The original general cemetery in Coonamble was in operation from 1869 to 1912 when it was deemed to be full and closed to further burials. Many years later (probably around 1970), Council removed the headstones and converted the area into a park.
In the preface to her book, "Coonamble Memorial Wall Pioneer Profiles", local historian Joan McKenzie explains: "When the old cemetery at the end of Warrena Street was cleared about thirty years ago, a number of headstones were retained and embedded on and around a large mound of earth. In 1993, a Federal Government grant enabled the Shire Council to move those headstones to the cemetery in West Coonamble, which had been established circa 1902. "
Appropriately, the site chosen by Council to devote to the display of those old stones adjoined the historically significant Sexton's Hut, erected in 1912. The display was organised into three sections: a covered double-sided memorial wall, a group of sandstone monuments and a group of marble monuments. The work was completed to a high standard and dedicated on 12 September 1993. A list of 611 names of persons whose deaths were registered at Coonamble during the period that the old cemetery was in operation, and known or presumed to have been buried at the old site, was inscribed and mounted on the side of the Sexton's Hut.
Around the same time, principally at the instigation of local funeral director Mr Max Philpott, a fund was set up to accept donations from local businesses and citizens to convert the run-down park into an arboretum as a memorial to the 600-odd pioneers buried in this early cemetery and whose headstones did not survive. This was accomplished. A memorial was erected and many trees planted on the site. Unfortunately, the long drought has affected the health of some of them but, undoubtedly, most will survive.
We visited both sites (the arboretum on the site of the old cemetery and the memorial in the current general cemetery) in March 2005 and recorded the names on the list of burials and made digital images of the salvaged headstones. We would like to express our particular appreciation to Mrs Angie Little, of the Coonamble Museum, for her kind assistance given us in this task. We are also most grateful for the contribution by Grahame Chamberlin of the picture of the headstone of James Reeves who died in 1897 - the only image we have of a headstone in its original position in the old cemetery. Unfortunately, this substantial monument did not survive removal. We acknowledge also, with thanks to Kay Cole, registration details of the burial of George Flood Dempsey in 1899.
All names listed were compared with the official NSW Index of Deaths for additional information.
From the highway, take Warrena Street to its end at Auburn Street. The old cemetery/aboretum is opposite the intersection. For directions to the memorial in the general cemetery, see Coonamble General.
Both sites are administered by the Coonamble Shire Council. For further information, contact council at P O Box 249, Coonamble NSW 2829, phone 02 6827 1900 (email: firstname.lastname@example.org)