Old Adaminaby Cemetery
A Visitors Guide
A cemetery is a window into and an anchor for the local history of an area. This cemetery guide provides the visitor with a snapshot of the history of Adaminaby, as referenced through its interments and headstones.
This cemetery is particularly important as a remnant of the past and an opportunity for reconciliation of the new and old towns.
Death & Burial
In the first 100 years of European settlement in Australia, death and burial were common occurrences. Burials were usually managed within a family or by work colleagues with 'matter of fact' efficiency. Cemeteries were few, ministers or religious leaders far away, and the cost of a full Christian burial was a sizeable portion of the average wage.
Most burials would have been conducted close to the death site, in private, and with minimal ceremony, because of cost, convenience and necessity. Private burial grounds are known to exist at Boconnoc (Mould family), Hemsby & Frying Pan (Mackay family), Eucumbene (Harnett family) and at Yaouk (Cochran family).
Death came swiftly and early to many people and burial was common currency.
Burial in a cemetery was often a statement of religious commitment, available only to the well-off, and requiring some sacrifice for the bereaved and mourners.
Free or common graves were available to the poor, at substantially reduced cost. The common grave was intended for multiple uses. The practice of the day was to dig graves to a depth of 10 feet (3.3m). Burials would rotate through the available land, using every second plot, until all plots had been used three times. These burial guidelines were set out by the Church of England Trustees and they applied throughout the colony of NSW. However, bedrock and hard digging necessitated a pragmatic approach to burial, and the prescribed order was not always possible.
In rural towns and communities, parishes of the Christian churches were entitled to apply to the state government for a grant of an acre of land to be consecrated as a cemetery for Christian burial. The Queanbeyan Diocese of the Church of England applied for a cemetery land grant for Adaminaby in 1860. On 16 July 1863, it was granted an acre of land on a hilltop some 2 miles (2.2km) southeast of the main town – deemed far enough away to prevent any spread of infectious disease, but within a reasonable walk for a funeral cortege.
Other churches (Catholic, Presbyterian and Methodist) were allocated land nearby soon after, and the plots were administered by the local ministers. Indeed, the conduct of funerals represented a substantial portion of the income derived by the local parish priest.
After the Public Cemeteries Act of 1936, it became compulsory to bury the dead in the gazetted cemetery. Burial records were maintained by the parish. How well these records were kept depended on local conditions: the churches,their facilities and the cemetery trustees.
In 1969, administration of NSW cemeteries passed to local councils. Cemetery records such as plans and burial registers were transferred then. As in many areas of NSW, some important burial and
historical records for the old Adaminaby cemetery have been lost over the years. All existing records are managed by the Snowy River Shire.
Cemeteries & the Environment
Country cemeteries are widely recognised as refuges for natural remnant vegetation. Country cemeteries are exceptional in having tracts of vacant land that has never been ploughed and has been protected from fire and grazing. These conditions have benefitted the remnant plant populations including the threatened Monaro Golden Daisy (Rutidosis leiolepis) in the Old Adaminaby cemetery.
Monaro Daisy is a tufted perennial herb, with a cluster of leaves at the base and yellow flowers on top of a 30cm woody stem. Remnant populations are located in only 21 locations across the Monaro, totalling 17ha in all. Most populations of the daisy are located above 1200m in the Kosciuszko National Park, and in a few sites above 860m in lowland areas. 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 secure the survival of the species.
Christian burial rites require a prescribed manner for the layout of cemeteries. Graves are oriented east/west so that the deceased and headstone is facing east to welcome the 'day of judgment'. An exception is for clergy who are buried facing west, in readiness to lead the faithful to heaven on judgment day. A further exception is for graves of servicemen. Military graves are often laid in a north/ south orientation, to signify that they had died in service to their country.
Each religious denomination had an orderly plan for single graves, double graves, and sometimes crypts. Families were able to reserve and pre-purchase graves for their later use. The Catholic faith practises a more elaborate segregation of its burial grounds to separate areas of consecrated ground for believers, clergy, and those in a 'state of grace', another section for common or free graves and a further section for persons 'not in a state of grace' (including non-believers, unrepentant criminals, unwed mothers, divorcees and bankrupts).
Recording the Plot
Headstones could be erected on approval by local government. Permission to erect a headstone is often the only record of early burials. At a local level, records of those buried in common graves and without an approved headstone are largely lost. State records of births, deaths, and marriages usually provide the location of the cemetery of burial, but not the details to locate a plot or grave record.
Multiple burials in a single grave have always been commonplace; a practice to keep loved ones close-by and to consolidate family and kinship ties. Children suffering an early death were often buried with their mother, and couples and sometimes generations of a family often shared the same grave.
