Sunday, March 31, 2019

The Victorian Trooper #7 - The Police Royal Commission.

In the aftermath of the siege of Glenrowan, the Victorian Police found themselves in the sights of an angry public - egged on by a vociferous media. There was a significant outcry from Victoria's media for a far reaching inquiry into the Victorian Police Force; the actions of it's officers and it's hierarchy.

The Force hadn't anticipated the groundswell of sympathy for the Kelly gang by the wider public - particularly in the North East nexus of what became known as Kelly country. Stories of police brutality abounded, the incompetence of senior officers was a great cause for concern and the practices of the Force were called into question.

In most of the articles I have presented thus far in this series, I have referred to the testimony given by my great great grandfather in these hearings.

(Engraving of the Royal Commission c.1881. State Library of Victoria).

Royal Commissions were nothing new. In fact the first inquiries into the Police Forces date back to 1855 - a mere three years after the inception of the force in Victoria. The commission dealing directly with the Kelly gang began taking evidence in March 1881 & continued through until October 1881.

It isn't clear how prominent a role Joseph Ladd had in the 1881 examination of the events of the Kelly Affair. However his former subordinate Constable Alexander Fitzpatrick was there. On July 6th 1881 the commission questioned Fitzpatrick at length about his involvement with the Kelly family (he was considered to be a suitor for the affections of Ned Kelly's sister Kate), the events surrounding his being shot during an attempt to arrest Dan Kelly for horse stealing - an attempt which failed. He was also questioned about the 9 month period he served at Lancefield under Senior Constable Mayes before he was eventually sacked from the police force. 

Joseph Ladd was called upon during in May, 1882 under the auspices of the "Present State and Organization of the Police Force" commission hearings

On the 31st of that month Joseph Ladd was sworn in and examined by the commission. He was questioned at length on what he thought about the current state of police recruitment and training, uniforms, rates of pay and promotion.

(Testimony of Joseph Ladd Mayes - click to download a pdf copy).

He was damning of the culture of fear that existed in the force, highlighting his Ballarat experience when he was persecuted relentlessly in the aftermath of the Burke murder at Pigoreet near Pitfield. until he as forced to leave the district. He drew the commission's attention what he perceived as a bitter rivalry between the detective branch and the mounted police - a rivalry that had become toxic and dangerous.

Joseph Ladd gave accounts of his involvement in the hunt for bushranger Harry Power during the period his was stationed at Marysville. These were given in the context of what he thought was poor prospects for promotion in the force as it stood presently. Joseph Ladd had been in the Police Force some 24 years by the time of the Commission and he had not progressed any further than a Senior Constable.

Joseph Ladd was critical of the application and training process saying that he did not think candidates were vetted thoroughly enough before being admitted to the force. Of police training he was particularly damning;

'I have known instances of recruits, young mounted men, going into that depot, being kept there for a couple of weeks, until such time as they get their uniform, and never hardly had a revolver or gun in their hands and perhaps be in the riding school not more than half a dozen times ... they are sent out raw, red handed and knowing no more about the police duty than a man from North Africa'

JL Mayes, 1882.

The case of Constable Alexander Fitzpatrick was highlighted during his appearance.

"I found him such a worthless character that the men who recommended him and gave him a character to join the police force I consider committed a grave offence against the public".

JL Mayes, 1882.

Joseph Ladd Mayes possibly around the time of the Royal Commission in 1882. 
(Mayes Collection).

He went onto provide his recommendations on what he thought should be the appropriate training for a recruit;

"...they should be properly drilled before they are allowed out of the yard ... they should be experienced in the use of the revolver, also in the use of a rifle ... they should also be taught to ride and fire on horseback. He ought not to be sent until he is thoroughly disciplined and understands something of police duty ... I consider no mounted man should be allowed to leave that depot in less than six months, and that he should get instruction during that time".

JL Mayes, 1882.

Joseph Ladd also gave some insight into what he thought should be the rank structure in the force.

"Now as regards to rank. I consider that the position of senior constable should be done away with, and that there should be three grades of sergeants. The should be third-class sergeants, with two stripes, second-class sergeants, with three stripes; and first-class sergeants with three stripes and a crown; and that they should receive remuneration accordingly."

JL Mayes, 1882.

The evidence Joseph Ladd Mayes gave during his testimony, along with the recommendations of many others who gave evidence had a far reaching effect on the Victorian Police Force. Throughout the pages of an 1883 General Report that was handed to the Victorian Parliament, application and training processes were strengthened, remuneration and rank advancement was reexamined and restructured, recommendations and changes were implemented to harmonize relations across departments and large areas of Police operations were extensively overhauled. 

Joseph Ladd is mentioned prominently in an 1883 Special Report that was handed to both houses of Parliament. His evidence on the 1867 Thomas Burke murder investigation and the difficulties he encountered with the detective branch at Ballarat were singled out. The Special Report recommended a root and branch review of Detective operations throughout Victoria.

(Reports like these were handed to the Victorian Parliament in 1883 for consideration.)

The 1881 - 1883 Royal Commission into the operations of the Victorian Police Force was bruising affair. Senior Police and Administrators were removed from their positions - among them three of Joseph Ladd Mayes' most ardent supporters - Captain Frederick Standish, Superintendent Charles Nicholson and Superintendent Frances Hare. The Force itself underwent a seismic shift and the landscape for law enforcement in the colony of Victoria transformed. The effects of this have been long lasting - they are still being felt today. 

