Tasmanian James Philosopher Smith

Famous Tasmanian Prospectors, Explorers and Track Cutters

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Tasmanian James Philosopher Smith

Postby Philski » Tue Dec 04, 2012 2:20 pm

Its a great time to start writing about one of Tasmania's Greatest Prospectors, James Philosopher Smith.

141 years ago, today, the 4th of December, almost at this time of day as well , he found Mount Bischoff's massive Tin Deposit. He would have had it the day before. but being a Sunday, he rested. He was a man of great conviction in both his public life and private. His contribution to the States economy and wealth is beyond words.

Below are a selection of writings from around the web. Including his Son, Major Ronald E Smith.
James (Philosopher) Smith (1 July 1827- 15 June 1897), explorer, known as 'PHILOSOPHER', was born at George Town, Van Diemen's Land, second of three children of John Smith and his wife Ann, née Grant. His father was shot when he was 5 and his mother remarried. He was educated in Launceston. in 1836 aged 9, John Guillan, a ship-owner and flour-miller, became his guardian. For a time he managed a flour mill and in 1851-53 he was on the Victorian goldfields.

Returning to Van Diemen's Land in 1853 he took up a sq. mile (2.6 km²) of prime and productive forested land on what was to become Westwood between the Forth and Leven rivers, which he cleared and farmed.

Forth Township. The bridge hotel is in the back of the image below the tree line, looking East towards Devonport
taken from: national trust (mid 1880's)

Peaceful, six feet (183 cm) tall and of slender build, he was a hardy bushman and a determined amateur explorer of the dense forests and difficult country of the northwest.

J. W. Norton Smith wrote 'it is not a matter of much consequence to him if he goes a couple or three days on one meal if he finds (what he calls) something interesting'. On an expedition to the Forth River in 1859 he discovered some gold at the confusion of the Wilmot River and Forth River. Again later a deposit on the Forth River up Near Dove River branch at Lorinna in 1863. Golden point (now underwater) carried good flaky Gold

In October 1871 Smith arranged for provisions to be stored at a depot in the Black Bluff Highlands. Formed in the Devonian during the Tabberabberan orogeny. So big was the event it also created the Lachlan Fold Belt in Victoria. He then set off to the west with the Lea to his South and the Vale of Belvoir to the west then on via Guildford plains. Travelling slowly and examining the country carefully, he crossed the Arthur River near its head waters West South West of the present town of Waratah. Using mount Cleveland as a guide. He actually walked past the deposit and missed it by a few miles the first pass. Following the river he descended into its deep gorge, finding traces of gold on the way down. He then started tracking towards the coast. Using the river to hook up with Hellyers or Emmets track to return to the coast no doubt. He was 40 miles to the coast with just enough provisions to make it to Burnie. Passing a creek joining the Artur River he sampled and panned a good fist full of Casiterite to the pan. This creek was to become Tin Creek, The dim light in the bottom of the Arther River behind Mount Bishoff hiding his finds identity till he could get some good light on it. On 4 December the main ore body after following the creek up to its source, he located an immensely rich deposit of Cassiterite, near the summit of Mount Bischoff. He prospected with a small Mortar and Pestle and small Gold pan. later he smelted the sample of ore at Table Cape on the north coast. He obtained two crown leases of eighty-acre (32 ha) mining sections on the richest of the tin ore deposits and had them surveyed, but found that he could not interest anyone in his discovery. Failing to obtain assistance in Victoria, he sold a small farm, arranged a bank overdraft and obtained sufficient capital to commence work, his manager being W. M. Crosby, formerly of Nova Scotia. Tin oxide was mined, bagged, taken along the primitive road to the coast and shipped from Penguin and Leith to England via Melbourne.

