Broken Memories takes a look at broken headstones and memorials in Western District cemeteries and the stories behind them beginning with the Hamilton (Old) Cemetery. Links to previous parts to the series are at the bottom of this post. Any underlined text throughout the post will take you to further information about a subject.
Joseph Mitton Lissiman was born in Droitwich, Worcestershire in the West Midlands of England around 1853 and went to school at the Old Swinford Hospital to the north at Stourbridge. The family eventually made their way further north to Birmingham. Joseph left school at fifteen and by the time of the 1871 England Census, he was living further north again in Staffordshire and working in an apprenticeship role. Joseph was also deeply religious, a parishioner of the Church of England. Joseph became a Sunday School teacher and volunteered around the church where possible.
In 1876 and still in England, Joseph read an article written by the Ballarat Archbishop Samuel Thornton Joseph about the needs of the Ballarat Anglican Diocese. That year the Archbishop wrote a series of articles for the English journal Mission Life with excerpts published in Victorian papers. An example is the following extract from the Bacchus Marsh Express with Archbishop Thornton describing the Ballarat diocese and putting out a call to young Englishmen to help. He continued, “the bush clergyman should be ready for plenty of open-air and saddle-work”.
Joseph longed to go. By that time his parents were dead and nothing was keeping him in England. He approached his local clergymen who knew Archbishop Thornton. He was happy to put in a good word for him. Joseph saved his money and in 1877 he applied to work with the Anglican church in Australia at his own expense. There was some hesitation from the church to approve his application because Joseph had no theological training. His devotion, however, was unquestionable.
By June 1879, the dreams of twenty-six-year-old Joseph had come true. He had become a Lay Reader for the Anglican Church in the Ballarat Diocese, assigned to Hamilton Archdeacon Gustaves Innes. Joseph was based at the small township of Dunkeld, east of Hamilton, and spread the word throughout the wider district. The majestic mountains, Sturgeon and Abrupt (below) overlook Dunkeld.
Some days, Joseph would ride north between the two to the sparsely settled Victoria Valley beyond.
On other days, he would turn his horse to the west and follow the Wannon River around the foot of Mount Sturgeon and make his way to Cavendish. Or he would head to the south to Penshurst or even further beyond to Macarthur, a round trip of around 130 kilometres. But still, his circuit was not complete. There was also the parishioners of Glenthompson to the east of Dunkeld. Joseph’s pay was subsidised by subscribers to the church in each of the areas he preached. However, congregation numbers were low, meaning low subscriptions meant little to pay Joseph for his hard work.
Its doubtful monetary reward was top of Joseph’s mind. In fact, when not travelling miles on horseback, Joseph was involved with the Dunkeld community. He and Miss Elliot of the town trained the local school children in singing, something met with hearty applause when they sang at the Dunkeld Wesleyan Anniversary Tea. Later in the month, the Dunkeld school held a “breaking-up jubilee”. Games were played and Joseph acted as a judge.
Joseph must have been exhausted yet still his passion for his work was evident to all who met him. But just six months of living his dream, things took a tragic turn.
On 22 January 1880, news came Joseph was ill, attributed to overwork. A good rest was what was needed to return him to good health. He was taken to the Hamilton Anglican parsonage to stay with Archdeacon Gustves Innes and his wife.
However, on 31 January 1880, the Hamilton Spectator announced Joseph was dangerously ill with “colonial fever” (typhoid) and the doctors gave “faint hope of his recovery”.
The Church of England Messenger and Eccliseiastical Gazzette reported on his illness,
Joseph succumbed to typhoid on 7 February 1880.
Joseph was buried in the Church of England section of the Hamilton Cemetery. Archdeacon Innes officiated at the grave while local Sunday School teachers gathered to farewell their friend. The Hamilton Spectator reported, “he had no relatives in the colony”. But he did have kind friends and as written on his headstone, the cost of the monument was paid for by “a few of his friends”. Sadly, his surname was incorrectly spelled.
Joseph’s obituary in the Hamilton Spectator mentioned,
…his numerous friends at Dunkeld and Cavendish will not easily forget his love for little children, his simple piety and homely ways…it is somewhat pathetic to reflect on so ardent a young spirit quenched in the very commencement of his career. Perhaps, however, his death may teach the lesson of his life, and his cordial relations with other denominations his purity of life and gentle unselfishness may be copied by some of the young members of his flock, who, in a few months, had already begun to look upon him as an old friend, and not as a new arrival in the colony.
