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Title: Michael Howe--The Last and Worst of the Bush-Rangers of Van Dieman's Land
Author: Thomas E. Wells (1782-1833)
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eBook No.: 0606831.txt
Language: English
Date first posted: September 2006
Date most recently updated: September 2006

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Michael Howe--The Last and Worst of the Bush-Rangers of Van Dieman's Land
by Thomas E. Wells

Narrative of the chief Atrocities committed by this great Murderer
and his Associates, during a period of six Years, in Van Diemen's Land:
from authentic sources of information.

First Published 1818.



THE following account, of which some portions were published in Mr.
Evans's work on Van Diemen's Land, will be read with interest. It was
originally printed in the colony in the year 1818.

The bush-rangers of Van Diemen's Land generally consist of men accused
of crimes, or of prisoners escaped from gaol, who, retiring to the
forests and intricate passes amongst the mountains, often contrive for
a long time to elude the vigilance of their pursuers. But they
invariably pay the forfeit of their temerity, being either shot in the
woods by their pursuers, murdered by their confederates, or executed
upon the gallows.

Another class of bush-rangers consists of men who, having been
transported to Macquarie Harbour for offences committed in the colony,
attempt an escape from that secluded spot to the inhabited parts of
the island. Of these, the greater part have perished of hunger and
fatigue in the pathless forests and mountains with which that port is
surrounded. This also has doubtless been the fate of the military sent
in pursuit of the runaways. In one of these expeditions, which
originally consisted of six convicts, two out of the three survivors
murdered their companion, while asleep, for the revolting purpose of
appeasing their hunger, and a few days afterwards, having then
wandered six weeks in various directions, they found themselves in
sight of the settlement from which they were attempting to escape.
Here they surrendered themselves.

They related the extremities to which they had been reduced, with the
dreadful consequences, and to corroborate their story, produced a part
of their slaughtered companion. Their past sufferings proved fatal;
they died after a few days in the hospital, and, utter reprobates as
they were, in looking at their sufferings, we must cease to regret
that justice was deprived of her victims.

The dreadful fate of these men availed their fellow-prisoners nothing.
Another party immediately set out with undiminished ardour upon the
same perilous discovery. Others had been disappointed in their efforts
to reach the interior by a direct route over the mountains; but these,
taking a circuitous passage along the coast to the northward and then
to the eastwardy succeeded in reaching the settlements, and resuming
their old habits of plunder were again apprehended.

There has been one instance of a bush-ranger who was long outlawed in
the woods, without being suspected of any crime, and indeed, with the
credit of being active in its prevention. It occurred during the
period of the transactions related in the following pages. He was a
seaman, who having formed an attachment for a young woman in the
colony, deserted from his ship, fled with her into the woods, where he
remained for a period of three years. They afterwards returned to
Hobart Town, where he acquired wealth, and I regret to add, that the
poor reward he might have bestowed for her fidelity was withheld: he
married another woman.

As the country becomes more populous and better explored, instances of
a long course of successful enormities become rare. During my
residence in the island, many criminals fled to the woods; but their
course was generally short, and they were soon apprehended and brought
to justice.

Edward Curr

Michael Howe, who acted the principal part in the transactions about
to be narrated, was born at Pontefract in Yorkshire in the year 1787,
and was bound apprentice to a merchant vessel at Hull; but he served
only two years when he ran away and entered on board a man-of-war.

In the year 1811 he was apprehended for robbing a miller on the
highway, and tried at the York assizes following; but from an
informality in the indictment the capital part of the charge was
abandoned, and he received sentence of seven years transportation. He
arrived at this settlement in the ship Indefatigable Captain Cross in
the month of October 1812.

During his passage from England his habits were rather industrious,
and, though always mischievously inclined, he exhibited no symptoms of
that daring and wanton conduct which manifested itself in his future
Life, unless we may consider as such his leaping overboard whilst the
vessel was in port and swimming a considerable distance before he was

As a leader of a band of desperadoes, Howe may not unaptly be compared
to Three-fingered Jack, who was so long the terror of the peaceable
settlers in the plantations of Jamaica; and who, notwithstanding every
exertion to take him, long ranged the woods of that island, committing
the most cruel and daring acts of murder and robbery, until, from the
large rewards offered by the Government, he was arrested by the hands
of justice.

Howe was only a few days at Government public labor before he was
assigned, as a Crown servant, to Mr. Ingle, a merchant and grazier;
from whose service he eloped into the woods and joined twenty-eight
felons at that time at large committing depredations.

With a view of inducing those deluded people to return to their duty
to Government, His Excellency Governor Macquarie, on the 14th May,
1814, was pleased to extend to them the Royal clemency for all
offences committed during their unlawful absence (the crime of wilful
murder excepted); provided they should return to their lawful
occupations by the 1st day of December following; denouncing all who
should neglect to do so as outlaws.

This banditti, now consisting of twenty-nine persons, amongst whom
were Michael Howe and John Whitehead, an equally desperate offender,
availed themselves of the proffered clemency and surrendered to

Although Howe and his companions must at this period have been
sensible that their lives would have been forfeit to the Laws, but for
the mercy extended to them, this reflection did not operate to amend
their future conduct; for we soon after find Howe and Whitehead again
in the woods with a new set of desperadoes, adding murder to robbery.

