and cannot be described.

Jameison and Daley would later be found guilty over this particular robbery, the third person being Ben Hall. Yass Courier, July 29th, 1863:

John Jamieson was also committed for trial, at the same court, on a charge of having, in company with Patsey Daley and another, committed a robbery on the persons of David M'Veigh and David Pollon, on the Lachlan road, about six months ago (the day of the fire at Forbes). He was also charged with an attempt at robbing (being armed) John Large and William John White, on the Lachlan road. 

Mrs Brown,
NSW Police Gazette.
There were also reports that Gardiner's lover Catherine Brown had been earlier participating in robberies beside 'The Darkie' disguised in men's apparel before fleeing the Lachlan in late 1862. The Police Gazette continued to state that offenders 'Can be Identified'. However, correspondents, where bushranging was rampant on average, either knew of or had determined the main perpetrators. Many correspondents appeared apprehensive to name the suspects in the newspapers, no doubt for self-preservation. In printing their speculations, they often alerted the bushrangers or their telegraphs on just how much information the police held.

NSW Police Gazette 1863.
Note age.
Furthermore, the court's often failed to press home the hard work of the police and consistently bailed offenders. In other circumstances, the police suffered embarrassment and criticism after pursuing a false track. For Ben Hall, noticeably lame in one leg and stout (rather fat or of heavy build), his once broken leg would often be overlooked in any report or description, as seen in the example above.

John Gilbert's reappearance in the Lachlan District in January 1863 after an absence of some months following the Escort robbery. Including his lucky escape from Inspector Pottinger in July 1862. Gilbert spent a short stint in New Zealand's South Island in company with his two brothers at Clyde on the Dunstan goldfield. On his return to NSW, Gilbert returned to the saddle roaming his former haunts of the Weddin Mountains and its surrounding districts, including Marengo Gilbert's pre-bushranging home. Gilbert quickly re-established this homecoming by banding together with O'Meally and Hall, making his presence felt as 'The Boy's' swept through many local establishments plundering at will; "Sydney Morning Herald" 7th February 1863:

There are many rumours afloat as to the number of bushrangers in this affair, and the number of stations "stuck up," but I know for certain of two places being ransacked by them, viz, the Bentick-Morrell station (Mr George Tout's), and a roadside accommodation house (G Harcombe's) At the latter place they only got £7. The house was entered by three robbers, but six others were counted waiting at a short distance within call as a reserve if necessary within call as a reserve if necessary, apparently with the plunder from the Bentick-Morrell station strapped upon them. The rascals were under the leadership of one Johnny Gilbert, a henchman of Gardiner's. This is an undoubted fact, because a sister-in-law of George Harcombe's was present, and distinctly recognised him, she is a native of Marengo, near which place John Gilbert was stock-keeper for some time. None of the desperadoes took the trouble to mask themselves.⁵¹

In quick succession, many robberies were Gazetted by police fitting Ben Hall's description:

A man named John Grandylar, who left Goulburn for the Lachlan some time back, was stuck-up by two armed bushrangers on Monday last, about sixteen miles on this side of Burrowa, on his return hither, and was robbed of whatever money he had on his person A cheque for a considerable amount that he had sown inside the band of his trousers escaped observation. They, however, took a good pair of boots off his feet, but gave him an old pair in exchange, and also robbed him of his coat. The man's swag with a revolver in it, where of course it was utterly useless, was appropriated by the bushrangers to their own use.⁵² 

Throughout January 1863, Ben Hall's transformation to full-time bushranger had now appeared complete as Hall became identified by victims who were acquainted with him. Although historically, there are those who today dispute the evidence. Nevertheless, in all cases, without any sense of honour or civility, Ben Hall puts a gun to their heads and places terror in their hearts, then rips from them their hard-earned wages and possessions.

NSW Police Gazette
February 1863.
Note; Hall's description- 5ft 6in.
Hall's height would
vary in future police
Gazettes from 5ft 6in-5ft 8in.
However, Ben's shift into criminal prominence and notoriety became very public on the 27th of January 1863. Mr Pollock and Mr Evans, both Forbes residents, passed Green's Uar station when three men bailed them up. The robbery occurred on Lambing Flat road. The two men positively identified Ben Hall. (See article above right.) Mrs Green, who operated Green's Inn on 'Uar' station on the Lambing Flat road, witnessed the attempt and had known Ben over many years. It was reported in the 'Goulburn Herald' later of an exchange of words between the men:

Mr David Pollock accompanied by Mr Reed's traveller was returning from Green's at Uah. He was bailed up by three mounted and armed men; "What have you got in your pocket"? said the leading robber, "Dam all a halfpence," was the reply, after which the lord of the road said, "what are you driving about the country, for, without money"? To this. Mr Pollock answered that he had been looking for a mule, and if his interrogator would find it and bring it to Forbes, he would give him a note. "Now Pollock," said the bushranger, "never go on the road again without money"; and the three rode away. 

Note: Once again, Hall's height is noted as 5' 6", far from the many historians claiming Hall was a tall man. Ben Hall's short and stout frame can not be emphasized enough.

NSW Police Gazette,
February 1863.
The robbery of the 27th was repeated the next day, 28th January 1863, again by Ben Hall. This time the villains held up and robbed Mr Green himself of 'Uar' station. Green was a former employer of Hall in the 1850s. Arriving at the public house, the bushrangers bailed up Greens wife, who had witnessed the previous day's robbery of Pollock and Evan's. On this occasion, Hall made off with bottles of Gin and kegs of Brandy. (See article below right.) Again Ben Hall is positively identified. However, the Police Gazette also named John O'Meally's younger brother Patrick as one of the bushrangers. Luckily for Patrick, this proved an error as Captain Zouch, upon examination, exonerated the young villain following his subsequent arrest by police after being connected to the two robberies. 

NSW Police Gazette,
February 1863.
John (Happy Jack) Gilbert was back raiding with his mates O'Meally, Ben Hall and Patsy Daley. On the 2nd February 1863, the bushrangers descended on Mr George Dickson's store, followed by ransacking an Inn at Spring Creek owned by a Mr Dalton. Dickenson, unsure of the nature of the hold-up, mussed that it was a prank whereby as O'Meally brandished his revolver, said, "There's no bloody mistake about it." However, during the robbery, a police trooper, Constable Stewart, happened to pass.

Unfortunately for Stewart, he was bailed up, robbed of his horse and saddle, the animal his own and not the polices'. However, Stewart, indignant, offered some resistance to the gang's orders to concede. Consequently, for Stewart, the result ended with one of the villains, reputed to be John O'Meally, severely beating up the police officer. 'The Empire', 13th February 1863:

On Monday evening last, (2nd Feb) about half-past eight o'clock, five men called at the store of Mr George Dickenson. He was behind the counter, serving a customer. One of the robbers said to him, in a half drunken manner, "Bail up, we want what you have got." Mr, Dickenson hearing this, made a dart for his bed-room, where he kept his revolver, but he was immediately stopped and ordered to go outside the store, where he was placed under the charge of an armed man with his customer, Mr, Mead with one of the bushranger's in police uniform. The robbers searched them. From Mr Mead, they took £5 in notes, and searched and no less than eleven other persons who were passing along the high road outside the store. They then went inside, stole a revolver, a bag containing five pounds in silver, between ten and eleven pounds’ worth of gold dust, and sundry articles of clothing. After stealing what they required, they helped themselves to brandy, gin, &c., and in fact everything they fancied. While the premises were being ransacked, a policeman happened to pass. He was stuck up also, and his horse, saddle and bridle, were taken away. The horse was the constable's private property. He consequently offered resistance, when one of the villains struck him a severe blow on the hand and wrist, quite disabling the limb; they kept him in durance vile until their unlawful work was accomplished; they then allowed him to proceed. He made his way with all possible speed to the camp, and Captain Battye mustered all hands, and started immediately in pursuit. The men also stuck-up the adjoining inn, Mr. Dalton's, known by the name of the Golden Fleece. They are supposed to have obtained about £60 in cash, and several guns and pistols. The latter were taken from Dalton's. The robbers are supposed to be the same who stuck-up the Bendick Morrell station on the 29th ultimo.

At one point, Daley, who was reported by the men under guard that he was 'trembling like a leaf' was almost overcome by the detained customers. However, Ben Hall intervened, saying, "You fellows think there are only five of us, there are others within coo-ee."

Boland. Police Gazette
It was revealed that the five bushrangers were John Gilbert, John O'Meally, Patsy Daley, and Christie Boland, the latter being arrested in 1864 linked to Ben Hall; 'Bell's Life in Sydney and Sporting Chronicle' Saturday 23rd April 1864:

A man named Christie Boland, alias Burtell, and supposed to be connected with Gilbert, Ben Hall, and O'Meally, in the sticking-up of Dickinson's and Solomon's stores, at Young, in February 1863, was arrested yesterday by the police. The bench, this morning, remanded him to Young for identification.

'The Argus' Saturday 23rd April 1864 reported:

A man named Christie Boland was remanded last week by Captain Brownrigg, for robbery under arms, to Young, the scene of his exploits. As it is supposed he was a mate of Ben Hall's, and it being known that the latter gentleman has recruited and reorganized his gang for the winter campaign, it was deemed necessary by Mr Superintendent M'Lerie to send four troopers with this single prisoner. We have no hesitation in saying that this proceeding was a discreet one; and still further to show the opinion that officer and the police generally have of Morgan and Hall's audacity, the foot patrol are initially armed with loaded revolvers, to be prepared for an attack upon the town.

However, Boland was unable to be identified as a member and escaped conviction after his confinement. Once more, the criminal element Hall mixed with were never shy of using an alias'.

On the 26th September 1863 Mr Dickenson provided his version of the robbery at Patsy Daley's trial; 'Goulburn Herald' 26th September 1863:

I reside at Spring Creek, Burrangong; on Monday, 2nd February, I was stuck-up by five men; one of them stood over me with a pistol, another presented a pistol at my storekeeper, and a third held a pistol to a customer I was serving; it was about eight in the evening and moonlight; I was behind the counter; we were all stuck-up at the same moment, and were all turned outside and a guard put over us; the prisoner was the guard; I have no doubt of him; he stood with a pistol over us; there were three of us at first, but some people passing were ordered to fall in, and there were eight or nine of us; prisoner said nothing but to tell some of the men to stand back when they were pressing forward; he did nothing but stand guard; he was standing guard about a quarter of an hour, I had seen prisoner at Clark's public-house a few months before; we were both dining there, and I had an opportunity of noticing him; when the men were going away I went into the house and found all the things tumbled about; I saw five men ride away; I did not notice the prisoner particularly, but I noticed the number and I did not see him afterwards; a policeman in plain clothes passed while the men were there, and being unarmed they made him give up his horse, saddle, and bridle; I missed £5 in silver, £10 or £11 in gold dust, a revolver, three watches, several pairs of boots, and a quantity of clothing; altogether, property to the value of £50 or £70 was taken, including the money and gold; these articles were all in the place previous to the men coming; I got my revolver afterwards from Sir Frederick Pottinger, but have not recovered any of the other property; when the men left I noticed large swags in front of them; prisoner was dressed in a sort of police uniform, old fashioned.

Upon completing the testimony, Sir Frederick Pottinger attested:

I handed to Mr Dickenson a revolver I got from a horse I believed to belong to Ben Hall.

NSW Police Gazette,
Frank Gardiner &
John Gilbert.
In the previous March 1862, the NSW Government of Mr Cowper commenced restructuring the NSW police force. Eliminating its previous diverse self managed arms and amalgamating them into one force with an Inspector-General in overall command. The honour of leadership fell to a highly experienced and politically savvy former army officer Captain John McLerie, once a nominee for the Victoria Cross for valiant service in New Zealand's Maori war. However, teething problems arose in the vast restructure, often overwhelming the revamped police force as they tried to bring law and order to the wild west. The country appeared lawless with robberies, beatings, and murder often commonplace in the isolated towns gripped with gold fever. Reports were rampant, and into this mix came not only those opportunist robbers but the dedicated bushranger who boldly snubbed their nose at law and order. Ben Hall fell into the latter category of the dedicated bushranger. Mr Charles Cowper, the Colonial Secretary, often referred to as 'Slippery Charley.' Due to his wily political ability and whose tenure as Colonial Secretary faced many challenges by the new and audacious wave of lawlessness. He believed that large rewards would set a cockatoo squatters heart racing were the solution. The Manaro Mercury, and Cooma and Bombala Advertiser, on the 13th February 1863 wrote:

Cowper is getting quite convinced of the inclemency of the 'Grande idee' about the New Police: for he has just offered a reward of £500 for the apprehension (without conviction) of Gardiner, and another £500 for his mate Johnny Gilbert. The only chance of capturing these ruffians seems to be by offering a large reward. (See reward notice above right.)

As Hall continued to make, his presence felt, yet still! The name of Gardiner was the cry in many reported robberies, but, as nothing concrete had been heard of the former leader left one correspondent to note:

After every enquiry could hear of no confirmation of the report, nor of any stranger having visited that quarter bearing any resemblance to the redoubted bushranger. Verily, there are as many Gardiners in the colony as there were Richmond’s at Bosworth field.⁵³

Author's Note: The Police Regulation Act was passed by the NSW Colonial Parliament, and as of the 1st March 1862, all existing police forces amalgamated to establish the NSW Police Force under former Army Captain John McLerie as Inspector General.

Earnest Bowler

Private Source.
Ernest Bowler, a long-time acquaintance of Ben Hall, highlighted an exciting account of Ben Hall's activities in early 1863 in 'The Moleskin Gentry'. On this occasion, however, Ernest had been out mustering cattle on the Charters' Pinnacle station. Near sunset, his party rode up a mountainside and discovered two hobbled horses presumed stolen. Upon identification, Bowler believed the horses belonged to himself and a friend, purloined by Hall. One horse, a fine bay and the other a grey. Ernest approached, cautiously removed the hobbles from the animals, and headed to the Pinnacle stockyard at full gallop.

Later, that evening Bowler returned to the Pinnacle station's public house and while dining in the kitchen word passed that 'The Boys' (the local's term for bushrangers) were lurking. Ernest describes Hall's arrival after the recovery of the horses:

Ben Hall appeared at the back door. Nothing was said for a while. Hall, Ernest noted was wearing a cabbage tree hat that seemed new. He stood somewhat menacingly, a hand on each doorpost. It was perhaps, Hall's silent warning to a man he respected that it is unwise to liberate hobbled horses. When at last Ernest said, “Good evening,” Hall nodded curtly and moved away.

Bowler and those present feared that 'The Boys' may bail them all up, steal their cash and horses. Two messengers set out for the Pinnacle police station three-quarters of a mile away. They persuaded the sole constable in charge, constable Knox to accompany them back to the public house for protection. Reputedly, Knox was the lover of the widow Mrs Feehiley, Dan Charters' sister. Unfortunately, constable Knox had made a fateful mistake, for the Pinnacle station's public house was not the intended quarry.

NSW Police Gazette,
February 1863.
On the morning of the 7th February 1863, while Knox was absent, Ben Hall in the company of Patsy Daley avoided the station's public-house and raided the Pinnacle's Police station situated about twelve miles from Hall's Sandy Creek station and stole some police items, including weapons, saddles, ammunition and clothing, as reported:

The most impudent of robberies it has ever been our lot to record was perpetrated on Saturday last, at the Police Station, at the Pinnacle, between Forbes and Lambing Flat. It appears that the station has been usually occupied by three troopers. Last week, however, two of these, including the officer in charge, had occasion to come to Forbes; the third was accordingly left behind, with instructions not to leave his post. On Saturday morning, when the men were returning, from Forbes, they were met by the trooper from the station, who reported that the place had been broken into during his temporary absence, and robbed of firearms, a pair of saddle-bags, and other property. Suspicion rested upon two men who had been seen about the neighbourhood, namely, Benjamin Hall and John Daley. Pursuit was immediately commenced, and Hall and Daley were soon within view. On the tracker approaching them, one of the fugitives turned and fired at him, but happily missed his aim., The tracker attempted to return the compliment, but his revolver missed fire. It is to be hoped the desperadoes are by this time in safe custody.⁵⁴

Pinnacle Station with Weddin
Mountains in the background.
Shortly after, as Ben Hall and Patsy Daley rode away from the police station, they were tracked by Constable Knox. However, before long, the two bushrangers were spotted departing a known hangout of undesirables, Allports Inn on the Forbes road by trooper William Hollister not far from the Pinnacle Station. Without delay, Hollister and his two trackers give chase exchanging shots with the two fleeing men. Later, tracker Billy Dargin gave this account of those events;

Followed them at that time with Prince Charlie and Trooper Hollister. Chased them for three miles and a half, and should have taken them but for Hollister getting thrown from his horse through running against a tree; saw Daley snap his revolver three times at Charlie.⁵⁵ (For more on Billy Dargin see The Traps Page.)

Note: William Hollister was an American by birth and a former world travelling sailor who worked as a Trimmer on sailing ships, resigned as a crew member to try the NSW goldfields and soon after joined the NSW Police force in early 1862. Coincidentally he was a crewman onboard the 'City of Sydney' that arrived in Sydney with a passenger named F. Pottinger in 1860 from Melbourne. 

Hollister was an efficient constable and, during his service, had maintained a diary. In one entry, he described the chase and attempted apprehension of Hall and Daley. Diary entry for Saturday 7th February 1863:

On Saturday 7th instant the Pinnacle barracks were broken into and robbed of one rifle one carbine 10 rounds of rifle ammunition one pouch and bridle one pair of saddle bags belt one gunnysack one flask of powder two pair of handcuffs two Crimean shirts &c. Ben Hall was tracked from the barracks to Uar by constable Knox." Diary entry Sunday 8th February 1863;"With Dargin (Tracker) from this station to Uar from Uar to Pinnacle reefs from reefs to this station. Myself and Dargin from Forbes met constable Knox at Uar and took up the tracks and ran them for about 12 miles and came upon Ben Hall and Patsy Daly within about 3 miles of the Pinnacle reefs and chased them about one mile when my horse ran me against a tree Daly tried to shoot one of the Black Trackers McFenns black fellow was with me through me getting the fall Hall and Daly escaped came to Pinnacle Police Station. When I met Knox, I sent him back to this station.