For Joseph Ladd Mayes, the Royal Commission was the concluding chapter on a turbulent decade that had seen him travel around the world, spend long periods away from his ailing wife and three children during the height of the Kelly Affair and experience the intense scrutiny of a legal apparatus of a Commission of Inquiry. 

Career wise, Joseph Ladd's appearance at the Commission had a positive effect. His reputation was enhanced and his career trajectory saw a noticeable upswing in the years following 1883. 

Personally, Joseph Ladd would experience some of the happiest years of his life in the aftermath. And it is to here that I shall turn next.

Next: Family Ties...


Saturday, March 30, 2019

The Victorian Trooper #6 - Ned Kelly & The Cave Parties.

In the history of Victoria's criminal past, one figure stands out above all others - Edward "Ned" Kelly. The bushranger, outlaw, gang leader and police murderer is revered and reviled in equal measure and it is clear that he holds an enduring fascination in the cultural lexicon.

(Edward "Ned" Kelly - Australia's most notorious outlaw.)

As a school kid, it was hard to figure out whether Ned Kelly was a folk hero or a murderous criminal - the narratives seemed to come to us in a way that made him seem like some sort of Robin Hood. There always seemed to be a sort of aura surrounding him. With time and a more nuanced reading of the history, only then can one arrive a clearer view of who he was.

In the early 2000's, when my father Stephen made the first significant discoveries about Joseph Ladd Mayes, we had no idea just how pivotal a role he had in the Kelly affair. As Dad delved deeper, we were somewhat shocked at just how central Joseph Ladd Mayes came to be in the pursuit.

In the aftermath of the murders of 3 police troopers at Stringybark Creek in October, 1878 by Ned Kelly, his brother Dan and Joe Byrne, the colony of Victoria had been shocked into agonized attention. It seemed that the Kelly Gang had declared war on what they saw as a corrupt constabulary and initiated an increasingly brazen crime spree across Victoria's North East. In December of 1878, the gang conducted an audacious bank hold up in the Victorian town of Euroa and it became clear that the Police Force had to channel all their resources to hunt down the gang and put an end to their 'reign of terror'.

The Stringybark Creek Police Party. Clockwise from top left: Constable Lonigan, Sergeant Kennedy, Constable McIntyre and Constable Scanlon.

Backed by new legislation known as the Outlawry Act, in January 1879 the Victoria Police under the command of Captain Frederick Standish, Superintendent Francis Hare, and Officer Sadlier began a coordinated operation, arresting all known Kelly friends and purported sympathizers, a total of 23 people and held them without charge in Beechworth Gaol.

In February, 1879 the Kelly Gang had crossed the border into New South Wales where they raided the town of Jerilderie. The incident prompted the NSW Government to offer a reward of 4000 pounds for their capture - dead or alive - which, when matched with Victoria's own 4000 pound reward, became the largest ever reward to date in Australia.

In the aftermath of the Jerilderie raid, the Kelly Gang went into hiding, sparking off a man hunt of epic proportions. During the early months of 1879, Francis Hare came into contact with Aaron Sherritt - a lifelong friend of Kelly Gang member Joe Byrne. Whilst Sherritt was a peripheral associate of the Gang, he was encouraged - financially - to act as a police informant and report to Hare, all the goings on at the property of Joe Byrne's mother. Thinking that the Kelly Gang would emerge at some point, Hare concocted a secret operation that would see him assemble some of his most trusted officers into what became known as the Cave Parties.

Now a senior constable, Joseph Ladd Mayes answered the call from Superintendent Hare, who had come to greatly admire Mayes as one of the most capable officers and bush men he had ever known, and traveled from Broadmeadows on horseback to Benalla, where Hare and Standish were assembling the police parties.

Troopers in pursuit of the Kelly Gang - artists Alfred May and Alfred Martin Ebsworth).

(Police Party photographed at Benalla, Victoria June 20 1879. Joseph Ladd Mayes is standing 4th from left and Frances Hare is standing on his right in the center of the picture. The members in order L to R are O'Loughlin, Kirkham, Mills, Mayes, Sup. Hare, Canny, Faulkiner, Lawless; kneeling are Barry and tracker Moses.)

From Benalla, the parties traveled into the Woolshed Valley near Beechworth. Having secured an agreement from Aaron Sherritt, Hare and Standish were able to establish a rudimentary base of operations at Sherritt's property. The plan was to strike out from Sherritt's at night and ensconce themselves in a series of caves that overlooked the neighboring Byrne farm - owned by Joe Byrne's mother. The hope was that the Kelly Gang would appear from the wilderness and they could be arrested.

Francis Hare put Joseph Ladd Mayes in charge of one group of officers, while the Superintendent lead the other group. As March became April, then May and then June, these Cave Parties conducted the mother of all stakeouts, rotating through day and night, surveilling the Byrne property while the other party rested at the Sherritt home. Aaron Sherritt was said to be feeding them intelligence, suggesting the Kelly Gang would indeed emerge from the wilderness. This kept Hare motivated throughout the long months the Cave Parties operated in the area.    It is not clear whether Joseph Ladd maintained a consistent presence in the Woolshed Valley during the period from February to June or whether he was rotated back to Broadmeadows to enjoy a period of respite with his family.

