Bathurst was attractive country to the new settlers, rich deep soil, water and open plains. The local tribe, the Wiradjuri valued it for the same reasons.
The relationship with the settlers was troubled from the beginning. The annexing of the good land and especially the building of fences caused real conflict. Martial Law was declared in the district, largely due to the lobbying by influential pastoralists in the area. With the proclamation of martial law in 1824 began a particularly disastrous period of our colonial history. For four months an “exterminating war” took place in this district, it’s estimated that up to 75% of local tribes people were killed at this time. With so many of the tribal elders killed, it wasn’t surprising that a young Aboriginal warrior named Wyndradene emerged as leader of the Wiradjuri.
The whites had named the tribal heads after the days of the week and Wyndradene was also known as ‘Saturday’. He was a powerful man about 6’ tall and feared for his cruelty and fierceness. In 1824 the Government offered a reward for his capture: a grant of 500 acres of land.
One of his more famous confrontations with white settlers happened at a homestead called “Brucedale” on the outskirts of Bathurst. William Henry Suttor’s father, George, had taken up a land grant on “Brucedale” in the quiet days before Wyndradene’s family had been killed in one of many massacres in the area, provoking him to declare war on white settlers.
William’s father had told him to always treat local aborigines with respect and kindness and it would be re-paid, so young William set about learning their language.
He was the only white man who did so. Apparently, at the “Brucedale” confrontation, William, who was only 18 at the time, knew Wyndradene and spoke to him in his own language and completely diffused the situation and probably saved his own life.
The party of blacks left “Brucedale” and went on to kill all the men at a settler’s place some miles distant, where it was rumoured poison bread had been laid for them. This place is still called “The Murdering Hut”
Martial Law was suspended after four months, when lobbying by local influential families, including the Suttor’s, plus the efforts of Windradyne forced the Governors hand.
Wyndradene was a remarkable man; simply to survive the massacres was testament enough to his skill as a warrior. But his trek back across the Blue Mountains to confront the Governor and bring an end to this bloody confrontation gives him hero status. He remained in Bathurst, but ironically died of wounds received at the hands of a Wiradjuri spear in a fight with another chief. Wyndradene died in the Bathurst hospital and was buried at “Brucedale” in 1835. A bronze plaque and stone memorial now marks his grave