Battle of One Tree Hill

The Battle of One Tree Hill was one of a series of conflicts that took place between European settlers and a group of men of the Jagera and other Aboriginal groups in the Darling Downs area in the colony of Queensland in the 1840s, as part of the Australian frontier wars. It was one in which the settlers were routed by a group of local Aboriginal men under the warrior Multuggerah, a rare event both in its form, as pitched battles between the two groups, and in its outcome.[1]

Battle of One Tree Hill
Part of War of Southern Queensland
Date12 September 1843
Tabletop Mountain (then known as "One Tree Hill"), Darling Downs, Queensland, Australia.
Result Jagera victory
British colonists Jagera people
Commanders and leaders
Commissioner Simpson Multuggerah
18 over 100


Moreton Bay was somewhat settled prior to the battle, due to a penal settlement having been established in 1824.[2] The colonisers had some contact with the local Aboriginal groups but not the Jagera from the west.[2] The little interaction that the Jagera had had with the settlers involved harbouring escaped convict, James Sterry Baker.[2] From most accounts, Multuggerah, the leader of the Jagera nation in the 1830s and 1840s,[3] was happy as long as the settlers didn't encroach into the Lockyer Valley.[2]

However, by 1842 there were attempts to occupy land in and near the Lockyer Valley, Darling Downs and upper Brisbane areas.[2] These were met with resistance from the local alliance of "mountain tribes" united under Multuggerah, a warrior, strategist and diplomat.[1] After the 1842 deliberate poisoning of 50 or 60 Aboriginal people on Kilcoy Station, the resistance gathered momentum, and an uprising was planned. Multuggerah and his men began ambushing the mountain road that was the only route for bringing supplies from Brisbane to the Downs.[4] The road had been built about two years earlier and was the only way of keeping both commerce and communication open between the Moreton Bay and Downs areas.[1] Multuggerah and his forces planned to deprive the squatters of their supplies.[2]

The battles


In September 1843, a large group of squatters organised a "cavalcade"[1] consisting of 18 armed men and three drays pulled by about 50 bullocks.[4] At a location known as One Tree Hill, (now known as Tabletop Mountain, Queensland), near Toowoomba, the group was ambushed by Multuggerah and about 100 men, having been forced to stop at barricades previously erected by the attackers. The squatters fled back to Bonifant's Inn, their starting point for that trip, about 34 kilometres (21 mi) away. The warriors held a corroborree after sacking the drays, feasting on bullock meat.[5][6]

Retaliation attempt

The squatters organised a revenge party, comprising all of the men at the Inn, including servants, numbering between 35 and 50 men. At nightfall on 12 September they arrived near what was left of the drays, and camped about 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) from Mt Tabletop. They managed to surprise the group of Aboriginal people by arriving at their camp very early the next morning, and the two groups engaged in a full-on battle. Quite a number of Aboriginal people were wounded or killed, but the settlers were hindered by getting bogged in the mud, and one was wounded in the buttocks with a spear thrown by a woman. The majority of the remaining warriors staged a retreat up the steep slopes of the mountain, where they had stored heaps of boulders. They were then able to throw spears and stones and roll boulders down the slopes, wounding some of the squatters and shattering many of their muskets, until they were forced to retreat.[1]

The squatters awaited the border police of Dr Simpson, but when the six men found the road barricaded again, decided not to attempt an attack on the warriors.[1]


Following this defeat, there was an unusually large-scale response to the Battle of One Tree Hill. A campaign began to remove Multuggerah’s warriors out of the area. Dr Simpson gathered forces from Brisbane and Ipswich until he had a total of 35–45 men. The 16 station owners and overseers sent out a call, gathering 40 to 60 men. Eventually, about 75 to 100 settlers, including most of Moreton Bay’s soldiers and police, chased the warriors from the pass.[1] Many were killed in the Lockyer Valley area.[7][8]

Conflicts continued as the warriors camped in the Rosewood Scrub and Helidon Scrub areas and mounted raids on the settlers. In October 1843, using an Aboriginal tracker, the squatters found and stormed the camp, killing leaders (although apparently not Multuggerah[4]) and many others. Attacks and raids in the area continued for another five years.[1]

Legacy and memorials

A monument recording the battle was established in 2005.[9]

An Indigenous land use agreement was signed over the site, between Toowoomba City Council and a body representing the Jagera, Yuggera and Ugarapul people as the traditional owners of the area, in 2008.[10][11][12]

In 2010, the National Library of Australia acquired a sketch by local Thomas John Domville Taylor[13] (the origin of the name Domville for the locality and mountain near Millmerran[8]) for A$120,000 which is believed to be an eyewitness account of the aftermath of the battle. [14][15] It depicts "11 squatters firing on a group of 25 Indigenous people of whom three appear to have been shot".[8]


  1. Kerkhove, Ray (19 August 2017). "Battle of One Tree Hill and Its Aftermath". Retrieved 5 August 2020.
  2. Uhr, Frank (May 2003). "September 12, 1843, the Battle of One Tree Hill: a turning point in the conquest of Moreton Bay". Journal of the Royal Historical Society of Queensland. 18 (6): 241.
  3. Phillipson, David (25 August 2020). "Battle of One Tree Hill, Australian Frontier Wars". History Guild.
  4. Marr, David (14 September 2019). "Battle of One Tree Hill: remembering an Indigenous victory and a warrior who routed the whites". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 August 2020.
  5. Bailey, Lee (10 October 2003). "Tabletop Mountain" (photo). ABC Radio National. Big Ideas with Paul Barclay. Retrieved 5 August 2020.
  6. Nolan, Michael (15 September 2019). "Multuggerah's military genius revealed in new book". The Chronicle. Toowoomba Newspapers Pty Ltd. Retrieved 6 December 2019. At one point his warriors feigned a retreat and led the soldiers and settles on a frantic chase through the forest. Without knowing, the whites walked into a trap and were pelted by stones and boulders from Multuggerah's men, positioned on the high country above them.
  7. Ayres, Marie-Louise (11 June 2011). "A Picture Asks a Thousand Questions". The National Library Magazine. National Library of Australia: 8–11. Retrieved 5 August 2020 via Slideshare.
  8. O'Keefe (23 October 2010). "Darling Downs History on Display". The Chronicle. Retrieved 5 August 2020.
  9. Multuggerah at Monument Australia accessed 23 Feb 2014
  10. "Indigenous land use agreement signed in Toowoomba". 27 February 2008. Archived from the original on 11 February 2014.
  11. "QI2007/038 - Jagera, Yuggera and Ugarapul People and Toowoomba Regional Council". Register of Indigenous Land Use Agreements Details. National Native Title Tribunal. 19 September 2008. Retrieved 5 August 2020.
  12. "Extract from Register of Indigenous Land Use Agreements" (PDF). National Native Title Tribunal. 17 June 2020. Retrieved 7 July 2021.
  13. Roberts, Timothy (2020). "Thomas John Domville Taylor". Design & Art Australia Online. Retrieved 7 July 2021.
  14. "Library acquires indigenous attack account". The Sydney Morning Herald. 21 October 2010. Archived from the original on 22 October 2010. Retrieved 5 August 2020.
  15. Elks, Sarah (23 October 2010). "Image of frontier battle comes to life". The Australian. Archived from the original on 26 October 2010. Retrieved 23 February 2014.

Further reading

  • Kerkhove, Ray (2019). The Battle of One Tree Hill: The Aboriginal Resistance That Stunned Queensland. Boolarong Press. ISBN 978-1925877304.
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