Stafford Cemetery, Stafford, West Coast

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Date: 1868 to 1999
Location: Scandinavian Street, Stafford Loop Road, Awatuna 7882map
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Stafford Cemetery

Stafford Cemetery is a cemetery in the small town, Stafford, West Coast, situated near Scandinavian Hill and in the locality Awatuna. Coordinates: -42.66624, 171.08931

During the Waimea Ballarat and Scandinavian gold rush, a resting place with Stafford's store on a track between the two goldfields rapidly became a lively township which was officially named Staffordtown by District Warden Keogh in August 1866. The town and seven hills had a population of 2,500.

Stafford Cemetery had already been established on a hilltop above Staffordtown in 1863 and was divided into areas for four Church Denominations: Anglican, Catholic, Presbyterian and Weslyan (Methodist). Of the known burials 262 were Catholic, 198 were of the Church of England, 64 were Presbyterian and 15 were Wesleyan. In the town there were four churches, a public library and literary institute, as early as 1865. The first burial appears to have been of John Metcalf, 7 months 2 weeks old, died 13 December 1868, son of Lucy and James Metcalf. He was buried in the Catholic section of the cemetery.

Notable Interments

Seddon. Prior to moving to Kumara, Richard John Seddon, later Prime Minister of New Zealand, was living in Stafford for a few years. He became well known on the West Coast for his work as a miners' advocate, or lay litigant, representing miners in the goldfields warden's court. Soon he depended on this work for an income.
In the winter of 1876 he staked out a claim on the newly discovered goldfield at KÅ«mara and
went to live there. While he was living in Stafford, his wife, Louisa Jane (Spotswood) Seddon,
who he had married in Melbourne, Australia, gave birth to two daughters, both of whom died : young in Stafford and were buried in the Church of England section of the cemetery there.
Catherine (Kate) Youd Lindsay Seddon drowned ina tail race, 20 October 1877 age 1 year and 9 months.
Catherine Youd Lindsay Seddon was born five months after the accidental drowning of her sister and was named after her. She died from pneumonia, 2 July 1881 age 3 years.

Memorial Plinth

Unknown Chinese Woman
Between 1881 and 1927 about 13 Chinese miners were buried in the Stafford Cemetery. The bodies of those buried during the 1870s were exhumed and with the remains of several more Chinese miners from other cemeteries, were taken by the SS Ventor which left Westport in 1902, to be interred in China. The ship struck a reef near Taranaki and sank off the Hokianga heads.

Those Chinese buried in the Stafford Cemetery for whom a cause of death is listed incude:

Ah Chow(22) died of consumption in Goldsborough, 17 April, 1875
Ah Tong (31) is said to have committed suicide, 15 December 1876.
Ah Chin (31) died from consumption 05 October 1881.

During the restoration of the Stafford Cemetery, the headstone on the grave of an un-named married Chinese woman was found. A special memorial was erected by the Lions Club of Hokitika with the asistance of the Chinese Poll Tax Heritage Fund.The inscription on the memorial celebrates the contribution of all who built the district. The Memorial was unveiled 1 April 2019 by Consul General Wang Zhijan

Accidental Deaths
Many acidental injuries and deaths occurred during the days of the West Coast gold rushes and some are to be found in the Stafford Cemetery. In addition to little Kate Seddon (above) Josiah Lucas, 17 months old, was drowned, 5 February 1871 in Stafford, Chas Meadows, 2 years old, was drowned at Pipers Flat, 11 March 1871 and Mary Costello, 3 years old, was accidentally poinsoned at Callaghans 27 April 1872.

The following are three examples of adult accidental deaths:

James Stephens emigrated from Londonderry, Ireland, to the Waimea gold fields of what was then named West Canterbury - Westland, West Coast, New Zealand. He was the proprietor of the National Hotel in Dillmanstown until 1896. On Thursday 27 December, the Dillman's picnic day, James (57) was in the bar of the Junction Hotel when a dispute started between him and a young man, James Louden, who went outside and challenged the older man to a fight. James Stephens had the use of only one hand at the time and a blow to his chest pushed him to the ground on which he struck his head. James died the following Sunday. In the High Court in 1901, James Louden was acquitted of manslaughter.
Grave of John James Gibson.
John James Gibson, age 16 years 4 months, born in Hokitika, son of Agnes (Dryden) and John White Gibson, was drowned in the Taramakau River, 3 February 1898. "A fatal accident occurred in the Teremakau River on Thursday evening. A lad 16 years of age, named John James Gibson along with two others, was in a boat about 300 yards from the mouth of the river, when Gibson got up to let a boy named James Pierson pull the boat. While doing this a heavy swell struck the boat precipitating Gibson into the water. The unfortunate lad could not swim and was swept away and drowned. The body of Gibson was found on Saturday and an inquest will be held today". The 'Grey River Argus',Page 2
Henry Linklater J.P., born in Stafford, worked his claim near Stafford for some years before he moved to Riverview near Ahaura. Henry had been a member of the Westland Education Board, was a member and Past Master of (the Masons) Lodge Kilwinning, a member of the Druids and a prominent member of the Presbyterian Church. Prior to his death, he had recently accepted the position as General manager of works being carried out by the Lake Hochestter Gold Fields Ltd". Henry was accidentally drowned in a deep drain, 9 June 1914, age 36 years, at Riverview. The inquest decided that he fell because of a heart condition causing dizziness.
Grave of Oscar Bottom

Boer War
Eager to display New Zealand's commitment to the British Empire, Premier Richard Seddon had offered to send troops to South Africa two weeks before fighting began. Between 1899 and 1902 New Zealand sent ten contingents of troops to fight in the Boer War. Many of these men had prior experience in the volunteer forces and others were ordinary citizens who were skilled riders and marksmen. The Third and Fourth Contingents were named "Rough Riders". A total of 230 New Zealanders died while serving in New Zealand's first overseas war.