The cemetery is still in use to the present, but many favour the new site at Adaminaby. The difficulties of shallow bedrock and hard digging are as relevant today as a century ago.
The Graves & Local History
Adaminaby was first settled in the 1830's by squatters as cattle runs. In 1848 an application was made for 16,640 acres 'The Adumindumee run' by John Cosgrove and stepbrothers Charles and Henry York. Other selectors and settler families soon followed; notably the Herberts, Reynolds, Mackays, Delaney, McPhies and Haslingdens. Families Shanley, Locker, Russell, Delaney and Harnetts were also early settlers. Pioneer families to have settled in the adjacent rugged mountains to the north of Adaminaby, were the Crawfords, the Brayshaws and the Cochrans of Yaouk.
William Brayshaw (Grave 188) was a convict who arrived in Australia on the transport Henry Porcher, having been sentenced to 7 years transportation for stealing a silver plate (after a previous conviction). William Brayshaw settled and the family remain a prominent family in the district today.
George Mackay (Grave 154) left Donegal, Ireland for Sydney aboard the Lady McDonald in the 1830's. A shoemaker, he went to Kiandra to make boots and mine gold. Mackay left Kiandra to mine gold in Castlemaine, Victoria, on the west coast of New Zealand, and later at Charters Towers in Queensland. Mackay then returned to Kiandra and settled in Adaminaby and selected 400 acres, which later become the Mackay family holding of 'Mountain View Estate'.
The Locker family is prominent in the Adaminaby district. Thomas Locker (Grave 182) 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.
Large families were common and local intermarriage resulted in a clan population base that has been sustained to the present. George Mould, an early storekeeper, established a selection at Eucumbene in 1853 and his homestead 'Bononnoc' in 1866.
Adaminaby attracted pastoral settlers because land on the eastern side of the Eucumbene River was an open, undulating plain, and the western side was rugged and strewn with rocky outcrops. The lower eastern pastures were used for winter grazing and stock were taken to the high country for summer grazing on 'snow leases', i.e. short term grazing leases available between December 1 and May 31. Stock movements to snow leases and competition to secure the best pastures were defining features of the local rural economy.
In addition to cattle grazing, the stockmen who were familiar with the high country and snow lease areas were known to capture brumbies (usually foals) to supplement their income and control the wild horse population. Brumby running parties were organised by the groups of stockmen. The group located about Yaouk referred to themselves as 'The Men from Snowy River' and were under the leadership of prominent pastoralist Alex McKeahnie (Grave 237).
The son of Alex, Charlie McKeahnie (Grave 239) was known to have chased a well bred brumby, descended from a runaway mare. The chase occurred between Yaouk and the headwaters of the Snowy River. Charlie was 17 years old at the time. The chase was documented by poet Barcroft Boake in On the Range. According to the poem, the horse was killed in a collision with a rocky outcrop.
Banjo Paterson is thought to have learned the tale in Sydney from Mrs Jim Hassall, a family friend, and adapted the tale for his epic ballad The Man from Snowy River. Charlie McKeahnie died in 1895, aged 27, as a result of a riding accident.
A prominent family in Yaouk were the descendents of Lachlan Cochran (Grave 238), who came to the Monaro in 1856 and settled in Yaouk in 1862. Donald Cochran was a noted horseman and swimmer and is reported to have travelled in 1856 with the first mob of sheep from the Monaro to market in Melbourne.
Growth of Seymour/Adaminaby
The township of Adaminaby was surveyed in 1861 (then named Seymour) and the first blocks sold to Joseph Chalker (father of Edward Chalker, Grave 53). Joseph was the proprietor of 'The Travellers Rest', an early hotel, and later 'The Rose Inn' and store. A post office was established in 1860, and 2 stores in 1861 and 1862. With the Kiandra gold rush in 1859, Seymour prospered and by 1877 had a population of 400 residents, 3 hotels and 2 stores.
The first church service was held by Reverend R H Mayne in Kiandra and Adaminaby in 1860. The foundation stone was laid for the Church of England church on 12th November 1862. The Church of St John the Evangelist was opened on 14th June in 1863 and was constructed from materials reused from a disused hotel at Providence after the gold rush.
As the township was being established, much of the commerce was conducted by travelling hawkers who visited mines and pastoral holdings with a well stocked wagon of goods for sale. Walter James Rossiter (Grave 255) was a hawker who travelled the Monaro and High country with a wagon and 5 horses. A notable incident in the hawker's life was an encounter (likely 1864) with bushrangers Ben Hall and John Gilbert who demanded only tobacco and pipes, despite the presence of goods valued at more than 500 pounds. Mr Rossiter settled to operate a store in Adaminaby and played a prominent role in local civic life until he died in 1921.
