Every time we lock him up he breaks right out again.
Cause in he goes, and out he goes, and off again he'll go,
There's not a gaol in WA can keep in 'Moondyne Joe'."
Joseph Bolitho Johns, 1884
Joseph Bolitho Johns was born 1826 and christened 19 February 1826 in Wendron Cornwall, his parents were Thomas Johns and Mary Bolitho. Joseph's father died 1833 and Joseph is recorded in the 1841 census with his siblings and his mother Mary.
Joseph Bolitho Johns 1841 Census
By 1848 Joseph had moved to Wales working as an iron ore miner, on 15 November 1848, Joseph and William Cross, real name John Williams were arrested near Chepstow for stealing from the house of Richard Price Esquire, of Pentwyn Clydach, three loaves of bread, 2 pieces of bacon, part of a shoulder of mutton and a piece of suet. Arraigned at the Brecon Assizes on charges of burglary and stealing, the pair pleaded not guilty. On 23 March 1849 they were tried at the Lent Assizes before Sir William Erle and both were convicted and sentenced to ten years penal servitude. Joseph would have spent the next seven months working on a government work party in the local area, before being transferred to Millbank Prison. On 1 January 1850 he was transferred to HM Prison Pentonville to serve a mandatory six months of solitary confinement. Joseph was transferred to HM Prison Dartmoor on 21 October 1851, but shortly afterwards he was transferred to Woolwich prison Hulk, Justitia for discipline reasons and later transferred to Woolwich prison Hulk, Defence.
Joseph boarded the Transport "Pyrenees" which left Torbay, England on February 2, 1853 bound for the Swan River Colony in West Australia and arrived in Fremantle on April 30, 1853, on arrival Joseph was granted a Ticket of Leave and on 10 March 1855 he received a conditional pardon. Living in the Toodyay District in a gorge on the Avon River known as Moondyne Springs, he worked as a fencer and also rounded up straying cattle and horses for the reward, the instances of wandering livestock seemed to increase after he arrived in the area.
Trial for horse stealing and escape, 2 October 1861
On the 2 October 1861, Joseph appeared in court for branding with his own mark an unbranded horse, he was also charged with escaping from the Toodyay goal and it is also alleged that that he re-stole the horse and the saddle and bridle that belonged to the resident Police Magistrate. When Joseph was sentenced no mention was made of the horse concerned, Joseph was only convicted of jail breaking and received a 3 year goal sentence. Serving his sentence at Fremantle he received some remission of sentence and by August 1864 he was issued a certificate of freedom, then he returned to the Toodyay district.
It was not long before Joseph was again in trouble, on the 5 July 1865 he faced the Supreme Court for "killing an ox with felonious intent", the property of William Wallace. Joseph was sentenced to 10 years goal and he was to deny he committed this crime for the rest of his life. At first serving his time at Freemantle goal he was transferred to Canning Flat were in November 1865 he escaped but was to be caught one month later and now had the nickname "Moondyne Joe". Receiving another 12 months added to his sentence, he was transferred back to Freemantle goal, he petitioned for a remmittance of sentence and received 4 years off his original sentence but he tried to escape in July 1866 but was caught and received a further 6 month in chains. On the 6 August 1866 he escaped again this time successfully.
The Perth Gazette and West Australian Times, 10 August 1866
↑ This record has the father listed as Joseph and is mis-transcribed or written. Some of Joseph Bolitho's Johns siblings also have the middle name of Bolitho but with the correct fathers name of Thomas, and are contained in the IGI Batch C05329-1