The first recorded burial was that of Hugh Niven on the 23rd September 1839.
Sections of the cemetery were originally administered by the main denominational churches, each with their own Sexton and gravediggers. In 1877 a General Trust was formed and in 1907 the Roman Catholic and Jewish sections also joined.
Many of the town's original pioneers who settled the Western District, are buried at the cemetery - Thomson, Chirnside, Armytage, Austin, Ormond, Fyans , Harrison - to name but a few.
As Geelong's port attracted many during the gold rushes, immigrants from all parts of the world arrived and headstones reflect the various countries from which they had sailed.
The Eastern Cemetery (along with the Mt. Moriac cemetery) were the only ones to have consecrated ground for Catholic burials and therefore most Catholic burials, even from the outlying areas of Geelong, were performed at these cemeteries.
Geelong Western Public Cemetery
The cemetery was originally established to service the burial needs of those living in the western part of Geelong, as well as the outlying areas of Fyansford, Batesford and those living and working on the Moorabool Viaduct.
The first Sexton appointed was Mr. David Ricketts and the first burial took place on 12 January 1858.
The cemetery was known under various names during its history; New Cemetery, New General Cemetery, Herne Hill Cemetery, Newtown Cemetery.
In the 1850's Geelong West supported many of the poorer families of Geelong. Land was cheap and landowners could afford to erect mean dwellings and sell and rent them cheaply.
As many families could not afford burial costs, the cemetery had a regulation where a family could have one month to pay for the cost of a grave and burial and failing to do so by this time, saw the grave revert to a "public" grave.
The land set aside for Roman Catholic burials was not greatly used during the early years as the land was un-consecrated.
Barrabool Hills (Highton) Cemetery
On the 10th November 1855 a meeting was held at the "Race Course" hotel, Ceres, to discuss the establishment of a cemetery.
Early settlers had established vineyards, sheep farms, quarrying and cropping. Of the 220 original families to settle the area, 52 (almost a quarter) came from the south western counties of England (Devon, Cornwell, and Somerset); 48 from the other English counties, 36 from Switzerland; 24 from Scotland and 60 from Ireland.
The Trust applied for a Government grant which enabled a Sexton's office to be built, fences and gates erected and insurance against bushfires! No doubt the horror of Black Thursday 1850, still fresh in residents' minds!
Cemetery Motto - 1855
"Our God is the God of Salvation
And unto God the Lord,
Belong the Issues from Death"
Grovedale (Germantown) Cemetery
In December 1849, Dr. Thomson (one of Geelong's first settlers) arranged for at least 20 German immigrants (and their children) to come to Victoria abroad the "Emmy" and establish a German village within the neighbourhood of Geelong. Those aboard include the Bieske, Baensch, Kerger, Winter and Boehm families.
The area soon became know as Germantown and the new settlers purchased their land from the subdividers. Vineyards and market gardens were soon established and the produce carted to Geelong in wheelbarrows. Most of the settlers were Lutherans, from a small area of Prussia, east of Berlin on the River Oder, but others were from various parts of Germany. The political climate, economic hardships and lack of religious freedom seem to have been the main reasons for them leaving their homeland. The original settlers soon encouraged other family members and friends to join them in the colony.
Church service were held in homes until land was purchased in Church Street in 1854 where a school was built with the cemetery located beside it. Services were then held in the school until 1859 when a Lutheran Church was built.
The records of the church no longer exist prior to 1894, and details of burials have been gleaned from existing headstones, death certificates and death notices from the "Geelong Advertiser". Most of the older headstones inscriptions are in German and are headed Hier Ruhet in Gott which means Here Rests in God. Birth dates, as well as death dates are usually inscribed. There are some misspellings on the headstones probably due to non-German stonemasons doing the engraving.
In 1915 the name of German town was changed to "Grovedale".
Drysdale (Bellarine) Cemetery
The district was first inhabited by the aborigines of the Wathaurong tribe who had corroboree grounds where the Methodist Church was later built and around the water holes, known as McLeod's Waterholes. Remains of these original inhabitants are interred at this cemetery.
