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Friday, January 29, 2010


In July 1900, my paternal great grandparents, John Thomas and Sarah MAWBEY, were prosperous landholders in a rich farming area on the Castlereagh River in the central west of the state of New South Wales.
John had recently added three additional properties to his original holding, Breelong, and had built a new house for his family.
A school teacher, ELLEN KERZ, had been supplied by the government to teach the Mawbey children and others living nearby and she was living with the Mawbeys in their new house.

School Teacher, Breelong West Provisional School

Letter from Miss Kerz to the Department of Public Instruction, written on 19 February 1900 at the Provisional School, Breelong West, via Gilgandra:
Sir, I have the honour to inform you that I was travelling from Monday 29th January to Wednesday 31st January, and my luggage consisted of two large tin trunks, one tin hat trunk, and one bicycle. Attached are the receipts for carriage of luggage. I have the honour to be, Sir, Your most obedient servant. Ellen Kerz.
[Payment of 3 pounds 17 shillings and 9 pence recommended. Wells Fargo* coach ticket attached.] [*Not Cobb & Co]
[Source: NSW State Records]
Two months later, in April [other sources say in January], an Aboriginal man, Jimmy GOVERNOR, started working for John MAWBEY, one of her employers at whose home she boarded, on a fencing contract.
He brought with him a white wife, Ethel, and an infant son, Sidney, and they all lived together at a camp beside the creek.
A couple of months later they were joined by four Aboriginal males: full-blood adult Jacky Underwood, Joe Governor (Jimmy's younger brother), male elder, Joe Porter, and Peter Governor (Jimmy's young cousin).
Jimmy had been born east of Breelong, on the Talbragar River, and had worked on many surrounding properties.
His maternal grandfather was an Irishman with red hair called Jack FITZGERALD.

As there have already been half a dozen books and many other articles written about what I am about to relate, so I will only give a brief outline here.
I will discuss it in more detail further down the track.
On the night of 20 July 1900, Jimmy and at least one of his Aboriginal kinsfolk, brutally murdered Mrs Sarah MAWBEY and three of her children as well as the female schoolteacher who was boarding with the family.
Issued from New South Wales Post and Telegraph, Colonial and Intercolonial Lines. Miss Kerz and two or three members of Mr Mabeys (sic) family murdered Breelong last night by blacks. T J Johnston, Teacher
Memorandum to Chief Inspector from Breelong West from Dubbo, 26 July 1900. Teacher murdered. From the appended Telegram and Extraordinary it would appear that Miss Kerz Teacher of the above school was murdered last night.  The enrolment in connection with the School, for last quarter was 20, and average attendance was 13.8. As I believe it will be, now, necessary to work the School as a Half Time in conjunction with the now Provisional School at Greenwoods Vale, I would recommend that no appointment of Teacher be made till I can further advise the Department on this Subject." Ger. A.W.
Extraordinary to the Dubbo Liberal. Saturday morning. Terrible Tragedy at Breelong. Three Persons Murdered.
A terrible outrage by blacks is reported from Breelong (on the Gilgandra-Mundooran road). Some time before midnight on Friday the residents of Mr Mowbray was attacked by four blacks - one of whom(Joe Governor) is well known in this district.
From the meagre particulars to hand it is gathered that a terrible assault was made on the family, most of the men of which were absent. Miss Kerz, the school-teacher, and Percival and Hilda Mowbray are reported dead; and Mrs Mowbray (sic), her daughter Grace, and Miss Clark are lying dangerously wounded.
A strong party of police and civilians was organised in the district before daylight and started in pursuit. The police throughout all the district between Warren and Coonabarabran have been advised and desired to keep a lookout. Sub-Inspector Cameron, several local police, and the district tracker left this (Saturday) morning; with equipment for several days.[Source: NSW State Records]

Jimmy GOVERNOR and his younger brother, Joe, then went on a killing spree in the surrounding area, brutally murdering a pregnant mother about to give birth and her infant son, plus two old men, and raping a 15 year old girl.
The pair, officially declared outlaws with a price of 200 pounds on each of their heads, managed to evade hordes of police and civilian search parties for 14 weeks, treating them with scorn.
Jimmy was finally caught at Wingham near Taree and brought to trial.
Joe was shot and killed near Singleton and his body laid out on a billiard table in a pub.
Jimmy was hanged at Darlinghurst Gaol, Sydney (subsequently a technical college and now an art school) in January 1901.
Amongst those in attendance were George MAWBEY (II), aged about 42, the only surviving younger brother of John Thomas Mawbey.
His son George (III) had been staying at the Mawbey house at Breelong the time of the murders, surviving by hiding under a bed.

The Sydney Morning Herald, Monday 23 July 1900
The Murdered Pupil Teacher.

Mr Alexander Kerz and Miss Kerz arrived at the scene about 3pm today.
Ms Kerz was unable to speak to anyone her grief being so xxx.
Mr A Kerz on being interviewed said that the murdered girl was the youngest girl and was considered the idol of the family.
This was her first appointment away from Girilambone, although she was pupil teaching there for three years.
Both her father and mother reside in Girilambone, and she would have been 21 years old next birthday.
Miss Kerz is a native of the Macquarie River near Warren.

To the Honourable, The Minister for Education.
The Humble Petition of Martin Kerz of Girilambone Mine, Herewith
That Ellen Kerz late Teacher at Breelong West and one of the victims of the dreadful massacre by blacks at that place was my daughter;
* that during her connection with the Department she gave the greatest satisfaction as the reports on her work by Inspectors and Teacher testify;
* that her death even from natural causes at such an early age and just as she had completed the very trying period of her Public teachership in an extreme climate, at a small salary and when in a position to maintain herself decently without any assistance from me, her death even then would be a great shock to us in our old
age, but her premature death under such shocking circumstances is an affliction which could we hope to endure cannot be forgotten during our necessarily few remaining days;
* that the thought of consigning the mutilated
body of our dear departed child to the grave near the scene of that awful outrage seemed to add to our anguish and the only consolation we had in our sad bereavement was the removal of the remains from Breelong for internment here; * that this course entailed very great expense and as we are old and poor will always be a severe strain on us;
* that my poor poor broken-hearted wife and I are very old and feeble and in very poor circumstances;
* that our dearly beloved daughter has been a faithful little soldier in her humble sphere;
* that although she wrote early in 1899 expressing her wish to withdraw from paying to the Superannuation Fund, yet I am not eligible for the refund of her contributions;

* that though I have no legal claim I throw myself entirely on your tender mercy, feeling that under all these sad circumstances you will pity us in our old age and that you will endeavour to lighten my burden by authorising the payment to me of the sum of 50 pounds - Fifty Pounds - expenses incurred by me in connection with the removal and burial of the remains, or that you will cause this amount to be placed on the estimates which are about to be submitted to Parliament in a month or two and your petitioner will ever pray.
Martin Kerz, 1st September 1900

Presented by W G Spence MP for favourable consideration - Breelong West. Applying for sum of 50 pounds to meet expenses incurred by him in removal and burial of his daughter one of the victims of the Breelong black massacre.

Under Secretary. In view of the distressing circumstances of this case, and of the fact that Mr Kerz is in poor circumstances, I think his request might be complied with and an amount of 50 pounds placed on the Estimates for the consideration of Parliament. F B 12 September 1900.