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Joseph (Joe) Windred (1822–1901)

Joseph Windred, n.d.

Joseph Windred, n.d.

Mr Joseph Windred, whose death was reported in our last issue, was born in Windsor on April 27th, 1822, and of a few months was within 79 years of age. He was the eldest of a family of six sons and one daughter. Three of his brothers are dead some years; two of them, William Windred and Henry Windred were well known men in the Bathurst, Orange, and Forbes districts, Harry having been best known and a very popular man in his day. Mr Joseph Windred was, in his youth, as fine a specimen of manhood as one could wish to see. He was a magnificently built man, of towering height and splendid proportions, with the one unfortunate drawback of having a maimed foot, which, though a disfigurement, seemed to be of no serious impediment to his movements until later years. He belonged to the older type of white native who flourished some forty or fifty years ago in the Hawkesbury district, where physical prowess was esteemed more highly than mental gifts or intellectual accomplishments. Among a family of athletes and in a community of singularly tall, strong, and stalwart men, the late Mr Windred was always among the first and foremost. He was an expert boxer, a grand swimmer, a splendid oarsman, and a fine horseman. He belonged to that old school of Australians who believe that the proper reply to an insult was a blow, and the right punishment of the wrongdoer was physical chastisement, and those who dared to insult or injure him had reason to repent their conduct. Like most fearless men, he was the last man to provoke a conflict but there was a limit to his forbearance. Like so many Hawkesbury natives, Mr Windred was very fond of sport of every kind, and especially of horse racing, to which he devoted much of his time in the earlier days. He used often to recount with pride the famous performances of his horse Cooramin, which won many notable events at Windsor, at Sydney, and other old racing centres of the time. Another fine racer was his horse Ariosto. He also used to talk of his having been the owner of a noted thoroughbred once the property of Lowrey the bushranger, of whom one often reads in the old records of New South Wales. Mr Windred was, in a word, an enthusiastic sportsman when owners of racers were more eager to secure the honor of winning a great event than of netting large sums of money. When the discovery of gold took place in California in 1848, like thousands of others, Mr Windred went to try his luck on the rich "placer" goldfields, where gold was got almost as easily as it was in later years at Bendigo and Forest Creek and other Victorian goldfields in the fifties. He arrived at San Francisco when the gold fever was at its height and when in lieu of any regularly constituted authority or legal rule the diggers established a "Vigilance Committee," before which alleged offenders were tried in the most summary fashion and severely punished either by imprisonment, flogging, or by death for offences of an aggravated nature. While the Vigilance Committee acted as an effective check to crime and was a real terror to evil doers, unfortunately its hasty and reckless methods often led to the conviction of men innocent of the crimes they were accused for. Among the sufferers from the precipitate action of the Vigilance Committee Mr Windred was one of the innocent victims. In the book called "The Annals of San Francisco," containing a summary of the first discovery, settlement, and progress, etc, of California, by Frank Sael, John H Gibon, M.D., and James Nisbet, page 314, we find the following reference to Mr Windred's arrest for an alleged offence, of which he was subsequently proved to be absolutely innocent. Stuart and Windred were tried by a jury chosen by the Vigilance Committee. The book ("Annals of San Francisco") says:

