The Kenniffs were compulsive cattle and horse thieves from the Western Districts of Queensland – from Augathella to Mitchell – during the 1890s.and turn of the century.

In 1903 – they allegedly shot and burnt the bodies of a policeman and station manager.
After the murders of Doyle and Dahlke by the Kenniffs, many people in the district became terrified and left the vicinity, especially station managers, who became marked men.

The Queensland Government offered a reward for ₤1000 for the capture of the bushrangers.
They were again and again seen, but always eluded their pursuers.

Gradually, however, news came to hand of their movements. On April 4th three horses were stolen from a paddock 30 miles from Merivale.

The Kenniffs were now on the run, riding eastward along the Great Dividing Range. They were reported having been seen in the Yuelba district, riding like demons on tired horses.

A massive manhunt was organised and three months later the brothers were captured at Arrest Creek, south of Mitchell.  Despite the circumstantial evidence they were both found guilty of murder and sentenced to death.  James’ sentence was later commuted to 16 years jail and a royal pardon saw him released in November 1914.  Patrick was executed on 12 January 1903 at Boggo Road Prison and buried in South Brisbane cemetery.  He proclaimed his innocence to the last.

Hideout in Boorook
Boorook Station Hideout.   In the 1880's Tom and Pat Stapleton and Pat Kenniff were horse and cattle thieves in in the Casino area of NSW.   After a raid on the Casino Common – they drove the stolen cattle to Warwick in sell. A local grazier, Edwin Morgan offered them thirty pounds and two racehorses. As soon as the transaction was complete – the three rode to Stanthorpe and kept well out of sight in the rugged back country around Stanthorpe.   Pat Kenniff had tin prospecting mates called Connell and Hyde who had a rough camp on Boorook Station. This was their hideout for a couple of months.
James Kenniff Poddy - Dodging on Babiloora Station
James Kenniff Poddy-Dodging on Babiloora Station. During the late 1890's James Kenniff rode about Mr. Tyson's Carnarvon Station and Babillillora Station throwing unbranded cattle and putting his ear mark on them. He took what he could and planned to attend Tyson’s next muster and claim that somehow “his” cattle had somehow strayed onto Tyson's properties.
Merivale Men
After the deaths of Doyle and Dahlke, the Kenniffs were on the run. They stole horses from Merivale, raided outstations near Chinchilla, and generally stole horses, food and camp chattels indiscriminately.

The Kenniffs' main hatred was reserved for the Merivale lessees and for John Collins & Son and their employees. McLain, manager of Babbiloora and Ryan, head stockman of Carnarvon were taken into protective custody in one of the police camps, over sixty policemen having joined in the hunt for the Kenniffs.

On other stations – in particular Merivale – steps were taken to arm the managers and stockmen against a surprise visit by the Kenniffs.

E.G. Heap, B.A. The Rangers Were the Best. The Kenniff Story. Queensland Heritage
The Ranges Were The Best
After the deaths of Doyle and Dahlke, Senior Sergeant Byrne, of Toowoomba, who had been sent out to investigate the theft at Merivale and the burning down of Sunnyvale outstation, set off with a constable in pursuit of the Kenniffs, who, Byrne guessed, would be leaving the district hurriedly in the direction of Springsure. Patrick and James Kenniff had completely disappeared.

Gradually, however, news came to hand of their movements. On April 4th three horses were stolen from a paddock 30 miles from Merivale. It was a continuation of the old feud, the Kenniffs having declared that eight horses on Merivale were their property. The Kenniffs were now on the run, riding eastward along the Great Dividing Range. They were reported having been seen in the Yuelba district, riding like demons on tired horses.

Once captured, the Kenniffs were escorted to Mitchell, and placed in separate cells in the lock up. Sub – Inspector Malone overheard Patrick say, “The ranges were the best.”

E.G. Heap, B.A. The Rangers Were the Best. The Kenniff Story. Queensland Heritage
Marked Men
After the murders of Doyle and Dahlke by the Kenniffs, many people in the district became terrified and left the vicinity, especially station managers, who became marked men.

The Queensland Government offered a reward for ₤1000 for the capture of the bushrangers.

They were again and again seen, but always eluded their pursuers.

