Silas SMITH and Maria GOODING were pioneers in the community of Narrawong near Portland in Victoria. Originating from England where he was a Police Constable, Silas immigrated to Australia with wife Maria on board the ship the “Heather Bell” and arrived in Hobart, Australia on 27 August 1855. Under the indenture system, Silas was employed as a gardener and Maria a domestic servant, by James MACLANACHAN, a well-known grazier and politician, in return for free passage to Hobart.
After seeing out their agreement of employment with Mr MacLanachan, Silas and Maria with their first born son, Charles Morbeth, travelled to Portland in Victoria’s south west. It is here that Silas would settle and where Maria gives birth to ten children between 1856 and 1872. Marwood Samuel Kingston SMITH was born on 12 August 1861 and the fifth child to Silas and Maria. In 1884, aged 22 years, while employed as a labourer for Mr John McKellor at the Ardachy Homestead, Marwood and Mary WEST, who was employed as a servant at the homestead, married on 26 February 1884. It is likely that Marwood and Mary knew each other as children with Mary’s father, John West, owning property not far from the Smith property known as “Sunny Bank”.
The Ardachy Homestead is located eight kilometers north west of Branxholm, which today is recognised for its historical significance to the area as one of the earliest squatter runs and later on, the most successful Soldiers Settlement subdivision following World War 2.
Not long after their marriage, Marwood and Mary, moved and settled in the Bundarramunjie parish. There property, known as “Bundara”after the river nearby, was nestled between the Cobungra and Bundara Rivers. Their pastoral run was surrounded by the mountains of the Alpine National Park and in a remote rural part of the Omeo district approximately 15 miles from the small town.
In her letter to Aunt Connie of the Weekly TImes on 24 August 1907, aged eight years old, Marwood and Mary’s daughter Olive described Bundara as “in the bush between two rivers, the Combungra and the Bundara (about a mile from each), and we have to cross the former to go to Omeo our nearest town, about 15 miles in distance. As the river rises very quickly, father has sometimes to hurry out of Omeo lest he should find it too high to cross going home…..we are miles away from any neighbours, and our home is surrounded by big hills. We can see the High Plains on which the snow lies for months at a time.“
Olive’s younger sister Rosie would later write to Aunt Connie on 21 March 1908 saying “the roads are very rough and we cannot go into town very often. We have to drive through the river Cobungra, as there is no bridge over it, and sometimes it rises very quickly, and is too high to cross, and we have to wait until it goes down again…..we have a very dry season. There is very little grass for the sheep and cattle.“
The writings of both Rosie and Olive illustrates a happy life at Bundara amongst the bush, mountains and their animals. It describes that despite their remoteness to Omeo, education must have been important to Marwood and Mary, with Olive telling Aunt Connie that they had a teacher living with them and that she had been at school for eleven months. She and sister Rosie tell of their love of reading and the titles of the books that they had both been enjoying.
While they lived in remote country, Marwood was a recognised grazier, with records of his shee and wool sales frequently listed in the local Omeo Standard and the national Weekly Times. He and his sons, Alfred and Harry, would also hold a mining licence for the local area where both gold and quartz could be found.
To Fight for Country and Empire
On 4 August 1914, Britian declared war on Germany. Neither the Australian government nor the 324,000 who signed up to fight for their country would know at the time the human sacrifice and financial toll that World War 1 would have on Australia.
Like many young men in the Omeo district, Marwood and Mary’s only sons, Alfred and Harry would be farewelled. Seen by young men as an adventure and opportunity to travel the world, Alfred and Harry, would leave with pride in their eyes, a handshake from their Father and hug from their Mother with tears in her eyes. Marwood and Mary farwelled two beloved sons but sadly they would only welcome back one.
Alfred SMITH was born in 1890, the third child and eldest son of Marwood and Mary. On 12 April 1915, aged 25 years, Alfred enlisted with the Australian Imperial Force in Liverpool, New South Wales and was assigned to the 18th Infantry Battalion, 5th Brigade. In early May the Brigade left Australian shores for Egypt where they trained until mid-August. On 22 August 1915 the Brigade landed on ANZAC Cove.
