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Ninnes Grave

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Kawana Drive, Maiden Gully VIC 3551

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Features

  • Lone grave
  • Information sign
  • Small bush reserve
  • Walking track
The story of Ninnes Grave is a heart breaking and all-too-common tale from the early years of Victoria's gold rush. After a difficult ten week journey from the copper mines of South Australia to the gold diggings of Victoria in 1852, tragedy struck the Ninnes family when Thomas Ninnes' wife, Maria and two young daughters, Grace and Jane died, leaving Thomas and their two surviving daughters, Martha and Mary, to grieve their untimely demise. Thomas built their coffins, dug the grave, carved their names in a tree and constructed a small stone fence around their burial site. 

Ninnes Grave is one of Victoria's earliest and best examples of a lone grave, and is a fascinating place to stop by while exploring the Bendigo region. 

The grave sits in a small bushland reserve between Kawana Drive and Pioneer Drive, with entrances on both roads and a walking track travelling straight through from one side to the other.

A beautifully presented information sign stands alongside the grave and displays the following text:

Ninnes Grave
1852, Myers Flat

'So ends the history of a good, clean, careful, affectionate wife'.

A miner's memorial for his wife and young daughters. 

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In 1852, after a long and arduous journey to the Bendigo goldfields, tragedy struck the Ninnes family. Two of their four young daughters - Grace, 2 years and Jane, 2 months - died on the same night, just weeks after the family reached their destination. Soon after, their mother Maria also died. Maria and her two daughters were buried here by Thomas, Maria's husband, in July 1852.

The Ninnes family was Cornish and had travelled with other Cornish families from the copper mines in Burra, South Australia, to try their luck on the newly discovered goldfields in central Victoria. Their journey took 10 weeks and they covered more than 700 kilometres. Maria gave birth to Grace along the way and then fell ill, and never recovered. After a burial service, Thomas carved their names in a tree and built a stone wall around the grave. 

Thomas continued to work the goldfields after their deaths but it was a hard life and 18 months later he returned to South Australia. He remarried and settled on a farm near Clare, where he lived until his death more than 40 years later. His surviving daughters Martha and Mary returned here in 1905 to arrange for the grave to be cared for. The stone wall was rebuilt and a headstone erected. 

The site remains one of the earliest and best examples of a lone grave in Victoria and serves as a stark reminder of harsh realities of life in the early goldfields. 

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Ninnes Grave has been preserved thanks to the efforts of Edith Lunn, the Friends of the Ninnes Grave, Cornish Association of Victoria, and the City of Greater Bendigo. 

The following extract from Thomas Ninnes' diary was published in the Cornish Association of Victoria Inc's newsletter, May 2005:

Extracts from Thomas Ninnes's diary: 

1852 March 30 - At night My Wife was confine .... She never had a better time. Child born and all right in a little time. Sister Mary Thomas present. We had a splendid tent .... Maria in her sleep being covered very close put out her arms, turned back the clothes and gote cold about the arms, brest and neck. She awoke me about 3 o'clock and said she was cold. I gote her something hot at once. She improved but never gote right as before. ... 6 miles from the Pirenees, and 25 miles from Mt Alexander. We stopped a week 

11 May - We moved our tents from Bullock Creek to ... Flat and Creek. It came on a fearful hard rain. Maria gote whet. She soon gote worse. Palpitations of the Harte came on. 

Monday 18 May -I fetched Dr Smitch (?), a German from the Burra. He attended her for inflammation of the Lungs. Paid him for 5 visits £10.0.0. No better the 29 May and fetched Doctor Oakley (?). He attended to the 29th. 7 visits £7.0.0. Medison £5.0.0. 

June 29 - I gote Dr Moile, a nephew of our family doctor of Penzance to see her. Dr Moile (?) her case incurable he said she had water in the chamber of her Harte and common dropsy. There was no hope whatever of her recovering. Paid him £1.0.0. July 5 - (recounts more than 1 day) ... She gave up everything for that moment. Prays to the Lord she died 3.30 that day. She lived 3 months and seven days after her confinement. ... Little ?? died at 9 o'clock at night from direah. Jane died at 12 same night from want of Brest nursing. We took boards from the Burra which used to make coffins. I made nice cofins for the children. My wife requested me to make a coffin for her also. It was a ???? trial to me but I managed to make it. Bound it with white cloth and it appeared very nice. John Thomas dug the graves, Nicholas Trehair (?) read the burial service. So ends the history of a good, carefull, affectionate wife. Myself with Mary and Martha was left to mourn her loss.

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