Outback Graves Markers

James ANDERSON (more)

Cause of Death: Murdered by Spearing

One of his mates constructed a crude coffin and he was buried under a clump of trees close to Maninka Gully near the grave of a young fellow who was buried there in January of that year. Mr Graves read the burial service while the body was being lowered into the grave.

Anderson was well-known and much respected in Siberia for his kindness. His kindness to the natives was also something exceptional. He was in the habit of sharing his food with them and also gave them clothes and blankets. In cold weather, he even went as far as to buy them a tent. It appears that an Aboriginal couple named Jimmy and Polly came into Siberia from the direction of Murchison about nine months earlier. Polly was rather a fine-looking woman and after a while, left Jimmy and lived with Anderson who, in partnership with a mate, ran a condenser about eight miles from Siberia on the road to the 90-Mile. Jimmy thrashed the lubra on a number of occasions for infidelity and tried to induce her to return to him, to no avail. Consequently, he became very sulky and at times threatened he would spear Anderson. Anderson defended Polly against Jimmy's attacks and on the day of the tragedy, is said to have beaten Jimmy severely. During the same night, Jimmy returned to Anderson's camp and met Anderson while the latter was going in the direction of his tent. Anderson apparently saw him and stooped to pick up a stick, when Jimmy drove a spear between his neck and collarbone. The spear penetrated right through to the ribs on the opposite side. With a groan, Anderson fell back and expired. The cry brought Polly out and she ran for Anderson's mate who was asleep. The two managed to get the body onto a stretcher and left for Siberia. A party of diggers went out to the scene and found that the murderer had returned and looted the tent of all tucker, blankets and the water bag. None of them went out after him.

Anderson, of fair complexion, height 5 ft. 7 in, had been a sea-faring man who had also spent time in New Zealand and was known as New Zealand Jimmy.


Nils BENGTSON (more)

Cause of Death: Heart Attack

Nils was famed in the goldfields of Western Australia as the finder of the gold nugget named "Little Hero", which was taken into Roebourne from Shaw Falls, Nullagine, on 25 July 1890, by five men, John Williams, John Doyle, John Pryde Charles Capner and Nils Bengtson. The gold weighed 460 ounces, including two big nuggets, one weighing 333 oz. 8dwt. Bengtson was apparently the one who unearthed the nugget.

David Walter BETTS (more)

Cause of Death: Natural Causes, Exposure

The deceased died between 3-8 August, 1913. He was buried by JH Sallows. Witnesses present at the burial were James Kirkham and HE Green. The death was certified in writing by James Kirkham, friend, Waverley.

Walter Betts was found in the bush on Friday 8 August. He had left his camp on 2 August to go to Kalgoorlie but was complaining of having dysentery. A subsequent enquiry concluded that he had come upon his death by natural causes.

The deceased died intestate.  On 11 November 1913, David Walter Betts, of Waverley, received the amount of £444.18s.5d from the estate of David Walter Betts.

Andrew BYRNE (more)

Cause of Death: Heart Disease

The deceased was buried by Police Constable Alfred Thomson Hoy on the roadside near the town of Siberia. Witnesses at the burial were Frank Curtain and John Lawson. The informant of his death was Police Constable Alfred Thomson Hoy (Regimental No. 349), Menzies.

Byrne died at the alluvial workings where he had been working for two months with a mate, John Lawson. Byrne was married with a grown up family living in Surrey Hills, near Sydney. He was working in Perth as a cab driver until February 1898. He then moved to Kanowna for about two months before moving to Siberia, where he was engaged in dry blowing, with little success. At 3pm on 30th, Byrne sat down gently in the shallow hole in which he was working, rested his head on the bank and stretched himself out. Lawson spoke to him and received no answer.

Byrne had no property whatsoever. The townspeople provided a coffin and dug the grave, free of charge.

James Leopold DAWSON (more)

Cause of Death: Suicide by Cyanide

In the Coolgardie Miner, Monday 5 August 1901 under the sub-heading "Suicide at Siberia": James Leopold Dawson was formerly employed in the Coolgardie branch of the Bank of Australasia. He was transferred from here to the Kalgoorlie branch of the bank. Recently he was tributing with others on the Fair Adelaide mine four miles from Siberia. A few days ago he came into Coolgardie to sell some gold on behalf of the mine, and returned to his camp on Wednesday evening last. On Thursday morning he was found dead in his bed. This information was reported to the police, and Dr Seed was instructed to proceed to Siberia, and he arrived there on Friday morning. Acting on the instructions of Mr Benjamin Bryant, J.P, Dr Seed made a post mortem examination of the body, and found that death had resulted from cyanide poisoning. An inquest was held by Mr Bryant, and the verdict given was 'That deceased came to his death by cyanide poisoning, self-administered, while suffering from mental worry, no blame being attachable to anyone. The deceased was a single man, 27 years of age."