In the Diocese publication, Archdeacon Innes relayed the story of Joseph helping a young girl kicked in the face by a horse.how in the months before
An interesting point about Joseph’s death was the timing, right in the midst of a Diphtheria epidemic in the Hamilton district. As seen below, Joseph’s death was not the only one reported on 10 February 1880 but also that of young Esther Smith who died of Diphtheria. It may be possible Joseph was misdiagnosed as there are some similarities in the symptoms of both diseases such as a sore throat, fever, malaise but beyond that, each develops differently.
Now for a twist in the story…
Life for Hamilton’s Archdeacon Gustaves Innes returned to normal after Joseph’s death, or so it would seem. On Easter Monday 29 March 1880, he had a great day at the Anglican Sunday School picnic at Nigretta Falls, just west of Hamilton.
There was food, games, the Hamilton Brass Band provided entertainment and Gustaves arranged a greasy pig competition. The Spectator reported, “If the Ven. Archdeacon was loved and respected before Monday, his bonhomie on that all eventful day greatly increased his popularity, the children being practically shown that there is a time for all things.”
On Saturday 3 April 1880, it was reported Gustaves was suffering a sore throat and a replacement was called for the Sunday service. It was thought he’d caught a cold at the Sunday School picnic. His condition worsened and on 6 April it was reported four patients were receiving treatment for Diphtheria at the Hamilton Hospital with another seven receiving treatment at home. All were at the Sunday School picnic. It was confirmed Gustaves was among the cases.
Two days later Gustaves” condition was critical and his daughter Lily had also contacted Diphtheria. The next morning, 9 April, Gustaves died aged forty-two leaving his widow and his daughter Lily who recovered from her illness.
The funeral took place the following day at the Hamilton Christ Church with a large crowd in attendance. Given the growing fear of the contagious disease, it was thought a good idea to leave the coffin outside in the hearse while mourners went inside the church for the service.
A large crowd then followed the hearse to the Hamilton (Old) Cemetery. Of course, Gustaves was buried in the Church of England section of the cemetery.
I went to the cemetery in search of his grave. After a lot of examining the maps on the cemetery’s deceased search and the various photos I have of photos close by, I have come to the conclusion, the grave below belongs to Gustaves. There is no inscription and like Joseph Lissiman’s headstone, it too appears broken. He is buried in the next row across and seven graves down from Joseph Lissiman.
Gustaves would remain close to Joseph Lissiman after death and given the events after Joseph’s death, that may have been too close for comfort for Gustaves as the story takes another twist,
On 30 April 1880, the Geelong Advertiser broke a story. Apparently, the ghost of Joseph Lissiman appeared before Archdeacon Gustaves Innes in his study one night in the weeks after Joseph’s death. Not only that, the apparition predicted Gustav’s death.
That revelation led the Hamilton Spectator to break a promised silence. After Gustaves’ death, they were shown a note written by him the morning before his death while he was still apparently lucid. “It was shown to us with a request that we would not publish it, as it could do no good, and might hurt the feelings of his relatives.” Instead, a family friend “with questionable taste, thought proper to furnish a very distorted version of the affair to the public”. The contents of the note sighted by the Hamilton Spectator were different from the account published in the Advertiser.
Rather, shortly after Joseph died claimed the Spectator, Gustvaves was home alone when he heard rattling coming from the room which served as Joseph’s sick room. Gustaves rushed to the room, peered into the darkness and when he thought the coast was clear, said to himself with a chuckle, “It must be old Lissiman. What do you want?” Gustaves’ note continued…”Then I had an answer, not audible, but such as possibly a spirit can convey, ‘ Never, mind, you’ll follow me soon.’ It was singular, I never told anyone.”
Whatever happened on that night must have weighed on Gustaves’ mind for him to pen a note as he lay on his death bed. All the same, the matter of a ghost, it would appear, was soon forgotten. Gustaves and Joseph, however, were not forgotten. They were remembered together in April 1881 a year after their deaths at the laying of the foundation stone of a new Anglican church at Dunkeld.
But the matter of a ghost was not forgotten. On 23 July 1881, the Leader newspaper published in a supplement an excerpt from the Wesleyan Spectator, under the headline “The Living and the Dead”, a paper written by Reverend Joseph Waterhouse a year earlier when the first word of a ghost hit the papers. At least, the Hamilton Spectator‘s version of the story was given, but the Reverend Waterhouse added, “I believe all the above; I will give three instances in which the dead have appeared to me, the living.”
I will leave the topic of ghosts here for now but the next edition will continue on from where the story of Joseph Lissiman and Archdeacon Innes left off including a revisit to the Anglican Sunday School picnic at the Nigretta Falls on Easter Monday 1880. Coming Soon.
If you missed the early editions of the series Broken Memories, you will find them on the links below: