The murder of George Meredith

Southern Australian (Adelaide, SA : 1838 - 1844), Tuesday 24 September 1844, page 2

EXTRAORDINARY CASE. - From information which has been collected by the police, during their recent expedition, we are enabled to furnish our readers with the following particulars of a murder which took place at Yankalilla, about ten or twelve years ago. It appears that a young man of the name of Meredith, son of a wealthy settler of Van Diemen's Land, had deeply offended his father by his follies and extravagancies. In consequence of the quarrel, it is said that the young man seized and made off with a schooner belonging to his father. This vessel he sold at some port, where he had got the price in dollars. He then bought a fine ten oared sealing boat, and, about seventeen years ago, arrived at Kangaroo Island, accompanied by an old man of war's man named Jacobs, who is now on the Island, and an American black named Bathurst. The party settled at Western River, where they resided several years, and got a subsistence by cultivating and by sealing. In the course of their expeditions to the neighbouring coasts, they had taken a woman (" Sal") from Port Lincoln, and two lads from Encounter Bay, who acted as their servants. Meredith, we should mention, had latterly become very religious, and was constantly reading his bible. On one occasion he suddenly determined, very much against Jacob's advice, to visit the main land. He was accompanied by Sal, and the two native lads. It appears that one of these lads had fallen in love with Sal, and, as a means of getting her, determined to murder his master. The boat put in at Yankalilla Bay, and one day, when his master was sitting on deck, reading his bible, the native got behind him and killed him with a tomahawk. This tomahawk was afterwards found by captain Martin, with part of the hair and blood still upon it, but it is now lost. About three months afterwards, Jacobs, having found means of communicating with the other islanders, came over with Warland (the Governor), Nat, Thomas, and Walker, to search for his master. They landed at Rapid Bay, In approaching, they saw a number of natives on the rocks, who ran off. They were then hailed by Sal, who was also on the rocks, and who immediately came on board.

She informed them of the murder, and that she had refused the addresses of the young man ; that she had been several times in danger of her life from the young man, and from the other natives, who wished to kill her, to prevent her telling the white men of the murder. She also told that the Encounter Bay Blacks had taken Meredith's boat ; that it was manned by them, and under the command of one of them (now called Encounter Bay Bob), who intended to go over to the island and murder all the whites. This intelligence terrified them much, and they state that for months afterwards they lay at night with their arms loaded, and imagined every noise to be the landing of the blacks. It should be observed that then, as now. they were settled at different points of the island. They were afterwards relieved from their fears by hearing that the boat had been wrecked at Encounter Bay. It is said that Meredith " planted" his dollars at Western River, and that the blacks got a few of them, which he took with him to the main land. Those " planted" at Western River have never been found. Sal was one of the companions of the prisoners recently captured, and is now in jail. She says that she knows the spot where the skeleton of Meredith is. The native who committed the murder is well known at Encounter Bay, and instructions for his apprehension were sent down a few days ago : he is probably by this time in custody. It is stated, with what truth we know not, that an estate worth £400, and £500 in money, are held by the Chancery Court of Van Dîemen's Land, until proof of Mr Meredith's death is given, and that the property will then belong to the sisters. It is remarkable that this story should not have been before investigated. It may be that the parties who have now given the information, thought it would be of no use, as a native's evidence would not be taken. We believe Sal speaks English uncommonly well, but are not aware whether she acknowledges the obligation of an oath. If she does not, this will probably be the first case in which the efficacy of the Act for allowing native testimony will be tried. The old adage says that "murder will out," and of its truth the present seems to be another and a most striking exemplification.

Local News. (1844, September 24). Southern Australian (Adelaide, SA : 1838 - 1844), p. 2.

Perth Gazette and Western Australian Journal (WA : 1833 - 1847), Saturday 3 October 1835, page 575


Conducted to the Settlement at King George's Sound by the Natives of the White Cockatoo,

Murray, and Will Tribes.

The following interesting narrative has reached us by the recent arrival from King George's Sound. The circumstances connected with the singular adventures of these two lads, are not so fully detailed as we could have desired ; the source, however, from whence our information is obtained, leaves no doubt of the accuracy of the statement, as given by Manning, one of the sufferers.

On the 9th of August last, two English lads, named James Newell and James Manning, reached King George's Sound from the main land opposite to Middle Island, after experiencing the most bitter privations for nearly seven weeks on the main, and about two years on the islands in Spencer's Gulph. The account given of their perilous adventures runs thus :

They sailed from Sydney in the month of August, 1833, in the Defiance shooner, of about 25 tons burthen, lading with provisions for trading with the sealers on the islands on the southern coast of Australia, and bound to King George's Sound and Swan River, commanded by Mr. George Meredith. They were wrecked in September of the same year on Cape Howe Island. They went in a whale boat with the commander, one man, and a native woman, to Kangaroo Island ; the remainder of the crew of the shooner (six men) determined to make for Sydney, and accordingly started, in another whale-boat : they never heard what became of them. They did not reach Kangaroo Island until February, 1834, being five months, during which time, they state, they were doing their utmost to make the passage. (It to be regretted that we have not here a more detailed statement of the manner in which these five menths were occupied — it is idle to imagine that they were so long a time ' doing their utmost to smoke the passage !')

