Local History: Majors Creek

In a country pub a few weeks ago, a chance conversation sent us off on a little adventure. Aren’t the best experiences the ones that most often happen because of a passing conversation, or some momentary decision you didn’t know you were going to make?

We were in the Braidwood Hotel on Saturday afternoon. A few locals were leaning against the bar. Sean and I sat by a window with bottles of beer, me knitting and both of us enjoying the warmth and ambience of the fire.

knitting in braidwood hotel

We struck up a conversation with the small group by the bar – the usual questions followed. Where were we from, what brought us to Braidwood and so on. I told how we love the history of Braidwood and how I enjoyed in particular the cemetery last time we were there.

Well if you like cemeteries, one of the locals said, you ought to go out to Majors Creek. A flurry of directions were given and we knew we’d head there the next days. I’ve heard of Majors Creek from time to time over the twenty odd years I’ve lived in and around Canberra but I’ve never been. I’m not sure I thought there was actually anything there. Turns out I was wrong.

The day we went there – a mere twenty minutes or so out of Braidwood – we took the photos of Sean’s Dashing mitts and my half finished Honey cardigan. I fell in love with the little gold mining town which seems to somehow still support some locals, a pub and a beautiful old church. All the best things about small towns the world over, I think!

Visitors enter the town across an old stone bridge.

Majors Creek Bridge

A sign describing the town’s history explains that in the earliest days, Italian stonemasons settled and built many of the town’s most striking constructions including this bridge, the church and many of the headstones in the cemetery.

To one side of the bridge, the valley spreads out with the tiny trickle of a creek curving through it.

Majors Creek

Soon after, you hit the town, passing by small, mostly twentieth century homes built close to the street. Small cottages on a quiet road. The only person we saw on the road was a mother pushing a pram. Sunday morning is very sleepy in the village it seems.

It was around 11am and yet the pub was the most lively place in town with about ten locals gathered around the fireplace, or asleep on the couch as one guy was. We said hi, bought a bottle of soft drink and asked an elderly bloke the way to the cemetery. Directions secured, we left and took the photos of knitwear.

Right in the middle of the village is a grassed area with an old, disused well. Oddly this is the only photo I got, with Sean posing his dashing mitts on it.

old well

Nearby, on the other side of the small green that marks the centre of town is an old stone chimney. I’ve written before of my love of old chimneys. They haunt me. They’re such a strong symbol of what was once someone’s home.

majors creek chimney

This one is hard to get close to. The back of it is overgrown with ivy and the front is an area of boggy, overgrown grass.

A little further up the road is the beautiful church.

majors creek church

There’s that gorgeous Italian stonemasonry mentioned on the sign coming into town. That’s been lovingly maintained. What a pity the same can’t be said for the Major’s Creek Cemetery. Parts of it were very run down, which is sad for a heritage listed site. But as we’re learning by looking at small town cemeteries, their upkeep is often managed by volunteers. There isn’t always funding or capacity to do the kind of work those who value cemeteries would like to do.

We drove a dirt track through several country gates to the fenced off cemetery on the outskirts of town. We were alone there and spent a pleasant hour traipsing through the long, brittle grass to learn a little of town’s ghosts. There were the usual family crypts, fenced off plots and headstones so sunken with age and disrepair as to be almost returned to the earth.

iron post

It’s not a large cemetery, but as the town dates back to 1827, there are some quite old headstones there.

cemetery

I’m always drawn to small headstones like the one below.

tiny headstone

No name. No indication if it is a child’s grave or just this small because it was all the family could afford. But there are flowers there, so somebody, somewhere knows whose life is commemorated here.

small headstone

This one I feel certain is a child’s grave. There isn’t anything sadder than a child’s grave, is what I think when I see them.

As always, we wandered among them, piecing together family stories, real or imagined, building a flickering understanding of the town. In the photo above, you can just see Sean in the background. He was coming then from a couple of headstones that were away from all the others, behind some trees on the very edge of the site. I don’t know why but I didn’t feel brave enough to go and find see them. For all my love of cemeteries, there’s not a small amount of spookiness I feel when I’m there. I think it’s part of the appeal.

Our trip to Majors Creek showed us that there are still more undiscovered, for us, treasures just a short drive from home. Lovely outings to find out more about our region and how it came to be.

As a side note, the gold rush history of the town looks worth exploring more. I was fascinated to learn that the first gold in the area was found by a woman. How did that happen? Was she washing clothes in the creek and found something gleaming in the water? Or was she a prospector herself – forging the way for women in a hard, masculine world? I don’t know but I want to find out.

Bells

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22 thoughts on “Local History: Majors Creek

  1. Many relations resting there. Uncle Vic Cook is buried away from the main cemeterie looking back over his former farm through the fence

  2. My husbands family come from Majors Creek. Did you come across James Green or George Green in the cemeteries? We have been trying to find out about George for years. We live in the UK so we can’t visit yet?

  3. Glad you liked Majors Creek. We love it!
    The cemetary is maintianed by the locals BUT some years ago some very heavy restrictions were put on what we could do and when. Result the cemetary looks like no one cares.
    The lady who found the gold lived at Reidsdale she grew vegtables that she sold around the area. From what I have heard she was propespectiiong. Sadly she was killed when her cart rolled some time later. Next time you come ask at the pub for directions to Brian M he has a wealth of knowledge that he gladly shares. He is also the family tree guru around here.
    Majors Creekie and loving it

  4. Thanks for the lovely take on Majors Creek. My darling dear Nanna was born in Majors Creek and I remember taking her there when I was just a child. I am sure her family could quite be on those headstones? The family name was Camage. I am going to start tracing my Nannas family tree and see where it leads me.. Thanks again for the story and really lovely photos… Cheers Maxine

    • My Great-Grandmother was Isabella Carnage who was born in Collector in 1846 and died in Majors Creek on 09/09/1921. She was married to James Joseph Green who was born in Braidwood on 24/10/1841. He died in Majors Creek on 11/10/1916.

  5. I love visiting country towns they are so different from where I live and it’s always nice steeping back in time to a slower pace occasionally. Like you I love to visit old graves, sometimes you find out interesting things.

  6. Your post reminded me of the Sunday drives my Dad would take us on when we were kids. One of the more interesting places was an old gold mining town, like Majors Creek, but it was abandoned after the gold ran out. Tis always interesting going exploring, you never know what interesting things you might come across…

  7. looks like a very evocative place. the graveyard shots made me think of ‘the graveyard book’ by neil gaiman – have you read it? wonderful device of inhabitants of a graveyard from various eras as characters. it would be interesting to imagine a similar scenario with the inhabitants of majors creek cemetary!

  8. LOL,I was also going to ask about your first photo,I love your Honey too,gorgeous colour,Im spinning some Gotland very similar,Old buildings fascinate me,with my Dads place gone now I feel dereft,your old church is simply wonderful and I hope one day Ill get the chance to wander

  9. What a great small town. There aren’t too many of them left around here but we love to wander. I always wonder how they manage to support any residents.

    I love the photo of the church. It’s exactly what I’d picture in my mind as a small town church. So beautifully maintained and obviously well loved.

  10. Wow, bells, what an intriguing find! I know Braidwood quite well. It is a lovely picturesque town. You took some great shots! There is such rich history in that area. I don’t know if you know but Jackie French lives in Araluen, a valley near Braidwood. In one of her books she writes about some of the history of the area. I can’t remember the name of the book, but I’ll look it up. I’ve visited her garden a few years ago. It is a beautiful spot!

  11. Thanks for the lovely get-away. You’ve got me interested in old chimneys! I’ve been looking but don’t see any around here. Instead, though, I love old barns and silos that signal a long-gone farm.

  12. I love these posts, Bells, you know it! So interesting to see another’s country, and all the fun details. We have a gorgeous hilly cemetery in our town that I love to go through in the winter, when it’s snow covered, in particular. It looks so peaceful and pretty.

  13. My Mum and I love old cemeteries, and have explored quite a number in North Queensland. I love the history that exists there. I have to agree, a child’s grave is one of life’s saddest sights.

    I really enjoy exploring your local area with you.

  14. I love when you write about your local explorations. I hope you follow through on researching the history–I think you’d write quite well about it.

  15. I love wandering around cemeteries too, imagining the stories behind the people buried there. And I agree, the grave of a child is a very very sad thing.

    (is that a purchased knit cardigan you are wearing in that first photo?! Heh!)

  16. I don’t go travelling now, but as a child we went on a trip every Sunday and explored small towns and my Dad loved the cemeteries too. They can be such sad places. I went to Beaconsfield just a few weeks ago and visited the old gold mine. Sadly, no gold or knitting to be seen there!!

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