I first came across mention of the Launt family when reading Eric Rolls’ book “A Million Wild Acres” in the early 1980s. At that time it was just one small part of the history of the exploration and settlement of the Liverpool Plains that Rolls so capably explained. So it was a surprise when twenty or so years later the Launt name started popping up in our extended family’s history amongst the descendants of Elizabeth Anderson (abt 1815 – 1902) and her Snow and Camden husbands.
According to Rolls, “Joe Launt, a poddy-dodger (stealer of unbranded calves) … had come with his sons about 1857 from a run north of Coolah called the Black Swamp… He never paid the licence fees on the Black Swamp  and under later holders the name passed into Australian tradition as the Black Stump.”  He then went on to tell the story of the Fred Lowry affair.
The Fred Lowry Affair
On 19 February 1864 Joseph’s sons, George and Joseph junior, young men aged around 20, were allegedly stealing cattle belonging to Ebenezer Orr near Yaminba Creek on the southern outskirts of the Pilliga forest. They were in company with Fred Lowry and Billy Purcell, a half-caste Aboriginal, when Orr and a police party intervened. In the ensuing affray Fred Lowry was shot dead by the police. George and Joseph were convicted of cattle stealing, and sentenced to 10 years imprisonment in March 1865 after the jury had been unable to agree in their first trial. Their retrial was delayed due to the intervening death of Constable Ward, the policeman who had shot Lowry.  Both were freed early, in November 1869, following petitions by family and friends.
Rolls claims that in the prelude to this affair:
“Ebenezer Orr missed cattle off Garrawilla. Worse, he missed Betsy, a twenty-year-old Aboriginal shepherdess, his favourite at that time. She had run off with Joe Launt, or more likely, one of his sons. Orr tracked her to Launt’s house and brought her back. He kept a closer watch on his cattle.” 
Ebenezer Orr was noted for his employment of Aboriginal shepherdesses, who he clothed in long, red, flannel dresses. He fathered at least one daughter, Mary, with an Aboriginal woman. There was much mention of Betsy in the trial of Joseph Junior and George. The implication from the defence was that Orr’s prosecution was motivated by malice arising from Betsy being with the Launts.
This implication was also made when Joseph senior was tried for attempting to spread scab mite amongst sheep belonging to Ebenezer Orr, supposedly in retaliation for Orr’s actions. The trials of both father and sons were held consecutively at Mudgee Quarter Sessions commencing in July 1864. Joseph senior was sentenced to 2 years hard labour in Bathurst Gaol. 
A different perspective on the affair is given by Mary Jane Cain (1844-1929), a part-Aboriginal woman, of Burrabeedee near Coonabarabran. Mary Jane was probably related by marriage to the daughter of Joseph Launt senior, Eliza, who married Thomas Cain in 1861. The content of her account, which is extracted from a larger set of recollections, certainly suggests either a family connection to the Launts, or close familiarity with them:
“The place Gooragilla near Garrawilla was also purchased by Mr Ebenezer Orr from people by the name of Joseph Launt & son’s. Mr McDonald owned it before Launt bought it. During the time Launt was mustering his stock after he sold his land just as they were in the act of drafting the cattle they were by some means arrested by the Police Chief Constable Ward were here at the time, There was a young chap in company with Launts at the time by the name of James Lowrey who was shot dead by ward the Police man. George & Joseph Launt ( brothers) was arrested & a young man named William Percial whom they had hired he was a halfcaste. Those three were tried in Coonabarabran & committed for cattle stealing, which should not have been as the cattle were all their own with the exception of a few but they were not given a chance to draft them. I must state that the police at the time the arrest was made. Were all very drunk. Then a the sessions at Mudgee the Launts each received 10 years sentence & Precial got three years & was sent to a place call Cockatoo Island some where near Sydney. this would be in (1864). After the Launt Brothers done flur five years I got a petition which every one signed knowing that they were treated wrongfully & had them liberated at five years. I presented the petition to Thomas Gordon Danger who was at that time member of Parliament. The same Constable Ward was very shortly after this was shot by a Chinese Bushranger wilst trying to arrest him on a place called Barneys Reefe on returning from a session & Mudgee.”