In the 2003 edition of "The Fatal Friendship", author Ian Jones recalled the reminisces of Francis Hare, who described the operation of the Cave Parties during early 1879;

"Hare decided that he and six men would camp in the clearing, while four men, under Senior Constable Mayes, occupied the upper cave." 

"Hare and his men waited, listening to the night sounds of the Valley, humbled by the great pergola of the Milky Way arched from range to range, momentarily chilled by the shriek of a plover, tension easing to boredom as the hours passed. Then, at 12 or 1 o'clock, Aaron (Sherritt) came ambling up the slope to settle on the ground by Hare and wait another four or five hours for the first lightening of the sky behind the blackness of the peak."

"The Fatal Friendship: Ned Kelly, Aaron Sherritt & Joe Byrne", page 114, Ian Jones, 2003, Copyright © Ian Jones, 2003, Lothian Books.

The uneasy alliance with Aaron Sherritt continued over the course of the next month with Sherritt reportedly going to visit his girlfriend Kate Byrne - the elder sister of Joe Byrne. The aim was to gather intelligence on the possible movements of the Kelly Gang and report back to Hare.

(Aaron Sherritt - friend of The Kelly Gang who became their enemy.)

Concerns were raised in the constabulary about Aaron Sherritt as to whether he was playing both sides - the police and the Kelly Gang but, it seems Francis Hare maintained his trust in Sherritt as a reliable informant. 

Joseph Ladd was singled out during the operation for his conduct and meticulousness as Hare's 2IC. Referencing Hare, Ian Jones cites a passage from the Superintendent's memoir in the footnotes of his 2003 revised edition of "The Fatal Friendship."

"A total lack of debris suggests that Senior Constable Mayes and his four men were a far more responsible and disciplined group than those in the lower camp, who probably relaxed their standards after Hare's departure - by then knowing that the location of the site was almost common knowledge in the Woolshed."

"The Fatal Friendship: Ned Kelly, Aaron Sherritt & Joe Byrne", page 222, Ian Jones, 2003, Copyright © Ian Jones, 2003, Lothian Books.

(Joseph Ladd was described as a proven and well tried man with whom Frances Hare had the utmost confidence.)

Things began to unravel when leaks around the the existence of the Cave Parties emerged back in Melbourne. The costs of resourcing them caused alarm among the top brass. Meanwhile, back in the Woolshed Valley, the viability of the Parties was thrown into doubt when one of the constables was actually discovered by Kate Byrne as he was collecting water from a creek.

While it's safe to guess that Joseph Ladd's participation in the Cave Parties lasted from their inception to at least June of 1879, it is doubtful he stayed on through the second half of that year until the eventual disbanding of the Cave Parties in April 1880. The Cave Party operation suffered from being an increasingly expensive operation - for little return. That it's existence became an open secret among the Police and those in the Woolshed Valley who were sympathetic to the Kelly Gang 

In June 1879 Joseph Ladd, then aged 46, took command of the Lancefield Police Station, north east of Melboure. A month later, on the 19th of July, he remarried - to Eugenie Rebecca Bourke, the 26 year old daughter of a farming family originally from NSW. The marriage was solemnized in Keilor. The marriage certificate states that Eugenie Rebecca Bourke was residing in Broadmeadows at the time. 

By June of 1880, circumstances began to unravel for the Kelly Gang. Having discovered the treachery of his best friend - Aaron Sherritt was murdered by his friend Joe Byrne for conspiring against the Kelly Gang. And the Gang themselves made their last stand at Glenrowan in a fierce gun battle with police. Joe Byrne was shot and killed,  Dan Kelly & Steve Hart were both incinerated in a hotel fire and Ned Kelly himself, severely wounded, was captured. We are certain that Joseph Ladd Mayes was not at Glenrowan during the last stand of the Kelly Gang.

Writing in his memoir much later, Francis Hare singled out Joseph Ladd's conduct during the Cave Party operation. He described the Senior Constable as a proven and well tried man with whom he had the utmost confidence.

In amongst the saga of the Cave Parties - another piece of the Kelly Affair had a direct impact on Joseph Ladd Mayes. During the height of the Cave Party operations, Joseph Ladd took charge of Constable Alexander Fitzpatrick - who had been stationed at Benalla in the north east of Victoria.

(Constable Alexander Fitzpatrick).

A prominent figure in the Kelly saga, Alexander Fitzpatrick has been regarded as the catalyst for the Affair. In April,1878 - acting on a notice that had been posted in the Police Gazette - Fitzpatrick had attempted to arrest members of the gang at the property of Kelly matriarch Ellen. During a confrontation with the family, Fitpatrick was shot and wounded by Ned Kelly himself. Accounts of this incident vary greatly and there is a healthy amount of skepticism towards those accounts from both sides of the often charged Kelly debate. But most agree, the incident at the Kelly property marked a significant escalation in the war between the Kelly's and the police.

Alexander Fitzpatrick remains a controversial figure in the history of the Victorian Police Force. Opinion about his character has almost, always been in the negative with him being cast as a drunkard and a less than reputable individual.