As men made money from the gold rushes, many sort to invest in land and during the mid 1850's much of the land on the Bellarine Peninsula was sold and settlers came to the area. Farmers began to work the land and goods such as onions, wheat, oats, barley, hay, potatoes and orchards were very productive. The Bellarine Peninsula become known as "The Granary of the Colony"
The earliest existing burial register give the first burial in the cemetery as 1861 but it appears that the secretary attempted to trace known burials as far back as 1855 and there are records, at the Government Statist of burials in 1854
In 1891 the United Services Home was built at Drysdale to cater for aged and infirmed soldiers and sailors of the Imperial and Colonial services, residing in Victoria for not less than five years, who had rendered good and gallant service to their Queen and country and were now incapable of earning a living. A special section of the cemetery was set aside for their burials. When a veteran died the coffin was covered with a union flag and a firing party from the Queenscliff Fort marched with arms reversed, fired three volleys over the grave and the trumpeter sounded the Last Post.
Leopold (Kensington) Cemetery
The township of Kensington (now Leopold) was first established from the subdivision of 1852. A school was established in 1853-54. On the 15th August 1859, a meeting was held in the schoolroom to elect a committee to administer the new cemetery.
Mr. Daniel Beaumont was appointed gravedigger and the cemetery land in Kensington Road was fenced by Mr. Charles Sparks.
The first recorded burial was that of John Franks on the 30th July, 1860.
In 1889 the trustees had to appoint a new grave digger as the present one was unable to attend to his job as he had been gaoled for cattle stealing!
On the 31st January 1893, application was made to the government to have the name changed to Leopold.
The first sale of town plots in Portarlington took place on October 22nd 1851, mainly by squatters and Geelong business men who intended their purchases as investments, so it was some time before land was resold and settlement in the town actually began.
There was no great surrounding farm population to sustain a town; roads to Geelong were dubious and there was no pier for the transportation of goods. The opening of the local Flour Mill in 1857 and the destruction of the Bellarine (Drysdale) Flour Mill in 1861 no doubt helped in the town's development.
A public jetty was built in 1859 and a variety of goods were shipped directly to Melbourne and the township became the focus of Geelong and Melbourne people seeking it as a "seaside resort".
The earliest existing 'register', consisting of loose sheets from a once bound register, gives the first burial as 1878 although graves appear to have been sold as early as 1875. The earliest mention of the cemetery in the Government Gazette is 1879.
As many residents were engaged in fishing, there were several instances of drowning listed as the cause of death.
Mount Duneed Cemetery
The district of Mount Duneed takes in Connewarre and Bramlea. In the early 1850's land was available for selection and families settled in the district.
In 1864 a meeting was held to establish a cemetery in the district. The nearest cemetery at the time was at Mt. Moriac (originally known as "Duneed Cemetery" until 1864).
Mr. Faraway was appointed Sexton and the first burial took place on th 23rd October 1864.
A "live fence' of South Australian Kangaroo Acacia was planted around the cemetery perimeter. Two lengths of post and rail were erected either sides of the gates to enable horses to be tethered.
Geelong Memorial Park
Land was acquired in 1980 in Burvilles Rd, Mount Duneed for the establishment of Geelong's first crematorium. Prior to this being built, those families seeking cremation had to go to Ballarat, Altona, Fawkner or The Necropolis. The first cremation took place on 21st April 1988. Since that time over 13,000 cremations have been performed.
The grounds provide for the placement of cremated remains in rose and shrub gardens, niche walls and family tree gardens, along with lawn areas for burials. There is a chapel for services and the Book of Remembrance is on display in the chapel foyer.
Flinders Memorial Park
This cemetery, situated in Forest Road, Lara, was established in 2002 to cater for burials and cremated remains placements for families residing in the northern suburbs of Geelong and of course Lara. The first burial took place on 4th April, 2003.
Geelong Cemeteries Trust Home