Crown Lands Commissioners In Moreton Bay (1842-1859)
Dr Margaret Shield, Visiting Fellow 2017/2018

John Bidwell Letter 1852

The Commissioner of Crown Lands, Wide Bay District, to the Chief Commissioner of Crown Lands, reporting robbery of Barracks by Blacks

Wide Bay District, Tinana October 14th 1852


I have the honour to report that on the 8th instant the Blacks forced the door of the men’s Barracks, at this place, during their absence, and completely stripped it of its contents.

The Government property lost consisted of a musket, the best suits of clothing of three men and their blankets and bedding.

They also got about 100 lbs. of flour belonging to the men, which they had saved up from their rations.

I deferred reporting the loss until now as I was in hopes of recovering, at least, the musket but I fear I must give up that expectation.

The building robbed is at most 100 yards from my quarters, in which were at the time, myself and three other male persons. The door of the Barracks was locked and the Blacks took advantage of my dinner hour, and of the wind blowing from the place where I kept a Bloodhound chained, to force the door and commit the robbery. As it was the robbery must have been discovered within about five minutes of its perpetration and I tracked the thieves to Tinana Creek which they crossed within half a mile of this place. As a detachment of the Native Police was at the time at Maryborough only 4 miles off, I instantly sent a message to Mr Marshall, the officer in command requesting his assistance. He arrived with his men about dusk and started on the tracks about 8 o’clock next morning with two of my police. After remaining out until sunset they returned here unsuccessful.

The Blacks have been terribly troublesome here lately. They have attempted to steal my little flock of sheep six different times since August. They twice got into the fold at night but were disturbed and left spears behind there. The fold adjoins my store and is surrounded by a strong paling fence 6 ½ feet high. I have suffered so much by their depredations that I have gone to the expense of surrounding my buildings with a high paling fence, enclosing also a garden – Nevertheless I have lately lost nearly all my sweet potatoes by repeated robberies at night, in spite of watching, manhunt and bloodhound, I have found that they have actually been lying within 5 (five) yards of my sitting room at 8 o’clock in the evening, when they must have been watching me writing at this table while others dug the potatoes at about 20 yards further off downhill. I could not have believed in such audacity had I not seen their tracks and picked up their weapons which I suppose they dropped on seeing me rise hastily or being disturbed by the barking of the dog.

I very much fear that if the population of Maryborough shall continue to decrease, some great catastrophe may arise there through the insufficiency of the population for mutual protection should the Blacks be emboldened to make such an attack on the place as they did on Mr [  ] in 1849, and under such circumstances I am convinced that the mere proximity of the Native Police would be no preventive, for, in this neighbourhood owing to the physical impediments of the country that force is, as far as my observation goes, nearly useless.

I have the honour to be

Your most obedient servant

J.C. Bidwell




(New South Wales State Archives: NRS 906 Colonial Secretary’s Special Bundles-Commissioner of Crown Lands. Reports re Border Police-Moreton Bay 1843-46. Document Number: 32/9967. Transcribed from the original. Reproduced with permission from NSWSA)