Saturday, May 23, 2020

Thames (NZ): Totara Memorial Park Cemetery - When was it opened? Are all names recorded? Part One

Early Burials at Totara?

Over several months we have become aware that there are burials at Totara that are for some reason  are not on the local council records. The following research aims to answer some of these questions, and with the help of readers to continue learn more about the early use of Totara Point as a burial ground.

Source: TCDC Cemetery Records and Maps.

The land marked within the yellow boundary lines above forms the Totara Memorial Park Cemetery.

To the left of the western boundary line stands the Te Totara Urupa. As we will find there is at least one large European family plot in the urupa boundary area, whether there are others is not yet clear.

Timeline for the opening of Totara Cemetery:

It is first necessary to look at the background behind the opening of the Totara Memorial Cemetery.

  • 1869 October 21: The need for a cemetery was urgent.  Native landowners offered by deed of gift ten to fifteen acres on the rise at Totara Point for a cemetery. There would need to be built a bridge across the Kauaeranga River, the site for the cemetery a mile and half from Shortland Town.
  • 1920 October 15: Preliminary survey and levelling carried out at Totara Cemetery.
  • 1925 March 10: The lower cemetery at Shortland was nearly filled. Councillor Miller urged the council to prepare and make arrangements for the use of the cemetery.
  • 1927 May 2: An unusual comment in the Thames Star that at a recent council meeting it was forgotten that land had been purchased for a cemetery at Totara. This was in relation to the need to purchase extra land at Shortland as both Tararu and Shortland were full!
  • 1928 September 28: The council wondered when the cemetery was to be officially gazetted.,and that there needed to be more care pegging out the area as a grave was already out of place. Also that there needed to be a shelter for the sexton.
  • 1928 November 30: Pegs were obtained to mark out the cemetery.
  • 1929 March 8: It was proposed that unemployed men could be given the task of improving the access to Totara Cemetery.
  • 1929 August 1: Roading plans underway, the cost of the road estimated to be 350 Pounds and another 500 Pounds for metalling. There was ongoing debate on the road over the following month, regarding who was paying and who would do the work.
  • Thames Star 25 September 1929
  • 1929 September 25: Details of the road and gradients published in the paper. The road rose to a grade of 1 in 10 and 1 in 11. (details right)
  • 1930 February 27: News at last that the road was completed 1 February, and metalling was to begin.
  • 1930 March 25: Double gates were installed at the cemetery entrance.
  • 1930 May 1: Horses had been roaming the cemetery and breaking graves, the local council called for urgent fencing.
  • 1931 May 14: It was reported that in the past year the cemetery had been opened, but no specific date given.
  • 1931 July 15: The deed of conveyance regarding the cemetery road was received from Eruini Heima Taipari to the King (via the Thames Borough Council.
Totara Cemetery work began in 1920 and took until 1930 to be considered open - During this preparatory decade burials at Totara were undertaken.

The announcement that the Totara Cemetery, was officially a cemetery appeared in the Thames Star newspaper Friday 29 April 1932.

"...The land situate at Totara in the County of Thames, and described in the Schedule hereto, is dedicated for the purposes of, and is open as, a Cemetery within the meaning of the said Act. 
DATED this 22nd day of April 1932."

So there it is, over a decade from the first burial within the Totara Cemetery boundaries and in the allocated plots, the cemetery was OFFICIALLY open as at 22 April 1932.

Totara Cemetery Burial Records - First Eight:
The burials above are on the TCDC database, the plots are all in the official cemetery boundaries - with the exception of Frances Tizard. The Tizard block will be discussed later. However there is an interment that is known to have taken place 1927-28 for one month old Evelyn Tizard on Block 25 Plot 7. A letter with the burial book dated 1 September 1929, cited by the NZSG transcription team back in the 1990s, stated that Evelyn had been interred within the cemetery in the previous 12 months. (snip from NZSG Burial Record transcription below)

Pre 1932 Burials at Totara Point / Te Totara Urupa:
Below is a list of burials reported in the local newspapers, that are not in the main cemetery and/or took place before the Totara Cemetery was officially opened. Those '*' are  in the Totara Pa Urupa and therefore not included in any Thames Coromandel District Council Records.

What we are looking for is the names of Europeans who have been interred possibly outside the official boundaries and are possibly on the western ground. Speculation at this point, but hopefully questions will lead to answers.

*1872 February: Chief Patara interred tapu ground near Totara Point.
*1876 July 22: Maungana, Rapana interred Totara Point.
*1879 June: Chief Rewai interred Totara Point.
*1880 March: Chief Hoterene Taipari interred Totara Point.
1895 September 26 : Hay, George Drummond interred Totara Cemetery.
1895 December: Tizard, Frances interred Totara Point.
*1913 April 4: Stewart, David interred Totara Cemetery.
1914 September 11Tizard, Edward Fawconer interred Totara Cemetery.
*1915 January 14: More, Hori interred Totara Cemetery.
*1916 November 11: Tepene, James interred Totara Point.
*1922 October 17: Watene, Drummond interred Totara Point.
*1923 October 2: Tamaki, Mrs G interred Totara Point.
*1926, May 28: Murray, Raika  interred Totara Cemetery.
1927 April 9: Deeble, William interred Totara Cemetery.

This list will no doubt grow as I use different search terms at Paperspast, but in the meantime, the answer to why there are Europeans buried outside the Totara Cemetery boundary, on urupa land, has been found. This will be covered in Part Two - coming soon!!!