Bushranger more feared than Ned Kelly
His nickname was "Mad Dog".
The name he was born with was "Jack Fuller" but he was officially known as Daniel "Mad Dog" Morgan and he once considered the most blood thirsty Aussie bushranger of them all.
On a Sunday morning in June 1864, Morgan approached Round Hill station, near the NSW/Victorian border, clutching a revolver. He ordered all the station hands and their wives into the nearby carpenter's shop and demanded the station manager, Sam Watson, bring him as many bottles of gin and rum as he could find from the cellar.
After enjoying several drinks, Morgan ordered Watson bring him two horses, promising to return them the next time he was in the area.
But as he was mounting, one of his pistols discharged and thinking somebody had fired at him, he shot a farm hand in the leg and threatened to shoot Watson.
The station manager's wife stood in front of her husband begging Morgan not to shoot for the sake of their children.
Apparently touched by the plea, Morgan ordered Watson to hold his hands in the air and fired a shot that shattered one of his hands.
In a strange string of events, he then ordered station hand, John McLean, to ride to the local Walla Walla station to get a doctor for Watson. But no sooner had the man ridden away, than Morgan panicked, fearing McLean would come back with police. So he chased McLean, shooting him in the back.
Morgan was said to have felt so bad, he helped McLean back into the saddle and took him back to Round Hill where the man died a few days later. By that time, the police were tracking him and newspapers had already named him "Morgan the Murderer".
MORGAN THE DRIFTER
Morgan was born in 1830 in Appin, NSW to poor Irish parents and even as a boy, he had a reputation for being a thief. In his youth, he was a drifter, working as a stockman until the gold rush of the early 1850s when he tried his luck prospecting in both Victoria and NSW.
But his plans for a quick return didn't materialise and instead he got tied up in petty crime before moving onto horse stealing. In 1854, using the highly original pseudonym "John Smith" Morgan robbed a coach and was eventually caught and charged with armed robbery. Appearing before Justice Barry - the same judge who sentenced Ned Kelly to death 16 years later - Morgan was found guilty and sentenced to 12 years hard labour.
He was released from the prison hulk Success just six years into his sentence for good behaviour and wasted no time in getting back into his criminal ways and refused to report to police as he was supposed to.
Instead, he camped by the King River where locals referred to him as "Down the River Jack."
He made a menace of himself, stealing horses and various belonging from local homesteads, until two local men - Evans and Bond - tracked him down and shot him.
Wounded, Morgan managed to escape to the Riverina district near Wagga Wagga where he recovered from his injuries and joined forces with a local criminal named "German Bill". Together, the men took their bushranging skills to the highway.
Morgan, who was close to six feet tall (182cm), with a long black bushy beard, became a master of the cross-border stolen stock trade, moving between his base in NSW to northeastern Victoria. He earned the nick name "Mad Dog" because he was prone to violent outbursts and mood swings.
He was known as a robber but not a murderer until 1864 when he killed John McLean at Round Hill Station. Then, he killed one of the police officers tracking him down, Sergeant David Maginnity, near Tumbarumba.
A whopping £1000 reward was offered for his capture but in September Morgan shot another police officer, Sergeant Smyth, who was chasing him.
He frequently raided the region's squatters, especially those with a reputation of being tough on their workers. During raids, Morgan ordered station bosses to give their workers food and alcohol. When he was in a good mood, he liked to quiz station workers about their treatment and pay. At one station, Burrumbuttock, Morgan ordered the owner to write exorbitant cheques for his employees, up to £400.
But he could also be frightening and threaten to kill his prisoners; truly living up to his "Mad Dog" nickname.
THE ROMANCE OF ROBBERY
According to Sacha Molitorisz, author of Australian Bushrangers: The Romance of Robbery in August 1863 Morgan and German Bill bailed up a man near Urana.
Molitorisz writes: "Seeing the bushrangers were on foot, the man dug his spurs into his horse and fled, but Morgan and German Bill leapt onto their mounts and set off in pursuit. After an exhausting chase through thick scrub, the bushrangers had their man. He surrendered. By this stage Morgan recognised his quarry; Henry Baylis, the Police Magistrate of Wagga Wagga."