When he came to the notice of Commissioner Standish and Superintendent Hare at the height of the Kelly Affair, they formed the view that Fitzpatrick was on a hiding to nothing in the constabulary. He was either considered too close to the Kellys or he was responsible for all out war between the police and the Kellys. There were allegations of his being drunk on the job, of associating with the lowest of individuals, even the attempted rape of Ned Kelly's sister Kate.

And yet, following the events at the Kelly homestead and the Stringybark Creek murders, Fitzpatrick was dispatched to Sydney - tasked with looking out for and apprehending Kelly Gang members in case they arrived there to escape the country via ship. Given that he had identified Ned Kelly, Dan Kelly, Joe Byrne and Steve Hart at the Kelly homestead, it was thought Fitzpatrick would be best placed to spot them, should they arrive in Sydney.

Accounts of his poor conduct in Sydney dogged Fitzpatrick however and he was ordered back to Victoria by senior police who feared he was casting the Victorian Police into disrepute. 

Alexander Fitzpatrick was sent to Lancefield in September of 1879, apparently as a last resort where he served 9 months under Joseph Ladd Mayes - until the now decorated Senior Constable could no longer tolerate the insubordinate officer. 

Evidently, he had formed the view, having studied the constable in-situ, whilst gathering information on Fitzpatrick from his previous postings. Joseph Ladd reflected on Fitzpatrick's conduct in 1882.

"he was not fit to be in the police force ... he was associated with the lowest persons in Lancefield  ... he could not be trusted out of sight and ... he never did his duty"
JL Mayes, May 1882.

In recent times, there has been some reconsideration around the history and conduct of Alexander Fitzpatrick and a theory has emerged suggesting the Constable was more a victim of circumstance than a poor officer.

In a 2015 essay titled "Redeeming Fitzpatrick", historian Stuart Dawson presented a minority view of the Constable, arguing that, up until the events at the Kelly homestead in 1878, Alexander Fitzpatrick had an unremarkable service record, with no evidence of poor conduct. In fact, he had been described in a positive light by his superiors in Sydney. The accounts of the incident at the Kelly homestead appear to have relied too heavily on the Kelly side of the incident, where Kelly himself was known to fabricate and misreprsent the truth. The account of Fitzpatrick seem to have been ignored or dismissed because he, too, was regarded as unreliable. It is after the Kelly homestead incident, that Fitzpatrick's career takes a downward turn. 

Dawson argues that the constable's posting to Lancefield was a concerted effort to rid Fitzpatrick from the Force in the aftermath of his Sydney posting. By putting Fitzpatrick under the command of a "strict disciplinarian in Joseph Ladd Mayes - who was said to have already formed a view of the Constable as worthless character - the senior ranks of the Victorian Police Force would achieve that end. As Mayes testified in 1882, Fitzpatrick was charged with derilection of duty at Lancefield and associating with disreputable individuals. Fitzpatrick was to last 9 months before Joseph Ladd Mayes recommended the Constable be sacked from the Force.

2 seperate petitions were raised by 100 prominent residents of Lancefield and Romsey following Fitzpatrick's dismissal, calling for his immediate reinstatement. Both petitions were rejected by the Police and Fitzpatrick was dismissed from the Force in 1880.

Was Joseph Ladd over zealous in calling for Fitzpatrick to be sacked? Did senior police - including Standish & Hare - use Mayes as an "instrument" to facilitate Fitzpatrick's removal from the Force, knowing they had a reliable man they could count on? Was Fitzpatrick made a scapegoat for the Kelly Affair? 

There is documentary evidence suggesting that Joseph Ladd Mayes had genuine concerns about Fitzpatrick during his time at Lancefield. One catalyst for Fitzpatrick's removal was the sustained harassment and threats of harm towards a Lancefield man, Maurice Casey and his family. While the details of this incident are sparse, they are recorded on the police record of Alexander Fitzpatrick and in the reports submitted by Joseph Ladd Mayes to the Commissioner of Police in Melbourne. Fitzpatrick was notably cagey about the Casey incident during his own testimony in 1881 and refused to entertain any detailed examination of it. We know Joseph Ladd was a thorough investigator, who would have left no stone unturned in pursuing the truth in any matter that came before him. While his reputation might have been strict, he was also fair and did not stray from proper process.

During Fitzpatrick's Sydney posting, he was said to have befriended a woman named Edith Graham (or Edith Jones), who had been accused of stealing jewellry from her employer, a hairdresser named Pogonowski. Pogonowski had suggested to police that Fitzpatrick (who was married at the time) had more than a casual association with Edith Graham and the two may have even been co-conspirators in multiple instances of theft. The case of the stolen jewellry was resolved when Fitzpatrick directed police to the residence of Edith Graham herself and the stolen goods were recovered. Yet no charges appear to have been laid. It was as a result of this curious incident that Fitzpatrick was recalled to Victoria. The view of the hierarchy there was that his conduct had brought the Force into disrepute.

It was apparent that others agreed with this view. During the Royal Commission, a letter of complaint was tendered from the Inspector General in Sydney, attesting to a litany of complaints over the course of Fitzpatrick's entire career and not just the period from the Kelly incident forward.

The true facts surrounding Alexander Fitzpatrick may never be fully illuminated. He remains a divisive identity whose conduct, revealed in numerous pieces of documentary evidence, was questionable at best. What I do think is fair however, is to question the existing narratives, which do seem to be unfairly skewed in one direction. I do believe the case of Fitzpatrick is more complicated.

