State Records Archive
Title: James Isdell. Queensland. Aboriginal woman and half-caste son of late John McKenzie, Frog Hollow
Keywords: Frog Hollow Station, John MacKenzie, James Isdell, Sam Muggleton, McGrath, Beagle Bay
18 Mar 1910
Telegram from Halls Creek
To Aborigines Dept, Perth
McKenzie Frog Hollow accidentally shot left Queensland aborigine woman and half-caste son aged four. Also left property cattle horses. What steps advisable secure woman’s return own country if she wishes and sufficient have son brought up Beagle May Mission. Send reply for police assistant. Isdell
To Chief Protector, Perth
Two cases of death of white men have just taken place in Halls Creek district in which natives are slightly interested. John McKenzie was accidentally shot a few days ago at Turkey Creek. He lived at Muggleton’s Frog Hollow Station and was the owner of cattle, horses and some pastoral leases. He had at the station an aboriginal woman belonging to Queensland and a young half-caste boy. I wrote to you about him last year, unfortunately I can not give you the date, as I was compelled to leave a lot of my books at [illegible] as I had no room to carry them back to Halls Creek.
In the winding up of his estate provision should be made to send the woman back to her country and to bring the boy up at Mission Station. The boy is about 4 years old and McKenzie told me he intended to send him south for education as soon as he was 6 years old.
The second case happened a few days after when S Muggleton, owner of Frog Hollow Station, was found the bush, very ill, along with his horse, he was brought home but died shortly after. He is supposed to have had a fall from his horse. On his station are a family of aboriginal girls named McGrath and they own some cattle and horses. Muggleton told me one of the girls had 8 or 9 cattle and another one horses. I also wrote you last year on this matter because the mother of these girls was on the indigent list receiving relief at Halls Creek. Mr Way, the RM, left Halls Creek yesterday to hold inquiry and I gave him notes of both cases, but I thought it advisable that the Department should instruct police or else magistrate to make full inquiries, also that magistrate protect the girls and also woman and child of McKenzie.
I remain, yours obediently,
To Chief Protector, Perth
Constable Taylor, Turkey Creek, took 6 half-castes to Wyndham last February, for transmission to Beagle Bay, included amongst them is a son of the late John McKenzie of Frog Hollow. Mr McKenzie left a half share in a cattle station to his brother and he was to look after the boy, but he is a ne’er-do-well and had no money of means of sending the boy away and paying for his keep. As the little boy was being neglected and practically living with aborigines I sent him away. As McKenzie’s estate can well afford to pay for him, what steps had best be taken to compel the brother to do so. The latter does not deny his liability.
Frog Hollow Station is likely to change ownership, and consequently probably new arrangements may have to be made re killing cattle for natives. I previously wrote to the Department with reference to a mare on the station belonging to a half-caste girl (Lilly) sent to Beagle Bay two years ago, but have received no reply. I would suggest that she be sold and proceeds remitted to the Beagle Bay Mission to help pay for the girl’s keep. The mare is old and worth about £8 or £9. Both Turkey and her half-caste son, now grown up, have horses, about 16 in number, but most of them belong to Turkey, who is an aborigine woman belonging to Northern Territory, but has been here for nearly 20 years. In the event of the station changing ownership, there may possibly be some bother over them. I would like to receive full instructions to act on your behalf in protecting the woman’s interest.
I remain, Yours obediently,
6th May, 1911
To Mr J Isdell
Travelling Protector of Aborigines
I beg to acknowledge receipt of your letter of 26th March last, and to inform you that an illegitimate child has no standing in law against the estate of its father.
The brother of the deceased McKenzie could not be compelled to contribute to the support of such a child, and unless he voluntarily assists, the law could not force him to do so.
Chief Protector of Aborigines
To Chief Protector of Aborigines, Perth
With reference to your letter 318/10, 6th May, re late McKenzie’s illegitimate son, as the father fully acknowledged his son and expressed his intention to me and others to educate and have him taught a trade, and as he died leaving ample property to meet a charge for his upbringing, I should have thought the estate would be liable, if the father is liable when alive (as he would be under the Aborigines Act) then his estate should be liable at his death. The mother, I am afraid, will do little for the boy.
I remain, Yours obediently,
Questions: What became of John McKenzie’s little boy? What became of Turkey and her cattle? What became of the McGrath girls and their property? Was their legal rights to that property recognised?
Isdell, James (1849-1919)
James Isdell was a pastoralist, parliamentarian, and traveling protector of Aborigines. Although he expresses compassion in his communications in this record, he was more notoriously known for being the instigator of the Canning Stock Route and an “enthusiastic child removalist.” The following quote is from a chapter by Robert Manne, in the book Genocide and settler society: frontier violence and stolen indigenous children in Australian history (2004), edited by A. Dirk Moses:
The most enthusiastic West Australian child removalist in these early days was James Isdell, the former pastoralist and parliamentarian, who was appointed traveling protector for the north in 1907. On 13 Nov 1908, Isdell wrote from the Fitzroy River district to the Chief Inspector, Charles Gale. “I consider it a great scandal to allow any of these half-caste girls to remain with the natives.” On 15 Jan 1909, Gale issued Isdell with the authority to “collect all half-caste boys and girls” and to transport them to Beagle Bay. Isdell expressed his gratitude: “It should have been done years ago.” By May 1909, he was able to report from Wyndham that the entire East Kimberley region had been “cleaned up.”
Isdell was aware that sentimentalists from the south sometimes wrote letters to newspapers “detailing the cruelty and harrowing grief of the mothers.” He regarded such complaints as nonsensical. “Let them visit and reside for a while” in one of the native camps and see for themselves “the open indecency and immorality and hear the vile conversations ordinarily carried on which these young children see, listen to, and repeat.” Isdell did not believe that the Aboriginal mother felt the forcible removal of her child more deeply than did a bitch the loss of a pup. “I would not hesitate,” he wrote, “to separate any half-caste from its Aboriginal mother, no matter how frantic momentary grief might be at the time. They soon forget their offspring.” “All Aboriginal women,” he explained in letters to Gale “are prostitutes at heart” and all Aborigines are “dirty, filthy, immoral.” (Moses 2004, 222-223)
Muggleton, Samuel (1855-1910)
Sam Muggleton, born in NSW, he went to Queensland for 15 years before coming to Western Australia where he lived for 20 years as a stockman and then pastoralist at Frog Hollow, where he worked his stock with John McKenzie and Turkey, an Aboriginal woman from Borroloola in the Northern Territory. Frog Hollow had a reputation for “kindness to Aborigines” in that the workers had some degree of autonomy on the station. More about Sam Muggleton here.
See also Item: 1909/0042
From the West Australian newspaper 16 Mar 1910
Mr John McKenzie, who was killed on Frog Hollow Station, was also an old identity in the district. He had been a stockman, but by hard work had attained a position of some affluence and was a partner with Messrs Cranwell and Yates in a station adjoining Alice Downs. His age was about 53