Harsh Times on the Goldfields

Life in the 1850’s in Hobart Town was not easy. Like my great grandfather it is  likely that this family were drawn to the Victorian goldfields, from Hobart, lured by the prospect of finding gold and making a fortune.

Disease was rife upon the goldfields, where poor sanitation meant that refuse and excrement were liable to end up in the rivers that supplied drinking water for those on the diggings. Dysentery, typhus and other contagious diseases were all represented. The monotonous diet of mutton and damper did not help the health of diggers, and it is probable that many people, especially during the first years of a rush, were deficient in essential nutrients and vitamins. Common colds could be lethal; because of the combination of lack of sanitation and poor diet, miners lacked the necessary antibodies to fight off disease. With a weak immune system, a cold could quickly develop into pneumonia.

Within a week something of plague proportions wiped out Elizabeth Smart and her children. It is hard to imagine how Elizabeth Smart’s husband managed the grief of the loss of  his wife and children within such a short time . The experience of life on the goldfields was different for all who arrived, but few, as this tombstone reveals, had it easy. This husband and father had it tough.

Sacred To The Memory Of
Elizabeth Smart
Native of Hobart Town
Who Died July 5th 1864
Aged 26 Years
Also
Salena Smart
Who Died July 5th 1864
Aged 5 Years
Also
Henry Smart
Who Died July 8th 1864
Aged 5 Years
Also
Elizabeth Smart
Who Died July 10th 1864
Aged 14 Days

Weep not for me my husband dear 
I am not dead but sleeping here
Weep not for me but pity take
And love my children for my sake

A Window to the Past

A graveyard can be a great place to explore local history and genealogy, or just take a peaceful late winter walk. So let’s grab our coats and cameras and head out to the nearest cemetery to learn about local history!
How to Explore a Graveyard

In a piece called Travel With a Purpose Angela Dollar (Broderick) nostalgically recalls her grandma taking her to cemeteries to play. She recalls how they would “visit our favorite ‘spirits’, reading their birth and death dates on their head stones and making up stories about what their lives had been like living in Washougal, WA way back when.”

It is a semester break from intense university study and while I have been Waiting For Godot to shed some light on how to structure my days,  I have taken to visiting neighbouring cemeteries.  My son and I have fond memories of exploring the Montparnasse Cemetery when we met up in Paris, respectfully sitting by the tombstone of Jean Paul Satre, writing.

Pennyweight Cemetery, here in Castlemaine, is a favourite. It tells a poignant story of Gold Fever Grief. I love the serene Vaughan Cemetery. When I visited recently I took time to remember Margaret Scott.

So you can imagine my delight when I finally found the Fryerstown cemetery. A Cemetery may not be on everyone’s list of top 10 places to visit but this one is particularly special. I thought that it would be a great place to take morning or afternoon tea in a picnic basket. It was there that I wrote the Saddest Lines to mark the tragic deaths of Annie and Henry Clifton.

Angela Dollar’s grandma had a brilliant way of entertaining her grandchildren. In the process she developed their love of story and helped them connect with nature. Apart from the potential of photography   a cemetery is the perfect place to write or draw inspiration for art. My iPhone photos may not be anything spectacular but each visit nurtures a part of me.

For my part I took the time to view the greening that can come from looking in a rear vision mirror.

 

Tonight I Write the Saddest Lines

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
To think that I do not have her. To feel that I have lost her.
Pablo Neruda

Annie and Henry Clifton
The two young children who lie here, Annie and Henry Clifton, died in a fire in Spring Gully.

What are the saddest lines?  Neruda expresses the grief of lost love! If you believe the Weekly Times the story of the Daylesford lost boys is one of the saddest stories in Australian History. According to this article it was “one of those small-town tragedies which left scars so deep they will never be completely healed”

Clearly we can dispute what represents the saddest stories in Australian history! Collectively we could compile quite a list!

Today I visited the Fryerstown Cemetery and a lonely grave caught my eye. I stumbled upon the grave of Annie and Henry Clifton! If my internet search is any indication, it would seem that nothing has been written about these children who died tragically in a fire in Spring Gully. They now lie, quite alone, in an isolated, yet beautiful, part of the beautiful Fryerstown Cemetery. I am sure their deaths left deep scars in the community. The Pennyweight Cemetery also bears witness to deep grief.