Site Name Barrow Creek
Aboriginal Place Name
Language Group Kaititja
Colony SA
Present State/Territory NT
Police District Barrow Creek Telegraph Station
Latitude -21.499
Longitude 133.9
Date Between 22 Feb 1874 and 10 Apr 1874
Attack Time day
Victims Aboriginal People
Victims Killed 50
Victims Killed Notes Officially 11. Later accounts from eyewitnesses and/or those in positions to know range from 50 to about 90 at Skull Creek alone.
Attackers Colonisers
Attackers Killed 2
Attackers Killed Notes Stationmaster James Laurence Oliver Stapleton & Linesman John Franks, both ‘killed by natives’ at the Barrow Creek Overland Telegraph Station. Attacked 22 Feb 1874. Franks died 22/2 and Stapleton on 23/2.
Transport Foot
Weapons Used Firearms, spears
Narrative After the killing of Stapleton and Franks by Kaititja men (in retaliation for Europeans stealing women from the local Aboriginal people), over the next 6 weeks, Mounted Constable Gason and co. "...with assistance from a constable from The Peak and staff from the Barrow Creek and Tennant Creek Telegraph Stations..." carried out four punitive expeditions against Aboriginal people between Taylor Creek and Central Mount Stuart. The Barrow Creek Massacre cost 100 Aboriginal lives, however this number varies between sources (some say that, although 11 were officially recognised as killed, a higher death toll is likely and others say that ‘the number of Aboriginal lives taken in reprisal for the station attack was between 50 and 90, possibly higher.’) One man put the figure at about 90 at Skull Creek alone. Kimber noted that M.J. O'Reilly, who "got to know a member of this tribe" in c 1919,understood from the Aborigines that the telegraph station had greatly offended them because it had been built "on one of the tribe's most sacred spots." Still later, wrote Kimber, TGH Strehlow, as a result of discussions with the Aborigines, suggested that "white men of bad character", not of the telegraph station staff, had abducted young Aboriginal women and raped them; in retaliation the Aborigines attacked the white men available to them rather than the actual criminals.
Sources BCHAR 1995; South Australian Register, June 25 1874; The Stringer; Nettelbeck and Foster 2007: 6-7; Centralian Advocate, September 5, 2017; Bell 1983:53; Wilson 2000: 270-71; Reid 1990: 62-65; Mulvaney 2003:44-51; Hartwig 1965; 265-276; Kimber 1991, p6. (Sources PDF)
Corroboration Rating ***