The small cemetery at Whroo, in the forest near Rushworth, awoke from its solitude on Sunday.
Almost 400 names extracted from records of those buried there since the mid-1850s’ gold rushes have been inscribed on a large metal plaque, which was unveiled before a crowd of about 85 people, many of whom have ancestors taking their longest rest in the peaceful forest.
The unveiling was performed by Joyce Kennedy of Rushworth, aged 95, who has Cochrane and Jones forebears in the cemetery, and Edie Perry of Nagambie, aged 100, descended from the Welch family.
The cemetery has been closed for many years — the final plot was pre-purchased and reserved for Leslie Horsburgh, who was buried in 1989 after his death aged 86. Mary Horsburgh, 85, had been buried in 1986.
A century earlier, Leslie’s forebears Dr James Horsburgh (1886) and Margaret Horsburgh (1893) were also buried at Whroo.
With no revenue from plot sales, the Whroo cemetery trustees, chaired by Stanhope’s Bob Holschier, has a difficult task to maintain fencing, gates and general upkeep of the burial ground.
On Sunday the trustees were warmly commended for their initiative, and grateful descendants contributed spontaneously to the cause.
A number of visitors received copies of newspaper obituaries, some dating back 130 years.
Yvonne Sloper (nee Pettifer), of Avenel, received obituaries of ancestors John Pettifer, who fell in a mine shaft leaving a widow and eight children in 1869; Martin Pettifer, who succumbed to lung inflammation in 1900, aged 31; and Henry Pettifer, a butcher who died of consumption in 1909, aged 54.
Contemporary newspapers often gave vivid descriptions of the deceased and the funeral event.
The Rushworth Chronicle of August 24, 1900, told of Martin’s life, before explaining:
‘‘If evidence were required to show the respect in which Martin Pettifer was held by the whole community, the large and representative attendance at the funeral on Sunday furnished it. The remains were interred in the Whroo cemetery, the cortege leaving Rushworth comprised fully 70 buggies and a large number of horsemen, besides hundreds of persons on foot, who followed for about half the distance between Rushworth and Whroo and then returned.
The Rushworth Brass Band headed the cortege, playing the Dead March in Saul up High Street, the Oddfellows, of which society deceased was a member, following the band.
At the top of the street the band and the Oddfellows got into vehicles, but nearing Whroo they again marched and headed the procession to the cemetery, the whole of Whroo having in the meantime joined the cortege.’’
Mrs Sloper said she was thrilled to hear this extract read to the gathering.
‘‘Henry Pettifer was my great-grandfather, according to our family tree, and John and Martin are obviously part of the clan,’’ she said.
‘‘I am a grandmother, and my grandchildren can now obviously read about great-great-great-grandfather Henry and visit his last resting place.’’
The cemetery is signposted off the Whroo-Nagambie Rd in the former township of Whroo.