Lonely Graves

Millers Flat-Beaumont Road, Horseshoe Bend, Central Otago

  • Lonely Graves, Millers Flat-Beaumont Road, Horseshoe Bend, Central Otago.
    Copyright: Phil Braithwaite. Taken By: PhilBee NZ - Phil Braithwaite. Date: 28/10/2015.
  • Lonely Graves, Millers Flat-Beaumont Road, Horseshoe Bend, Central Otago.
    Copyright: Phil Braithwaite. Taken By: PhilBee NZ - Phil Braithwaite. Date: 28/10/2015.
  • Lonely Graves, Millers Flat-Beaumont Road, Horseshoe Bend, Central Otago.
    Copyright: Department of Conservation. Date: 8/01/2007.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Able to Visit
List Number 5626 Date Entered 11th April 1985

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Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Sec 33 Blk XII Benger Survey District, Otago Land District and the cemetery thereon. Refer to the extent map tabled at the Heritage New Zealand Board meeting on 30 April 2015.

City/District Council

Central Otago District

Region

Otago Region

Legal description

Sec 33 Blk XII Benger Survey District, Otago Land District

Summaryopen/close

‘Somebody’s darling lies buried here’: so says the epitaph on the headstone of one of the two ‘Lonely Graves’ at Horseshoe Bend on the Clutha/Mata-au River. The story of the miner first buried here and the man who lies beside him has captured and inspired people’s imaginations embedding the tale in popular culture, giving the site national and international appeal.

The first man buried at Horseshoe Bend was probably Charles Alms. It seems likely that his was the body Robert Harris discovered washed up at Rag Beach on the western bank of the Clutha/Mata-au River on 7 February 1865. An inquest identified the body as Charles Alms, a resident of the Nevis who drowned while crossing Clutha/Mata-au River near Clyde, on 25 January 1865. While the inquest was certain that the body was that of Alms, the decomposed state of the body meant that it could not be positively identified, and a death certificate was not issued for Alms. The body was buried in an unmarked grave at Horseshoe Bend. Miner William Rigney arranged for the grave maker inscribed ‘Somebody’s darling lies buried here’. When Rigney died in 1912, on his request he was buried next to the grave. Even before Rigney died, the other grave had captured peoples’ imaginations – and stories circulated and became part of local legend.

The Lonely Graves Historic Reserve contains the two graves, each is marked by a white marble headstone. The graves are enclosed within a painted concrete and iron rail fence. The marble headstone and enclosure around Charles Alms grave dates from 1903. It replaced an original nineteenth century timber slab or grave marker that was formed from black pine painted white, and erected at the grave by William Rigney. In 1922 the original timber grave marker was encased in a clear container and mounted on the front of the marble headstone. At some point, the original marker disappeared from the grave and reappeared in Wellington. The marker was returned on 5 September 2002 in an official ceremony.

In 2014, the Lonely Graves remain a poignant reminder of life, death and the power of stories.

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Construction Professionalsopen/close

Frapwell & Holgate - Monumental Masons

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

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Construction Dates

Original Construction
1865 -
Body of Charles Alms buried here. William Rigney sourced the original 'Somebody's Darling' timber marker.

Addition
1903 -
The marble headstone was erected

Public NZAA Number

G44/16

Completion Date

9th February 2015

Report Written By

Heather Bauchop

Information Sources

Robertson, 1991

J.J. Robertson, One Man’s goldfield: The story of William Rigney and the Horseshoe Bend Diggings, J. J. Robertson, 1991

Sutton, 2014

Marion Sutton, ‘Heritage Assessment: Lonely Graves Historic Reserve’ for Department of Conservation, December 2014

Other Information

Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.

A fully referenced upgrade report is available on request from the Otago/Southland Office of Heritage New Zealand