The returns from the first shipment of ore led to the formation in Launceston of a company with capital of £60,000 in 12,000 £5 shares. When it took over the mine in 1873 Smith received £1500 in cash, 4400 paid-up shares and a permanent directorship, with power to nominate another director. But he soon severed his connexion with what was destined to become the richest tin-mine in the world. The company paid its first dividend in 1878, but by then Smith is said to have given away or sold most of his shares at trifling prices. That year he received a public testimonial of 250 sovereigns and a silver salver and parliament voted him an annual pension of £200.

The return to Shareholders was over 2.5 million pounds Sterling in 1930

Annual mine gate sales 0.5 million Pounds Sterling

Though Smith returned to farming, increasing his land to about 1500 acres (607 ha) , he continued prospecting. At Launceston on 16 September 1874 he had married a widow Mary Jane Love, née Pleas. She was by all accounts a caring loving wife and quite attractive to boot. In 1886 he was elected to the Legislative Council for Mersey but resigned in 1888. He died of heart disease at Launceston on 15 June 1897, survived by his wife, three sons and three daughters. He was buried in the Congregational cemetery at Forth. The origin of the nickname 'Philosopher' by which he was widely known on the north-west Tasmanian coast is not known. He had some serious difference of opinion with the Mine Manager Ferd Kyser. James Smith wanted to Hydrosluice the ore. It would have reduced labour costs and speed up production at an environmental cost. They Kyser had other ideas and ultimately won the support of the board, leaving Smith despondent but as determined as always.

but it took some time for the importance of the find to be realized. In August 1872 Smith took a small party with him to the field and in 1873 several tons of ore were sent to Melbourne. In that year the mine was visited by William Ritchie, a solicitor at Launceston, and with his help the Mount Bischoff Tin-mining Company was floated with 12,000 shares of £5 each. Of these 4400 were reserved for Smith who also received £1500 in cash. One expert who visited the mine at this time pronounced it to be the richest tin-mine in the world. The company, however, had many difficulties, one being that the bush track to the coast for many months of the year was almost impassable. Eventually a tramway was constructed, the mine became extremely successful, much employment resulted, and an enormous sum was paid in dividends. In February 1878 Smith was publicly presented with a silver salver and a purse of 250 sovereigns. The address which accompanied the gifts stated that as a result of his discovery commerce had developed, property had increased in value, and all classes of the community had been benefited. About the same period the Tasmanian parliament voted him a pension of £200 a year. In 1886 he was elected to the Tasmanian legislative council but he resigned his seat in 1888. Smith, who was an excellent assayer and a close student of geology, continued his prospecting for the remainder of his life. He died at Launceston on 15 June 1897 leaving a widow, three sons and three daughters. A quiet, somewhat reserved man, benevolent and charitable, Smith was a natural explorer of much determination, whom no hardship could daunt. His work was of the greatest use to Tasmania not only for its own sake, but for the encouragement it gave to others who made further discoveries.

J. Fenton. A History of Tasmania; The Launceston Examiner, 16 June 1897; P. Mennell, The Dictionary of Australasian Biography; Sir Henry Braddon. Journal and Proceedings Royal Australian Historical Society, vol. XIX, p. 242.
/////////////////////////////////////////////////





Table of Contents
JAMES 'PHILOSOPHER' SMITH


he was largely self-educated? His humble circumstances and the stigma of convict parentage probably spurred his determination to prove himself by emulating contemporary heroes like the missionary explorer David Livingstone.

For twelve years he searched the inhospitable highlands for an 'El Dorado', improving his prospecting skills but impairing his health. Insatiably curious, he loved nature and bush adventures.

Smith expected Mount Bischoff to conform to the Cornish model of a long-serving payer of moderate dividends. The share 'skyrocket' which actually followed would have made him a mining magnate had he not sold many shares earlier to anchor his family's future in property. Yet this studious, self-made gentleman was hardly the disenfranchised prospector of legend.

Mount Bischoff precipitated a mining boom which made Smith Tasmania's first native-born popular hero and probably Australia's first prospector hero. He campaigned for public works, fostered the Zeehan and Heazlewood silver fields, and in his final years the sinewy, bearded Smith was 'reborn' as a prospector. A devout Congregationalist, this diffident man was famous for his high principles and charitable nature.

