An extract from the Beltana Police Station Journal
of a patrol from Edieowie to Innamincka in 1880,
an early patrol to arrest a horse thief. What
an epic journey Cornelious Power made
just to arrest one offender.
I have the honour to forward, in accordance with your instructions, a detailed report of the capture of prisoner John Smith, arrested by me on charges of horse stealing and embezzlement from Jnr Constant of Edieowie, on the fifth of last month.
The complainant reported the case to me. I advised him to proceed to Beltana and obtain a warrant for Smith's arrest.
I left Edieowie next morning for Moralana Creek Railway camp, and returned to Edieowie at 7 pm the same afternoon, having travelled all night and reached Beltana, ten o’clock on the morning of the seventh, fifty-five miles journey.
That afternoon I received the warrant for Smith’s arrest, and I left Beltana next morning [eighth] to pursue this offender, reaching Mt. Lyndhurst [sixty five miles] that night taking horses ‘Demon” and ‘Juriet’. Smith passed this station on 31 January and therefore had ten clear days start on me. The next three days, ninth, tenth, eleventh, I travelled forty, forty-five and forty-five miles respectively. On my arrival at the last station mentioned, I ascertained that a man who had travelled with Smith from Beltana, had obtained two fresh horses belonging to Coongy Station and that they passed here on Saturday the seventh and were consequently five days in advance of me.
On the twelfth I reached Tingatingana [fifty miles] – five days out from Beltana having travelled 250 miles. Here I expected to get fresh horses, but the dry state of the country and most of the stock being brood mares, compelled Mr. Burkitt to refuse me.
I ascertained here that Smith had passed on Tuesday the tenth, being now but three days in advance of me. Still I had little hope of overtaking him, as my horses were much fatigued and weak, through being over-ridden and not getting a night's feeding until the fourth night out from Beltana. On the thirteenth I made a short stage to a well about ten miles on the road to Innamincka. I now had an eighty mile dry stage [at least I made preparation for it] and started on the afternoon of the fourteenth travelling until about 12 o’clock that night. I was then compelled through feeling very weak and feverish, to stop until morning.
Fortunately a shower of rain had fallen between Tingatingana and Innamincka, leaving water on the track and I was able to rest myself and my horses. I reached Innamincka Sunday night the fifteenth, eight days out from Beltana and having travelled 340 miles.
I camped about a mile from the station and got in next morning at eight o’clock and on enquiring, was told that Smith had passed about ten minutes, in company with another man. I immediately went in pursuit and came up to them about four miles from the station and about ten miles from the Queensland border and travelling the latter direction.
I arrested him and returned to Innamincka. Smith arrived at Innamincka on Wednesday the eleventh but waited at a camp about two miles from the station for his comrade who went down the river to Coongy with the two horses beforehand and returned on Sunday the fifteenth, bringing two of his own horses. This man was evidently piloting Smith through the country. From Mount Freeling to Innamincka, a distance of 230 miles, there are only two stations between and rations could not be obtained from either. I was not aware of this when leaving Mount Freeling, but fortunately I had sufficient with me to take me through. I returned via Lake Hope as I considered my horses too weak to travel over the long dry stages of the Strezelecki Creek. From Lake Perragundi to Waukatanie I travelled in company with Henry Laman, a hawker, and we expected to get water in a well at the latter place, but were disappointed, as the last floods had washed a great quantity of sand into the well and we had to take nearly five feet of dirt before we made sufficient water to satisfy us that there would be enough water in the morning for ourselves. We worked hard at the well for about five hours. When we got up in the morning, the water in the well was so salty that the horses could scarcely drink it. From Lake Hope to Mannawaukanina, a distance of fifty miles across sand hills, I had travelled at night [no water in between], and from there down to Mount Lyndhurst – 130 miles, our horses scarcely got a bit of food. I returned to Beltana on the fourth of March being absent twenty-six days and having travelled 766 miles, on an average of thirty miles without change of horses. Prisoner now stands committed for trial.
Signed: C. Power
First Class Police Trooper
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