Site Name Battle Camp, Normanby River
Aboriginal Place Name
Language Group Gugu-Warra
Colony QLD
Present State/Territory QLD
Police District Cooktown
Latitude -15.245
Longitude 144.68
Date 5 Nov 1873
Attack Time morning
Victims Aboriginal People
Victims Killed 80
Victims Killed Notes M,W,C
Attackers Colonisers: Government official
Attackers Killed 0
Attackers Killed Notes
Transport Horse
Motive Reprisal
Weapons Used Firearms, sniders, carbines
Narrative At least 16 miners who were part of a government party led by McMillan and St George on the road from Cooktown to the Palmer River gold field, killed between 80 and 150 Gug-Warra in a lagoon on the road to the Palmer River. The massacre was first reported in the Brisbane Telegraph which prompted an inquiry by the Queensland government which was conducted by Cooktown magistrate, James Hamilton. He interviewed 16 miners who were in the party and they all denied that any Aboriginal people were killed. In 1922, R. Logan Jack included an account of the massacre by Billy Webb, one of the 16 miners interviewed by Hamilton. Webb recounted that on Wed 5 November, a large group of Warriors approached the party, and the men on horseback shot at them until they ran away. In 1937, another miner J J Hogg, interviewed by Hamilton prepared his account of the 'massacre' in 1937. He said that the leaders of the party surprised a large encampment of Aboriginal people 'preparing their breakfast and shot them all'.
The journal of a member of the party was reported as saying, "November 3. — Started over the spur of the range running to E; came to Normanby River (15 miles); started a mob of blacks; shot four and hunted them; fine river. November 4th.— Started, 15 miles; Surprise Lagoons;, camped 5th for spell. November 6th. — Blacks surprised us at day-break, about 150, all were armed; got close to camp before any one heard them; great consternation; shot several; they ran into the water holes for shelter, where they were shot; travelled then unmolested for two or three days to Kennedy River; crossed the Lorenzo River; plenty of running water all the way; good country about Kennedy; course, N.W.; followed River Kennedy up course S., 15 miles; camped; had an encounter with the blacks; shot a lot; camped next day on head of Kennedy; came over ridges next day to Palmer, 12 miles below diggings; plenty of game and fish; camped one day, fishing; came to diggings on Friday;" -Telegraph (Brisbane) January 22,1874
Sources Telegraph (Brisbane) January 22,1874; Queenslander, June 19, 1880; Jack,Vol.2 1922:421-2; Shay 2012; Bottoms 2013:117-19 (Sources PDF)
Corroboration Rating ***