A newspaper report of the Coroner’s inquest into the death of Fred Lowry can be found at the bottom of this post.
Associations with the Snow Family
Two months after he was discharged from prison George Launt married Emma Snow at Cassilis (February 1870). This was not the first marriage between the two families. Emma’s older sister Sarah had married Edward, another of the Launt sons, in 1860 at Cooyal Creek. Two years earlier another Snow sister, Mary Ann, had married Thomas Dillon at Bathurst. Thomas, then an ex-convict and soon to be bushranger has some of his story told here.
More associations between the Launt and Dillon families appeared as my research progressed. Curiousity got the better of me – was Joe Launt just a small-time poddy dodger or was there more to the man?
Joseph Launt’s Story
Joseph and his wife Mary Roberts arrived in Sydney from the United Kingdom in September 1841 on the ship “United Kingdom”. They were accompanied by children Eliza and Edward. Sons George and Joseph were born in 1844 and 1845 respectively. Joseph was a carpenter, and I found one reference to his using his trade, from late in his life:
“Mr. R. L. Dawson states that Joseph Launt was afterwards employed by his father in 1870, about the building of the homestead at Bentley, near Naughton’s Gap, between Casino and Lismore. When leaving the district shortly after that “old Joe” sold his English duck guns to the Armstrongs, of Disputed Plains, for £1. This gun had a remarkably long barrel and took a very heavy charge of powder and shot. It was a destructive weapon when fired into a flock of wild ducks. It also carried a big bullet. The Armstrongs used it for shooting wild horses, which were called “brumbies”. 
In March 1843 Joseph gained employment as the pound keeper for the District of Bligh, located at Cassilis. He didn’t last, being dismissed in January 1844 for illegally harbouring convicts. 
Six months later, in July 1844 he made his first appearance before a New South Wales court, at Maitland Quarter Sessions, being found not guilty of stealing a cheque for 5 pounds.
How Joseph earned his living thereafter isn’t often clear although there are several mentions of him working as a carrier. At that time, this would have meant operating bullock teams.
In 1855 Joseph gave evidence at an inquest into the sudden death of an aboriginal man Thomas Cambo (or Combo) at Lochinvar in the Hunter Valley. Thomas had been bringing one of Launt’s bullock teams carrying wool from the Liverpool Plains. According to Launt, he had employed Thomas, who was aged about 25, for about 12 years. The doctor who gave evidence, whilst stating that the death was due to natural causes,  gave as his opinion that Thomas’s life might have been saved if he had obtained prompt medical advice. 
Joseph also seems to have been engaged at various times in inn keeping, dealing in horses and running stock during usually short-lived occupation of pastoral leases, usually referred to as “runs” or “stations”.
Apart from the Black Stump run mentioned by Rolls, for which Launt had a licence for the year ending June 1847  but which he had forfeited by March 1851, there was also the Traveller’s Rest station in the Clarence River district. This was transferred to Joseph Launt by William Hindmarsh in 1849, and from Joseph Launt to Joseph Sharp in 1851.
According to one source, “By Launt’s time the homestead was a regular wayside inn. In November, 1849, Thomas Carroll sued Joseph Launt, of Traveller’s Rest, publican, for the detention of two working bullocks. The case was settled out of court.” 
Between 1859  and 1861  “E. Launt and Brothers” held the Lower Turridgerie North and Bumble/Bimble runs in the Coonabarabran district, perhaps as proxy for their father. In court proceedings in 1860 Joseph gave his address as “Teridgerie”.  In 1861 these runs were transferred to Thomas Cadell. 
In 1862, a newspaper notice referred to the transfer of the Goriagilla station  from “Messrs Launt brothers” to Samuel Corner.  Goriagilla station was later incorporated into the well-known Garrawilla station, owned by Ebenezer Orr, the theft of whose cattle in 1864 triggered the Fred Lowry affair.
