Trove Tuesday - Murder of Ellen Sullivan

While reading the obituary of Mary Anne Sullivan Ryan, wife of John Ryan of Uralla, NSW, I read that her mother had been murdered when she was twelve.

Her lot in this her adopted country was marked by a very grim tragedy, for she had the extremely shocking experiences of a young mother cruelly murdered by the blacks. This tragedy occurred in the Aberfoyle district. Mrs Ryan was then only 12 years old, being the second eldest in a family of four sons and three daughters, the youngest a baby in arms.

For several years before the advent of Trove I had searched for documented evidence of the murder of Ellen Sullivan. She died before 1856 so I had difficulty deciding which Ellen Sullivan she was and without a specific year it was too overwhelming to search several years of The Armidale Express. However, once I knew about Trove this search was one of the first I performed. Although The Armidale Express is not on Trove (can't wait for this one) I knew the news would have been published further afield.

The news can be found in The Morton Bay Courier, The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser, The Sydney Morning Herald. 

The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser, 25 August, 1852

Unfortunately Ellen's death was not the only one at that time. The 2nd October edition of The Morton Bay Courier mentions 4 other murders in the New England - those of a Mr Meldrum and Mary Ann Mason (who was pregnant) and her 2 children.

Next Trove Tuesday - another murder in the family!


  1. Oh, such a sad story. Thanks for sharing. Regards, Catherine

  2. Trove does it again, but what a tragic story. I was reminded of one of the German immigrants, Mrs Klumpp, who suffered a similar fate. Little do Brisbaneites know of this tragedy and her family as they drive down Klumpp Rd.

  3. I know Klumpp Road. I'll think of her next time I'm in Brisbane.

  4. Ellen Sullivan is my great great great grandmother. I often wonder what is left out of the story when we focus on the hagiography around her and her daughter Mary. The line about her hatred of "the Blacks" is the first published piece of evidence I've seen as to the unspoken circumstances around this killing. Not to mention the rumoured reprisal killings in a local Indigenous camp passed down through the family only by word of mouth and now largely forgotten.

  5. Feel free to email me on the email link on this site.

  6. Thanks Sharon,

    I'll take you up on that.


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