Site NameRochester, Campaspe Plains
Aboriginal Place Name
Language GroupDjadjawurrung
Present State/TerritoryVIC
Colony/State/Territory at the timePPD
Police DistrictMelbourne
DateBetween 1 Jun 1839 and 15 Jun 1839
Attack TimeDay
VictimsAboriginal People
Victim DescriptionsAboriginal
Victims Killed40
Victims Killed NotesKilled: M WC Almost entire group. One woman and child survived. F; Wounded: M F
Attacker DescriptionsMounted Police, Settler(s), Overseer(s)
Attackers Killed2
Attackers Killed NotesKilled: M Initially two employees from Capt. Charles Hutton's Station. F; Wounded: M F
Weapons UsedFirearm(s), Pistol(s), Sword(s)
NarrativeFollowing the killing of hutkeeper James Neill and shepherd Hugh Bryan, by Aboriginal warriors and their taking about 700 sheep from Capt Charles Hutton's outstation near present day Barnadown on the Campaspe River on 22 May 1839, Hutton and three men set off in pursuit. He is alleged to have retrieved the sheep at Restdown Plains near present day Rochester, 50 kilometres north of Barnadown. According to EO Randell, historian of the Campaspe Plains pastoral stations, upon his return from Restdown Plains, Hutton called on magistrate William Yaldwyn at nearby Barfold Station where a detachment of infantry was camped and asked for protection. Yaldwyn refused saying that Assistant Protector Edward Parker was in the district and it was his duty to address the issue and that foot soldiers would be of little help. Another settler Thomas Thornloe reported the details to GB Smyth Officer in Charge of the Mounted Police in Melbourne and advised that a punitive expedition should be sent against the Aborigines to 'teach them a lesson' (Randell 1982, p 289). 'According to the official version of events, a party of mounted police, led by Sgt Dennis Leary, under orders from Smyth' [and accompanied by Hutton and his overseer James Cosgrove], after four days ride, 'encountered a group of Aboriginal people about 112 kilometers from the place where Hutton's servants were killed. A pitched battle is alleged to have ensued and at least six Aborigines were killed.' (Cannon & McFarlane, 1983, p 668). According to Assistant Protector E.S. Parker 'nearly 40 Aboriginal people were shot; the entire group except one woman and a child.' (Clark, 1995, p 94; Cannon & McFarlane 1983, p 668). 'On a review of the whole affair, I can hold but one opinion - that it was a deliberately planned, illegal reprisal on the aborigines, on principles advocated by many persons in this Colony - that when an offense is committed by unknown individuals, the tribe to which they belong should be made to suffer for it.' (Randall 1982, p 295) According to historian AGL Shaw, Hutton gained a very bad reputation for his treatment of Aboriginal people (Shaw 1996, p 134). GA Robinson also made mention of Hutton's 'hostility towards the blacks' Robinson cited in Cannon & McFarlane 1983, p 675). In a letter to La Trobe on 19 August 1853 he wrote: 'I never shot or otherwise destroyed one of them. I never even fired at one, and only once, when some troopers came up to apprehend them for killing two of my shepherds ... '. Rather he said they had 'suddenly disappeared' and 'died from influenza.' (Sayers 1983, p 248).
SourcesRandell 1982, pp 288-99; Sayers, [1898], 1983, pp 246-9; Cannon& McFarlane 1983, pp 668-674; Clark ID 1995, pp 94-96; Shaw 1996, p 134. (Sources PDF)
Corroboration Rating***