Wheogo

The widow Walsh lived at Wheogo, a property selected by the family to run cattle, and today located north of Caragabal.

Mrs. Walsh had three daughters, Eleanor, Bridget & Catherine, and a son, John.

Catherine, known as Kitty, and her husband John Brown lived in a small hut beside Wheogo homestead, and worked on the property.

Ellen (Eleanor) Walsh married John McGuire, their property adjoining Wheogo. John McGuire had a half share in “Sandy Creek”, a property also adjoining Wheogo. The other shareholder was Ben Hall who was married to Bridget (Biddy) Walsh.

The Walshs & McGuires were good friends with Frank Gardiner, who had a camp on a hill south of Wheogo homestead. They were all neighbours, relations and friends in the Wheogo area.

Friends & Relations

Friends and Relations in Crime

 

Wheogo Homestead site

Wheogo locality 2002

 

 

Front Wheogo Homestead

The front of the Wheogo Homestead in the 1900's (faces north)

 

Kitty took up with Frank Gardiner & after the Eugowra heist left her husband, John Brown, to run away to Queensland with him to escape the troopers. But eventually they were tracked down and Frank was put in prison. Kitty eventually went her own way, and Frank was exiled to San Francisco, where he opened a bar and fathered twin boys.

In 1928 Frank’s twins wrote to the NSW Government, asking if their father’s name could be cleared if they returned the missing gold.

Then in 1932 two men with American accents, armed with maps and using assumed names, came to Eugowra, and started digging on a property near escort rock, where an old rabbiter’s hut used to be. They excavated a large area but apparently found nothing.

The men also visited the Wheogo area, claiming they were surveyors. They borrowed some spades from a local landholder, and proceeded to excavate the area of Frank Gardiner’s camp on Mount Wheogo.

It is believed that these men were Frank’s sons, in search of Gardiner’s share of the haul from the Eugowra robbery, which was never recovered by the authorities. Nobody knows what the Americans found on Mount Wheogo. They left as swiftly as they had come. But reports indicate they didn’t find anything of importance.

In 2000, Jeff Freeman moved to Eugowra from the Blue Mountains. Jeff and his wife Priscilla live in the oldest home in Eugowra, 2km out on the Forbes Road (Escort Way). Jeff is the great, great, great, grandson of John McGuire and Ellen Walsh and makes bits, spurs and saddle trees in his foundry. Jeff has a copy of the reminiscences of John McGuire, including his tale of the gold escort robbery.

The Newells

Ben Hall’s best mate was Dan Charters, brother of Agnes Newell (nee Charters) of Bandon Station and Newell’s Public House at Eugowra. James Newell was recorded as the licencee of The Bandon Hotel from 1866 to 1873.

It was Dan Charters who was finally convinced by his sisters Mary Feehily and Agnes Newell to give evidence against Gardiner’s gang in exchange for a free pardon.

Agnes Charters married James Newell in 1850 at Carcoar, from where they came to live on Tomanbil Station (near Forbes). James Newell purchased a portion of Bandon Station from Mr. J.F. Clements (brother to Hanbury).

The Newell family still lives on their property adjoining Bandon Station.

The Newells' grave

Agnes and James Newell's grave in Forbes Cemetery

Fagan

Speculators over the years have questioned the good fortune which befell the Fagan family following the robbery. Some even believe that Fagan was in on the robbery from the beginning, and benefited from some of the proceeds, but his had never been substantiated.

John Fagan, Real Estate Agent in Bathurst is the great great great grandson of Jack Fagan coach driver.

Another branch of the Fagan family is in Cowra and owns Mulyan Winery, 4.5km from Cowra. The family business produces a wine called Bushranger Bounty, which portrays Ned Kelly’s armour, a bit of a red herring, as the bushranger Ned Kelly was never associated with Jack Fagan, or the Eugowra robbery.

The Fagans still have Jack Fagan’s cabbage tree hat, complete with bullet hole acquired during the Gold Escort robbery.

 

Gilberts Lost Pistol

During the lead up to the robbery at Eugowra Rocks, Johhny Gilbert lost his pistol. Years later, while a paddock near Eugowra Rocks was being ploughed a pistol believed to be that which belonged to Johnny Gilbert was turned up. This is on display in the Eugowra Historical Museum and Bushranger Centre.

Gilbert's Pistol

Gilbert's pistol

Escort Rock

The landholder of Eugowra Rocks has uncovered a number of pistol cartridges at the site, believed to be from the robbery.

