New settlements in Australia were often harsh. Cemeteries can be a good place for learning the stories met by settlers and the Cossack Cemeteries tell of how unforgiving the North West was.
There are two cemeteries with marked graves in Cossack, the European based graves and the Japanese Graves in a separate cemetery.
The pioneers at Cossack experienced hardship, struggle and tragedy shown by the marked headstones at the cemetery. Seeing the headstones of young children are common in early pioneer cemeteries. The headstone of Eric Steer Flinders in the European cemetery is in good condition, showing the 4-month-old who died here.
There is a walking trail or path through the cemetery. Stay to the path because there are numerous graves that are unmarked from deterioration over the years from cyclones and shifting sands.
One of the graves is of William Shakespeare Hall. a pioneer settler of the Swan River Colony. William Hall joined Francis Thomas Gregory’s expedition exploring the north-west in 1861. Gregory named the Millstream Creek , roughly 50km south of Cossack.
Hall was a Justice of the Peace in the Roebuck Bay settlement region and moved to the Roebourne area and the port of Cossack when the Roebuck Bay settlement failed. Among other things, William Hall successfully operated pearling ships with a crew of Malay divers and later operating ships with Aboriginal crew members. He drowned in the Cossack Creek while swimming, suffering a heart attack.
The marked headstones only tell part of the stories with many more deaths than the headstones show. There is a list of known graves that are now unmarked, from Pearlers, Mariners, an Engineer and Publican.
Many are in unmarked graves, including Malays and Aboriginals who had high death rates in the pearling industry, and many of them were lost at sea.
To get there:
From the northern end of Roebourne along North West Coastal Hwy (Cleaverville Rd), turn into Point Samson-Roebourne Rd at the brown sign for Cossack. Follow Point Samson-Roebourne Rd for 8.2km and turn right into Cossack Rd at the brown sign. Follow Cossack Rd for 5.2km to reach the Cossack Historic Town. Turn left into Pearl St, then after 100m turn right into Perseverance St. Follow Perseverance St for 700m and the cemetery is on the right.