NSW Police Gazette,
March 1863.
Hollister was in no doubt it was Ben Hall. Ultimately Constable Knox would be dismissed from the NSW police after the Pinnacle robbery. (see above right)

The Pinnacle Station and police presence were described thus in the S.M.H. 1863:

This is the name given to a mountain range lying about a couple of miles to the right of the road from Forbes to Young. It has been made familiar to Sydney's ears from having been frequently mentioned during the course of the trial of the escort robbers, as the home of Charters, the approver, who lived there with his sister. It takes its name, as I was informed-for I had no opportunity of examining the locality closely from a peculiarly-shaped hill that forms part of the range. The Pinnacle station lies about half a mile off the road and was until lately a public house. The locality has long been regarded as a suspicious one, because the Pinnacle Range, like that of the Weddin, affords complete shelter, in its many almost inaccessible fastnesses, and offers a ready asylum through being so near the road. Captain M'Lerie, on his recent visit, established a police station here. The barracks are erected by the roadside and about a mile on the Forbes side of the Pinnacle squatting station. it was supposed that this would effectually cut off the bushrangers from the Pinnacle range, or at all events prevent them from making it a regular haunt.

By the end of February 1863, Hall was noted as armed and dangerous. Historically, there is a belief that Ben Hall's complicity in criminal activities before the Pinnacle Police Station robbery is suspect. Let's put the kibosh on that presumption right here! The evidence of Hall's villainy when thoroughly reviewed is overwhelming. Evidence dictates that Hall's fraternisation and criminal involvement with Gardiner etc. commenced circa 1861. Even though in the Bacon robbery, Ben Hall himself declared his innocence. Well, wouldn't anybody? However, the reports of eyewitnesses in the Bacon affair of April 1862 in company with Gardiner and Gilbert and the Gold Escort attack at Eugowra in June 1862 to which Ben Hall was an integral part tell a very different story. 

In turn, the subsequent Pinnacle hold-up, as mentioned above in Patrick Daley's company, includes eyewitnesses identifying Hall's participation and can not be dismissed. Indeed, their statements were not one of happenstance. Furthermore, Hall had claimed in the case of the Pinnacle hold-up that he just happened to be in the vicinity at Allports' pub and that, amazingly, Hall had only run into Daley for a nobbler (Drink) by chance. Knox identified Hall as Daley's accomplice. Knox would have known Hall well from days spent at the Pinnacle with Charters. It was also well known that Const Knox was in an intimate relationship with Daniel Charters widowed sister Margaret Feehily. However, Hall claimed he had departed Allports with Daly for the ride home when trooper Hollister subsequently gave chase based on constable Knox's' information. And flee, the two men did! Besides, for an innocent man, such as Hall claimed to be, why flee and then brazenly exchange gunfire with the troopers is indeed confounding. At the very least, fleeing Harbour's a foundation of guilt. Unfortunately for Hall, Hollister knew him well. How? Most assuredly from Hollister's knowledge of Hall's criminal associations and most recent activities noting:

Ben Hall, Daley, and O'Maley, three well-known bushrangers.

During Hollister's chase, words were exchanged where three weeks later, Hall recalled to Inspector Norton that Hollister swore to shoot him and that he wished to return the compliment. Furthermore, the earlier Bacon robbery of April 1862 was another case of self-denial by Hall. In this instance, Hall stated that he and John Youngman happened upon the robbery as Gardiner was conducting the Bailing-Up! However, upon arrest, Hall managed to forge a tainted not guilty verdict through a bribe. Really! Can one man have so much rotten luck, or was Hall indeed just the unluckiest bystander in history. No! It's all too obvious to be just a coincidence. Ben Hall was in it and in it up to his eyes. Even William Hall corroborates his brother's participation in criminality. Therefore, newspaper references and NSW Police Gazette reports and respected citizens, such as Ernest Bowler and Charles MacAlister and many others, all provide a reliable attestation to what the police had long suspected. That is that as well as the local populace of the Lachlan knew only too well that Ben Hall had long been bushranging.

Following Hall's encounter with Knox and Hollister, where shots were fired, the NSW Police Gazette published on the 13th February 1863, a graphic account of an attack upon a lone elderly woman Mrs Finnigan. Mary Finnigan kept a shanty near Forbes and was known locally as a benevolent lady as stated;

Mrs Finnigan—an elderly widow whose generous hospitality to penniless travellers keeps her poor.

NSW Police Gazette,
13th February 1863.
Finnigan's Shanty on many different occasions acted as a way-station for police in their search for Hall, Gilbert, O'Mealley and Daley. The New South Wales Police Gazette 
highlights a report regarding two men fitting the descriptions of Ben Hall and either Patsy Daley or John Gilbert entering the shanty kept by Mrs Finigan which doubled as her home whereby the pair conduct a most heinous act against the defenceless woman..., I will let the account speak for itself. Read the article right. Daley's family lived at Arramagong station once shared with the O'Meally's. Gilbert was also holed up at the O'Meally's shanty? (O'Meally's described by police as having reddish-brown hair not light or fair, both of which fitted Gilbert and Daley.)

Furthermore, Mrs Finnigan's flogging demonstrated that the Pinnacle incursion signaled that Ben Hall was beginning to reveal himself as a right cur. Ben Hall now embarked on an indiscriminate course where his choice of compatriots and actions against society could only end in a future featuring lengthy incarceration in a gaol cell chained in leg-irons or an ignoble death swinging from the gallows or to be shot down like a wild dog.

Gardiner & Gilbert.
c. 1862.
However, for those who had known Ben Hall over the many years, he plied his stockman trade, including the achievement of ownership of his station. Watched with dismay his long fall from civility and, in the process, lost the respect of his peers. Moreover, in continuing his presence in the company of Gardiner, John Gilbert and O'Meally, Hall's bushranging was no longer just a rumour but had become widely acknowledged. As such, Hall embarked on his lawless path whereby the NSW police become his all-powerful hunters led by Inspector Pottinger, who, as with his pursuit of Gardiner, desired to see Hall first re-arrested after escaping conviction over both the Bacon and Eugowra robberies, then to finally swing.

It might also be observed that the villains Ben Hall had combined with were inherently from a comparable background to his own. As a child of convict parents well-known as cattle and horse thieves who like dingos purloined stock whenever the opportunity presented itself. This new breed of bushrangers contingent to John Peisley, O’Meally, Fred Lowry, etc., was bent and entwined by a common generational link of lawlessness. Hall's and his current associates appeared drawn into crime through family affiliations or close friendships. Some of the bushrangers became influenced by the older generation's convict yarns of past adventures and their long-held distrust and attitude to authority mixed with prolonged idleness. The 'Empire', Thursday 12th March 1863, succinctly expressed the current injury to the country by bushranging:

If once detected in cattle stealing, they become depredators on a large scale, bushrangers of a more dangerous kind than the colony has yet known, having resourced in themselves and their surroundings of which the poor outlaws under the old penal system were utterly devoid. Horses they have the pick of the country and friends and brothers wherever they go. Hence the class of bushrangers who have, within, the last few years spread terror throughout the country districts. PEISLEY, GARDINER, GILBERT, are each and all "bush natives;" at first stockmen, drovers, or horse breakers, suspected or found guilty of cattle stealing, and taking to the bush to avoid as long as possible apprehension and punishment, and so entering upon a career of crime that has conducted PEISLEY, and is likely to conduct the others, to the gallows. But the ignominy and distress which these men have brought down upon their own heads is not confined to them. The influence they have exercised over their young countrymen has been of the most pernicious kind and disastrous consequences. Already some who have been misled by GARDINER, are doomed to expiate their complicity with his criminal designs and doings, by an ignominious death on the scaffold.

The article continued:

A given number of GARDINERS and GILBERTS, obtaining the ascendancy, must soon transform Australia into a howling wilderness, where men more savage and unreasoning than wild beasts could only anticipate starvation by mutual slaughter. But the class we are speaking of are not generally capable of reflecting upon the effects of a certain course of action upon the general interests of society, or upon their own individual welfare as bound up therewith. They have never been taught to think, and scarcely to read. They are not, therefore, readers of newspapers, and have no turn for politics. And, as might naturally have been expected, whatever smatterings of speculative politics the more intelligent amongst them possess are decidedly obstructive. For "bush natives," as a general role, are the rankest of colonial Tories. (Tories-a dispossessed Irishman who resorted to banditry)

J.H.M. Abbott.
c. 1919.
Early bushranger author J.H.M. Abbott wrote in the 'Truth', March 1935, this poignant and accurate view regarding the foundations of modern bushranging and its seducement of impressionable native-born youths:

A great many ex-convicts — 'oldhands' was the generic term— were scattered about the bush on small holdings, and a large proportion of them were hard-working, honest people who were doing well in the development of the country they had been compelled to adopt. But nearly always, deeply ingrained in their characters, was an antagonism to the laws that had made them exiles and to those who administered them. Their sympathies were wholly with anyone who made war on society, and their offspring very naturally inherited these views. Besides these people, there were innumerable wanderers about the countryside—shepherds, bullock-drivers, axemen, shearers and drovers—and when they were working together their principal intellectual recreation was spinning yarns, or listening to them, about the convict days. Men like Jack Donohoe, Brady, William Westwood (Jacky Jacky), or Martin Cash had songs made about their more conspicuous exploits, or about their inherent nobility of nature.

Frank Gardiner himself years later commented on why young men turned to the bush and then the leap to bushranging:

From want of suitable, employment. Young men can find no employment in the country districts except herding sheep or stock-riding. The latter occupation leads to horse-stealing simply because you become wholly engrossed in horseflesh, and the crime is so easily committed that you do not think of the consequences. Horse-stealing and horse "sojering" are of everyday occurrence in certain parts of the country.

When asked why Gardiner replied:

I do not know; I was young at the time and spent my money as quickly as I got it. I thought it an easy life for a while. 

The regularity of outrages conducted by bushrangers and their successes were achieved by being one step ahead of the often flummoxed NSW police. Success and easy money enabled by good intelligence won the day for the bushrangers. There was also a wide selection of top-class thoroughbred horses and various firearms easily acquired by the bushrangers, all held on many larger stations. However, for the NSW police in pursuit, a disadvantage was the quality of their mounts and the standard of equipment, all inferior compared to the bushrangers. The troopers also had to contend with battling many settlers in cahoots with the desperadoes and who had installed a 'Cone of Silence' against the police. Nevertheless, an article written in the 'Sydney Morning Herald' on 17th February 1863 conveyed a hope that the NSW Government, through the police and the courts, would shortly rid all the troubled districts of bushrangers, including their wide circle of supporters and small squatters. Expectations were high as reported:

Acting under the direct instructions of the Executive Council through the Chief Secretary, the Inspector-General is adopting stringent measures to put an end to those acts of bushranging which have been so frequent during the last eighteen months or two years. It is understood that a considerable amount of information is in the hands of the Government which is likely to lead, not only to the apprehension of the parties actively engaged in these lawless deeds but also of persons in various stations of life who have afforded them harbour and succour. Should success attend the exertions of the police with regard to the latter class of offenders, the public will be surprised to find that Gardiner and Co have been sheltered and supplied with provisions if not with the munitions of war, by individuals who carry their heads somewhat high amongst their fellow colonists. The outrooting of what a witness at the late trials designated "a public-house, but which had no license," and the cancelling of the squatting licenses of those parties whom the Government have good reason to suspect are, or who have been, harbouring bushrangers, will, it is generally expected, be resorted to without delay. A considerable number of picked men, detectives and other police, have been already dispatched to the lawless district. Captain Battye is engaged in scouring the country about Murrumburrah, Burrowa, Marengo, and the diggings, and he will now be ably supported in his movements by some of the pick of the detectives. All accounts that have recently reached us of acts of "sticking up"' state that the robbers chiefly sought for firearms, although well-armed, themselves. This would lead to the supposition that the outlaws had increased in number, and that guns and revolvers were required for the recruits. The police station at Bogolong (Pinnacle) was attacked for that purpose, and it may, therefore, be expected that unless the police are successful in breaking up the gang, some desperate work will be done, before the winter sets in.

Accordingly, for the townsfolk of Forbes, the ease in which the Pinnacle Police station was raided and other outrages taking place daily created great concern. The citizens of the country towns were tense over the lack of police protection. There were many instances where the town's police were drawn continuously out on wild goose chases based on Ben Hall and Gardiner's misinformation. Although Gardiner was long gone from the district. The 'Lachlan Observer', February 18th, 1863, noted the police disposition for various Western NSW towns broken down as no less than 47 troopers stationed at Forbes, remembering that Forbes alone had a population ebbing and flowing of some 20,000 inhabitants. 22 police stationed at Young with an itinerant population of 10,000, and 17 police at Bathurst with a population of 5000. In some cases, local residents filled the role of self-styled constables where they meted out in vigilante-style summary punishments to miscreants, as highlighted:

A few nights ago, a man was bailed up by a fellow opposite Dave White's establishment in Rankin street, and, on his calling out lustily, the pugilist-to his credit be it spoken-rushed to the rescue and administered a sound thrashing to the would be robber, The town is now almost destitute of police protection, the whole of the detectives being employed elsewhere, and the police generally being either at Orange, Bathurst, or some other distant locality attending to their various duties. Seeing that the Pinnacle police station has recently been taken possession of by the bushrangers, in order to secure the firearms and ammunition, we would advise sergeant Rush to "keep his powder dry," and make ready for a similar, visitation. (Sgt Rush was the Forbes lock-up keeper.)

As Ben Hall was setting alight the western plains, other long-past criminal events regarding the Hall family at Murrurundi emerged in parliament. Events still fresh in the memory of some. 'The Empire' newspaper in 1863 recounted one such incident regarding Ben Hall's fathers' long past criminal activities. Commented on by Mr Joseph Jehosephat Harpur, Parliamentarian. Harpur was the member for the Hunter Valley seat of Patrick Plains, NSW, and who it must be remembered was the son of Sarah Walsh, stepmother of Bridget Hall and stepmother-in-law to Ben Hall and knew of all Ben Hall's antics and robberies where undoubtedly was a recipient of some of those proceeds through Elen Maguire. Therefore, Harpur was acutely aware of all the goings-on in the bushranger fraternity. After all, three of his mother's stepdaughters and Harpur's step-sisters were in relationships with those at the centre of criminal activity. Harpur commented:

I remember when old Ben Hall robbed one Brown of a splendid horse, which he almost worshipped. A gentleman gave information to Brown about the robbers but charged him to make no use of the information because if it were suspected that he had given the information, he would not be safe for a moment. The man Brown came to him (Mr Harpur), who was then young and daring. He went with the owner of the horses, in pursuit of the robbers, and was near losing his life. Such was the state of things on the Hunter in the time of old Ben Hall, the father of the present Ben Hall, who had always been bad. They were connected with a gang of cattle stealers.⁵⁶

No doubt, Harpur's intimate knowledge of the happenings of the Lachlan bushrangers were relayed through his mother. To a degree, Harpur became tainted in the NSW Parliament regarding his family's relationships by giving an appearance of leniency by not supporting the rigid motions of the Cowper Government in bushranger matters. In July 1863, this support was exposed:

No one would suppose that the hon. member (Mr Harpur) would put before the House a statement he did not himself believe, or that he would advocate the cause of robbers and murderers—no, not even were some of them his own blood relatives.

Sir Frederick Pottinger officer in charge of the Lachlan district, suffered many hatreds. None more so than Harpur's mother Sarah, as her young stepson John Walsh had fallen under Pottinger's heavy hand as a suspected thief and widely believed horse holder of Frank Gardiner. Therefore, Harpur had been heavily prejudiced regarding Sir Frederick through his mother and would under parliamentary privilege call out Pottinger as a coward over his tactics and the Baronet's perceived harassment of his mother:

In the course of the debate, it transpired that Sir Frederick Pottinger had sent a friend to demand satisfaction from Mr Harpur, the member for Patrick's Plains, who had some time since stigmatised Sir Frederick as a coward.

Accordingly, in perpetrating highway robbery, Ben Hall was becoming barbarous. He was in the habit of stripping to their undergarments male victims in search of valuables and dishing out beatings even floggings, as happened to Mrs Finnigan, as well as brandishing or firing revolvers at those who baulked at compliance. Fortunately, to date, Hall, thru a stroke of good luck had not murdered in cold blood or maimed any of those confronting his gun. However, on the 15th February 1863, a murder most foul was perpetrated one week after the Pinnacle Police station robbery and two days preceding the 13th of February beating of Mrs Finnagan by a suspected Ben Hall. On the evening of the 15th of February, a well-respected businessman at Stoney Creek was shot dead.

'The Miners Home Inn' at Stoney Creek, 3 miles south of the Lambing Flat township, was owned by a German migrant Adolf Cirkel, an enterprising man who also owned a bakers shop serving popular pastries to the miners. Between six and seven o'clock in the evening, John O'Meally and John Gilbert reputedly arrived at the 'Miners Home Inn'. In the course of that evening, Mr Cirkel was shot dead, shot by John O'Meally.

However, those who witnessed the terrible scene described the assailants as one a man tall and the other short and stout. Short and stout preclude the long-held idea that John Gilbert was the second assailant; 'Empire' Thursday 26th February 1863:

On Sunday evening last, two men came to the Miners' Home Inn between six and seven o'clock and proceeded to the back of the house. One of them went into the house after fastening up his horse, and the other hooked his on the garden gate and asked the ostler to go into the bar and have a nobbler. He complied with the ruffian's request. When he did so, he was ordered by his companion to go and sit down in the corner of the taproom, not far from the bar. The shortest of the two men (the one that first went in) walked behind the bar, and said to the man who acted as barman during Mr Cirkel's absence, that he wanted the money, and helped himself to the contents of the till—about five pounds in silver. Both the robbers had nobblers. They were each well armed with revolvers. The taller of the two stood near the entrance to the bar, covering with his revolver the people bailed up in the corner, the back door, and the one leading into the next room close to the back door. Whilst this was going on, Mr Cirkel, who had been in the bakehouse, entered the taproom by the front door, which is opposite the counter. The tall man asked him to go and sit in the corner with those already there. He answered, "What for?" A struggle then ensued between the tall robber and him and there is little doubt that Mr Cirkel who was a strong, powerfully built, and very determined man, would have overpowered the other, had not the stout robber behind the bar called out to him according to the report of one witness to the scene "Blow his bloody [sic] brains out," and to another's-"Shoot the bugger." The tall ruffian immediately fired and shot the unfortunate gentleman dead. The deceased never spoke afterwards—death was instantaneous. The diabolical ruffians, after committing the murder, rushed out of the house, mounted their horses, and fled.

Lambing Flat.
c. 1862.

Courtesy NLA.
In the case of John Gilbert, his widely published description eliminates his presence. Gilbert was Gazetted:

As of slight active build and around 10 stone, between 5ft 8in-10in with blonde hair.

