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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Multuggerah (c. 1820–c. 1846)

by Ray Kerkhove

This article was published online in 2020

Multuggerah (c. 1820–1846), Aboriginal warrior, resistance leader, and headman, also known as Young Moppy, King Moppy, Moppy Moppy, Campbell, Black Campbell, and Cambela, was born in the early 1820s in southern Queensland and lived mostly in the Lockyer Valley and upper Brisbane regions. His father, Old Moppy, with whom he is often confused, was also an important Indigenous leader and resistance figure. He had at least two brothers, Wooinambi and Jimgulthe (Jimgulthue), and may have had a third brother who was also known as Campbell. He had two children: a son whose name is not remembered and a daughter, Kitty. His homeland is claimed by the Yugara (Jagera/Yaggera), western Wakka Wakka, Giabal (Gitabal/Kitabal), and other Aboriginal language groups.

It was probably Multuggerah who accompanied the Moreton Bay commandant, Lieutenant Owen Gorman, as guide from Gatton to Eton Vale station (later Toowoomba) in October 1840, thereby facilitating the development of Gorman’s Gap, one of the earliest routes between the Darling Downs and Brisbane. When his father (Old Moppy) initiated hostilities against pastoralists in the winter of 1841, Multuggerah and a group of compatriots prevented John ‘Tinker’ Campbell’s party from entering the Withcott area, and dispersed their flock and bullocks overnight. Campbell’s companions fled, but he escaped by kidnapping Multuggerah and holding him hostage. Campbell met the young Aboriginal leader again some weeks later and they recognised one another. Multuggerah requested that they exchange names, which they did, Campbell becoming Multuggerah’s brother in Aboriginal law and sharing his totem and status.

Wooinambi and Old Moppy were killed by settlers in 1841 and 1842/43, respectively. The family oral tradition is that this was a turning point; until then Multuggerah had been content to harass settlers with practical jokes, such as frightening their horses. In the wake of his father’s murder, he vowed to kill six white settlers. Continuing the alliance of ‘Mountain tribes’ (Colonial Times 1850, 4) begun by his father, which covered the Stanthorpe, D’Aguilar, and Darling Downs areas, he expanded his reach and stepped up attacks. Groups south of Toowoomba swore ‘fealty’ (Darling Downs Gazette 1895, 5) to the young ‘king’ (Queenslander 1874, 10).

In December 1842 Multuggerah initiated a series of attacks near Helidon. Sheep were ‘boxed all over the country’ and he vowed to ‘kill [whites] to a man’ (Darling Downs Gazette and General Advertiser 1875, 1), though no incidents eventuated. A month later he had a stand-off with Frederic McConnel at Cressbrook station over the return of stolen sheep, during which McConnel’s party was threatened and some of its members almost killed. Multuggerah agreed to return the remaining sheep in exchange for free passage of his people in and around the runs. In August 1843 he sent a messenger to John Campbell in Brisbane to warn him to stay away, advising that it was ‘to be war now in earnest’ (Campbell 1936, 18) and that he intended to close the roads, starve out the settlers, and kill the soldiers. Campbell ignored this warning and his party was attacked when he tried to travel to his property on the Darling Downs.

Between 1 and 11 September 1843 Multuggerah kept many of the runs of the Lockyer Valley and Darling Downs under siege or blockade. The region’s squatters, ‘determined to give them a lesson’ (Porter 1911, 6), held a meeting whereby they sent a petition to Brisbane requesting police assistance, and ordered an armed dray convoy from Ipswich to reclaim the supply route Multuggerah had closed. Thus, on 12 September, three bullock drays accompanied by eighteen heavily armed men attempted to travel through the pass. Multuggerah and over one hundred Aboriginal men successfully ambushed the convoy by barricading the road with logs and stole its contents. The teamsters fled for their lives and the bullocks were driven off, maimed, and killed. A large party of settlers assembled to avenge the attack. Lured by Multuggerah’s men to the slopes of One Tree Hill (Mount Tabletop), they were decisively defeated when the Aboriginal warriors, having taken up strong positions, pelted them with rocks and boulders. The squatters retreated to await the arrival of the police contingent, which determined that the situation was too dangerous to engage.

Multuggerah’s victory at what became known as the ‘battle of One Tree Hill’ shocked the colony of New South Wales and embarrassed the squatters. A counter-offensive, possibly the largest during Australia’s northern frontier wars, was mounted by Stephen Simpson, commissioner of crown lands, between 13 and 30 September 1843. Around one hundred settlers—most of Moreton Bay’s officers, soldiers, and police, as well as overseers, staff, and free men from most of the runs of the western Downs, Lockyer Valley, and upper Brisbane regions—drove Multuggerah’s warriors out of Helidon and towards Rosewood Scrub. Sniping, raids, and counter raids occurred on both sides. Subsequently, and following a chase from Laidley to Tarampa, a party of squatters attacked Multuggerah’s camp at dawn. Multuggerah reportedly told the squatters ‘you may get it’ (Bell’s Life in Sydney 1845, 4) and his companions defiantly showed their buttocks, after which they made a stand using the cover of the scrub. Several squatters were wounded and all fled back to their horses, plundering the empty camp as they left. The squatters’ bumbling defeat was lampooned in William Wilkes’s bush ballad ‘Raid of the Aborigines’ (1845).

Marking the commencement of a period of military supervision and ‘terrible slaughter’ (Brisbane Courier 1892, 7) of Aboriginal people, the government authorised a military barracks at Helidon in the heart of Multuggerah’s country. On 30 September 1843, Multuggerah’s principal camp at Rosewood Scrub was located and sacked. Large stockpiles of weapons were found and destroyed and many Aboriginal people were killed. The following month the headman ‘sent in a message … that they would fight no more, but make peace now’ (Campbell 1936, 20). However, within weeks, the conflict renewed. For the next three years, Multuggerah’s parties conducted ambushes and robberies on the mountain pass and in and around Rosewood, Helidon, and the Darling Downs. One Tree Hill, being close to the dray track, was repeatedly used as a base to harass teamsters’ camps.