On the 19th February, 1849, about 8 o'clock in the evening, two men entered the store of C. J. Jansen and Co, and, professing to be purchasers, asked to see some blankets. Mr Jansen, who was alone in the store, was in the act of producing the articles, when he was violently struck with a sling shot, and fell insensible on the floor. While in that state he seems to have been further maltreated, and was probably considered by the ruffians as dead. They robbed the premises of 2000 dollars and immediately fled. The whole circumstances of the outrage were of the most daring character, and the knowledge of them caused much excitement among the people. The next day a man was arrested, believed to be one James Stuart, but who gave his name as Thomas Burdue, on a charge of having murdered Mr Moore, the Sheriff of Auburn, and having robbed him of 4000 dollars. Stuart had been confined in the jail of Sacramento to await his trial, but had escaped two months before. Circumstances meanwhile had raised a suspicion that this man Stuart, alias Burdue, had something to do with the attack on Mr Jansen, and accordingly he and another person of the name of Windred, who had been apprehended on suspicion of the same offence, were, on the 21st, confronted with the injured man. Jansen at once recognised Stuart, and also Windred, although with some faint doubt as to the identity of the latter, as being two persons who had committed the assault and the robbery. These circumstances being known, the citizens, in a state of great excitement, gathered on the following day, Saturday, 22nd February, around the City Hall, where the examination of the prisoners was going on. Upwards of 5000 people thus collected. This was not a mob, but the people, in the highest sense of the term. They wanted only a leader to advise and guide them to any undertaking that promised relief from the awful state of social danger and terror to which they were reduced. (The narrative goes on to give details of the state of the minds of the populace, and the precautions taken to guard the accused from the violence of the mob. A jury of the people proceeded to try them, the regular courts fearing to offer any opposition. An influential jury of men of high character, with judge, sheriff, clerk, counsel, etc, were formed). As we said before, the crowd was not a mob, but emphatically the people. After evidence was led for the prosecution, an impartial charge was given by Mr Spence. The jury then retired and were absent a considerable time, as they seemed unable to agree upon a verdict. Seeing there were no signs of coming to a speedy agreement, they returned to the court, and their foreman reported that nine were for a conviction and three had doubts. Much disappointment and agitation was now manifested by the people, who had considered the prisoners clearly guilty on the testimony. Loud cries burst from all quarters of "Hang them, anyhow. A majority rules." After some time order was restored and the jury discharged. It was now midnight, and the numbers present were considerably diminished. The same excitement, however, prevailed, and it required all the efforts of the cooler and wiser portion of the assembly to preserve peace and decorum to the end. . . . During this excitement, it is proper to remark, that the Mayor had collected together not only the regular police of the city, but an additional volunteer force of about 250 citizens, and had determined that no injury should be done the prisoners until they were legally tried and found guilty of the alleged crime. In the meantime parties were organised who resolved to seize the prisoners at all events, and hang them at the nearest convenient place, without regard to decency or justice; and, to carry out this object, several attempts were made to break into the station-house, where the prisoners were confined; but these were successfully resisted by the strong and determined force which the foresight of the Mayor had gathered and with which the City Hall was surrounded. The occasion of this outbreak was the greatest that had hitherto ever agitated San Francisco, and the exciting scenes of Saturday and Sunday will be long remembered by the citizens of the period. For thirty-six hours the whole town had been in an uproar, and during a great part of the time many thousands of persons had been gathered in the court room or the streets outside. For months their patience had been severely tried by the knowledge that crimes of the most atrocious description – murders, burglaries, thefts, fire-raising, and violent assaults – had been of daily occurrence, and that few or no adequate punishments had been inflicted by the courts on the perpetrators. On this occasion the long suppressed ire against the supineness of the authorities burst forth, and the people were determined to make an example of those whom they believed guilty of the shocking assault on Mr Jansen and the robbery of his store. They were indeed deceived in regard to the true criminals, and might have hanged innocent men. But the good sense of their temporary leaders, and a return to dispassionate reflection, hindered the execution of the sentence of death, which the general multitude wished to pronounce. We may hear shortly state the further incidents connected with the prisoners in relation to this matter. After being tried by the people as above mentioned, when no unanimous verdict could be obtained, they were handed over to the proper authorities, by whom they were put a second time upon trial, for the same offence, according to the ordinary legal forms. On this occasion, both prisoners were found guilty and sentenced to fourteen years imprisonment, being the highest penalty which the law could inflict for the imputed offence. Windred shortly afterwards escaped by cutting a hole through the floor of his prison. Stuart, alias Burdue, was sent to Marysville, to stand his trial for the murder of Mr Moore, already noticed. He was found guilty for this crime also and was sentenced to be hanged. This was in the course of the summer. Meanwhile, the Vigilance Committee, which had been recently organized, and contrived to lay hands on the true Stuart, who turned out not only to have been the murderer of Mr Moore, but also one of those who had assaulted and robbed Mr Jansen. Stuart was subsequently hanged by the people for these and other crimes. It was satisfactorily shown that neither Burdue nor Windred had ever had the slightest connection with any of the offences for which they were charged. The whole affair was a most curious case of mistaken identity. Burdue was at different places, and by different juries, twice convicted, and twice in the most imminent risk of death for the commission of crimes of which he was perfectly innocent."

