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The Skipton Cemetery

 

was gazetted on the 29th August 1861, following an Order in Council of the 12th August 1861, comprising the whole of the block of eight acres that it does now...

 Gazette 132, Date: Thursday, August 29th 1861 Page: 1657

SKIPTON—SITE FOR A GENERAL CEMETERY, IN THE PARISH OF SKIPTON AND COUNTY OF RIPON (pursuant to Order in Council of 12th August, 1861) Eight acres: Commencing at the north-east angle of proposed reserve, bearing S. 45° W. one chain forty-one links from the south-west angle of allotment 21, section 1; bounded on the north by a road bearing west eight chains; thence on the west by a line bearing south ten chains; thence on the south by a line bearing east eight chains; thence on the east by a road bearing north ten chains to the point of commencement.—(61.D.4141.)

J. H. BROOKE.

Lands and Survey Office, Melbourne.

 The reference point, allotment 21, is the site of the original Presbyterian church – on the corner of Andrew and Currie streets, to the north-east of the cemetery, next door to Skipton’s famous original show-grounds, and, further north, the pound, which was relocated in 1860 from the north end of Anderson Street.

 

Some burials prior to gazettal....

 A start date of 1861 is all very well, but, there is an anomaly or two. There is an impressive monument erected, presumably over the grave of the fellow concerned, dated for the 6th January 1858 for the Rev Thomas McAnlis, of but 28 years, who died as a result of horrific injuries sustained after being dragged by his horses...

 

 The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957) Wed 13 Jan 1858 Page 6

(FROM OUR OWN CORRESPONDENT.)

Tuesday, 12th January, 1858.

News reached town yesterday of a sad and fatal accident having occurred at Skipton.

The Rev. Mr. McAulis, free Presbyterian minister stationed at Skipton, it appears had been leading two horses, either having a tether rope attached to its neck, and the coil of which was carried in hand by the reverend gentleman. Something suddenly caused the horses to start, and before Mr. McAulis could check the animals they had got into a gallop, the consequence of which was that the coils of one or both ropes becoming entangled about his body, he was thrown down and dragged for nearly a mile; the clothes, skin, and in some places the flesh, being torn from his body, and he being otherwise so much bruised that he expired on the following day, Wednesday last. The reverend gentleman who was much respected retained his senses to the last.

https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/7144982

 Also, there is a memorial for Thomas Thomson, who died on the 29th September 1858 at Langi Willi. Only 28 years as well, but nothing found in Trove – the Registrar General looks to have him recorded as Thomas Thompson.

 And the year before, David Mackenzie, who died on the 17 November 1857, a local storekeeper and registrar...

 The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 - 1954) Tue 1 Dec 1857 Page 4 Family Notices

DIED.

At Skipton, Mount Emu Creek, on the 17th of November, 1857, greatly respected by all who knew him, Mr David Mackenzie, storekeeper, formerly of Tain, Rosshire, aged 36.

https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/154835205

 There is an impressive early 1850’s monument for the McNab brothers, Robert and William, of Curnong station. Bit of a Furphy though, if one peeks around the corner of it you’ll find that they didn’t arrive at Skipton cemetery until 1883 !

 

 The western portion of the township was surveyed by Mr R D Scott for the Surveyor-General. On his published drawing of 20th March 1856 he indicates...

 “2 additional blocks of town lands, including 20 half acre lots in the County of Ripon; also, a Cemetery and Reserves for public purposes”.

 The cemetery is shown in its present location, but with public reserves on all the lands between it and Mt Emu Creek to the south and east. A likely very pleasant image, however, the Crown released these proposed park-lands for sale in 1876, to Messrs J. Daley and J. Roberts to the south and Mr E. C. Earles to the east.

 An earlier survey by Thomas Watson in 1852 led to proclamation of the township on the 29th July 1852. The initial land sales being held, by auction, at Geelong on the 25th August 1852...

 Gazette 31, Date: Wednesday, August 4th 1852 Page: 801

Colonial Secretary’s Office,

Melbourne, 29th July, 1852.

SKIPTON.

NOTICE is hereby given that a Site has been fixed upon for a Village at the undermentioned place, and that a copy of the approved Plan may be seen at the Surveyor General's Office, Melbourne, or at the Police Office at Chepstow.

SKIPTON - at Wright and Montgomery’s Station, on the Emu Creek.

By His Excellency’s Command,

W. LONSDALE

 It could be rightly assumed then, that the present cemetery site was in use well before it was proclaimed in 1861, at least from the survey of 1856. There are no local records of burials on this site from before 1928 as the books were lost in a house fire…

 The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 - 1954) Sat 17 Nov 1928 Page 31

A FIRE AT SKIPTON

Water Service Inadequate:

SKIPTON, Friday. — at 2.30 a.m. to-day a fire broke out in a five-roomed house on the outskirts of the town owned and occupied by Mr. Robert Dixon. Mrs. Dixon was awakened by the crackling, and found the back of the house in flames. She aroused her husband, and they escaped in their night attire. The other inmates of the house. Miss Murrel, a teacher at the local State school, and Leslie Thomas, a grandson of the owner also escaped. .The helpers who responded to the call could not extinguish the flames, as the water service was inadequate, The house and its contents, valued at £100, were insured tor £150. All fires had been extinguished before the inmates went to bed.

https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/204251276

 

Early days....