Immigrants from the British Isles, and especially Scotland, were attracted to the area for mining. Second and subsequent sons of English gentry came to seek their fortune and the prospect of wealth in the goldfields - using doctoring, chemist or business skills to advance their claims. Many such immigrants met with some success and stayed on to become squatters and apply for land holdings in the new colony.
Others were attracted from Scandinavia by the prospect of mineral wealth and a cooler climate reminiscent of the higher northern latitudes. Jens Olsen (who changed his name to James Holston (Grave 234)) arrived from Norway at age 19 and 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 with descendants remaining in the area.
Mining - Kiandra & Kyloe
The influence of mining, particularly at Kiandra, was central to development of Adaminaby as a service centre. Governor Fitzroy dispatched Reverend W B Clarke MA, a noted geologist, in 1851 to survey the mineral deposits of the Snowy region. After these investigations, gold was discovered in Kiandra in 1859. By 1863 the gold rush was over.
At the same time as the Kiandra discovery, copper was discovered at the Kyloe mine about 3 km south of Adaminaby. A shaft was sunk in 1872, but little ore was extracted until 1901 when 30 tons of copper was extracted. In the next 3 years some 500 tons of ore was smelted. By 1910 the mine employed 110 men and boys, and Adaminaby was a thriving town. In 1910 a 23 ton boiler was transported from Sydney by a team of 76 bullocks, taking six weeks to complete the 50km from Cooma to Adaminaby. In 1911 a school with 30 children was established in the town. By April 1913, the payable ore had been worked out and the mine closed, and equipment dismantled. The boiler was hauled to a local sawmill at Alpine Creek.
Today's remaining evidence of the mine is the name of Coppermine Bay in Lake Eucumbene, and the relic of the tailings heap visible as a darker rock pile on the ridge separating Collingwood Bay and Coppermine Bay. In the cemetery, the grave of Mr Francis Henry Caffyn (Grave 220), a Welsh miner crushed and killed in an industrial accident, is a sad reminder of the dangerous occupation. The funeral of Mr Caffyn (buried June 18th 1910), aged 29, was attended by all employees of the mine.
The supply of construction materials, tools, mail, and government documents was a critical service to the newly emerging settlement of 'Seymour' and to Kiandra. In particular, a post office would be central to the contact with Kiandra.
James Delany (Grave 81) helped to persuade the Postmaster General to establish the post office. The Kiandra gold rush was short lived and by
1890 the economic impact of gold was in decline. However, the township at Kiandra remained.
Around 1910 James Delany's son (James Thomas Delany) built Delany's Hut. When the weather was extreme, 1920s mailman Tom Bolton would leave his horse at this hut and take the mail into Kiandra on skis.
A number of the immigrants, attracted to Kiandra by mining, stayed on at Adaminaby and settled to become local farmers and shopkeepers. One such settler was William Booshang (Grave70), 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 an identity in the business and local horse racing community. Mr Yen also settled in the Adaminaby area.
Women make up about half of the inhabitants of the cemetery but their story is not well documented. The pioneering spirit of many is part of folklore, but few records were kept. Mrs Emily Osmond (Grave 202) is one individual who held interests in hotels in Tumut and Kiandra, a brewery in Cooma and also a flour mill on the Murrumbidgee. 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.
Causes of Death
In the Australian bush, illness and accidents were constant companions. Roads were rudimentary and stream crossings little more than unmade fords. Deaths arising from travel and transport were very common, especially with heavy, poorly secured loads. Drowning was also common for adults and children, as few could swim in the cold fast-flowing waters.
The most feared occurrence was an epidemic of a contagious disease. The Monaro area suffered from the national epidemics of influenza, smallpox and cholera, as well as local endemic illnesses of typhoid, diphtheria and whooping cough. Perhaps the most feared was the bacterial illness 'scarlet fever' which mostly affected children and, if not fatal, often left the affected patient with a severe disability.
The following is a profile of contagious illnesses recorded in the district:
- 1834, 1860, and 1867 – measles outbreaks
- 1858 – diphtheria in Cooma
- 1880 – tuberculosis endemic in mining communities including Adaminaby
- 1919 – Spanish influenza - 12,000 died in Australia
- 1937 – poliomyelitis throughout Australia
Childbirth was a particularly dangerous time for mother and infant. Poverty led to poor maternal health and nutrition. Prenatal care throughout pregnancy was unknown. Some 15 cases of infant mortality are recorded in the cemetery. Cemetery burial for such deaths was rare, as many families preferred to keep the graves of infants close to the home.
The earliest recorded deaths of children in the cemetery are Anne and Kate Hyles (Grave 236) buried 1868, children of Richard and Amelia Hyles, who were immigrants from England on the ship Petrel in 1849. Kate and Anne died on 11th April 1868 and 9th April 1868, likely of a contagious infection. Kate was the first child born in the township of Adaminaby (then still called Seymour).