Their first offensive was the attack on Hill 60 and lasted until 29 August 1915. They would then take up a defensive role holding Courtney’s Post until 20 December 1915 when they would leave for Egypt and then proceed to France. On 25 March 1916, they took part in their first major battle of Pozieres between 25 July and 5 August 1916. The retaliatory bombardment while seizing German positions would be costly for the Australians and between 29 July and 6 August 1916, they would suffer 6,848 causalities. Sadly, Private Alfred Smith would be one of those killed in action.
Private Alfred Smith was buried along with many other Australian soldiers in the Pozieres British Cemetery. Private Smith was awarded the 1914/1915 Military Star, the British War Medal, the Victory Medal and a Memorial Scroll for his service and ultimate sacrifice to his country.
His parents would thank their local community for their expressions of sympathy following the loss of their beloved son.
Harry Smith was born on 13 May 1896 the sixth child and second son to Marwood and Mary. Like his brother, Alfred, Harry aged 20 years, would farewell his family and enlist in the Australian Imperial Force on 24 February 1916 in Melbourne, Victoria with the 3rd Pioneer Battalion.
The 3rd Pioneer Battalion was formed in Victoria in 1916 in the wake of the failed Gallopili campaign and while trained as infrantry men were tasked with light combat engineering functions. With the military focus shifting to the Western Front the 3rd Pioneer Battalion would be deployed there in late 1916 and would remain there until the end of World War 1.
Lieutenant Corporal Harry Smith would be wounded several times during his service on the Western Front. On the third occasion after been wounded in the back, neck and shoulder Harry was discharged from service on 9 March 1919 and returned to Australia.
Marwood Samuel Kingston Smith would express his thoughts on the war efforts that claimed his son, Alfred, and wound his son Harry on repeated occasions in a poem, “March to the Rhine”, that was published on the 29 November 1918. It would read…..
Four years after leaving Bundara to fight in World War 1 as a young man, Harry, returned home a Lieutenant Colonial, a man forever changed by the bloodshed of losing fellow soldiers and mates. It was the loss of his older brother, Alfred, that would change his life forever.
With the social and economic impacts of war impacting heavily on Australia, the government established the Victorian Soldiers Settlement scheme, known as Battle to Farm, in 1925. The scheme aimed to repatriate Soldiers onto the land to support employment, family income and agriculture in Victoria. With over 1,000 days of active service in the Australian Imperial Force, Harry applied and was granted a lease for land in Dry Gully near Omeo. In addition to the 23 acres Harry already owned and the 580 acres Ellen owned two miles from Harry’s property, Harry was granted a freehold lease of 1105 acres.
As a sheep and cattle grazier, Harry, worked hard and continued to increase the size of his farm with it becoming known as “Innisfail” in the Omeo district.
No long after returning from the war, Harry married Ellen Rose Faithful in 1919, they would go onto have four children; Lavinia Annie, Marwood Alfred, Lorna Rose and Charles.
On 31 December 1931 Mary Smith (West) passed away in Lindenow South aged 67 years. Following her death, Marwood resided with son, Harry, and his wife and children. Marwood would pass away 15 years later in Bairnsdale after living with his daughter. Both are buried at Coongulmerang Cemetery, Lindenow South.
The son and daughter of Victorian Pioneers in the western district of Victoria, Marwood Samuel Kingston Smith and wife Mary (West) settled on the fringe of the Alpine National Park near Omeo. There they raised their children, home schooled them, worked the land and instilled hard work into their family. Newspaper articles brought to life the lives of the Smith family and told of the conditions in which they lived for some time. The second son, Harry, would return from World War 1 without his older brother, Alfred, who was killed in action and buried and France. Through the soldier land settlement, Harry would go on to own his own land and earn a living from sheep and cattle grazing on his “Innisfail” property.
Trove is an online database of Australian archives from newspaper articles to books and photographs, some dating back to the mid-1800’s. While vital records provide the outline of an ancestors life and family, uncovering newspaper articles on their lives can add substance to their story.
Archive Office of Tasmania. (1829 – 1957). Tasmania, Australia, Passenger Arrivals. Tasmania, Australia.