After some minor depredations, this band, headed by Whitehead,
stripped nearly the whole of the settlers at New Norfolk of their
portable property, together with all arms and ammunition; and from
thence proceeded to Pitt Water and robbed Mr. Fisk a new settler at
that place.

In the night of March 10th, they set fire to the wheat Stacks, barns,
etc., of A. W. H. Humphrey, Esqe., Police Magistrate, and of
Bartholomew Reardon, district constable, at Pitt Water, within a few
minutes of each other; destroying the produce of one hundred acres
recently got in. A paper was found near the burnt stacks of Mr.
Humphrey, upon which were words of threatening import, and the
representation of a gun firing a ball at the head of a man.

It afterwards came out that Whitehead and Garland were the principal
incendiaries in this wanton destruction.

On the 25th April 1815, the Band, consisting of John Whitehead, the
leader, Richard McGuire, Hugh Burne, Richard Collier, Peter Septon,
John Jones, James Geary, a deserter from the 73rd Regiment, and Howe,
accompanied by a black native girl named Mary, with whom Howe
cohabited, again appeared at New Norfolk, and robbed the house of Mr.
Carlisle, a settler there, who immediately communicated the
circumstance to his neighbour Mr. McCarty.

The latter being apprehensive for the safety of his schooner the
Geordy, lying near in the Derwent with valuable property, determined
to meet the robbers; and accompanied by several persons on the spot,
who immediately volunteered, commenced a pursuit.

Mr. McCarty's party, consisting of himself, Mr. Jemott, Mr. James
O'Birne, master of the Geordy, Keith Hacking, mate, Messrs. Carlisle,
Murphy, James Triffit, John Brown, and--Tooms, armed with fowling
pieces and pistols, soon came up with the robbers and commanded them
to surrender their arms; the gang instantly commenced firing under
cover of and through a large hollow tree, and wounded five of the
party, who had the disadvantage of being fully exposed to the fire of
the former on every attempt to get a shot at them. Carlisle received a
ball in the groin and three slugs in the breast, of which wounds he
died within an hour; Mr. Jemott was badly wounded by a ball passing
through the thick part of the thigh, in which part Triffit was also
wounded, and Murphy in the abdomen. O'Birne received a Ball in the
cheek which perforated the Tongue and lodged in the neck, causing his
death in a few days. The Banditti, availing themselves of the disabled
state of Mr. McCarty's party, in turn demanded him to lay down his
arms, which was refused, and a slight firing continued until the
wounded were removed, with the exception of Murphy, whose state
obliged him to remain at the mercy of the Gang, and they were about to
add corporal punishment to their victory, but were prevented by their
leader Whitehead.

In consequence of these murders, military parties were sent in various
directions in search of the banditti. A party of the 73rd Regt. in a
few days came so close up with them as to find the remains of their
fires and the skin of a sheep recently killed. A party of the 46th was
also in pursuit, and a number of the inhabitants of Hobart Town well
armed, went in search of the murderers of Carlisle and O'Birne.

Lieutenant Governor Davey adopted measures for their apprehension.

A Proclamation had previously to this been published offering a reward
of fifty guineas to any person, free or bond, who would apprehend a
bush-ranger and lodge him in safe custody; holding out encouraging
prospects to such of the offenders themselves (not personally implicated
in any act of felony) as should procure the apprehension of any of their
associates; and it having been represented that the bush-rangers derived
supplies from settlers, and other fixed inhabitants, a further reward of
fifty guineas was offered to any person giving information of such
abettors: for without secret assistance these depredations could not
long have continued.

On the 10th of May, the band of robbers visited the house of Mr.
Humphrey at Pitt Water for the second time.

About seven o'clock in the evening, Whitehead, Septon and Collier, all
armed, burst open the door of the servants' hut and rushed in.
Whitehead and Septon immediately presented their muskets cocked to the
servants present, and stood over them, whilst Collier made them take
off their neckcloths, with which he tied their hands across behind
their backs;--Whitehead and Septon threatening to shoot them if they
stirred or resisted.

Howe then came in and taking a lamp from the hut went, with others who
had remained outside to the dwelling house occupied by Mr. Humphrey,
which they broke open and plundered, while Whitehead, Septon and
Collier stood guard over the Servants.

After packing up every thing they found useful to themselves, and
breaking and destroying what they could not take away (which last they
said they should have spared had they not perceived two pairs of irons
in the house) they departed, threatening if any one stirred out of the
hut that he should be shot by sentries which they would place to look
out, while the others might get a sufficient distance.

The banditti shortly afterward revisited New Norfolk. Knowing Mr.
McCarty was absent, and meditating revenge for the opposition met with
in their late encounter, they repaired to his premises by night, and
wantonly fired a volley in at the window. It happily did no other
injury than slightly wounding one soldier. On this occasion they met
with an unexpected reception; for a party of the 46th Regt., who had
been stationed in the house, immediately commenced a brisk fire, which
killed their leader Whitehead.

