On June 15th 1862 the gold escort from Forbes carrying a driver, the police escort of four and a large amount of gold, cash and other mail approached Escort Rock.
Frank Gardiner’s gang of bushrangers – Ben Hall among them – lay in wait behind large granite boulders after they had blocked the road with commandeered bullock wagons. This forced the coach to slow, as it passed between a gully a the rocky outcrop.
The gang fired on the coach as it passed, wounding two of the police. The frightened horses bolted and the coach overturned. The bushrangers ransacked the coach and made off with 2,719 ounces of gold and £3,700 in cash, packed on one of the coach horses (a multi-million dollar haul by today’s values).
Meanwhile, the coach driver John Fagan and the police made their way to nearby Eugowra homestead. The owner, Hanbury Clements, hurried to Forbes to alert the authorities.
A detachment of police and an Aboriginal tracker set off next morning and surprised the bushrangers at their Wheogo Hill hideout. After a long chase, Gardiner released an exhausted packhorse to avoid capture and a considerable amount of gold was recovered. More gold and notes were recovered when police apprehended gang member Harry Manns some time later, west of Forbes. The remainder of the haul has never been accounted for.
Eventually all the bushrangers were either arrested or killed. Hall, Gilbert and O’Meally were shot, Manns was hanged and the rest were gaoled for varying terms. Charters became a crown witness and was pardoned. After 10 years in gaol and because of a change in public opinion, Gardiner was released and exiled. He died in San Francisco in 1904.
Some contemporary newspaper accounts tracing out this story as it unfolded are included below.