Old Adaminaby Cemetery

A 30 Minute Interpretative Walk


Take this short walk through the old cemetery, for a brief social history of the Adaminaby district.

The Old Adaminaby cemetery is typical of cemeteries of early Australian country towns. In the 1800's, church burials were affordable only to the wealthy, with other folk buried close to home. Burial in an official cemetery was not required by law until 1936.

Cemetery Design

The layout of a Christian cemetery was established after the great plagues of Europe, when the number of bodies and burden of burials overwhelmed villages and churches. Municipal cemeteries began, with separate sections for the various religious denominations. This cemetery has Catholic, Methodist, Presbyterian and Church of England (now Anglican) sections.

A grid pattern of graves ensured orderly burials, using every second plot, until each plot eventually contained three bodies.

Christian cemeteries were aligned on an east-west axis, in the belief that the dead would greet the rising sun on Judgment Day. The central avenue of pines was planted in anticipation of this occasion.

In July 1863 the Church of England received a grant of land to establish a cemetery near Adaminaby. Later, other church denominations were granted adjoining sites.

The Tour

Far West

Our first stop in the walk is at the far west of the cemetery in the Anglican section, with a view to the lake.

James Holston (Grave 234)
Slightly above the central path lies the grave of James Holston. Jens Olsen (who changed his name to James Holston) arrived from Norway at age 19. He was an early settler in the Eucumbene valley in the late 1850's. With his Scottish wife he settled 'Braemar', near what is now the Eucumbene dam wall. He raised a large family and his descendants are still in the area. Like many migrants from Scotland and Scandinavia, Holston was attracted by the prospect of mineral wealth and the cooler climate reminiscent of the higher northern latitudes.

Alex McKeahnie (Grave 237), Charlie McKeahnie (Grave 239), Lachlan Cochran (Grave 238)
Below the central path are the graves of the Cochran and McKeahnie families, prominent in the district as horsemen and pastoralists. Alex McKeahnie was a celebrated sheep breeder. The brumby running feats of his son Charlie are reputed to be the inspiration of the legend for the Banjo Paterson poem, 'The Man from Snowy River'. Charlie was injured in a riding accident aged 27 and died at the Bredbo Hotel.

Descendants of the Cochrans still live in the beautiful Yaouk valley.

Walter James Rossiter (Grave 255)
James Rossiter was travelling hawker, selling supplies and hardware to remote settlements and miners. He later settled in Adaminaby as a shopkeeper, and was a prominent citizen until his death in 1921.

Anne and Kate Hyles (Grave 236)
Anne and Kate Hyles are the earliest recorded burials of children in the cemetery. Kate's birth was the first recorded in the district. The sisters died within days of each other, the cause 'infectious disease'.

Central Area

William and Flora Brayshaw (Grave 188), David Brayshaw (Grave 185)
William Brayshaw was a convict who arrived in Australia on the transport 'Henry Porcher', sentenced to 7 years transportation for stealing silver plate (after a previous conviction). William Brayshaw settled locally and the Brayshaw family are wellknown in the district. One of William and Flora's sons, David, lived at Brayshaw's Hut, which you can visit in Namadgi National Park.

George Mackay (Grave 154)
Mackay was a shoemaker. He left Donegal, Ireland for Sydney aboard the 'Lady McDonald' in the 1830's. Later he went to Kiandra to make boots and mine gold. Mackay moved on seeking gold in Castlemaine, Victoria, on the west coast of New Zealand, and at Charters Towers in Queensland.

Mackay finally returned to Kiandra and settled in Adaminaby. He selected 400 acres, which became the Mackay family holding of Mountain View estate.

Thomas Locker (Grave 182)
The Locker family is well known in the Adaminaby district. Thomas Locker arrived in Australia aboard the ship the 'Fairlie' in 1839. After working at Lanyon near Canberra, Locker was awarded the selection of 'Bolairo' in the early 1850's. He raised a large family and lived at 'Happy Valley' until his death in 1889. The Locker family have been prominent leaders in Adaminaby church, pastoral, and civic affairs.

Emily Osmond (Grave 202)
Women make up about half the inhabitants of the cemetery. Their pioneering spirit is part of folklore, but few of their stories are well documented. Mrs Emily Osmond was a businesswoman who held interests in hotels in Tumut and Kiandra, a brewery in Cooma and also a flour mill on the Murrumbidgee River. Mrs Osmond settled in Adaminaby and was very active in community service and historical causes throughout the Monaro. Emily was the granddaughter of Australian explorer Captain Charles Sturt.

Francis Henry Caffyn ( Grave 220)
At the same time as the Kiandra Gold discovery, copper was discovered at the Kyloe mine about 3 km south of Adaminaby. By 1910 the mine employed 110 men and boys, and Adaminaby was a thriving town. By April 1913, the payable ore had been worked out, the mine was closed and equipment was dismantled. The boiler was hauled to a local sawmill at Alpine Creek.

Today, evidence of mine can be seen in the relic tailings heap, visible as a darker rock pile on the ridge separating Collingwood Bay and Coppermine Bay at Lake Eucumbene. The mine proper was flooded when the lake filled. In the cemetery is a sad reminder of the dangerous occupation of those early miners. Mr Caffyn was a Welsh migrant who was crushed and killed in a mining accident.

