Friday, 13 November 2015

Hawkesbury's oldest headstone

The oldest known surviving headstone in the Hawkesbury is that of John Howorth at Wilberforce.

On the 8 October 1804, eleven year old John Howorth died from a snake bite in Wilberforce. The circumstances were published in the Sydney Gazette and outlined how how he was tending sheep

The Sydney Gazette 14 October 1804 p. 4
The following week a fuller version of the situation was published. Here is an extract:

The following are the particulars of the unfortunate circumstances attending the death of the child at Hawkesbury last Monday se'nnight in consequence of the bite of a snake. Two sons of Mr. John Howorth, settler, went together among some standing and fallen timber, to look after a small flock. The eldest boy, sitting near a large tree in which three apertures had been cut for the purpose of searching after the bandycoot, unhappily stretched on of his arms within the hollow, and suddenly withdrawing it much terrified, acquainted his brother that he had received a bite from a black snake. The poor little fellow, conscious of his danger, with an air of despondency remarked that he should soon die; and complaining of sudden illness, made an effort to return homeward. But his faculties yielding to irresistible lethargy and stapor, he lost his way before he had proceeded many paces, and was observed by a neighbouring settler, who enquiring what ailed him, received in a feeble tone the information of his illness, but without assigning any cause of complaint. The good man took him into his house, and lay him on his bed. The parents were made acquainted with the state the child was in, and immediately attended him; but he was then wholly insensible, and continued so during the short remaining period of his existence. About four in the afternoon the doleful accident occurred; and at about the same hour the following morning he expired, to the extreme regret of his parents, who were totally unacquainted with the cause of his death until after the event had taken place; when the other disclosed the above circumstance, and the body being examined, a wound appeared upon the left arm, thro' which the noxious viper had poured the contaminating fluid.

The sad details of the unfortunate event are carved on his headstone:

It was the subtile surpent's bite he cride
then like A Rose bud cut he drup'd and died
in life his Fathers glorey
and his mothers pride.

John Howorth's headstone, the oldest surviving in the Hawkesbury, at Wilberforce.

On the 5 December 1960, when the Hawkesbury was celebrating 150 years of the naming of the Five Macquarie Towns, the headstone was moved from its original location on the Hawkesbury riverbank to the St John's Anglican Church complex at Wilberforce by the Hawkesbury Historical Society. Siblings of John's Elizabeth and Catherine, who both died in infancy, are also mentioned on the headstone. 

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