Site Name Connell’s Ford
Aboriginal Place Name
Language Group Nundadjali or Wulluwwurrung
Colony PPD
Present State/Territory VIC
Police District Portland
Latitude -37.608
Longitude 141.423
Date Between 1 Nov 1840 and 30 Nov 1840
Attack Time day
Victims Aboriginal People
Victims Killed 15
Victims Killed Notes Killed: M F; Probable: M F; Possible: M 15 to 17 incl children F; Wounded: M F
Attackers Colonisers: Hutkeeper
Attackers Killed 0
Attackers Killed Notes Killed:M F;Wounded:M F
Transport Foot
Motive Opportunity
Weapons Used Poison, arsenic
Narrative In November 1840, squatter Augustine Barton reported to Superintendent La Trobe that earlier that month, Thomas Connell, a hut keeper at the Henty Brothers’ station at the junction of the Wannon and Glenelg Rivers, had fed damper laced with arsenic to 15 or 17 Bunganditj [Nundadjali or Wulluwwurrung Aborigines, and that many of them had died. Barton said that the Aborigines had told him that “Connell had divided the damper among the Aborigines who were visiting the station and that soon afterwards, the blacks were seized with violent pains in the stomach accompanied by retching” before they died (Enclosure in La Trobe to Robinson 29 November 1840, GA Robinson Papers, Vol. 54). When news of the poisoning reached La Trobe in Melbourne, the Hentys sent Connell to Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania). On 3 June 1841, Chief Protector GA Robinson called in at nearby Tahara station and the lessee, George Winter, gave him the names of seven Aboriginal people said to have died from poison administered by one of Henty’s employees (Robinson cited in Clark 1998b, p. 250).
In 1956, ER Trangmar, in his book, The Aborigines of Far Western Victoria, constructed a detailed account of the incident: ‘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’ (p. 5).
Sources G A Robinson Papers, Vol. 54 ML A7052; Trangmar 1956; Clark 1998b. (Sources PDF)
Corroboration Rating ***