There is also a conditional purchase (CP) in the name of Joseph Launt shown on the 1884 map of the parish of Yaminba. It is located about 11 km due west of Rocky Glen township, on the right (western) bank of Yaminba Creek. This CP is dated 3 January 1878. It’s not unlikely that the land was occupied without legal title prior to this date, as the pastoral lease covering the area had been abandoned by Ebenezer Orr prior to the Fred Lowry affair.
Eric Rolls wrote of this selection:
“Joe Launt, settling down to a more conventional life, took up a selection on Yaminba Creek, not far from where his sons were surprised in Ebenezer Orr’s old house. Although the house had been abandoned for years, Joe Launt thought it wiser to go by night to steal the bits he needed from it to add to the comfort of his own house. Coming back one dark night with a window he tripped and fell. He jinked his neck but saved the window. … Jim Carr … bought the Yaminba selection from Joe Launt. ” 
Eric Rolls’ book contains a photo of Launt’s house taken in the 1920s.
Being a carrier meant working over long distances, and Joseph seems to have travelled extensively in the area between Mudgee and southern Queensland. Until 1859 Queensland was part of New South Wales. When his wife Mary died in 1860, her death was registered in Tamworth, New South Wales, 20 days later, with the place of death recorded as “Goomyella”. I’ve not been able to locate any such place, the closest being “Goonyella Station”, in the Mackay hinterland in mid-north Queensland, which was established around this time.
There is no doubt that Joseph had property interests in Queensland as after his death in 1880 his children sought Letters of Administration in Queensland so as to deal with his Queensland property. 
Evidence was also given by Ebenezer Orr at Joseph’s trial in 1864 that Joseph had spoken with him about leaving the colony for Queensland and that he had provided Launt with a reference “giving him an excellent character”.
However Mary died on 6 December and was buried the following day. Joseph’s own written testimony says that on 3 December he was “… on my way down to Maitland [probably from Coonabarabran] to commence proceedings for false imprisonment …”
So it seems more likely that “Goomyella” was an ephemeral locality or run name in the Liverpool Plains district, or represents a mishearing.
Joseph had quite a few brushes with the law, both as defendant and litigant, mostly for minor property matters. The false imprisonment proceedings related to his appearance in court at Coonabarabran in November 1860 on a charge of horse stealing. In January 1861 he took out most of a page in the Maitland Mercury and Hunter River Advertiser to publish documents relating to this charge, of which he was acquitted. Clearly he was less than impressed by the challenge to his honesty as the advertisement concludes with him stating that he was on his way to Maitland to commence proceedings for false imprisonment. 
The most significant of his appearances as defendant was in 1856 when he was found not guilty of the manslaughter by shooting of William Williams (alias William Owens) at Rockgedgiel  on 2nd December 1855.
The shooting took place on 2 December 1856, with the trial before Justice Therry taking place the following March. The shooting arose during a dispute between William Williams (called by his alias William Owens in the newspaper report of the trial) and Joseph Launt regarding 2 horses that had allegedly been stolen from Launt. According to a deposition by William Carroll:
“…at the time in question he was in the service of the prisoner [Launt], and at that time he left to look after 2 horses that had been taken away. He came to a paddock belonging to Mr. Grant, and found one of the horses. He said to Mr. Grant that two horses had been stolen from Mr. Launt. Next morning they found the other horse, and on returning with it Owens came out of a hut and struck three or four times at Launt with a fire shovel. They went to Grant’s and Owens followed them. He said he would have the horse and swag. Owens squared at Launt with his left hand, and Launt pushed him back with the muzzle of the pistol. Owens then rushed at the horse, and put one hand on the saddle, and taking hold of the bridle the pistol went off and Owens fell. Launt gave up the pistol to Grant, who handed it to the chief constable.” 