John DILLON (more)

Cause of Death: Senile Decay

The deceased was buried by William Lancaster Martin in the Siberia Cemetery. Witnesses present at the burial were James Carroll and Franz Cullen.

William Robin GRAVES (more)

Cause of Death: Heart Failure

Also known as Greaves.

The deceased was an old age pensioner who was supposedly born in Guildford around 1852.

John KIRKHAM (more)

Cause of Death: Heart failure

The deceased was buried in Waverley (Siberia) Cemetery by G Groves (Church of England).  Witnesses present at his burial were John Thompson and C Wright. His death was certified in writing by John H Thompson, friend, Kununalling.

He had lived in Victoria and Tasmania for 47 years before coming to Western Australia.

Male Child KIRKHAM (more)

Cause of Death: Premature Birth

The deceased was the fourth child (son) of Mabel and James Kirkham, who owned the Reward Hotel, Siberia. Planted at the child's grave, in his memory, is a bougainvillea which is now over 114 years old and is watered by visiting prospectors, locals, tourists and visitors to the area. It may be because of this loving care, or the loving vow of Mrs Kirkham that this plant will never die because "Her heart is buried under it."

Attached is a photograph of a quilt made by Frances Shifferli in 2017 to commemorate the story of the Bougainvillea Bush at Siberia.  The small figure in the background of the quilt is a photo of Maureen, Mabel Kirkham's great, great granddaughter, taken in 2016.  Frances offers the following story:

‘Water on my Heart’… a quilt, with a story, by Frances Schifferli                                                                                         

At the turn of the last century, James and Mabel Kirkham arrived from Victoria, to try their luck in the Kalgoorlie goldfields.  James set up a hotel in Siberia, now a ghost town situated 80ks north-west of Kalgoorlie, near Ora Banda. In 1903, Mabel lost her newborn son, who was buried in the nearby cemetery.  She planted a bougainvillea when the family left Siberia.  She said to her remaining neighbours, ‘This plant must never die, as my heart is buried beneath it.’ It was watered regularly over the years by the remaining town folk, until eventually only members of the Argus family, who had a station property nearby, remained. In later years the property was sold to mining interests and the bougainvillea neglected. The bush struggled for survival.
In 2002, Harry Argus and his sister Eileen, remembering Mabel’s request, sought out the plant once again. It was found close to death.  They set up a watering station with a rain gauge so others, who fossicked around the ghost town, could water the bougainvillea. A running record of visitors has been kept in the Guest Book stored there, in a waterproof tin.

People from all over Australia and many parts of the world, including China, India, the USA and the Philippines have indeed poured water on Mabel’s heart and left their messages in the guest book.

The ground was littered with their ‘calling cards’, like memory stones— fossicked rocks, weathered- smooth broken wine bottles, pieces of crockery and bits of rusted iron. 

Frances visited this site in November 2016, together with Vic and Maureen, whose great grandmother planted the bougainvillea. Maureen lives in Waikerie, South Australia, and was aware of its existence but had not seen it. It was a very moving occasion when the plant was discovered and the story revealed itself.   Mabel Kirkham’s story cried out to be told in a quilt.  Frances designed Water on My Heart in 2017.  It was displayed at the West Australian Quilting Exhibition in May of that year and won first prize in the themed section, A New Heart. The quilt has been given to Maureen and she displays it proudly in her home.

In a recent visit to the bush in October 2022, Frances noticed that the second book has been filled with more moving messages. The original watering station has been modified by a Kirkham relative, with a substantial metal fence and a brass plaque telling the Kirkham story.  New pieces of fossicked rocks and odds and ends lie scattered around saying, ‘I’ve been here and watered the bougainvillea.’

James Kirkham was born 21 June 1873 at Nerring, Victoria (Birth Registration 16151/1873, Nerring).  He married Mabel Gertrude Hamlyn on 23 November 1894 at Eaglehawk, Victoria (Marriage Registration 6534/1895).  Their first child, Eleanor (Nell) Draxey, was born in Kerang, Victoria, 27 February 1896 in Sandhurst, Victoria (Birth Registration 12577/1894, Kerang).  The little family then moved to Western Australia, where the following children were born: Olive Marian born Coolgardie 1898 (Birth Registration 575/1898); James Malster born 1900 at Carnage (Birth Registration 636/1900); Doreen Fay born Fimiston 1903 (Birth Registration 1382/1903); Frederick De Banks born 1905 at Fremantle (Birth Registration 2622/1905).

