Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Sensation at Apis Creek

As recalled by Cuthbert Fetherstonhaugh [1]

Cuthbert Fetherstonhaugh
Five years before the murderous attack was committed by the shepherd Christie Faust, an incident of great importance took place at the tiny outpost of Apis Creek. There was one building at Apis Creek, one half was a Public House and the other a Store, established to the take advantage of miners passing to and from the Peak Downs goldfields.

For the past two years, the proprietors of the store were Frank Christie and his paramour Mrs. Kitty Brown.  Christie was in partnership with a man named Craig who ran the public house.

The sheep station of the squatter Roderick “Roddy” McLelland, on which Faust worked, was about two miles away. In 1864, McLelland sold another of his properties to an Irishman with the extravagant name of Cuthbert Fetherstonhaugh[2], who would publish his reminiscences in 1918.

Bushrangers Bail Up a Coach

Unbeknownst to passersby and even to his partner Craig, Frank Christie was in reality the notorious bushranger Frank Gardiner, “The King of the Road”, who dropped out of sight after a bungled gold robbery in New South Wales a few years earlier.  His career as a storekeeper was about to come to an abrupt end.

Fetherstonhaugh happened to be present when Gardiner was captured.  Undoubtedly the incident provided him with a captivating anecdote for many years to come.  He finally wrote about it at some length in his autobiography.

Fetherstonhaugh takes up the story:

One evening, on the 3rd March, 1864, as I rode up to the little wayside inn at Apis Creek, I noticed signs of a commotion. There were several black native police boys and their lieutenant, a Mr. Brown, whom I knew. Close by, sitting down and handcuffed, was Craig, and beside him was his little wife, weeping bitterly.

The lieutenant came over to me, and I said, “What's up?" He came close to me and whispered, ''We have got Gardiner, the bushranger." I burst out laughing and said, "You've got your grandmother." "We have made no mistake," said he. "But," I said, pointing to Craig, "that's not Gardiner. I knew that man well, and knew him in South Australia when Gardiner was bushranging." "Oh," he said, "we know that's not Gardiner we have him up at Apis Creek Station secure with two New South Wales policemen looking after him, and also his reputed wife, who is really Mrs. Brown, whom he took from her husband when he cleared out from New South Wales. That is his mate."

Rockhampton, ca. 1880

Craig was arrested as harbouring a wanted man but was later cleared.  It emerged that he had no idea who Frank Christie was the famous bushranger.  He had met Gardiner a year earlier on the road near Rockhampton.

It transpired afterwards that Gardiner, or rather Christie, for he had actually gone back to his own name, and Mrs. Brown the latter dressed as a boy had managed to get through into Queensland, where Mrs. Brown again assumed woman's clothes. They had got past Rockhampton, riding, of course, when they happened on the Craigs. They foregathered and made friends, and after some talk, decided that they would start in business together, as we have seen, and they hit on Apis Creek as a good stand, it being on the main road to the Peak Down goldfield. They were liked and were successful, and respected, and I really believe that if he had not been discovered, Christie might easily have attained ere long to the dignity of a Justice of the Peace.

Station Homestead Central Queensland 1864

How had Gardiner been found out?  According to Fetherstonhaugh:

It was a man who had been a fellow prisoner of Gardiner's at Cockatoo, but then a butcher at Rockhampton, who gave Gardiner away. The wonder was that he had not been recognised long before, for there were crowds of diggers passing up and down, to and from the Peak Downs, and Gardiner was well known at Lambing Flat goldfield. One would have thought that it was ten to one that some of these miners would have recognized the "King of the Road."

The man who led the search for Gardiner was a police sergeant from New South Wales call McGlone.  Because of Gardiner’s violent reputation, McGlone and his offsider Trooper Pye concoct a ruse to reconnoitre the inn and store:

They camped about a quarter of a mile away, and one pretended to be ill with dysentery, while the other used to go up to the pub for milk for his sick mate, and was thus able to spy out the land, and see what men were about. Although only Christie and his wife, Craig and his wife, and one old man were to be seen, Gardiner had such a desperate record that they still were afraid to tackle him without more help.

McGlone enlists the help of Lieutenant Brown, of the Native Police, who happened to be in the area.

It was arranged that the black troopers should next day ride past the pub and store singing one of their songs; this would, it was thought, bring all the inmates of the place outside. McGlone and the trooper and lieutenant were to be in close attendance on the blacks.

The Capture of Gardiner at Apis Creek

As was expected, all, Christie included, came out to see the "boys" ride past. Something seemed to awaken Christie's suspicions he was standing close to McGlone, and he turned to go back to the store, when McGlone threw his arms round him, and both went to the ground, McGlone shouting to the lieutenant, "Mark him, sir, mark him, he's a desperate character," meaning that he was to cover him with his revolver, which he did, and Gardiner was quickly secured and handcuffed. 

Gardiner was finally tried in Sydney and sentenced to 32 years.  He was released after only ten years and sailed for California where he ran a saloon in San Francisco.  He is said to have died either from drink or being killed in a bar brawl.

The Trial of Gardiner in Sydney
The Charming Frank Gardiner

Fetherstonhaugh has the last word:

Gardiner was a good-looking man; he had an honest face and good expression, and under different circumstances would more than probably have given a good account of himself. I am sure he had definitely given up his old dishonest bushranging life when he was arrested; still it was well he was discovered and punished. He had much to answer for; he cast a glamour over bushranging, and the ruin and death of more than one fine young fellow lay at his door.

© K. C. Sbeghen, 2011.

[1] Based on After many days: being the reminiscences of Cuthbert Fetherstonhaugh, ( Sydney: John Andrew & Co., 1918.)
[2] Pronounced Fanshaw.


  1. Pretty sure Roddy McLelland should read Roderick McLennan (Roddy) who lived Marlbourough Dist. and Had Apis Creek & Buxton Downs at one time. Roderick McLennan born 23 Jul 1812 Baldblair, ROC,SCOT & died Jul 1881, his wife was Margaret nee Ross. He was buried in bush cemetery where once was a small village outside Marlbourough (headstone still existed in 1990's.) Age at death on headstone is wrong.
    Have D/C.