Almost from the beginning of gold mining in Creswick, Chinese were prolific in the town. Overnight the Chinese population rose from around 500 to over 4,000 at the height of mining in the district.
Left: Monument erected in April 2010 to commemorate the Chinese in Creswick
The following is an extract from J. A. Graham's "Early Creswick" pages 61, 62, & 63. John Alexander Graham was born in Creswick. He grew up not far from the Chinese Camp and was able to write about it first hand.
"By the end of the 1850's the Chinese camp was established on the Black Lead. This "China Town" resembled a tiny section of the ancient Celestial Empire transplanted into the New Eldorado. There the denizens of this unique village conducted their fan tan shops, which were crowded with gamblers counting out the Chinese coins and chattering in their native tongue, almost obscured by tobacco smoke. In small bunks clamped to the walls lay opium smokers leisurely drawing in the fumes which wafted them to the realms of morpheus.
In the business street individuals walked in single file, resembling a caterpillar, talking to others in the line without turning to address them. Their hair hung in long plaits which were lengthened by the addition of black braid and were designated "pigtails" the loss of which was a stigma greatly dreaded by John Chinaman.
Joss Houses were in close proximity, where sinners and saints beseeched the mercy or blessing of their idols.
Some of the inhabitants of China Town were to be seen heavily laden with baskets swung by ropes from the ends of bamboo poles. The load was balanced either on one shoulder fore and aft or beamwise across the backs of both shoulders. the bearers moved with the characteristic rhythmical trot of the Chinese, and their stamina was a continual source of wonder to Europeans. Many wore the broad brimmed, parasol shaped, cane hats and were often seen carrying a bottle of gin suspended on a strip of wire or string. A few of the more affluent were attired in navy blue silk pantaloons and braided jackets, with heelless shoes turned up at the toes.
Funerals were of great interest to the boys and girls of Creswick. Two Chinamen usually sat with the driver of the hearse and scattered to the winds slips of sand coloured paper extensively perforated. These slips the boys believed, were intended to hold the evil spirits in subjection and frighten away the devil.
The feeding of the dead was an elaborate cememony. Roast pigs, puddings, oranges, cumquots, fychang toffee and strange concoctions were placed on the graves; quantities of coarse blotting paper were burnt in a brick furnace; hundreds of tallow candles painted pink, with strips of cane inserted into them, were placed in the ground and lighted. It was the invariable experience that the dead were not hungry, as they made no appearance, and the good things were transported to China Town, where a feast for the living was joyously celebrated.
The Chinese were expert gardeners, and supplied the community with vegetables. They were industrious, honest, generous, and law abiding. In the course of time their number dwindled, until only a remnant was left." The last Chinaman "Bobby" passed away in 1923, until his death he lived at the Black Lead just above the Swimming Pool.
To Remember the large part the Chinese played in the history of Creswick, the Creswick Cemetery Trust and the Chinese Memorial Foundation Inc., have combined to erect a monument in the Cemetery to remember all of those Chinese who lived and died in Creswick. November 2010 another memorial was erected with the names of the Chinese who are buried in Compartment 6 at the cemetery.
Below: Memorial erected in November 2010.
The Creswick Cemetery Trust, in consultation with the Chinese Memorial Foundation Inc, decided to erect a monument to memorialize almost 400 people, mainly Chinese who are buried in unmarked graves in Compartment 6 at their cemetery. These interments have taken place from 1858 to 1923.
Guests included Mr. Geoff Howard MP, Mrs. Cr. Janine Booth, Mayor of Hepburn Shire and Hepburn Shire Councillors Mr. Rod May and Mr. Don Henderson, Trust Members of the Creswick Cemetery Trust, Chair Mr. Kieran Moore, Mr. Stan Johns, Mr. Stan Haintz, Mr. Ian Huntley, Mr. Frank Whitfield, Mr. Ken Neil, Mr. Bernie Charleson, Secretary Mrs. Wendy Ohlsen, and apology Mr. Daryl New, CCAV Committee of Management Member, Mr. Frank De Groot, Chair of the Ballarat Cemetery Mr. Graeme Hewitt and Trust Member Mr. Peter Butters along with members of the Chinese See Yup Society from Melbourne, members of the Chinese Association from Ballarat, members of the local Museum and Historical Society as well as many other locals attended the event .
The guest of honour was Mr. Lloyd Hon, a direct descendant of one of the Chinese buried in Compartment 6. Lloyd made a small speech thanking both the Cemetery and Chinese Memorial Foundation for erecting the monument and Mr & Mrs Mun & Ivy Chin for compiling a a book about the Chinese in Creswick titled "Coronial Inquests and Magisterial Inquiries Creswick Chinese 1856- 1905", which gave him information about his family and assisted in locating the burial site of his grandfather.
The Chinese Association from Melbourne brought along roast suckling pig, roast chicken and roast duck to offer to the departed prior to sharing amongst the guests, tokens of wine, money and fruit were also offered to the deceased and incense burned in their honor.
Creswick Cemetery has asked that acknowledgment and thanks go to the Creswick Bowling Club for the use of their tables, table cloths and making the salads, Hepburn Shire for the loan of seating, Pat Cashin Funerals for the use of the PA system, Mr Bernie Charleson for the use of a generator, Wayne Rex Brereton for taking the photographs and all the guests for coming along to make it such a great day.