The Winter of 1818

During the harsh winter months of 1818, Michael Howe managed to survive by raiding remote stock huts for provisions and ammunition, but as was his way, even while as desperate and alone as he found himself, no violence was ever carried out and he only took what he “stood in need of”. According to James Calder, Michael “was more often heard of than seen, except at remote stock huts, and reports of his attacks on these exposed places reached the authorities from many quarters of the Hamilton and New Norfolk districts, which he still continued to haunt, but he managed to keep out of danger, though the pursuit after him by the military, and also by the wild native tribes, was hotter than ever. Amongst others whose stockmen suffered by him at this time, were those of the late G. W. Evans, then Deputy Surveyor General of the colony, at whose establishment at Blinkworth’s Hunting Ground he suddenly presented himself, sometime in June, from which he not only helped himself to as much provisions as he chose to carry off, but also made prize of two noble kangaroo dogs. It seems to have been believed at this time that he was destitute of all means of defence, and the Gazette speaking of this affair says, ‘What is astonishing is he had plenty of ammunition and was well armed. His beard is of great length; and his appearance, connected with the idea of his horrid crimes, is altogether terrific.’  But this seems something like painting the devil blacker than he really was; for I am told that Howe was a passable looking man.”

Furthermore, Calder asserts after Michael’s violent struggle with McGill and Musquito, which saw him deprived of his knapsacks and kangaroo dogs, “Howe must have gone to the neighbourhood of York Plains, where he committed what was probably his last robbery.” This comes from a letter written by Sorell, dated 17th of October 1818, in which he says, “It is stated that a soldier from York Plains, was at Captain Blyth’s at the Rope Walk, about seven miles from there, a few days ago, when Michael Howe, the bushranger, came down and robbed the house. . . It appears that Howe succeeded in robbing the house and getting off, though three men besides the soldier were there.”

From ‘Early Troubles of the Colonists’ by James Calder.

Illustration by Aidan Phelan

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