Emma Smith’s Grave.


If by chance you are travelling through the Flinders Ranges, in South Australia. Keep an eye open for a sign post that says, ‘Emma Smith’s grave.’ Another lonely grave in a desolate part of the outback you might think, it is but this one’s special. Emma was only two years old when she met her tragic end, a tiny life cut short. Her parents were carters, taking copper from Blinman to Port Augusta, South Australia in the early 1860’s.

A tourist information plaque can only say so much, it can’t speak about a mother’s grief over the loss, or a father’s guilt after his little girl was crushed under the steel bound wheels of his ore cart. But they are long gone now and it is only the inquisitive that stop by to mourn Emma. I can only imagine what she looked like or, what she thought as she sat high on the seat of her daddy’s cart. Dressed in a calico shift with a big bonnet to keep the glaring sun off her tender face. Watching the miles slowly pass, did she gaze into the hazy distance and wonder at the mirages that danced in the heat? Showing vast pools of water that they never quite reached, or laughed with delight at the sturdy brown rock wallabies as they bounded from the path of the wagons. Perhaps she was too young to appreciate the vast alien landscape that surrounded her. The cracked, jagged hills that show in vivid detail what nature can do, as they struggle to stay in one piece. The metal that is in the ground pokes through in orange, red and yellow, rusting and splitting as if mighty hammers have been wielded against them in ages past. The trees cling to the slopes of these hills like frightened climbers, hanging on to any crack or crevice. Yet against all odds they survive.

Flinders 2

When they would stop to rest and eat in the heat of the day, along the banks of creeks that sometimes flowed. Would she have seen the beauty in the gnarled, twisted eucalypt trees that crowded the creek bank. As if they were jostling for a better position to drink up the precious water that may still be there? Did she play amongst the carpet of wild flowers that would cover this hard, cruel landscape like a patchwork quilt? Did her mother find the time to make little daisy chains for her hair? I would like to think so.

creek bank

How would she have felt at night, sleeping in a swag next to her parents, the fire glowing softly as the hardwood gave up it’s heat? The smoke drifting up in the night sky like a swirling finger of mist disappearing into the curtain of stars. Stars, that if she were taller she might be able to reach up and pluck from the heavens. They were that close. As the dingoes whined and circled the camp, not daring to come too close. Would she whimper, then stir and snuggle closer to her daddy’s strong back, smelling the comforting odours of tobacco, wood smoke and sweat. Then, drifting back to sleep as the bullocks lowed softly, dreaming her little girl dreams of dolls and sweets that might come at the end of the journey. Emma’s journey ended far away from dolls and sweets, I don’t know what day it was but her parents would never forget it. Where she is buried looks like it was a camp ground often used by travellers in those days. It hasn’t changed, it is still a flat piece of wasteland, dotted with broken, twisted, stunted trees. Enough grass growing in the good times to feed the livestock but the desert sand shows through like an old man’s balding scalp.


I don’t know what happened, perhaps she was running beside the wagon as they drove into the scarce shade, after the bullocks were watered at a nearby creek. Her father probably didn’t see her as he concentrated on wheeling his bullock team into place. Oh the heartbreak as they realised what had happened, the anguish as they would have screamed out to the uncaring wilderness, their deep unending sorrow as they realised their Emma was no more. How could they have left that tiny grave, their little Emma, alone, asleep in the hard desert ground? They must have come back, for a headstone is there. The passage of time has erased the loving words. Did her mother stand there again and gaze at this lonely grave, wondering if the prowling dingoes still made her precious girl fret in her eternal sleep? Did her father still torment himself for what had taken place? We’ll never know.

Emma's grave

Emma rests beneath this stony ground next to a shady tree, the headstone leans a little and has lichens growing on top. Someone has placed a circle of white quartz stones to outline the grave. A barrier has been placed around this, four sturdy posts and rails from nearby trees makes it look like a child’s cot. A piece of paper with a handwritten message, was carefully folded and placed amongst the quartz by a recent visitor. At least someone else cares, I thought. The grave has been maintained by the National Parks Service and I think by some who pause to wonder at this tragedy. My wife and I paid homage to Emma, we found some little yellow flowers to put by the headstone. I hoped she would like them, I know she would.

We continued on our journey, a little sadder but still marvelling at the wonders of nature that surrounded us. A realisation came to me as I drove back out along the rutted track, Emma isn’t alone. When the day cools down the rock wallabies come out to graze around her. The night birds will swoop after prey that dares to show itself. Then, when it rains the patchwork quilt of flowers will cover her lonely bed.


