Behind the humble façade of this Tuncurry Cemetery headstone lies the extraordinary coincidence of the Brown sisters’ death.
Eliza Jane Brown was born in Wingham 1860, while her sister Sarah was born near the Manning River in 1869.1 They were from a family of fifteen children. After the death of their parents the two daughters lived together in the family homestead at Darawank along the Wallamba River for the next 50 years.2 The sisters successfully ran a dairy from which they sent cream to Tuncurry for processing and made their well-known butter. They also cultivated a wonderful fruit orchard.3 Eliza was gifted at needlework and taught sewing at a school in Killawarra for a time.4
Eliza had a physical condition that meant she was unable to walk without crutches. As she grew older she was confined to her bed and Sarah ‘devotedly’ and ‘tenderly nursed’ her.5
On Saturday 12 September 1936 Eliza had a stroke. A doctor was fetched but there was no hope of recovery. Sarah, on hearing the news, reportedly went to the kitchen to make a pot of tea where she too suffered a stroke and was found slumped at the kitchen table.6 On Tuesday afternoon 15 September 1936 Eliza passed away. As funeral arrangements were being made, Sarah died just two and three-quarter hours later. They were buried together in the same grave. In another strange coincidence, their mother had died on the exact date, in the same house 34 years earlier.7
Author: Janine Roberts
1 NSW BDM, birth index for Eliza Jane Brown 13298/1860; birth index for Sarah Brown 12650/1869.
2 NSW Land Registry Services, Vol-Fol: 919-8.
3 Keith Brown, Unfinished Journey: The descendants of James Brown and Jane Johnson in Australia 1842-2000.
4 Obituary, Northern Champion, 19 September 1936.
5 Ibid; Obituary, Manning River Times and Advocate for the Northern Coast Districts of NSW, 19 September 1936.
6 Brown, Unfinished journey.
7 Tuncurry Cemetery grave of Mary Jane Brown, Gen E23.