By the end of 1880, with the execution of Ned Kelly, Victoria effectively saw the end of one of the most fraught periods in its fledgling history. For Joseph Ladd Mayes, the end of the Kelly Gang marked a turning point in his professional and personal life. Approaching his fiftieth year, Joseph and his new wife Eugenie would see the growth of their family begin, while Joseph would contribute to one of the watershed moments in the history of the Victorian Police Force.

Next: The Royal Commission...


The Victorian Trooper #5 - A Sabbatical Abroad.

During our family research a little documented piece emerged that threw a new spin on we thought we knew about Joseph Ladd Mayes.

During the Police Royal Commission in 1882 Joseph Ladd reflected on a period of his life when he spent some time abroad observing police forces in other countries.

"About nine years ago, I saw the police force in England, Ireland & America, and I consider that we have as good  material for a police force in Victoria as any of those countries".

JL Mayes, May 1882.

A study of Joseph Ladd police records reveals little about this journey beyond a rather difficult to read entry dated April 24, 1873. In amongst the painfully cursive copperplate is a mention of a 12 month leave of absence that was signed off by an officer with the police number 2144 about, I did a search at the Public Records office of Victoria some years ago and came across a shipping record that corresponds - roughly - with Joseph Ladd's evidence.

(a cryptic entry in Joseph Ladd Mayes' police record points towards a 12 month leave of absence in 1873.)

In 1874, records of inward traveling passengers on a ship called the Glengarry list five Mayes' returning to the Port of Melbourne. Joseph (aged 37), Mary (aged 37), John (aged 11), Rebecca (aged 9),  Sarah (aged 7).

(The steamship "Glengarry" docked in Hobart, Tasmania c. 1870).

The names of all these passengers correspond with the records in our possession now, particularly in the case of the children since we know all the names of the children Joseph and Mariann had, however the ages of each of the passengers vary quite a bit from the birth dates we have for each child.

At this stage this is all the information we have and the questions we have far outweigh the answers.

Joseph Ladd's evidence to the 1882 Royal Commission into the Victoria Police suggests he was acting in the role of a Consultant for the Victoria Police Force and was tasked with reviewing the operations of foreign police forces in order to improve the Victorian Force. Further it seems, Joseph Ladd offered an Australian perspective to these foreign forces that would assist their own operations.

(Joseph Ladd Mayes - Mayes family collection.)

Much of the life of the Mayes family during this period in the 1870's remains a mystery and we are hoping time will reveal more facts about this unique role Joseph Ladd was given.

His return to Australia in 1874 corresponded with a noticeable up-tick in frontier crime, perpetrated by increasingly brazen and, it would seem, notoriety seeking 'bushrangers'.

We do not know how long Joseph Ladd, Marrian John Adolph, Sara and Rebecca remained in Marysville. We have evidence that puts the family in the hamlet of Broadmeadows, north of Melbourne in the period from 1876 to June 1879.

(Lancefield, Victoria - date unknown.)

In 1878, whilst at Broadmeadows, another tragedy was to befall the family when Mariann died suddenly, following what we believe was a stroke. The event undoubtedly plunged the family into a period of untold grief. Joseph Ladd gave a glimpse of his grief during the 1882 Royal Commission when he called his earlier experiences on the Ballarat Gold-fields. He was convinced that his persecution by senior police in Ballarat - as a result of his solving the Burke murder, coupled with his later false imprisonment on trumped up charges, brought on a depression that ultimately killed his wife.

Did Mariann suffer some form of PTSD that resulted in a long period of poor health and eventual decline? Was she at greater risk of dysentery because of poor mental health? We just don't yet know. Mariann Henrietta Mayes (Piquet) - daughter of a Swiss preacher, wife and mother is buried at the Bulla Cemetery, north west of Melbourne.

Joseph Ladd Mayes appears to have had little time to grieve afterwards. In the North East of Victoria, a tinder box of conflict was brewing and, once again, Joseph Ladd was sought out by his trusted superior Superintendent Francis Hare for an audacious assignment that would see him plunged into one of most notorious sagas in Australian history.

Next: Ned Kelly & The Cave Parties.


Thursday, March 28, 2019

The Victorian Trooper #4 - Brush With A Brushranger.

The township of Marysville, nestled in the vast Yarra Ranges National Park in Victoria, was established in 1864 as a way point for prospectors heading to the gold fields of Woods Point & the Upper Goulburn. With the establishment of the Yarra Track, Victoria had its first, major eastern arterial and Marysville, which had initially struggled to cope with the regular transit of prospectors, trades people, professionals and families, had - by 1870 - begun to prosper and its population swelled accordingly. The need for a policing presence in Marysville was the subject of numerous requests to Melbourne from the nearby stations at Healesville, Woods Point and Jamieson. Increasing reports of crime had been received from those stations and the evolving population at Marysville were growing fearful.

We have documents in our possession that puts Joseph Ladd Mayes in Marysville in August 1867 and in command of "a" station. I emphasize "a station" because, the doucments reveal that Marysville did not have a dedicated Police Station at that time. After some considerable amount of to-ing and fro-ing between Marysville & Melbourne between Jospeh Ladd and others, a house became available for the Victoria Police to purchase from a Mr. Robert Mayne, Marysville's storekeeper & Post Master and, on the urging of Jospeh Ladd, the property was secured.