And what of even earlier times ? William Wright, James Montgomery, and Alexander Anderson arrived here in 1839. Surely, a few people died over the following fifteen years or so before our present cemetery arrived. Although, the census of 1854 only puts Skipton’s [adult ?] population at but 18 males and 7 females, a very small community - however, this had grown to 121 by 1861.

A booklet prepared by the Skipton & District Historical Society for a cemetery walk in 1995 indicates…

 “The first graves in the Skipton area were in the creek bank area of the common

and, Claud Notman, in “Out of the past” [1939] informs…

Generally speaking, Skipton has been a law abiding community, as the police records show, the great majority of offenders in the last seventy years being just "drunk.” Pioneers have related, however, that the district has not been entirely void of bloodshed, as a youth was felled by a blow from a whip and is believed to be buried near a spot in a paddock now owned by Mr. George Smith. In this plot, which may be regarded as Skipton’s first cemetery, lie four other graves, including members of the Bradshaw family. Time has effaced all traces of the graves, but the approximate location is known. Two suicides were reported in the early days, one a case in which a woman named Mrs. Wright drowned herself, the other of a German who shot himself.

 The stated Bradshaw burials are thought to be two infants, the children of William and Sarah Bradshaw – which would be around 1853-55 and likely just prior to the current cemetery site coming into use. Mrs Wright was buried at Skipton on the 22nd March 1855, but which cemetery ? The German was a John Wagner, who died in November 1859, and is most probably buried at the current site. The “youth” is still a mystery.

 It transpires that there is an identifiable plot of land that satisfies the Notman description, above. This block was land-locked by the common, to the north east from the end of Bridge Street, and contained within an easterly meandering of Mt Emu Creek - allotments 15 & 16 of section 1a.


The northernmost one acre allotment was initially purchased by Charles Bradshaw from the Crown in 1893, eventually passing, along with the southernmost portion as well, to George Smith in 1924 and owned by him until his death in 1954. Interestingly, the intervening owner was Robert Dixon, Skipton’s local builder and undertaker, also the above fire victim of 1928.

 It would appear that Charles Bradshaw may have held this property under “miners right” previous to his purchase. There were a number of blocks in Skipton under miners right at the time…

Camperdown Chronicle (Vic. : 1877 - 1954) Sat 9 May 1896 Page 3

SKIPTON.

Thursday.

Quite a scare has been produced amongst the parties who have taken up residential areas in the township. All who have not strictly complied with the 33rd clause of the Mining Act will have to appear before the Warden (Mr. Leader,) who will hold a Warden's Court here on the 20th inst. Constable Ivey, the Crown Lands bailiff, is distributing his summonses and I hear there are 28 cases for hearing in which the parties will be called upon to show cause why their rights should not be cancelled according to the Act. Some are to be summoned for being illegally in possession. In most cases it is the better half of the house who has to appear, on account of no residence being upon the acre which is held in her name. Others have fenced in and cultivated their blocks without any residence, and, according to the decisions given in the Rokewood Warden's Court last week, it seems likely that a lot of blocks will shortly be available. It is very gratifying to know that those who have been the busiest in starting the ball rolling will not be left scott free, as some of the knowing parties who are so interested in the welfare of the township will find out before it is finished.

https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/18625877

These two one-acre blocks of land look to have figured prominently in the life of the people of Skipton. Apart from the inference that there may be burials near its eastern side, it is said that there was a small blacksmith’s hut in the northern corner [perhaps the remainder of a miners cottage to satisfy the residential requirements of the mines act] where the local station hands would leave their horses whilst enjoying the hospitality of the Ripon Hotel, origins of the “pub car park” ! It is also the site of the first recorded town swimming hole, complete with “bathing boxes” provided for the use of swimmers to change their attire. Eventually, into more modern times, the blocks became a management tool for the common until they were surrendered to the Crown when the Town Common was abolished.

 

It is a pity that what was apparently fairly common knowledge in 1939, and still lingering in 1995, has drifted away ! As such, we can only surmise where the mystery five might be interred – and, indeed, who they might be.

The Public Record Office looks to still hold the surveyor’s notebooks and the original cemetery trustee annual reports to the health department dating back to 1861, some research there may shed more light.

The Registrar General’s death certificates also record burial places, and witnesses. The likelihood of extracting this data from the register books would appear to be remote, but, I note that their on-line indexes now record additional data to what was previously available from their microfilmed index books – updating of digital data might yet continue...

 

Bob Thornton

skipton.cemetery.au@gmail.com

2020

 

the Cemetery Trust would greatly appreciate you sharing your downloaded certificates with it, in particular, to help with the reconstruction of the pre 1928 data smile

 

Downloads:

Skipton cemetery records from 1928-1999

Memorial inscriptions [preliminary]

Early days

Cemetery Diagram