Tuesday, 10 April 2018

The Point Pass Pillager - The Adventures of a Boy Bushranger

The Point Pass Pillager - The Adventures of a Boy Bushranger

Eudunda, 1884, Matthias Weis, an almost 11-year-old boy, who had been adopted from the Adelaide boys reformatory school by Mr and Mrs Madel of Point Pass, became renown in the Eudunda region of South Australia as possible the youngest bushranger in South Australia’s history!

 Weis had not been a good boy before being adopted to the Madel family. He had spent many of his formative years in the reformatory for petty crimes, thievery and for threatening to kill his mother with a knife. Weis was well known by police and the local courts, and for his long list of previous crimes, had come to find himself in a reformatory.
 Before the time of his notorious crime rampage, it was thought that one day, if he didn’t change his ways, he would end up inside the Adelaide Gaol, or even hang from its gallows, such was his reputation!

In late July 1884, Weis had become bored with the home life of the Madels, and decided he needed some adventure in his life. He made his way into Point Pass township, and there stole one of Mr Woite’s best horses, saddled and bridled it, and then made off with the horse and a sheep dog.

Weis had been seen, and the local police were called. Constable Muegge set out on his horse forthwith, to try and chase the pre-teen down in the bush. Muegge, and several settlers from around Point Pass tried to chase the boy bushranger down.
Weis soon realised he was being chased, and rode the horse as hard as he could. He passed through the towns of Bundey and Scholmburg, only to be chased down by a local who had sensed something was wrong, but Weis had chosen an excellent horse, and soon out ran his pursuer.
That night, with no food or water, Weis set a small campfire and slept under the stars.

 That night, with no food or water, Weis set a small campfire and slept under the stars.
 The next morning, he awoke and started heading towards Bower, but Mr Woite, having heard Weis was in the area, had set chase, getting within two hundred yards of Weis. Wies’ horse was beginning to tire after being ridden so hard for two days, so to escape, Weis jumped off suddenly and fled into the bush.
 Woite tried to track him down, but the boy was too fast and soon lost his pursuer. Woite took his horse back to Point Pass and reported the incident to the local police. His horse that Weis had stolen was not in good condition, having been ridden flat out for two days, and with no food and water, the animal could barely walk back to its home.

Now on the run for a full two days and with no horse, Weis was forced to walk, something he hadn’t planned on, as he had no boots to cover his feet. He found his way to Robertstown, breaking into any houses he came across on the way and relieving them of food and water.
 In Robertstown, Weis, in broad daylight, walked up to the local hotel, and stole Mr Gosden’s horse and cart which was stationed outside. As he sped out of town, he threw the contents of the cart, mainly groceries into the street.

Weis rode the horse and cart hard and fast into the bush, but became unstuck when he crashed into a log, upending the cart, and smashing his head on the ground. He eventually got up and freed the horse from the remains of the smashed cart.
Weis then rode the horse bareback, but at some point, and for reasons unknown, left the horse to wander the bush, where it was eventually found by a small posse that had formed of locals, that were hunting Weis down.
By this time, now a full four days into his crime spree, the weather had became miserably cold, and Weis was dressed, still without shoes or boots, and in a very thin shirt, so the cold must’ve been playing a part in dampening his dreams of becoming a notorious bushranger.
 Hunger and thirst were also starting to play their role. Weis had stolen food from a few homes, but it wasn’t enough. He started making his way towards Robertstown again, where he broke into a house and stole all the food he could carry.

By the end of his first week of being a bushranger, Weis had become notorious in the area, and knowing that locals were on the look out for him, he found it very hard to find food to steal, so he made his way back towards Point Pass.
 There he snuck into the home of the Mabel’s, the family that had adopted him. He snuck into the kitchen and helped himself to some food, only to be caught by Mrs Mabel, who swiftly overpowered the boy and tied him in ropes – something none of the good town’s men of Point Pass or Robertstown had been able to achieve!
Matthias Weis, the almost 11-year-old bushranger, faced court in Eudunda in front of Judges Roberts and Applet. He was sentenced to 14 days gaol, and then sent to the reformatory, where he was to stay until he was 16.

..and thus ended the criminal career of  possibly South Australia’s youngest bushranger or did it?
The South Australian Police Gazette of January 18th, 1888 reports the following:

From H.M.C.S. “Protector” at Glenelg, January 2nd, 1888, Mathew Weis, age 14, 4ft 10inches, fair complexion, light brown hair, hazel eyes, scar from burn on leg (C.109)

Could “Matthew Weis” and Matthias Weis be one and the same?

Researched and written by Allen Tiller ©2018

1884 'THE ADVENTURES OF A BOY BUSHRANGER.', Kapunda Herald (SA : 1878 - 1951), 8 August, p. 3. , viewed 28 Jan 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article106578975

South Australia Police Gazette Indexes, 1862-1947. Ridgehaven, South Australia: Gould Genealogy and History, 2009.