De­scen­dants hon­our pioneer

Warragul & Drouin Gazette - - NEWS -

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.

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