Oscar Bottom, who attended school in Stafford, was in the Fourth Contingent of the NZ Rough Riders who fought in the Battle of Ottoshoop, 16 August 1900. Otto was seriously wounded during the battle and died in Kimberley South Africa, 10 November 1900. The residents of Stafford erected a memorial to Oscar Bottom, age 29 years, in the Stafford Cemetery.

Gold Miners
The occupations listed for persons buried in the Stafford Cemetery include miner, blacksmith, farm labourer, shoemaker, publican, store keeper and medical practitioner. The number of miners, their wives, families and relatives is likely to be in the majority, but many buried in the cemtery do not have occupations listed. There are miner's children and wives, such as Agnes Tomasi (34), who are said to have died from "pthisis". Some who originally lived and mined in or near Stafford moved away and were buried in other cemeteries.

Three of the named miners buried in the Stafford Cemetery were: Stephen Delbridge Hosking, John Dellacosta and John Garner, the death of each being from different causes.
Stephen Delbridge Hosking

Born in Pool Ilogan, Cornwall, England in about 1820, Stephen Delbridge Hosking married Jane (Unknown). They emigrated to the Waimea gold fields of New Zealand and lived at Chicahominy Terrace. Stephen suffered with asthma and a Committee and friends raised money to contribute towards Stephen's medical expenses and were publically thanked by his wife, Jane. Stephen (63) died from asthma, 21 October 1883 and was buried in the Wesleyan section of the Stafford Cemetery 23 October 1883. His wife was also buried there in 1886.

John Dellacosta

John was born in about 1848. He worked on the Waimea gold fileds and was killed 9 September 1884, at age 39 years, "by being washed" on the alluvial workings. He was buried in the Stafford Cemetery.

John Garner

Born in Chelsea, England, John Garner emigrated to the Waimea gold fields of Westland, West Coast, New Zealand. He lived at Scandinavian Hill near Stafford Town. John's death at age 51 years, 29 October 1883, at Scandinavian Hill was caused by an aneurysm. He was buried in the Stafford Cemetery

Martini Grave
Three members of the Martini Family, Lodovoci, John and William, were gold miners in the Goldsborough - Stafford area of the Waimea gold fields.
Lodovico Martini, born in Switzerland to Italian parents in about 1835, emigrated to the Waimea gold fields of West Canterbury (Westland, West Coast, New Zealand). He and John Martini had a claim at Tunnel Terrace near Kapitea Creek. In September 1884, a letter of naturalisation was sent to Lodovico in Goldsborough, near Stafford. Lodovico died 14 February 1904. His funeral was held at St Patrick's Church, Stafford and he was buried in the Stafford Cemetery.

Grave: John Lake, Sawyer

Saw Miller
Gold miners needed timber for cradles, sluice boxes, fluming, water-wheels, water-races, weatherboard shanties and brewery vats. Other entrepreneurs on the gold fields used timber for their businesses and homes. Most timber was imported, but a local saw milling industry had been started before the end of 1865, mostly near Hokitika and Greymouth.

At Pipers Flat, Stafford, Sawyer, John Lake (33) from Devon, England had settled with his wife, Elizabeth (35) and children after they arrived in New Zealand in 1867. Amidst the Arahura District of the Waimea gold fields, on the main road at Stafford, John bought a small block of land. Before he died nine years later, in 1877, John (44) owned a saw-mill with tramways, water races etc, a draught horse, cottage and 82 acres of freehold land. He died in the hospital at Hokitika and was buried in the Anglican section of the Stafford Cemetery.

Throughout New Zealand many more infants and children died during early pioneer days than do today. In the Stafford Cemetery some of the names and ages of infants, children and adolescents buried there are recorded. Apart from about five stillborn babies, there is a total of about 110 children under 18 years of age in the cemetery. The numbers across groups: under one month, from 1 month to 11 months; from 1 to 4 years and from 5 to 12 years are fairly evenly distributed and there are about seven in the adolescent 13 - 17 group.

Grave George Broad Water Age 6 years

Restoration Project
During the later 1970s and 1980s the New Zealand Forest Service kept Stafford Cemetery tidy. Then after 1987 the Government restructured government services and maintainance of the cemetery ceased. Various people have tidied it from time to time, then after decades of the cemetery being mostly neglected, in 2016 a project was undertaken through the Lions Club and Hokitika Community, Dr Anna Dyzel playing a significant part in the drive for the project. Several people were involved in removal of encroaching bush, blackberry, bracken, plants and other invasive weeds.

The cemetery had looked much smaller, with far fewer headstones visible, before all this activity. Silver pine fence posts marking the cemetery boundaries were revealed as were all of the surviving headstones and plots as well as graves that no longer have headstones. Some graves were restored with the permission of, or at the request of, families concerned. There are unmarked graves which are unable to be identified. Charlie Cowie has continued to be involved in care of the cemetery and for the past six years maintenance has also been done voluntarily by John Houston who has ancestors and relatives buried there.

North West Stafford Cemetery

Cemetery Closure
Although there are people living in Stafford and the cemetery has not been open for interments for twenty years or more, it has never been formally closed. At the south-western end of the cemetery there is a considerable area of land where there appears to have never been any burials.


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