- Paintings by Patrick Morony see
- The Lachlan Living History Group. Barry Ledger
- The Attack on Goimbla Station by Barry Ledger / published in Eugowra Newsletter, Vol 5, Sep-Oct 2002
- Eugowra its History and Development by Bill Banham
- Edgar Penzig – numerous publications
- “You’ll Never Take Me Alive” Nick Bleszynski
- “Wild Colonial Boys” Frank Clune
- National Museum of Australia Canberra
- Parish Maps: Waugan, Goimbla, Bandon, Eugowra
- Edna Dowd and Family
- Eugowra Historical Museum and Bushranger Centre
- Elaine Cheney, Curator Eugowra Historical Museum and Bushranger Centre
In 1935 the late Mr. George Burgess wrote this account of Australia’s greatest gold robbery
THE HOLDUP AT ESCORT ROCK.
“About the time gold was discovered in big quantities in N.S.W. it was quite a common sight to see hundreds of Chinese passing through the district, from the Ironbarks across to Lambing Flat and walking in single file, with hats as big as small umbrellas and bamboos across their shoulders carrying all their requirements in two baskets.
At that time Harry the German discovered gold on the Lachlan where Forbes now stands. He made £ 40,000 out of his claim, but it was a case of easy got, easy goes, for a few years afterwards he was seen going through Gulgong with a few belongings and an old pack horse.
The railway ran only a few miles from Sydney. I think it was as far as Penrith and all requirements had to be conveyed by teams of horse and bullock. Horse feed and food stuff rose to fabulous prices; hay £ 50 per ton, potatoes £ 30, flour £ 5 per 200lb bag, maize £ 1 per bushel.
My father had four horses and a dray, and wished to take advantage of the great prices. In June 1862 he loaded up with one ton of hay, cut in trusses, tied with stringy bark, half ton of potatoes, and 500cwt bacon and he engaged Dick Bloomfield as driver and I was sent as offsider – or as called in those days, his billy-boiler.
The first night we camped at Nyrang Station, near Boree, the next night at Cudal (a few houses and a hotel kept by Mr. T. O’Brien), the third night at Toogong where we got well and truly bogged in the Boree Creek, and had to wait until we were pulled out by a bullock team.
The fourth night was spent at Murga, and on the following day at about 11 o’clock I went into a pine scrub about two miles from Eugowra to cut a whip handle, and when I came out I saw the driver in conversation with a man wearing white moles and Wellington boots, and a red comforter around 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. There were about seven of us in all, including a swagman.
In about twenty minutes’ time along came the gold escort of four horses, 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. John Fagan, the driver, jumped off his seat and tired to steady them, but they did not go 20 yards before the coach was upset, and all was in confusion in a few minutes, all the occupants scampered into the scrub in the direction of Eugowra Station, then owned by a Mr. Clements, who galloped to Forbes to inform the police.
In a very quick time the coach was rifled, the gold of about 5000 ounces was packed on the coach horses and when everything was in readiness, one of the bushrangers came over to us, took off our blindfolds, 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.
In those days there was no decent water supply, no sanitary conveniences – dysentery and typhoid raging, and many a poor fellow went under. All our produce we sold like hot cakes. Every little clump of men was talking of the escort robbery, and speculating whether they would ever be caught. On our return trip our greatest problem was where to hide the proceeds of our sale, which was about £ 100, as we expected at every turn of the road to hear someone say ‘Bail Up!’ So in the centre of the only remaining truss of hay we planted it.
I suppose I am now the only person living who witnessed the greatest gold escort robbery in Australia. Dick Bloomfield is gone, all the police are gone. Jack Fagan is gone, and I suppose that the swagman is gone, too.”
Convicts built Croote Cottage for Captain Coulston in 1827. Only a few years before, the explorer Evans in 1815, and Oxley in 1817, had opened up the country west of the Blue Mountains to Squatters.
Croote is believed to be an Aboriginal word meaning “good water”
John Dowd bought the cottage from Capt. Coulston in 1847. It has remained with the Dowd family ever since.
It was Edna, a nurse who married into the Dowd family, who recognised Croote Cottage’s heritage value, and restored it over many years to its original condition, furnishing it to the Colonial period as it is today.
