RECORD OF DEATHS. Interesting Book Discovered.
Recently discovered in the vestry of St. John's Church, Fremantle, was an old record book of funerals conducted in the Fremantle parish from 1860 to the end
of 1874. The entries in the register are of particular interest just now when a Bill has been passed by Parliament to delete a provision in the existing Act and provide for the removal of the remains of persons buried in the cemetery so that the Fremantle City Council might remove the headstones and prevent wanton de- ruction by having them re-erected in the Fremantle cemetery. Probably the majority of the people whose names are entered in the old register were buried in the Skinner-street cemetery, which was dedicated in 1852 and continued to be used until the opening of the present burial ground in 1899. The first recognised cemetery in Fre- mantle was the old ground in Alma- street, which was opened in 1831 and used for 20 years. The first grave to be marked by a headstone in Alma-street appeared to be that of Mrs. Mary Ann Morrell, who died on October 8, 1832. The oldest tombstone in the Skinner- street cemetery was erected to Lieutenant Edward Colvin Oakes, of the 28th Bengal Infantry, who died on October 7, 1852. The first entry in St. John's church regis- ter records William Sutcliffe, aged one year, who died on January 19, 1860. The clergyman who officiated at the burial service was the Rev. George James Bos- tock, who, from 1850 to 1874, was a con- spicuous figure in the life of the colony, Mr. Bostock lived in Cantonment-street in St. John's church rectory, which was demolished eight years ago. The last entry in the book under Mr. Bostock's name is dated December 16, 1874. Later appear several different signatures, in- cluding "Matthew, Perth," that of the first Anglican Bishop of Western Austra- lia, Bishop Hale.
Child Mortality. Although the register deals only with a portion of the deaths from 1860 to 1874, it is possible to gain some knowledge of events in the colony. For instance, quite early in the book nine deaths are recorded as due to measles, which indi- cates at least a mild epidemic of the disease. Then in July, August and Sep- tember of 1862 five children, the eldest
of whom was 12 years of age, died fol- lowing an attack of fever. Of course, medical facilities in those days were far from good and towards the end of the register, in November, 1874, nine deaths, mainly of young people, are recorded as due to enteric fever. Some idea of the difficulty that must have been experi- enced in rearing children in those early days may be gained from the fact that of the 328 deaths registered between January 19, 1860, and July 31, 1875, 140 were of children under the age of 12. The majority of those deaths were in early infancy. The entries also provide an impression of the struggle and hardships that were the lot of settlers in a new country. The death is recorded on February 17, 1861, of William Osborne, aged 18, who was killed when a well which he was digging fell in. Other instances are given of men who lost their lives in pioneering work. In several instances the cause of death is given as ''drink." Once Mr. Bostock attributes a man's death to "hard living." Exciting Days. Apparently the settlers were not with- out their days of excitement. On May 11, 1864, the death is noted of an old man discovered with his neck broken near the North Fremantle ferry. Three days later a 15-year-old lad was found hanged in a barn in Cliff-street. Various in- stances are recorded of suicide and others of men who had wandered off into the bush and died through exposure. A dra- matic entry was made on March 3, 1871, concerning the death of one James Hol- ditch, aged about 60. Mr. Bostock, under the heading "Cause of Death," wrote: "Murdered. Found naked in river. Sup- posed to have been murdered in bush at North Fremantle." Seafarers' Deaths. An interesting entry in the register is the death on March 20, 1868, of Bentley Shepherd, who came out to the colony on the convict ship Hougomont. The arrival of the Hougomont at Fremantle on Janu- ary 10, 1868, with Fenians on board marked the end of the transportations that had existed for 18 years. The de- cision of the Imperial Government to send the Fenians to the colony created quite a scare among timid people. Shep- herd was apparently a purser's steward on the Hougomont, but he left the ship at Fremantle to become assistant warder. However, his career in the new colony was limited to two months. Three months after the entry concerning Shepherd's death is that of Owen Francis, mate of the Rio, who was stated to have died from the "effects of Mauritius fever." Another seafarer whose death is chroni- cled is Thomas O'Grady, master of the vessel Dawn. He died of heart disease when leaving the Irwin River on July 26, 1870. There is also an instance of a sailor who had fallen overboard when leaving his ship on a dark night. A number of the people whose names are entered in the register played a pro- minent part in the early life of the colony or were members of families conspicuous in the settlement. On November 14, 1863, Mary Ann Pengelly died at the age of 72. According to Mr. Bostock's entry, she was the schoolmistress for the infants of the colony. On April 25, 1869, Christopher James Alderson, the infant son of the chaplain of the convict establishment, died, and on May 6 of the same year ap- pears the name Francis Henry Vincent, who is described as "late superintendent at Rottnest." He died at the age of 73. Frederick Lefroy, the infant son of H. Maxwell Lefroy, the superintendent of the convicts, died on February 28, 1870. Although the records do not actually disclose in what cemetery the bodies were buried, it is reasonable to assume that most of them lie in the Skinner-street ground. After the opening of that ceme- tery the only interments permitted at Alma-street were those of persons who had near relatives buried there. How- ever, towards the end of the register the number is given in some cases of the plot in which the body was buried, so that from the old records the final resting place of some of the State's pioneers may be ascertained.