Link to Google map  for Blinman to Port Augusta route. http://tinyurl.com/d72bz97

http://tinyurl.com/d8ks6xo Link to picture of ore cart of the period.

http://tinyurl.com/c37s7hp Link to a short history of Blinman.

A note here for anyone who has read a traveller’s blog stating that I made up the circumstances surrounding Emma’s death. I was told about it by tourist officials at Willpena Pound. I would never create a tragedy to promote my blog.

Laurie Smith.


29 thoughts on “Emma Smith’s Grave.

      1. thisisnotbangkok

        Yes I really felt the loneliness perhaps more through the words than the photos, yet the photos are good. I am sure if one does an EVP session near that grave at night they will get results :》


      2. laurie27wsmith Post author

        Thanks Michael. I have some pictures that show the desert, a vast spread of nothing. The feeling when you are there is that the whole place is haunted. I would liked to have spent a night there by a campfire. Perhaps the land would have spoken of ages past. There is something ancient there that lies hidden amongst the landscape. With an EVP you would probably hear more than you bargained for. The whole area is mystical.


      3. thisisnotbangkok

        It sounds very intriguing. There are so many places to see in Aus and you live in just one tip of it. I would love to see this area. But I would still want a hotel at night :}


      4. laurie27wsmith Post author

        You’re right, there’s that much to see you would have to really be precise with what you want to see. It would be like turning up in New York and saying I want to see the wild west. there’s a lot of travel involved.


      5. thisisnotbangkok

        That is so true. I def do not have a desire to see all the major cities. What is the point of that? It’s like you coming to the states and wanting to see all the major cities here. I would have to think about it.


      6. laurie27wsmith Post author

        Sydney is always worth a visit for the harbour alone, it’s a stepping stone then for a wide variety of places. I like to immerse myself in a place, whether it’s a city or a canyon and soak up the feel. A person definitely couldn’t come here, visit the state capitals and go home and say they’ve seen Australia. Nor could you do that anywhere in the world. You need to go bush and have a look at how people live. Hmm, I’m sounding like a travelogue now.


      7. thisisnotbangkok

        No, I believe we are on the same page here. If and when I do go, I would def use Sydney as the stepping stone and take it from there. Def would want to see the bush and that famous rock, forget the name of it now. But currently, I must get my finances in order–not doing too well on that front. I am starting up a new biz, I may have told you. If not, would you mind if I sent you an email about it? You seem very knowledgeable about everything. It would be great to get your unbiased input. I promise to keep the email as short as I can, as I would not want to incringe on your time.


      8. laurie27wsmith Post author

        To be honest I don’t remember, if it was a huge red/orange feature in the centre of Australia, yes. Peter Weir made a movie in 2010 but I don’t think it was released.


      9. thisisnotbangkok

        Have not seen or heard of either one. May look for them soon. Thanks. Basically all the AUS movies and shows we get here from the US are good. I do not know if you get Hulu over there, but I just finished a real gem of a series called The Strange Calls. It is about a new policeman that works in a town where all these bizarre things happen. But for me, the humor was quirkier than something you’d see from England and the mood was spot on. Perhaps you have heard of it.


      10. laurie27wsmith Post author

        I like quite a variety, mainly crime and drama: Person of Interest, CSI New York, Sherlock Holmes, Chicago fire, shows of that ilk. Then British drama and comedy.


      11. thisisnotbangkok

        No, I am not talking about the new photo process and photos I wanted to send you. I can do that, but I am starting a new business that I can call my main one, as my other biz is nearly gone due to the recession. It is automotive related. I will send you an email about it within the next few days. You seem like you are business savvy and I really nedd non-family / honest opinions.


  1. Pingback: Midweek Poetry: The poet’s hand. | laurie27wsmith

  2. Brian & Leanne Quinn

    We visited Emma’s Grave today 30/05/’12, the girls thought how sad and lonely for a little girl, not ever able to experience full life. We paid our respects for her and her Parents, little Emma, good bye, from Brian & Leanne, Lisa & Vinnie, and Angela & Russel, xxx


    1. laurie27wsmith Post author

      Dear Brian, Leanne and family, Thanks for letting me know of your visit to Emma’s grave. As you can now imagine it is a very sad, lonely place. She is one little child who will never be forgotten. I need to ask, did you go there after you read my posting, or like us did you find it then post about it? Either way someone else has made a visit. May I add what a beautiful, stark setting to be in.



Tell me what you think.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s