Descendants honour pioneer
Underneath the towering gum trees at the old pioneering Edward’s Reef Burial Ground at Aberfeldy stands the lone marked grave of Christina Shaw.
Mrs Shaw died on October 9, 1877, four months after the birth of her sixth child.
Her descendants gathered at this location recently, 140 years after her death, to unveil a plaque honouring this pioneering woman. It was created by the Shaw family in conjunction with West Gippsland Relic, Mining and Heritage Protection Inc and Aberfeldy Cemetery Trust.
Visitors to the burial ground have often pondered the cooper plate memorial – placed the gravesite by a son in 1930 - and the story of Christina Shaw. The cooper plate memorial alone survived bushfires which ravaged the district leaving other graves unmarked.
Donald Casey, representing the Shaw family, addressed about 50 people in attendance and expressed his gratitude to the trust which maintains the burial ground. It was a memorable day for the family, some of whom hadn’t seen each other in 20 years.
In addition to family, six members of the trust were in attendance as well as a DELWP representative.
For generations, the Aberfeldy Trust has maintained this pioneering burial ground which was once an important gold fields cemetery. The trust maintains two cemeteries – Aberfeldy and Toombon – and two burial grounds – Store Point (Donnelly Creek) and Edward’s Reef – in the Aberfeldy district.
Many visitors have come to the site and wondered what the story of the grave tells. Now a booklet will be released in conjunction with the interpretive sign and photographs, which tell the sad story of Mrs Shaw who died leaving five surviving children.
Born in Oban, Scotland in 1840, Christina Ferguson came to Australia in 1856. After settling in Ballarat, she married miner Donald Shaw, 10 years her senior, in 1861.
The couple moved to Donnelly Creek in 1875. The journey saw Christina and four children travel to Melbourne to board steamer “Murray” which sailed to Bairnsdale via Lakes Entrance. They then transferred to a smaller vessel for the journey to Sale. They met Donald Shaw at Sale for the two-day journey to Donnelly Creek.
Mrs Shaw died four months after her sixth child was born. She was 36-years-old. The death certificate stated she died of insanity after enduring nine days of illness.
A cooper plate memorial was placed by son Alexander in 1930 during a pilgrimage to her gravesite.