The small township of Ensay is approximately 360 kilometres east of Melbourne and about 80 kilometres north of Bairnsdale on the Great Alpine Highway. The area around Ensay was taken up in the late 1830s and in 1843, Archibald Macleod, set up a station in the area. He named the station, Ensay, after an island in the Outer Hebrides of his homeland of Scotland . The original Ensay station was about 38,400acres, but over time the station was slowly divided into smaller farms. After World War 1, the area was settled by solder-settlers, mainly raising sheep and cattle. The Township of Ensay was proclaimed on 29 August 1892 . [VGG 1892-3539]
On 7 September 1890 , four Trustees were gazetted for the Ensay Public Cemetery . These were Duncan Fraser, Robert Lucas, Walter Harman and John Burke . The cemetery in use at the time occupied an area of 3 acres, 3 roods and 25 perches in the Parish of Numbie-Munjie and was located outside of the town near Little River. A request was made to have this cemetery surveyed, approved and gazetted in April, 1891 as it was in use with a small number of burials having already interred in it.
William Diamond, Health Officer of the Omeo Shire, was requested to survey the site and provide a report to the Shire Secretary, Omeo Shire. This report was prepared on 11 May 1891 and in it he noted that the site was not really suitable as that the drainage from the cemetery site would “ sooner or later find its way into Watt's Creek or the Little River” , below the township. He also noted that the area around the site was hilly by nature and would add to the drainage situation. His report was forwarded to the Public Health Department in Melbourne on 12 May 1891 .
On 6 July 1891 at a meeting of residents of Ensay, W.A. Patrick wrote to the Shire to request that the current site be retained as “there is no other place in Ensay so suitable”. In December 1892 the Health Officer prepared a report for the Shire (that was forwarded to the Board of Health, noting that as the Board of Health had refused to approve the current site, he noted that there was another suitable site located as Allotment 4, Parish of Numbie Munjie, on the road to Omeo, of 5 acres, 39 perches.
During 1893, correspondence between the Shire and the Secretary of Lands in Melbourne dealt with the issue of the burials already in the previous site and that the Shire needed to advise the Secretary that these bodies would be removed and reinterred in the new site, before official approval of the new site was made.
The Shire Secretary wrote to the Secretary of Lands in Melbourne on 17 November 1893 noting, “ I have the honor to inform you that if your department will reserve the land applied for cemetery purposes, this Council will undertake the expense of removing the bodies now interred in the site supposed to be reserved as a cemetery and re-interring them in the new site.” On 19 December 1893 the Governor-In-Council approved an area of 5 acres, 39 roods be temporarily reserved in the parish of Numbie-Munjie as a site for a cemetery. On 22 December 1893 the site for the Numbie-Munjie (Ensay) Cemetery was gazetted.[VGG 1893-5058].
On 22 March 1894 the following were gazetted as Trustees for the Ensay New Cemetery : Thomas McKnght Hamilton, Duncan Fraser, Alexander Fraser, William St Clair Lyall, John Barkley and Andrew McCallum. [VGG 1894-1329]. Of interest is that there is no further information in the Ensay Cemetery file noting that the removal of the bodies did occur. This needs to be confirmed.
Research still needs to be undertaken to ascertain just who were buried in the old site. It is believed that there were at least six burials in the site; total number not presently known. The current cemetery site is still in use today.
It was thought that two burials in the old Ensay site were for two Harman children. Seth Livingston Harman (aged 7 years); died: 21 July, 1892 and Nathan Harman (aged 13 years); died 20 August 1892, both in Ensay, children of Walter Harman (Selector) and Lydia Poynton, but their death certificates note they were buried at Omeo Cemetery.
The first burial noted in the cemetery register for the new site was Norah Hamilton, aged 16 years. She died 30 January 1894 and was buried 31 January 1894 at Ensay Cemetery . Her parents were Thomas McKnight Hamilton, Grazier, and Martha Rutledge.
The Genealogical Society of Victoria holds “Records and Headstones: 1894 – 4.12.1980; these records were transcribed by Major Lyall of Omeo and the headstones were transcribed by the East Gippsland Group of the GSV. The printed list was received by the GSV in September 1984.
The next set of burials noted in the cemetery register were on 22 April 1895 when the two children; Charlotte Helen McCOY (aged 7 years) and Duncan Robert McCOY (2 years), were interred. Both children died of Diphtheria. Their parents were James McCoy (Farmer) and Margaret McDougall. Charlotte died 18 April 1895 and Robert died 19 April 1895 at Ensay. Their death certificates note them being buried on 20 April 1895 (not 22 April 1895 ) as in the Register.
Further research has noted that James Clarke, aged 16 years, who died on 15 April 1895 at the Omeo Hospital , was buried at Ensay Cemetery on 17 April 1895 . His parents were George Clarke (Stockman) and Ellen McAdams. He would then be the second burial in the current cemetery.
Research noted that there is a further cemetery in the Ensay area: Ensay (Reedy Flats) Cemetery. It is noted as a small, unfenced site with four unmarked graves and is located on the Reedy Creek Road . Victoria Heritage has this listed as HI8423-0015: East Gippsland Shire; Heritage Inventory Site. This site is noted as a Cemetery on the parish plan; now deemed “ Reserved ”. From a comparison with the 1894 map of the two cemeteries in the Ensay cemetery archive file and the current Cadestral Plan prepared by the Department of Sustainability and Environment – Historic Places, it would appear that the Ensay (Reedy Flat) Cemetery and the original three acre Ensay Cemetery are one and the same. The issue of the four unmarked graves does add to the mystery as to whether the early burials in this cemetery were moved and reinterred at the current Ensay Cemetery .
This is an interim overview of the research to date. If anyone has any questions or further information regarding these three sites, specifically the first cemetery site in Ensay, I would appreciate hearing from them.
David Weatherill Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Bundoora, Victoria, Australia