Monday, 2 December 2013

Questions Of The Lost Diggers Rest Cemetery

Based upon historical records, there was a cemetery in Diggers Rest where up to nine bodies were buried. One of the bodies, that were reported to be near the unmarked cemetery, belonged to John (J.A.) Sanger. Sanger's remains were transferred from somewhere in the Punjel estate to the grave in Houdini Park, Calder Hwy.

But J.A. Sanger was not buried alone. Record reveal that J. A. Sanger and a mate were "swamping it" to the gold diggings ("swamping" meant that a man helped a teamster in return for his "tucker" and getting his swag carried on the dray). They camped for the night, where an old stone building was (now only part of the wall is left standing, about midway from the Oval Hotel and Diggers' Rest railway station.) In those days was used a heavy dray with a pole attached and two bullocks or more hitched on to the dray. At night the propsticks were set to keep the dray put, and the bul- locks turned out to graze. There was a good deal of sly grog-selling at this house, and in the carousals which took place someone, either for a joke or accidentally, removed the back propsticks and tipped up the heavy load of the dray, which pinned the unfortunate men, killing them. They were discovered dead in the morning, and buried at a spot near where the stone now is. Therefore is quite plausible that the original grave contained both Sanger and his mate.

Records reveal that there were once several more graves there in a row nearby, but no headstones. Some of the other graves occupants may have been from the time when seven men were killed in a railway cutting near by, when the line was being made. However, there is no record of where the fatal railway cutting took place nor why the seven bodies were transferred a distance to the Punjel estate.

Word was sent to Sanger's people in USA. and they sent out money to have this stone erected on the grave and this inscription cut into the stone: "J. A. Sanger, Woodstock, USA. May 12th, 1855. aged 24. A reliable source has quietly confessed that there appeared to be too many bones for only one man when they exhumed Sanger.

Records state that there was a cemetery about half way between the Diggers Rest Hotel and the Railway Station. However, what we have recently identified as the Diggers Rest Hotel was previously called the, "Oval Hotel" The location of the original Diggers Rest Hotel was at the upper end of town, approximately where the Vineyard Road Freeway overpass is now situated. Could this mean that there was a cemetery near the corner of Search Road and Calder Hwy?

Moreover, the historical records refer to graves being near the Mount Alexander Road at Diggers Rest. Where was Mount Alexander Road? Was it renamed to Calder Highway or was it located further south, where diggers camped at the small creek behind current Diggers Rest hotel?

Does anyone have clues to unravel the questions of the missing cemetery(s)?


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