"The bad boys of Australian history".
The harsh and often inhuman conditions of the early Australian penal settlements sometimes drove convicts into such despair that they would abscond and take to the bush. These men became the"convict" bushrangers, keeping themselves alive by committing separate robberies.
After 1815, settlements spread across the colony and bushranging flourished to the extent that police were given extra powers to arrest bushrangers.During the gold rush, highway robbery became popular, and this time the perpetrators were free-born, of ex-convict parentage, often driven by a deep hostility towards the police and authority. The most famous of all bushrangers was Ned Kelly whose gang was captured in a spectacular battle. The suit of armour worn by Ned during his battle is now a famous national symbol.
Hunter Valley Bushranging
Bushranging began in the Hunter Valley shortly after its early settlement, the earliest bushrangers being runaways from the penal settlement at Newcastle. Many assigned servants also absconded and joined the ranks of the bushrangers. Most of the runaways who took to the bush were forced to take up bushranging in order to survive. Over the years numerous gangs formed and harassed the Valley settlers but their careers were short-lived. Most were captured or killed; a few managed to evade pursuit and escape into other districts. The only gang which was at large for an extended period of time was the "Jewboy" Davis gang that terrorised the Valley in 1839 and 1840.
Members of the Jewboy Gang included : Edward Davis, Robert Chitty, James Everett, John Shea, John Marshall and Richard Glanville although they were associated with other bushrangers of the era as well such as Francis Knight John Wilson, George Haines and Bartholomew McCann. They began their robberies in November 1840 and were said to have roamed in areas including Maitland, Newcastle, Lake Macquarie, Wollombi, Dungog, Muswellbrook and Scone. They stole horses when they needed them and had several brushes with the law before they were finally captured at Doughboy Hollow by a volunteer party led by Edward Denny Day. They were hanged on 16 March 1841. Although they were executed, their daring and notoriety lived on down through the years and various versions of their activity have been published over the years........
"The Hunter District in the 60's was kept in a simmer and excitement of terror by the outrages of a native desperado "Yellow Billy". A reward of 50 pounds , offered by the Government was not considered good enough to induce settlers to risk life and limb, as in the Govenors' case, in an endevour to capture him. Yet it was apparent to the meanest intelligence that something must be done to rid the district of the pest, and enable people to sleep contentedly in their beds at night".
(Above excerpt form The Truth Newspaper 9th December 1900).
Yellow Billy” (William White), bushranger from Yango, commenced his career in the Wollombi area. It is presumed he attained his name due to his mixed race descent. “Yellow Billy” was caught and sentenced to two years gaol for stealing a horse from the Wollombi lockup and forcibly opening the Court House and robbing it of cash. After his release, he committed numerous robberies in the district from Singleton, to Putty and Cessnock where he bailed up the Wollombi mail. A first-rate horseman from Howe’s Valley and sporting of a carbine, petty criminal “Yellow Billy” gave the police much trouble to capture. However, worn down by fatigue from years on the run and after causing police much embarrassment, “Yellow Billy” was captured in 1867.