It was soon discovered that the property was a less than stellar purchase.

Throughout 1868, Joseph Ladd corresponded regularly with Victoria Police, detailing his requirements for the newly acquired police buildings at Marysville. On July 29th, 1868 for example, he forwarded a comprehensive list of repairs to the OIC at Jamieson Station that included;

"Outside of building will require require painting, spouting (which was not originally supplied). Chimneys, being built of slab and paling, inside lined with brick and stone, will all require to be fixed, the foundations having sunk. The wall paper in the rooms is loose and hanging and would require a general overhaul. One door and fastening is required for yard purposes, there being no back door to the premises, and all the other doors will require overhauling and painting. The water closet will be required."

JL Mayes, July, 1868.

The correspondence continued throughout the remainder of 1868, with Joseph Ladd routinely requesting additional funds for repairs and improvements to the Marysville Station - and he got them - some 30 pounds in funds. It becomes clear, reading through the documents that he wasn't one to settle for half measures and he knew what was needed for a well equipped station.

Joseph Ladd quickly established his reputation across the district as a thorough and principled lawman who commanded respect. Entries transcribed from the original Marysville Station watchouse record along with his official police record details of investigations, arrests made and prisoner outcomes. One can view numerous reports of his good conduct written in an exquisite cursive copper plate. 

With three growing children in John Adolph, Sara and Rebecca, we can assume Joseph Ladd & Mariann Mayes lived a contented life in the township where they were, by all accounts, a well liked family.

(Marysville, Victoria - 1870.)

With the rapid eastern expansion - off the back of newly discovered gold deposits at  settlements like Woods Point, Jamieson, Jericho, the Upper Goulburn and Walhalla, it was inevitable that crime would follow. Now established in Marysville, Joseph Ladd would encounter lawless bushrangers and devious men - not only among the civilian population but within his own ranks. By the close of the decade, several notable criminal figures had emerged in Victoria and were garnering considerable notoriety. 

One of these figures was a bushranger known as Harry Power.

(Henry Johnson a.k.a - bushranger Harry Power).

Born Henry Johnson in Waterford, Ireland in May, 1819, he grew up in Lancashire, England becoming an apprentice saddler at aged 16, then joining a peasant uprising against British troops. During this time, Johnson received saber wounds to his right cheek and brow, which were to become his distinguishing marks.

Having been charged and convicted of stealing a bridle and saddle in Lancashire, Johnson was sentenced to 7 years imprisonment and transported to the colony of Australia. By 1848, Johnson, now a free man, had moved to Sydney and took up the permanent identity of Harry Power. Power was engaged driving cattle all over this colony and New South Wales, and afterwards in exploring and cutting a track across vast swathes of the colony. In a few years he became a competent bushman, knowing almost every mile of the country. During all this time he appears to have engaged in honest living, even keeping horses near Geelong in Victoria.

However, Power was charged with horse stealing near Sandhurst, Bendigo in an incident that has since been considered questionable. Regardless, Power was sentenced to several years in gaol, after which it seems, he turned to a life of crime for several years. It was during this period of time, that Power had recruited a protégé, a talented young horseman named Edward Kelly.

(Edward "Ned" Kelly - date unknown).

Having come onto the radar of the Victorian Police Force, following a brazen prison break by Power, Superintendent Frances Hare turned to Joseph Ladd Mayes at Marysville when it came to light that Harry Power was operating in the Mansfield area in North Eastern Victoria. A significant reward of 500 pounds had been offered for the capture of Power and in 1870 Hare tasked Joseph Ladd with putting together a crack team to deploy into the ranges in an attempt to arrest Power.

Joseph Ladd together with a Constable Potter and and aboriginal tracker set out from Marysville, moving along the Acheron track (now the Maroondah highway) through rugged bush land. Gathering intelligence from a number of local property owners, it was confirmed that Harry Power had indeed been seen in the area of Mansfield. One landowner named Bindon had pointed the trio towards a tree into which Harry Power had allegedly cut his signature.

The most significant piece intelligence however, one gleaned by Joseph Ladd Mayes himself, was that Harry Power regularly visited the home of a Jimmy Quinn at a settlement called Glenmore. The trio was told that they could stake out the Quinn property with a strong likelihood that they would catch Power successfully.

However, in order to get close enough to catch Power they would have to leave their horses and supplies at Mansfield and head into the harsh country around Glenmore on foot.

(Joseph Ladd Mayes - by 1870, he was in a senior role at Marysville in Victoria.)

The trio continued on to the Mansfield depot where they were confronted by a police party of about 14 men lead by an imposing Superintendent named Furnell.

Upon being questioned rather forcefully by Furnell as to why they were here in Mansfield Joseph Ladd said that they were acting on the orders of Superintendent Hare and that they were attempting to catch Power.

This apparently did not sit well with Furnell who was most likely after the very same man. Furnell's indignation was recalled vividly by Joseph Ladd in 1882.

"...and he said 'Go back to your station and do not leave it without an order from me.' He never said, 'How long have you been from your station?' or anything else, but simply, 'Go right back to your station'"

Joseph Ladd was to add during that recollection that Furnell;

"...seemed as if he were going to jump down my throat."

(The capture of Harry Power - artist unknown).

