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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Power, Henry (Harry) (1820–1891)

by Ian F. McLaren

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (MUP), 1974

Henry Power, in Pentridge Prison, by Julian Rossi Ashton, 1881

Henry Power, in Pentridge Prison, by Julian Rossi Ashton, 1881

State Library of Victoria, 49352310

Henry (Harry) Power (1820-1891), bushranger, also known as Johnson, was born at Waterford, Ireland. He was transported for seven years in 1840 for stealing a pair of shoes, and arrived at Hobart Town in the Isabella on 21 May 1842. He received a ticket-of-leave in November 1847 and certificate of freedom in September 1848, and then moved to the Port Phillip District. He became a horse-dealer at Geelong, but was attracted by the gold discoveries. Stopped by two troopers at Daisy Hill, near Maryborough, in March 1855 on suspicion of horse-stealing, he wounded one of the police. A week later he was arrested whilst attempting to cross the Murray River and was sentenced on 25 September 1855 to thirteen years on the roads.  

Confined to the hulk Success, Johnson was implicated with Captain Melville and others in the murder of Owen Owens and John Turner on 22 October 1856, but was found not guilty. After two years and a half in the hulks, he was transferred to Pentridge stockade. As Power he escaped in 1862, and lived at Middle Creek in the Ovens District, where he was assisted by the Kelly, Quinn and Lloyd families. Arrested on a charge of horse-stealing, he was sentenced at Beechworth on 19 February 1864 to seven years on the roads.

Power again escaped from Pentridge on 16 February 1869. He was assisted briefly by Ned Kelly, who was then 13, but the arrangement proved unsatisfactory and thereafter Power operated independently. He held up the mail-coach at Porepunkah on 7 May and another coach on the Longwood-Mansfield Road on the 22nd. These were the first of over a year's depredations, during which Power claimed to have committed over 600 robberies.

In September the Victorian government offered a reward of £200, soon increased to £500, for Power's arrest; as a result he moved to New South Wales. He soon returned to Victoria where police efforts to capture him proved fruitless until he was arrested on 5 June 1870 by Superintendents Nicolson and Hare, who with Sergeant Montford and a black tracker, surprised Power in his hide-out (Power's Lookout) overlooking the Quinn property on the King River. The police were led there by James Quinn, who received the reward of £500. Power was sentenced at Beechworth to fifteen-years hard labour on three counts of bushranging and was again held at Pentridge.

In 1877, after accounts of Power's ill health by the 'Vagabond' in the Argus, he was released on the application of several women, including Lady Janet Clarke. He worked on the Clarke property at Sunbury until he became a guide of the hulk Success in 1891. His body was found in the Murray River; he died 'on or about 11 October 1891 … near Swan Hill from drowning … there is nothing to show how he came into the river'.

Power was a fearless and daring rider and bushman, but never killed police or his victims. He broke from prison several times, defied the police in the Ovens District for a decade and was finally convicted through an informer.

Select Bibliography

  • F. A. Hare, The Last of the Bushrangers (Lond, 1892)
  • Argus (Melbourne), 3, 10 Mar 1877.

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Citation details

Ian F. McLaren, 'Power, Henry (Harry) (1820–1891)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 22 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (MUP), 1974

View the front pages for Volume 5

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2020

Henry Power, in Pentridge Prison, by Julian Rossi Ashton, 1881

Henry Power, in Pentridge Prison, by Julian Rossi Ashton, 1881

State Library of Victoria, 49352310