Lake Macquarie History

Teralba Cemetery : the Big Hill

The Teralba cemetery, which is located in bush land up from the Booragul train station, is the final resting place for a number of pioneers from early Lake Macquarie. The site, though not easily accessible, has fallen into disrepair over the years. The combination of vandalism and the natural re-growth of bush land have been the main contributing factors to the poor condition of the remaining graves.

photo: teralba cemetery : formal graves

Over the years, the site has seen a number of different names, including Big Hill Cemetery, Billy Goat Hill Cemetery, Goat Hill Cemetery, Booragul Cemetery and Pioneer Cemetery.

From the first burial in 1879, Teralba Cemetery has seen over 200 burials with the most recent having taken place in 1970. Over the course of this 90-year period, a number of natural and man-made incidences have slowly contributed to the dilapidation of the cemetery. Despite a large number of burials taking place over the years, there remain only a few surviving tombstones. Contributing factors for this lack of distinct grave markers can be related to the expense of tombstones, the use of wooden grave markers and the number of bushfires that have pushed through the area over time.

It is estimated that the first burial at Teralba Cemetery occurred in the year 1879. It is hard to pinpoint the exact individual who was first interred within the cemetery; however looking at newspaper archives on the subject, it can be determined that it was either an Annie Lister or a Tommy Young. Annie Lister (age 31) died on August 18, 1879, and her obituary states that the funeral was to take place at the cemetery at Lake Macquarie. The ambiguity of this obituary coupled with the lack of information on Tommy Young, who is know to have died on 29th May, 1879 (aged 3 months), makes it difficult to determine the very first burial at the cemetery.

Sadly, the vast majority of people laid to rest within the cemetery were children. Figures taken from Big Hill: A tribute to the Pioneers Interred in Teralba & District Cemeteries N.S.W., place the numbers at 144 children, with the greater part being 132 children aged under the age of three.

Within the cemetery are the graves of notable people from the local area and history. Individuals such as James Cherry, who died in a tragic accident in Pacific Colliery and James Johnson, whose death resulted from a one-hit fight are just two people whose stories are still accessible. For a comprehensive list of other burials, please refer to the publication, Big Hill: A tribute to the Pioneers which contains an extensive list taken from a wide variety of sources.

The last funeral to take place at the Teralba Cemetery was for Christopher Thornton in 1970. It is alleged that Thornton was an old gravedigger for the cemetery. It has even been suggested that Thornton dug his own grave and filled it with sand, in order to make for an easier time at his funeral. Upon his death, special permission was granted by the Lake Macquarie Council for Thornton to be buried in the cemetery as his was the first burial there since 1963.

Resources held in library

Parsons, Margaret A & Newcastle Family History Society (2002). Big Hill : a tribute to the pioneers interred in Teralba and district cemeteries, N.S.W.

Jepson, P & Clouten, Keith & Lake Macquarie. Council & Lake Macquarie and District Historical Society (1967). Teralba : some notes on its early history. Lake Macquarie Shire Council for the Lake Macquarie and District Historical Society, Speer's Point

Pioneer Cemetery Booragul, available in library

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