Site Name Connell's Ford
Aboriginal Place Name
Language Group Nundadjali or Wulluwwurrung
Colony PPD
Present State/Territory VIC
Police District
Coordinates (imprecise to approx. 250m) -37.608,141.423,0
Date Between 1 Nov 1840 and 30 Nov 1840
Attack Time
Aboriginal People Killed 15
Aboriginal People Killed Notes Killed: M F; Probable: M F; Possible: M 15 to 17 incl children F; Wounded: M F
Non-Aboriginal People Killed 0
Non-Aboriginal People Killed Notes Killed:M F;Wounded:M F
Attacker Category Shepherd (hutkeeper, cook)
Attacker Details Thomas Connell (hutkeeper, cook)
Motive to remove Aborigines from station
Type Of Motive
Weapons Used Flour laced with arsenic
Notes Hentys sent Connell to Tasmania
Narrative On 27 November 1840 Lt. Governor La Trobe forwarded to chief Protector G.A. Robinson a statement he had received from a Mr Augustine Barton about the reported death of either 15 or 17 Bunganditj [Nundadjali or Wulluwwurrung speakers?] Aborigines, mainly women and children, who were fed damper laced with arsenic by the hutkeeper, at a station operated by the Henty Brothers at the junction of the Wannnon and Glenelg Rivers. Barton said that the Aborigines had reported that Thomas Connell, a hutkeeper at the station had divided the damper among the Aborigines who were visiting the station. Soon afterwards, the blacks were "seized with violent pains in the stomach accompanied by retching" before they died. La Trobe requested that, when Robinson went to the area in early 1841, he would investigate the matter and, if there were reasonable grounds, he should apprehend the guilty party. When news of the poisoning reached the authorities, the Hentys sent Connell to Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania). Later G.A. Robinson tried to trace two Bunganditj [Nundadjali or Wulluwwurrung speakers?] who had reportedly survived by vomiting up the poisoned damper. But they had been 'dispersed'. On 3 June 1841, Robinson was informed by George Winter at Tahara station, near the Wannon River, that he had obtained from Aborigines the names of seven people said to have died from poison administered by one of Henty's employees. The Reverend Joseph Orton noted in his journal that Robinson was considering a case of several Aborigines having been wilfully poisoned by a shepherd at one of the Henty's stations. He noted from Robinson's account that "poisoning seemed to be a general means to resort to put an end to the existence of these poor creatures". In 1956, E.R. Trangmar, in his book, The Aborigines of Far Western Victoria, wrote: "A man named Connell, an outside overseer, was employed by the Henty brothers. He had a hut on the hill above the ford named after him. He got his rations delivered by dray once a month from the homestead. The blacks used to wait until he was out on the run and then rob his hut, particularly stealing his flour, which they learned how to use. Connell got very annoyed with the constant raiding so he mixed arsenic with half the flour and hid the other half. When he came home in the evening he found the poisoned flour had gone and blacks were dead by the dozen. They had mixed the flour on pieces of bark and partly cooked it in little cakes on the coals and had ravenously eaten it. A raging thirst was created, the natives went to the river to drink and tumbled head first into the stream, they were thus drowned as well as poisoned." It is stated that no graves were made, the bodies were put into the river. Connell hurriedly left the district and was never heard of again in these parts.
Sources G.A. Robinson to La Trobe, 4 Jan 1842, VPRS 19/42 No 43/330; Clark 1995: 28-29, 33; Clark 1998b: 249; Trangmar 1956: np (Sources PDF)
Corroboration Rating ***