Other witnesses more or less agreed with this version of events, and added that when Owens fell he had an open knife in his right hand. Launt’s legal advocate argued that there was no proof of deliberate aim, that the pistol might have gone off by accident and, even if it was intentionally fired it was in self-defence. The jury, after a minute’s deliberation and without leaving the jury box, returned a verdict of “not guilty”. One report of the trial gives Launt’s place of residence as “Gonagailli” probably a misspelling of Goriagilla.
Associations with the Dillon Family
During their 5 years or so of imprisonment for cattle stealing, both George and Joseph junior spent time at Cockatoo Island gaol. During this period their brother-in-law, Thomas Dillon, was also imprisoned there, for highway robbery. It would not be surprising if the existing relationship between Thomas and the brothers Launt was strengthened by their shared gaol experience.
Further intermarriages followed in the succeeding generations; most involved descendants of George Launt:
1890 – Luke James Dillon married Catherine Elizabeth Launt at Dunnadie Creek
1904 – James Richard Camden married Mary Matina Launt at Gunnedah
1917 – Luke Herbert Dillon married Alice Maude Ruttley at Gunnedah (Alice was a daughter of Catherine Mary Jones Launt)
1919 – Gladys Mary Daniels  married Charles Alfred Launt at Gunnedah
1930 – Theodosia Jane Dillon married Richard Bertram Launt at Gunnedah
Around 1880 Thomas, George and Edward selected land in the same area at Basin Plain in the parish of Wondoba, south of Gunnedah. (This land is located off Percy Road, Milroy.) And the 1891 census shows that George Launt was living at Dunnadie Creek alongside the widowed Mary Ann Dillon (Snow) and her family.
On 21 March 1901 George Launt’s son John died in an accident at Normanstone Well whilst either sinking or cleaning out a well. According to newspaper accounts, Launt fell down the shaft whilst being hauled up by his mate Dillon. The rope was lowered again but Launt made no attempt to regain it. Dillon lowered his 12-year old son down the shaft but when nearing the bottom he signalled to be drawn up as he was being overcome by foul air. , 
These Dillons were most likely Thomas junior and his son, Claude Elmond, although Luke James and his son George James are possibilities. Claude was 13 at the time, and George not quite 10. Luke Dillon was recorded as living at Normanton Hut when the 1901 census was taken 10 days after the accident. (“Normanton” is a variant spelling of “Normanstone”.)
What Happened to Joseph Launt Senior?
Joseph senior died in 1880 at Coonabarabran of disease of the heart. An inquest was held, which wasn’t that unusual at that time when people died suddenly. Somewhat surprisingly, his occupation was given by his son Joseph as “shepherd”. It seems unlikely that Joseph ever did much shepherding, in the sense of tending a flock day and night on unfenced pasture, although he may have owned sheep.
When his daughter Eliza died in 1896 her father’s occupation was given as “Selector” on the death registration and when son George died in 1898 it was given as “Grazier”. Much more appropriate I think!
When registering his father’s death in 1880 Joseph junior gave his address as “Yaminba”, the place where the Fred Lowry Affair took place 16 years before. As far as I know he wasn’t still poddy dodging.
What Happened to George and Joseph Junior?
Following his release from prison George seems to have stayed out of trouble with the law. The only entry I can find for him in the Police Gazette is from the issue of 30 March 1887, and that referred to the theft from him at Dundee (Dunnadie) creek of “100 mixed sheep, tar brand M7, near ear split”. His marriage to Emma Snow produced 11 children, and he died in 1898 from injuries received whilst felling a pine tree. The informant for his death registration, the Gunnedah coroner, recorded his occupation as “Grazier, of Rockdale, Gunnedah”. Emma died in 1938.
Joseph junior, on the other hand, has a few records in the Gazette or newspapers, although there isn’t usually enough information to know the outcome.
