Murchison is the pioneer town of the Goulburn Valley, and the cemetery is the oldest cemetery in the municipality. It is thought that a few burials took place near the Police Paddocks in Willoughby Street before the cemetery was established, and possibly some further early burials lie under the road reserve, outside the current cemetery fence line.
On 2 April 1860, the Governor, with the advice of the Executive Council, approved the appointment of Neil Randal, Duncombe Bond, Patrick Toole, Alexander Crawford, Donald McBean and William Paterson as inaugural Trustees. Chosen at a public meeting on 16 September 1859, the men were “all landowners in this District who are considered by the inhabitants the most eligible to hold the appointment as Trustees of the land set aside by you for a Cemetery”, Philip Chauncy (District Surveyor at Heathcote), was informed. Chauncy had surveyed the site of Murchison in March 1854, including the cemetery site.
For over half a century, as in most small rural cemeteries in Australia, each trustee represented a denominational section of the cemetery, here, initially, Anglican, Catholic, Methodist and Presbyterian. Trustees were also generally respected local figures: town father William Barratt succeeded Crawford in September 1864 after the latter’s death and both Frederick Salas and his son Charles were Trustees in the last decades of the nineteenth century.
Trust members were to allot grave sites and to employ a grave-digger and possibly a sexton (record-keeper). Notes written by Cemetery Trust Secretary Charles Salas from 1906 to 1916 give an informative picture of the duties of Trustees at the time, and include such humane observations as “Nov 24 Wm Motherwell Age 61 died suddenly, No 161 in Presbyterian Ground Poor old Bill”
Unusually, the cemetery contains the graves of three Aborigines, members of the Molka clan of the local Ngurai-illum tribe, ‘King Charles’ Tattambo, ‘Queen’ Mary, and Tattambo’s son, ‘Captain’ John.
Generations of many well-known local families who settled the district are represented in the cemetery. William Ambrose Phillips who was a Ticket of Leave man associated with the Protectorate having worked there in 1840, and his wife Honora, are buried here. Their son, was the first white male child born in Murchison (1845).
Built in 1961, is a unique feature of the Cemetery. This Mediterranean style building is the last resting place of 130 Italian internees and prisoners of war who died in detention camps around Australia during the Second World War. Each November a memorial service will be held at the Ossario attended by hundreds of members of the Italian community.
A commemorative plaque was unveiled on 27 April 2015 in a ceremony involving Murchison Primary School Students, part of the Australia wide Centenary of Anzac commemorations. The planting of a Lone Pine tree, a seedling from an original pine cone from Lone Pine Ridge, also took place.
Like all public Cemeteries, Murchison Cemetery is administered by an active group of voluntary Trustees appointed by the Governor in Council, upon recommendation of the Minister for Health.
It is the policy of the Murchison Cemetery Trust that temporary grave markers may only be used for a maximum of twelve (12) months, then either replaced with an approved monument or the grave left unmarked.