E.G. Heap, B.A. The Rangers Were the Best. The Kenniff Story. Queensland Heritage
The Cremation of Doyle and Dahlke
On Tuesday April 1st 1902, near the banks of a creek in Lethbridge's Pocket, the ashes of three small fires were found. Under the ashes was a substance which appeared to be clotted blood, which was partly burnt. Plied up at the foot of an apple tree near the fires were two pairs of spurs, which were later identified as those worn by Doyle and Dahlke.

On Thursday 3rd April, about a mile lower down Lethbridge's Pocket, Doyle's horse was found carrying two pack-bags. In the pack-bags were about 200 pounds of charcoal which was found to contain a large quantity of partly burnt fragments of human bones from various parts of the body, human teeth, shirt buttons, a shirt stud and small fragments of clothing material. In the charcoal were found two metal cylinders or rings exactly corresponding with those on the arm bands worn by Doyle, and two bouquet pins, with glass beads for heads, exactly corresponding with pins worn by Dahlke on 30th March.

E.G. Heap, B.A. The Rangers Were the Best. The Kenniff Story. Queensland Heritage
The Spyhole
The most extraordinary feature of the Kenniff cave was a “spyhole”. A hole was cut a distance of some feet through rock, and by means of this hole the main road could be seen from the interior of the cave for about half a mile, so that no one could pass in the daytime without being recognized, while passers by would never suspect the presence of the cave and its occupants.
Moonlighting
In the eighteen nineties stock stealing was rife in the country north of the Roma and Charleville districts. This was known as cattle-duffing, gully raking or moon-lighting.

The first indication that the Kenniffs were involved in cattle stealing was at the trial of Thomas Stapleton in March 1895. It became known that he was abetted by the Kenniffs in stealing cattle belonging to James Tyson, who had the leases Meteor Downs, Bibbiloora, and Carnarvon Stations.

At about the turn of the century the Kenniffs gave up accepting station work and became surly and truculent. The two brothers took to carrying Winchesters, and also Colt revolvers, which they kept in holsters inside their shirts.

E.G. Heap, B.A. The Rangers Were the Best. The Kenniff Story. Queensland Heritage.
Heading for Yuelba
In December 1897, the Kenniffs stole forty horses in the Carnarvon area and set off towards Toowoomba. They kept to the high country and back tracks, and made for Yuelba to load the horses on a train. The Kenniffs came up with a clever diversion to lure the local police away from Yuelba. They held up a general store, stealing some of the merchandise, as well as cash and cheques from the safe. They then created a trail, leading out of town. Whilst the police were off following the false trail, the Kenniffs circled back into town and loaded the stolen horses on the train for Toowoomba.

By 1902 the Kenniffs were compulsive stock stealers.

E.G. Heap, B.A. The Rangers Were the Best. The Kenniff Story. Queensland Heritage.
Two Horses From Lansdowne Station
Life on the big cattle runs was where the Kenniffs could indulge their passion for good horseflesh. Here large mobs of brumbies roamed, and although some of these were of strangely mixed lineage, with draught-horse legs and race horse bodies or vice versa, many of them were cleanly bred; and a good brumby – inured as it was to the hard life in the ranges – could gallop all day. The station owners and managers in this area, too, liked big, tall racing stock; and Patrick and James were happy in their work.

Trouble, when it appeared, came slowly. The station people – owners, managers, and their employees – had taken the Kenniffs at their own valuation, as is usually their custom. At first it was the theft of some horses from Lansdowne Station, the brands having been disfigured, and the numerals on their necks cut with a knife. Charges, however, were not pressed by the Lansdowne manager owing to his high regard for James as a horse-breaker.

E.G. Heap, B.A. The Rangers Were the Best. The Kenniff Story. Queensland Heritage.
The Babbiloora Bulls
Babbiloora was one of the best cattle runs in the Charleville district, consisting of nice well grassed apple tree and silver leafed iron bark country….with double frontage on the Warrego River, in which water may always be obtained at a reasonable depth.

In 1863, Babbiloora was occupied by John Frazer and later in partnership with Charles and John Monkton Brown. Between 1876 and 1885 Kelman had managed to acquire the whole of the Babbiloora consolidation.

