About 35 kilometres north of Bairnsdale, on the banks of Nicholson River, you will find the small township of Deptford. The township was named in 1864. During its operation as a mining town it consisted of a hotel, post office, store, blacksmith's shop, chemist and a baker. At its peak, the population numbered about 300 people and on 1 January, 1892 State School No 3151, Deptford was provided with its first teacher, Thomas Ray.
The town was a mining town, mainly involving alluvial mining. In 1865 the Miner's Rest Hotel opened but in 1905 the hotel burned down and the licence was moved to Store Creek. In the 1890s a church was established as well as the cemetery; the original cemetery on Navigation Creek having been eroded by flood waters. The road to the town from Bairnsdale was constantly in a very poor state of repair and the cause of many complaints to the Bairnsdale Shire Offices.
In October, 1898 a request was made to the Shire of Bairnsdale for a new cemetery in the town. After a great deal of correspondence backwards and forwards over the next 12 months and a survey of the planned location for the cemetery in April, 1901, the Victorian Surveyor General examined the location and noted that the area of three acres situated in a hilly area, of poor stony soil and covered by messmale shrub should be approved for a cemetery. In 1901 the Secretary of Lands (Victoria) wrote to the Victorian Board of Health stating that on the14th August, 1901 the site for the cemetery was duly notified in the Government Gazette. The early plan used by the Surveyor General of the cemetery in December, 1898 noted that the proposed 3 acre site already had six graves evident in the area. No information was noted on just who just who there graves were for.
Not a great deal is known about the cemetery. Following the gazetting the cemetery in 1901 the major next piece of information notes that in May, 1987 following a visit by the Department of Human Services- Cemeteries Unit to the area, the Executive Officer stated: "For all intents and purposes of a practical nature so far as this Department is concerned I think we could realistically forget about the Deptford Cemetery as it is completely overgrown with forest. There is no maintenance needed of the area as it is burned out by infrequent bush fires. There is no fencing whatsoever and there is evidence of only about two graves, if that."
Following on earlier research undertaken by Barraclough and Squires for their book on East Gippsland Cemeteries and Rogers and Helyar in their research of Lonely Graves in Gippsland Goldfields, thirteen burials have been identified to date in the Deptford Cemetery. The first burial was noted in 1870 and the last in 1898.
Research identified the burial for Nellie Irene Donelly who died in October, 1898 at Deptford, aged 5 years, but is recorded on her death certificate as being buried at Bairnsdale Cemetery on 10 October, 1898. It is believed that she is buried in the Deptford Cemetery and not the Bairnsdale Cemetery. A check with the Bairnsdale Cemetery Trust notes that they have no record of her being buried in the Bairnsdale Cemetery.
The first burial identified to date, as noted above, was for Marion McKinnon, aged just over one year who died from convulsions on 10 October, 1870 at Deptford. She was buried on 12 October, 1870 at the Deptford Cemetery. Her parents were Hector McKinnon, Storekeeper in Deptford and Fanny Elizabeth McKinnon (nee Emery). One other burial also occurred in late October, 1870 and that was for John Oliver, a miner, aged 40 years, who drowned (believed to be suicide). There was an inquest into his death.
Two children of John Brideson, Mining Manager of Deptford and his wife Mary (Murray), are recorded as being buried in the Deptford Cemetery. They are:
The "Bairnsdale Advertiser" newspaper noted on 20 February 1892 that Mona Brideson, aged 14 years, was the first person to be buried in the Deptford Cemetery after it was moved to its new site. I wonder if John Brideson's son, Edward Andrew, was also buried the "new" cemetery and who else might have been buried before Mona Brideson in the new cemetery.
Another child of Hector and Fanny McKinnon, Mary Elizabeth McKinnon, died in December, 1897 at Deptford. She was 9 years of age and died of croup. She was buried in Deptford Cemetery on 3 December, 1897
The second (new) cemetery site was noted as being a quarter of a mile from the Deptford Post Office; being 4 chains from the nearest hut and 10 chains from the school which at that time had 20 children. It was also noted by the Victorian Health Officer who visited the new cemetery site in April, 1900 that Deptford had a population of 44 people living within a quarter of a mile of this proposed cemetery site.
The last identified burial in the cemetery to date is for:
Information on Deptford can be located in Luke Steenhuis' book on "Secrets of Ghost Towns of the High Country", there is a good write up of the town on page 25 as well as an 1893 map of the Deptford township area on page 26. There is a heritage inventory site listing as part of the Victorian Heritage Act on the Deptford Township by Heritage Victoria; H8422-0004. A trip to Deptford to view the old cemetery would now show an area heavily overgrown with virtually nothing to identify where the cemetery is actually located.
Deptford has a close relationship with another old mining township just further north of it; Stirling (Haunted Stream). If anyone has any further information on the Deptford Cemetery, or the Stirling cemetery/burial ground, I would appreciate hearing from themDavid Weatherill Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Bundoora, Victoria, Australia