The Repose of the Dead – Some in Lonely Tired Abandoned Graves at Angaston

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If I wasn’t a lawyer, I’d be a journalist or historian.

 

And I love cemeteries. Nothing like a graveyard for historical information.  A cemetery walk becomes quite the historical journey, a social and aesthetic experience, an educational opportunity for learning about local history. Headstones can have valuable heritage significance and mean something in the development of the Country, the State and the Barossa region.

Cemeteries and graves are important as both social and aesthetic elements of a community and they tell an important part of its story. Sometimes they are the only record of a group or settlement. Cemeteries therefore are commemorative landscapes of memory and history. Graves and monuments are part of the overall landscape of the cemetery and are important as individual sites of personal and family remembrance. They can demonstrate many aspects of a community’s heritage including the development of an area, the genealogical and religious make up of the community, the original natural environment, the landscape design and botanical elements of cemetery design and even technical developments in areas such as ironwork and monumental mason’s skills. Historic SA Graves and Cemeteries

I read headstone inscriptions to learn about families, names, ancestors and heirs, a family lineage, who married who and so forth.

 

For an introduction to the Barossa Valley Region, certainly its Germanic history, the local cemeteries are a must. A visit to the  Angaston cemetery a few months ago, on the road between Nuriootpa and Angaston, revealed many interesting things, just a few I share here.

 

One thing that bothered me was the neglect of certain graves. Old, yes. Perhaps forgotten. Some appear to be abandoned, some almost not abandoned and some almost abandoned.

 

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Before I touch on some of the neglected graves, some of these older ones are worth a look.

 

A large tombstone this one with a symbolic angel on cross. What does the angel mean? According to gravestone and headstone symbolism the angel is the agent of God, the guardian of the dead, the guide to heaven, symbolizing spirituality.

 

While not as common as the cross, I have seen all sorts of angels in cemeteries in all shapes and sizes. Seen many more in churches. I grew up with angels and archangels and good angels and bad angels and guardian angels and seraphim and cherubim, the choirs of angels and …. saints and prayers and rosaries and scapulas and sins and purgatory and redemption and confession, the blessed virgin Mary, the Catechism, the Latin tongue, the Gregorian Mass for the repose of souls, the Requiem Mass for suffering souls, the absolution of the dead before burial of the corpse in the grave with full funeral rites. Oh yes, I’ve done angels. The lot. Of course our children and grandchildren can be our little angels. We call them “angels” at times. Other times we call them “little devils” !

 

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Marked gravestone of Henry Jones.

 

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A headstone can say many things.  It can commemorate the children of a couple and reveal when the children died and between what years.

 

Inscriptions, epitaphs and odes can be in styles that reflect when the headstone was probably erected.

 

This old tombstone is unusually silent as to dates. It is simply inscribed, “To Live in Hearts We Leave Behind Is Not To Die

 

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A headstone often commemorates many members of a certain family. There is often the first inscription with the name of the deceased and the year of death. Then one finds inscriptions below that have been added later, obvious from the varied lettering styles and shapes.

 

This headstone shows that Henry Holmes ‘fell asleep’ on 25 Feb 1865 aged 56.  About 20 years later his wife Mary Ann passed away.  Their daughter Elizabeth passed away at 23 years of age in 1869 after her father but before her mother. Epitaph, “He Giveth His Beloved Sleep“.

 

The cross and the anchor is a Christian symbol of faith, hope and eternal life. The idea that the deceased is anchored safely in God’s harbor. Commonly used in the 18th and 19th centuries to represent the deceased’s seafaring profession. Often on sailors’ graves. Anchors are also a Masonic symbol for well-grounded hope, therefore they are often found on Masons’ graves. *Remember to look beyond Google for reliable information.

 

A headstone often tells me about past wars, battles and military service and where and when a person was killed in action.

 

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I learn about infant deaths, young children taken too early.

 

This headstone for little Clive Albert aged 1 year says, “Budded on Earth To Bloom in Heaven”  This little boy died in 1898.

 

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Alone. Children’s graves. Neglected. Not fenced. Not tended to. Old. Weathering. Breaking. Ant hills.

 

Quite sad.

 

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Little Doris who died 27 May 1902 was just months old.  This image and the one above show Doris’ headstone which is on the right in the one above. There are two children’s graves there. The concrete horizontal headstone on the left with the cross has no identifying information. Who is the child at rest next to little Doris?

 

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Little Evelyn’s lonely repose in her grave.  Old.  Ornate cast iron fencing.

SACRED

To the Memory of

EVELYN

Only and Beloved Child of

CARL AND AGNES

DECHERT

Died Jan 9, 1877

Aged 6 years and 3 months

 

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Little Murray was 15 days old when he died in 1919. “Safe in the Arms of Jesus“.

 

Little ones resting with their companions, the other little reposing souls in the Angaston cemetery. Who, I wonder, is holding vigil over their lonely graves?