The party then rushed from the House to cut off the retreat of the
banditti, but from the darkness of the night were unable to do so.

When Whitehead received the fatal shot he ran a few yards towards
Howe, crying "take my watch--take my watch" and then dropped. Howe,
immediately took off his head; as well perhaps to prevent the body
being recognised by their pursuers as in performance of an engagement
which they had made to each other, upon any one of them being killed,
a survivor should do this, to prevent, as they said, any person from
benefiting by rewards for taking in their heads.

The head of Whitehead was a considerable time afterwards found in the
woods:--the body was brought to Hobart Town and gibbeted on Hunter's

From this period Howe was considered the leader of the band.

In the early part of this year Lieut. Governor Davey established
Martial Law in the Colony; which was kept in force till repealed by
order of Governor Macquarie; soon after which, a party in quest of the
banditti, in the neighbourhood of Tea-tree Brush, descried their place
of retreat from a smoke which they had made. Near the hut, from which
it proceded were McGuire and Burne (the rest being absent) who
immediately darted into a thicket and disappeared eluding all search.

In the hut was found a number of articles belonging to various
individuals whom they had at different periods plundered; besides
ammunition, musket balls, fire arms and several kangaroo dogs.

This discovery caused the separation of McGuire and Burne from the
rest of the banditti, and their speedier fall; for after wandering
several days in the woods they applied to a settler near Kangaroo
Point to procure them a boat for the purpose of proceeding to Bass's
Straits; for which they promised the reward of a watch. The settler
pretended to come into their views, and left them with the assurance
of going in search of the boat; but he privately repaired to Hobart
Town and informed the Lieut. Governor of their intentions. A party of
the 46th Regt. was immediately despatched who surrounded the place of
their concealment and captured both. Burne was the most aged of the
gang, and was severely wounded in endeavouring to escape from the
party. They were brought before a General Court Martial, charged with
being two of the banditti who murdered the unfortunate Carlisle, were
convicted and received sentence of death. They were accordingly
executed and their bodies gibbeted on Hunter's Island, near to that of
Whitehead, their leader when that murder was committed.

The banditti were now reduced to Howe, Septon, Jones, Geary and Collier.

From the information of one of the gang, who had been taken in the
woods and afterwards admitted an evidence for the Crown, a discovery
took place of some of the abettors of the bush-rangers in the robbery
of Mr. Fisk; in consequence of which William Stevens, a crown
prisoner, and two youths born of European parents at Norfolk Island,
(who were stock-keepers near to the place where the robbery was
committed and in whose possession some of the stolen property was
found) were all apprehended as being concerned with the Bush-rangers
in that robbery; of which they were afterwards convicted by a General
Court Martial and sentenced to death. Stevens was executed, and the
two youths respited under the gallows, which was fixed near to the
gibbets on Hunter's Island; and the body of Stevens was buried within
a few yards of the same place.

In October following Martial Law was repealed by order of His
Excellency The Governor in Chief.

These awful examples had no tendency to correct the vicious course of
the remaining hardened offenders. They committed many acts of plunder
in the September following;--they robbed the House of Mr. Stanfield at
Green Point of every movable;--they also rushed into the house of
Stines and Troy, settlers at the plains of the Coal River, and with
horrid menace, commanded every person to remain quiet in the dwelling
while they rifled it of every portable article, and a tradesman, who
was at work on the premises, and who some time before had been of the
party in pursuit of them, narrowly escaped being shot.

After this month they retired again to the woods and were not again
heard of till the 7th of November, when they assailed the residence of
David Rose Esqe, at Port Dalrymple. Their conduct while plundering
here was aggravated, as on other occasions, by every wanton atrocity.

Upon this the Commandant repaired to the woods in person, accompanied
by a strong party of the 46th Regt., and the Chief Constable; they
searched the interior of the country several days, but were unable to
come up with any of the Gang.

These miscreants were next visible at the farm of Mr. T. Hayes at
Bagdad, within eleven days and at the distance of 100 Miles from the
scene of their last outrage. Mr. W. T. Stocker, a person in the habit
of trading between the settlements, had halted at Hayes' for the night
with a cart load of property of great value, the whole of which the
banditti forcibly carried off. It is to be supposed that they had
previously been informed of Mr. Stocker's journey.

The property taken from individuals by this lawless gang must by this
time have been immense, and it is not to be conceived how it was
appropriated but by their having confederates in society, though
unsuspected, who not only purchased their booty, but were channels of
information, as to the passing events in which they were interested;--
and indeed we may safely ascribe the long period in which they eluded
every exertion made to capture them to this secret support.

Soon after this, the banditti, increasing in hardihood in proportion
with the number of atrocities as yet committed with impunity, assumed
a lofty tone, and addressed a Letter to Lt. Governor Davey, replete
with ignorant and insolent threats. They, however, complained of being
much harrassed by the pursuing parties from the settlements, and the
perseverance used to take them. In addition to the old gang the letter
was signed by six felons, who had lately absconded, named Chapman,
Coine, Parker, Keegan, Browne and Currie. Two native black girls,
armed as well as the men, accompanied them.