Joseph Ladd, Constable Potter and the aboriginal tracker were forced to return to Marysville as they were ordered. Joseph Ladd was of the view that Furnell ranked higher than Francis Hare, therefore he had no choice but to obey. And so they returned - without giving Furnell any of the critical intelligence that would enable them to capture Power and end a infamous bush ranging career. Furnell hadn't given them the opportunity. 

More fool Furnell.

Joseph Ladd Mayes instead filed a report to his trusted superior Francis Hare. Two weeks later, acting on that very report, Francis Hare and Superintendent Charles Nicholson successfully captured and arrested Harry Power - in the very place that Joseph Ladd knew the bushranger would be - the Quinn property at Glenmore.

(Power's Lookout - photographer unknown.)

During the 1882 Royal Commission Joseph Ladd was asked whether he felt he had been deliberately shifted by the Superintendents so that they would be positioned to capture and ultimately take credit for the arrest of Harry Power. Joseph Ladd replied no. It was his belief that Frances Hare would have trusted Joseph Ladd's ability to catch Harry Power unequivocally.

"I do not believe there is any man in the police force would give a man more credit for an act he would perform than Mr. Hare." JL Mayes, May 1882.

One questions whether Joseph Ladd was perhaps naive on this point as it was known that fierce rivalries existed among the senior police not the least of which between Frances Hare and Charles Nicholson.

The capture of Harry Power is said to have been the spark for a wider conflict between the Victoria Police and their enemies in the colony - inspiring bushrangers and lawless men and women to defy the establishment. Among these was Harry Power's protégé, Edward "Ned" Kelly, whose rise to infamy is well documented. 

For Joseph Ladd Mayes, it seems he returned to Marysville where he continued as the senior officer through until 1874. 

One precious artifact that survived in physical form at the Marysville Police Station was the Station's Watchhouse Log. Several years ago, the great grandson of Joseph Ladd Mayes - Stephen Mayes - recalls visiting the Marysville Police Station and being able to view the duty book first hand. This was a huge leather bound document, in which all pertinent information relating to the running of the station was recorded. It carried information about the running of the station, prison entries, progress reports and other information. Due to its size, Stephen recalled that the book had entries dating back to the time when Joseph Ladd Mayes was stationed at Marysville. His own handwriting appeared in several pages of the duty book. 

Tragically, that duty book was lost during the Black Saturday bush fires in February 2009. 

A little known aspect of Joseph Ladd Mayes' life - that only came to light fairly recently in our family - illustrates the esteem with which Joseph Ladd Mayes was held by the senior ranks of the Victorian Police Force. An opportunity arose for Joseph Ladd to undertake a secondment of sorts abroad and he took time out from his active duty role at Marysville to fulfill the request. 

Next: A Sabbatical Abroad...


Wednesday, March 27, 2019

The Victorian Trooper #3 - Early Trials & Bitter Triumphs.

In 1860, Mounted Constable Joseph Ladd Mayes was posted to the Ballarat Gold Fields where he spent some three years at the tiny settlement of Pitfield in the Pigoreet District - southwest of Ballarat proper.

(Pitfield, 1859 - image courtesy of The Woady Yaloak Historical Society.)

Tragedy was to befall the young family not long after their arrival when Joseph & Mariann's son Charles Mayes died on the 15th February 1860. The death must have been a cruel blow to them, particularly at the time when Mariann had just given birth to their second child on the 23rd January 1860, a boy, which they named John Adolph. 

Living conditions in the newly established district would have been hard and unforgiving. In an article for the Sovereign Hill Education Blog, the author details a number of childhood diseases that were prevalent on the gold fields. 

"In the 1850s, people – especially children – often died from diseases which rarely kill Australians today, like scarlet fever, pneumonia, diphtheria and consumption (tuberculosis). 

However, children were most likely to die from drinking water contaminated by human ‘poo’ … Horrible diseases like dysentery, cholera and typhoid killed thousands of children during the Victorian gold rushes."

Indeed the fate that befell the young Charles Mayes was a particularly tragic one. The death certificate records the cause of death as "Scarlatina & Diptheria - 6 weeks"

Despite this tragedy, Joseph Ladd and Marrian brought another two lives into their world, after John Adolph - Rebecca (1861) who was born in Buningyong near Pitfield and Sarah (1863) who was born in Pitfield.

An artist's engraving of a 'bail up' - similar to that which confronted the Gold Escort (State Library of Victoria).

As I mentioned in my previous post, lawlessness was rife throughout the gold fields. Fear of being exposed to dangerous criminals would have been a constant. It was here in the Piggoreet District that Joseph Ladd established a reputation as a tenacious policeman. 

One notable account was that of a conspiracy he'd uncovered when a prominent gold rush banker named Thomas Ulick Burke was murdered by two men named in the 1882 Police Royal Commission as Break O' Day publican George Searle and his employee Joseph Ballan. 

One of Thomas Burke's tasks as bank manager was to travel throughout the Woady Yaloak diggings buying gold from miners. By this stage gold transports were no longer accompanied by armed escorts. 

Early on 10 May 1867, Burke collected a horse and buggy from the Smythesdale coach-builder and traveled to the Break O’ Day area (now Corindhap, Victoria), arriving at the nearby town of Rokewood at 1130 am. He bought gold at Rokewood and Break O’ Day, then left to make the return journey to Smythesdale, stopping at hotels along the way to buy more gold.

