Historical Beechworth Cemetery

I always try to visit local cemeteries as they are great places to find interesting facts about the past of a particular town or a country. So this time I managed to sneak from my group of fellow bushwalkers to visit Beechworth cemetery. It was established in 1856, when huge number of people flocked to the Goldfields. There are many historical graves of Beechworth pioneers, miners and officials.

An old beautiful fountain is right next to the main gates.


The most fascinating place in this cemetery is the Chinese section and the Burning  Towers. Goldfields in this part of Victoria attracted large number of Chinese miners, who along with people from Europe and Britain, came to try their luck with a shovel and gold pan. The newcomers formed a large community in the town, and established Chinatown with shops and a temple. The Burning Towers were built in 1957 and were used to burn paper money and prayers for their deceased.


The last Chinese person buried at this cemetery was 105 years old. He was known for his medicinal  skills and use of herbal remedies. He lived in this area for over 70 years. Interestingly, the Chinese put a stone with name on the leg side of the deceased when buried (because they believe that the weight of stone can hurt the dead person), while Christians put the tomb above the head.

A strange thing happened to me when I was passing this section twice. Both times I felt a gust of cold air coming from that side, birds were flying and screeching above my head and I had goosebumps all over my body. I visit cemeteries all the time, I am not spiritual or superstitious person, but I felt very uneasy there.


This is the grave of Benjamin Jones, who was committed to the local asylum where he died in 1889, being 58 years old. The tomb was erected by a different family as he didn’t have any relatives.


This is the grave of American Civil War veteran James Riley, whose original name was Oliver Atwood. James/Oliver was wounded in 1864 at battle and almost lost his leg. After recovery, he decided to try his luck with gold and came to Australia. Here he got married, had a few kids and later died of acute alcoholism in a district hospital.


The Kennedy family lost 3 kids in a span of 6 months. I like the tombstone.


This is a kids section of the cemetery.


This is a very famous grave of the Gammon Children. The grave is surrounded by thick hedge covered with ivy. Inside there is a statue of a sleeping baby and the names of the children who passed away.


This family had 8 kids in 10 years and 7 of them died from diarrhea and atrophy. These diseases are easy treatable now, but not in the 19th century. It is even hard to imagine the tragedy of this family, who lost 7 children.


The next grave belongs to a miner James Wilson, who was born in Ireland and died aged 43. His 3 kids died in infancy.


John Drummond was born in Scotland in 1791. At the age of 15, he joined the army in Glasgow, lying about his age. He took part in the Waterloo battle against Napoleon. He was dismissed from the army on the basis of ” being worn out through length of service”. John gave up his pension for the widows and children of the Crimean war soldiers. In his obituary in local newspaper, it was said “a man cannot give more than all he possessed”.


Roberta Isaacs was the sister to the first Governor General of Australia. Since the family was Jewish, the dates of birth and death are written as per Jewish and Christian calendars.


This area is known as Pioneer Graves. There is a story behind it. This cemetery was opened in 1856, but there was another one before, right in the middle of the town. The local authorities decided to exhume the bodies and transfer them to the new place. A total of 64 bodies were re-buried in 1857. While doing that the authority found one empty coffin of a baby, one body without any coffin and two bodies placed between two sheets of bark.


“Shot By Bushrangers”. How is that for a memorial? John Watt was the landlord of the Wooragee Hotel in Beechworth. One night, two armed Bushrangers broke into the Post Office, stole some money and held up the hotel too. There they shot two people. John Watt was wounded and died 9 days later.


James Ingram arrived to Australia from Scotland as a young man of 27 years. Three years later he moved to the goldfields. I am not sure how successful he was in gold mining, but he was best remembered for his involvement in the community. James instigated the District Hospital, was a founder of Benevolent Asylum, and was also the secretary of the cemetery trust. He died at 99. James was known as Grand Old Man among locals.


At 22 years of age, James Storey enrolled in the American Army and fought against American Indians in the Wild West. Between 1846 and 1848, he served in the cavalry in the Mexican War. As the story goes, his horse was shot from beneath him. After discharge from Army, he worked on Californian mines, and later came to Australia, specifically the Beechworth diggings. He married Eliza Hodgens – a convict from England, who was transported for theft. They are buried next to each other.


Strangers- this is it. Only a couple of graves survived until now. Strangers are strangers. No relatives, nobody cares.


The whole Thomas family is under this obelisk. One for all.


This tomb was funded by a friend or a stranger.


This is a very unusual tombstone. This is so old and rusted. I couldn’t read a single word.


Obviously, there is no relatives left to this person. So sad to see the graves, which are totally abandoned.


Very simple. MAY. R.I.P.


Not even any traces of the grave. Just a simple cross.


Relatives of these people could not even afford a proper headstone. So they made it themselves.


There is a new section in this cemetery, which is allows to place cremation urns with ashes in a Columbarium.


I am always amazed when I see the modern graves decorated with small trinkets, sculptures and other things. I thought it was a child’s grave, but I was wrong. They are adults.


And another one. And many more like this.


This particular grave got my attention because of the “mixed” name. Nikolai Filippow – typical Russian name. It’s even spelt like they did in the past, which corresponds with the era (now it would be FilippoV). His wife Apolinaria could be Russian too, as this name is shared by Greeks and Russian. But that Von Guldenstubbe is very confusing as it is of German or Dutch origin. I tried to find some information regarding this man, but could not dig up anything except the reference to this cemetery.


The tour of the cemetery is over. But I would like to share some photos of the old wrought iron fences around the graves. I was fascinated how many different designs I found in one graveyard. It was getting dark and spooky, but I still quickly ran around and took some pictures. Here they are!











The end!




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