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THEN AND NOW No. 5

Extracts  from Australian colonial newspapers, with modern links

BUSHRANGER IN SAN FRANCISCO

More than 140 years ago Scots-born Frank Gardiner's gang of bushrangers (highwaymen, bandits) attacked a gold escort at Eugowra Rocks, 348 km (216 miles) west of Sydney, and carried out Australia's largest gold robbery. They wounded two troopers, and fled with 77 kg. (170 pounds) of gold and 3700 in cash. Gardiner, using an assumed name, was later discovered running a store in a small Queensland town. Sentenced to 32 years' hard labour, he was freed after serving eight years, on condition that he left the colony. He sailed to America, where he acquired a pub (saloon) in San Francisco's notorious Barbary Coast district.

THEN! From the  Western Independent, Bathurst (New South Wales), 1877.
A friend just back from America gives me a graphic description of the present appearance and occupation of the once notorious Francis Christie, alias Gardiner, the bushranger:

When in San Francisco, I asked about Gardiner. Accompanied by a policeman, I went one day, about 11 o'clock, to his whisky mill in -- Street,

It was a low, vile street in the worst part of 'Frisco, called "The Barbary Coast."

The house was a filthy-looking blackguard place, and all round on wooden forms were some ruffians, with heft of knife peeping out of their rags, but now powerless to use them, sleeping off the previous night's debauch.

Gardiner looked simply wretched: he was crippled with rheumatism, and not improved by drinking some of his own grog, the vile compound called whisky, old Bourbon.

He was running the place for another man, who traded upon his evil name, but he was after all only a child in villainy to the desperadoes who came to his place, so he had not even the poor consolation of being a leader among them.

Ruined in health and impoverished in pocket, none of his ill-gotten gains left, he said to my friend that he thought of sending a petition to the Government of New South Wales, to be allowed to return, if it was only to serve out his time.

California was killing him, and he would sooner be hanged in New South Wales than live there.

  • To read more about Frank Gardiner, click on BUSHRANGERS 

NOW! Read San Francisco Museum and Historical Society's Pathway to San Francisco's Past

Copyright 2003

Eric Shackle

Story first posted February 2003

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