In early October 1843, with a force of two hundred fighting men, Multuggerah had a third victory: a two-hour-long battle against fourteen settlers—the McDougalls and their staff, who ran out of ammunition during the affray. Multuggerah ‘ordered the occupants of the huts to be off, as it was [his] ground’ (Sydney Morning Herald 1843, 3). Later an agreement was made wherein most of the McDougalls’ sheep were returned in exchange for their promise not to harass or shoot Multuggerah’s people.

The following year some Aboriginal groups on the Darling Downs made overtures for peace with Europeans and broke alliance with Multuggerah. Perhaps for this reason, and probably to avoid further retributions for killing Europeans, he refocused his efforts on ‘[annihilating] … the whole of the stock in the district’ (Sydney Morning Herald 1844, 4). Between July and August 1844, his group drove off large flocks of sheep and cattle, evidently in an attempt to destroy the economic base of the squatters. By late September his warriors were, ‘with the greatest coolness,’ stealing cattle in full view of their ‘owner’s face[s]’ (Sydney Morning Herald 1844, 2). His men rushed and held in siege most of the runs along the upper Brisbane River and continued to ambush and rob drays on the passes up to the Darling Downs, making settlers increasingly disinclined to use the roads.

Between 1844 and 1846 food shortages and cancellation of the bunya gathering (a regular event timed to coincide with the harvest of bunya nuts) forced a curtailing of Multuggerah’s resistance activities; however, small parties continued to steal from settler’s huts and kill stray cattle. In June 1846, with a party of twenty men, he attacked Rosewood Scrub station, demanding money and rations ‘for each of his companions’ (Moreton Bay Courier 1846, 2), but the owner, John Coutts, refused to pay. The attack was probably aimed at feeding the five hundred or more visitors who were taking part in intertribal ceremonies nearby. For the next six weeks, Multuggerah harassed Coutts’s stock, eventually putting the family’s hut under siege. In early September two of Coutts’s neighbours arrived at the station; at dawn the next day, they joined Coutts in storming Multuggerah’s camp, shooting and killing him.

Despite his youth, Multuggerah brought the resistance efforts of his father to fruition, perpetuating a solid alliance of diverse groups and leading at least three victories against the settlers. His descendants remember him as a hero who fought against European colonisation; and as a spiritual leader who prophesised floods, claimed to be able to stop bullets with his bare hands, and encouraged Aboriginal resistance fighters to use traditional magic against gunfire. His victory at One Tree Hill is depicted in paintings by the Wakka Wakka/Kabi artist Vincent Serico (1946–2008). In 2019 the Multuggerah Viaduct, a bypass connecting the Warrego Highway at Helidon to the Gore Highway at Athol, was opened at Toowoomba.

 

Ray Kerkhove is a European man. He was living on Turrbal, Yugara (Jagera), Nalbo (Kabi Kabi) land when he wrote this article.

Research edited by Rani Kerin

Select Bibliography

  • Bell’s Life in Sydney and Sporting Review. ‘The Raid of the Aborigines.’ 11 January 1845, 4
  • Brisbane Courier. ‘In the Early Days.’ 25 April 1892, 7
  • Campbell, John. The Early Settlement of Queensland. Brisbane: Bibliographical Society of Queensland, 1936
  • Colonial Times (Hobart). ‘Romance of Real Life in Australia.’ 24 May 1850, 4
  • Darling Downs Gazette. ‘Pilton. One of the Earliest Stations on the Downs.’ 22 May 1895, 5
  • Darling Downs Gazette and General Advertiser. ‘Christmas among the Pioneers of Moreton Day.’ 24 December 1875, 1 Kerkhove, Ray. Multuggerah and Multuggerah Way. Brisbane: Jagera Daran and Catholic Social Justice Commission, 2016
  • Moreton Bay Courier. ‘Local Intelligence.’ 5 September 1846, 2
  • Porter, James. ‘Interesting Reminiscences.’ Darling Downs Gazette, 21 January 1911, 6
  • Queensland Times, Ipswich Herald and General Advertiser. ‘Local and General News.’ 28 June 1884, 5
  • Queenslander. ‘Lower Herbert.’ 4 July 1874, 10
  • Simpson, Stephen. The Simpson Letterbook. Transcribed by Gerry Langevad. St Lucia, Qld: University of Queensland Press, 1979
  • Sydney Morning Herald. ‘Moreton Bay.’ 10 September 1844, 4
  • Sydney Morning Herald. ‘Moreton Bay.’ 9 October 1844, 2
  • Sydney Morning Herald. ‘News from the Interior.’ 12 October 1843, 3
  • Uhr, Frank. ‘September 12, 1843: The Battle of One Tree Hill—A Turning Point in the Conquest of Moreton Bay.’ Journal of the Royal Historical Society of Queensland 18, no. 6 (May 2003): 241–55

Additional Resources

Citation details

Ray Kerkhove, 'Multuggerah (c. 1820–c. 1846)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.online.anu.edu.au/biography/multuggerah-29904/text37020, published online 2020, accessed online 28 October 2020.

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2020

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Young Moppy
  • King Moppy
  • Moppy Moppy
  • Campbell
  • Black Campbell
  • Cambela
Birth

c. 1820
Queensland, Australia

Death

c. 1846
Rosewood, Queensland, Australia

Cause of Death

shot

Cultural Heritage
Occupation