(Thomas Ulick Burke - date unknown.)

It was on this return journey that he was intercepted by Searle & Ballan, whose intention it was to rob Burke and make off with the gold shipment. They carried out their robbery and Thomas Burke was murdered in the exchange. 

Spurred to action, Joseph Ladd Mayes initiated a swift investigation into the murder and tracked down the gold shipment to Searle's Hotel at Break O' Day. Soon after, he arrested George Searle and Joseph Ballan and, following protocol, delivered the murderers into the hands of the Detectives at Ballarat.

It appears, however, that Joseph Ladd's efforts had ignited jealousies in fellow police officers.

Officers Hill and Ryall of the Ballarat police had themselves, reportedly, invested much time and resources in trying to solve the Burke murders without success, and were so incensed that Joseph Ladd Mayes had instead brought the murderers to justice, that they tried to discredit him in the aftermath.

Now imprisoned in Ballarat awaiting trial, Hill & Ryall forced a confession from  George Searle, effectively taking credit for the investigation and arrest. They then blocked Joseph Ladd from giving evidence at trial - in which Joseph Ladd Mayes no doubt would have exposed Hill & Ryall as liars. His expulsion from the official record prevented Joseph Ladd Mayes from receiving the 500 pound reward on offer for the capture of the murderers.

During their trial, Searle admitted to the robbery but sought to have his charge of murder reduced because it was Ballan who had shot Burke. They were tried at Ballarat by Judge Redmond Barry, who convicted them both of murder and sentenced them to death. Searle and Ballan were hanged at the Ballarat Gaol on 7 August 1867 and buried in the grounds.

There was clear evidence that Joseph Ladd's efforts were crucial in bringing the Burke murderers to justice. His role was acknowledged by the Victorian government and from the Bank that was to receive the gold - he was awarded 25 pounds respectively by both institutions. The Break of Day mining company - upon hearing of Joseph Ladd's treatment by the Police in Ballarat - also took a collection from it's workers of a further 25 pounds which they presented to the Constable with gratitude.

 Main Street of Ballarat from Marks Corner c.1880's (The Ballarat Historical Society).

Despite this Joseph Ladd did not have his role officially acknowledged at the time of the case. Even more troubling was the ongoing treatment of Joseph Ladd by the Superintendent of the district and the other officers. Joseph recalled during the 1882 Royal Commission that he and his family was persecuted to such an extent afterwards that he feared for his family's lives.

"When I found that Superintendent Hill and Mr. Ryall had such a down on me, I applied to leave the district forthwith". JL Mayes, 1882.

He returned to the Richmond depot, effectively being reduced to the status of a trainee, for a period of six months. However he received a new posting, to the small settlement of Raywood just north of Bendigo - which was then known as Sandhurst.

An unfortunate series of events happened during this transfer. When Joseph Ladd received his orders, he had asked a colleague to pack up his belongings while he prepared this family for the journey. The colleague mistakenly packed a pair of boots, belonging to a foot constable, into Joseph Ladd's trunk and the error wasn't picked up by anyone until after he had left for Raywood. 

Mistakenly believing an act of theft had occurred, a warrant was issued for Joseph Ladd's arrest and police were dispatched from the Richmond depot. Upon being confronted with the charge of theft in Raywood, Joseph Ladd Mayes was arrested and taken into custody - first at Sandhurst, after which he was transported back to Melbourne where he was held at the Melbourne Gaol, pending an appearance before a Magistrate. On the day of his court appearance, Joseph Ladd recalled that Mr. Ryall - his nemesis from the Burke murder case in the Ballarat - had been appointed to prosecute Joseph Ladd. 

The affair was to have a swift resolution however, when the constable who'd packed up Joseph Ladd's trunk at the Richmond depot, realized what had happened and presented himself to give testimony. Joseph Ladd was exonerated of all charges against him and the matter was considered closed.

The whole sorry saga had a significant impact on Joseph Ladd. Humiliated despite being cleared of the charges, he felt he was unable to return to the posting at Raywood - having been arrested so publicly and shamed by the incident. He implored his superiors, not to force him back there where he felt he would be doing a disservice to the image of the Force. Of greater concern to him though, was the effect it had on his wife Mariann. In giving evidence to the Police Royal Commission in 1882 Joseph Ladd describes the effect.

"The shock acted so on my wife that she broke down under it." JL Mayes, 1882.

He was convinced that these events contributed to a nervous breakdown that would "eventually kill her", even though Mariann was to live on for another 15 years after this episode. Reflecting on the events in 1882, Joseph seems to suggest that Mariann might not have recovered mentally or emotionally from the stress of that period, which is quite possible.

(Police Superintendent, Francis Hare - artist unknown).

(Captain Frederick Standish - photographer unknown.)

The family remained in Melbourne after the court case, while Joseph Ladd awaited the processing of his application for a new posting. He wasn't to wait for long. Having friends in high places of the calibre of Francis Hare and Frederick Standish was a fortunate plus arising out of the Ballarat affair. They knew who Joseph Ladd really was and they trusted him implicitly. And sure enough, a posting arrived that would put Joseph Ladd right into the centre of one of Australia's most notorious periods...

Next: A Brush With A Bushranger...