Furthermore, Gilbert in company with Hall, O'Meally and Daley robbed the Solomon Store a week after Mr Cirkel was killed and where O'Meally had told Solomon that unless he co-operated, he would suffer as Cirkel did:

Told Solomon not to be too flash or they would serve him like they did the man at Stoney Creek (meaning poor Cirkel), who was too flash, and blow his bloody brains out, [sic] as they did his.

Ben Hall's description of the stout man gives rise to the suspicion of his presence as in January and February 1863 Hall was a constant companion of O'Meally. Whereby to add to Gilbert's lack of presence with Hall, O'Meally and Daley that in March 1863, Gilbert was not a participant in Inspector Norton's capture two weeks later. Gilbert's presence at Cirkel's is questionable, if not misleading at best.

Patrick O'Meally.
c. 1880's.

However, due to the death of Mr Cirkel, a group of fellow German Diggers went on the hunt for the killers. The Germans had strong suspicions that an O'Meally was one of the culprits and headed straight for the O'Meally's public house at the Weddin Mountains. Here they seized Patrick O'Meally and Gardiner's mate Patrick MaGuiness and a youth named Brown, 16 yrs old. Thinking they had captured the right men, they dragged them unceremoniously back to the scene of the crime. Unfortunately, after hauling Patrick O'Meally into court, eyewitnesses to the murder could not identify Patrick O'Meally as one of the assailants. Consequently, he was released. The 'Burrangong Star' reported that Patrick: Left the court laughing.⁵⁷

It may also be that the eyewitnesses felt highly intimidated and fearful of reprisals over-identifying those responsible. At Cirkel's inquest, the verdict stated:

That the deceased man came to his death by a wound from a pistol, fired by the taller man of the two men, and find a verdict of Wilful Murder against both parties, names unknown.

Following Cirkel's murder, another villain named John Clarke was suspected as one of the perpetrators. However, witnesses to the shooting in the hotel could not pin Clarke to the crime. Clarke's physical appearance resembled Ben Hall's. Clarke was born in 1842, 5ft 6/7in Stout build brown Hair with grey eyes. In due course, Clarke would go down for the robbery of Demondrille Station for three years.

Lambing Flat.
Boorowa Street.
c. 1862.

Courtesy NLA.
The recent spate of robberies in the Lambing Flat district, culminating in the murder of poor Mr Cirkel, folk were on edge as Gardiner was widely believed to be in the area:

As for some days, the whole town has been in consternation, and several rumours of Gardiner intending to make a general attack on the town have been afloat.

Adolf Cirkel gunned down. Ben Hall and Daley's success at the Pinnacle Police Station, as well as their narrow escape and gunfight with Constable Hollister, brought a comment from Bell’s Life in Sydney and Sporting Chronicle, 21st February 1863, where the correspondent appeared most interested in what items, and for what purpose, had been stolen by Hall from the police station and their future use:

The robbery itself must astonish every one;- to attack a police station is certainly one of the most daring acts probably ever heard of. The motive, however, is the next consideration. The stealing of the police clothing is rather a mysterious affair; bushrangers would scarcely carry about property of this description, for sale, neither would they wear it except to accomplish some daring outrage in the disguise of mounted troopers; what that will be time will tell, but it would not surprise us if the escort or some of the banks were stuck-up. This, at first sight, may appear an imaginary conclusion, but when it is borne in mind that a 'number of bushrangers (we believe a large one) are infesting the roads of this district, we do not consider it at all imaginary. Look at the late robberies at Macnash's station, Mr Tout's, Herbert’s, at the West Lead, and last, not least, Mr Dickinson's; consider the property taken in almost all instances;-firearms of all descriptions-ammunition, even to the wadding, clothing, saddles, and bridles! What does all this mean but that the force is to be well armed and mounted. We are fully aware the horses are a secondary consideration, as these ruffians can very easily help them self to horses at the various stations, which are no doubt as well known to them as the wild bush itself.

A murderer amongst the group. An unperturbed Ben Hall next plundered the small town of Little Wombat close to Lambing Flat and stuck up the general store of Mr Meyer Solomon and his wife, Julia. When the gang walked through the store's doors, Julia Solomon was day's away from giving birth to their second child Samuel b. 23rd February 1863. In this instance, many of the gang were dressed, as feared by the correspondent's article above, as police troopers:

It appears that the robbery was perpetrated by four men dressed in police uniform, and hence supposed to be the same parties who lately robbed the police station at the Pinnacle.

The bushrangers arrived at 4 pm with their pack horses to carry away their prospective booty. Subsequently, upon their arrival, the men reputedly faced some resistance from the proprietor, who fired a shot believed to have grazed one of the gang's necks. Soon after, Solomon fled across the creek to the Chinese camp. However, in a moment of heroism, the shop boy taking one of Solomons' revolvers from the counter aimed at one of the gang, another bushranger grabbed a pregnant Mrs Solomon demanding the lad throw down his gun or he would "blow Mrs Solomons brains out." The boy relented, saying, "If it hadn't been for Mrs Solomon I'd have stopped your run." The robbery is graphically reported from 'The Newcastle Chronicle and Hunter River District News Saturday 7th March 1863; From the evidence related in the newspaper article below, it is revealed that Jack O'Meally was indeed the one who had earlier fired the fatal shot that took the life of Mr Cirkel. (In colonial Australia, hundreds of newspapers existed and re-produced the same articles from their original source thru the Electric Telegraph.)
The Newcastle Chronicle and Hunter River District News
Saturday 7th March 1863
Provincial News.

Following the robbery, the use of the stolen Pinnacle police items appeared in the 'Sydney News

Intelligence has reached the town of the robbery of Mr Solomon's store at Wombat near Lambing Flat on Saturday last. It appears that the robbery was perpetrated by four men dressed in police uniform, and hence supposed to be the same parties who lately robbed the police station at the Pinnacle. They took away two pack-horses loaded with the property. Mr Solomon reports having fired at and wounded one of the robbers in the neck, and that he can identify him.

Typical country store.
c. 1860's.

Image courtesy NLA.
Furthermore, on the 6th March 1863, two weeks after the Solomon robbery, a reporter from the 'Goulburn Chronicle', arrived in town and published a first-hand account in the victim's own words. Mr Solomon recounted his ordeal at the hands of the villains. The article sheds more detail on the events:

A most daring wholesale robbery on Burrangong, at which shots were exchanged between the robbers and the robbed, but fortunately the latter escaped unkilled. Although happily unattended with the same fearful atrocity perpetrated only a few days previously at Stoney Creek when poor Mr Cirkel lost his life in an attempt to protect his property, yet this affair is a more extensive robbery than the murderers accomplished at Stoney Creek. The victim in this instance was Mr Solomon storekeeper at Big Wombat and also at Little Wombat and the robbery was committed at the latter place about fifteen miles from Young, and about five miles from Big Wombat. The particulars as I have learned from Mr Solomon are these:- About four o'clock in the afternoon of Saturday, four men mounted, and equipped with firearms something approaching the style of police in private clothes, were observed by Mrs Solomon riding towards the store, when she immediately gave the alarm to Mr Solomon who, having plenty of firearms at hand ready for action, instantly seized a musket, and ordered the door to be closed, but instead of obeying the order, the lad went outside to have a look at the men and discarding the repeated order to come in and shut the door, he cried out 'Troopers!" Troopers!" under the impression that the robbers were mounted, constables. Immediately on coming up to the door two of the fellows presented carbines (similar to those used by the police) at Mr Solomon who at the same instant levelled his musket at them and fired the ball grazing the neck of one of the fellows and tearing the collar of his coat: Two shots were fired in return, and the bullets lodged in some shirts on a shelf nearly behind Mr Solomon. By this time two of the ruffians had entered the store and seized the lad so that they could not be fired at without placing the boy’s life in danger. Mr Solomon then rushed out at the back, and made for a Chinaman's tent for help and in so doing fell headlong into the muddy bed of a creek which he had to cross. He was closely pursued by two of the robbers, who captured him in the mud and assuring him they had no intention of injuring his person, ultimately conducted him back to the store, and placed him under guard alongside Mrs Solomon and the lad. During the chase after Mr Solomon, all the four bushrangers left the store for a second, and with admirable courage and presence of mind the lad jumped over the counter, got hold of a revolver, presented it at one of the fellows who had returned to the store, and was about to pull the trigger, when the robber held a similar instrument of death close to Mrs Solomon's head, and said, "If you fire I'll blow her brains out." The counteracting threat stayed the hand, and immediately the return of another of the robbers compelled him to surrender, but with undaunted courage, he said, "Had it not been for Mrs Solomon, I would have stopped your run;" and for this noble exhibition of spirit one of the villains knocked him down and said, "If you want a pistol, get up and I'll give you one, and let me see if you are game to use it.

The lad instantly sprang on to his feet, and boldly held out his hand for the pistol saying, "Give it to me, and you'll see what I'll do" The coward who had given the challenge refused to give the pistol and obliged the lad to sit down The other two having returned with Mr Solomon, who was also placed under guard the robbers, after taking all the cash and gold they could find, amounting in all to only about £6-besides about one ounce and a half of spurious gold which they also took, then began deliberately to select goods of all descriptions-blankets, men and women's wearing apparel and boots, ribbons of various patterns, silk and cambric handkerchiefs, Neva candles, blacking and blacking brushes, all the firearms they could find, several pounds' weight of gunpowder, besides a quantity of jewellery, which they said was for the ladies on the mountains. They also took a supply of groceries, raisins, currants, &c, and helped themselves freely to fancy biscuits and lollies. Some idea of the extent of this robbery and of the cool, deliberate manner in which it was perpetrated, may be formed from the fact that it was commenced about four o clock in the afternoon, and the robbers did not leave the premises until nearly seven o'clock in the evening, when they departed in peace having four horses, two of which they also stole from Mr Solomon, heavily laden with the booty to the value of about £200. Of course, they could only travel very slowly, and thus even opportunity was afforded for pursuing them, but no pursuit was made.

NSW Police Gazette,
11th March 1863.
The 6th March 1863 article also illustrated the polices' indecisiveness when informed of the robbery, including their arrival and investigation. Which highlighted their lackluster attempt to finally commence tracking the bushrangers, including the outcome. Was it fear or apathy:

One policeman only was on duty at Little Wombat, and of course he could not leave the station, or rather the apology for one, for fear it too should be robbed of perhaps an old corroded pistol or two. At any rate, two Chinamen volunteered to ride into town to give information at the police camp at Young, and the affair was known in town about eight o'clock in the evening, yet strange to say, the troopers did not arrive at Mr Solomon’s place until about two o'clock am on Sunday, when detective Wolf, the sub inspector of police, with his gloves on, and two troopers arrived, expressed their surprise, but from the darkness of the night, could not trace the bushrangers. At day light, they succeeded in tracing them; for upwards of ten miles, in the direction of the Weddin Mountains, where, from the want of a tracker, and exhaustion, as most of the police had just returned from Yass, they were obliged to discontinue the pursuit.

The bushrangers involved at Solomon's were Ben Hall, John Gilbert, John O'Meally, Patsy Daley, and Patrick O'Meally. Ben Hall, from all accounts, was once more mistaken for Gardiner as he directed the men. This may well be from the fact that Hall was older than the others with an authoritative air about him:

The ruffian, supposed to be Gardiner, ordered and directed everything that was to be done, pushing and swearing, at the others if they did not obey his orders quickly enough.

Although witnesses at the time claimed to have recognised Gardiner (not uncommon) as one of the robbers, an observer, however, doubted Gardiner's involvement in the current bushranger deeds calling attention to the view that any reported robbery, no matter how insignificant, was continually attributed to 'The Darkie, Bell's Life in Sydney and Sporting Chronicle Saturday 21st February 1863: 

We cannot look upon Gardiner us a myth, though we might almost consider him ubiquitous. Not a highway robbery takes place, not, a store or station is stuck-up, but the cry immediately is "Gardiner,"-" Gardiner!" Why, he; would want a railroad, with a carriage, to carry him sixty miles an hour, to be often in the different places people accuse him of being in.

Furthermore, the fact was that Gardiner and his lover Catherine Brown had long departed the Lachlan following Gardiner's near capture by Sir Frederick Pottinger earlier in August 1862. Late October 1862 or thereabouts, the pair had commenced the long and arduous trek north to the Peak Downs goldfield via Rockhampton, finally arriving at Apis Creek in Queensland a distance as the crow flies of 900 miles in a spring cart through rough and at times inhospitable country. Nevertheless, a frustrated press had many reports flooding about Gardiner's perceived whereabouts, even a thought he had gone to South Australia disguised as a priest or to Portland, Victoria or Gippsland where his family resided. Furthermore, some even wrongly believed that young Gilbert's family lived in S.A. as noted in the 'Launceston Examiner', Tuesday 30th September 1862:

The following is the latest respecting Gardiner: "Gardiner, the supposed leader of N.S.W. escort robbery, is reported as either at Adelaide or Portland Bay accompanied by a woman named Brown, in boy's clothes. The family of John Gilbert, who is charged with being one of the same gang, resides in Adelaide. Gilbert is supposed to be either there or in Melbourne. 

Just where were they! Gilbert had resurfaced in the Weddin in January 1863 after a short stint in New Zealand, but 'The Darkie' was long gone. 

" time you bring me here
it will be for something,
and don't you forget it."-
Ben Hall.
Nevertheless, for Ben Hall, he had well and truly leapt from esteemed squatter to notorious bushranger and had fallen off the pedestal of respectability forever. Thus began his own prophesied: "Jant" as told to Ernest Bowler at Toogong after the Orange trial in May 1862. Moleskin Gentry:

It was at Toogong, where the coach used to change horses, that I had a talk with him about his trial. He told me that the next time the police should want him he would give them a "jant", that is they would have a lot of trouble to take him. I little thought that his word would come true.

As such, all Hall had achieved and gained as a farmer was now lost forever. In the following extract, this was said of Ben Hall's character as he lit the flame of malevolence across the western districts of NSW by his sympathetic former defence counsel and a member of Parliament, Mr Redman, who attempted to lay Hall's failings upon the judicial system which he claims led to Hall's burgeoning bushranger status:

Some of the bushrangers were the creatures of circumstances. He remembered the imprisonment of Ben Hall and young O'Meally, who was incarcerated with his father. Month after month they were kept confined without any charge against them, and against his (Mr R.'s) repeated remonstrance. The family and antecedents of Ben Hall were credible, but after he came out of prison there was no incentive to virtue; he knew he was watched by the police, and he felt disgraced by being imprisoned, and not being a man of great mind, he took to the bush.⁵⁸

However, Mr Redman's statement does not justify nor excuse the course of action that Ben Hall or any other person embarking on life behind a revolver. Mr Redman commented that Hall was 'not being a man of great mind', as Hall could not read or write. Hall depended on others, such as Maguire, Charters, then Gilbert, all fairly well-educated men, to keep him appraised of newspaper articles or land tenure matters concerning their bushranging exploits. However, for Ben Hall, this educational handicap was compensated by Hall's expert knowledge in bushcraft. These skills would lead the police to a merry dance. Furthermore, the once well-liked Squatter would become associated with, as well as perpetrate, murders, attempted murder, kidnapping, whipping, theft, arson, intimidation, assault, robbing mail coaches, pillaging country Homesteads and Inns, in numbers not seen before in the colonies of Australia. All were conducted on the end of a gun without any compunction.

Furthermore, reiterating Ben Hall's current recalcitrant actions that fly in the face of any notions of a fellow somehow driven or hounded to take up robbery under arms against his fellow citizens is entirely ludicrous. Ben Hall's perception as a victim is absurd, including the comment that Ben Hall was a 'gentleman bushranger'. That statement is bizarre, even preposterous and is shattered based on indisputable evidence. Moreover, the proof of Hall's overwhelming depredations is through the many recorded instances of Hall's criminality from 1861/2. Yet still! 150yrs on, there maintains a belief widely advocated that Ben Hall was some unfortunate soul wrongfully badgered by police, usurped by a drunk in conjunction with being emotionally tortured and forsaken by the actions of an unfaithful wife! Poppycock. Remember! Ben Hall engaged in lawless activities, voluntarily pulling those triggers, and abused his prisoners. Even today, the Hall family maintains that the fall from grace was attributed to Sir Fredrick Pottinger... Please!

However, the one thing Hall fully understood was that he required protection. In consequence of that need, at various times, Hall portrayed the beau ideal of a bushranger as his mentor Gardiner had done, i.e. polite to women and magnanimous to travellers when it pleased him. Travellers who, of course, loved to have a revolver shoved in their face and humiliated as their valuables were stolen. Accordingly, Ben Hall’s ransacking continued with vigour. Therefore, when next in company with John O’Meally and Patsy Daley. Ben Hall would participate in another daring violent exploit. With guns blazing and bullets flying, Hall and his two companions would capture and attempt to gun down a police inspector and hunt a blacktracker.

John Oxley Norton.

Private Source.
Never Before Published.
On the 1st of March 1863, Police Inspector Norton, along with the wily well-spoken, highly intelligent police tracker Billy Dargin was patrolling through the Wheogo area very close to Sandy Creek and Pinnacle Station when they were approached at first by two men on horseback, then a third armed villain appeared. The event and outcome are narrated by Inspector Norton in his own words:

I was proceeding through the neighbourhood of Wheogo, accompanied by a black tracker, each of us leading a horse; about 9 o'clock I saw two men riding, about 500 yards before us, one of whom had a lead horse, and the other a gun on his thigh; I beckoned to the tracker, who was on the hill opposite, and he came down; on nearing the men, they made off; we followed them for some distance into the scrub, and got off, and then fired on them; we then returned to our horses, to pick up our lead horses, and, on preparing to start, saw them again watching us; we followed them again, and fired on them, when, finding our horses unable to overtake them, we returned to some huts, and remained there for twenty minutes or half an hour; seeing no more of them, I thought it advisable to go to the police station to get some men, who were to have met us in the neighbourhood, to follow them; about three or four miles from those huts, the black fellow called out that there were three men coming up behind us; they were so near that I could hear them; I could hear them shouting, "Bail-up," evidently with the intention of stopping us; the black fellow passed me and left his lead horse; I dropped mine also and turned round, and, on seeing me do so, the tracker stood at about fifty yards distance.

"The three men were scattered at about 100 yards apart, one on each side of the road, and one near the road; the man on the left side advanced within eighty yards of me, and then commenced firing; the man on the left charged and fired a double-barrelled gun; I cannot swear to the man on the right firing his rifle, but he fired a revolver; the man I supposed to be O'Meally took up his position about eighty yards from me; Hall and the prisoner a little farther off; O'Meally cried out, "Throw up your arms," repeatedly; they then commenced firing with revolvers; we fired several return shots; they might have fired fifteen or eighteen shots; my ammunition was then expended, and O'Meally with Hall rode up to me; the latter presented a revolver at me, while O'Meally and Daley ran after the black-fellow, and fired after him; after a few minutes, Hall rode up to me, and said that they had nothing against, me and that I might go.

"Hall spoke of a trooper named Hollister, who had threatened to shoot him, and that he would return the compliment when he got hold of him; Hall returned me a revolver which he said was no good to him; he spoke of Sir Frederick Pottinger; how Sir Frederick had brought him several times into Forbes, and had him remanded from time to time, until really the magistrates were inclined to believe that there was some charge against him, and those, with him; that it was his opinion that Sir Frederick detained them till he could make up a case; Hall referred also to the case of young Walsh who was then suffering in the lock-up, as he had suffered before; I asked for my horse, and he said that I could take them; but he inquired if there was anything particular in the swag on one of them; I told him there was nothing of any consequence; the three detained a Government revolver, a Government carbine which the black-fellow had dropped, a Government saddle and bridle, and the horse on which the black-fellow rode, remarking that they would shoot the horse, and so teach people not to lend horses to policemen; the man who I supposed to be O'Meally, said to me, "you had better not give our description when you return to town"; they then rode round, and picked up their discharged arms, and cleared off; I cannot swear positively that the prisoner is one of the men.

"I never saw O'Meally but once before, and the prisoner never but on that occasion; I could not have been close to the prisoner more than three or four minutes; Hall was the one who was in conversation with me, and whom I would swear positively to; the names were given to me by the black-fellow as Hall, Daley, and O'Meally; O'Meally was dressed differently to the prisoner, the hat is exactly like what I have seen Daley wear; have seen the prisoner twice since he was apprehended, and I identify him so far as that to the best of my belief he is the man; I will not swear positively to him; while the others were away Hall fed his horse at a distance from me; I was unarmed, and he had a revolver in his belt and a gun in his hand; I did not care to go near him; he looked as if keeping guard.

Note: Why would Ben Hall want to kill Hollister if he was innocent of participation in the Pinnacle robbery?

Artists impression of
Billy fleeing after
Norton capture.
c. 1933.

Billy Dargin, with his commander captured ammunition expended, soon had two of the men hot on his tail. After some verbal exchanges with the pursuing bushrangers, the tracker managed to escape the affray on foot and was lucky to get away in one piece.  The pursuit lasted some minutes before O'Meally and Daley returned to Hall. Billy made it to the Pinnacle Police station some three miles from some gold miners' Pinnacle huts and got word by a rider to Forbes of Norton's predicament. A newspaper article covered the events of Billy's actions in attempting to save his leader:

Billy, the black, being the only person with him at the time, escaped and had arrived without his horse.⁵⁹ 

Dargin reported too:

Constable Hogan who immediately sent word to Forbes telegraphed the particulars to Captain M'Lerie. Six mounted constables were immediately dispatched from Forbes to the assistance of Mr Norton and on Monday afternoon twenty mounted troopers and twelve-foot police left Sydney by the five o'clock train for the Wedden Mountains with the same object in view. A further detachment followed in the course of yesterday.⁶⁰ 

However, it may have been wishful thinking to train out the Sydney police as the rail line ended at Penrith. From Penrith, it would be a week's hard ride to reach Forbes. Years after Norton's brush with Hall, Mr George Boyd, then a new recruit to the NSW police force, reminisced over Norton's capture and the scramble in Sydney to send troopers ASAP into the field to capture the trio. The Sun, Monday 19th August 1912:

Very short space had passed when the new recruit found himself actively involved in the general excitement resulting from a long succession of bold and successful outrages. "We had only been at the depot a few weeks," said the ex-sergeant, during a chat at his pleasant home at Windsor, "when we were called to the front. To speak exactly, we had been in training just seven weeks when the startling news arrived of the capture of Superintendent Norton by [sic] Ben Hall. That news threw the barracks into a tumult. With it came an urgent appeal for reinforcements. There were all the available police engaged in the hunt of the outlaws already, but they were not nearly enough. And there were very few men at the depot, even including the recruits. But Superintendent Black got together a company of 22 of us, nearly all raw recruits, and we started for the scene of war. We got off the mark very promptly. I believe we were all in the train with our horses and equipment, inside an hour. "The railway at that time went only as far as Penrith. It took us three days to get to Bathurst and we were all in the highest spirits possible, at the near prospect of excitement. But disappointment awaited us at the new headquarters. We learnt with satisfaction that the bushrangers had released Norton, unharmed. But it did not sort well with our desires to distinguish ourselves to hear that the outlaws had absolutely disappeared, no one knowing within a few hundred miles where they were working.

George Boyd arrived in Australia in 1862 from Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, Ireland, joining the NSW police in February 1863 as a Supernumerary. He served for 44 yrs retiring in 1907 as an Snr Sgt and passed away at Windsor in 1923.

Ben Hall's capture of Inspector Norton and his attempted murder created widespread consternation and embarrassment for the NSW Police. Again in the colonies' eyes, the police actions demonstrated the bushrangers ability when equipped with superior horses and weapons in conjunction with their local knowledge of the landscape highlighted their ability to evade capture. Providing insight into what was becoming for the outback inhabitants an everyday occurrence. However, in a postscript from 'Bell’s Life in Sydney and Sporting Chronicle' after the release of Inspector Norton, it revealed that if Norton had been Sir Frederick Pottinger, then the outcome may have been Pottinger's spilt blood:

Sir Fred. Pottinger has just arrived. I forgot that Mr Norton was told that had he been Pottinger, they would have "shot him dead as a crow." There's a consolation for Sir Fred. Pottinger.⁶¹

Ben Hall's pursuers
promotions in March 1863.
On the news reaching Forbes, the townsfolk were stunned by the bushrangers' audacious actions and Norton's plight. Leading citizens promptly resolved to attempt a rescue of Inspector Norton; On the 7th March 1863, a Bell’s Life in Sydney and Sporting Chronicle, article highlighted how the citizens were fed up with the freebooters and their ongoing indiscriminate atrocities. The paper commented that only through atrocious shooting by Ben Hall or great luck on the Inspector's side that Ben Hall did not shoot dead the disarmed police inspector, regardless of who Ben Hall thought Norton was. Demonstrating that Ben Hall was not only willing to pull the trigger but was willing to kill in cold blood:

The town was in a very excited state, many being anxious to be going, not only to release Mr Norton, but to use every exertion to get rid of this lawless banditti, and in a few minutes there were nearly 100 names down, and all were to meet the next morning, each bringing what arms he best could. At the appointed time crowds of determined storekeepers, miners, and others were in attendance, each one ready and willing to enter with spirit and resolution upon the enterprise, when, to the astonishment of the multitude, up rode Mr Norton safe and sound; he stated that they kept him for about three hours, during which time some of them wanted to shoot him, and one more determined than the rest, of the name of Ben Hall, did while he was a prisoner actually fire at him several shots, but still he came off free; but he was cautioned by the band of ruffians that if he showed himself any more in that quarter, he would not come off in a like manner. They took his horse and arms but LENT him another to ride into Forbes with. Directly after the return of Inspector Norton, it was announced outside the Court House that the Volunteers would not be required. The J. P. was thankful for the spirit and loyalty displayed by the people. The gallant Captain Browne was to lead the volunteers, who felt every confidence in their leader; but after that announcement of course the matter was dropped.

As the town was preparing the rescue, Norton unharmed rode in and quickly fired off a telegram to the Inspector-General telling of his situation and safe return:

Forbes, 3rd March, 5 10 p.m. I am just returned here in safety and have not been wounded. I was detained about three hours on Sunday morning. I surrendered to the bushrangers after having expended all my ammunition; having been surrounded by them, with their revolvers presented at me. The men I took with me, did not meet me at the place appointed, according to agreement the previous evening, consequently, I had only the blacktracker with me.⁶²

Norton released, and only his pride damaged, Sir Frederick Pottinger, no doubt tired of the continued ridicule by sections of the media was out for blood and while on patrol was riding in proximity to the scene of Norton's encounter when the loyal Billy Dargin brought to Sir Frederick's attention the spot where Ben Hall had attempted to kill Norton. On dismounting, the Inspector examined the tree where Hall's bullets had struck, noting how narrowly it had missed Norton's head:

On Wednesday morning last, whilst Sir Frederick Pottinger with Billy, the black tracker, and some of the mounted police were out in the neighbourhood of the suspected bushrangers, near the Wedden Mountains, the tracker detected fresh footprints of a horse crossing the path Sir Frederick and his party were pursuing and directing the master's attention to the circumstances Sir Frederick turned his course in the direction of the tracks. Billy soon pointed out the identical spot which had afforded such friendly protection to J. O. Norton, the sub-inspector of police. Frederick Pottinger descended from his horse and minutely examined the tree, and found the imprint of two large bullets, one of which must have strayed just over the head of Mr Norton, as he was described to have stood by the tree, and the other nearly at the level with his chest.⁶³

In the meantime, with Norton's safe return, convicted Eugowra Escort robbers Manns and Bow awaited their fate with the gallows. As Manns and Bow sat on death row and Fordyce's death sentence commuted to life, the good citizens of Sydney were appealing through various petitions for the commuting of their death sentences to life. Furthermore, the newspapers were still doubtful regarding the evidence of Daniel Charters and for the first time came out and named Benjamin Hall and John O'Meally as being members of the gang involved in the Eugowra Gold robbery of June 1862. The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser, 17th March 1863; 

Considerable exertion is being made to save the lives of the culprits, Bow and Manns, now lying under sentence of death in Darlinghurst gaol. It appears pretty certain, that when Chartres, the approver, was first taken into custody, with Ben Hall and O'Meally, they were all three charged with the escort robbery. Chartres, however, in taking advantage of turning approver, declared that neither Hall nor O'Meally had anything to do with the robbery, it is now pretty clear that these two were present and took part in the robbery, and that Chartres obtained their release by declaring that they were not concerned in it; but gave evidence against Bow, Fordyce, Manns, and Maguire, who were then at large. These facts, it is understood, will be brought before the Executive.

Horse Theft.
With 'The Boys' now plundering at will through the goldfield districts of Lambing Flat and Forbes, the sensational Eugowra Escort trial and 'Special Commission' into bushranging concluded in Sydney. However, it was widely rumoured that a message purportedly to have been relayed through Billy Dargin by the three bushrangers to the government, politely informing them that Norton would hang if any execution were forthcoming for their mates:

Inspector Norton was taken yesterday (Sunday) by fourteen bushrangers, between Lambing Flat and Forbes. It is supposed that his captors are Gardiner and his gang. A black tracker has forwarded to the telegraph station a statement informing the authorities that if the men sentenced in Sydney were executed Norton would be hanged. He is planted in the bush. A meeting has been called to consider the matter in the camp reserve this evening.⁶⁴ 

Luckily for the townsfolk of Forbes and Norton. Hall, O’Meally and Daley failed to carry out this dire threat. However, they hung Manns. A few days later, the purported threat regarding Norton's hanging was put into perspective in the ‘Goulburn Herald’, of Saturday 7th March 1863. As was popular when the writer laced his word with a hint of ridicule directed at the police:

Then poor Norton was to be hung as high as Haman or as Gilderoy, if the executive dared to send the escort robbers to the scaffold. The government, as is usual, were fairly frightened out of their wits, and as if capturing a policeman was any worse than capturing anyone else, they sent off no less than thirty-five head of police for the scene of action, leaving Sydney, where, after all, is said and done, there is far more crime than in the interior, comparatively unprotected. Of course, the whole affair is a gross exaggeration, and the real facts were of the very tamest. There was no theatrical combat, no broadswords, no Long Tom Coffin, no harpoon, no toasting-fork, no eucalyptus, no seeking of shades below. The fact simply was that the acting-sub was out with only a black-boy, when he fell in with some bushrangers--or they fell in with him and as they were superior in number, he was taken prisoner, kept for three hours, and then let go. He certainly says he used all his ammunition; if he did he must be a doosid bad shot not to kill or maim some of his foes, and they must have had more forbearance than they ever yet have got credit for not to have retaliated. There is a report here that he was well treated by the bushrangers. It will be seen that on hearing of his capture the government at once promoted Mr Norton, who is now a full instead of an acting- sub-inspector. Rather a curious inducement to hold out to Sir Pottinger and other policemen, eh.

Ben Hall would continue in the attempt to kill men.

Fred Lowry.
Leaving the Norton confrontation behind them. Within days a new gang member suddenly appeared in the Lachlan area. On the 8th March 1863, the 'Burrangong Star' reported that Frederick Lowry (Frederick McGregor) had arrived. Lowry had been interned with the gang's former leader Frank Gardiner at Cockatoo Island. Lowry arrived in the Lambing Flat area after recently breaking out of Bathurst Gaol in February 1863. 'Empire' 21st February 1863:

No reliable information has yet been received of the movements of Lowry, the ruffian who appears to have run through the town in daylight under the eyes of hundreds of people and to have left no traces behind him as to the particular direction he has taken. Rumours are afloat, but we give them no credit. Some have already lifted him into a hero. He is represented, at eleven miles distance from Bathurst on his way towards the Abercrombie Mountains as being accouted with revolvers and the usual appendages; and in possession of one animal equal to Turpin's Black Bess. 

Lowry was being held over the serious wounding of a Mr Foran in a scuffle at a race meeting at the Brisbane Valley situated near the Fish River's head, where some 100 persons had been in attendance. Outrage with Fire-arms, Bathurst Free Press, Jan. 3: 

On New Year's day races were held at a place called Brisbane Valley, near the head of the Fish River Creek. Among the parties present, it appears, there were two men for whom the police have been some time on the look-out, and whose names are, respectively, Lowrie and Foley. After the races, the prizes having been paid, the man Lowrie attempted to bail up the persons present. Two, however, refused to go into the house, when Lowry fired upon them. The ball grazed the cheek of one of the race visitors, and struck a horse that stood close by, on the hip. A young man named Foran then rushed at Lowrie, when the latter immediately fired, and shot the poor young fellow through the right lung. Dr. Eaton, who was sent for, is of opinion that the ball is lodged in the region of the spine. Notwithstanding that Foran was thus wounded, he sprang at once upon the villain, and was enabled to hold him; till other assistance coming forward he was effectually secured. The police at Bathurst, having received information, at once proceeded in the direction of the scene of the outrage We trust these daring men, who have so long been a terror to the neighbouring localities, will not have made their escape before the arrival of the police. 

Lowry sought out his former convict mate following his freedom, but on Gardiner having departed, he seconded himself to the remaining gang. As reported: 

On Tuesday a man was stuck-up and robbed of 12s 6d on the Marengo Road, by a bushranger dressed in a poncho, supposed by his height, (about 6 ft 2 in), to be Frederick Lowry, who escaped out of the Bathurst gaol on the 15th of last month, for whose apprehension the Government have offered a reward of £100. On reference to the Government Gazette we perceive by his description that he is 6 feet 1 or 2 inches high.

Ben Hall cruised the Wheogo area safe without fear or favour, knowing that his old friends and family were at hand for aid and comfort. A newspaper even alluded to Hall as being a well to do squatter committing robberies, including his convict heritage, February 1863:

Most of the atrocities committed, the police have good reasons for believing, are committed, not by needy marauders, but by well-to-do settlers, the excrement of the old convict population.

Hall's power instilled fear for those outside his inner circle. a fear displayed on behalf of Margaret Feehily, the widowed sister of Hall's once closest friend Daniel Charters. (There is no doubt that Hall and Charters maintained some contact well after the Escort trials.) The occasion was a reprimand of Pinnacle staff who had attempted to blame the bushrangers' feet for squandering provisions and booze circa 1863. Many years later, the Freeman's Journal published a letter sent in 1889 by a person who referred to himself as Viator. He described the encounter at the Pinnacle public-house during a journey he undertook in 1863 when the coach he was travelling on came into contact with Ben Hall, Gilbert, and O'Meally. Extract from the "Freeman's Journal" Saturday 23rd November 1889:  

I relate the following incident to show how at that time the bushrangers comprising Ben Hall, Vane, Gilbert and O'Meally cared very little for the police, but kept on good terms with the residents of the parts they frequented. I left Lambing Flat diggings by Greig's coach, which started at 4 in the morning, to go to the Lachlan goldfield about 90 miles distant. The coach being full, the agent allowed me to ride on the rack with the mail-bags, with strict injunctions to hold well on to the ropes. It was well he did, for some portions of the road were laid down with logs from 12 to 18 inches thick, and when the coach came on to these the effect was anything but exhilarating. First a terrible shock, and then a continued bump, bump, bump for perhaps hundreds of yards. These parts were called "corduroys," and were a rough and-ready way of making a road passable over bogs and swamps until other improvements could be effected. The stages were from 12 to 15 miles apart, and in the afternoon we reached the last but one before we came to the township, and it being a public-house, most of the passengers got down, and so did I, to stretch my legs. And when I did I noticed something unusual going on in the yard adjoining the inn.

There were four men on horseback, two standing, seemingly stable men or rouse-abouts, and a woman who I heard was the landlady. I did not know them but heard after we started that the four men were Ben Hall and his mates, and the reason of their visitation at that time was the following:— The landlady, who was a widow, had a week or so before gone to Forbes to settle some business affairs, and was away for two or three days, during which period it appears that the man she left in charge of the bar, etc., etc, had started drinking, with the result that the yardman and groom and neighbours, and in fact all hands who came along, had joined in the spree, and the quantity of liquor consumed as well as provisions was something enormous, especially as there was very little money to show that any had been paid for. So, at their wits' end for an excuse, the two principals agreed to swear to the landlady on her return that it was the bushrangers had come and helped themselves.- She, who was always friendly to them, happened to tell this to one who informed Ben Hall, who came over and made the real culprits confess their guilt. At that time they stuck up no one on the coach nor any one in the house. But it was a well-known fact that they never did stick up many of the places on this line of road, and it was the general opinion that they were afforded valuable information as to the movements of the police by a very large proportion of the residents in these localities in consequence. As I looked at them over the gate I noticed that the spokesman was a rather tall robust-looking man, with a fine frank-looking face, and wore a high felt hat and cord breeches and top boots — that was Ben Hall. A slight, fair man, looking like a, horse-trainer, had a slight, fair moustache and cabbage-tree hat, breeches and boots, and had one leg-crossed over the pummel of the saddle, listening to what was said — that was Gilbert. While a very dark, determined-looking man with deep set eyes, who was looking down, seemingly brooding over something, was Vane. A young, flash, rowdy-looking young follow with keen flashing eyes, who was looking at the two men standing with no pleasant countenance, was O'Meally. At this time there were between 30 and 40 mounted police at Forbes, only a few miles distant, under Sir Frederick Pottinger.

Henry Zouch.
c. 1880's.
Nevertheless, shortly after the capture of Inspector Norton, the NSW government moved to acquire the former hotel, which doubled as a home of the family of John O'Meally's and a notorious meeting place of the Weddin criminals. The O'Meally's had sold Arramagong earlier and were illegal squatters. However, the family had continued to live at Arramagong. The police's goal was to create a police station in the heart of the Weddin Mountains with easy access to the haunts of the bushrangers and their harbourers. There was widespread approval for the government's move, and The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser on the 11th March 1863, supported the action; 

The government appear to be vigorously carrying out their plans for the suppression of bushranging in the south-western district. We hear that O'Mealy's farm has been taken possession of for a police-station. If a few more of these resorts of bushrangers were served in a similar manner the roads about Lambing Flat and Forbes would again assume a state of order, and once the criminal population were dispersed they would find it difficult to gather themselves together in any other part of the colony.

Captain Zouch proceeded to instill his troopers there, although the house was reportedly in some disrepair. Therefore, the Captain requested £20 to have some work carried out repairing the building’s roof; The 'Burrangong Star', 11th March 1863 wrote the following:

We understand that Captain Zouch intended on his journey to form a police station at O'Mealy's station (at the Weddin Mountain), ejecting by orders of the government, him and his family, thus breaking up that rendezvous for bushrangers and their accomplices. The Captain returned yesterday afternoon to the camp. 

O'Meally's holdings Weddin
Mountains. c. 1863.
The altercation with Inspector Norton and the increased efforts of the police patrols brought another but a rare positive comment from the Lachlan Miner: 

It is very satisfactory to know that we are really receiving some benefits, in exchange for the money expended by the government in sending up extra police to look after us. The Lambing Flat road is well patrolled; the neighbourhood of Wheogo, and Weddin Mountain is rendered safe to travellers and dangerous to bushrangers.⁶⁵

However, the advocated safe period for the police was short term. During the lull, Hall appeared to have retreated to his former stockman's haunts out in the back-country of the Bland Plains and camped around Lake Cowal and Humbug Creek. Areas which Hall knew intimately. In this wild country, Hall had maintained many friends. Hall's Bland haunt was described as:

The most picturesque part, of the Bland plains — viz., the intervening space between east and west Bland. The Humbug Mountain to the west impresses me with the notion that I am on the verge of a wilderness, the steep ravines and huge granite rocks form such a striking contrast to the peaceful-looking green sward, dotted with lovely pools of water, on the Back creek winding through the plains. Turkeys and wildfowl are plentiful, and there is often good sport in seasons like this.

Hall would not have lacked for grub while secreted at Humbug. The area was also the current residence of his former wife, Bridget and her lover James Taylor, residing at Alice Gibson station and, best of all, his three and a half-year-old son Henry. If Hall had seen his young son, there is no evidence, suffice to say as a father, and the opportunity arose, no doubt Hall would have apprised the chance. Presumably a fearful time for Taylor.

Furthermore, as well as the Bland, it came to light that Hall often appeared at his former home of Sandy Creek, where his latest child Mary and her mother Susan Prior continued to live. However, events at Sandy Creek would shortly alter to disastrous, culminating in a confrontation with Pottinger and his troop. As Hall and the gang had dropped off the radar, elements in the press had attempted to paint Sir Frederick Pottinger and his men as being a law unto themselves. Much criticism from many quarters of the region was directed at Pottinger, who dismissed any notion of unfairness and wreaked havoc against anyone suspected of sympathies toward the bushranging fraternity.

Therefore, the press ran emotional stories in the newspapers of widespread evictions and brutality! This, of course, was exaggerated, although Pottinger could be heavy-handed in his dealings with the Cockatoo squatters. These cockatoo squatters were recipients of the Robinson Land Act of 1861, which gave the poor man an opportunity to take up land, from 40 to 640 acres at 5/- per acre down, balance 15/- per acre, carrying interest at 5 per cent; no interest payable for the first three years, but like all good things it was greatly abused. Dummyism (The practice of purchasing land for another person who is not legally entitled to do so.) and corruption were rampant, and many of the smallholdings reverted back to the big landholders.

Pottinger's antagonism amongst the less well off squatter was to reach the corridors of power in Sydney, often dividing Macquarie Street's power brokers. However, any criticism of Pottinger reinforced his defence to maintain a position of strength by wielding the law to the fullest. Pottinger was in no way an advocate nor a fan of leniency nor compassion. Pottinger's hard-line stance was demonstrated when a subordinate, Constable Hassen, was charged with killing a man in police custody. Sir Frederick was called a character witness for the constable; 'Goulburn Herald', January 1863:

Boyd never the less put himself in an attitude as if about to strike; on which Hassen fired Boyd fell mortally wounded. He died about noon. The jury by a majority of 7 to 9, returned a verdict of justifiable homicide. Sir Frederick Pottinger gave Hassen a good character and said that there had been only one charge against him since he had been in the police force, and that was for excessive leniency.⁶⁶

Newspaper's such as the Empire (1850-1875) had an editorial flair that appeared to garner support to the sympathisers and harbourers of bushrangers. The paper often censured the police over their perceived brutality towards the smaller, less well to do settlers who provided a helping hand for a gratuity from the hunted. Those sympathisers were noted as:  

His parents, his brothers and sisters, uncles and aunts and cousins for all sorts of assistance. It was from amongst his innumerable relations and their close friends that the 'bush telegraphs,' who kept him aware of the movements of the police, were recruited, and the system of intelligence that served such gangs as those of Frank Gardiner and Ben Hall was highly organised and tremendously effective, even though, as has been said, the bushrangers were expected to pay for it 'through the nose.⁶⁷

On the other hand, some more conservative newspapers like the Sydney Morning Herald viewed the troubles and difficulties faced by Sir Frederick Pottinger more sympathetically. The root of those difficulties was a continued 'Cone of Silence' employed by many inhabitants. Therefore, the more conservative papers judged the inspector far more fairly, such as, 'The Courier' Brisbane:

 There is nothing in the fact that he wears a title which places his official acts beyond the pale of honest and impartial criticism, but we have yet to learn that it constitutes him a butt for every bilious, ill-natured scribbler, who loves to shine in print. Fiat justitia ruet coelum ("Let justice be done though the heavens fall."). Let Sir Frederick Pottinger, like every other public man, be dealt with upon his merits. Above all, let the truth be spoken of him, and when the occasion is one of sufficient gravity, by all means, employ the language of censure and condemnation, as unreservedly in his as in any other case. Persecution we detest, and have small respect for that class of scribblers who hound a man down for fashion's sake.⁶⁸

Nonetheless, under the spotlight of numerous failures, in particular, Frank Gardiner. Sir Frederick Pottinger was hungry for success. Just one victory would do, and for a brief moment, Pottinger’s luck bore fruit. Sir Frederick's Pottinger's instinct's regarding the Weddin Mountains/Pinnacle/Wheogo areas as a continuous haven for bushrangers, including Ben Hall's previous run at Sandy Creek and his former in-laws at Wheogo as well as the nearby Feehily's Pinnacle Station were places Pottinger considered his best opportunity to 'nail the bastards'. The Pinnacle bordered the same name's range with its outlying miner's huts and a heavily wooded scrubland. Pottinger's dogged patrolling paid off.

On Wednesday 11th March 1863, Sir Frederick, in company with some troopers and the tracker Billy Dargin, were out in the bushrangers' neighbourhood between Wheogo Range (not confused with Wheogo Hill) and Pinnacle Mountains. Traversing the beaten track, the tracker detected fresh hoof prints of a horse crossing their path near Maguire's reef. Billy Dargin directed Sir Frederick's attention to them; 'Sydney Morning Herald' dated the 17th March 1863:

Sir Frederick turned his course in the direction of the tracks. Billy soon pointed out the identical tree which had afforded such friendly protection to Mr, J. O. Norton, the sub-inspector of police. Sir Frederick Pottinger was directing his course again, when he espied in the distance, through the foliage of the trees in the bush, a mounted horseman, and at once gave orders for pursuit. The party were now in the vicinity of the Pinnacle reef, and, first of all ordering two of his troopers to make round the hill, on which the reef is situated, in order to intercept the flight of the horseman, Sir Frederick, with the black tracker and the two remaining troopers, continued the chase. All this was done in less time than it takes to write, and very shortly afterward Sir Frederick pulled up before some deserted-looking huts and found a horse, with a saddle on it, tied up to one of the huts. 

He at once recognised the horse to be one he had seen the night before in Ben Hall's paddock, "all in a sweat." to use the baronet's own language. The black-fellow also recognised a pair of girths on the horse as being a portion of the property stolen from the Police Barracks, at the Pinnacle station, on the occasion of that place being stuck up and robbed during the temporary absence of the police, shortly before. Entering the huts, Sir Frederick saw two or three men inside, and finding them unwilling to answer his questions, he threatened them, where upon he was informed that the rider of the horse was down a shaft on the reef above named.

Proceeding to the place indicated, Sir Frederick found that the shaft was about sixty feet deep, and that a permanent kind of ladder was fixed to the side, for ascent and descent. Sir Frederick called to the man (presuming him to be there) to surrender, but received no answer. Again, after an interval, the same request was repeated, but met with no response. After several minutes, the supposed bushranger was again summoned to appear, without eliciting any reply. At length, finding mild exhortations insufficient, Sir Frederick threatened that he would at once proceed to burn and smoke him out like an opossum.

The man not liking the latter alternative, surrendered at discretion, and was immediately taken into custody. It is obvious that if the notorious Gardiner selects such innocent looking striplings to execute the deeds generally left to men of sterner stuff, it must be for some new arrangement in bush tactics, such as the human telegram hinted at by a contemporary. Patrick Daley, who forms the subject of this sketch, is a mild, youthful whiskerless looking person, with light-blue eyes and fair complexion. There is nothing in his physiognomical expression outwardly, to denote the degraded villain. He certainly, during the examination, kept his head down, glancing furtively round. His eyes move quickly and, with a sinister expression, as if were in the habit of looking under his eyebrow and "taking stock" of those around him. Sir Frederick Pottinger undoubtedly deserves great credit for his prompt action and discernment in this matter; and doubtless, he is willing to accord is portion of the merit to the acute sight of his black tracker. [prisoner was brought before the Forbes bench on the 12th instant, and remanded for a week."]

Patrick Daley's,
prison photo

A chuffed Sir Frederick presented his catch in the Police Court at Forbes on the 24th March 1863. Here the loyal and brave tracker Billy Dargin gave evidence about Daley's involvement with Hall and O'Meally in Inspector Norton's kidnapping. However, Aboriginal Billy's grasp of the court's legalities and proceedings was questioned by the legal eagles. However, after some deliberation by the magistrate, Mr D. W. Irving, J.P. regarding Billy Dargin's understanding of an Oath, the police tracker was asked about his own knowledge of the oath procedure and replied: 

That he believed in another world, and that he would be punished if he told a lie.⁶⁹ 

Moreover in answer to another question on the procedure Dargin stated; 

He could not exactly describe the meaning of an oath, although he had heard of the Testament and believed in telling the truth, Billy answered all the questions put to him with an amount of intelligence quite surprising.⁷⁰

It is woefully wrong to assume that Dargin was some illiterate darky, where in fact, he was actually far more educated than Ben Hall.

The Bench, satisfied with Billy's understanding, decided to hear his statement without swearing him in. Dargin was then called to give his testimony and stated:

He was employed in the police force; He was twenty years of age and was baptised twelve years ago, at Windsor, by the Rev Mr Styles. Knew the prisoner before the Court. Some called him "Jonny” and some "Patsy Daley.

Dargin continued: 

Was with Mr Norton on the Sunday morning, about a month ago, when near Wheogo, or about three miles from there, they were stuck up by three men. The prisoner was one of them; Ben Hall and John O’Meally were the two others. On the morning, we started from Wheogo, we passed Mr Walsh's along the road, close to M'Guire's home. We saw two men riding along—one leading a horse. The two men had a gun on each thigh. They did not seem to be troopers. Mr Norton told them to come along and follow him. The prisoner was one of them, and John O’Meally was the other; Ben Hall was not there then, coming back met Ben Hall between the house and the paddock. Made a charge at him, pursuing him to the corner of the paddock. Fired once at him. Mr Norton then said we must go for more troopers. Rode on about three miles, and then told Mr Norton that the three men were coming to bail them up. The men did come up, and sang out, "Bail up." The prisoner Daley was over to the left, Ben Hall was behind, and John, O’Meally was to the right, behind a little. Mr Norton was in the middle, and witness was in a clear space about twenty yards from Mr Norton. Mr Norton fired all his charges, and then gave himself up; Did not like to stop and be killed, so prepared to gallop away. John O’Meally then fired, a double-barrelled gun, one barrel was discharged at Mr Norton, and the other at witness. Mr Norton was on foot, standing alongside a tree; witness was, also off his horse at the time, twenty yards from Mr Norton. About thirty shots were fired altogether. Saw the prisoner Daley fire at Mr Norton. Mr Norton gave himself up to John O'Meally. The other two then followed witness; and chased him for a mile and a half; Ben Hall fired at Mr Norton as he passed by."

"Ben Hall then charged witness, and ordered him to bail up against a tree; said—he would see them d--d first. Witness then jumped off his horse and taking up a pistol he had thrown upon the ground, threw it at Ben Hall, hitting him on the jaw; Ben Hall then called out to Daley to come on with his revolvers. By the Bench: The pistol struck Ben Hall on the right ear. Prisoner Daley; was engaged loading two revolvers. Ben Hall called out, come on with the revolvers. Young O’Meally then came up and gave one of his revolvers to Ben Hall. Witness then took off his boots, leggings, and coat, and run off, throwing sticks at his pursuers the whole time. They, chased him in this manner for eight-miles, firing all the way, till they got near the Pinnacle Mountain. They told him they would "whollop" him to death with sticks; witness replied, he would like to have a chance with him; he would forgive them if they killed him with sticks. They then went under the Pinnacle, and picked up some small pebble stones and fired them at witness. The prisoner Daley said, "I like you, you white livered scoundrel. “Witness in reply told Daley, "He would like him better if he would get off his horse. Afterwards asked them if they would go to the Pinnacle, and he would shout for them. Ben Hall said, "Well, old man, you're a plucky one, and we'll let you off, but we'll stick up your barracks to-night." They then went off to the Pinnacle—To the Bench "Am certain the prisoner is the same man who was with Ben Hall when the police barracks were stuck up. Followed them at that time, with Prince Charlie and trooper Hollister. Chased them for three miles and a half, and should have taken them but for Hollister getting thrown from his horse through running against a tree. Saw the prisoner Daley snap his revolver three times at Charlie. —To Sir Frederick Pottinger: Can swear that prisoner is one of the three men who stuck up Mr Norton, and likewise to being the same we chased with the trooper Hollister. —To the Bench. Identified the prisoner directly when he was taken into custody by Sir Frederick Pottinger.

(This account, although slightly embellished, confuses Ben Hall with O'Meally, as Norton stated under oath that Ben Hall guarded him as well as a shot at him whilst Daley and O'Meally conducted the short chase of the Blacktracker Dargin.) (For Dargin's story, see The Traps page at

John Wilson, mate of
Sir Frederick and
John Maguire.
Daley captured, Ben Hall endeavoured to avoid the reach of Pottinger's new and enthusiastic efforts and shifted his revolvers further south. Consequently, at Sandy Creek, current events continued to spiral from disastrous to catastrophic for Ben Hall. First, however, Forbes publican John Wilson the new leaseholder of the Sandy Creek station was frustrated over Ben Hall's former home being inhabited by Susan Prior’s family. The residence housed Susan Prior, her siblings and mother, Mary Prior, Ben’s older brother William and wife Ann and their two children.

Consequently, Wilson was pressured by Sir Frederick Pottinger to have them all evicted. Correspondingly, moves had been afoot in the NSW Legislature as early as 1861 to remove rent defaulters and undesirables from leased Crown Lands. During 1861, Ben Hall held legal tenure over Sandy Creek. However, following the passing of the Crown Lands Occupation Act of 1861, it became the prerequisite for Pottinger to act. The Act, due to Hall's criminal activity, covered the lease of Sandy Creek, ultimately taken up by Wilson in late 1862. A factor in Hall's loss was created by Hall's inability to sign the lease transfer to Wilson and pay any rent arrears to the government.

In early March 1863, instructions were provided to a Mr Crosby of the Lands office to prefer information against certain persons to the police at Forbes for unlawfully occupying Crown Land. This list included Ben Hall’s homestead. Hall's hut would be one of the first to suffer the forthcoming arbitrary ejections in the Lachlan District as set out under section 32 of the Act, which stated in part:

On being satisfied of the truth thereof, either by the admission of the person informed against or on other sufficient evidence such Justices shall issue their warrant addressed to the Commissioner of Crown Lands or to any Chief or District Constable or other proper officer requiring him forthwith to dispossess and remove such person from such land and to take possession of the same. (See Sources page.)

The Act was seized upon by Pottinger as legality to conduct the eviction of those living in Hall's former home. It's subsequent incineration as a harbourers stronghold.

Therefore, the final straw in the breaking of Ben Hall played out. Under instructions from John Wilson and protected under the Crown Lands Act 1861 to remove undesirables, Sir Frederick Pottinger incinerated Ben Hall's former home, leaving the occupants and Hall's baby daughter, Mary, homeless. Hall's latest child Mary was born at Sandy Creek in January 1863. Nevertheless, the incineration of the home had a mother and her baby cast out into inclement weather. The action caused much angst among Hall's closest friends and large landholders, such as William Jameison of Back Creek Station.

Regardless, Sir Frederick Pottinger concluded that Ben Hall's ex-home was still a light on the hill as a place of safety and respite for the elusive bushranger and others for whom the inspector had so long sought and where aid and comfort were being provided. Pottinger had a particular if a not prejudiced view of those reportedly trespassing on an acquaintances' land and of those people he was damned sure was involved in criminal activity. Where-from, his lofty perspective of Baronet, they were people who Pottinger considered 'low character'.

The forthcoming destruction of Ben Hall's home demonstrated that Sir Frederick Pottinger intended to bring to heel those he termed of 'low character' or that 'Class of People' who employed a 'Cone of Silence' when dealing with the inspector. Therefore the message was that the police were not to be impeded but obeyed. Following the incineration of Hall's hut, as instructed by Pottinger, a memorandum regarding the justification of his actions was relayed to the Inspector-General of police Captain McLerie in June 1863. Highlighting Pottinger's thoughts in regards to that 'Class of People.' An extract follows:

I accordingly deemed it my duty to at once summarily interfere and conclusively show Hall and those of his class in the district that at any rate, as yet, they could not have everything exactly as they thought fit.⁷²

Widespread illegal occupancy of Crown Land was one of the most pressing matters facing the government. In many cases, the illegal occupants fully supported the bushrangers and often became a lifeline for Ben Hall. These vitiated settlers provided food and comfort to the gangs, not for love but for a hefty fee. In turn, the blatant sympathy and sentiment gave rise to great angst among the NSW Police, pressuring the NSW Parliament for more stringent powers to act against those found to be harbouring or suspected of harbouring. Such as those named and marked on the police map of Gardiner's haunts.

Nevertheless, Ben Hall's home's pending destruction would be a first step by the government to address the subject of illegal possession. The government's actions for dealing with those squatters without a conforming lease generated horror in some sections of the press over the government and polices behaviour who sought to quell harbouring by any means; 'Sydney Morning Herald', April 28th, 1863; Dispossession of Illegal Squatters:

The success and impunity with which Gardiner and his gang and other bushrangers have, during many months, carried on their depredations, have been to a considerable extent owing to the assistance and shelter that have been afforded them by a class of unauthorised occupants of Crown lands, known in the provincial slang as "Cockatoo squatters." It is satisfactory to learn that, in connection with other efforts that are being made by the police to drive out of their haunts the desperadoes whose doings have caused so much alarm in the Western districts, steps are being taken at the instigation of the Secretary for Lands for the dispossession of the harbourers of these rascals from the lands of which they have for a long-time held illegal possession. The officers in charge of the police at Bathurst, Young, and Forbes have been furnished from the Lands Department with lists of licensed holders of runs in the country between those three divisions, and all persons found in occupation not included in those lists will be proceeded with under the 32nd Clause of the Crown Lands Occupation Act, which provides for the removal of trespassers on public lands. The country comprehended in the above districts extends from the Fish River down as far as the levels near the Murrumbidgee, and reaches westward as far as the Billybong, and northward to the Lachlan. The police having received the lists, are preparing to put the law into operation, and we may expect shortly to hear if the enforced dispossession of some of these unlawful occupants (many of whom have accumulated considerable wealth), unless in the meantime they should anticipate their expulsion by clearing out. 

Constable John Bohan
who would assist
Constable Hollister
at the burning of Hall's
home, and later
act in Hall's death.
However, all was not plain sailing for the bushrangers who had their opponents. A friend of John Wilson's who went by the pseudonym of 'Veracity' wrote to the editors of the Sydney newspapers expressing his wholehearted support for the actions of Sir Frederick Pottinger in finally ridding the Wheogo area of the bushrangers rendezvous, as well as removing Ben Hall's female supporters who had been nestled at Sandy Creek:

This formidable individual, a considerable portion of whose business and pastime consists in threatening honest wayfarers' bodies and brains, is notorious in these regions as a bushranger and outlaw. His hut has long been known to the police as a rendezvous of Gardiner and his infamous gang, and therefore, socially speaking, as a pestilence and plague-spot in the community. He, however, held no property in the land which he occupied, not even as a lessee; and as it was wisely judged that the presence of such a man, even if occasional, and the existence of such an establishment were a constant menace to the peaceable and well-disposed who sojourned in those parts, in obedience to an expressed wish of the lessee himself, who was desirous of being ridded of such a neighbour, the place was finally burned down.⁷³

The legality and morality of this action are still 150 yrs later, questionable? However, in the lead up to the burning of the home Susan Pryor and her mother, Mary Prior, had reportedly been given seven days notice by Wilson thru his proxy Pottinger to vacate the property. Wilson's demand came in the first week of March of 1863, but not through a court order of eviction, but of a summary action by Inspector Pottinger with the Hut's final destruction under government sanction conducted on 14th March 1863.

Hollister's actual diary entry,
March 1863.

Courtesy R.A.H.S.
Interestingly, and without any ambiguity, the police's date and conduct are confirmed by one of the police Constables in attendance, and who most probably placed the firestick to the dwelling. His name was Constable William Hollister (American by birth), who noted in his police diary the events of that day under Sir Frederick Pottinger's command. Hollister had been the Constable who earlier in February 1863, some five weeks beforehand, had pursued Hall and Patsy Daley after they raided the Pinnacle police station. Constable Hollister was the trooper Hall wished to murder when conversing with Inspector Norton during his capture. Hollister diary entry of the incineration follows; Saturday 14th March 1863:

At Wheogo burnt Ben Halls house down and myself and constables Bohan and Hamilton went to Pinnacle station Hamilton to proceed to Gooloogong to take charge of the Gooloogong station.⁷⁴

Note: Newspapers and Government records show two versions spelling Susan's surname Pryor/Prior. I have at times used both versions. The photo on this page of William Hollister is the first time published at the time of writing.

Furthermore, a letter addressed to the editor of the 'Sydney Morning Herald' refers to Ben Hall's girlfriend Susan Prior's standing as:

The lady pro-proprietress of Ben Hall's household is a single female, who nevertheless luxuriates in the blessings of maternity, having, it is said, usurped that place in the outlaw's affections which properly belonged to the married Mrs Hall.⁷⁵

Leading up to the destruction Ben Hall upon hearing of the verbal eviction order against his folk became furious whereby he:

Had threatened to scatter a considerable quantity of brains, to whomsoever belonging, if his mansion were in any way interfered with.⁷⁶

Even Hall's threat of scattering brains failed to deter Sir Frederick Pottinger from enforcing Wilson's will. The inspector ordered his constables to remove all the occupants' belongings, which were unceremoniously dumped into the inclement weather. (The full transcript from Veracity can be accessed on the Gallery page.) Furthermore, in the same letter from 'Veracity' to the ‘Sydney Morning Herald,’ confirms that indeed the occupants had been given ample notice to vacate contrary to historical belief:

This hot-bed of rascality was not destroyed until after frequent notice was given to the occupants to clear out, but instead of doing so they pertinaciously held on, and when at length it became necessary to eject them and destroy their den, the furniture and other valuables were first removed, and left at the disposal of their owners.⁷⁷

Susan Prior, nursing Ben Hall's child, could only watch as the police burnt down the dwelling. Although the residence was destroyed, Susan would return to Lambing Flat and reside there for some time. Susan moved to Boorowa, forming a relationship with one Alfred Stonham circa 1864. The pair remained together until Alfred's death at Tangmangaroo near Yass in 1907. However, Ben Hall did not abandon her and would utilise her home. In 1864 Susan gave birth to a son Alfred. Ben Hall may well have been the father as over the coming years, he roamed the Boorowa district. As well as paying homage to his infant daughter Mary.

Rare portrait of
William Jameison father
of bushranger 

John Jameison.
c. 1860.
Nevertheless, the ousting of the women created widespread outrage amongst settlers, especially with children involved. In addition, some landowners had a personal connection to the women. One of those close to the victims was Mr Jameison, a long-time friend of Ben Hall. Jamieson penned a very compassionate letter regarding Susan Prior's sad fate to a Parliamentarian, Mr Harpur. Mailed no doubt due to Jameison’s friendship with Harpur's mother, Sarah Walsh Hall's former wife's step-mother of Wheogo Station.

Jamieson provided a first-hand account surrounding the events that occurred that day. He states that at the time of the rough handling of the women, Ben appeared on the scene attempting to draw the police away, however, without success. Conversely, Jameison is not very favourable in his comments over the conduct of Sir Frederick Pottinger:

Sir-"I must tell you about burning of houses and turning women and a baby out in the cold to get shelter under the trees in wet. One of the women is now under the doctor's care, from being out with only a small bit of calico to keep the night air and cold from her and a baby of two months old. That was after Sir Frederick burnt the house and all that was in it.  The two women and baby had to stop out in the wet.  Sir Frederick and two men were, at Hall's house. He burnt the house down and turned the women out. The man (Hall) was only a hundred yards from them on a knocked-up horse. He only galloped a quarter of a mile, and then his horse gave in, and he jumped off and let the horse go. They got the horse but not the man. Still, Sir Frederick was riding as good a horse as was in the district; but he acted in his usual way, disputing with the women, instead of going after the bushrangers. That is the way he has always acted, for he has not yet taken a man that tried to get away; and then his excuse is to the Government that the squatters harbour them.⁷⁸ 

Mr Jameison was the father of John Jameison, who had been nabbed a couple of times by the police in company with John 'Warrigal' Walsh and was often in the company of Ben Hall, and participated in several hold-ups.

Shortly after Mr Jamieson's letter appeared on the matter, he died in a fall from his horse near Goulburn under suspicious circumstances. Finally, Jamieson's comments on the conduct of the police, namely Pottinger whom he both admired and censured, are extracted from a further letter sent the editor of 'The Sydney Morning Herald' by John A. Hux:

Some short time before the unfortunate man Jamieson died, he visited this township. I had a conversation with him, during which the conduct of the police was very warmly discussed—Jamieson being particularly severe on Sir F. Pottinger for turning out the woman and burning down Hall's house, concluding with the following words, as near as I can possibly recollect:—"I admit he (Sir F. P.) is the most courageous and plucky policeman that ever I knew, and had he been here some few years since he would have played hell with the cattle racket, but he is a damn wretch to turn women out of house and shelter.⁷⁹

Colonial Secretary
Mr Charles Cowper.
c. 1870's.
Jamieson's account of Hall's home's incineration and the immediate destitution of the female occupants created much dismay in the NSW Parliament. Criticism swelled, compelling Mr Cowper to demand Inspector-General McLerie present a memorandum for parliament outlining his officers' present conduct. Unfortunately, the officer tasked to fill this demand was Sir Frederick Pottinger, whose district was on the front lines in the raging battle with bushrangers.

Consequently, the highly anticipated memo was forwarded to the NSW Legislative Assembly. It intended to satisfy and pacify the members' concerns by providing an in-depth account of the difficulties in policing in a vast, mainly wild uninhabited desolate portion of the state. The memo outlined Pottinger's conduct and highlighted the challenges faced by other commanders in a wild country where the police activities were not appreciated and ridiculed by naïve parliamentarians who rarely ventured past Macquarie Street. Of interest is a section of the memorandum concerning Ben Hall's homes destruction, to which Pottinger addresses only in an offhanded manner naming John Wilson as requesting the destruction:

But one ejectment has been enforced by Lachlan police. Ben Hall's house was alone burnt down, and that at the request of the then (by mortgage) actual proprietor. The house was at the time occupied by Henry Gibson (notorious villain since committed), also illegally at large from Victoria, Mrs McGuire, and Susan Pryor, and Hall's mother, and was daily frequented by bushrangers, a week's notice was given and nothing destroyed—no woman or child frightened or molested.⁸⁰ 

Surprisingly, Pottinger mistakenly took Mrs Mary Prior as Ben Hall's mother. (The full memorandum can be read on the Traps Page.)

Author's Note: The death of William Jamieson at the time was considered a mystery;

It was a three day's trip to Goulburn, Mr Jamieson making the trip from there, removing his money from the Commercial Bank, Goulburn, intending same to be placed at Young. He was found on the road four miles out of Goulburn by a man named Broffie; he had no pocketbook, and the valise was gone, being taken off his saddle; he was insensible and taken into Goulburn where he died at 3 o'clock next morning. He was a very fine horseman; his horse Merrylegs was found feeding 100 yards from where he was lying, but his mare, Lauristina, whom he was leading back to the station, was gone. £50 reward was offered for the recovery of Lauristina, as by finding her same might lead to the cause of death, but she was never heard of again. William Jamieson's death was a mystery never unravelled. He was a very abstemious man, a perfect gentleman, very smart all-round, a good runner, and made quite a name for himself in performing a feat, while at a place between Burrowa and Walla Walla, which has been called Jamieson's Flat.

Joseph Jehoshaphat
There are, as they say, two sides to every story. The article below somewhat puts paid to the idea that Pottinger and his men's actions presented some form of chivalrous co-operation with Susan Prior while burning Hall's home. An action that involuntarily prescribed instant poverty for the women and children. However, the presence of Ben Hall on the day of the police action had Pottinger severely ridiculed by none other than Mr Harpur, who stated in the Parliamentary Hansard of Ben Hall's valiant attempt to lure the police away for a showdown, this, however, was not enough to deter the gallant Sir Frederick:

When the police came to the house of Ben Hall, he (Hall) ran away, mounted his horse. Sir Frederick Pottinger sent two policemen after him. They chased him, and Ben Hall with two revolvers jumped from his horse and faced them. The policemen brought back the jaded horse to the house. At that time, Sir Frederick Pottinger was riding one of the best horses in the district, but when these men came back, instead of going after the robber, he ordered them to set fire to the house. They burnt it down, the women not being allowed to bring out their clothes. It was raining at the time, and the women and children took shelter under a gum tree. However bad Ben Hall was, it was not right to punish these poor women and children.⁸¹ 

Amidst the razing of Hall's home to the ground, Ben Hall had failed to, as threatened, to “scatter a considerable quantity of brains”. Although it was not through a lack of effort. However, the destruction of the house Hall had built by hand was the final nail in Ben Hall's coffin. As a result, Ben's hatred of Pottinger became all-consuming. Now there would be no possibility of Hall seeking redemption. Instead, Ben Hall launched himself wholeheartedly into the arms of 'Hades'. As time rolled by, the remains of Ben Hall's home stood for many years, a charcoaled ruin. As described by R. Fitzgerald, Wamboyne, who saw them in 1876, recorded the memory when writing for the 'Wyalong Advocate' in 1919:

That was the month of May, and we used to get a load of shearing supplies to take out to Caragabal station. We went through by Wheogo, and there I saw the remains of Ben Hall's Hut, it had been burnt down, and there were only the burnt stumps remaining.⁸²

However, after the deed was done in a surprise statement, the Lands Minister, Mr Robinson, denied that Hall's home was incinerated as means of the Crown Lands Act. 

There was a communication suggesting the expulsion by the police of illegal holders, but it was not thought advisable to act in this way. He believed the police had burnt down the residence of the notorious bushranger, Ben Hall; but it was the only case, and was not done under the Land Act.

John Wilson's claim
on Wheogo Station.
Author's Note: Ben Hall and McGuire were not the only people who owed monies to John Wilson, Mrs Sarah Walsh, Ben Hall's mother-in-law, also borrowed money from Wilson for legal representation associated with her stepson's arrest after Pottinger failed to capture Frank Gardiner at Kitty Browns home and he took the boy instead, (young John 'Warrigal' Walsh would die in the Forbes lock-up from Gaol fever in 1863) John Wilson would take legal action against the Walsh’s and would also become the eventual owner of Wheogo Station. (See article left.)

After capturing Patsy Daley and flushed with renewed energy for the bushranger hunt, Pottinger was back in the saddle on patrol in the Wheogo area, ready to clobber Ben Hall. Consequently, Pottinger's wish to come into close contact with Ben Hall was near his home's charred remains. Hall had been camped near the smoldering ruins and was sighted with the evicted women who were reduced to living in a calico tent and continued supplying Hall with information, victuals and other comforts. Accordingly, Sir Frederick and his troopers with Hall insight burst into a gallop, hoping to cut off and capture their elusive quarry. Still, as dusk fell, Hall and his companion John O'Meally escaped into the dense pine scrub. However, in the rush and surprise, the bushrangers abandoned their equipment and Hall his horse scarpering on foot, Hall's equipment recovered by the police. Sir Frederick Pottinger dispatched a telegram to the Inspector General of Police in Sydney, dated the 18th March 1863, regarding his pursuit of both Hall and John O'Meally. However, the presence of O'Meally in Hall's company not long after the publican Cirkel's death at Stoney Creek in late February 1863 gives merit to Hall's probable participation in 'The Miners Home Inn' murder. Furthermore, Susan Prior's younger brother William was nabbed the next day and heavily questioned as to Hall's whereabouts:

Camped about Wheogo till Sunday, when, just after sundown, came with two of my troopers on Ben Hall and John O’Meally, standing about six hundred yards off, talking to Mrs McGuire and Susan Pryor the female aforesaid. The woman at once gave the word, and the men bolted into the brush. We, however, pressed them so hard that Hall had to give us the slip-on foot, leaving his horse and swag, containing ammunition and firearms-magnificent Tranter revolver and Government pistol, taken from the Pinnacle. It being by this time quite dark, and the scrub being dense, we could do nothing more, and returned to camp. Next morning, we took up the tracks for some twenty-six miles, till, about three miles hence, we apprehended William Pryor, a lad of about seventeen, whom I hope to make very useful. I start again in an hour, till last night none of us had slept in a bed, and none of the horses had a feed since we left Forbes. 

Note: William Prior is the younger brother of Susan Prior. Also, Hall's possession of the weapons stolen from the Pinnacle police station demonstrate his complicity in the February robbery.

Extract from William Hollister's Diary below, held at the Royal Australian Historical Society, Sydney. Portrait of William Hollister, first time published.

William Hollister.
c. 1870's.

Courtesy of R.A.H.S.
The arbitrary actions of Sir Frederick were recorded in Hollister's diary and corroborate the information contained in Pottinger's telegram of the 18th March; Hollister Diary Entry-Sunday 15th March 1863:

With Const Bohan from this station to Pinnacle reefs and met Sir Frederick Pottinger Constables Garlin Day and Dargin Brechs from Pinnacle reefs to Wheogo myself with Sir Frederick Pottinger and Constable Day went up to Ben Halls place got within 500 yard and saw two men who on seeing us bolted encounted gave chase but being dusk they got away in coming back found a horse saddle and bridle on a swag another saddle a government horse pistol on the swag and a quantity of ammunition bottle of port wine Poncho and Mrs MaGuire said the two men were Ben Hall and young Prior Found one Tranters revolver.

William Hollister.
NSW Police Employment
Record May 1862.

New South Wales, Australia,
Registers of Police
Employment, 1847-1885.
Author's Note: William Hollister joined the NSW Police on 5th May 1862, aged 26, described with Blue eyes, Fair hair, fresh complexion and stood 5ft 10in high. Hollister had been a sailor plying his trade on various sailing ships and whalers previous to police work. Hollister originated from Connecticut, America, coming ashore in Sydney c. 1862. After initial police training in Sydney commenced as a mounted trooper under Sir Frederick Pottinger's command in the Lachlan district. Hollister, at the side of Pottinger, participated in many well-publicised episodes against the Lachlan bushrangers. In August 1862, Hollister was one of the troopers who assisted Pottinger when in the dead of night attempted to arrest Frank Gardiner at his lover Mrs Brown's home at Wheogo. In February 1863, Hollister pursued Ben Hall after the Pinnacle Police Station robbery wherein he was unseated from his horse after shots were fired by Hall's accomplice Patsy Daley. Hollister was an integral part of the hunt for Hall, Gardiner, Gilbert, O'Meally, Lowry and others plying the bushranger trade. When Inspector Norton was captured by Hall on 1st March 1863. Norton commented that Hall referenced Hollister, saying, "Hall spoke of a trooper named Hollister, who had threatened to shoot him, and that he would return the compliment when he got hold of him." Hollister's counter-blow culminated in burning Ben Hall's Sandy Creek Station home on the 14th March 1863. Following the death of Ben Hall in May 1865. William Hollister would resign from the police and, after various enterprises, passed away in the Blue Mountains in 1915.

Hollister's diary, March 1863.
Unbridled instances and increases in lawlessness surrounding the Western Districts goldfields and the impunity in particular in which Ben Hall, Gilbert and Co. had been perpetrating their crimes continually raised the ire of several NSW parliamentarians whose criticism of the current government persistently brought into question the effectiveness of the new police force which had been in operations just twelve months. Sir Frederick Pottinger, in his memorandum to the parliament demanded earlier by the Colonial Secretary (part of which is mentioned above), included an account of his own conduct as the officer in charge of the Lachlan Police District and highlighted a description of his territory, as well as the plight of policing a vast area in an attempt to enlighten the honourable members of the difficulties being faced:

The Lachlan police district comprises an area of about 600 miles by 200, but does not include the Wedden. 1. Forbes is ninety-five miles from Young, the point of junction between the two districts (the Lachlan and Captain Zouch's), being just half-way. 2. The Lachlan police do duty in the bush invariably in plain clothes, saddles, &c., without swords, disguised in fact as far as possible like bushrangers. Their 'orders' are to 'bush out,' avoiding roads, public-houses, stations, &c., in short, to in every way conceal themselves and their movements, which orders are generally duly obeyed. I have myself 'bushed out' with parties for fifteen and twenty days consecutively, the men subsisting solely on the 'rations' with them, and the horses on grass feed. From the 15th of June to the 1st of December, 1862, I slept out in the bush ninety-three nights, and I am prepared to show that I have (by the universal admission of all my men), done more bush duty than any officer or constable in the colony.⁸³

Sir Frederick Pottinger
in the uniform
of Inspector.
c. 1864.
Subsequently, Hall's flagrant actions reached the heart of the NSW Legislature. Whereby the gang's hounding of citizens placed local district parliamentarians in a dither as they attempted to soothe their constituents outcry's over their continued suffering at the hands of the bushrangers. Those members were counselling the fearful locals that the government was up to taking the gang down. For the honest settlers, however, talk and promises were one thing. The action was another. Their call was for the police to take action and take it urgently.

Furthermore, the NSW Police Gazette entries in the early months of 1863 were rampant, with crime reports from 'the interior' so much that it was overwhelming for the police of the troubled districts to resolve. As such, frequent holdups and robberies often went unreported. Due mainly to victim apathy and the view held by many of a reluctant police force to act in any meaningful way. The aforementioned Ernest Bowler highlighted the attitude of indifference. Bowler described a personal experience when being held up by Ben Hall's men. An incident in which Ernest decided not to report; 'The Moleskin Gentry'; by Frederick Howard. Ernest explains:

I was surrounded by four revolvers at my head, so close I could see the bullets in the chambers. One of the boys called me to jump off, as he wanted my horse. Then Ben Hall rode up asking what all the noise was about, Hall said "It’s Mr Bowler. It’s alright let him go.

Earnest then rode on to the town of Orange, and the morning's experience had left him depressed rather than angry, and he reflected that the police were"

Always away on some other route when the boys were close at hand. 

Later in the evening Ernest attended a dance after the day's experience, stated:

I didn't take much persuading to go to the ball. 

While the evening progressed, the police got wind of Bowler's holdup and called him away from the dance to explain why he had not reported the incident to the police. Bowler's replied: 

Because, I thought it was useless; the police always told where they got their information, so I had made up my mind to tell no more. 

Although this angered the police, it became the general consensus for survival amongst people living on isolated properties and hamlets in the Central Western Districts.

Note on Earnest Bowler; FORBES, Monday, 7th September 1896.- "This morning news was brought to the town of the death of Mr Ernest Ulysses Bowler, managing partner for Messrs. Suttor and Co, of Boyd station, about 20 miles from Forbes. The deceased gentleman had been suffering from a weak heart for some years and as he was 67 years of age, his demise was not altogether unexpected. He was judging at the Grenfell show that week and returned home on Saturday. On Sunday night he retired to bed in his usual health but awoke at about 2 o'clock and died in less than half an hour. His remains will be brought into Forbes tomorrow for interment. Mr Bowler was the son of Major Bowler a well-known colonist of the early days. Mr Earnest Bowler was one of the earliest pioneers of the Lachlan country and has been a resident of this part of the country for about fifty years. He was greatly respected in this district and great sympathy is expressed with his family. He leaves a widow, one son, and one daughter."

Electric Telegraph.
Image courtesy NLA.
With the police often in a struggle to win the respect of the small farmers. Another pressing issue for authorities was how crimes and offences were reported. The previous method of communication of country news had been by the arduous trek of the horse-drawn mail coach. Whereby overtaking this archaic method a new cutting-edge technology emerged and was in the process of being rolled out. This great leap forward was the 'Telegraph line' and the use of 'Morse Code' for relaying information between country town and city at a moments notice. The first telegraph line in NSW was constructed between Sydney and Liverpool, covering 20 miles. The telegraph line opened on 30th December 1857. By 1858 the Liverpool line was extended to Albury on the NSW/Victorian border, over 300 miles. Still, more importantly, it weaved through the Southern and Western police districts of NSW. Finally, in 1861, Sydney was linked by telegraph to Brisbane.

Inspector-General of
NSW Police, Captain
John M'lerie.
c. 1863.
The New South Wales Police Gazette's promulgation fell to the Officer in Charge of the New South Wales Police, Inspector General John McLerie. McLerie oversaw and controlled all aspects of policing in NSW. 

Accordingly, the new Telegraph line for crime reports became McLerie's umbilical cord. Consequently, all crime reports passed through his office before publication in the NSW Police Gazette then dispatched to Officers in Charge of the various police districts.

For example, a crime committed in one police district on one specific day, along with the relevant information of the suspected offender, was telegraphed to Sydney, assessed and printed. However, the report may take as much as two weeks to be relayed via mail coach before it comes to the attention of neighbouring police districts. However, officers did take the initiative and commenced pursuing wanted criminals. Furthermore, these wanted men regularly crossed over from one police district, such as Sir Frederick Pottinger's Lachlan district, into Captain Zouch's section at Burrangong. Invariably the officers co-ordinated together in their pursuit of the offenders.

".. too late there goes the

Image courtesy NLA.
Government rewards for the apprehension of Ben Hall, Gilbert, O'Meally, Gardiner were substantial. Whereby if the police caught any offender a windfall came their way. However, these rewards were not enough for the locals to 'rat out' gang members. However, the bushrangers had their communication system colloquially known as the 'Bush Telegraph'.

These telegraphs had their fingers on the pulse of polices' activities and were able to pass the word swiftly for a payment. The young boys such as Johnny 'Warrigal' Walsh Ben Hall's brother in law was adept at eluding police while delivering messages. Still, another great help in the bush telegraph service was rendered by girls who could ride fast and hold their tongues, like the O'Meally sisters.

These messages conveyed police movements, persons travelling with large sums of cash, mail coaches with valuables onboard plus a myriad of other pertinent intelligence. As highlighted:

A perfect system of 'bush telegraphy' had been established in every locality where their friends resided; and as they invariably moved with a given object from their hiding places, and either returned direct to the place from which they had started or made for some other friendly shelter in another direction, they were always in touch with their 'telegraphs,' and were thus kept posted in every movement made by the police force. Upon these 'telegraphs' the bushrangers depended as absolutely as do the officers of an army upon their scouts when in the territory of an enemy. Flitting on fast-footed horses from station to station in the disturbed districts, or mixing with the people in the nearest town, generally, the headquarters of the police, the 'telegraphs' would pick up every scrap of information likely to be of interest to the hunted men, sometimes coming into contact with the police, and learning directly all they desired to know, and, having satisfied themselves concerning police, intentions, they would suddenly disappear and conveyor send their news to the camp where the bushrangers were located. Occasionally one of these 'telegraphs' would be arrested,. Still, as nothing could be proved against him, a few days confinement between the time of his arrest and his discharge by the magistrate formed the worst of his sufferings. And should a suspected 'telegraph' find himself too closely watched or be arrested, others were always ready to take up the work. They were invariably young men, some of them mere boys, intimately acquainted with the bush, who could cover miles of the roughest country more speedily than the badly mounted troopers could ride along good roads. Ben Hall, Gilbert, and O'Meally had hosts of such friends in the Lachlan district.⁸⁴

Not only was Ben Hall apprised of sound information from the 'Telegraphs'. From the outbreak of his bushranging exploits, Hall also remained highly regarded by those who had had dealings with him during his stockman days and his tenure at Sandy Creek and often offered a safe harbour not only for Hall but his partners as well. This view was expressed of the Weddin gang's ability to remain off the police radar:

Bushrangers are harboured and assisted, the fact that they have belonged so distinctly to definite localities would demonstrate it. The Western gang had its headquarters in the Weddin district, to which it could always retire for concealment, and out of the range of which it was always more exposed; and the associations and relationships its members held with persons resident in the locality quite explain the security it enjoyed and the way in which the police were baffled. But the police knew too well how much the bushrangers were harboured and helped by a set of the residents, some of whom were their relatives, and many of whom were their chums. As long as bushrangers are harboured, and sheltered, and warned, so long the police will hunt for them blindfold. But wherever the police can rely on the co-operation of the inhabitants, they show that they are not deficient in skill or courage. But it is not merely for the armed brigands themselves that diligent search should be made. Such men as Gardner have, doubtless, like their English prototypes, their spies, their harbourers, their "fences." Which way goes their most promiscuous plunder? Where do they brew their punch when they have not a pillaged householder to mix for them? Who are the judicious friends that inform them where they will find an easy booty, and where they will not find a policeman? Till these questions are fully answered, even the apprehension of the most notorious ringleaders will scarcely put an end to the system. The half-hearted scoundrels who keep ostensibly within the shadow of the law, merely that they may share the prey, jackal-like, with the bolder ruffians who defy law-these are the worst traitors to civilisation-the worst enemies to order and security.

Furthermore, there were many persons of good standing who were often intimidated and threatened with summary punishment for not attending to Ben Hall's needs. As commented on:

Other people, under the influence of fear, were compelled to supply them with food and arms.

Charles Sanderson, in 'Reminiscence of Ex-Superintendent Sanderson' published in the 'Old Times' May 1903, commented on the stonewalling of sympathisers and the fear and angst of people willing to provide police with information:

The men of the road were looked upon as heroes and were surrounded with such a crowd of sympathisers and friends, who often acted as bush telegraphs for them, that it was often impossible to keep our movements secret, to say nothing of getting trustworthy information. Needless to say, these people were well paid for their trouble and shared in an indirect way in the proceeds of robberies and sticking-up cases. Even when people were willing to give information they were afraid to; it would mean that they might be shot themselves, or at least get their farms, stables, or haystacks burnt. I never went into a respectable house if I wanted to learn anything. We had scores of persons who wilfully came and gave us the wrong information. When an “affair” was reported, I never looked for the perpetrators in the locality where it had taken place. I let others do that,   for I knew that the game I wanted was, by that time, in a very different direction. 

Sir Frederick Pottinger continued to search Wheogo staking out the smoking ruins of Sandy Creek and stopping over at stations seeking information regarding Hall's whereabouts. Subsequently, Pottinger gleaned through one of his friends and new proprietor of Hall's old station, John Wilson, that Hall had departed Sandy Creek in the company of a woman, believed to be Elen Maguire. Based on the information, Pottinger relayed by telegraph to the Inspector-General the updated intelligence of the bushranger's movements and possible destination. Telegram dated the 23rd March 1863:

Returned here last night, without any further definite results. On Monday last Mrs Maguire and Ben Hall cleared out via Weddin Mountains for the Fish River. Received information to that effect, and accordingly tracked them till foiled, some twenty miles from Wheogo, by inundated Plain. Heard of Hall at the Weddin, so pushed on to Gaps, in my district, leading to Fish River, but coming across no tracks, returned home via Cowra, men and horses having for twelve days and nights bushed out. Ben Hall and party must have crossed onto the Fish River via Marengo or Burrawang in the Southern district. Discovered several camps about Wheogo, and recovered sundry saddles, bridles. &c., &c., stolen property. Please telegraph touching the limits of my district towards the Weddin. The O’Mealy’s and others ought to be at once cleared out, I but I cannot act at present.

'inundated Plain'
Image courtesy NLA.
Furthermore, for Sir Frederick Pottinger, Ben Hall and company made Pottinger's lot very difficult. Compounding Pottinger's frustration, the inclement weather was also playing its part and alluded to in the above telegram where Pottinger had been blocked by 'inundated Plain'. Much of the Lachlan District had been suffering from drought from mid-1861 to early 1863. Therefore, the heavens broke the draught finally opened and brought the much-needed downfalls across the western plains once more, filling the Lachlan River, her creeks and waterholes. As luck would have it for the bushrangers, the welcomed deluge wiped away much of the polices' sought after tracks. Furthermore, the wet weather made life for the police in the saddle cold, damp and miserable. No doubt Ben Hall was protected from the foul weather, holed up in some warm Shepard or harbourers hut: As reported:

For some months during the past summer, the bed of the Lachlan, throughout very many miles of its course, has been dry with the exception of waterholes at a few places, far distant from each other. During the past week, however, an extensive fresh has come down, by which the channel of the river has been completely filled, and the water is now commencing to flood the flat and to run out into the numerous creeks, which are to be found on the Lower Lachlan, this flood will prove of very great service to the settler, as it will not only ensure a plentiful supply of water for the stock but will also, by swamping the flats, cause a luxuriant crop of grass to spring up on land which otherwise would remain barren and unprofitable.

Bushrangers in Australia 
By: Joseph Ratcliffe Skelton.
c. 1910.
Sporadic robberies of late 1862 and early 1863 where  Ben Hall and his companions harrassed mail coaches and many lonely travellers contributed to the introduction of a new system for transferring cash through - 'The Money Order'. - The new enterprise was introduced with the expanding telegraph system and newly incorporated and administered through the Postal service. Mr Hunt of the General Post Office Sydney presided over its rollout.

Although limited in access, the fledgling network commenced operations as early as June 1860. It was continually rolling out to all the major settlements throughout NSW and would eventually connect the rest of Australia following the path of the telegraph line. In due course this dynamic new wonder was heralded as paramount for preserving one's funds highlighted in the 'Moreton Bay Courier', Thursday 26th July 1860;

The plan, which is very simple, may be briefly explained as follows: -a working man who presented himself at a Money Order Office with a sum-say £4-for the Savings' Bank would obtain a money order to that amount, and enclose it in a printed form to the Savings Bank Manager, who would in course of post return to him the usual voucher, and the transaction would be complete. In withdrawing the money, he would have to transmit by post this voucher to the Savings Bank, and he would receive in return a Post Office money order to that amount, minus the commission.

Subsequently, by the beginning of 1863, Money Orders were being emphasised in journals and newspapers across the colony as essential for country people to take advantage of for the safe movement of their cash to discourage the highwayman; 'The Sydney Morning Herald', 27th January 1863:

THE POSTMASTER-GENERAL complains of money and other valuable articles being sent in unregistered letters. In France, he observes, it is treated as a penal offence to do this; and in the United Kingdom, letters obviously containing money are not only treated as registered letters but charged with a double registration fee. The introduction of the money-order system, which after too long delay has at length been established (though from want of accommodation in the cramped Post Office buildings, the office is on the opposite side of the street) will tend to diminish the practice of sending money in letters. As the system becomes known, and the people become familiarised to its use, it will be availed of more fully. There is also another cause in operation which will have the effect desired by the POSTMASTER of diminishing the quantity of money, sent up and down the country in letters, though that cause is one that he could hardly have recommended, or speak of with approval the singular success and impunity with which her MAJESTY'S mail now stopped mid ransacked on the highroad acts as a strong inducement to all cautious people not to send money by that means. GARDINER and his colleagues are certainly helping to increase the business of the Money Order Office, by making it so unsafe to enclose notes in letters.

We hope that the Money Order Office will be brought into extensive use for the suppression of highway robbery. While the policeman is exerting himself to affect a cure, for that evil, the money order may facilitate the still more desirable process of prevention. A few days ago, the newspaper reports informed us of a disgusted bushranger, who bitterly complained that there was no use in robbing the particular mail that he was then rifling since it never contained anything worth carrying away. The fellow seemed to consider himself hardly used, and probably a continuance of such fruitless results to his enterprises would induce him to direct his genius to some other sphere of action possibly an honest one. We may fairly conclude that the days of gold escort robberies are at an end. Large bank bills, which are mostly payable to well-known firms in town, are not of much value to highwaymen; and in future, they must rest their hopes upon the registered letters containing small sums in bank notes, which may amount to something handsome in the aggregate. But if the Post-office money order be generally substituted for the banknote, as a means of remittance, even this source of revenue will be lost to the thief, who will hardly be likely to risk his life or liberty for the pleasure of seizing a few documents which are utterly worthless to him. Even if, in the extremity of his disappointment, he should destroy the orders, the money will not be lost, but will still be the property of the remitter. When a sum of ten pounds can thus be safely insured from all the perils of the road by the payment of a shilling, the person who neglects so simple and reasonable a precaution will hardly deserve pity for any loss that he may sustain. A traveller called upon to stand and deliver might complacently baffle his assailant by presenting him with a Post-office order. The business of the road would be done, and the professional highwayman would become an extinct animal.

