Goulburn has four pioneer cemeteries that provided a final resting place for early settlers. Old St Saviour's, behind Goulburn Gaol on Cemetery Street, catered for those adhering to the Church of England faith. The first recorded burial was in 1830, the last burials were in the 1950s.
The General Cemetery, now known as Mortis St, is at the start of Cemetery Street. Buried in this cemetery are folk adhering to the Methodist/Wesleyan, Presbyterian, and Roman Catholic faiths. This cemetery opened in 1839.
A little known burial place for those of the Jewish faith is in Long St, Eastgrove, used from 1845. This cemetery has trustees who are members of Australian Jewish Historical Society. Research has provided additional names to be added to the memorial plaque in the cemetery.
Readers who have links to the former St Patrick's College will be aware of God's Little Acre the burial ground for former teaching brothers and three teenage pupils in use from 1867.
Visiting an old burial ground is probably most memorable if there is a purpose: to locate early family graves, or to ponder local history through the inscriptions still able to be read on the headstones. There are indexed books that can help the visitor locate family graves, another book lists all the burials recorded at Goulburn Court House (1856 - 1918) in the County of Argyle. Not everyone buried in a cemetery had an engraved headstone, usually due to lack of funds. Over the years some headstones have suffered weathering, making inscriptions very difficult, or impossible, to read. Other headstones have fallen forward so that the inscription can no longer be read.
Among folk buried in Goulburn's pioneer cemeteries are: shop keepers who opened large stores offering a wide range of merchandise from food, household goods, haberdashery, tools, buying their stock from Sydney or London; corner shop proprietors who may have bought wholesale from their larger store neighbours; builders, carpenters, brick makers who helped to build the fabric of the city we know today, sometimes several generations following in the same trade. Small graves are a sad reminder that children died young, some surviving only a few days. The occasional headstone will record the death of numerous children from one family, as the result of accident or disease. Mothers died leaving children to be cared for by others. Members of the clergy, and their wives, are also to be found. These early ministers of religion traveled over vast distances by foot, on horseback, or carriage to support members of their flock living far from town, struggling to make a living. Sometimes clergy wives traveled too, bringing rare woman-to-woman contact to the isolated settler's wife. Also remembered are intrepid explorers and surveyors, railway workers, local and state politicians.
A new group has formed in Goulburn, Friends of Goulburn's Historic Cemeteries. Volunteers have begun by removing rubbish and weeds from Old St Saviour's Cemetery. Ways to make it easier to find particular graves are being explored. By improving the presentation of the old cemeteries, volunteers hope to increase local and visitor interest in exploring the burial grounds and pondering on the lives of those who contributed to the development of Goulburn. Support for this venture is being provided by the Dean of St Saviour's Cathedral, staff of Goulburn Mulwaree Council and Goulburn Correctional Centre.
The Our Living History weekend program for March 14 to 15 has two events inviting community members to visit St Saviour's Cemetery and Mortis St Cemetery. ourlivinghistory.com.au.
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