Interestingly, around 1917/1918, James Kirkham bought a picture show business in Port Augusta, South Australia, and built it up into a large enterprise, called Kirkham's Pictures.  His first showing was in 1918.

James Kirkham died 9 April 1934 at Port Augusta, South Australia, and his wife died there in October 1965. 

James MCCORMICK (more)

Cause of Death: Fever

The deceased was the first person to be buried in the Siberia Cemetery. He had been laid up for some time with fever. He was recovering nicely but on Thursday morning, he had a relapse and died on Friday about 1 o'clock. The funeral was largely attended and nearly all the miners left their work to pay their last respects to the poor young fellow. Mr. W. R. Graves read the burial service.

Donald Brims MILLER (more)

Cause of Death: Inflammation of the Bowel

Miller's wife, Salome, died not long after their arrival in Western Australia (Death Registration 493/1894). She was aged 27 years. Following the death of their daughter the year before, Miller headed for the Goldfields. Apparently Miller came to Siberia in a cart with three other youths on 8 December, but feeling too unwell to go any further, he put up at the Siberia Soak Hotel. As he seemed to be getting worse, the proprietress, Miss Kenny, offered to send for medical aid, but he refused any assistance, saying that he had often been worse before. On Sunday, about noon, Miller expired.

The informant of his death was J Cortis MD ChM, doctor, Menzies.

Miller was the third child and second son born in Scotland to Donald and Elisabeth Miller. Their other children were: Cathrine born 25 December 1853; William born 7 March 1855; James born 3 March 1860; Elizabeth Bain born 24 March 1862; Isabella born 9 December 1867. Donald Miller, born 21 Sept 1817, at Caithness, Scotland, died in 1891.

Unknown PIONEER (more)

Cause of Death:

William REID (more)

Cause of Death: Asthma

The deceased was buried at Waverley (Siberia) by David Stenhouse. Witnesses at the burial were James Kirkham and Alexander Courage. 

He had been living in Queensland before coming to Western Australia. "A very old Siberia resident, the late William Reid had a very varied experience of life, having been a sailor, a soldier in the American war, a miner, an alluvial digger, etc. He died after suffering from asthma for a considerable time and got a touch of influenza.

The deceased was well-known all over the fields, and was a kind, straight-forward fellow, and always willing to assist anyone in need. The police came on Friday to pass the usual inspection.  His funeral took place on Saturday and was largely attended.

Thomas THISTLETON (more)

Cause of Death: Suicide by Strychnine

Also known as Tom Lees.

After he had been missing from Waverley since the Friday night, the old dryblower, Thomas Thistleton, commonly known as Tom Lees, was found dead in the bush, 15 miles from the township, by Constable Kevin and a blacktracker on Tuesday. It was presumed that he went on Saturday morning, taking only his water bag, to look at a gully he had been speaking of, about a mile or two from his camp. As he did not return, a search party went out on the Sunday afternoon and again on Monday morning. His tracks were picked up and followed some little distance but, owing to the rough, hilly country, the party was obliged to give up and Constable Kevin, of Ora Banda, was wired for.

Thistleton was an old and highly respected resident. Though only a fair bushman, he knew the country well and it was thought hardly possible for him to get lost. The thermometer, however, for the past three days had been over 100 degrees in the shade and it was thought the excessive heat may have overcome, him and caused him to wander out of his course. An Inquest touching the circumstances of the death of Thomas Thistleton, was held at the Siberia Hotel on 23 February. Constable Kevin stated that on Monday he received a telephone message informing him that the deceased was missing from his camp. He at once secured a native tracker, arrived at Waverley in the afternoon and at once proceeded to search. He found the deceased's tracks and followed them till dark. Next morning he followed this track and found the deceased lying under a bush dead, the body in a very decomposed state. There were no other tracks near the body, nor was there any thing of any value found on the body. The tracker found a small glass tumbler near the body, which contained a white sediment. He had the body conveyed to Waverley. Dr. Leedman, medical officer at Broad Arrow, gave evidence of having made a post mortem examination of the body of the deceased on January 29. The body was in an advanced state of decomposition. The organs were healthy. He removed the stomach to be analysed. It contained 15 grains of strychnine. The glass found near the deceased contained traces of strychnine and, in his opinion, death was due to strychnine poison. The jury then returned a verdict that the deceased met his death through the effect of strychnine, self administered.