The Dowd family had emigrated from Ireland to Australia in 1837. They had then journeyed by bullock wagon across the Blue Mountains and after one month finally reached “Croote”, near Gooloogong,
John Dowd had purchased “Croote”, the land & cottage, from the NSW Government on March 9 1847. The property of 160 acres cost him 160 pounds, and the deed stated that he…”pay to the Crown the quit rent of one peppercorn per year, if demanded”
What a shock it must have been for the family to travel to such an isolated place, on the other side of the world, to suffer extremes of temperature, attacks by blacks and bushrangers, and to be left to defend their home when John went to Sydney Town each year to sell his wool and other produce, and stock up on supplies for the year ahead.
The cottage was built with a shingle roof and shutters instead of windows. The external walls were made of rammed earth (Pise) eight inches thick, providing insulation from the cold winters & hot summers. Holes of various sizes, called loopholes, were made in the walls through which Captain Coulston, and later the Dowd family could observe, & if necessary shoot their black attackers and other unwelcome visitors.
Inside there was an open fireplace with two urns for hot water and a fuel stove. The kitchen table was made from planks, and there were two homemade benches for seating. Water was drawn from a well not far from the kitchen, winched up in a bucket on a windlass. It was cold and clear, and very precious. A cellar beneath a trap door in the back room was excavated from the earth, with steps leading down to a small room where the Dowd family women & children would hide during raids by Aborigines or bushrangers
The notorious bushranger, Ben Hall raided Croote, and found John Dowd, by then an old man, sick in bed. The story goes that Ben felt sorry for John and offered him a roll of notes (money) to pay for a Doctor.
Declining the offer, John advised Ben to give up his lawless lifestyle, but the bushranger’s reply was “too late now, old chap!” and with that he galloped off.
Ben Hall, “gentleman bushranger”, was actively robbing settlers and travelers in the 1860s. In 1862 he was a member of Gardiner’s Gang of bushrangers, which held up the gold escort coach at Eugowra Rocks. Hall later raided Goimbla Station near Eugowra, with John O’Meally and John Gilbert. During the raid, O’Meally was shot. His body was buried in the old Anglican Cemetery at Gooloogong. Hall along with Gilbert and others held up Robinsons Hotel (now the Royal Hotel) at Canowindra three times, once holding the town to ransom for 3 days.
Australia’s first Archbishop, who said mass on the sideboard for the local Catholics, also visited Croote Cottage. This sideboard is still in the Dowd family.
When you visit Croote Cottage you will be charmed by its simplicity and authenticity, and appreciate the resourcefulness and stamina of our forebears.
Croote Cottage is situated about 5 kms from Gooloogong along the Kangarooby Road & just past a T intersection
Gooloogong is half an hour’s drive west of Cowra, and half an hour south east of Forbes & Eugowra. Canowindra is a short drive to the north, and Grenfell is half an hour’s drive to the south. Parkes & Orange are about an hour’s drive from Gooloogong.
Take a stroll over the beautiful old river bridge. Visit the old Anglican Cemetery north of the village, where bushranger John O’Meally is buried in an unmarked grave.
Accommodation is available at the Gooloogong Hotel or at hotels and B&Bs in nearby Canowindra & Eugowra. Motel accommodation is available at Canowindra, Forbes, Cowra & Grenfell.
Food and meals can be purchased locally at the take-away shop and the Gooloogong Hotel.
John Bow – At the age of 14 John Bow started work as a stockman. He acted as a ‘Bush Telegraph’ for Frank Gardiner and was the youngest member of that gang. The gang robbed the Eugowra gold escort on Sunday the 5th June, 1862, and Bow was arrested at Nolan’s Station 21st August 1862. He was tried and sentenced to be hanged. As he was 20 years old at the time the public submitted 15,000 signatures and three days before the date due his sentence was commuted to penal servitude for life. In 1874 Bow was given a special pardon, after 12 years of goal. After he was released he took up a selection near Lake Cargelligo. He died 5th March 1895, aged 54 years, and is buried in the Catholic portion of the Lake Cargelligo Cemetery. It is recorded in the history of the Catholic Church that John Bow loaned the money for the land on which their first church was built. (From the late K.W MacRae:
– I knew John personally and classed him to be a gentleman).
Dust of Times available from Lake Cargelligo Historical Society at a cost of $10.00 (Plus Postage) 02 6898 1384 (Jan Johnson)