In mid October 1861, a squatter party from the colony of Victoria under Horatio Wills began a temporary tent camp to start the process of setting up the grazing property of Cullin-la-ringo. Wills’s party, an enormous settlement train including bullock wagons and more than 10,000 sheep, had set out from Brisbane eight months earlier to set up a farm at Cullin-la-ringo, a property formed by amalgamating four blocks of land with a total area of 260 square kilometres (64,000 acres). The size of the group had attracted much attention from other settlers, as well as the Indigenous people.
It was later reported that the attack on the party was as revenge for the murder of Gayiri men by Wills’ neighbour, Jesse Gregson, a squatter from the Rainworth Station nearby, who had erroneously accused the Gayiri of stealing cattle.
According to the account of one of the survivors, John Moore, Aboriginal people had been passing through the camp all day on 17 October 1861, building up numbers until there were at least 50. Then, without warning, they attacked the men, women and children with nulla nullas. The settlers defended themselves with pistols and tent poles, but nineteen of the twenty-five defenders were killed.
Those killed were Horatio Wills; David Baker, the overseer; his wife, Catherine Baker; their son, David Baker, Jr.; the overseer’s daughter, Elizabeth Baker (aged 19); Iden Baker (a young boy); an infant Baker (8 months old); George Elliott; Patrick Mannion; his wife, Mrs Mannion; their three children (Mary Ann Mannion, 8 years old; Maggie Mannion, 4 years old; and baby Mannion, an infant); Edward McCormac; Charles Weeden; James Scott; Henry Pickering; George Ling; and a bullock driver known as Tom O’Brien (who had been engaged at Rockhampton). A total of 19 people were killed.
The six surviving members were Tom Wills (Horatio’s son, noted as an outstanding cricketer and co-founder of Australian rules football); James Baker (David Baker’s son); John Moore; William Albrey; Edward Kenny; and Patrick Mahony. These men either were absent from the camp or, in Moore’s case, managed to avoid being seen. It was Edward Kenny who subsequently rode on to report the massacre, arriving at Rainworth Station the following day. Moore was the only white eyewitness to the event.
T. G. Moyle, The Wills Tragedy, 1861, held at the State Library of Queensland. The caption reads: “The arrival of the neighbouring squatters and Mon collecting and burying the dead, after the attack by the blacks on H.R. Wills ESQ. Stationed Leichhardt district, Queensland.”
Tom Wills, cricketer and founder of Australian rules football, one of six settlers who survived the massacre
Comment by Nelle- Misinformation by today’s activists that continually say the white man massacred the Aboriginal but in reality it went both ways-we cannot be taken to account to what has disappeared into the mists of time
They don’t mention the Pygmies who were here before and wiped out by the Aborigines-some survivors live in the rain forest in NQld