Kingscote Pioneer Cemetery

and Allegations of a "Clique"



Sir— Permit me a small space in your journal to give publicity to the above act. I was at Kingscote a few days ago, and was informed that from the first arrival of colonists on Kangaroo Island till within a very recent date the usual place of sepulture was on a section, the property of the South Australian Company, and that there were not less than 50 [sic] bodies buried therein, and amongst them I find two children of the late respected Manager, Mr. Giles. It is therefore presumable that no obstacles were thrown in the way of others using it as a cemetery. The section is now let and used as a farm, and I understand that the Company has made no reserve of the few perches enclosing the human remains. The consequences are the tenant is very unceremoniously ploughing up the mounds marking the resting-places of some of our pioneers and nearest and dearest relatives. I was also informed that the matter had been represented to the present Manager, who declined to interfere. Surely this must be a mistake, and the Manager would not be guilty of such an act of vandalism and outrage upon public decency. I am, Sir, &.,

May 17, 1869. THOS. WILLSON.

(Our correspondent's surmise is correct. The Manager states that no representations have been made to him on the subject; on the contrary he has never felt the least disposition to question the right of the inhabitants to regard this as a cemetery reserve. No doubt, after the attention of the lessee of the section has been thus publicly called to the matter, he will desist from a course complained of with so much reason.—Ed.)

WHOLESALE DESECRATION AT KANGAROO ISLAND. (1869, May 22). Adelaide Observer (SA : 1843 - 1904), p. 3.


The following is an extract from a letter addressed to the Lord Bishop of Adelaide by the Rev. C. W. Morse, B.A., of Yankalilla, describing his recent visit to Kangaroo Island : —

'Yankalilla, May 22, 1869

. ... I was much shocked to find that the piece of land which has been used for the last 30 years as a cemetery by the Islanders, and which is on a section belonging to the South Australian Company, had been desecrated— the person occupying the section having pulled up the fences round the graves, and being engaged at the time of my visit in ploughing them up. In compliance with the wishes of the inhabitants, I wrote to the Manager of the Company on the subject, and he, in the promptest and kindest manner,took measures to prevent any further desecration by giving the present tenant notice to quit, and promising that for the future the ground should be reserved. ..."

'KANGAROO ISLAND. (1869, May 28). South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 - 1900), p. 3.

The complete letter can be read here.



Sir—You recently published letters from Mr. T. Willson, of Kangaroo Island, and the Rev. J. W. Morse, of Yankalilla, in both of which the tenant of the Company's section at Kingscote was charged with desecrating the graves of some early settlers upon the island by ploughing up the ground, &c., the last named gentleman going so far as to say he was shocked by the work of desecration going on while he was there. One can scarcely imagine those gentlemen bearing false witness against their neighbour, and yet in a letter just received by me from Mr. Hamilton, the tenant in question, the truth of the statement is most indignantly denied, and this letter is accompanied by a certificate signed by two residents of the island, confirming Mr. Hamilton's statement. I enclose copies of these two documents and feel sure you will give to them the same publicity you gave to the letters making the charge.

I am, Sir, &c.,

WM. JNO. BRIND, Manager, South Australian Company, Adelaide,

June 12, 1869.

Kingscote, June 5, 1869.

Sir—My attention has just been drawn to a letter in the Observer of the 22nd ultimo, headed ' Wholesale Desecration at Kangaroo Island,' in which the writer is made to say—'The consequences are the tenant is very unceremoniously ploughing up the mounds marking the resting places,' &c. I at once declare the above paragraph a most abominable falsehood. Since I have been in occupation I have always ploughed the land near the cemetery myself, and I can positively assert that nothing bearing any outward appearance of a grave has ever been ploughed up by me. There is an old furrow on a portion of the land where it is stated there are a few graves, but it is evident from the thick bottom of grass now growing thereon that it is many years since it was opened. When ploughing near the ground some two years ago, I made enquiries of one of the old residents here, who has relations buried on the spot, as to the extent of ground occupied by the graves, and have never ploughed within the boundaries pointed out. Many of the parties owning the graves are in the habit of passing them frequently, and not a word of complaint has ever been mentioned to me, and only on one occasion has my permission ever been asked to visit the graves; that was a little girl whose mother was buried there, and I suppose it was only her youth and my being near the road that caused her to ask permission, for access has always been had, not asked for, but taken by those whose relations lie there. Unfortunately there is a small clique here, who appear to be bent on driving me away. They have been so long on the island that they actually fancy no one has any business here but themselves, and every new arrival is subjected to the same kind of treatment. I have requested two independent parties, residing on the Three-Well River, to go over the ground ploughed; they have minutely examined it, and their report I have the honour to enclose.