James Tyson the cattle millionaire, however, had begun in 1884 to acquire the whole of both the Carnarvon and Babbiloora consolidations from Kelman and others, and by the end of the following year had obtained Meteor Downs and Albinia Downs, the total area of his leases in this area being 1266 ½ square miles.

E.G. Heap, B.A. The Rangers Were the Best. The Kenniff Story. Queensland Heritage.
The Rush To Take Up A Run
When the new Queensland Government, following separation from New South Wales in 1859, embarked on a program of land legislation in the early 1860’s, a rush to take up runs in the Maranoa and Warrego districts set in. Would be squatters came westwards via the Darling Downs; northwards along the Balonne and Maranoa; south-westwards from Rockhampton along the valleys of the Nogoa and the Comet – and later also from Fort Bourke following in reverse Kennedy’s dry route along the Warrego.

Significant run seekers included Walker (explorer), Wiggins, Mackenzie, Louis Hope (pioneer sugar grower), A.C. Gregory (explorer and later first Surveyor-General), Christopher Rolleston (Crown Lands Commissioner for the Darling Downs; William Kelman, (became areas second largest pastoral holding), James Tyson (became largest pastoral land owner in area), Denison, John Frazer, W. B. Copeman, Charles and John Monkton Brown, William Kelman (who discovered the pass through the Great Dividing Range), Charles and Henry Tom, Charles and William Haly, Kent, Wienholt, Thelwall, Dixon, Ernest Henry, Sanderman, Robert Martin Collins, Fullerton, William Francis Kennedy, Wilson, E.C.Elliott, Lethbridge, M.P.Elliott, McLlwraith.

Significant stations at the time included; Mt Abundance, Meteor Downs, Albinia Downs, Babbiloora, Westerton, Carnarvon, Dooloogarah, Barngo, Woura, Walla Walleena, Westgrove, Mount Moffat, Mount Ogilvie, Marlong, Crystalbrook, Forest Vale, Merivale, Myrtleville, Killarney, Lansdowne.

E.G. Heap, B.A. The Rangers Werye the Best. The Kenniff Story. Queensland Heritage.
Young Allan Macpherson from Mt Abundance
In 1847 young Allan Macpherson, (pioneer squatter) guided by a sketch drawn for him by Sir Thomas Mitchell – who was a family friend left Keera Station on the Gwyder river, and with a superintendant and “upwards of 20 men”, several hundred cattle, and “eight to ten thousand sheep” was heading for “the promised land”. Reaching Mt Abundance – near the present day Roma – in October, while Kennedy was making his way down the Warrego, Macpherson claimed two huge stations – one having a frontage of thirty miles along the Cogoon, the other having one of twenty miles on Bungeworgorai Creek, the total area being in the vicinity of four hundred thousand acres.

Though he was utterly fearless, Macpherson did not ever gain an understanding of the ways of the Aborigines of Mt Abundance district; and this factor – together with the consequent killing of some of his stockmen and shepherds, the huge sheep losses, and the scarcity of labour – caused him to dispose of his interests in 1857 to Stephen Spencer, a neighbour of his father’s on the Gwydir River.

In 1848 Macpherson had ridden eastwards, and had found a route from Mt Abundance to the nearest inhabited run, and this work was completed by Spencer eleven years later, when he made a marked tree line to Wallumbilla Run, thus opening up a route from Brisbane via the Darling Downs.

E.G. Heap, B.A. The Rangers Were the Best. The Kenniff Story. Queensland Heritage.  
In Mitchells Footsteps
Kenniff country; the big cattle runs of the Upper Warrego and Upper Maranoa Rivers and the head waters of the rivers on the other side of the range was first explored during Sir Thomas Mitchell's 1845 – 46. Traveling via the Cogoon (ie. Muckadilla Creek) and Amby Creek, Mitchell crossed the Upper Maranoa, thence to the Belyando, and thence to the head of the Warrego. After exploring the Victoria River (ie. The Barcoo) for some distance, he returned home via the lower Maranoa. In November 1846, while Mitchell's party was returning towards the Balonne River crossing at St.George's Bridge, and before the summer rains and growth of new grass had had time to erase the tracks formed during its northern journey, Beckett and four other squatters, accompanied by Aboriginal guides, had traveled north along the explorers' tracks and had taken up country along their northern route.