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Minutes of Evidence: John Smith

Report of the commissioners appointed to enquire into and report upon the circumstances connected with the sufferings and death of Robert O'Hara Burke and William John Wills.
Melbourne: John Ferres, Government Printer.
Parliamentary papers, No 97, 1861-2. 1862.

Tuesday 10th December 1861

John Smith examined.

1471. Did you join the party at Menindie ?-Yes.

1472. Who engaged you ?-Mr Wright.

1473. Was that after he returned from showing Mr Burke part of the way ?-Yes.

1474. The party were then encamped at Menindie ?-Yes.

1475. The party that Mr Burke left ?-Yes.

1476. Were there a large number of them there?-There was only Dr Beckler and Mr Hodgkinson.

1477. And all the cattle and stores ?-Yes.

1478. Were you engaged in any particular capacity ?-No.

1479. How long were you down there after you were engaged before you started for Cooper's Creek ?-From the 7th of December until the 26th of January.

1480. Had you been there from the time the party were there first ?-Yes.

1481. Were you living at Menindie ?-I joined the party on the 7th of December, I had not been living at Menindie before that.

1482. You remained with the party until they started on the 26th of January ?-Yes.

1483. Were you looking after the cattle during that time ?-Yes, I was just knocking about.

1484. Were all the other parties going knocking about too ?-Yes.

1485. Were they not engaged in any particular occupation of any kind ?-Preparing the things to start out.

1486. What were you preparing ?-We were making bags to hold flour.

1487. Did you know much of that country ?-No, I was a stranger there; I came down from the Murray.

1488. You were never out in that country before ?-No.

1489. You waited there till the 26th of January "knocking about" as you say ?-Yes.

1490. And then you finally started for Cooper's Creek ?-Yes.

1491. You took up plenty of stores ?-Yes, for six months,

1492. Did you suffer on the way up ?-Yes, from scurvy.

1493. Did you ever suffer from that before ?-Yes.

1494. Where?-On the Murrumbidgee.

1495. From being out ?-From eating salt meat.

1496. And from want of water ?-No, from want of vegetables more.

1497. Did it affect you in the same way ?-Yes.

1498. And the other men in the same way too ?-Those that had it.

1499. Had you not fresh provisions with you on the-way up ?-Yes, we had the jerked meat.

1500. And you had preserved vegetables ?-Yes, we had some of those.

1501. And plenty of other things ?-Yes.

1502. And rice and sugar and tea-you had all those had not you ?-Yes.

1503. But still for all that you suffered from scurvy ?-Yes.

1504. You went out with Mr Wright when you went to search for water in advance of the party ?-Yes.

1505. You were out for several days ?-Yes.

1506. You got as far as Bulloo ?-Yes.

1507. You had great difficulty in reaching any water; it had dried up ?-Yes, we were sixteen days out.

1508. Some of the party were sick at that time ?-Yes.

1509. But you got them all to Bulloo eventually ?-Yes.

1510. You did not go on to Cooper's Creek ?-No, we could not go.

1511. Did you not go with Mr Wright a day or two ?-First when we came to Bulloo.

1512. A couple of days after ?-I think it was two days after we got to Bulloo.

1513. You started out with Mr Wright towards Cooper's Creek ?-Yes.

1514. On horseback ?-Yes.

1515. You did not go far ?-No, we only went that day.

1516. What did you intend to go for-did you know that you were going to try to get to Cooper's Creek ?-I believe that was our intention.

1517. Did you know that it was to reach Cooper's Creek that you started ?-Yes, it was our intention.

1518. And you did not carry it out ?-No.

1519. Why ?-We could not do it, we were surrounded with blacks.

1520. And you got afraid and turned back ?-Yes.

1521. And you did not take any provisions except for yourselves ?-Only for our own use.

1522. How many days' provisions did you take ?-Ten or eleven days' provisions.

1523. And brought them back again ?-Yes.

1524. Did you get to water that night ?-Yes.

1525. Had you an eye to the country-what kind of country it was ?-Yes.

1526. Was it a grassy country ?-Yes.

1527. Was it in the direction of Cooper's Creek you were going ?-Yes.

1528. It was not for the purpose of exploring the country ?-No, it was to get to Cooper's Creek.

1529. But one day was enough-you turned back the next day ?-Yes.

1530. Had you any arms ?-Yes.

1531. The blacks were very troublesome on the way up, when yon were going to Bulloo ?-Yes.

1532. You had been amongst the blacks a good deal on the Murrumbidgee and about there ?-Yes.

1533. Were you afraid of them ?-No.

1534. Did they endeavor to molest you; were not you out looking for horses and cattle occasionally yourself ?-No, I never met them.

1535. Do you think they had any particular enmity to you ?-I do not think they had.

1536. You do not know any of them up there ?-No.

1537. You did not go to Cooper's Creek after that ?-No.

1538. You turned back from Bulloo ?-Yes.

1539. You had plenty of provisions at that time, had you not ?-Provisions to take us on.

1540. More than that had not you ?-Yes.

1541. Plenty of clothing ?-Yes.

1542. And the camels were loaded with provisions, some of them were brought back to the Darling were they not ?-Yes, we brought some back.

1543. And there were several sick there ?-Yes.

1544. Were you ever in any great danger from the blacks do you think ?-Yes; once at Bulloo.

1545. When they surrounded the camp and you had to fire upon them ?-Yes.

1546. Did they attempt to rush the camp ?-I believe that was their intention.

1547. What did they do, how did they manifest their intention, what did they do when they got round you ?-That morning in particular they were all painted and came up with boomerangs.

1548. How near did they approach ?-They came within fifty yards and kept approaching until we fired.

1549. Was it the firing that stopped them ?-Yes.

1550. Was it only dancing they were ?-No.

1551. Were they painted down the middle and across ?-Yes.

1552. Had they their gins with them ?-No.

1553. Or piccaninnies ?-No, only men.

1554. The women were with most of the tribes you met were they not ?-Not of those tribes that came that time.

1555. How many were there of them ?-About fifty.

1556. You knew nothing of the plans of the party ?-No.

The witness withdrew.

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