Australian History

AUSTRALIAN HISTORY: Amateur historians give new life to abandoned Langlo Crossing Cemetery in outback Queensland


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Ace Press News From Cutting Room Floor: Published: June.26: 2023:

#AceHistoryDesk – A chance meeting between two women has given an outback cemetery new life, preserving the history of a now almost abandoned Queensland settlement


Nancye Shrapnel was researching her family’s history when a friend sent a photo of a plaque that solved a family mystery.

Two women stand in the outback in the Langlo Cemetery.
Jane Wilson and Nancye Shrapnel have spent hours researching those buried at Langlo Crossing.(Supplied: Jane Wilson)none

” Someone stopped at the Dulbydilla Cemetery on their way home to Charleville and sent me a photo of the headstone of Mary Ellen Marks, my great-grandfather’s sister,” Mrs Shrapnel said.

“In my family tree I had a question mark on where her death was, and I became very excited.”

The photograph led Mrs Shrapnel to the recently restored Dulbydilla Cemetery and the opportunity to meet Jane Wilson, an amateur historian and member of Outback Grave Markers.

“I told Jane about the neglected Langlo Crossing Cemetery and how I’d love to do something similar, and Jane was keen,” Mrs Shrapnel said.

A year later, despite living hundreds of kilometres apart, the pair’s painstaking research has resulted in 17 plaques being installed at the remote outback cemetery, 70 kilometres north-west of Charleville.

A woman and a man place a plinth with a plaque on the ground
Inmates at Charleville’s prisoner work camp created the plinths and helped install them.(Supplied: Jane Wilson)none

Into the hands of history

The two women have spent more hours than they can count scouring the records for information about who was buried at Langlo Crossing.

Mrs Shrapnel even called on her 92-year-old mum, Barbara Marks, who still lives nearby on the family property, for any information that might help.

“Mum thought we were a bit crazy at first, saying, ‘Who would want to dig up the past?’,” she said.

Gathering stories from records, clippings, and locals, they meticulously cross-referenced and documented what they uncovered about Langlo Crossing, its cemetery, and those interred there.

“We’ve been lucky that in the late 1800s, early 1900s, the newspapers were like gossip columns, and every little happening was recorded,” Mrs Shrapnel said.Langlo Crossing Cemetery is about 70 kilometres north-west of Charleville.(Supplied: Jane Wilson)none

Heart-wrenching stories

All cemeteries have stories that pull at the heartstrings, and Langlo Crossing is no different.

The first recorded burial is of John Gilbert, an 18-year-old blacksmith from Milo Station, in 1883.

“He’d been ill for about three weeks, and his workmates on the station had a bit of a whip around,” Mrs Wilson said.

“They raised enough money for John to take the coach from Adavale to Charleville to see a doctor.

“Unfortunately, he passed away only four miles from Khumoo Mulga, as Langlo Crossing was known then, and was buried there.”John Gilbert is the first known burial at Langlo Crossing Cemetery.(ABC Western Qld: Danielle Lancaster)none

One story For Mrs Shrapnel finds particularly sad is that of Eileen Angel Golding.

“She died at five months of age … and was buried on Christmas Day in 1905,” she said.

“How tragic would that have been for that family?””..they all have special stories, so it’s hard to single out one,” Mrs Shrapnel said.(ABC Western Qld: Danielle Lancaster)none

Times past

In its heyday, Langlo Crossing supported two hotels, a store, a post office, a school, a police station, racetrack, market garden, a community hall and a telephone exchange.

It was an important Cobb and Co change station.

The arrival of cars and rail saw the end of horse-drawn carriages, and towns like Langlo dwindled across Western Queensland.

Mrs Shrapnel has fond childhood memories of the gymkhanas, races and dances at Langlo Crossing, but today it is no longer an official town.

The community hall still stands, a set of dongas and one house.

A few stumps, broken glass and rusty tins litter the ground, hinting it was once a much larger community.Langlo Crossing once supported two hotels and was a Cobb and Co change station.(Supplied: Jane Wilson)none

Into the future

The two women still have stories to complete, and they hope others will come forward and help uncover more about the cemetery.

“In this day and age, everything is digital, and we need to work at getting as much of the history now before it is all lost,” Ms Shrapnel said.Nancye Shrapnel said the response from locals has been ‘wonderful’ and she hopes more stories will be uncovered.(ABC Western Qld: Danielle Lancaster)none

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