In 1871 he was on bail for not obeying a summons relating to “detaining a heifer” belonging to John Carlow of Dandry run. In 1873 a warrant was issued relating to an alleged assault of Alexander Cormie of Cumbil run at Rocky Glen. In 1876 he was indicted for committing perjury, on the complaint of Thomas Hill, publican of the Rocky Glen hotel near Yaminba, but was found not guilty.  And in 1907 he was fine £5 for drunkenness and assaulting a policeman at the Criterion Hotel in Moree.
One set of entries in the Police Gazette suggests that Joseph was the perennial suspect. This notice appeared in the issue of 30 July 1873:
“The cattle No. 4 in this week’s list, the property of David Peebles, Airland, Yaminba Creek, near Coonabarabran, are supposed to have been stolen by Joseph Launt, about 26 years of age, 5 feet 11 inches or 6 feet high, fair hair and whiskers, worn all round, no moustache, very flash manner; a bullock driver and labourer; identical with Joseph Launt (vide Police Gazette, 1869, page 375 and 1873, page 115). Supposed to have gone to Cassilis or Gulgong. No warrant issued.”
The issue of 20 August 1873 recorded that:
“”Fourteen of the working bullocks, No. 4 in this week’s list, the property of David Peebles, and which were supposed to have been stolen by Joseph Launt, have been found straying.”
Joseph’s marriage to Catherine (Kate) Jones produced 9 children, one of whom, Leslie Claude, was killed at Gallipoli in 1915. In 1912 Joseph was found dead under the Broadwater Bridge in Moree, the coroner returning a verdict of death due to syncope resulting from chronic endocarditis. Catherine died in 1941.
Elizabeth Anderson – Keeping Up Family Connections
Elizabeth Anderson had 13 children. They largely inherited her fertility so she has many descendants. As the matriarch of the family, she appears to have served for at least 30 years as midwife at the births of many of her grandchildren, including Launts. In performing this role she must have travelled hundreds of kilometres for some births.
Of the four birth records I have for grandchildren of Elizabeth, all bear her name (then Elizabeth Camden) as the witness and presumed midwife – Thomas Dillon (1859, Cooyal Creek), Catherine Elizabeth Launt (1871, near Coolah), Henrietta Dillon (1883, Dunnadie Creek) and George James Dillon (1891, Dunnadie Creek), a great-grandchild. There must be many more!
Elizabeth’s daughter, Catherine Camden, was also a well known midwife in the Cooyal district.
“WHOLESALE CATTLE STEALING:
[FROM A CORRESPONDENT,]
ONE OF THE ROBBERS SHOT- An inquest was held upon the body of James Lowrie on the 20th instant, by Mr. John Cockburn, coroner for the police district of Coonabarabran, at Old Yaminbah, a station belonging to Mr. Ebenezer Orr, of Garrawilla.
The following facts came out in evidence: – From information received, senior constable Ward proceeded, in company with constable Gill, Mr Orr, and a black tracker, to Mr. Orr’s run on Friday, the 19th, about 2 pm. At a deserted sheep station they came upon a large number of cows, from which the calves had been lately drafted, and from the tracks of the calves and other cattle they proceeded in search. The robbers had taken the precaution to burn the grass behind them, thinking thereby to avoid detection.
The party continued, however, on the track, and presently came up to a place near a tree under which the robbers had evidently camped lately, as the black tracker picked up some damp tea leaves which had been but recently drawn ; they still continued in pursuit, and about 6 p.m. came in sight of a large mob of cattle and horses, driven by four men, three white men, all apparently young, and natives, and the fourth a dark-looking man, apparently a half-caste, they keeping about two hundred yards behind, as the density of the scrub enabled them to keep the robbers and their booty in sight without themselves being visible.
From the direction in which they were going Mr. Orr remarked that their intention was to camp at an old sheep station of his where there is a good paddock, known as Old Yaminbah. Constable Ward thought it advisable not to rush at that time, as they were well mounted, and, being light weights, might escape ; they, therefore, took a circuitous round, and, riding quickly, arrived at the above station; at the hut and paddock dismounted and inspected them, finding neither cattle, horse, nor man in them. They then retired to their place of concealment for a short time. When the cattle arrived they then heard them distinctly being driven into the paddock; the robbers then retired, and in a short time a gleam of light issued through the aperture of the old hut, which is situated close to the paddock. It was evident they were in preparation of a meal. They still remained in ambush, as Ward thought it best not to make an attack till they had settled themselves.
