Edwin Erskine May joined the mounted police force in 1877 and was stationed at Dungog as a constable.2 The nearby town of Copeland, then known as Back Creek, was in the midst of ‘Gold Fever’ with 1000 miners on the field. With increasing crime Edwin was instructed to open the first Police Station at Gloucester in 1877. The building was a hut on the present site (2021) of the Avon Valley Inn at 82 Church Street, Gloucester.3
Edwin was involved with the Copeland Gold Escort which regularly transported gold from Copeland to Sydney.4 He remained in Gloucester until 1880 and was transferred to Maitland, Bulahdelah, Patterson, and Bellingen. In 1886 he was promoted to first class constable after proving on three separate occasions he was a most fearless officer, capturing three men wanted for murder.5
One of these cases was in 1885 when Edwin investigated the disappearance of Matts Matteson at Coffs Harbour. Through careful investigation he arrested Matteson’s friend Matthew Friske who had burned the body except for a leg which he threw into the bushes. When the leg was found and documented Edwin buried it. During the court case however the judge requested the leg to be exhumed. It was while doing this task that Edwin contracted blood poisoning in his left arm.6 This injury nearly killed him and in 1889 he was discharged from the service unable to work. Two years later Edwin rejoined the police force in the traffic department retiring in 1912.7
In 1929 Edwin revisited Gloucester and regaled the town with tales of his time there.8 Edwin died in 1935 aged 82.9
Author: Marilyn Boyd
1 Australian Police, https://www.australianpolice.com.au/edwin-erskine-may/
2 NSW State Archives, Edwin May, Police Service Registers 1852-1913.
3 Wingham Chronicle and Manning River Observer, 25 October 1929, 9; Gloucester Museum walking trail brochure.
4 Gloucester Advocate, 7 February 1928, 3.
5 Australian Police, https://www.australianpolice.com.au/edwin-erskine-may/
6 Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser, 18 August 1885, 3.
7 Northern Star, 19 July 1912, 7.
8 Wingham Chronicle and Manning River Observer, 25 October 1929, 9.
9 NSW BDM, Death index for Edwin E May No. 4253/1935.
10 Gloucester Advocate, 7 February 1928, 3.