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My great, great grandfather, Thomas Theophilus Rosser died at Gladesville Hospital for the Insane on 22 December 1891. His death resulted from a brain tumour and he was interned in the grounds. When the cemetery officially closed in May, 1893, 1226 people had been buried there. The majority would only have had markers, few of the graves had headstones and those that did were relocated to the Field of Mars cemetery in 1965 when development of the site was being considered.
The Tarban Creek Lunatic Asylum was built in 1838 at Bedlam Point on the banks of the Parramatta River in an area known as Gladesville, a suburb of Sydney, less than a ten minute drive from where I now live. Patients were brought to this site as far away as Victoria up until 1848. Thomas Rosser had a much shorter journey. At the time he was living in Greta, a coal mining hamlet in the Hunter Valley (110 kms north west of Sydney).
Sadly, Thomas died just months before his 4th child was born. He was just 36 years old. Before Thomas and his family moved to Greta, he was an engine driver in the cane fields of Beenleigh, in Queensland. I learnt he was a religious man, a man with a wonderful singing voice. Every Sunday the family took the Kanaka workers to Church with them in their buggie. It saddens me when I think of the isolation and confusion he must have felt. I hope his faith gave him comfort in his dying days. And what of his wife and children? Anne Rosser was a strong woman. The couple had left her family and friends behind in Wales and travelled to a new world and a different life. Anne went on to establish a boarding house to support her family. Eight years after Thomas’s death she married again. She died in Greta in 1926. Thomas and Anne’s daughter, Elizabeth was my great grandmother, but that’s another story.
I recently read Edgar Allan Poe’s, ‘The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether.’ Poe wrote this dark and thought provoking story of asylum life in 1845. Take a look at the trailer.