Archives Office Tasmania. (1841 – 1884). Immigrant Lists. Tasmania, Australia.
Australian Institute of Genealogical Studies. (1808 – 2007). Australia Cemetery Index. Australia.
Departent of Crown Lands and Survey. (1890). Narrawong. County of Normanby. Victoria, Australia.
General Register Office, England. (1837-1915). England & Wales, Civil Registration Death Index, 1837-1915.
General Register Office, England. (1854, August 7). Certificate of Marriage between Silas Smith and Maria Gooding. Surrey, England.
Portland Guardian. (1896, November 6). Obituary Maria Smith. Portland, Victoria, Australia.
Portland Guardian. (1915, July 9). Death Notice Silas Smith. Portland, Victoria, Australia.
Portland Guardian. (1915, July 7). Silas Smith Obituary. Portland Guardian. Portland, Victoria, Australia.
Portland Guardian and Normanby General Advertiser. (1866, March 22). Silas Smith 1866 Land Lease. Portland, Victoria, Australia.
Births, Deaths and Marriages, Victoria. (1884, February 26). Certificate of Marriage between Marwood Samuel Kingston Smith and Mary West. Victoria, Australia.
Public Records Office Victoria, (1930), Bundarramunjie Parish Map, Victoria.
Weekly Times, (24 August 1907), Letter to Aunt Connie by Olive Smith, Melbourne, p. 37.
Weekly Times, (21 March 1907), Letter to Aunt Connie by Rosie Smith, Melbourne, p. 37.
Omeo Standard and Mining Gazette, (14 June 1918), Omeo, Victoria, p. 2.
Australian War Memorial retrieved 25 February 2020 at https://www.awm.gov.au/articles/atwar/first-world-war
The Omeo Standard, (5 February 1918), Those Who Have Gone, Omeo, Victoria.
The Omeo Standard, (5 February 1918), Roll of Honour, Omeo, Victoria.
National Archives of Australia: Second Australian Imperial Force Personnel Dossiers, 1939-1947; B883, Army Personnel Files 1939 – 1948; B2458 for item number VX2063A. 16 January 2008.
Birth Index. Australia. Victoria. 1890. SMITH, Alfred. The Victorian Registry of Births, Deaths, and Marriages; Melbourne, Victoria, Australia; Victoria, Australia, Marriage Records.
Australian War Memorial, 18th Australian Infantry Battalion, retrieved 25 February at https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/U51458
Birth Index. Australia. Victoria. 1896. SMITH, Harry. The Victorian Registry of Births, Deaths, and Marriages; Melbourne, Victoria, Australia; Victoria, Australia, Marriage Records.
National Archives of Australia: Second Australian Imperial Force Personnel Dossiers, 1939-1947; B883, Army Personnel Files 1939 – 1948; B2458 for item number VX117. 16 January 2008.
Australian War Memorial, 3rd Australian Pioneer Battalion, retrieved 25 February at https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/U51315/
The Omeo Standard, (5 February 1918), Wounded and Missing, Omeo, Victoria.
Omeo Standard and Mining Gazette, March to the Rhine, 29 November 1918, p. 2.
SMITH, Harry, Soldiers Land Settlement Application, Public Records of Victoria, Melbourne.
Marriage Index. Australia. Victoria. 1919. SMITH, Harry and FAITHFUL, Ellen Rose. The Victorian Registry of Births, Deaths, and Marriages; Melbourne, Victoria, Australia; Victoria, Australia, Marriage Records.
Death Index. Australia. Victoria. 1931. SMITH, Mary. The Victorian Registry of Births, Deaths, and Marriages; Melbourne, Victoria, Australia; Victoria, Australia, Marriage Records.
Death Index. Australia. Victoria. 1946. SMITH, Marwood Samuel Kingston. The Victorian Registry of Births, Deaths, and Marriages; Melbourne, Victoria, Australia; Victoria, Australia, Marriage Records.
Bairnsdale Advertiser, (8 January 1931), Death Notice of SMITH, Mary, p. 3.
Bairnsdale Advertiser, (6 September 1946), Death Notice of SMITH, M.S.K, p. 1.