At this period a most vigilant and persevering search was continued in
all directions by parties of military from Hobart Town and Port
Dalrymple. Captain Nairn headed a detachment of 20 privates of the
46th Regt., and continued an indefatigable pursuit, night and day. All
efforts, however, were as yet unavailing.

The following information taken before A. W. H. Humphreys Esqe. J.P.
as it shews their state of feeling, and having reference to the letter
sent to Lt. Govr. Dewey, may be perused with some interest.

"John Yorke being duly sworn states--About 5 o'clock in the evening of
Nov. 27th I fell in with a party of bush-rangers, about 14 Men and 2
Women; Michael Howe and Geary were the only 2 of the gang I knew
personally. I met them on Scantling's Plains--I was on horseback; they
desired me to stop, which I accordingly did on the high road; it was
Geary that stopped me; he said he wanted to see every man sworn to
abide by the contents of a letter.--I observed a thick man writing, as
I suppose to the Lt. Governor.--Geary was the man who administered the
oath on a prayer book, calling each man for that purpose regularly;
they did not inform me the contents of the letter--Michael Howe and
Geary directed me to state when I came to town the whole I had seen
and to inform Mr. Humphreyand Mr. Wade to take care of themselves, as
they were resolved to take their lives, and to prevent them from
keeping stock or grain, unless there was something done for them--that
Mr. Humphrey might reap what grain he liked, but they would thrash
more in one night that he could reap in a year. They said they could
set the whole country in a fire with one stick. I was detained about
three quarters of an hour, during which time they charged me to be
strict in making known what they said to me, and what I had seen. On my
return from Port Dalrymple I called at a hut occupied by Joseph Wright
at Scantling's Plains:--William Williams and a youth were there, who
told me the bush-rangers had been there a few days before and forced
them to a place called Murderers' Plains which the bush-rangers called
the Tallow Chandler's Shop, where they made them remain three days for
the purpose of rendering down a large quantity of beef fat which
Williams understood was taken from cattle belonging to Stines & Troy."

On the 25th February following, the commandant of Port Dalymple, sent
out Ensign Mahon and a party of the 46th Regt., in pursuit of bush--
rangers; and after several weeks in the woods they fell in with
Chapman, Parker and Elliott, lying in ambuscade at York Plains. On
being called upon to surrender, Chapman snapped his musket at the
guide and with the rest ran off. Three of the soldiers then fired;
Chapman was shot through the back and soon after expired; Parker was
slightly wounded but fled into a thicket and escaped; Elliott was shot
by Ensign Mahon, and died instantly. The heads of Chapman and Elliott
were taken off and sent into Launceston, and the bodies interred on
the spot. Parker was afterwards apprehended near the same spot in a
wretched state.

In the early part of March it appears that some jealousy of Howe began
to manifest itself in the old gang;--they conceived, from the
circumstance of his being absent at intervals without their knowledge,
or assigning any reason, that he meditated betraying the rest. Howe
was aware of their suspicions, and, feeling no longer secure among
them, suddenly eloped, taking with him the native girl before

In April, 1817, Lt. Governor Sorrell arrived, and assumed the
government of the settlements on Van Diemen's Land; and about this
period Howe and the native girl were pursued in the neighbourhood of
Jericho, by a small party of the 46th Regt.

His wantonly cruel disposation was strongly manifested on this
occasion; for being hard pressed, in order to facilitate his own
escape, he fired at this poor female companion, who from fatigue was
unable to keep pace with him; she received, however, little injury,
and together with his blunderbuss, knapsack and dogs, fell into the
hands of the pursuers.

This native girl afterwards became particularly valuable as a guide to
the military parties, from the quickness and sagacity peculiar to the
black natives in tracing footsteps where Europeans would not suspest
them. She led the party first to some of the places of the banditti's
resort at the River Shannon. While employed in burning their huts in
this quarter, Howe, Septon and Geary were seen at the other side of
the river; the appearance of the military party, however, gave them no
alarm, as they knew the river could not be immediately crossed;--the
banditti had therefore another opportunity of escape.

Continuing their search, the soldiers next met with 50 Sheep in a remote
place, stolen from Mr. Stanfield, and concealed by the bush-rangers for
future supply.

After the loss of his knapsack and dogs,--his confirmed breach with
the rest of the banditti and his late narrow escape, Howe, now
entirely alone, appears to have determined upon carrying into
execution a design which, according to the report of the native girl,
he had for some time contemplated--viz, that of chancing an extension
of mercy upon surrender.

He accordingly found means to convey to Lt. Governor Sorell a letter
offering to give himself up to an officer, as well as to furnish
important information of the friends and supporters of the old Gang,
and become the means of their final capture, upon His Honor's
assurance of present personal safety, and a favourable representation
to His Excellency the Governor in Chief, with a request for pardon.
The Lt. Governor immediately dispatched Captn. Nairn of the 46th
Regt., to a place named, with an assurance to that effect, and this
officer on the 29th April conveyed Howe to Hobart Town and lodged him
in the county gaol. He now underwent various examinations by the

In the meantime the military parties remained in pursuit of the
robbers still at large.