Apparently, the conversation went like this:
"You're none the worse for having met us and if we come before you, I hope you'll be easy with us," Morgan said.
"If you come before me you may depend upon it. I'll do my duty," Baylis replied.
"You need not mention having met us and we'll say nothing about it," Morgan said.
"I cannot promise to suppress the matter. I have my duty to do," Baylis said.
Morgan freed the magistrate who went straight to the Urana police. Three days later, the hunt was on, with Baylis leading the police who eventually found horse tracks and a shelter in the bush.
When the bushrangers returned to their base a gunfight broke out that resulted in Baylis and German Bill firing simultaneously - Baylis was wounded, while German Bill was killed. Morgan fired back, narrowly missing Baylis before escaping into the bush.
The government posted a £200 reward for the capture of Mad Dog.
According to Molitorisz, many locals were too afraid to dob on Morgan or any of his sympathisers. Word got out that he'd burnt down a store and shed at Mittagong station, nearly killing the owner whom he believed had been giving information to the police.
ANGER MANAGEMENT BUSHRANGING STYLE
It appeared Mad Dan was getting madder than ever.
Molitorisz writes: "When Senior Sergeant Smyth led a party to a swamp where he thought Morgan was hiding, the bushranger had no trouble tracking his trackers. After watching the party for several days, Morgan pounced. When Smyth was reading by candlelight, several shots were fired. Smyth's colleagues rushed out of their tents but Morgan had already vanished. Smyth died from his wounds a few days later."
In early 1865, he struck again, with a hold up on 15 men at a road contractor's camp. Then he held up five other men, shooting one in the arm, before robbing two mail coaches coming to and from Albury. Then, still on the same day, he managed to steal cash from two hawkers.
POLICE CLOSING IN
With help from Aboriginal trackers, the police finally honed in on Morgan as he made his way back into Victoria, where the police once bragged he would not last 48 hours in their state.
In early April, Morgan crossed the border near Albury, stealing a horse to track down Bond and Evans - the men who had shot him four years earlier.
According to Molitorisz, Morgan approached Evan's station on the upper King River, setting haystacks on fire and imprisoning everyone in the homestead. The only problem? Evans wasn't home.
Morgan helped himself to a meal, stole a horse and, as he hit the road and robbed a few more people, he confided in a local dairy owner that he was off to hold up the Glenrowan Hotel, where Kelly would later make his last stand.
The police were in hot pursuit, arriving at the dairy shortly after Morgan had left.
But the bushranger had gotten himself lost in thick scrub where he happened to run into the overseer of nearby Peechelba Station, Robert Telford. Morgan put a gun to Telford's head, demanding to be taken to the station where he announced to the staff he was, "Mr Morgan. I suppose you've heard of me?"
He then told the owner, Mr McPherson, he was only after food and a horse. Said to be in one of his better moods, Morgan apparently settled himself in for the night, chatting to Mrs McPherson about his various exploits, telling her he hadn't slept in five nights and asking her daughter to play the piano for him.
THE END OF MAD DOG'S RUN
Two of McPherson's servants managed to run out to a nearby homestead, getting word to the police that Morgan was currently reclined on the McPherson's sofa. By the early hours of the morning, six troopers and volunteers arrived to arrest Morgan but not before a final, gruesome shootout.
According to Molitorisz, the police had been warned against firing at Morgan too soon. But an enthusiastic station hand, John Wendlan couldn't help himself. He fired his rifle, shooting Morgan in the shoulder; he died in the woolshed two days later. Wendlan later received a £500 reward.
Morgan's body was buried in Wangaratta minus his head. Apparently, the coroner, Dr Dobbyn, asked for Morgan to be decapitated so he could give the head to a friend for phrenological study.
Morgan was said to have been one of Ned Kelly's inspirations, even though today he is nowhere near as well known.
In 1976, Morgan's colourful life was immortalised in a movie starring Dennis Hopper, Jack Thompson and David Gulpilil; aptly titled Mad Dog Morgan.
LJ Charleston is a freelance historical writer. Continue the conversation @LJCharleston