Military service has touched the Adaminaby cemetery, with a small complement of ex-servicemen buried in the cemetery. Notably are members of the 55 Battalion, or the NSW Rifle Regiment, who enlisted as regimental reinforcements. They took the name the 'Men from Snowy River' as they embarked for the war from Sydney in 1916.
The following extract from the Queanbeyan Age and Queanbeyan Observer 31st October 1916 illustrates the mindset of the newly enlisted men going to war.
The following letter, written by a number of "The Men from Snowy River," was picked up in a bottle on the beach near Cape Schanks, by Misses R. Russell and E. Cairns. It was addressed to the editor of the "Adaminaby Advocate":- "Going through Melbourne Heads.
We are just writing you a note, if ever you get it, to say we had a good time all the way from Sydney. All on board being fairly well to-day, but some of the Snowies are a bit sea-sick, as it was a bit rough. We had a few hours' leave in Melbourne, and had a good look around. The following send their name; and wish to be remembered to friends in their town of Adaminaby: S. H. Turner, E. Power, F. J. Ree, Alf Tozer, G. Mansfield. J. Turner, A. Goodman, J. J. O'Neill. E. C. W. Venables, L. Freebody."
Of the signatories, Private Simon Turner was killed in action at Doignies in 1917, Private Alf Tozer was killed in action at Ypres, France in 1918, and Private Lionel Freebody was awarded the Military Medal on March 2, 1918. WW1 Private Joseph John O'Neill (Grave 40) survived in WW1 and died in Adaminaby in 1957 aged 83. Private Ernest Venables also survived WW1, and died in new Adaminaby and is buried in new Adaminaby cemetery (Grave 23).
After the Great War
Post WW1 and the Depression, 1929-1935, was a time of relative pastoral prosperity for Adaminaby. Beef and sheep industries were able to withstand the financial crash with low capital needs and a high level of self sufficiency. But rural wealth was not reflected in urban development. The town was unable to attract investment in a local electricity supply or the provision of a water supply. This lack of essential services and utilities constrained the ability of the town to attract industry and jobs, and created a weak foundation for progress. Meanwhile, Cooma prospered with a railhead to Sydney in 1889, grid power supply in 1923 and town water in 1911. Cooma developed as a regional centre and service hub.
The Snowy Mountains Scheme
The advent of the Snowy Mountains Scheme was initially seen as a mixed benefit for the town. It was hoped that it would bring water and electricity and much needed industry. In the original plan, the dam wall was to be located some 8km from the town, 1km below what is now known as Grace Lee Island. In June 1953, Walkabout Magazine reported that Eucumbene Dam was going to be near Adaminaby and that the town would have the advantage of being near a large and attractive lake. A major construction road was built to the site, and a construction camp had been established in 1949.
In 1953 this site was abandoned. It became clear that a site 6km downstream would yield a much greater volume, albeit at greater financial cost, but offset by a reduced tunnelling cost to Tumut. With the new site came the inundation of all but a few residences in Adaminaby. The relocation of the dam wall to the new site was deemed in the national interest by the Commonwealth, and it was decided to halt construction and transfer the town to a new site.
There was little community input to consultations from the people of Adaminaby. The new site for Adaminaby was proposed at the junction of the newly realigned Snowy Mountains Highway and Bobeyan Road. The site was endorsed in a local vote by referendum, but with little real choice and to the dissatisfaction of the wider community.
A Town Moves
The move began in 1956 with the first house relocated. A notable opponent was Geoff Yen, a descendant of early settler Charles Yen, who opposed the relocation and fought the compensation offer being paid by the Authority. He pursued legal action for the next 30 years, when he settled without compensation for his claim.
The site assigned to this cemetery a century and a half ago was 5 metres above the high water level of what is now Lake Eucumbene. That the cemetery has survived the boom and bust of early mining and the social disruption caused by the relocation of the town, is a metaphor of the resilience of the local community. The cemetery is now both an important remnant of the past, and an opportunity for reconciliation of the old and new towns.
Index of graves referenced in the text (Ascending order, by grave number)
Joseph John O'Neill
Acknowledgements: This page has been prepared from the guide published by The Anglers Reach and Old Adaminaby Preservation and Progress Association. That guide drew on reference material from many library sources, including the Monaro Pioneers website, and from obituaries from various editions of the Adaminaby Advocate. Thanks are extended to the Snowy River Shire for cemetery records, to the Lake Eucumbene Chamber of Commerce for their encouragement and support for this project, and to the people of Anglers Reach, Old Adaminaby, and Adaminaby townships for their commitment to preserving this important piece of history.
Photographs of gravestones are provided by Bob Lawton and Julia Mulligan.