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25 July 1840 The Maria Massacre

 25 July 1840 The Maria Massacre

Rumours of the murder of whites by Aborigines reached Adelaide on 25 July 1840. A search party was sent out under Lieutenant Pullen to the vicinity of the Murray mouth and there he found the bodies of men. Women and children clubbed to death. On hearing this news governor Gawler sent out a strong punitive force under Major O’Halloran, the Commissioner of Police, who rounded up members of the Milmenrura tribe and after a brief summary trial hanged two men on hastily constructed gallows of she-oak. This action, against the rules or British justice of trial in a court of law, caused a great controversy in the colony. Eventually more bodies were discovered on various parts of the coast and it was believed that the brig Maria, with 24 on board, had been driven aground on the Coorong and the survivors had been trying to reach help along the coast when they were attacked.

H.M. Cooper, A Naval History of South Australia, Hassell Press, Adelaide, 1950, pp.68-9.

Tags: Aborigines, Maria massacre, O’Halloran Major