October 8, 2016
FOUR generations and three lines of descendants of the Cuttriss family gathered recently at the Inverloch Pioneer Cemetery at the grave site of their ancestor Ellen Cuttriss and her five-year old son William. The family came together to celebrate finding Ellen and William’s grave after its whereabouts was unknown for over 70 years.
Ellen was the daughter of John Percival Wain, one of the first Europeans to peg out a selection at Leongatha South. He then selected land on Savages Hill at Andersons Inlet (as Inverloch was then known) and later at Bambrook Road.
In 1881 Ellen married Alfred Cuttriss, who had emigrated from England in 1874, and together they operated livery stables at Townsend Bluff for travellers on route from Tarwin Lower to San Remo.
On May 17, 1891 Ellen passed away due to a heart condition leaving five children under the age of ten. Ellen was the first person to be buried at Inverloch Cemetery and young William was laid to rest with her around two weeks later on June 3.
Ellen and William’s grave wasn’t the only one lost for all those years. Most of the graves in the original cemetery had wooden crosses or markers which were destroyed by a fire that swept through the area. Only the concrete graves with headstones survived the test of time.
John (Jack) Cuttriss was born at Inverloch in 1888 and was Ellen’s fourth child. Jack did the mail run from French Island to Stony Point, Hastings and Cowes with his older brother Percy until 1916 when he left to serve in World War I. Upon his return from war he took up a soldier settlement farm at Werribee South, married Daisy and started a family.
In 1944 Jack returned to Inverloch with Daisy and their eight children and established a farmlet next to his brother Percy’s farm which had a guest house and nine-hole golf course located between Screw Creek and the road now known as Cuttriss Street.
Jack’s return to Inverloch was bittersweet. He had long dreamed of the time he would return home and visit his mother’s grave. Only two years old when she died, he was too young to have known his mother. Ellen passed away holding Jack and his baby brother Thomas in her arms. So, when Jack arrived at the cemetery and could find no trace of her grave he felt as if he had lost her all over again.
Jack tried in vain to find the records that would reveal his mother’s resting place. He went to the Woorayl Shire Council offices but was told the burial register had been destroyed in a fire. After more enquiries it seemed there were no records to be found and no copies had been sent to Melbourne.
He was furious that the whereabouts of his mother’s grave had been utterly lost and determined he would not be buried at Inverloch. Jack willed that he be buried in Leongatha Cemetery.
The Inverloch cemetery was closed in May 1962 as not enough volunteers could be found to establish a board of trustees. The cemetery fell into disrepair and became overgrown with blackberries and scrub.
In 1981 the Woorayl Shire Council reopened the cemetery and the Inverloch Cemetery Trust was established to oversee its management.
The old pioneer cemetery remained unkempt and hidden some distance away from the neat rows and manicured lawns of the new cemetery until the mid 1990s when a number of volunteers, including Jack’s son Len, began clearing the scrub and restoring the site.
The Inverloch Cemetery Trust, under the leadership of the Trust’s historian Noelene Lyons, set about compiling the Pioneer Burial Register using death certificates, newspaper notices, church records, family information and local histories.
This information alone was not enough to locate the lost graves so a ground-scrape of soil to a depth of 15 to 30 centimetres was undertaken. Noelene says “We soon learned to ‘read’ the ground to understand where the graves were. We then put concrete pavers to mark the location of each grave.”
Noelene explains that the final breakthrough for putting names to the graves came from the Woorayl Shire Council’s ‘Abstract of Accounts’. “When we looked through the journal entries that showed when someone paid for a plot, we realised that the graves followed in order down one row and up the other. We were able to step out between the remaining named headstones and found that all the names in the journal entries fitted in between.”
The Cemetery Trust is currently arranging for plaques to be made to identify all of the unmarked graves. “We are using Perspex plaques that will last 100 years and will attach them to the concrete pavers but it may take another six months before the whole job is completed” says Noelene.
Identification of the graves was a long time coming for Len Cuttriss 89, retired local dairy farmer and president of the Inverloch Cemetery Trust for 15 years from 1992 to 2007. It was a significant day for Len as he stood by the grave and dedicated Ellen and William’s new bronze plaques and bluestone headstones to his father John (Jack) Cuttriss.
Len told of his father’s quest to find Ellen’s grave and thanked his son John and grandson Bryce for shaping and installing the headstones. He also thanked Noelene Lyons for her “drive and long search that has found beyond reasonable doubt that this grave contains Ellen along with her son William.”
Morna Kenworthy, granddaughter of Ellen’s second child Eucebia, spoke of Ellen’s life and the sad circumstances of her death.
The event brought together family members, some of whom had never met before. Morna shared stories and photos from her years of family research and relatives marvelled at resemblances of ancestors long passed.
Although there were moments tinged with sadness it was overwhelmingly a day of happiness, reunion, new connections and discoveries, a day that would not have been possible without the dedication and hard work of the volunteer members of the Inverloch Cemetery Trust.
If you think you might have an ancestor at the Inverloch Pioneer Cemetery you can check the Pioneer Burial Register at www.inverlochcemetery.org If you would like to place a plaque on a family grave you can contact the Secretary of the Inverloch Cemetery Trust at firstname.lastname@example.org
October 21, 2016
Loved the pieces by Linda and pictures tell us all. Your pics are really telling.