Read her story
In 1856, 18-year-old Eliza Dunn was the first person to be buried in the ‘Wesleyan Glebe’ cemetery (later the Mount Barker Cemetery). She was the daughter of prominent businessman and philanthropist John Dunn. Her brother John junior wrote in his journal of his grief at her sudden death, reportedly from rheumatic fever, an inflammatory disease that can result from scarlet fever or streptococcal infection.
The marble monument on the Dunn Crypt where Eliza was interred was erected after John Dunn’s own death, 46 years after that of Eliza.
Eliza Dunn was born in Bideford, Devon, in 1838. When two years old she emigrated to Adelaide aboard the Lysander with her parents, John and Ann Dunn, and her three elder siblings. The family settled in Mount Barker. At the age of eighteen Eliza died, after four days of illness, when on a visit to Adelaide. Her body was returned to Mount Barker, where she became the first person to be interred in the new ‘Wesleyan Glebe’ cemetery, later to become the Mount Barker Cemetery.
Three days after Eliza’s death her older brother, John Dunn junior, wrote in his journal:
Oh, my broken heart, I am now returned from following the committing of the mortal remains of my dear sister Eliza to the tomb. This seems more than I can bear. She had been ill only two or three days, and that illness was thought not at all dangerous. She was first attacked by the rheumatic fever, which turned to the brain and she died without two hours’ notice. And what was worse than all, Mother and I were sent for too late. We did not arrive at Mrs Hill’s in Adelaide [where she died] until seven hours after she had passed away. I returned to Mount Barker the same night, got home by the daylight and gave orders for masons to build a vault, and by the kind superintendence of the Rev. R. Flockhart [no relation to Elizabeth Flockhart] a place nine feet square and eight feet high was completed by this day [Good Friday] in the new burying ground [the Wesleyan Glebe Land]. My sister is the first laid therein, for she was brought to Mount Barker. I shall never forget the address delivered at the tomb by the Rev J. Dare. He knew her well from a child and when he uttered that sentence – ‘Upon whose countenance no one in this assembly ever looked upon without receiving a smile’ – there was a solid burst of sighing and weeping. (John Dunn, A Miller’s Tale, edited by Anthony Stuart, pp.113-114)
The marble monument above the family crypt was not erected until after the death of John Dunn senior, 46 years after Eliza’s demise. Eliza and her parents are the only three people memorialised on the obelisk. They are also the only three people who feature on plaques in the Dunn Memorial Church on Mann Street.
Related History Post: