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Hunter Valley Bushrangers


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Little, Gretton, Collins & Martin

Invermein 1835


Several men were tried for bushranging before Judge Dowling in the Supreme Court Sydney on Wednesday 12 August 1835. At the time they committed their crimes the Hunter region was in an uproar. Several absconding prisoners in the Williams River district were said to have joined with native blacks and committed depredations in that district. Stockmen were murdered and farms robbed.

Major Croker of the 17th regt., was sent with troopers of the Mounted Police to quell the disturbances and capture the perpetrators in that district. In the wild stories printed in the newspapers at the time these desperadoes at the Williams River seem to become entwined with robberies committed in the Invermein district.

Not that the robberies at Invermein were any less daring; firearms and provisions were said to have been stolen as well as horses, but the perpetrators had only absconded a few days before from the very estate (Segenhoe) that they committed the robbery; all had been assigned servants to the estate. This was in the dead of winter and they had become so cold and hungry that they killed one of their stolen horses, leaving them with only three and therefore even less chance of escape. Their days of freedom were numbered in any case as the Mounted Police had been sent to the district.

The Colonist editor denied the wisdom of sending in Mounted Police troops who had little experience in the Australian bush -  in a country of which they must necessarily be entirely ignorant, and in which they must be in danger of losing themselves at every step. The experience necessary for such a service can only be acquired by a residence of years in the country.

Nevertheless the Police were successful and with the assistance of a native tracker they soon captured the men who were in the act of eating the hind quarters of the horse. After capture the men were taken to Sydney from Invermein where they were admitted to Sydney Gaol on 22nd June. They were transferred to the hulk to await trial. The details of their crimes are forever preserved in the records of the Supreme Court and the newspapers of the day: -

 "Michael Collins, William Sullivan and John (alias William) Martin stood indicted for forcibly entering a hut at Segenhoe, belonging to Potter Macqueen on 1st June, last ; and feloniously taking away flour, beef, and other articles, It appeared from the evidence that the prisoners were assigned to the prosecutor but a few days before the robbery they had absconded, and taken to the bush. On the night of the 1st June, they went armed with a gun or blunderbuss to the hut which was inhabited by an overseer named Harrigan (*probably Jeremiah Harrigan per Mariner)- after knocking him up they said they wanted some things which he had ; seeing them armed he was frightened and replied that as he could not hinder them, they might take what they wanted. They then took some flour and beef, a saddle, and some bedding and wearing apparel, and went into the bush. Guilty, remanded.

Charles Griffen (Gritton), assigned to Mr Macqueen, was indicted for having three horses in his possession knowing them to have been stolen: guilty. Transportation for life to a penal settlement. This man was taken in the company of the above prisoners."

Of the bushrangers :

William Martin arrived on the Hercules in 1832. He was 21 years old at the time of the robberies. He was a native of Surry. A farmer's boy who had been convicted of housebreaking in in Sussex. Sent to Norfolk Island. He died in the Parramatta Lunatic Asylum in 1849;

Robert (or John) Little arrived on the Royal Sovereign in 1834. He could read and write and was a native of Cavan. He had been employed as a miller's labourer and waiter and was sentenced to transportation for life in Dublin for highway robbery. He was 22 years old at the time of the robbery. He was granted a conditional pardon in 1848.

William Sullivan arrived on the Eliza in 1832. He was a ploughman from Co. Cork sentenced to transportation for life for horse stealing in Tipperary. He was 24 years old at the time of the robbery. Sent to Norfolk Island. Noted in the indents - shipped on board H.M. Fly.

Michael Collins arrived on the Caroline in 1831. He was a native of Cork and gave his occupation as play actor and soldier. He had been tried in Madras for robbery in a dwelling house. On arrival, he was assigned to Hart Davis and H.C. Sempill who managed the Segenhoe estate. He was the oldest of the bushrangers and was 34 at the time of the robberies. He was sent to Norfolk Island.

Charles Gritten (or Gretton) was 27 years old at the time of the robberies.. He arrived on the Royal Admiral in 1830 and was assigned to the Segenhoe estate directly from the ship. He was from Warwick and gave his occupation as lapidary. Charles Gritton was sent to Norfolk Island. He was granted a Conditional Pardon in 1852
 

References:

Sydney Gazette 18 June 1835.

The Colonist 11 June 1835

The Australian 16th June 1835.

The Colonist 18 Jun 1835.

 

 








 

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