While inspecting the rocky cliffs around Eugowra Rocks, a natural yard was found behind the site – a grassed flattish area encircled by rocks. It is believed that the bushrangers’ horses were tethered there during the robbery.

It is known that the bushrangers loaded the robbery spoils onto at least one coach horse, and then took off, stopping at a place now known as Noble’s lagoon – a billabong about 1km away, near Mandagery Creek. Here they unpacked and repacked the haul, leaving behind the excess gold and money bags.

Croote Cottage

During his bushranging travels, Ben Hall visited Croote Cottage on Kangarooby Station, near Gooloogong and found the owner, old Mr. Dowd sick in bed. Ben offered him money to get a Doctor. Mr. Dowd refused the cash and advised Ben to mend his wicked ways.

Croote Cottage still stands and remains in the Dowd family today, thanks to the foresight and determination of Edna Dowd, who restored the cottage to its original condition.

Croote Cottage (1)

Edna Dowd and Eugowra visitor on the verandah of Croote Cottage, 2002, two months after Edna's 90th birthday

Croote Cottage (2)

 

Canowindra

After Gardiner took off to Queensland, Ben Hall took charge of the gang, and during 1863, Ben Hall, John Gilbert and John Vane made three memorable visits to Canowindra.

The first visit was on 25th September when they bailed up the town, took the lone police constable captive, and forced him to join other civilian prisoners at Robinson’s Hotel.

The bushrangers shouted drinks and cigars for their captives, and were entertained by two women who played on the piano. The gang left next morning about 9 o’clock.

On 12th October, Hall, Gilbert, Vane and Burke returned to Canowindra, repeating what they had done last visit, but this time staying for three days.

Hall, Gilbert and O’Meally returned for the third time on 3rd November, just sixteen days before their raid on Goimbla when O’Meally got shot.

Today the Royal Hotel stands in Gaskill Street Canowindra where Robinson’s Hotel once stood.

Yamma

Another incident involving bushrangers took place in 1865 at Yamma Station, on the Lachlan River, half way between Eugowra and Forbes. Squatter Charles Cropper had openly spoken out against the bushrangers.

On 29th April 1865, while Mr. Cropper was away, Mrs. Cropper and her daughters received a visit from bushrangers Hall, Gilbert and Dunn. At the time, Mrs. Cropper had been entertaining a friend who was the daughter of the police magistrate in Forbes. Held up at Yamma waiting for Mr. Cropper to return, the bushrangers stole guns, brandy and one of Mr. Cropper’s handkerchiefs, and sat eating and drinking in front of the ladies, who refused to participate. During the evening Gilbert carved “B Hall Gilbert Dunn” into a long red-gum bench at the house. The remains of this bench is on display in the Forbes Historical Museum.

After a long wait, and with no sign of Mr Cropper returning, the bushrangers left and split up, Dunn went north, Gilbert east, and Ben headed for his friend, Goobang Mick who worked for Squatter Strickland.

Death of Ben Hall

On 4th May, only five days after the raid on Yamma, Ben Hall was camped near Goobang Creek. In the early hours of May 5th he was shot full of lead by troopers without ever having had a chance to draw his pistol.

Goobang Creek is North West of Forbes and south west of Parkes. Ben had camped under some saplings, and was double crossed by a mate, Goobang Mick, to whom he had unwisely revealed where he had stashed his loot.

Goobang Mick worked for Squatter Strickland, and lured by the promise of reward and fame, revealed Ben’s whereabouts.

It was Jimmy Dargan who led the police to the camp, and who claimed to have fired the first shot.

Whatever the truth, it was a brutal slaying of a man who had never killed, but who had acutely embarrassed the police.

Death of Ben Hall

Patrick William Morony: Death of Ben Hall. with permission NLA

 

The upper reaches of Goobang Creek are crossed today in a dip as you enter Parkes, on the road between Eugowra and Parkes. Here the creek is called Billabong Creek.

Goobang Mick took his name from Goobang, where he lived, an area North West of Parkes now part of Goobang National Park.

Ben Hall’s grave is well marked and located in the Forbes Cemetery. Quite close to Ben’s grave are the graves of James and Agnes Newell and Kate Kelly. Kate was a sister to Ned Kelly, probably Australia’s most well-known bushranger, who was taken captive at Glenrowan in Victoria and hanged in Melbourne Jail in 1880.

Coonbong