Two little brothers Thomas and William Graham, 4 and 6 years respectively went out one Sunday morning to meet up with their little friend Alfred Burman, to play. It would be the last time the parents saw their children alive.
It was an intensely cold Winter's morning on June 30, 1867 when the boys set out, apparently to chase wild goats, in the direction of Table Hill, just outside of Daylesford, a town in the foothills of the Great Dividing Range in Victoria. A fourth young boy, Griffiths was with them, but after a quarrel he returned.
Memorial to the missing children. Photo: Sue Clubbs
When the boys didn't return by the afternoon and it was still very cold, the parents started looking for them. By 9pm when no sign of the children was found, police were alerted and they immediately went into action. Despite searching through the night, the children still had not been found. Early the next morning, with most of the residents of Table Hill, Mr Graham and Mr Burman continued their search.
Hope was rekindled when a storekeeper named Munch said he saw the children on Sunday afternoon, four miles on the road to the town of Ballan. Hundreds of people joined the search and the nearby towns were abuzz with any news that was received. Workers from the local saw mills, as soon as they heard the news, laid down their tools and joined the search. But the results were still the same - the children remained missing.
Three days after the children's disappearance it was agreed unanimously at a town meeting that every business would close so all people available could join in the search. All details for a thorough and organised sweep of surrounding areas were discussed and agreed. It can only be imagined how gratified the parents must have been to see such support for their missing children.
But the days turned into weeks and the weeks, months. Then on the morning of 13th September, in the early part of Spring, the bodies of the three little boys were found only 200 yards from a hut, which would have provided them with protection from exposure.
The inquest that followed highlighted the number of people that had seen the three boys in their travels and even questioned where they were going. It seemed they had followed the wrong path to Table Hill and gotten lost, last seen heading into the bush away from Daylesford.
Gravestone of the three children. Photo Sue Clubbs.
It was the black and tan dog of local labourer, Michael McKay who first found the boot of one of the children. Subsequently a child's body was found outside a tree and the remains of the other two, in a hollow of the same tree.
The jury in the inquest returned the following verdict:
" That Alfred Herbert Burman, William Graham, and Thomas Graham were found dead at Musk Creek on 13th September, 1867, having been lost since 30th June; and the jury are of opinion that they died from exposure and want."
'The Inquest', Leader, Melbourne, Saturday 21 September, 1867, Page 28
Australian Cemeteries Group, Facebook. Sue Clubbs post.
'The Lost Children of Daylesford', The Ballarat Star, Thursday, 4 July 19867, Page 2