Further reading: N Haygarth, Baron Bischoff, Launceston, 2004; D Groves et al, A century of tin mining at Mount Bischoff, Hobart, 1972.

//////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Tin (Cassiterite) was first discovered at Mount Bischoff in 1871 by the late James Smith, who for years forged his way back into the dense scrub, carrying his food with him and supplementisng it by an occasional wallaby or wombat. For months of the year lie would be away, and those to whom he was known would speculate as to the chance of his ever returning; when he returned, an almost exhausted man, he would only remain to I regain his strength and to earn sufficient to purchase stores, when lie would be off again. For years this went on, and some jocularly dubbed him Philosopher Smith. However, the time came when after many small discoveries, he found Tin in a stream forty miles inland from Emu Bay. This was traced to its source on Mount Bischoff, a mountain named after one of the officers of a pioneer English company known as the Van Diemen's Land Company. When specimens from this find were exhibited and known to be Tin, others recognised it as a mineral they had seen in the North/East. Parties were soon out and discovered the tin deposits of the north-east, where mining is now being actively carried on. Mr. Smith formed the Mount Bischoff Tin Mining Company. The Parliament of Tasmania recognised his great work by voting him a pension, which he enjoyed for many years during the remainder of his life he served the public in many ways, and made occasional excursions into the back country to view mining propositions. He was highly esteemed by those who knew him, and died at a' great age at Westwood, on the North West Coast, where he had made his homre. Some activity has been displayed in tin mining, which for many years proved more profitable than any other class of mining, as can be gathered from the fact that from the year 1880 to 1907 tin to the value of eight and a half millions sterling was raised. Perhaps the capital isation of the Mouit Bischoff tin mine may be taken as a striking example to the over-capitalisation that one so fre quently observes in mining ventures on this side of tile world. The M'ount Bis choff has twelve thousand shareholders, and has a nominal capital of £60,000, and this, taken into consideration with I the amount of dividends paid-namely, I two and a quarter millions-places it in a strong position as one of the most rr munerative mining ventures on record. Galena was not worked on the West Coast until 1882, and copper ore was discovered somewhat later. New discoveries are still being made, the difli culty of prospecting being that, as a rule, our mineral deposits exist in what at the period of discovery, were nninlhabited parts of Tasmania, rendered difficult of access and utterly devoid of roads or tracks. 'tere is still a considerable area of unexplored, or but partially ex plored, country lying within the mineral bearing belts which may yet be found to contain deposits as rich as any that have been worked.

His discovery triggered a mining boom on the West coast and the birth of Tasmanian mining. This came at a time when Tasmania's economy was depressed. Convict transportation had ceased and the colony was facing financial difficulties due in part to not having viable industries. The Mount Bischoff Tin Mining Co. was formed in August 1873 and mining began on December 14 1873. When the mine finally closed, in 1947, it had produced 81,000 tonnes of tin and provided a dividend equal to £200 for every £1 initially invested

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Re: Tasmanian James Philosopher Smith

Postby Philski » Tue Dec 04, 2012 3:02 pm

Thanks i will try and compile it so its in better chronological order this week. I know a bit about him, but not a lot really. Perhaps 3-4 books i have read he is in. The 3 reports above are all basically the same info. Some years are out and we didnt become "Tasmania" till 1856. His son kept a dairy of life before his father found Mount Bishoff, so i would love to have a look at them. And just by being in the same places he walked, it floats my boat. The books and his family's writings and his writings in the Examiner and found a map charting his finds only today. Their is a lot of info out their thankfully.

have a fantastic day
Phillip

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James Philosopher Smith headstone at Forth

