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On Walkabout In: The Beechworth Cemetery

Prior Posting: The Historic Churches of Beechworth


A really interesting sight that should not be missed while visiting the historic city of Beechworth is a trip to the Beechworth Cemetery. A cemetery may not seem like a typical place to go as a tourist, but the Beechworth Cemetery is not your typical cemetery. The place is like a physical reminder of the past lives and history that shaped not only Beechworth, but Victoria in general.

At first glance the place actually looks quite spooky with its large gravestones:

Picture from the Beechworth Cemetery In Australia

As you walk through the cemetery you will begin seeing names of people who helped shape the city of Beechworth. Take this man for example:

Picture from the Beechworth Cemetery In Australia

As you can see John Drummond’s was a veteran of Waterloo. He was born in Scotland and at age 15 he fought against Napoleon’s troops in 11 battles beginning in 1807 and culminated in fighting in the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. He was discharged from the military in 1828 and eventually immigrated to Australia in 1831. He worked on a farm in Goulburn, Victoria before moving to Beechworth in the early 1850’s at the start of the gold rush. In 1858 Drummond had donated his military pension to the widows of the Crimean War and past away seven years later at age 74. He is one of only four Waterloo veterans buried in Victoria.

The cemetery also has people who killed by Australia’s notorious bushrangers:

Picture from the Beechworth Cemetery In Australia

John Wyatt was the landlord of the Wooragee Hotel and on the night of October 15, 1872 held up his hotel and shot him. He did not die immediately, but lasted nine days before succumbing to his wound.

Here is the grave of one of Beechworth’s most elderly people:

Picture from the Beechworth Cemetery In Australia

James Ingram was immigrated to Australia from Scotland in 1852 at the age of 27. He lived in Melbourne for a short time before heading up to Beechworth to try his luck with the gold rush. He quickly became a leading member of the community as he threw himself into just about every city development project. He was responsible for opening and management of a number of schools and hospitals while also being one of the public servants responsible for overseeing the cemetery he is buried in. He lived for 73 years in Beechworth and died in 1928 at 100 years of age.

Not all the residents of Beechworth lived to be a hundred years old. In this grave of a sleeping baby is buried seven children from one family:

Picture from the Beechworth Cemetery In Australia

The Gammon family lost seven children between 1862-1872 that ranged from 9 weeks to 2 years of age. They all died of various diseases that were common in Australia at the time that have fortunately been cured today.

Other people buried in the cemetery are your stereotypical Australian immigrants, criminals such as this man John Miller, was sentenced to Australia for stealing a handkerchief

Picture from the Beechworth Cemetery In Australia

Exiling somebody for stealing a handkerchief may seem insane, but there are plenty of insane people buried in this cemetery as well:

Picture from the Beechworth Cemetery In Australia

Beechworth was long home to a mental hospital so a number of people of were committed to the institution are buried here at the Beechworth Cemetery.

The cemetery is also home to a large number of Chinese dead as well:

Picture from the Beechworth Cemetery In Australia

Many Chinese immigrants flooded to Australia during its gold rush period in the 19th Century and Beechworth was no different. In 1852 there was 400 Chinese immigrants and three years later there was over 4,000. Approximately 2,000 of these immigrants are buried here Beechworth Cemetery.

The Chinese Burning Towers at the cemetery were built in 1857:

Picture from the Beechworth Cemetery In Australia

The Chinese used these towers to burn paper prayers and meals for the dead. This is a tradition of southern China that indicates that most of the Chinese immigrants are of a Cantonese origin and not Mandarin.

The Chinese population in Beechworth was so large that they had formed their own Chinatown in Beechworth. The Chinese kept good relations with town by giving quite a generous donation in the effort to build the first public hospital in the city in 1856. However, today very few Chinese remain in Beechworth. In fact the last Chinese person buried in the cemetery was in 1932:

Picture from the Beechworth Cemetery In Australia

Picture from the Beechworth Cemetery In Australia

Henry Ah Yett lived in Beechworth for over 70 years. He originally came to the city during the gold rush to pan for gold, but eventually opened a market and was a skilled practitioner of herbal medicine. He died in 1932 at the age of 105 years old.

Oddly I did find one Chinese grave outside of the Chinese section of the cemetery:

Picture from the Beechworth Cemetery In Australia

This grave for David Ah Yen was in the “Strangers” section the cemetery thus I couldn’t find any information on him. His gravestone was actually nicer than any other Chinese gravestone in the cemetery.

Traveling around the world you run into fellow Americans sometimes in some odd places and Beechworth Cemetery proved to be no different, however the Americans I ran into here were dead:

Picture from the Beechworth Cemetery In Australia

This grave is of a American Civil War veteran Jacob Hoffmann. Hoffman immigrated to the United States from Germany at age 17 in 1864 and immediately joined the Union Army as a private. He served with the 4th and 9th New York Cavalries between April 1864 and June 1865. He left the army in 1865 and became a sailor. He arrived in Australia some years later where he married Sophie Esher in 1885 in Beechworth. They had seven children before he pasted away in 1920.

The next American I ran into was James Riley:

Picture from the Beechworth Cemetery In Australia

Riley was also a veteran of the Civil War. He was born in New Jersey in 1829 and enlisted in the Army 1862 at 33 years of age. He served in the 155th New York Infantry and rose to the rank of First Sergeant. In 1865 he was badly wounded in the Battle of Reams Station and nearly lost his leg. He later immigrated to Australia in 1886 at 57 years of age and married his second wife. He had been married prior in the United States but his first wife died in 1870. Riley died in Beechworth in 1901 at 72 years of age.

The final American I saw at the cemetery was James McCartey Storey:

Picture from the Beechworth Cemetery In Australia

Storey was a veteran of the Mexican-American War. He was born in New York in 1818 and enlisted in the Army in 1840 where he was sent to the American west to fight Indians. He then later served in the Mexican-American War between 1846 and 1848. He left the service in 1850 and made his way to the California gold fields. Having no luck there he turned his attention down under and traveled to Australia in 1853 where he made his way to the Beechworth gold rush. He eventually opened a boarding house in Beechworth in 1857 and married Eliza Hodgens in 1858 who was a convict from England. Storey died in 1913 at 95 years of age.

I was definitely a bit surprised to find three American war veterans in the cemetery and was a bit embarrassed to see the tattered American flags at the cemetery. Next time I’m in the Beechworth area I’m going to place some new flags to replace the old ones on the graves. I just can’t stand seeing tattered American flags and these veterans deserve better than having a tore up flag on their graves.

Well at least the American veterans were recognized unlike these graves that were simply denoted as strangers since no one even knew who they were:

Picture from the Beechworth Cemetery In Australia

Enough with my rants, as you can see the cemetery really is a window into Beechworth’s past with quite a cast of colorful characters and interesting history. I didn’t get a chance to look at all the graves so there is probably even more graves there with even more interesting stories to tell.

Next Posting: Sights Around Beechworth


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