Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Daniel (Dan) Morgan (1830–1865)

by John McQuilton

This article was published:

Daniel Morgan, by Samuel Calvert, 1864

Daniel Morgan, by Samuel Calvert, 1864

National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an9900666

Daniel (Dan) Morgan (c.1830-1865), bushranger, was probably Jack Fuller, born at Appin, New South Wales, the illegitimate son of Mary Owen and George Fuller, and attended the Catholic school at Campbelltown. Although he was suspected of stock theft from the late 1840s, his known criminal record began when, under the name 'John Smith', occupation jockey, he was sentenced to twelve years hard labour for highway robbery at Castlemaine, Victoria, on 10 June 1854. Released from the hulk Success on a ticket-of-leave in June 1860 for good behaviour, he failed to report to the police in the Ovens police district.

Now known as 'Down-the-River Jack', he found work as a horse-breaker and station hand. In August that year he stole a prized horse belonging to the Evans family, who held the Whitfield run in the upper King River valley. Evan Evans, with fellow squatter Edmond Bond, tracked him to his camp. Jack was badly wounded but escaped into the eastern Riverina and western slopes of New South Wales. This would become his base, although he frequently crossed into north-eastern Victoria, a pattern common among those involved in the cross-border, stolen-stock trade.

From mid-1863 'Daniel Morgan, alias Billy the Native', was identified in several major episodes that involved robbery under arms and included the bailing up of Henry Baylis, a police magistrate, near Urana. A reward of £200 was posted for him, dead or alive, although he had yet to be firmly identified as a murderer. The turning point came during a raid on Round Hill station on 19 June 1864, when he shot the overseer John McLean who died three days later. On 24 June Morgan shot and killed Sergeant David Maginnity near Tumbarumba. The reward reached £1000. In September police searching for the bushranger were fired upon and Sergeant Smyth died of wounds. Morgan later claimed that he had shot the sergeant.

Morgan frequently targeted the region's squatters, especially those who were believed to be hard masters, and delighted in humiliating them. During raids, he insisted that employees be fed and given drink. At Burrumbuttock the owner Thomas Gibson was forced to write cheques for his employees totalling some £400. Erratic, Morgan was often nervous and his moods could swing rapidly from an almost courtly treatment of prisoners to threats, rage and violence—hence his sobriquet, 'Mad Dan'. Although he was sometimes assisted by companions during his hold-ups, accomplices differed from robbery to robbery and he often worked alone. An imposing man, over 5 ft 10 ins (178 cm) in height, Morgan had dark hair worn in ringlets, a full, dark beard, hazel eyes and a long, hooked nose which some claimed made him look like a ferocious bird of prey.

Between January and March 1865 Morgan seemed ubiquitous. He was credited with no less than six major robberies of coaches and pastoral stations and the attempted murder of a stock-keeper at Wallandbool. In March the government of New South Wales introduced the Felons Apprehension Act, which made him an outlaw. Next month Morgan crossed the Murray to settle his old score with Evans and Bond. Reaching Whitfield on 7 April, he bailed up the head station. Evan Evans was not there. Morgan headed north and held up traffic on the Sydney Road between Benalla and Glenrowan. On the evening of 8 April he bailed up the Macpherson homestead at Peechelba, north of Wangaratta, unaware that the station's co-owner George Rutherford lived less than a quarter of a mile (0.4 km) away. Alice Keenan, the Macphersons' nurse, carried news to Rutherford, who rounded up his workforce, selected and armed five trustworthy men and sent them to watch at Peechelba homestead. Police and armed vigilantes augmented the party.

Next morning, as the bushranger walked towards the stockyards to select a horse to continue his flight, he was shot from behind by John Wendlan. Morgan died at about 1.45 p.m. on 9 April 1865. Locks were cut from his hair, his body was publicly displayed at Wangaratta, his beard was flayed from his face as a souvenir and his head severed, to be forwarded to the professor of anatomy at the University of Melbourne. He was buried on 14 April in Wangaratta cemetery.

Morgan's time at large owed much to his bush skills, an inept and undermanned police force and an effective 'telegraph' of sympathizers and supporters among the shepherds and stockmen in the region. There was also an element of fear: he had no hesitation in shooting two men he believed were police informants. He passed into folklore, however, as the 'travellers' friend'.

Select Bibliography

  • G. E. Boxall, History of the Australian Bushrangers (Syd, 1935)
  • B. Wannan, Australian Bushranging (Adel, 1963)
  • M. Carnegie, Morgan the Bold Bushranger (Syd, 1975)
  • C. White, History of Australian Bushranging, vol 2 (Melb, 1981)
  • P. C. Smith, Tracking Down the Bushrangers (Syd, 1982)
  • E. F. Penzig, Morgan the Murderer (Katoomba, 1989)
  • Victoria Police Gazette, 5 Apr 1865
  • Albury Banner, 11 Apr 1865, p 6
  • Argus (Melbourne), 11 Apr 1865, p 6
  • Empire (Sydney), 11 Apr 1865, p 5, 14 Apr 1865, p 5
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 11 Apr 1865, p 5, 12 Apr 1865, p 5
  • Ovens and Murray Advertiser, 13 Apr 1865, p 2
  • Sydney Mail, 15 Apr 1865, pp 4, 5.

Additional Resources

Related Thematic Essay

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Citation details

John McQuilton, 'Morgan, Daniel (Dan) (1830–1865)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2005, accessed online 24 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (Melbourne University Press), 2005

View the front pages for the Supplementary Volume

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Daniel Morgan, by Samuel Calvert, 1864

Daniel Morgan, by Samuel Calvert, 1864

National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an9900666

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Fuller, Jack
  • Smith, John
  • Down-the-River Jack
  • Billy the Native
  • Mad Dog Morgan

Appin, New South Wales, Australia


9 April, 1865 (aged ~ 35)
Peechelba, Victoria, Australia

Cause of Death


Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.

Key Places