Pioneer Park was not always the beautiful open space that it is today. It was the site of Gawler's first cemetery. The land was allocated for the town's public cemetery on the original plan by Colonel William Light. The first recorded burial was two-year old Ellen Fielding on 10 January 1847. The land was used for burials until 1870; graves were dug in all part of the cemetery, many having headstones and iron railing fences. A total of 271 people, a large number of them children, were interred in this cemetery. Health issues prompted the closure of the cemetery in 2870. The McKinlay Memorial was erected at the entrance to the old cemetery in 1875. Headstones were moved and can be seen at the entrance to the Gawler Cemetery in Willaston. A stone cairn has been erected in the park with the names of the people who were buried in the old cemetery.
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