On the 10th of May the party commanded by Sergt. McCarthy arrived in
Hobart Town, after an arduous and persevering pursuit under
circumstances of peculiar hardship and privation they had procured
information of and tracked the banditti for several days, until the
loss of their flour in fording a river, and a total want of
provisions, which reduced them to eat the skin mocassons from their
feet, compelled them to give up the pursuit for a time.

On the 19th of the same month the party stationed at Pitt Water,
commanded by Lt. Nunn, received intelligence that the banditti were
robbing the premises of Edward, Lord Esqe. at Orielton Park. They
hastened to the spot; and on their appearance the banditti fired
several shots, and slightly wounded Lt. Nunn.

Some soldiers stationed at another part of the settlement were now
seen by the bush-rangers approaching upon which the latter fled,
leaving behind them some flour which they had stolen from Mr. Lord.

About the end of June the Government long boat, employed on the Port
Dalrymple River in carrying provisions betwen George Town and
Launceston, was carried away by the bush-rangers, with five more men
and several stand of arms; but in consequence of bad weather their
design of escaping to the islands was frustrated; and they were
compelled to return. After burning the boat and other articles they
were driven again to resume their former habits in the woods.

The old gang might now be considered to have received considerable
accession; the number at large having amounted to twenty, in the
absence, at this period, of The Lieut. Governor at the other

On the 5th July, a meeting of the principal inhabitants of Hobart Town
was held, under the sanction of His Honor, in order to facilitate the
views of Government, by raising a sum of money to be applied in
rewards for apprehending the banditti then at large, when five hundred
and twenty guineas were immediately subscribed. Upon the result of
this meeting, and the recent intelligence of the plunder and excesses
at George Town, The Lt. Governor issued a Proclamation, holding out
the following rewards for the apprehension of the old Gang.

For Geary 100 guineas.
Septon; Jones; Collier each 80 guineas.
Browne; Coine ea; 50 guineas.

and at the same time was offered a reward of 80 guineas. for George
Watts, an old and mischievous Bush robber under Colonial Sentence to
the Coal River, but who had only associated with Garland (also an
offender in the woods, and who was engaged with Whitehead in burning
the stacks at Pitt Water) supposed to be drowned in an attempt to
cross the Derwent.

Two days after this Proclamation, the banditti appeared at the Black
Brush, and on the following day were traced by Serjeant McCarthy's
party to a settler's house at the Tea-tree Brush, where they had
dined. On perceiving the military, they ran out of the house and
posted themselves behind trees, where the timber on the ground was
very thick. An attack commenced on both sides, and though the banditti
had certainly the advantage of position, Geary their leader, by a well
directed fire was wounded, and fell; he died the same night. Smith and
Tall, runaways from Port Dalrymple, who had joined the gang only a few
days, were also wounded and taken.

This success would doubtless have been followed up by greater in the
military party, but from its laboring under the disadvantages of great
fatigue, from incessant pursuit, and that of a heavy rain which
prevented their muskets from going off. The whole of the knapsacks and
dogs of the banditti, however, fell into their hands; and it ought to
be noted that this little party were at the moment totally
unacquainted with the recent Proclamation and offered rewards;--from
the latter of which they were, however, not allowed to remain long
without benefiting.

In the meantime Howe continued at the gaol of Hobart Town; but His
Excellency the Governor in Chief having received favorably the request
made by The Lieut. Governor, in pursuance of the terms of Howe's
surrender, he could not altogether be considered a prisoner for close
confinement; upon which account, and his health being reported to be
much impaired, he was occassionally permitted to walk out in charge of
a constable.

His examinations by the Magistrates were frequent, and his depositions
voluminous and tedious; but notwithstanding his promise of a full
disclosure of the supporters of the bush-rangers, little information
of worth, or utility, could be gained from him.

It might have ben expected that Howe would, at this period, have
placed some value on his improved situation; being in fact considered
a pardoned offender, to whom was afforded a last chance of atoning in
some degree for his past crimes by an amended life; and having the
prospect of speedily returning to Society: but a life of crime
obtained with Howe a preference to all others; and on the 26th July,
by some means eluding the vigilance of the Constable, to whose care he
was entrusted, he again escaped to the woods.

He now felt himself too much a traitor and a villain for the safe
admission of a companion, or confederate, and never after joined his
old associates. He had indeed before him a well-founded apprehension
of the consequences of his treachery, even from those stamped with
similar crimes, should he be found once more in their power.

Thus we find the crimes of this man lead him on, step by step, till he
is reduced to prefer the desperate situation of standing opposed to
all mankind;--compelled unceasingly to watch for his life;--certain of
seeing an enemy in every human face--certain that to suffer himself
for a moment to sleep might terminate his miserable existence;
certain, too, that in that sleep his enormities would at least visit
him with horrid retrospective visions, anticipations of torture--
despair and death;--and certain that reality promised no other end:--
preferring all these, to the opportunity given him of a Life of
penitence, and a death at all events not hastened by the hands of

Let us now turn to his old associates in guilt; whom justice seemed
now to be quickly overtaking; for there remained at large, besides
Howe, of the original gang who ran from the Derwent, only Septon,
Jones and Collier,--Coine and Browne, who were implicated in their
recent robberies, were runaways from Port Dalrymple.

