Hornet Bank Massacre 1857

article about Ludwig Leichhardt and Hornet Bank Massacre

Atrocities at Hornet Bank

(manually translated from original scan 06 March 2022, Andrew Thompson)

In the following article from The Empire, 14 November 1857, the writer reports on the recent Aboriginal attack on a family of white settlers at Hornet Bank near modern-day Taroom.

This event triggered one of Australia’s most horrific reprisals, bringing the Yiman (or Iman) Aboriginal peoples to the brink of extinction.

This is a very large story which has been well reported elsewhere, so I won’t try to do it justice here. The purpose of this page is the article itself, so you can transport yourself back to that point in time through the words of the day.

If you enjoy this type of article, you can find more on the Central Queensland History page. Feel free to leave any related comments at the end of this page.

Andrew Thompson, editor | historian

Manual Translation:

The Empire, 14 November 1857


The heart sickens whilst I narrate the particulars of a most diabolical and cold-blooded atrocity – eleven human beings sacrificed at one fell swoop – a mother witnessing the murder of her eight little ones, and then despatched herself.

Can the people of your metropolis hear and read of this butchery and not rise up as one man determined to revenge it? No, we feel convinced that this last blow will make even our rulers bestir themselves in devising a prompt remedy for these repeated outrages.

The deposition sworn to before the bench at Ipswich, by the only survivor, one of the family (young Frazier), almost overwhelms one at the reading of it.

In the night, when all were fast locked in profound sleep, the inmates of the houses on the station are surrounded stealthily by a tribe of blacks, entrance quietly made into the dwelling, and before the slightest warning of danger is conveyed to the sleeping people, the death blow is dealt by the savages, and the victims sleep the sleep of death; the poor mother, as a refinement of cruelty, is induced to leave the house under promise of life, and then with her four girls ruthlessly murdered.

What other outrage may have been committed upon those victims no one can tell – the only living soul about the premises lay insensible, and when recollection returned to him, he was alone in that charnel house, the only survivor of a family of nine persons.

Only a few weeks since, we chronicled the murder of a mother and her son, a boy of 12 years of age, within 30 miles of Brisbane, by a black-fellow. Even at the present moment, the few people living at Sandgate, some 13 miles from Brisbane, are in fear and trembling that the blacks will despoil them of their goods or attempt their lives.

Can we, therefore, wonder that on our frontier murders become almost of every day occurrence, because the terrors of speedy justice have become a dead letter.

The deposition of young Frazier, taken before the Ipswich Bench, on Friday last, is as follows :

“On Tuesday, 27th October, I was residing at my brother’s station, on the Upper Dawson, called Hornet Bank, along with my mother, three brothers, and four sisters. I was sleeping with a younger brother in a scillion room at the back of the house, when I was awakened by hearing the blacks talking in the room. The door of the room had been shut, but was not fastened.

On hearing the blacks in the room I reached out my hand and got a gun, which was above my head, loaded, but it was knocked out of my hand before I had time to fire, and I was then struck on the head by one of the blacks. The blow rendered me insensible for some minutes, and when I recovered from the effects of it I got out of my bed and crept under it, and lay there till the blacks had all disappeared.

After the blacks had gone, I found the body of my younger brother, who had been sleeping with me, lying between the kitchen and the house; and beside it were the bodies of my mother and four sisters, whom the blacks had induced to go out of the house previously to murdering them. They had been all sleeping in one room in the centre of the house.

I then went through the house to the verandah, and found the body of my brother John lying naked in the verandah, and the body of my brother David, also naked, outside the verandah. They had both been sleeping in a room on the verandah. I did not examine any of the bodies to see what marks of violence were upon them.

I immediately after walked over to Eurombah to see Mr. Boulton; who was not at home, but came home the following day, when – having in the meantime gone over myself to Mr. Miles’s station, and then back to Hornet Bank – I found him there along with Mr. Miles and a number of shearers from his station. I then saw the body of Mr. Neagle, the tutor to the family, lying dead in the kitchen, which was about ten yards from the house; and I then also saw the bodies of two shepherds lying dead outside of their hut, which was about 60 yards from the house. They were all partly dressed. The bodies were all buried by Mr. Boulton and Mr. Miles and the shearers who were there with them.

My mother and sisters had been induced to go out of the house by the blacks promising not to kill them; this I heard while lying under the bed. The native police were at the time at Eurombah, and Lieutenant Powell, along with six troopers, went in pursuit of the blacks, as soon as I gave information on my arrival at Eurombah of what had occurred. It was quite dark when the blacks came to the house, but not long before daylight. I arrived at Eurombah about 11 o’clock on Tuesday forenoon.”

Who after perusing the above statement, can refuse the right of the bushmen to take the law into their own hands and shoot down this tribe of villains like wild dogs; I should think not one Pity for such heartless scoundrels would be thrown away – they spare not when they have the power, and should not be spared.

Hornet Bank Massacre monument
Queensland Heritage Register: Fraser family grave site and memorial, Hornet Bank (2008)

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