Monaro Golden Daisy
Country cemeteries are widely recognised as refuges for natural remnant vegetation. The cemeteries have tracts of vacant land that has never been ploughed and has been protected from fire and grazing. These conditions have benefited the remnant plant populations, including the threatened Monaro Golden Daisy (Rutidosis leiolepis) in the Old Adaminaby cemetery (higher elevations, central area). Major threats to the species are from agriculture, grazing and recreation, especially the use of superphosphate fertilizer, use of fire, and trampling by stock. The population (including specimens in this cemetery) is now under a management plan to help secure survival of the species.

Eastern Entry

William Booshang (Grave 70), Mr Yen (Grave 77)
Some of the immigrants attracted to the Kiandra goldmining stayed on at Adaminaby and settled to become local farmers and shopkeepers. One such settler was William Booshang, who came to the goldfields aged 17 from China with his friend Charles Yen to mine at Kiandra. He later settled with a store and market garden in Adaminaby. Mr Booshang prospered and married, and became a identity in the business and local horse racing community.

Mr Yen also settled and remained in the Adaminaby area until his death in 1927, aged 67. His descendant Geoff Yen was well known for his long fight for better compensation after the town was relocated due to the Snowy Scheme.

Edward Chalker (Grave 53)
The township of Adaminaby was surveyed in 1861. It was first named Seymour. The first town blocks were sold to Joseph Chalker, proprietor of the store and licensee of 'The Travellers Rest' (and after that hotel burnt down, of 'The Rose Inn'). The town's name was changed later to Adaminaby, to avoid confusion with Seymour in Victoria.

Members of the Chalker family remained in the district. Joseph's son Edward Chalker was only 22 years old when he drowned.

James Delany (Grave 81)
A critical service to the newly emerging settlement was moving supplies: construction materials, tools, mail and government documents. In particular, the Adaminaby Post Office was central to the contact with Kiandra. James Delany owned 'Buckenderry Station'. His son (James Thomas) built Delany's Hut in 1910.

The Kiandra rush was short lived, but goldmining continued in the area until 1905, and people still lived at Kiandra until 1974. It was Australia's highest town until the coming of the Snowy Scheme. Mailman Tom Bolton would leave his horse at Delany's Hut and take the mail into Kiandra on skis when the weather was extreme.

The original hut was burnt down in the 2003 bushfires, but it has since been rebuilt. It is located in the Kosciuszko National Park, just off the Snowy Mountains Highway.

Joseph John O'Neill (Grave 40)
Military service has touched the Adaminaby cemetery, with a small complement of ex-servicemen buried here. Notable are members of the 55th Battalion or the NSW Rifle Regiment, who enlisted as regimental reinforcements and took the name the 'Men from Snowy River' as they embarked for the Great War from Sydney in 1916. Private Joseph O'Neill survived the war and died in Adaminaby in 1957, aged 83.

Message by Bottle Post from Snowy River Soldiers

The Snowy Scheme

Picturesque Lake Eucumbene, the central element of the Snowy Scheme, forms the background to this scenic cemetery.

The advent of the Snowy Scheme in the 1950s was initially seen as a mixed benefit for Adaminaby. It was hoped to bring water, electricity and much needed industry. In the original plan, the dam wall was to be located some 8 km from the town. In 1953, this site was abandoned when it became clear that a site 6 km downstream would yield a much greater volume of water storage, albeit at greater financial cost. The added cost was offset by a reduced tunnelling cost to Tumut.

But with the new site came the inundation of most of the land upon which Adaminaby was built. The town was 'moved' to its new location house by house... and for some of the churches, stone by stone.

The move began in 1956. A notable opponent was Geoff Yen, a descendant of early settler Charles Yen (Grave 77). He opposed the relocation and fought the compensation offer being paid by the Snowy Mountains Authority. He pursued legal action for the next 30 years, when he settled without compensation for his claim.

When the town of Jindabyne was moved to make way for the Snowy Scheme, its cemetery was also moved. Remains had to be disinterred, transported and reburied at a new cemetery site. However, the old Adaminaby cemetery was never disturbed. The site assigned a century and a half ago happened to be five metres above the high water level of Lake Eucumbene!

This cemetery has weathered the boom and bust of early mining, flooding of the town nearby, and social disruption caused by the town's relocation and the intrusion of a large lake between once-close neighbours.

Behind every tombstone here lies a story of lives replete with joy, sorrow, success and disappointment. This guide offers a small cross section of that story.

Quick Facts & Figures

The number of burials here doubled each decade until World War 2.

Average age at death gradually increased, from 36 years in the 1870's to 70 years in 1970. Early deaths were often through drowning, injury or accident. Later, deaths were increasingly caused by infectious disease and difficult childbirth, and factors related to age.

Sharing of a burial site was a very common practice in this cemetery. For a death of mother and infant at childbirth, for victims of infectious diseases, and for close knit families, burial together was considered appropriate. In this rocky earth and difficult terrain, sharing an existing grave was also more practical than excavating a new grave for each burial.

Since the town of Adaminaby moved and a new cemetery was established, burial at the old cemetery has only been available for people who have links to those already buried here.

More about the old Adaminaby cemetery