Samuel Harrison was an elderly,  widowed farmer who had owned 75 acres fronting the Black Dog Creek near Rutherglen in Victoria. Although he was illiterate he had prospered on the land. When he died suddenly in a neighbour’s cart on April 4 1896 he left an estate valued at  £3,000, a very large sum in those days.


Black Dog Creek where Samuel Harrison had his farm.

BLACK DOG CREEK BY Alfred William Eustace circa 1870

Unfortunately, Samuel had not been so successful in maintaining a happy family. He was estranged from virtually  all of his relatives, as noted in a colourful  retelling of the story by Allan Brennan in 1936. It  appeared in The World’s News and commenced as follows;

It was actually weeks that went by, not months as Brennan wrote, but never mind. On May 27 the will was found in  strange circumstances by James Hossack a son-in-law. The story went that James accidentally came across the will while looking for something else in a shed. It was inside a tin of bean seeds, which was in turn inside a large vat. The document was dated January 9, 1889, seven years before the old man died.

The only family member not mentioned in the will was Samuel’s  granddaughter Edith Bolt, who the Hossack tribe disliked intensely. Now Edith was a woman with acumen. She couldn’t help feeling that the sudden finding of a will was a bit suspicious. When letters of administration were applied for she lodged a caveat against the granting of them. Without telling anyone she also made an inventory of everything in her late grandfather’s house.  A few days later James Hossack’s wife and son Samuel did the same thing. The latter pair subsequently removed the bulk of the furniture and fittings.

After a lengthy hearing it was determined that old Mr Harrison’s son-in-law Thomas Cracknell and his friend Charles Cameron had indeed forged the will.  The Hossack branch of the family were well aware of what had been done. Cracknell and Carter  were each sentenced to five years gaol.


I just love the concluding paragraph  from Allan Brennan’s article on the case;

Seemingly [the fraudsters] had decided that a will in their own favour would be a dangerous experiment, and depended that on being apprised of the facts the Hossacks would share equitably. But because between the top of their yawn and the bottom of their hair  parting there was little in the way of brain, and on account of the penetrating detective skill of Mrs Bolt, the scheme was a calamitous failureThe lady waived all interest in the estate, and even refused to accept anything for her legal expenses, to which the Chief Justice said she was entitled to. “My grandfather hated me” she said. “And I hated him. Worse still would I hate to be involved in a scramble for his money.

Woman, the Enigma!

It the rest of the family had put aside their quarrel with Mrs Bolt and included her in the fake testament she would probably never have worried about it. So yes, Mr Brennan was right, they were all pretty stupid.

When the court case was over the Hossacks were made to return all the items they had removed from the house. Oh dear, that must have been so galling.

Subsequently the Harrison property  was listed for public auction

The night before the auction the Harrison house burned to the ground. There had been several fires set,  including one  the buggy shed, which went out before any damage was done.

A crowd of locals turned up on the morning of the auction, making the  finding of evidence such as footprints virtually impossible.  Naturally police had their suspects, but it was considered unlikely that anything could be proven and no charges were ever laid.

On a more uplifting note,  here is another interesting  image of Black Dog Creek  by Alfred  Eustace. It’s  painted on a  white box eucalyptus leaf. Eustace died in 1907 the  year after Samuel Harrison,


Painting of Black Dog Creek on a white box eucalyptus leaf.






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