Edward Kelly, it is well known, was an associate of the notorious Harry Power, who for many years in the district which this gang made their home bade defiance to the police.
Kelly is stigmatised by Power as being cowardly and bloodthirsty, fierce of demeanour, but bombastic to the greatest degree. About the end of 1869 some horses were suddenly missed from Mount Battery Station, near Mansfield , then owned by Mr John P. Rowe; and as Power was at large and making depredating excursions to many other stations, the loss was at once set down to him. A party was organised, and set out in pursuit. The tracks were followed as far as the head of the King River, where they were lost.
A day or two afterwards about midday , two men armed with guns made their appearance on the highest verge of a rocky and nearly perpendicular declivity overhanging and within rifle shot of the Mount Battery Station. Rowe turned out with a rifle, and a friend of his who was on a visit to the station with an old smooth-bore loaded with ball. One of them was recognised as Power, and the other, who was actually Ned Kelly, could not be recognised. Rowe covered them with his rifle, and let drive. His friend followed his example of both missed. The two bushrangers then disappeared, and, mounting their horses which were concealed hard by, rode off to the King River again. They got on to Quinn’s station and camped there.
Soon after the assault on Constable Fitzpatrick, at Greta, the two brothers took to the bush. They pushed across the small ranges encircling Greta, and got into the Wombat Ranges , a dreadful country, the inaccessible fastnesses of which proved a safe cover for the outlaws as long as they chose to remain there.
This vast track of heavy mountainous country occupies an area of many miles, and is of such a character that anyone who must not been born in the ranges or accustomed to traverse their gloomy fastnesses from childhood would soon be lost. The mountains are precipitous, the woods dense and pathless, the gullies, deep, dark and complicated. There are vast gorges overhung with precipices surfaced with sharp and slippery shingles and sheloings, forming such labyrinths that even the most experienced bushman would fail to extricate himself from them. The course of the creeks are winding and tortuous. Now rushing madly at the precipices of 300 to 400 feet, and again bubbling along almost underground, quite covered in with trees and shrubbery. Another feature of the mountains is the vast caverns which are to be found in their midst and to discover the entrance, and follow the windings of which would be an almost impossible task. There also numbers of wild cattle, beasts born in the grim and silent bush, and never having felt the pain of the branding iron, or owned man for master.
Provided thus with meat and shelter it is not to be wondered that the gang for so long defied the efforts of the police to capture them. In addition to this, they had such a circle of friends and sympathisers that every movement of the authorities was made known to them as soon as it was put into operation.
At this place they were joined by Hart and Byrne, who has not been “in trouble” except for some trifling offences. These men, it is supposed, did not join them with direct intention of entering upon a course of deliberate robbery and violence, but more for the sake of sociability and the desire of claiming a more ?????
Finding it necessary to recruit their finances, they engaged in some fencing work in the neighbourhood of the Merrijig, a remote locality near the head of the King River , and one of the wildest spots in the colony. After this they commenced digging in a creek which ran through the ranges about 10 miles from the Merrijig. They worked on a creek carrying out sluicing operations with varied success until they were told by one of their friends that Kennedy’s party was out in search of them. A council was entered upon, and it was decided to procure what arms they could and resist the endeavours of the police to arrest them at any cost. On the 26th October 1878 , the police party was met by the gang, and the deplorable tragedy with which we are all familiar was enacted. They then retired to Greta and back to the head of the Buckland and the Wombat Ranges . From this point they made the raid upon the bank at Euroa. It has since transpired that they returned straight to their haunts and their friends, from which they again appeared in open country at Jerilderie.
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