In a few days after the affair in which Geary was killed, the banditti
robbed several stock-keepers at the Carleton.

On the 3rd of August the little force of Sergt. McCarthy, which had
been unremittingly scouring the woods in all directions, observed the
print of feet on the beach, and traced and discovered the banditti at
Swan Port on the eastern shore.

As soon as they perceived the soldiers, they fled with precipitancy.
One of the party fired and shot Jones, their chief, through the head;
who instantly died. His body was buried on the beach, after being
decapitated, and his head sent to Hobart Town.

Whilst the party proceeded to intercept the retreat of the remainder
the fire of the banditti wounded Holmes (a runaway who had lately
joined them) and he was taken; but from the intricacy of the woods and
his wounded state he was with difficulty brought to Hobart Town.

We next find discontent and treachery among themselves hasten the
destruction of the remainder of the banditti; for on the 25 of August,
a horrible transaction occurred at a Hut behind Gordon's Plains near

They had on that day effected a robbery at the farm of Mr. Brumby, in
which it appears Wright and Hillier, runaways from George Town, had
joined them. On that evening Wright left the rest, and gave himself up
at Launceston; but Hillier conceived the horrible project of murdering
his companions, Septon and Collier, while asleep at this Hut (it
appears Coine and Browne were absent at this moment) imagining, as he
afterwards said, that he should receive the rewards offered by
Government, and screen himself from the punishment of his own crimes,
which he apprehended would speedily overtake him.

In the middle of the night, this monster, watching his opportunity,
with a razor cut the throat of Septon from ear to ear, causing his
immediate death. He then turned to perpetrate the same act on Collier,
who, it seems, had been slightly disturbed; he effected only a
trifling wound on the neck of the latter, who made his escape out of
the hut; Hillier, however, having previously secured possession of the
arms, seized Septon's rifle gun and fired at Collier, shattering his
hand severely.

A more treacherous assassination has seldom been heard of.

Hillier was soon after taken; as was also Collier, in an enfeebled and
helpless state. The former was sent to Sydney to take his trial for
the murder of Septon, in the ship Pilot with Collier, who was sent to
the same tribunal, charged as one of the eight engaged in the murders
at New Norfolk, when Carlisle and O'Birne were killed; and he was the
only one reserved to make a public expiation.

Upon intelligence of this last dreadful affair, The Lt. Governor
issued a further Proclamation, and offered the following rewards for
the only three bush-rangers at large on the 1st day of September, viz.
For Howe 100 guineas. Watts 80 guineas. Browne 50 guineas.
all of whom were known to have no connection or communication with
each other.

In this Month, Browne surrendered to Government; Coine and Keegan had
done so some time previously; and though capital punishment might have
been inflicted on these last three, yet as they had no connection with
the heinous Murders committed by others of the banditti, Government
forbore to bring them before a Criminal Court. These men were chiefly
companions of Parker, who was taken as before noticed, and with him
were convicted by a Bench of Magistrates of various robberies, and

Browne: 150 Lashes and 4 years to Newcastle.
Parker; Coine; Keegan: 100 lashes and 2 years to do.

We have now only Howe and Watts at large, and it seemed ordained that
the greater should be reserved for punishment of the lesser villain,
before called upon to receive the just reward of his great and
manifold crimes.

On the 10th of October, Howe again appears on the scene, adding to the
catalogue of murders already recorded one of the most savage
character, which will long be in the recollection of the inhabitants
of the colony.

A person named William Drewe, alias Slambow, had charge of some sheep
in the vicinity of New Norfolk, for his master Mr. Williams of Hobart
Town. Drewe had occasionally corresponded with Howe, and had agreed,
along with his Master, to take him on the first opportunity.

