Enter the gates of the Hamilton Old Cemetery and rising up before you are hundreds of diverse and fascinating headstones and monuments. Some always catch my eye when I visit whether it’s for their design, the effects of time or the inscription. Taking six headstones I find interesting, I’ve looked further into the history of each and those who lie beneath.
GEORGE AND JANE BOWLER
A broken column, a life cut short. In 1856, Jane Scott married London-born George Bowler presumably at Portland where their first child Thomas Joseph Bowler was born the following year. In 1858, a second son, George Richard Bowler was born at Hamilton. In 1860, the Bowlers suffered the loss of baby George and welcomed a daughter Mary Jane. The following, year on 16 July 1861, George Bowler Sr. also died at the age of twenty-seven and was buried in the Anglican section of the cemetery. Jane was left with two small children aged four and one. In 1864, she lodged a request for the Hamilton Borough Council to relieve her from paying her rates due to poverty.
In later years, Jane’s daughter Mary Jane married Robert McFarlane in 1887 and son Thomas Bowler took up the trade of blacksmith in Hamilton. He for a time was in partnership with David Arnott in the Hamilton Carriage Factory, blacksmith, wheelwrights and coachbuilders. Jane lived in Griffin Street and took in boarders to make ends meet.
Jane died on December 1896 at Hamilton. She was buried with George. George’s parents Joseph and Mary Bowler occupy the adjacent plots.
On 9 March 1901, Isaac Foster had his Station Street property up for auction as he was leaving town.
But Isaac didn’t leave town. By 23 March, he was dead at the age of sixty-eight and still in Hamilton.
Isaac Foster arrived at Williamstown in 1870 before heading to Portland where he started a building and contracting business. A new hospital was planned in Hamilton and Isaac was appointed Clerk of Works on the project and moved to Hamilton.
He also worked on the Hamilton Anglican and Presbyterian Sunday Schools and William Melville’s residence at Weerangourt. Two years before his death, Isaac began suffering from consumption which would claim his life. Isaac also owned property at Branxholme which was auctioned in the week after his death.
Inscribed with the words “There remaineth a rest for the people of God” from the Book of Hebrews, is the headstone at the final resting place of Naomi Hickmer. Naomi, a spinster lived in Stephens Street, Hamilton and died on 6 April 1883 aged fifty-two.
Naomi’s brother Henry also lived in Hamilton and fortunately, he was a storyteller occasionally sharing his recollections with Mount Gambier’s Border Watch. Henry’s obituary included his life story from his own pen and from that I was able to find out more about Naomi and her family. The Hickmers were from Brighton, Sussex, England. Naomi was born around 1831. The family arrived at Adelaide, South Australia in 1851 when Naomi was twenty. Most of the members of the family then moved to the Lake Leake Station, east of Millicent, South Australia.
Henry Jr arrived in Hamilton around 1874, living at various rural properties around the district before settling in Milton Street in 1892. It is possible his parents and Naomi were in the district from around 1856. The 1856 Australian Electoral Roll lists a Henry Hickmer, a farmer of South Hamilton. Henry Hickmer Sr. died at Milton Street, Hamilton on 8 September 1881 aged eighty-three and Ann Hickmer died on 17 September 1884 also at Milton Street. They are buried beside Naomi.
Naomi’s estate consisted of property to the value of £20 being her home in Stephens Street and £543 of personal property. During the month after her death, Naomi’s assets were auctioned off.
Naomi’s probate file held by the Public Record Office made interesting reading and the outstanding accounts she had when she died, give some clue about her life at the time. She owed £4 15′ shillings to the grocer Henry Horwitz, £2 6′ to drapers W. & W. Thomson, and £2 7′ for buggy hire from Richard Elijah. Her other debts show she had a period of illness with amounts due to two surgeons Thomas Scott and George Annaud. There was also a fee owing to Mrs Young for nursing services and an account of £1 from Carl Klug the chemist. Naomi also paid Elizabeth Kennett servant’s wages and there was a charge of 13″ 6′ to Mott and Rippon publishers being the Hamilton Spectator. It’s likely the bill was for Naomi’s funeral notice below.
ANTONIO & ROSINA RIZZO
The Rizzo headstone not only displays Hamilton jeweller Antonio Rizzo’s devotion to his wife Rose but also a love of cameos, his specialty.
Rose Genevieve McCrystal was born around 1855, the daughter of Patrick McCrystal and Bridget Crinnion of Portland. The McCrystals married in 1845 at Launceston. In 1878, Rose married William Pearson. Their first child a son was born at Branxholme around the time William purchased Hamilton’s Temperance Hotel and Confectionery Establishment. Two more children, a son and daughter were born in Hamilton in 1883 and 1884.
Four years later, a buggy accident near Branxholme claimed William’s life.
Rose kept the Temperance Hotel operating after William’s death.
In 1886, Rose put the Temperance Hotel up for lease and she and the children moved to Portland. Rose ran a boarding house in Percy Street.
Meanwhile, Italian Antonio Rizzo had arrived in Australia sometime in 1884. He was born around 1845 and came from Naples. In 1887, he travelled to the Adelaide International Exhibition for which he received first prizes.
Antonio moved on to Melbourne for the 1889 Melbourne International Exhibition exhibiting his specialty of shell cameos.
It was in 1889, Antonio first ventured to Portland when he entered the Industrial and Art Loan Exhibition there in March 1889 and won first prize in his section for his artistic and cameo jewellery. Some of Antonio’s chosen materials were coral and lava from Mount Vesuvius.
Having previously worked for Gaunt and Drummond Jewellers in Melbourne, later in 1889, Antonio opened his own jewellery shop at 37 Sturt Street, Ballarat. In that year, the Ballarat Star, described Antonio as “our Italian sculptor” after he created a marble statue for an All Nations Fancy Fair in October 1889.
