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.
Harold Downes was the third son born to Daniel Downes, a banksman in a English coal mine, and Eliza Downes (Roe) in Tamworth, Staffordshire, England on 28 December 1894. The second marriage for his father after his first wife, also named Eliza, died in 1887 after the birth of three children. Harold grew up in ‘Cork Hall’ in Austrey, Staffordshire.
On 23 December 1901, Harold’s father, Daniel, died leaving his mother, Eliza with six young children aged 10 through to one month of age. It is likely that Eliza would have been left destitute, living in poor conditions where disease was common. Census records show some of the young children living with their older step brother, James, while until her death Eliza was not found in census records of the same year. One record found the youngest child, Arthur, then aged one year, in an orphanage, however, more research is required to verify that this was the case, and if so, where Arthur ended up before migrating to Australia to join his older brother Harold.
In the early 1900s the Australian government concerned about low population levels brought in a range of schemes to increase immigration to the country, one of these was the land settlement scheme. This lured Harold and his older brothers to Australia and in early 1913, Harold boarded the ship ‘Orama’ and arrived in Melbourne on 18 March 1913 at the age of 18 years.
Shortly after his arrival in Australia, World War 1 was eminent and at the request of the government volunteered to enlist into the Australian Imperial Force on 20 September 1915 where he became a member of the 1st Depot Squadron at 20 years of age. His military record describes him as five feet eleven inches tall, with a fresh complexion, brown eyes and dark brown hair. Harold would not see the war fields after being medically discharged from the Army in Seymour on 19 January 1916 .
The Mallee district of Victoria became the heart of the wheat frontier attracting migrants who were lured to open spaces, the chance to own their own farm and promotion of good grain prices. This lure attracted Harold to Speed, 86 miles from Mildura. It is here where he became a share farmer growing wheat which he would load on a wagon pulled by a eight-horse team that he would take over the sandhills and into the town of Sealake where it was sold. He would work the farm, known as “Senwod Flats”, for many years living in an English iron house, supported by local tree posts and garnished with a broom brush verandah.
Bill Boyd in his book, ‘Having a Go! Bill Boyd’s Mallee’, he wouldsay of Harold “a big strong fellow, an English migrant. He liked to fight. That was one of the entertainments every now and then. They used to fight with their bare knuckles, you know, and if there was an argument, they’d get Downes. Anyway, he had horses and he wasn’t a good horseman at all. He used to shoo them along with a shovel. The horses were dead scared of him. Some of these were brumbies that he had brought across from New South Wales and they were pretty wild.”
On 25 February 1923, Harold’s mother Eliza would pass away in England. Not long after, Harold would meet and marry Jean Fleming, daughter of Andrew Fleming and Rachel Forrester Brown of Scotland, on 23 July 1924 at Scot’s Church in Ouyen, Victoria.. Jean would give birth to their only daughter, Edith Heather, on 18 April 1925.
Around 1935, Harold purchased Melrose Dairy in Mildura where milk from surrounding farms would be processed and delivered. He would operate the dairy until about 1949 when he purchased a property in Dandenong West. There he would have a market garden and grow flowers that he sold at the Victoria Market in Melbourne. Harold’s granddaughter would say that they would go to the market in his big grey van and the flowers would be sold out the back of the van. Next door, she recalled, was a stall where second hand dentures were sold, this the grand children found amusing and would watch as customers would try the dentures for size and purchase them.
Harold also loved his greyhounds and would train them at his property to race at the local Sandown Racecourse. It was said that Harold trained the last winner at the old Sandown Race track and the first winner at the opening of the new race track.
On 11 November 1963, aged 68 years, Harold passed away. Jean would go on to live in Noble Park until her death on 15 June 1987 at the age of 93 years. Harold and Jean are both buried together at Springvale Botanical Cemetery.
Alpha History. 2014. Great Britain before World War 1. Accessed September 28, 2018. http://www.alphahistory.com.
Australia, City Directories. 1848 – 1948. “Mildura.”
Australian Electoral Rolls. n.d. “1949, Dandenong.”
Tiziani, Debbie, interview by Lorna Tiziani. 2018. Harold Downes (September 28).
England & Wales, Civil Registration Birth Index. 1895. “Birth Index of Harold Downes.”
England & Wales, Civil Registration Death Index. 1901. “Death Index of Daniel Downes.”
General Registrar Office. 1901. “Death Index of Eliza Downes.”
General Registrar Office. 1895. “Registration of Birth of Harold Downes.”
General Registrar Office . 1923. “Registration of Death of Eliza Downes.” February 25.
National Archives of Australia. 2018. More People Imperative: Immigration to Australia, 1901-39. Accessed September 28, 2018. http://guides.naa.gov.au/more-people-imperative/chapter1/.
National Archives Australia. n.d. “Service Record of Harold Downes.”
Springvale Botanical Cemetery. n.d. Jean Downes. Accessed September 28, 2018.
The National Archives. 1901. “1901 England.” Census Returns England and Wales.
Victorian Births, Deaths and Marriages. 1924. “Marriage Certificate of Harold Downes and Jean Fleming.” Victoria, July 23.
Victorian Wills, Probate and Administration Records. 1964. “Harold Downes.” Will and Probate. Victoria, April 29.
Western Australia, Australia, Crew and Passenger Lists. 1913. “Passenger List for the Ship Orama.” Western Australia, March 18.
Weston, Bate. 1924. Having a Go! Bill Boyd’s Mallee, Victoria. Victoria: Griffin Press.