RICH HISTORY: Steven Silvester at the Nagoorin Cemetery.
RICH HISTORY: Steven Silvester at the Nagoorin Cemetery.

BIG READ: Gladstone family's investigation into unmarked graves

TWELVE bodies, twelve unmarked graves and a forgotten about, run-down field was once the sad, bitter reality of the Nagoorin Cemetery.

There was little evidence, if any, that the vast, overgrown terrain was the final resting place of 12 former Boyne Valley residents.

Except that Gladstone husband and wife, Steven and June Silvester, were determined to uncover the truth beneath the wooden posts where some of their deceased family members lay.

For the Silvester's, restoring the Nagoorin Cemetery became something of a mission, when they went to visit and saw cattle grazing freely on the open land.

But the last straw was pulled when they watched a cow knock over the last standing post.

 

RICH HISTORY: The Nagoorin Cemetery became grazing grounds for cattle for years (left) however has been transformed to look the way it does now (right).
RICH HISTORY: The Nagoorin Cemetery became grazing grounds for cattle for years (left) however has been transformed to look the way it does now (right).

"It was quite sad," Mr Silvester said.

"The cattle had been grazing there for years, there was no fence, it was just open land.

"It had been forgotten about and no one wanted to take responsibility."

The search was at first fruitless, with crumbs of evidence scattered here and there; but no real connections between theories and information could be made.

That was until they found themselves in conversation with born and raised Boyne Valley local, Ron Lindley.

Mr Lindley has since passed away however, shared some valuable information with the Silvester's in 1997 that sparked the real beginning of their investigation.

He told them that Steven's great grandfather, Henry Williams, was buried in June 1933.

He lay beneath one of the posts of the unmarked graves.

"Ronnie never left the Boyne Valley," Mr Silvester said.

"We were told by everyone that knew him well - if Ronnie told you something, it had to be true - he was 10-years-old when Henry (Steven's great grandfather) passed away," Mrs Silvester said.

 

WHAT A JOURNEY: It took more than a decade, but thanks to the efforts of Gladstone husband and wife, Steven and June Sylvester, the mystery of the Nagoorin Cemetery has been solved. A family reunion was held at the cemetary last weekend.
WHAT A JOURNEY: It took more than a decade, but thanks to the efforts of Gladstone husband and wife, Steven and June Sylvester, the mystery of the Nagoorin Cemetery has been solved. A family reunion was held at the cemetary last weekend. Sarah Barnham

Further research into the cemetery led the Silvester's to the discovery that a two-day old child, Richard Grant, was the first to be buried there in 1919.

The cause of the child's death was not known to the Silvester's however, it remains on the list of things they hope to discover and will continue to research.

RICH HISTORY: The grave of Richard Grant,, a child who lived just two days. His headstone was donated to the Silvester's by Craig Butler.
RICH HISTORY: The grave of Richard Grant,, a child who lived just two days. His headstone was donated to the Silvester's by Craig Butler.

The Silvester's put together a family tree - connecting the Williams family to the Grant family through marriage.

The other 10 buried at the cemetery include Olive Dahtler, who passed in September 1921, John Booth (March 1922), Naoma Dahtler (November 1922), John Miller (November 1922), Peter Hark (April 23), Henry Viney (April 1923), Irvina Chiverton (April 1924), Kevin Streeter (April 1930), Edward Tucker (April 1933), Henry Williams (June 1933), Sarah Viney (June 1945).

To restore the cemetery, and have it looking like a resurrected, well-kept and maintained resting grounds, the Silvester's approached the Calliope Shire Council in 1997 for help.

But it wasn't until all the local governments amalgamated in 2008 that things began to change, Mr Silvester said.

"Since then, the GRC has bent over backwards for us," he said.

 

"On the weekend we had a family reunion of about 50 people, which coincided with the council placing the plaque with all of the names of the people buried at the cemetery.

"The council has kept the grounds well maintained, cleaned and fenced off so now the cows can't enter.

"The council has done a great job in helping restore it. Deputy mayor Chris Trevor really helped us get the ball rolling.

"We would really like to thank the council's Parks and Conservation senior co-ordinator Barry Meiring, Craig Butler of Butler's Yarwun Quarries - who donated a beautiful headstone and Steve Bycroft at Print Wright, who donated the sign."

The Silvester's have spent a lot of time restoring the grounds, but not without the help of a number of community members and businesses who pitched in.

They travel to the Boyne Valley in their camper van every second weekend to visit, and often stay at the Boyne Valley Community Discovery Centre.

"It's just an awesome feeling, it's been a long journey, but to see it how it was on the weekend, was special," Mrs Silvester said.

"We didn't just do it for ourselves we did it for the community, so that all of those who had family members resting there could be recognised and remembered," Mr Silvester added.

"There may come a time where other people with family at the cemetery have their own reunions and find out more about their history," Mrs Silvester said.



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