Headstones lead to A Bend in the River

When journalist Samantha Elley saw the Woodburn cemetery for the first time, it was from a distance. 

“I wondered what the strange shapes and objects were,” she said. 

“When I got closer, I realised I had stumbled onto a real treasure trove.” 

Sam said she is a taphophile – a lover of cemeteries. She has been writing family history stories for more than 30 years and runs the website Tales from the Grave.

“When I started researching some of the ‘residents’ of the Woodburn cemetery, I knew I wanted to know more about the place where I lived and decided to write the book,” she said. 

The book – A Bend in the River – took five years. 

“I would have published last year, but a small event, known as the worst flood in Australian history, kind of got in the way,” Sam said. 

Her Woodburn home and town was flooded.

“However, it has been serendipitous as this year, it is exactly 150 years since the cemetery was officially established in 1873.” 

During her research, Sam uncovered many unique stories, some closer to home than others. 

“While I was researching one of the very first pioneers to the area, I realised there was a connection to my husband’s family,” she said. 

“Ann Francis, the niece of a many times great-grandmother to hubby, was married to William Cravigan, the first station manager in the area. 

“They are both buried in the cemetery.” 

A Bend in the River is on sale at a number of outlets including Hemlocks Bookshop and Cafe on River Street, Woodburn. 

A dollar from the sale of each book will be donated to Mid Richmond Education Fund, a charity that supports young people to establish their careers.

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