The Twelfth Man: John Fleming and the Myall Creek Massacre By Patricia Withycombe

In 2015 Patricia (Patsy) Withycombe wrote a Honours thesis The Twelfth Man: John Fleming and the Myall Creek Massacre as part of a UON Bachelor of Arts (Hons).

Patsy completed her Bachelor of Arts in 2013, having majored in History and French. In 2015 Patsy completed her History honours thesis, which argues that that John Henry Fleming, the free settler who evaded capture and conviction, was the ringleader of the Myall Creek massacre. This was awarded the University of Newcastle Establishment Group Prize for the best Honours thesis which links the honours studies to an aspect on historical analysis or methodology. Prior to this, Patsy practised as a solicitor in Newcastle for more than thirty years.  Patsy is interested in the colonial history of New South Wales and the Hunter Valley, as well as legal histories.

“Australian Aborigines Slaughtered by Convicts” (Phiz, The book of remarkable trials … , 1840, between 526,527; Chronicles of Crime V. II, 1841 , between 472,473).
“Australian Aborigines Slaughtered by Convicts” (The book of remarkable trials … , 1840, between 526,527; Chronicles of Crime V. II, 1841 , between 472,473).

ABSTRACT: The Twelfth Man:John Fleming and the Myall Creek Massacre provides a close analysis of John Henry Fleming the only free born settler in the group of stockmen who carried out the massacre at Myall Creek on 10 June 1838. Although there is considerable scholarship on the massacre, the two Supreme Court trials and the newspaper coverage of the events, there has never been a detailed examination of the role played by Fleming in the massacre. The thesis tests the assertion that John Henry Fleming was the ringleader of the massacre that took place at Myall Creek on 10 June 1838. It examines all of the available evidence including the depositions, court transcripts of the two trials and contemporary correspondence. Chapter One provides a context for Fleming and explores his family origins in the Hawkesbury area in relation to other pioneering settlers of the region, their pastoral expansion to the Gwydir area in the mid-1830s and the ensuing conflict with the traditional land owners. Chapter Two explores the crucial question, was Fleming the ringleader of the massacre? Chapter Three explores Fleming’s later life from 1840 to his death in 1894 and the legends that developed from the end of the nineteenth century regarding his escape from prosecution. After an evaluation of all the available evidence, it can be confidently asserted that Fleming was the ringleader of the massacre at Myall Creek and that his status and leadership was pivotal to the massacre. His status as a second-generation settler, connected to a powerful network of settler families, also sheltered him from the law. It is now time to acknowledge his role. In presenting a biography of Fleming, the thesis provides a valuable case study into the supra legal status of freeborn settlers in 1838.

Copy of thesis The Twelfth Man: John Fleming and the Myall Creek Massacre

Many thanks to Patricia for sharing her research about the Myall Creek Massacre and John Fleming. Contact patsy_withycombe@bigpond.com and patricia.withycombe@uon.edu.au


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