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John Granville Grenfell (1826 - 1866)

John G Grenfell portraitGRENFELL, JOHN GRANVILLE (1826 – 1866), son of Admiral John Pascoe Grenfell of the Brazilian Navy. Before 1854 Grenfell went to Australia to take up an appointment with the New South Wales Colonial Service. He had a very distinguished career, firstly, in 1861 when he was based at Forbes, N.S.W., being appointed a Magistrate for the colony and holding the position of Sub Gold Commissioner for the Western gold district. In January 1862 he was appointed to be an officer for the purpose of determining the extent and position of claims, under the new law relating to goldfields. In December 1864 he was appointed Commissioner for Crown lands for the Warrego district and two years later in October 1866, Commissioner for Crown lands for the Gwyder district. Some years earlier gold had been discovered at Emu Creek which had received a great deal of press publicity.

On December 7th 1866 Grenfell was travelling from Bourke to Dubbo when two masked bushrangers tried to hold up the coach. At the time Grenfell was holding the reins and refused their demands. He drew his pistol and fired at the outlaws, who returned his fire and badly wounded Grenfell in the thigh. Although doctors treated him as soon as help could be obtained, he died twenty four hours after being shot. He was buried at the Church of England Cemetery, Dubbo, where a large headstone is still standing which carries the inscription:


A reward of $400 was offered for the arrest and conviction of the armed men but they were never caught. A public testimonial meeting at the Sydney Stock Exchange, chaired by the Governor, Sir John Young and attended by nearly every notable in the Colony, a few days after his death, quickly raised $350 and much more was to be forthcoming.

In 1861 Grenfell married Miss Susan Ellard and at the time of his death had two young daughters.

The township at Emu Creek was subsequently re-named Grenfell to recognise his heroic act. In 1875 in belated recognition of his bravery the New South Wales government sent a gold medal to his widow who at the time was living in the Isle of Man.

This information was provided by the Grenfell Historical Society Inc, as was the drawing of John Granville Grenfell which remains their copyright.

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