Howe had lately been at Williams's hut with a letter for the Lt.
Governor; and soon after Watts, who it should seem had some design
upon Howe, called to enquire of Drewe if he had seen him. Drewe
informed Watts that he had seen Howe, and was to meet him at sun-rise
the following Friday, when, he said, if Watts would come, he would
take him. On the Thursday Watts took away a boat from New Norfolk, in
which he crossed the Derwent, and concealed himself near the path
where Drewe had appointed, till the next morning. At sun-rise, Drewe
arrived, and told Watts that he was to meet Howe at a place called
Long Bottom. They proceeded thither, and Watts requested Drewe to
conceal his Gun, as probably Howe would not come up to them if he
perceived it. Upon arriving at the spot, Drewe called several times,
and was answered by Howe from the opposite side of the creek. When
Watts came within 90 yards of Howe, he desired him to knock out the
priming of his gun, promising to do the same: this was accordingly
done by both, and after proceeding 30 or 40 yards, they made a fire.
Soon after which, Watts caught hold of Howe and threw him down; Drewe
tied his hands, and took from his pockets two knives. Watts and Drewe
next prepared breakfast, but of which Howe refused to partake. Before
they proceeded to Hobart Town, Drewe proposed to take his master's gun
and dog to the hut; which was agreed to by Watts, who desired him not
to mention the occurrence of the morning to Williams; the latter had
arrived the evening before at the hut to shear his Sheep. Drewe met
his master, who becoming, by the absence of his man, alarmed for his
safety, had proceded in search of him; upon Drewe's running towards
him with his gun and dog, Williams enquired the cause; Drewe replied
that George Watts was stopping with Howe, whom they had taken, whilst
he came to acquaint his master, and deliver his musket, as he had got
Michael Howe's, and Watts had his own; he also shewed Williams the two
knives he had taken, but declined the offered assistance of the
latter, as Howe was secured. Upon Drewe's return to Watts and Howe,
they all proceded towards Hobart Town; Watts, with his gun loaded,
walking before Howe, and Drewe behind. After walking about 8 miles,
Howe found means to disengage his hands, and in an instant stabbed
Watts, with a knife which he had remaining secreted about his person.
Watts fell and dropped his gun, which Howe seized at the moment, and
with it shot Drewe dead. Watts now dreaded a similar fate; for on
asking Howe if he had killed Slambow, he replied "Yes, and I'll serve
you the same as soon as I can load the piece." Watts then ran about
200 yards, and lay down amongst some brush, being faint and cold from
loss of blood. As soon as he was able to walk, he contrived to reach a
settler's house not far distant, and, after being put to bed, told the
owner that he had been stabbed by Howe, requesting the district
Constable might be sent for, to take him to town. Upon the arrival of
the latter, Watts could only utter his own name; but the next morning
he told the Constable that Drewe was killed. The body was found about
half a mile from the house where Watts lay, and was conveyed to Hobart
Town for a Coroner's Inquest, whose verdict was "That the deceased
William Drewe was murdered by Michael Howe."

Watts was conveyed to gaol in a weakly state; he was a runaway from
Newcastle, and was sent to Sydney in the Pilot, but under no criminal
charge, where he died in the General Hospital, of the wounds received
from Howe, in three days after his arrival.

As soon as the melancholy circumstance of the murder of Drewe was
communicated to The Lt. Governor, he issued another Proclamation,
promising, in addition to the former reward of 100 guineas. for the
apprehension of Howe a strong recommendation for a free pardon and
passage to England, to any Crown prisoner who would be the means of
apprehending that great Murderer. He was, however, not again seen for
some time.

On the 25th of October, Collier was tried before the Criminal Court at
Sydney, and convicted on the clearest Evidence of being one of the
murderers of Carlisle and O'Birne; he received sentence of death, to
be executed at Hobart Town and his body to be dissected. In December
he was sent back to this settlement and suffered the sentence of the
law on the 26th of January 1818. From the moment of this man's being
taken, he professed to entertain no hope of mercy, but to prefer
death, to the life he had lately led: he died penitent.

The once formidable gang, and the system of bush-ranging as an armed
banditti, producing in its progress great terror and mischief to the
community, checking the views and paralysing the efforts of the
settlers of this infant colony, might now be considered annihilated;
for though Howe the most hardened (and sanguinary of the whole) still
remained to be taken, yet he was cut off from association with man.

After the murder of Drewe, he was supposed to have buried himself in
unknown and inaccessible parts of the woods; the necessity of
procuring ammunition and supplies to prolong his wretched existence,
compelled, however, an occasional appearance; and these supplies he
obtained by robbing distant stock-keepers' huts; when he generally
bore away with him as much as he could carry, threatening instant
destruction to any person who would attempt to follow him, or trace
his steps.

But his race was nearly run; and, though after the murder of Drewe and
Watts few would choose to risk a personal encounter with him, yet the
confidence was pretty general that he could not long exist under his
present circumstances.

One or two fruitless attempts were made to take him by strategem. In
the month of September, however, McGill, who was the previous year
emancipated for services against the bush-rangers with the 46th Regt.
and who at different periods continued an assiduous pursuit after him,
came so closely upon him that, in his hurry to escape, Howe left
behind him his arms, ammunition, dogs and knapsack, which fell into
the hands of McGill, and were brought to Hobart Town.

The loss of his pistols on this occasion was a serious and irreparable
one to Howe.

In his knapsack was found a sort of journal of dreams, which shew
strongly the distressed state of his mind, and some tincture of

From this little book of kangaroo skin, written in kangaroo blood, it
appears that he frequently dreamt of being murdered by natives, of
seeing his old companions, Whitehead, Jones, Geary, and Collier, of
being nearly taken by a soldier; and, in one instance, humanity
asserts itself even in the breast of Michael Howe, for we find him
recording that he dreamt of his sister.

It also appears from this memorandum book, that he had always an idea
of settling in the woods; for it contains long lists of such seeds as
he wished to have, of vegetables, fruits, and even flowers!

