The Kenniff Tree is named after the brother bushrangers Patrick and James Kenniff (Pat and Jimmy). The old Coolibah tree was they tethered their horses when visiting Augathella, providing a shady spot for the horses and not too far from the Burenda Hotel. This let them do all of their business while in town, but the horses are close enough to make a quick getaway if there is any trouble.
Patrick and James Kenniff had brushes with the law from a young age. They fancied other people’s property, especially a good-looking horse. Pat received a 4 year gaol term and Jimmy received 3 years, after stealing two racehorses.
The Kenniffs took up a grazing lease north of Augathella with their father in 1897 after they were out of gaol. The lease was cancelled in 1899, with suspicions aroused when a neighbouring property calculated over 1,000 head of cattle had gone missing.
During 1898 and 1899, the Kenniffs were stealing horses and other livestock. In August 1898 they disguised themselves as Aborigines and robbed the Royal Hotel at Augathella. They were captured but benefited from the sympathy of local juries (in Charleville and Roma) who had little respect for wealthy landowners and perhaps admired the Kenniff’s courage and daring.
A warrant for the Kenniff brothers was taken out by police in 1902 for stealing a pony. Constable Doyle, the manager of Carnarvon Albert Dahlke, and Aboriginal tracker Sam Johnson spotted the brothers at a known campsite. They fled, but Jimmy Kenniff was captured. Johnson left to retrieve a packhorse left behind at the start of the chase, and when returned Doyle and Dahlke could not be found.
Constable Doyle’s horse was later found with its saddlebags containing 200 pounds of charcoaled human remains, and bullet marks in surrounding trees indicated a gun fight. The charcoal was assumed to be the remains of Constable Doyle and Dahlke, and a reward for £1,000 was offered for information leading to their arrest.
A manhunt chased the Kenniff brothers for three months, eventually found south of Mitchell near the Maranoa River. They gave up without a fight. Jimmy Kenniff served 16 years in gaol. Pat Kenniff was hung in Boggo Road Gaol in Brisbane in 1903.
There isn’t much to do at the tree, with no facilities near it, but the Meat Ant Park is close by and it has toilets, picnic tables and a playground.
To get there:
From the Landborough Hwy at Augathella, turn into Main St. Follow Main St for 1.4km, and turn left into Jane St. The Kenniff Tree is about 150m at Cavanagh St.
Wheelchair accessible: Yes