02 July 2011

The mystery of the flowers on the graves

I have relatives on holiday who have just visited Uralla. Before they went I got in touch with a local historian, Arnold Goode, who offered to meet them and take them to see a number of places connected with my great great great uncle John Valentine Beringer (born about 1858, Weisbaden, Hessen, Germany, died 15 May 1931, Uralla, NSW, Australia).

Arnold gave me a bit of information about John Valentine which I hadn't known. I knew that he was mayor of Uralla in 1914 when he got married because it said so in his marriage notice in the paper. However, I had no idea how long he was mayor for. Arnold said that John Valentine was very civic-minded and was a councillor for almost 15 years before becoming mayor in 1914. He was mayor for a number of years. At the time that John Valentine became mayor the local council was building a new council chambers, and so John Valentine laid the foundation stone. His name is still there, despite someone with some anti-German sentiment trying to chisel his name off the foundation stone, and despite being now hidden behind some rosemary bushes!

John Valentine was listed as a cabinet maker in his immigration notes and he had a joinery/furniture shop on Bridge Street, Uralla. He made a lot of furniture, including for the convent of the Sisters of St Joseph. In 1896 Mary MacKillop visited the convent, so as well as being one of the councillors who would have welcomed her to Uralla, it is also likely that she sat on one of John Valentine's chairs in the convent. Our family's little claim to religious fame!

My relatives had a great time with Arnold and he showed them a number of different places around Uralla, including where John Valentine's shop was, which had been right next door to the Post's house.

I have a transcript of John Valentine's death certificate which says that John Valentine was buried in the Roman Catholic section of the Uralla cemetery. The Australian Cemetery Index does not list him so I assumed his grave must be unmarked, and Arnold was not aware he was buried there. However, yesterday my relatives and Arnold, and a local grave digger who happened to be onsite, went looking for his grave. They found it, along with Conrad Beringer (one of John Valentine's sons) plus another Beringer adult (possibly John Valentine's first wife Catherine), and two unmarked children's graves - which were likely to be Matilda, John Valentine's niece, and his firstborn son Thomas.

The mysterious thing was that within the last week someone had laid gerberas on the graves of the adult Beringers. Who?? As far as we know, there are no longer any Beringer relatives in Uralla... Anyway, its nice that someone else has remembered them and visited their graves too.

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