I recently stayed in Charleston, a small gold rush town on the west coast of New Zealand’s south island. While there I visited the two old cemeteries from back when Charleston was a bustling frontier township with gold in its veins. The Buller District Council has records that can be searched online that list the cemetery occupants and their plot numbers. Despite this, I am still disturbed by the number of unmarked graves and by the thought that the remaining readable headstones will not be that way for long.
So I photographed them all. Here are a few of the headstones, along with the newspaper articles that report on the deaths. Researching how these pioneering people perished at such young ages breaks my heart (life is so fleeting) but it also encourages me to tell their story.
If you look closely you will see that there are discrepancies between the articles and the information on the headstone. For example, Mary Quin has only one N in her surname on the headstone but two in the paper (Quinn). This can make it difficult to search. Also the paper says that she was 18 but the headstone says she died, “in the 19th year of her age”. This could be cleared up by checking her birth certificate. There are many graves that I was unable to find articles for, particularly those of young children and infants.
I feel for these people now that I have seen their graves and researched the details of their deaths. But by finding out about their deaths we also gain an insight into their lives; she was somebody’s beloved wife with many people who attended her funeral, he was a miner, and she was a young school teacher.