28 Oct 2016

Laid to Rest

From Country Life, 9:36 pm on 28 October 2016

Sitting in solitude at the foot of the Dunstan Range and looking out over the Manuherikia Valley, the Drybread Cemetery was run-down until local farmers Tony and Karen Glassford and Ross Naylor decided to bring it back to life.

Tony, Karen and Ross are members of Drybread Cemetery Trust that has raised money for fencing, repairing damaged graves and making the historic site accessible.

The cemetery is enclosed within Tony and Karen's sheep and beef farm and the couple keep the graveyard records and historical data. Tony's family has been on the same block of farmland for 152 years and, as well as being the treasurer and secretary of the Drybread Cemetery Trust, Tony is also the gravedigger and sexton.

"With the grave digging side of it I try and do as good a job as possible but with my digger and the hard gravel clay situation, it is reasonably tricky to get the grave down to depth of two metres for a double site".

About 165 people are known to be buried in the graveyard, although some do not have headstones and others are not known to local people or mentioned in recorded data. The first known burial was for one-year-old Thomas Greenback who drowned on February 28, 1870 in a race built for bringing water to a goldmine.  

"The bigger percentage of this cemetery would be gold miners or those who were associated with supplying them with goods or burying them," says Ross.

Karen says they are hoping to set up a kiosk later this year with the names of the people they now know are buried there. "It's not a complete list but we have a much clearer list than before thanks a lot to Ross and the research he did."

Other stories that have been uncovered by the Trust include a miner's wife who disinterred a baby from the cemetery 140 years ago to pass off as her own new born child.

Drybread Cemetery is still used and anyone is welcome to access it through the Glassford's farm as long as they close the gates behind them.