 

It’s easy to detect patterns in the evolution of medicine reflected in the high number of infant deaths in earlier years gradually phased out over time to now, when infant deaths are rare.

 

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This lady, Muriel, was 29 years old when she passed away in 1919 at Angaston.

 

A visit to the local cemetery is an enriching experience for me. Of course I do not wish to offend anyone and anything published here is on public display at Angaston cemetery.

 

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This headstone reveals that James, the fourth son of David and Isabella Heard, was killed in Adelaide in 1872 by falling under the wheel of his dray.  He was 21 years old.

 

The rusty iron fencing panels enclosing the grave site are always interesting. Here you see a fence with ornate finials and scroll work.

 

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Solitary. Abandoned. Deserted wooden cross.

 

Nobody cares.

 

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A sad and lonely wooden cross leaning on the wrought iron scroll-worked fence enclosing the grave. I assume it was once on a grave site. It may have been on that site.

 

Wood was not in short supply once and was likely more affordable than the stone used in headstones such as sandstone, slate, granite, marble and quartzite and so forth.

 

Quite a large cross. Rotting. Broken. Aging. Weathering.

 

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The unfortunate thing is that I am unable to actually know what grave the wooden cross belonged to. No information on it. I have no idea who the dead are that rest in the soil and for whom this cross was carved.

 

Whose loved ones made the cross? Whose reposed soul was it made for?  Who disturbed the cross on the grave site?  Who placed it there?  Who is responsible for it? Why is it left like this today?

 

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Yes, it may have been a temporary memorial until a headstone was made. I don’t know. It’s obviously not a recent carving.

 

Tired and leaning. Exhausted. Alone. Done its duty. Undisturbed.

 

Who is holding vigil over this cross and/or the grave it once watched over?

 

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Rusty iron. Crooked. Rusty. Weathered. The grave site is enclosed with rusty heritage woven wire.

 

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Very crooked.

Leaning.

Neglected.

 

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I wonder who tends these family graves?  It appears that nobody is caring for this one at least enough to straighten the metal head stone.

 

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Leaning. Sinking perhaps.

 

Mr. George Clark died in 1883 aged 60. Esther, his wife, died in 1905 aged 81. “At Rest”.

 

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This large ornate cross memorializes Thomas Argent and his wife Mary both dying in 1916 and 1917 respectively.  The ode, “Call not back the dear departed, Anchored safe where storms are o’er, On the borderland we left them, Soon to meet and part no more.”

 

What does IHS mean?  The first three letters in the Greek spelling of Jesus are IHS. In the Middle Ages this was incorrectly interpreted as “Jesus Hominum Salvatore” or “Jesus Savior of Mankind”. This interpretation has stuck, and the letters have thus acquired a greater significance than originally understood. *Remember to look beyond Google for reliable information.

 

As one would expect in a Christian graveyard, certainly in the Barossa region, the cross is the most ubiquitous tombstone symbol.  It is in the Angaston cemetery with angels not far behind.  The cross represents Christianity.

 

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The unfortunate thing here is that I don’t know and I don’t know if anybody actually knows who is buried at this grave site.  It’s small and looks to be for a child.  There is simply no information available.

 

Old, tired, sad. Abandoned. Nobody tends.

 

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Lonely graves. Still. Quiet.

 

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Children’s graves.

 

Willie?

 

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What child’s soul rests here?  Somebody must know.  There are likely appropriate records available to identify the child buried here.

 

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A child?

 

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Another child?

 

Left-overs. Sad. Fallen head stone. Zimmermann.

 

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What is going on here?  Nothing obviously.  No information for determining who is buried here.

 

Lonely, sad grave.  Untidy. Neglected.

 

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Another lonely wooden cross. Homemade. Handmade. Simple.

Love. Memories. Respect.

 

No inscription or identifying information but somebody made the simple little cross. Somebody cut the wood and joined the two pieces. Somebody knew the deceased or made if for the deceased’s family and friends. Somebody respected the deceased. Maybe they would have inscribed on it something like, “we won’t forget you and miss you”.

 

The current state and maintenance of parts of the Angaston cemetery is disappointing . While it’s not an abandoned cemetery and is, in fact, the local cemetery in regular use, the neglect generally seems to be in the older sections. Perhaps this is being or has been rectified.

 

Of course there are many reasons why graves or cemeteries are run down or abandoned. Sometimes the family has “died off” or moved away.  This could be the case.

 

There maybe no living family members or friends with a personal connection to the deceased and who have funds to maintain.

 

It is more likely then that the grave will end up being neglected or abandoned.

 

If the graves are old they are more likely to suffer the vagaries of neglect or abandonment for the same reasons. The weather takes its toll. Certainly, it seems that some of the graves at Angaston cemetery are in this category.

 

The main thing is that graves are protected from disturbance and desecration and their identity is preserved by the local authorities and Councils through registers and mapping. Local Council sites and sites such as Find a Grave at the Angaston Cemetery offer a good place to start.

 

The repose of the dead is always to be left in peace. It’s simply respect and dignity.

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