They established themselves on Kangaroo Island, built a house for the commander and his native wife, and made a garden. In September, 1834, a black man, named Anderson, arrived at Kangaroo Island, in a boat, from Long Island, with another black man, named John Bathurst. Manning and his companion took a passage with them to Long Island. They were obliged to continue working in the boat, sealing, to obtain their provisions.

In November, 1834, George Meredith, their commander, whom they left on Kangaroo Island, came to a bird island, where their boat happened to be, and accused Manning of having robbed him of 4l. 10s , and, with loaded pistols, and the assistance of Anderson, took from him the sum of 4l 10s. There was another whale-boat on Long Island, with four men in her, named George Roberts, John Howlett, Harry and William Forbes.

In November, on Boston Island, the people in this latter boat caught five native women from the neighbourhood of Port Lincoln ; they enticed two of their husbands into the boat, and carried them off to the island, where, in spite of all remonstrance on the part of Manning, they took the native men in Anderson's boat round a point a short distance off, where they shot them, and knocked their brains out with clubs. Manning believes they still have the women in their possession, with the exception of Forbes, whose woman ran away from him shortly after they were taken to the island. Two of the women had infants at their breasts at the time their husbands were murdered ; an old woman was compelled to take them away, and carried them into the bush. Another native en-deavoured to swim to the island, to recover his wife, but was drowned in the attempt.

In January, 1834, a small cutter, called the Mountaineer, commanded by Evanson Janson, arrived at the island, in which vessel Manning paid 3l. for his passage to King George's Sound ; Janson being always drunk, by some misunderstanding, Manning lost his passage. Both Manning and his comrade frequently begged of Anderson to land them on the main, that they might walk to King George's Sound ; but he refused. When Manning landed on Middle Island from the Mountaineer he had 50l. in his possession, in Spanish dollars and English specie. This money Anderson stole ; he was seen counting it with a man named Isaac, who had also another lot of money polled up in canvas. Early in April, Janson, the master of the Mountaineer, arrived at the island, in a boat, with six men, and two women,— the vessel having been driven on shore in Thistle Cove.

About the end of May, five of these people left the island, in the boat, without any provisions, intending to proceed to King George's Sound. On the 23d June, Anderson, at the solicitation of Manning, and his fellow traveller, James Newell, landed them on the main land, but would not give them a charge of powder. They subsisted chiefly on limpits, and on roots of grass ; but were sometimes, for several days, without little or nothing to eat. They found at all times sufficient water, although they never left the neighbourhood of the coast. Arrived at Henty, Oyster Harbour, on the 9th August, reduced almost to skeletons, and having almost lost all power of articulation.

It is interesting to know, that these lads owed their safety entirely to the humane treatment they met with from the natives of the White Cockatoo, Murray, and Willmen tribes. From the moment they fell in with them, their exertions were unabated to restore them sufficiently to enable them to accomplish their journey ; they nursed, fed, and almost carried them at times, when, from weakness, they were sinking under their sufferings. This is a return which could scarcely have been expected from savages, who have no doubt been exposed to repeated atrocities, such as we have related in the previous narrative. Indeed, to the acts to these white barbarians, we may now trace the loss of some valuable lives among the Europeans, and more especially that of Captain Barker, which took place within a short distance of the scene of these atrocities. We are happy to hear, that Sir Richard Spencer, Government Resident at King George's Sound, so soon as he was satisfied of the services the natives had rendered these lads, issued a small portion of flour to each native, and gave presents to those who were most active and kind in the journey. The gentlemen in the settlement, to their credit, be it observed, were very liberal in their subscriptions, to obtain for the lads blankets, clothing, and other necessaries. To the natives they gave a bag of rice and sugar.

The general vagueness of this report, more especially the five months' delay unaccounted for, had left an impression unfavorable to the lads' statement ; but on reference to the Sydney Hearld of the 24th October, 1833, two months subsequently to the departure of the Defiance from that port, we find the following paragraph :

"The schooner Defiance, Captain Meredith, which has left Sydney about a month, (the variation in the lads' statement of a month, after so long a lapse of time, may be reasonably accounted for), on a sealing voyage, was unfortunately wrecked on the coast, about 15 miles below Twofold Bay, — all hands saved. The schooner Blackbird has gone in search of the wreck. The Defiance had about £400 worth of property in her when the accident occurred, and not insured.

It is to be regretted that our informants were not more minute in their inquiries ; a little acuteness in the inquiry would have opened to us the conduct and characters of those employed on the southern coast as sealers, by our neighbours in Van Diemen's Land. Passing, as they represent they did, along the coast in a whale-boat, with ample time for observation — five months, — al-though we cannot doubt the fact, indeed, believe it to be fully confirmed, leaves an hiatus in the narrative, which may be gratifying to some of our romantic readers, but is annoying to us, searching as we do for facts. A further inspection of our files of the Sydney Journals may throw more light upon this subject, which our leisure, in a future number, will enable us to disclose.

The habits of the men left on the islands to the southward, by whaling, or sealing vessels, have long borne the character given them by Manning and Newell; it appears, therefore, deserving of some consideration by what means their practices can be checked, as future settlers in the neighbourhood of Port Lincoln will be made to expiate the crimes and outrages of these lawless assassins.