Shortly all four proceeded to the hut in which the robbers were camped, and constable Ward, leading the way, quickly followed by Mr. Orr and constable Gill entered the hut, commanding them to surrender in the Queen’s name, apprehending them for cattle stealing. Two were immediately, secured by Orr and Gill, a third ran out at an aperture at the front of the hut, Ward at the same time calling upon him to surrender, firing a shot over his head to intimidate him. He still ran, when again Ward threatened to blow his brains out if he did not stop; he in return replied “Don’t fire, and I’ll surrender;” he was then handcuffed and lodged with the other two. This all took place in a few moments – the night was dark and muggy.
The fourth robber, viz , the deceased, was lying in a bunk near the door and sprang up at the same time the other was escaping, rushing through the doorway past the black-fellow, who made a grasp at him ; be eluded it however, and was still escaping when Ward called on him not to attempt to escape as he would shoot him, at the same time raising his revolver, not meaning to shoot him but to intimidate him, when unfortunately the deceased sprang on the top as the officer fired, and received the ball. It was not thought at this time the robber had been shot, as he must have run nearly sixty yards after receiving the ball. Trooper Gill then went in pursuit of the runaway, when he found him in the paddock dead; the ball had passed through deceased’s back, coming out at the right breast. He turned out to be a brother of Lowrie, the notorious bushranger, who was shot near Goulburn some months ago.
On the body was found a letter from his sister, and in the sleeve of his jacket a six-barrelled revolver, four chambers being loaded; also ball, powder, and caps. The names of the other three are George Lant, Joseph Lant and a half-cast, William Pursell. In the paddock were found 144 head of cattle and fourteen horses, the most of the cattle belonging to Mr. Edward Cox, Ullimanbri, and some of them to Mr. Ebenezer Orr, of Garrawilla. They also found a calf which the robbers had killed for their use that night. The jury, after a brief deliberation, returned a verdict of “justifiable homicide”. (Sydney Morning Herald, 1 March 1864, page 5)
(Herrmann Family History)
 The reference to “The Black Swamp run” appears to be a newspaper transcription error from 1848. There are official notices from both 1847 and 1851 that refer to it as the Black Stump run.
 Eric Rolls, A Million Wild Acres, 1981, pp. 172-174, 186-187
 Their trial established an Australian legal precedent regarding the use of written witness testimony where the witness was no longer alive.
 Daily Examiner (Grafton) 18 September 1937, page 8
 New South Wales Government Gazette, 19 Jan 1844 [Issue No.10] Page 151
 “Cold and exposure” according to the register of coroner’s inquests.
 Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser, 4 August 1855, page 2
 The Australian, 17 Jun 1847 Page 4
 Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser, 16 July 1851
 New South Wales Government Gazette, 5 July 1859(No.131)
 New South Wales Government Gazette, 9 August 1861 (No.192)
 Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser, 5 January 1861
 New South Wales Government Gazette, 9 August 1861
 Also spelt Goragilla/Gorragilla. This was the birthplace of Edward Launt junior on 20 October 1862
 Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser, 20 March 1862
 There were two applications – one in 1883 by George as the oldest surviving son, and one by all 3 surviving children in 1885. In the former, Joseph was described as a shepherd.
 Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser, 5 January 1861
 Some accounts say Rocky Glen or Bundarra
 Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser, 12 March 1856
 Sydney Morning Herald, 8 July 1864, page 2
 Thomas Dillon junior’s niece by his marriage to Annie Victoria Smeltzer.
 Evening News, 23 March 1901, page 7
 Unaccountably, the Register of Coroner’s Inquests gives the cause of death as injuries received in falling from a tree
 NSW Police Gazette, 29 March 1876, page 98