Site NameKing River, above Oxley Plains (Wangaratta)
Aboriginal Place Name
Language Group
Present State/TerritoryVIC
Colony/State/Territory at the timePPD
Police DistrictMurray
DateBetween 1 Dec 1841 and 28 Feb 1842
Attack TimeDay
VictimsAboriginal People
Victim DescriptionsAboriginal
Victims Killed200
Victims Killed NotesMWC
Attacker DescriptionsHutkeeper(s), Settler(s), Shepherd(s), Stockmen/Drover(s)
Attackers Killed0
Attackers Killed NotesKilled M:
Weapons UsedFirearm(s), Horse(s)
NarrativeAccording to James Howard, aged 83 in 1883, he was a shepherd on George Faithfull's run at Oxley Plains in 1841 when the 'blacks played sad havoc with Faithfull's cattle and sheep, whereupon the stockmen, shepherds, and hut keepers turned out, mounted and armed, to the number of about 18, fell upon the blacks in camp on the bank of the King above Oxley, and massacred them. About 200 were killed on the spot, and others were pursued miles up the river, until all, with one or two exceptions, were exterminated.' (Argus, September 13, 1883, p 9) Howard said there were about 300 Aboriginal people in all. Howard relayed the incident to a journalist from the Argus in 1883. Howard's evidence corroborates and provides more detail of the massacre provided by George Faithfull in a letter to Lieutenant Governor La Trobe on 8 September 1853: 'Riding with two of my stockmen one day quietly along the banks of the river itself by a narrow neck of land, and, after proceeding about half a mile, we were all at once met by some hundreds of painted warriors with the most dreadful yells I ever heard. Had they sprung from the regions below we could have hardly been more taken by surprise. Our horses bounded and neighed with fear - old brutes, which in other respects required an immense deal of persuasion in the way of spurs to make them go along. Our first impulse was to retreat, but we found the narrow way blocked up by natives two and three deep, and we were at once saluted with a shower of spears. My horse bounded and fell into an immense hole. A spear just then passed over the pummel of my saddle. This was the signal for a general onset. The natives rushed on us like furies, with shouts and savage yells; it was not time for delay. I ordered my men to take deliberate aim, and to fire only with certainty of destruction to the individual aimed at. Unfortunately, the first shot from one of my men's carbines did not take effect; in a moment, we were surrounded on all sides by the savages boldly coming up to us. It was my time now to endeavour to repel them. I fired my double-barrel right and left, and two of the most forward fell; this stopped the impetuosity of their career. I had time to reload, and the war thus begun continued from about ten o'clock in the morning until four o'clock in the afternoon. We were slow to fire, which prolonged the battle, and 60 rounds were fired, and I trust and believe that many of the warriors bit the dust' (Faithfull cited in Sayers, 1969, p 220). It is hard to believe that three armed colonists could have held off such a large group of Aboriginal people for six hours and escape being wounded. Faithfull's account is more like a coverup and Howard's account is more believable in that the massacre was a well planned event in reprisal for the loss of sheep and not an accidental encounter as George Faithfull states.
SourcesSayers, 1969, p 220-221; Argus, September 13, 1883, p 9 (Sources PDF)
Corroboration Rating**