The True Story of the KellyGang of Bushrangers Chapter 3 page 1

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It was not only in Mansfield and the district immediately connected with the crime that public feeling was excited and alarmed by the police murders, which surpassed in cold blooded audacity any former exploits of bushranging gangs in Victoria. All over the colony nothing was talked of but the Kelly outrage. The press of Melbourne and the country towns was full of it, while there was immense activity in the police department, which despatched heavy reinforcements of constabulary to every township in the North East.

For many years this portion of Victoria had enjoyed an unenviable notoriety as the home of cattle ‘duffers’ and other lawless persons; and two of the most notorious bush rangers of former years, Morgan and Power, had both been at home in the river valleys and heavily forested ranges that cover much of the country. Only ten years before Power, a solitary rover, who had terrorised a large part of the colony by his ‘sticking up’ exploits, though murder was a crime of which he was never guilty, had been captured on the top of a mountain some fifteen miles distant from the scene of the Kelly outrage. Morgan, a blood thirsty villain, to whom murder was rather a pleasure than otherwise, was well know and hated by the farmers of the district before he became an outlaw. Two or three miles from the scene of Power’s capture he had been wounded by a charge of shot fired at him by a squatter who chanced upon him in the bush, but had escaped capture and hidden himself away until, later, he was shot dead, while going to seek his horse at Peechelba, a station he had stuck up upon the New South Wales border.

While Power and Morgan were the men whose deeds were most flagrant in the district, cattle stealing and other minor crimes were common there, and the police were kept constantly on the alert. The popularity of cattle ‘duffing’ in the neighbourhood may be accounted for, partly by the fact that it was largely settled by men of bad and lawless antecedents, and partly by the tremendous temptations to criminal adventure which the conditions of the country afforded. The King, the Ovens, and the Buffalo, the Broken River, and a number of minor rivers and creeks, all flow through fertile valleys, sparsely settled by farmers and graziers, into plain country, much of which is thickly forested; and all the streams have trackless ranges not far distant from either bank. North of these is the Murray River, forming the border of New South Wales and Victoria, and also flowing, in its upper reaches, through a jumble of hills and mountains, while the headwaters of all the rivers named are absolutely uninhabited mountain country, stretching east and north for hundreds of miles.

Even the towns of some importance on the plains are all adjacent to ranges containing innumerable hiding-places. Mansfield lies embosomed in mountains, at the terminus of a line (not then constructed) which branches away from the main North Eastern railway many miles to the south. Wangaratta, Glenrowan, Benalla, and Euroa - stations upon the North Eastern and Sydney line - though they are situated themselves on flat and open country, are all flanked by adjacent wooden ranges. Beechworth, the northern-most of the important Victorian towns, in what is called the ‘Kelly’ country, forms the terminus of another branch line, and is picturesquely situated at an altitude of some thousands of feet in the heart of the mountains. A careful study of the map of Victoria and of the relative positions of the towns and rivers named would be necessary to enable anyone to follow the doings of the outlaws and the police with proper understanding of the exploits of the former, and the terrible difficulties of the latter in attempting to capture them.

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