Search for remains in Redbank Plains

Amazing find of early settlers buried in Redbank Plains plot

MORE than 125 years after they passed away, eight infants and two adults will be recognised by a memorial plaque at the former Wesleyan Methodist Church in Redbank Plains.

An extraordinary mystery has almost certainly been resolved after Ipswich City Council engaged Lambert Locations' Brad Crocker to search for the graves using ground penetrating radar yesterday at what is now known as The Yarrow Centre.

All those who were buried in the grounds were either members of the Wesleyan Methodist or Primitive Methodist churches. The old Methodist Church is now The Yarrow Centre, owned by the Red Cross and used as a counselling centre.

Brad Crocket from Lambert Locations with the ground penetrating radar used to search underground for graves in the grounds of The Yarrow Centre in Redbank Plains. Ashley Ward and Cr Sheila Ireland get some info from Brad.
Brad Crocket from Lambert Locations with the ground penetrating radar used to search underground for graves in the grounds of The Yarrow Centre in Redbank Plains. Ashley Ward and Cr Sheila Ireland get some info from Brad. Rob Williams

Lambert Locations' Brad Crocker did not find all the graves after numerous sweeps of the area while pushing a machine that looked like a lawn mower, but the computer did reveal irregularities under the ground that revealed where the graves are likely to be.

The ground conditions were not the best due to the rain the previous day, but the computer screen showed clearly a channel where the graves of the deceased appeared to be.

"Just because of the size of what I have seen they are likely to be graves, which is why the anomalies have shown up on the screen," he said.

Lorraine Freckelton, the driver behind the project, grew up in Redbank Plains and her history in the area runs deep, back to the Titmarsh family who settled in the 1850s. For a long while she has known of the burials and wanted an answer once and for all.

Ms Freckelton's great great aunt Susan Yarrow was one of those buried in the former Wesleyan Methodist Church grounds at the age of just three in 1873.

"Charles and Jane Yarrow, who donated the land for the church, were my great great grandparents," she said.

"I have death certificates for eight adults and two children - from the 1870s to the late 1880s - and the oral history has always been that they were buried here."

Ms Freckelton was overcome with emotion when she showed the QT the list of those who were buried at such a tender age.

Brad Crocker from Lambert Locations with the ground penetrating radar used to search underground for graves in the grounds of The Yarrow Centre in Redbank Plains.
Brad Crocker from Lambert Locations with the ground penetrating radar used to search underground for graves in the grounds of The Yarrow Centre in Redbank Plains. Rob Williams

She was relieved at Mr Crocker's discovery.

"It is great, just to know for sure," she said.

"We've had the oral history for years - throughout my life and from people before me - so to know they are definitely here means that hopefully this area can be preserved and down the track won't end up with a garage or shed built over the top of it.

"Just to get confirmation that they are here is what we are looking for.

"But if they are not here it would be interesting to know where they are because the (death certificates) say Redbank Plains and one specifically says the Redbank Plains Wesleyan cemetery and this was the Wesleyan church."

It would take digging to be certain, but that intrusion is not an option the family or council wanted to take.

The radar technology has been used before by council to find the resting place of the babies of Walloon in Ipswich General Cemetery. The radar looks for different soil densities and a grave has a different density to normal.

Cr Sheila Ireland said it was important to mark the graves.

"Lorraine has the records that they were buried here, and as a result of the work the family has done, we will recognise those we have death certificates for," she said.

"Council has been very supportive of Lorraine's search all the time which is why we have employed somebody to see if we can pinpoint where the graves may be.

"It is important for the descendants of the families that they know where the early settlers were buried."

Janelle Wensley has three relatives buried in the grounds and is a local amateur historian who was on hand yesterday.

"I am excited that the graves are going to be marked but it is very sad with all the babies that we believe are buried here," she said.

Janelle Wensley, Lorraine Freckelton and Graham Smith are excited about the results of the search for their relatives.
Janelle Wensley, Lorraine Freckelton and Graham Smith are excited about the results of the search for their relatives. Rob Williams

One of the infants, Elizabeth Maller, lived only 10 minutes with the cause of death in 1881 listed as exhaustion. It is sad to read how many of the infants passed away. Jesse Hillier was seven months old and he died of convulsions from teething.

Harriet Rice (nine months, 26 days), Francis Brennan (nine hours), James Maller (one year, nine months), William Rice (one month) and infant James Brennan were among the other youngsters. Charles Fawdry (33) and Emma Hillier (40) were the oldest of those buried in the church grounds.

For Ms Freckelton, recording the history of the area is vital.

"My family history goes back to Charles Yarrow and John and Eunice Titmarsh, who married Charles Yarrow," she said.

"I want the history of the district recorded. I set up a Facebook group - the Redbank Plains descendants of early settlers and residents up to the 1970s - because our generation is the last that remembers it before it became like it is now. When I went to school next door it was a one-teacher school and we used to run through the cow paddock to get to school."

Ms Freckelton and Ms Wensley now have closure and their ancestors will finally be acknowledged in an appropriate manner.


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