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 Wyndradyne emerged as leader of the Wiradjuri.
The whites had named the tribal heads after the days of the week and Wyndradyne 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 Wyndradyne’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 Wyndradyne 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.
Wyndradyne 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. Wyndradyne died in the Bathurst hospital in March 1829 and was buried at “Brucedale”. A bronze plaque and stone memorial, erected in 1954, now marks his grave.
George Suttor describes Windradyne
An account of Windradyne and his people was given by George Suttor, the original owner of Brucedale on the Windburndale Rivulet near Bathurst, in August 1826
“The natives [round Bathurst] are in general tall and extremely well formed. Their chief, who has been named Saturday, is a very fine figure, very muscular, and his limbs are of a beautiful symmetry, but he has a mind not unconscious, apparently, of his superiority over his sable brethren; his person might be considered a good model for the figure of Apollo …
They are very fond of bread and milk, tobacco and sugar, but have little desire for spirits. I offered Saturday a glass of rum, but he refused to drink it, and pointed to his head, which indicated to me, that he had felt its pernicious effects. …
I was much amused the other day, which was a fine winter’s day, to see Saturday and his tribe, and friends seated on the ground in groups of men, and groups of women, exposing their persons to the warm rays of the sun, and seeming to be enjoying their highest facility, singing and making a joyful noise … (I mean the men were singing) I never heard the women sing, but they are at times great laughers …
It will be wise in the Settlers, to avoid disputes with the Natives, and to treat them with kindness, by which their own welfare will be promoted – it is wise to be humane, and I speak from experience. I have always been friendly to them, and have directed my people to avoid giving them offence. We have never suffered the smallest injury from them …”