However, as with all new and modern inventions, some were slow to take on the Money Order system leading to this convincing comment from a 'Sydney Mail' correspondent:

We certainly are surprised that people will be so rash and obstinate in remitting notes to Sydney and other places by these opportunities. There is now every facility given to forward money in a secure manner, by means of bank drafts and money orders. Notwithstanding these modes of transit, many prefer the very dangerous one of sending notes, either whole or in halves, in letters through the medium of the post. This is dangerous at all times. Rivers and creeks are often flooded, and in swimming the horses across them the mail bags are liable to be saturated with water, and the contents materially if not wholly damaged. To the bushranging fraternity, it is a lucky windfall, as bank notes are the only portion of booty in a mail robbery that is valuable to them. Bank drafts, cheques, orders, &c;, are mere waste paper. We certainly consider it is holding a premium out to crime, the remitting of specie and notes by the mail. If this system was once discouraged, if people would only come to the determination to alter this plan of forwarding money, we should have fewer mail robberies; in fact, they would soon cease altogether.

Money Orders in due course were a foil to Hall's much-needed cash flow. Informants! For Ben Hall informants were a constant threat due to the substantial rewards offered. These windfalls may tempt a friend to better his life through the demise of their own. £500 was a fortune. However, by mid-1863, many of the harbourers associated with Hall remained loyal and refrained from taking the Queen's blood money. But for how long?

In those early times and up to recently a dobber was considered the lowest of the low, a rat, shunned by friends and, in some cases, family and were often targeted for retribution. Therefore, in time paranoia emerged for Ben Hall were the thought of informer's would become another handicap to survival, whereby any friend or stranger, even those attempting to infiltrate or join the bushrangers, and many young men were willing to try their hand, made life even more precarious as suspicions mounted forcing the gang to look constantly over their shoulders.

However, unlike America's period of the wild west following the American Civil War and the advent of bounty hunters who eradicated outlaws during those times. Wherewith a reward notice in hand, often stating dead or alive the hunters habitually turned to informants as their primary source of information for income, often ruthlessly. Whereas Australia was devoid of bounty hunters who worked outside of official law enforcement. Australia never encouraged bounty hunters' per se. Within Australia, the apprehension of criminals fell directly at the constabulary's feet. However, settlers often took direct action and were known to kill bushrangers, not for the reward (a bonus) but to save their own skins.

In turn, the NSW police alone may hold a suspect or acquaintance of the bushrangers in custody. Whereby with sufficient incentives, such as leniency or a significant portion of a reward. Those imprisoned were often swayed to become informants. On occasions, the police attempted to place informants to gather information via the many seedy shanties or their friends on bushranger happenings. Enabling them to seek out the movements or camps of Ben Hall even at times participate in the capture of them. Some willingly accepted the job, such as the Eugowra informer Daniel Charters, who received £150 and a pardon for his stitching-up of Bow, Fordyce, Manns and Maguire but endeavoured to leave Hall and O'Meally out regarding their participation in the gold robbery.

However, for the protection of the informants, their identities were placed under the strictest confidentiality. Nonetheless, this confidentiality occasionally was exposed as the 'Empire' of 26th April 1863, unfortunately, demonstrated. The paper claimed it had information from a sound source regarding such a police infiltrator. Regrettably, for the police, it informed the public that a turncoat had recently become incorporated into a mounted police patrol in the Burrangong district. Therefore, in a role reversal, Ben Hall became on Qui Vive. However, if the bushrangers found such an informant in their presence, they were known to deal with them very harshly — even kill them. Nevertheless, as bad as this error in judgement was by the 'Empire' newspaper, it would not be the first time a delinquent attempted to score a reprieve from the chain gang and line his pockets at his friend's expense as there is no honour amongst thieves! Empire correspondent:

We understand the police authorities are confident that an expedition now out searching the haunts of these ruffians will return with some of them in safe custody. A person familiar with Gardiner and his mates in criminal acts as a guide, and the police are commanded by one of the most efficient officers in the force.

In the case alluded to the informer was Charles Herring, a newly recruited Trooper who had been under arrest at Bathurst Gaol under the alias of Charles Burgess also known as Zahn. Herring/Zahn/Burgess had been awaiting trial for fraud and suspicion over the Eugowra gold heist of June 1862. Zahn was born Charles Herring. Herring/Zahn, a noted career criminal, who loited around the Fish River district and was a well-known cohort of William Fogg and the recently hung John Peisley.

Consequently, the police regarded Herring/Zahn as a worthy cause. Moreover, before his eleventh-hour enlistment into the NSW police force, the career criminal had been brought up before the courts in New South Wales on umpteen occasions covering charges varying from giving false information, highway robbery, theft and obtaining money under false pretences. Surprisingly, many of the charges did not stick, and he was often discharged. With regards to being linked in the Eugowra affair, Zahn stated that:

If he was lagged, he would "come it," and take some more with him as companions to Cockatoo, and that he would implicate people upon whom at the present time no suspicion rests.

Herring with John Peisley
NSW Police Gazette.
Subsequently, as Zahn was held in custody for fraud and suspicion over Eugowra, he informed the police of his close acquaintance with Gardiner, Gilbert, and others. Zahn virtually bragged that he could round Frank Gardiner and John Gilbert up quickly.

Suddenly, Zahn was a police trooper, and in his first foray, captured one Hall acquaintance, Henry Gibson, the former house guest who claimed he was Hall's overseer on Sandy Creek. Herring/Zahn's efforts almost secured John Gilbert, Ben Hall and John O'Meally/Lowry in April 1863. Zahn was described as; 36 yrs old 5 ft 4 in tall light brown hair Hazel eyes thin pale face sallow complexion rather long sharp nose mole under right eye dresses smartly.

Note: Zahn/Burgess would be eventually dismissed from the police for stealing a valuable pistol from Captain Battye, the apple doesn't fall very far from the tree.

Henry Gibson, an associate of Ben Hall and John Gilbert, with an alias of 'Parker', spent some time at Ben Hall's home up until its incineration. However, Gibson was a friend of John Gilbert's and had known Gilbert at the Ovens River Goldfields in Victoria (See article above), where he was wanted by the Victorian Police and fled into NSW finally linking up with Gilbert. As Ben Hall's with Susan Prior made for Lambing Flat in company with O'Meally Gilbert and  Gibson. Gibson was captured in a thrilling chase. Police troopers spotted Hall, Gibson and the others where the bushrangers spurred their horses to evade them at full gallop. The troopers dug their spurs in and gave chase, dodging the bushrangers bullets. With  Gibson captured by troopers Coward, Townly (Burgess' handler) and the informant Zahn it was said

Gibson was found in the bush, in company with Gilbert, Ben Hall, and others, and when he saw the police, he, with the others, galloped off and was pursued. After going a considerable distance, the police succeeded in capturing him. He was armed, and could not give any satisfactory account of himself.⁸⁵

However, the frantic chase proved too much for the police's inferior mounts and they were soon knocked up. Gibson, trapped himself along a fence line whilst the others escaped into the scrub. On returning to the Police Camp in town the thrilling chase was recounted by Trooper Townly in detail to 'The Empire' 15th April 1863:

I am a mounted constable in the police stationed at Bathurst; on last Tuesday or Wednesday, was in company with detectives Coward and Zahn, near Kangee station; we were galloping down the ranges, and saw the prisoner and three others riding towards the station; when they saw me they put spurs to their horses, and went off at full gallop; we chased them, and detective Coward took the prisoner near the fence; I kept a little to the right, and went on after the other three; I am positive one of the men was Lowry, and I think one was Gilbert; I had seen Gilbert once or twice; the man whom I supposed to be Gilbert, after having crossed the creek, threw back his poncho, raised his carbine, and fired over his shoulder at me; I then heard Zahn say "Gilbert, you wretch, you wouldn't hit a hay stack;" I then saw Zahn on my right; we followed them to the top of the range, where my horse was knocked up; I dismounted and fired; was about 130 or 140 yards distant from them when I did so; I then mounted the blackfellow's horse, but could not overtake them; I heard Gilbert say something about "You're goose is cooked," to Zahn; Zahn kept taunting them, trying to cause them to stop; but they would not; we followed them about half a mile, and then gave up the chase; we examined a camp, and saw foot marks corresponding with the prisoner's feet; on returning, we escorted the prisoner to Breakfast Creek station; I noticed nail prints similar to the nails in the prisoner's boots, now produced; the ground at the camp was soft and black, the blackfellow I speak of is stock-keeper at Ryan's.

At the time of his arrest, Gibson was questioned by Detective Coward, who asked him where he was going and who the other three riders were; not surprisingly, Gibson claimed he did not know them and that:

He was going home to the Weddin Mountains, said he had recently been hunted from there by Sir Frederick Pottinger.⁸⁶

NSW Police Gazette, 1862.
The news of the encounter generated great excitement in Yass, and word quickly spread throughout the town of a notorious bushrangers apprehension. With a public jumpy and constantly in fear of being stuck-up or even killed whenever they ventured out. The thought of a notorious bushranger being escorted into their midst set the tongues wagging as people scrambled for a look. Bushranger fever rode high in the district, and the local correspondent, when hearing the news, prematurely jumped to the conclusion that the captured man was none other than the now 'notorious' Ben Hall.

However, wrapped in the fervour of the moment, the writer, without ascertaining all the facts, hurriedly fired off his account via telegram of the action for the Yass Courier:

The Marengo correspondent of the Yass Courier furnishes an account to that journal of the capture in that locality of a bushranger who is believed to be the notorious Ben Hall. The facts of the capture are these. The patrol belonging to Marengo, in conjunction with a black tracker, had been out in search of Gilbert and his party, but were unsuccessful in finding any traces of the robbers. Another party from a contiguous station were then dispatched to scour the country around Breakfast Creek. Their aboriginal tracker soon found some fresh tracks, which led them within sight of four or five mounted men, supposed to be Gilbert's party. Then commenced an exciting chase.

The bushrangers, as usual, had the best horseflesh, and they gradually increased the intervening distance between themselves and their pursuers, until the chase seemed almost hopeless, the heavy rifles of the troopers proving a great encumbrance. The pursed highwaymen were nearly out of sight, when the most rearward, in trying to take a shorter out, suddenly found himself "brought to grief" by a very strong line of fencing, which the officer in pursuit and his men perceiving, they, by a flank movement, one to the right and left, and three up the centre, completely hemmed in the rascal, who after trying ineffectually to make his horse take the fence, turned at bay, and seemed inclined to show fight, but seeing he was outnumbered, he returned his revolver to his belt, and surrendered at discretion. He was taken, pinioned into Marengo the same day; and a fine young fellow he is, apparently about twenty-five years of age. The name the prisoner gave is not considered bona fide, and corresponding with that of a very respectable family on the Levels, is withheld. It is thought in Young that he is the celebrated "Ben Hall," but as no person here knows him, it is merely conjecture.⁸⁷

Mr Percy Scarr.
c. 1905.
Ben Hall, they had not! The mysterious man was, however, finally identified as Henry Gibson. The wheels of justice were then set in motion, and Gibson was arraigned before the court, this time to hear from a new crown witness Mr Percy Scarr. Scarr said that he was a farm manager and was present when the men breakfast on the day of the chase. Percy gave an account of the events before the police chase; 'The Sydney Morning Herald' 27 April 1863:

The substance of the evidence was to the effect that the prisoner, with three other men, two of whom had firearms, with a woman and child, called at one of the out-stations of Mr Broughton, near Marengo, on the above day, and that the party ordered breakfast to be got ready for them, which was accordingly prepared - that they had breakfast, and remained about an hour and a half, and that they had ordered Scarr, who came up to the station to inquire of the party in charge if they were "sticking up" the place to get off his horse and join them, which he did; that the men entered into conversation with him, asked him if he was a good cook, or if he could track, both of which question he answered in the negative, and finally wound up by inviting him to join them by a nobbler, after which they departed.

The evidence presented by Mr Scarr is compelling. It throws light over Ben Hall's movements between the period of the 14th to 28th March 1863. This evidence correlates with a series of telegrams sent by Sir Frederick Pottinger to the Inspector-General of Ben Hall's movements and of Hollister's diary account of the 14th March. Pottinger believed that Elen Maguire was the lady in company with Ben Hall. However, Mr Scarr's evidence highlights Ben Hall being in the company of a woman and child. The woman is no doubt Susan Prior and the child their daughter Mary. As at this time, Elen Maguire was a mother of two children aged five and two and was still married to John Maguire. The other men later confirmed present were John Gilbert, John O'Meally, Fred Lowry and Gibson.

However, coinciding with Gibson's court appearance, a tragedy was unfolding in Forbes that would draw Elen Maguire and possibly Bridget Hall, their stepmother Sarah Walsh nee Harpur, and not as Pottinger believed of Elen in the company of Ben Hall.

The unfolding tragedy was Elen's Maguire's younger brother 'The Warrigal', John Walsh lay dying in a Forbes hotel 'The White Hart Inn', owned by none other than John Wilson the time the hotel was managed by Hall's brother-in-law John Maguire. The tragedy unfolding was that the young 'Warrigal' had contracted Gaol Fever whilst being held in custody over his associations with Frank Gardiner where through the persistence of Sir Frederick Pottinger was regularly presented in court to have him remanded; S.M.H 26th August 1862;

FORBES POLICE COURT- On the 19th instant, the young lad John Walsh, brought up on suspicion of being a mate of the bushranger Gardiner, was further remanded for three days.

As 'Warrigal' lay dying in gaol, he was removed from the pitiful surroundings to the hotel after many months of incarceration dying in the presence of his sisters and stepmother at the age of 17. John's painful and sad death would be reported in the 'Lachlan Observer' on 23rd March 1863. For Ben Hall, it was another personnel blow:

An inquiry was held on Monday afternoon, at two o'clock, at the White Hart Inn, Rankin street, touching the death of John Walsh, late prisoner in the gaol. There were present Commissioner Grenfell, Esq., J. P., Dr J. J. Connell. Drs. Flatan and Nutt, and senior sergeant Rush. Senior sergeant Rush explained that the lad Walsh was lately a prisoner under his charge, and that in consequence of having been taken ill, Dr. J. J. Connell had been called in to attend him, which he did for about a week at the gaol, and that he treated him for colonial fever. The lad got worse, and senior sergeant Rush then had him removed by his mother, Mrs, Walsh, to the White Hart Inn, when Dr. Flatan and Nutt were called in, and these gentlemen pronounced the lad to have been suffering from gaol fever in the first instance, which at the time they were called had resolved itself into a violent congestion of the brain. Vigorous and prompt measures were at once adopted, and it was found necessary to open both temporal arteries, and the jugular vein, in order to relieve the congestion. In spite of every care, however, the boy gradually sank under the disease, till death put an end to his sufferings. The result of the inquiry was the finding that "the said John Walsh had died of the effects of gaol fever.⁸⁸

Note: On the Warrigal's death certificate, his mother is stated as Julia Walsh, his step-mother was Sarah Walsh, who was previously married to Joseph Harpur in 1814, who passed away. Sarah married John Walsh in 1847. She was also the mother of NSW poet Charles Harpur and NSW Parliamentarian Josiah Harpur, the member for Patrick Plains and Sir Frederick Pottinger's constant antagonist. The nickname of Warrigal stands for 'wild or untamed horse' or 'Dingo.' His birth date is reputedly November 1845.

Furthermore, as the Warrigal was held at Forbes on 11th August 1862 Ben Hall, John Maguire, John Brown, Dan Charters and Bill Hall were all remanded at the Forbes over the escort robbery. All these men were young Walsh's uncles by marriage and men who knew him for most of his life.

Soon after Walsh's death, this appeared in the newspaper:

A lad named John Walsh, who was apprehended at the time of an unsuccessful attempt to catch Gardiner, has lately died in the gaol at Forbes under rather peculiar circumstances. The verdict returned-"Died of gaol fever"-does not give public satisfaction. Application for a special commission of inquiry is talked of.⁸⁹

Unfortunately, there was no record of any enquiry taking place. As the saying goes, the media's outrage is tomorrows 'Kitty Litter', and young Walsh's death in the interim faded from public consciousness. John Walsh was buried at Forbes Cemetery in an unmarked grave or lost grave. Thanks to the Forbes Historical Society and others, a memorial plaque bears his name at the Forbes Cemetery.
John Fletcher Hargraves
2nd April 1860-31st July 1863
b. 1815 - d. 1885.

NSW Parliament.

However, after all the evidence against the previously mentioned Henry Gibson and his association with Ben Hall, Gilbert and others, the case was dropped by the NSW Attorney General, and Gibson was discharged on the 17th May 1863. However, an explanation by the Attorney General John Hargraves referred to the lack of a possible Guilty verdict. (see article below.) Although Gibson's did not go free. As on release, he would be quickly re-arrested by Sir Frederick Pottinger and forwarded to Forbes on other matters; ‘The Sydney Morning Herald’, Tuesday 2nd June 1863:

The supposed notorious bushranger, Henry Gibson, alias "Parker," against whom a charge of "suspicion of highway robbery" had been preferred by detective Coward on the 8th of April, and also a further charge of attacking (in company with others) a station near Marengo on the 26th March last, belonging to a Mr Broughton, on which latter occasion it appeared by the evidence that the supposed bushranging party in question had simply demanded breakfast, which had been accordingly prepared for them by the inmates at the hut, when they left, bidding each other "good day" - and who had been committed from this place for trial at the next Goulburn Circuit Court on both of the supposed serious offences, the full particulars of which appeared in your several issues of the 17th and 27th April - suddenly made his appearance in the town in propria persona, to the no small astonishment of many persons. I have been given to understand that the Attorney-General had directed his discharge, not, however, without good grounds for so doing, as on reading over the depositions there was nothing upon which he could file a bill either this step or an acquittal could alone have been anticipated, and no doubt a very proper course had been taken by the Attorney-General in adopting the former alternative. However unfortunately for Gibson, the presence of Sir Frederick Pottinger here had no very great advantage in his favour, in as much as he was speedily deprived of the sweets of liberty before he had enjoyed many hours of fresh air, having been arrested on a warrant issued by the police magistrate, and brought before him on Tuesday, charged with "having on or about the month of March, and divers other occasions, harboured, aided and assisted certain notorious bushrangers, to wit, Johnny Gilbert, Johnny O'Meally, and Ben Hall, contrary to the statute." Sir Frederick Pottinger, who sat on the bench, and not only acted in the capacity of a prosecutor but appeared in the witness-box against the prisoner, to prove that he knew the prisoner before the court, had frequently seen him at Ben Hall's house and had tracked him to a place where he was in company with Mrs MaGuire (suppos