After this period, but one or two trifling Robberies are heard of, in
one of which he furnished himself with a gun, and anxiously enquired
for pistols, before we come to the closing scene of the career of this

In the month of October, a person named Warburton, in the habit of
hunting kangaroo for skins, who had occasional opportunities of seeing
Howe, communicated to a Crown prisoner, named Thomas Worrall,
stock-keeper to Edward Lord Esqe. a scheme for taking him. Worrall
agreed to the trial, and with Private William Pugh of the 48th Regt. a
man of known courage, and recommended by Major Bell for this service,
determined to lay in wait at a hut on the Shannon River, likely to be
visited by Howe for supplies. Warburton was to look out for the approach
of Howe, and to induce him to come to the hut, under a promise of
ammunition; at the same time to signify his approach by a whistle. This
plan proved successful. On the 21st of October Howe met Warburton near
the place already mentioned; he, however, exhibited must distrust of the
intention of the latter, and great hesitation in advancing near the
hut,--often disappearing to see if any one were watching him. At length,
after three hours indeterminate consideration, allured by promises of
ammunition, which Warburton said was in the hut, he ventured to enter
the door, his musket cocked and levelled; when Pugh instantly fired, but
missed him; Howe simply exclaimed "Is that your game," and precipitately
retreated, but at the same time fired and missed also. Pugh and Worrall
immediately rushed out to run him down, and the latter fired, but none
of the shots took effect. Pugh and Worrall gained upon Howe; and now he
must for once have felt appalled;--deprived of his pistols shortly
before, no time allowed for a second charge, and his pursuers gaining
ground--nothing but a miracle could effect his deliverance. Pugh and
Worrall had now come up with him; a severe encounter ensued; and
finally, from well-directed blows on his head with their Muskets, fell
and expired without speaking--the last of a lawless, murderous
Banditti!--Exhibiting in his career and end the strongest proof of slow
but certain retributive justice; which, though it was baffled for a
season, in the end over-whelmed this wretched violator of its most
sacred laws with more striking vengeance; after making him directly or
indirectly the instrument of destruction to those connected with him in
his dreadful outrages, he himself closed the scene!--an awful example,
which cannot be too strongly impressed upon the minds of all those who
are inclined to prefer to the wholesome and mild laws of civilized
society, a licentious life of unrestraint; which can only be maintained
by robbery and violence, and which will surely end in murder and an
ignominous death.

Howe was of athletic make; he wore at the time of his death a dress
made of kangaroo skins, had an extraordinary long beard, and presented
altogether a terrific appearance. His face, perhaps in some degree
from associating with it the recollection of his crimes, exhibited
strong marks of a murderer. During his long career of guilt, he was
never known to perform one humane act. His body was interred on the
spot where he fell; his head was brought to Hobart Town, and suffered
to be seen by the people, to whom the end of this monster afforded an
inconceivable degree of satisfaction.

The reward due to the zeal and bravery of the persons engaged in
ridding the world of this murderer was universally acknowledged to be
well merited. His Honor Lient. Governor Sorrell issued a Government
and General Order, in which he strongly commended the activity,
intelligence and spirit of Private William Pugh, whom His Honor
recommends to His Excellency the Governor in Chief for the greatest
favor he can receive. The deserving conduct of Thomas Worrall His
Honor also brings under the notice of His Excellency, accompanied by a
strong recommendation for a free pardon and passage to England, in
pursuance of the terms of the Proclamation.

The reward for Howe's apprehension was adjudged to be divided in the
following manner; to Pugh 50; to Worrell 40 and to Warburton (who
was not personally engaged) 15.

The following account of the unhappy end of Edward Edwards and John
Bowles, and the sudden disappearance of Thomas Davenport, all Crown
servants, as connected with Howe's crimes, and adding to the number of
those who fell by his murderous hand, proceed from the same

After the banditti, in an early stage, had taken a Government boat
from Port Dalrymple, they robbed Captain Townson of a cask of pork,
and went to King's Island, where they hid a Box of Tools in the sand:
they next went to Cape Barren, where they disagreed and separated;--a
further dispute arose, when Howe, it is stated, deliberately shot
Edwards, in the presence of Jones and Whitehead.

On a subsequent occasion, at a creek on Salt-pan Plains, Bowles having
sportively discharged a pistol over Howe's head, the latter in a
wanton and cruel manner tied Bowles, hand and feet, and then coolly
shot him dead.

Thomas Davenport, who was an assigned servant to Mr. D. Stanfield
obtained his master's permission to hunt kangaroo in the interior of
the country, taking with him a musket, dogs and other necessaries. He
had not been absent more than three days, when his dogs returned
without him; this circumstance created much anxiety, which was
increased by Davenport's not being heard of, and all enquiry after him
proving unavailing for some time. At length Warburton (mentioned in
the foregoing narrative) in a conversation with Howe was told by him
that Davenport was killed by the native. The general belief, however,
is that Howe had met Davenport, and in some way been the cause of his
death;--perhaps sacrificed him on a refusal to join in his enormities.

The public have thus a brief narrative of the chief events of the last
six years of Howe's life; comprising a series of crimes committed with
the coolest indifference. Many of less enormity have been omitted, and
most of the information given by himself disregarded as proceeding
from such a man.

The bush-rangers had no fixed place of general rendezvous, or any
regular system;--they were of necessity conseqently moving about the
Woods, frequently without the common support and necessaries of life,
and exposed to much hardship. They could never have become formidable,
had not the peculiar circumstances of the colony admitted of their
becoming better acquainted with the interior than other Men, and it is
nearly impossible that any bands of future bush-rangers will be
formed, or, if formed, that they can exist so long unsubdued as those
now happily exterminated.


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