Although he was in Ballarat, Antonio’s thoughts were in Portland and in 1891, he married the widow Rose Pearson at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Ballarat.
A daughter, Italia Florence was born the following year in Melbourne. Next, Antonio applied for a wine license in Portland in December 1893 but failed in his application as he was not born in the colony or naturalised. Instead. he started a jewellery store in Percy Street, Portland in March 1894. In the same year, Antonio and Rose’s eldest son Hubert was born at Brunswick. On 30 September 1895,a fire swept through the Percy Street shop and residence. Rugerio Patrick was born in the same year at Portland. Not perturbed by the fire, Antonio opened a jewellery store in Gray Street, Hamilton in December 1895. Antonio’s talents were soon noticed in Hamilton and in 1897 he was commissioned to produce an engraved silver-handled trowel for Jane Henty to lay the foundation stone of the Hamilton Hospital Fever Ward.
In 1904, Antonio became one of the many unwitting victims of fraudster Louis Horwitz. Horwitz was Antonio’s landlord and legal advisor. He swindled Antonio into signing documents with regard to his overdraft with the Union Bank. Before he knew it, Antonio was taken to court by the bank and other creditors all demanding money. It was enough to ruin Antonio. He had debts of around £1600 and only £830 of assets, leaving a shortfall of £700 forcing him into insolvency in September 1904. He could no longer trade and a clearance sale was held in early 1905.
In August 1905, Antonio made a successful application to have his insolvency dissolved and was able to reopen his business.
Antonio was a generous donor of trophies for various events around Hamilton. One trophy known as the Rizzo Trophy, was for the Hamilton Gun Club becoming highly sort after prize among shooters. While in Hamilton, Antonio and Rose resided at Roma in Milton Street. When WW1 broke, their son Hubert enlisted in 1915 and safely returned to Australia in 1919.
Rose died on 8 November 1920 at a Kyneston Private Hospital in Caulfield aged sixty-five. Her body was returned to Hamilton and buried in the Roman Catholic section of the cemetery. In time, an exquisite and unique headstone was added to Rose’s grave. The feature, a cameo made in Italy in the image of Rose. Antonio died on 27 October 1924 at his daughter Italia’s home in Kew at the age of seventy-nine. He was reunited with Rose and today their grave is part of the cemetery’s Notable Graves Walk. While the entry recognises Antonio, Rose shouldn’t be forgotten. She earned a living and raised her two children alone for seven years, later losing everything in the Portland fire and was there for Antonio through his enforced insolvency.
Rugerio Rizzo followed his father into the trade and continued operating Rizzo Jewellers for several decades after Antonio’s death.
TIMOTHY TWOMEY & THE TWOMEY FAMILY PLOT
The beautiful Celtic cross in the Roman Catholic section of the cemetery belongs to a man they called the Squire of Banemore, Timothy Twomey. Timothy was a member of the Twomey family of Penshurst. He was born in Ireland around 1829, the son of John Twomey and Margaret O’Conner. When the family arrived in Victoria, John Twomey acquired a large amount of land near Penshurst. He later divided the property into three for his son Timothy’s property was Banemore from 1866 In 1867, Timothy married Annie Hayes. The Twomeys enjoyed overseas travel and by 1887, Timothy and Annie had visited Asia, Europe, and America.
In early 1894, Timothy and Annie were off to England again. The trip did not go to plan with Timothy dying suddenly in London on 10 July 1894 aged sixty-five.
Timothy’s body was returned to Hamilton but on the way, there was a stopover at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Melbourne for a memorial service on 7 September 1894. The cortege left for Spencer Street Station in time for the 6.50pm train to Hamilton. The following day, Timothy’s funeral was held at St Mary’s Catholic Church, Hamilton before burial.
In 1896, Annie commissioned Messrs. P. Finn & Co, stonemasons of Mitchell Street, Bendigo to make an appropriate headstone. What they created was considered one of the finest headstones in the colonies. It was a huge undertaking with the granite quarried at Cape Woolamai on Victoria’s east coast, then shipped to Melbourne for transport to Bendigo. The four metre high Celtic cross was available for viewing at Finn’s yard prior to its transportation to Hamilton.
Timothy’s Celtic cross is just one of a number of graves in the Twomey family plot and is by no means the tallest. There were eighteen Twomey burials at the cemetery, including Timothy’s parents and brothers Edward and Daniel. The two brothers were at one time on the Hamilton Cemetery Trust.
THOMAS & MARGARET WALKER
A scroll such as that on the column of the Walker monument can symbolise a life unfolding for an uncertain time. It’s doubtful Margaret Walker ever expected her life to unfold across 104 years. Thomas Walker arrived at Portland around 1840 and married Margaret Brown in 1843. They lived in Portland until 1866 when they moved to Hamilton. Thomas acquired various properties around the Hamilton township and for a time worked as a land agent. He died on 15 April 1909 aged eighty-six, leaving his widow Margaret, then aged seventy-four, one son and two daughters.
Margaret, born on 11 August 1835 at Launceston, went on to live for a further thirty years. On 10 August 1939, Margaret celebrated her 104th birthday at her home in Shakespeare Street, Hamilton. At the time, it was thought she was the oldest woman in Victoria living through the reign of six monarchs.
Also buried with Thomas and Margaret is their daughter Maria, who Margaret outlived by seven years. Maria Watson died at Hamilton aged seventy-six.
This is the second in a series of posts about the Old Hamilton Cemetery. You can read the first on the link – Hamilton Old Cemetery – Finding Family
© 2017 Merron Riddiford
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