I am sorry to trouble you with so unpleasant an affair, but have thought it my duty, as a tenant of the Company, to state the true facts of the case, and as a colonist of many years' standing I could not allow a stigma of so unjustifiable a character to remain unnoticed.

I remain, Sir, your obedient servant,

W. H. HAMILTON. " W. J. Brind, Esq., Adelaide."

[William Holmes Hamilton 1820-1916; thought to have arrived on the Island in 1867 - Ed.]

Kingscote, June 5, 1869.

" We the undersigned have this day thoroughly inspected the land recently ploughed near the old burying-ground, Section No. 1, Kingscote, and can confidently state that none of the graves have been ploughed up or disturbed in any form. Had they been ploughed up lately, the difference in colour of the subsoil on the newly turned up land would have immediately shown it.

"Emanuel Brecknell. "George Birchmore. "Witness—Chas. Lewis."

THE CEMETERY IN KANGAROO ISLAND. (1869, June 19).Adelaide Observer (SA : 1843 - 1904), p. 10.



Sir— in confirmation of the paragraph in my letter, "that graves were unceremoniously being ploughed up,'" &c., and in reply to Mr. Hamilton's letter and certificate, forwarded through Mr. Brind, the Manager, and which appeared in the Observer of June 19, wherein Mr. Hamilton states that "paragraph is an abominable falsehood," I have repaid a visit to the cemetery. One brick-covered grave is several yards within the growing crop; in fact on the second land. Mr. Hamilton has written a letter to me admitting that at least 50 have been buried there; but where are the graves now? I say the majority are under the crop. I wish to disclaim the remotest wish to injure Mr. Hamilton in my former or present remarks, but simply to put a stop to the inhuman act he then was perpetrating. I know of no clique or identify myself with any local parties, and I consider Mr. Hamilton's letter in a great measure surplusage in reference to the gravamen of my charge. I trust you will publish the annexed certificate in confirmation of the truth of my former charge, it being signed by nearly every person in the locality having any knowledge of the matter. I am. Sir, &c,

THOS. WILLSON. [Thomas Creasy Willson 1821-1901 - Ed.]

American River, July 8, 1869.

'Kingscote. July 5. 1869. '"We the undersigned, being residents of Kingscote and vicinity, having noticed the correspondence on the Cemetery question in your papers, testify that graves in the old Cemetery on Section No. 1 have been ploughed over and cropped by the present tenant the proof of which can be placed beyond cavil at once by examining below the surface.

"We also notice Mr. Hamilton's remarks about a clique. We repudiate the charge, and are always glad to welcome respectable peaceable settlers amongst us.

"Mrs. Charles Thompson, 33 years' resident. [prev. Mary Ann Calnan, nee Mary Ann Bow - ed.]"Mrs. Gilbert Clark, do. do. [nee Mary Ann Calnan - ed.]"'Charles Calnan, do. do."Michael Calnan, do. do. "Samuel Reeves, 20 do. "Augustus Reeves, 20 do."H. O. Thomson, 18 do. [Henry Octavius Thomson - ed.]"Henry Stening, 14 do. "George Woollard, 13 do."George Grainger, 13 do."Gilbert Clark, 12 do."In reference to the last paragraph, "John W. Daws. [John Wickham Daw ? - ed.]

"I George Birchmore have resided on the island for two years, and have not been at Kingscote more than two or three times. I signed a certificate drawn up by Mr. Hamilton at his request I acknowledge I examined some ground in Mr. Hamilton's section, but whether it was the whole Cemetery or not I am unable to say, knowing nothing about its boundaries. '"George Birchmore. "Witnesses to/ Gilbert Clark. Signature /George Woollard.

'"Kingscote, Kangaroo Island, July 5. 1869. "As one of the more recent comers to the island, I wish to state that I have always found the older inhabitants most kind and anxious to assist us in our little difficulties in settlement, and the reverse of a clique.

Wm. Baker.'

- THE CEMETERY AT KANGAROO ISLAND. (1869, July 14).South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 - 1900), p. 3.

THE CEMETERY IN KANGAROO ISLAND.-We have received from Mr. W. H. Hamilton, of Kingscote, a letter protesting in strong terms against the charge of ploughing up some graves in Kangaroo Inland, which had been brought against him in two letters published in this journal some timeback. Mr. Hamilton is apparently not aware that in the Register of June 15 and the Observer of the 19th we published a letter from Mr. Brind and another from himself, with an enclosure, which completely exonerated him from the charge, and showed conclusively that the graves had been wholly undisturbed. Under these circumstances, the publication of his second letter is unnecessary.

CORRESPONDENCE. (1869, July 10). Adelaide Observer(SA : 1843 - 1904), p. 2.

Kingscote Pioneers Cemetery 1848

The Kingscote Pioneers Cemetery was neglected as early as 1848 after most settlers had moved to the mainland.

" ... we landed on Kangaroo Island — the most important of the group, and almost the only one which I had never visited. Kingscote is prettily situated, yet the first impression on entering it is of a painful nature. Old buildings in ruin are sometimes sublime — often interesting — never disagreeable objects. They have bowed to the ordinary influences of time, and the most painful feeling they can excite is pensiveness, or a reflective melancholy. But new buildings falling into decay do violence to the ordinary operations of nature and time, and are therefore repulsive to the beholder.

Many neat cottages are still standing, though unoccupied; and some good stone houses, defaced by premature dilapidations, show that the town was once inhabited by civilized beings. The chief mansion of the almost deserted settlement we did not behold, for the materials had just been removed from the island for use elsewhere.

Five families constitute the town population. Twenty-five white people and two black lubras are all that the island can at present render to the South Australian census. A few browsing goats do their utmost to alleviate the dreariness of the scene.

The graveyard—if a patch of earth without a fence may be so denominated— becomes unduly pathetic in the solitude. It contains from thirty to forty graves. Most of these are quite undistinguished— and why should they be otherwise ? Others have wooden slabs with painted inscriptions still clinging to their proper localities, but with a very frail clutch. Others, again, of these wooden immortalities, are transferred from grave to grave by browsing cattle, listless mortals, strong winds, or any other accident, as if death were verily laughing at our puny efforts to withstand oblivion."

PORT LINCOLN AND KANGAROO ISLAND. (1848, May 24). South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 - 1900), p. 3.


... Approximately a quarter of mile below 'Faith,' 'Hope,' and 'Charity,' ... and that much nearer to 'The free, mighty, music haunted sea,' is the first graveyard opened in the State. A more desolate, forsaken spot could scarcely be imagined. While gazing reverently upon the little plot of ground, partially surrounded by a barb wire fence, one is reminded of that beautiful verse by Longfellow:—

I like that ancient Saxon phrase, which calls
The burial ground, God's Acre! It is just;
It consecrates each grave within its walls,
And breathes a benison o'er the sleeping dust.

Then one wonders, half satirically, whether so impressive a term as 'God's Acre' can be appropriately applied to such a neglected place. On the day of my visit a well-fed cow lay ruminating within a yard or two of the vault wherein reposes the dust of the mother of Mr. T. Hudson Beare, who died on the island on September 3, 1837, aged 34 years. Of the four other graves in the cemetery, that which contains the mortal remains of Samuel and Edward H. Giles (sons of the late Mr. W. Giles), who passed away within a few months of each other in 1839, aged nine years and eight months respectively, has been recently attended to but nothing has been done to the remainder for a considerable period. That, however, is more a matter for relatives. What impresses the visitor as being of greater moment is the necessity for a proper fence around the enclosure. The cost would be trifling, and could easily be erected. An entertainment could be held with the aid of some of the many visitors from the mainland, and the proceeds devoted to the erection of serviceable fence around the burial ground, and the mulberry and almond trees as well.

KANGAROO ISLAND. (1908, February 19). The Register (Adelaide, SA : 1901 - 1929), p. 6.