Melbourne was a tough place to be in the early 1850’s. Daniel Blyth was married to Agnes Staley, her father being Jonathon Staley (born 1794). Daniel and Agnes were married in Whitburn, Scotland in 1838. They arrived in Port Phillip in October 1848.
Please check out the article from The Argus which details an awful incident at Agnes’ home in Brunswick, Vic in June 1852. Agnes was 35 years old when this incident took place.
Agnes’ sister, Margaret Staley was at the house too and was just eighteen years old. With their mother present as well, it must have been very frightening for all three ladies.
The Argus (Melbourne, Vic: 1848 – 1957) Tuesday 8 June 1852 p3
ATROCIOUS OUTRAGE –On Tuesday evening last, the house of Mr Blyth, at Brunswick, was entered for the purpose of plunder by two men, and some of the inhabitants threatened with violence. Mr Blyth was away, at the Diggings, and the household at the time of the attempted robbery consisted of Mrs Blyth (Agnes Staley) and her mother and sister only. At ten o’clock in the evening, Miss Margaret Staley, Mrs Blyth’s sister, as she was going to bed, heard a knock at the door, and inquired who was there. The reply was, “We’ve brought a message, for Mrs Blyth from the Diggings.” On hearing this, Mrs Blyth being first consulted, the door was opened when three men rushed in, a fourth remaining outside the door. These fellows then demanded to be shown to Mrs Blyth’s bedroom, which being refused, they bustled Miss Staley and her mother, first into the kitchen, and then into Mrs Blyth’s bedroom, when they presented pistols at their heads, and bid them not raise any alarm, or they would shoot them. Fortunately, on first hearing of the scuffle, Mrs Blyth had escaped from the house through her bedroom window, and alarmed a neighbour named Dodd who, with some others, came to the house with assistance, on which the villains made off with all speed. One of them, James Knight by name, has since been apprehended by Constable Locket, and being brought up before Captain Hudson, at the District Court yesterday, was fully identified by Miss Staley, as one of the men who presented the pistols. There was no more evidence ready, and the prisoner was remanded to Thursday next.
The Argus (Melbourne, Vic: 1848 – 1957) Thursday 17 June 1852 p4
James Knight was placed at the bar, charged with having, on the 5th day of the present month, entered the house of Daniel Blyth, of Pentridge, Melbourne, with the intention of taking various articles of value from the house of the said Blyth.
The prisoner pleaded Not Guilty.
From the evidence for the prosecution it appeared that the prisoner, in company with two other men, came to Mr Blyth’s house on the night of the 5th of this month, and demanded admission, on the excuse of bringing a message from her husband at Mount Alexander to Mrs Blyth. No sooner was the door opened than they rushed in, closed the front door, and presented pistols to the heads of the various females in the home and declared that if they did not keep quiet they would blow their brains out. On being questioned what they wanted, they declared that Mrs Blyth was the object of their search, and that when they found her they would show what they wanted with her. Mrs Blyth, however, contrived to escape from the place. The robbers thus defeated in their object proceeded to ransack the house, and finally retired through the window of Mrs Blyth’s bedroom. Mrs Staley, and her daughter, the mother and sister of Mrs Blyth, positively swore to the identity of the prisoner Knight, who in a cool and collected manner defended himself, cross-examining each of the witnesses in a very persistent manner, and commenting on the evidence in a way that showed no little acquaintance with legal tactics.
His Honour, in summing up, observed to the jury, that an entrance into a dwelling house was felonious intent, although no actual larceny had been committed, was still a burglarious entrance within the scope of the statute. If the jury were satisfied as to the intent of the prisoner in entering the house, they might then bring him in guilty of the charge made in the indictment; but if he had entered without any such intention he was guilty only of a trespass, and should be proceeded against otherwise than in a criminal suit. His Honour then briefly commented on the evidence, and left the case to the jury, who immediately brought in a verdict of Guilty.
Sentence – Hard labour on the public roads for the period of eight years, the first year in irons.