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Registers of Ebenezer Uniting Church, Ebenezer

Cemetery Register 1813 - 2005

Ebenezer Uniting, Ebenezer


Historical Background:

Ebenezer Church came into being following the arrival in the colony of New South Wales of eight families on board the ‘Coromandel’ in June 1802. These families – the Davisons, Halls, Howes, Johnstons, Johnstones, Meins, Stubbs and Turnbulls – came to the new colony with a request to be settled together.  Their wish was granted by Governor King and they moved to their 100-acre land grants at Portland Head (Ebenezer) at the end of 1802 or early in 1803.

They were joined by seven other families – the Arndells, Bushells, Gronos, Cavanoughs, Jacklins, Suddis and Jones – and met regularly on Sundays for services on Ebenezer Mount or in the homes of settlers. These settlers were people of various denominations but they came together as one congregation.

In 1808 at a special meeting in the home of Dr Thomas Arndell, a surgeon who came out on the First Fleet, each family pledged itself to the building of a church and school. The total cost of £400 was to be obtained from voluntary subscription. There was no assistance by way of finance or labour from the government.

Pioneer Owen Cavanough donated four acres of land on which to build the church.  Andrew Johnston designed the church and supervised its construction. George Hall swam his bullocks across the river to haul the stone to the site. Built of locally obtained materials – sandstone, cedar wood and ironbark – it was constructed in 1809.

Significance of Cemetery:

Ebenezer Church and its community have a unique place in the heritage of Christian faith and in pioneer farming of the nation. The cemetery in the churchyard is recognised as historically being one of the most important cemeteries in Australia.

It was the first Presbyterian cemetery and it contains the graves of many of the pioneers who settled in this area of the Hawkesbury.

Only two and a half years after settlement at Portland Head, William Stubbs, a Coromandel settler, tragically drowned in the river, his burial taking place on the family grant at Swallow Rock Reach. No doubt this sad incident made these pioneers aware of the need for a common burial place.

It is difficult to determine accurately when the churchyard was first used as a cemetery as early church records were lost in the 1867 flood.  The first minister of Ebenezer Church, Rev. John McGarvie, migrated to the colony in 1825, the year the Church of England ceased to be the civil church.  From that year Presbyterians and Catholics were permitted to conduct their own marriage and burial services.

However the graveyard was used before 1825.  The oldest grave appears to be that of Sarah Gilkerson, a three-week old baby who died in May 1813.  Family research also suggests that there are also a few unmarked graves of the same period in the cemetery.

After many years of research and drawing on local knowledge, the Ebenezer Uniting Church Cemetery Trust believes that, given the circumstances of the earlier loss of cemetery records, the current records are as accurate as they can be.

Burial plots are no longer available for purchase but the interment of ashes in existing family graves is permitted in some circumstances.  Niches in columbaria are available for the placement of ashes.


  • Information supplied by Ted Brill, Ebenezer Uniting Church Cemetery Trust, 2008.


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