Windred's escape from the prison at Sacramento was due to the ingenuity, recourcefulness, aud daring of his wife. She had her hair cut short, dressed herself in men's clothing and so cleverly disguised herself that with the aid of Mr. Whittaker, the Chief of the Police (who knew Windred was not the man who committed the crime he was convicted of), she obtained an interview with her husband on the pretence that she was a mate of his. She succeeded in concealing the tools about her person which she thought would be most useful in enabling him to escape, and during the brief absence of the warder handed them to Mr Windred, who concealed them until dark, when he tunnelled under the wall and, after an arduous night's toil, got away, eluding capture or discovery until he was proved innocent of the crime he was charged with by the arrest and conviction of the actual criminal — a well-known desperado named Stuart, who had committed several daring offences.

From this history it will be seen that Windred had a very narrow escape from a long term of imprisonment for a crime in which he took no hand or part. On the discovery of gold in N.S.W. the subject of this notice returned to his native country, and started business in Sydney, which he sold to once more try his fortune on the diggings. He was first known to the writer at Lambing Flat in 1865, where he kept an orderly, well conducted hotel, but which he sold at a satisfactory figure in order to start a similar business at Forbes, when the great rush set in for the famous Lachlan goldfield. When the rich gold bearing leads became depleted, and the digging population dwindled away, Mr Windred went to the Muckerawa rush, and on that field being worked out, came on to Orange some time in 1865 or 1866. During his residence here he was engaged in several occupations, such as hotel-keeper, cattle-buyer, and auctioneer. He took a specially keen interest in municipal matters for many years, was always an active and prominent alderman, and was mayor two or three times. He, with the late lamented Mr Michael Cassy, had the most to do with the laying out and planting of Cook Park, in which good work the Hon. T. Dalton had also a large hand. To Mr Windred's exertions is also mainly due the fact of the establishment of the present cattle saleyards, which has proved so profitable an investment for the Orange Municipality and such an advantage to the town. The fencing in of the Orange Racecourse and the erection of the grands and thereon are also chiefly due to Mr Windred's urgent representations and influence, for which he had to pay so very dearly, in conjunction with seven other victims — Messrs J. C. McLachlan, A. Coulson, H. C. Wall, W. N. Moulder, W. F. Whitney, B Nelson, and Dr Tennant, the loss to each of the luckless guarantors totalling some £400, Mr Windred was for many years starter at the Orange races and handicapper, associated with the late Mr P. Kenna, and giving the utmost satisfaction in both capacities. The deceased native seemed to have done his best in anything he took in hand, whether in sport, in business, or in matters of public concern, and to be always thoroughly in earnest in his work. He was very unselfish and singularly respectful and polite to women, and always kind and fond of children. He was one of those who seemed to have, in a measure, miscarried owing to his fate having been passed apparently in uncongenial pursuits and occupations for which he had no special aptitude. In the old political contests, both at Windsor and elsewhere, as well as in Orange, Mr Windred was generally to the fore. His political idols used to be Sir James Martin, Mr Dalley, and Sir Henry Parkes. He was a great friend and admirer of Mr Dalley, who never visited Orange without looking up his old henchman, Joe Windred, whom he regarded as a grand specimen of a Windsor native. Mr Windred held strong opinions on everything, whether in politics, municipal matters, or on religion, and had no moral doubt as to the absolute soundness of his own peculiar views. He never even suspected that he might have formed wrong conclusions or that the other side might be right and his side wrong. He gave no quarter and asked for none. The death of such a man would have excited more attention twenty years ago than at the present time. He had, so to speak, survived most of his contemporaries, a few only of his old mates or more intimate acquaintances being alive. Most of those who knew him best had gone to the 'unknown land' before him. Taking him all and all, he was a grand specimen of the Windsor native, where stalwart men, of splendid physique were once so common. He acted according to his lights in everything, many of his undoubted weaknesses or deficiencies being due to unfavorable environments and lack of liberal education rather than to defective natural endowments. He was a kind-hearted and affectionate brother and a good son. He was married to one of the sweetest, gentlest, and most devoted of wives, and one of the handsomest women in Australia in her prime. They had no children. Mr Windred was buried alongside his wife in the Protestant cemetery, near the graves of his mother, brother, and brother's wife, the burial service being read by the Rev Spencer Oakes, only a few of his more immediate friends being present, as his death was not known, owing to its suddenness and the hasty funeral, to any beyond his immediate circle of relatives and friends. Only two brothers and a sister survive him—Mr Charles Windred, Mr George Windred, and Miss Pollie Windred. His father's name was Joseph Windred, a native of Kent, England, and his mother, Sophia Dargan, one of the oldest settlers of New South Wales.

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Citation details

'Windred, Joseph (Joe) (1822–1901)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 19 June 2024.

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