Next door to the Mildura Station homestead, you will find these two small historic cemeteries. The Mildura Station cemetery and the Chaffey family plots. With only a handful of graves in each, it won’t take long to look at these. However, researching their background takes longer… and we do have some information that you might find difficult to obtain elsewhere.
If you need directions, please refer to the Map on Chaffey Trail Page.
So let’s take a closer look at the people buried in these two small cemeteries. If we ever needed a reminder of just how hard life (and death) was for the pioneering families, then we only need look at how many children and infants met with an early end.
While researching some of the history, I was struck by an entry I found… one couple losing 6 children (unknown burial site) aged between 7 days and 13 years. The records don’t show if this was separate events or all at once due to some type of disaster. As they all died in 1889, I suspect that there was some sort of tragedy, perhaps a house fire. But regardless, I can’t imagine losing a child, let alone 6.
For those that wanted to do further research, the children were born in Yelta (just downstream from Merbein) and died there in 1889. Their parents names were Margaret Stewart and Frederick Gurney. I’m afraid that is all the information I have.
John Hawdon, died 1848: I did discover that he died in his tent, on the banks of the Murray river. What injuries he sustained in his fall, I don’t know. But one thing puzzles me… the 40yr gap between his burial and the next. Of course people died during those 40yrs. So where are they buried, as the sign clearly states this was the “Site of Mildura burials before the opening of Mildura cemetery“.
There are at least 15 deaths in this area recorded in the Victorian Death Index, prior to the main Mildura cemetery being established, other than the ones buried at these two cemeteries. That is on public record. Where those people were laid to rest, I couldn’t say. Most of these are infants and toddlers, and only two survived past their 40th birthday. Sometimes we forget just how unforgiving life was for these people.
J.B.Wilson, died 1888: I was unable to discover anything about how this person died. However, I can at least give you his name and age. John Breakley Wilson, born 1867, died 1888, aged 21. The “Mildura Cultivator” mentioned on the sign was not some piece of farming equipment as you might imagine, but the name of a weekly local newspaper. It later became the paper we get today… “The Sunraysia Daily”.
Armourer Forster, died 1889: Possibly 27 yrs of age. I found a passing reference to Armourer Forster in an old online document entitled “Journal of an Experimental Trip by the Lady Augusta on the River Murray” (first published in 1853, and a fantastically good read)…
Since 1838 the land betwixt the Murray & Lake Victoria was the thoroughfare for
‘Overlanders’ trekking livestock to Adelaide, and, until 1850, NSW extended all the
way south to Bass Strait. However, as the NSW/SA border remained un-surveyed,
officialdom refused to issue pastoral leases in the border precinct: …Nonetheless,
in 1845, George Melrose became the first to squat this uncertain territory when he
set up a station at Lake Victoria & put flocks, tended by shepherds, on the
Rufus & on the Great Anabranch.
Also in 1845 John Hawdon, son of the first successfulOverlander, with his cousin,
Armourer Winthrop Forster, squatted the Murray’s south-bank from Mildura to
the backwaters of the ‘LINDSAY’; their squat soon became known as “Hawdon’s Run”
So it would appear that Armourer Forster is in fact the cousin of the first person to be buried at this site… John Hawdon. Just as the cemetery sign says. But… that says John Hawdons land was named “Cowra Run” but the old document I viewed claims it was named “Hawdon’s Run” I don’t know enough historical details to give an informed opinion about this. Perhaps one was the official name and the other might have been the local term?
A.L Reid, died 1889: From what I can discover, Andrew Lambert Reid was born in Richmond, 1866,
so that makes him only 23 yrs of age. Yet another young one!
Margery Haworth, died 1889: No records available, so unable to give further information.
Isaac Fry, died 1889: About all I can find out is his age… 73 yrs. The only person buried here that reached a ripe old age (for the times).
The history of the Chaffey family is well documented in many other places, so no need to repeat that here. If you visit the cemetery, there is an informational board that lays out all you need to know.
This cemetery is the final resting place for many of the Chaffey women, along with a few younger members of the family. Harriet Chaffey’s last child died shortly after she did, aged 4 months, and is buried beside his mother.
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