Postby Philski » Sun Dec 09, 2012 9:34 pm

James Smith
Forth Congregational Cemetery

Born 1st July 1827
Died 15 Jun 1897
H/o Mary Jane Smith
Headstone
IN MEMORIAN
JAMES SMITH OF “WESTWOOD”
A Noble Gentleman
Sleep on, beloved, and take thy rest, Thou hast earned it faithfully here.
The life to others has been blest – can we part without a tear?
Ah, no! dear friend of early days, for too many thoughts arise
Of sterling worth and gentle ways, that tear my tears, unbidden, rise.
The seventy years have been well spent, thy talent has gained ten,
Whatever God to thee has lent, has blessed thy fellow men.
‘Mid toil and hardship, few have known, your labor of love went on.
Till Bischoff’s mine (which all men own the richest the world upon).
Poured forth her wealth, and saved your land, by giving work to the poor.
Nor thought that thine unaided hand had closed grim poverty’s door.
With bow’d head, and humble mien, thy life among men has passed.
Thy charities, by most unseen, have earned their reward at last.
I think I hear the Lord’s sweet voice saying, “Enter into rest!”
While happy angels around rejoice for one more, among the blest
Devonport June 27. E.P.
The North-West Post 3rd July 1897.

His 2nd? wife (she had been married before. Widow)

Mary Jane Smith
Forth Congregational Cemetery
Born 6th Oct 1841
Died 9th Jan 1928

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Re: Tasmanian James Philosopher Smith

Postby Philski » Mon Dec 10, 2012 1:43 pm

I have the chance to talk with the amazing Dr Nic Haygarth to get permission to publish some of his work on here. He lives locally and knows heaps about our mining history. The amount of work he has written on this State is vast. So im very lucky to be allowed to publish some of it. Thanks Dr Nic.

James Smith was born in 1827, the second of three children to John Smith and Ann Grant, who married after coming to Tasmania as convicts. James had an unsettled family life and in 1836, at the age of 9, he became the ward of John Guillan, a Launceston miller and merchant.
Smith wrote little about his early life, though it appears he had a rudimentary education in Launceston. At an early age he started working at Guillan’s flourmill at the Supply River, where he also began to take an interest in exploration and minerals. Smith’s fellow apprentice Charles Monds probably introduced him to Congregationalism (also known as Independent), which would provide much of his moral framework.

Smith’s zest for self-education was already evident in his adolescence. He bought books on many topics, possibly doing so as a result of the influence of the popular Scottish geologist Hugh Miller, who encouraged ‘self-culture’ – the idea that workingmen could improve themselves by achievement and study, particularly of the Bible. Smith and the journeymen he lived with attended the Independent Church where, according to Monds, Smith’s developing faith set him on his successful life’s course. It is also likely that membership of the church community shaped Smith’s lifelong friendships and business associations, perhaps even where he subsequently lived, for James Fenton, the pioneer Forth settler and Smith’s neighbour, was a Congregationalist and Charles Monds’s brother-in-law.

In 1852, along with other Tasmanians, Smith left the colony for the Victorian gold rushes. Between periods in several fields, he returned to Tasmania where he prospected in the Great Western Tiers and Mersey River regions in 1852. In 1853 he went to Bendigo where he was active in movements for reform, occupying two positions in the Anti-Gold Licence Society and taking part in the August 1853 anti-gold-licence march.
Like many Tasmanians returning from the Victorian diggings, Smith secured property, settling at the still isolated Forth River in 1853. He planned to set up a farm and, if successful, to embark upon a system of mineral prospecting. It was to be six years before he was in a position to prospect, but already, by 1859, his studies and wisdom had earned him the nickname ‘Philosopher’. His poetry, published regularly in the Examiner newspaper, showed his commitment to following a moral course according to God’s design and his belief in the heroic achiever.

In the years that followed Smith earned fame for his singlemindeness, his pioneering work, endurance and perseverance. Owning property when he began prospecting made him relatively secure financially (if still poor), and on several occasions he sold land to finance his exploration.
Beginning with an expedition up the Forth River system during the autumn of 1859, much of Smith’s early work until 1871 was educational rather than successful, though time would reveal a small goldfield at Middlesex and significant mines at Moina and Round Hill. In 1860 Smith focused on a more general search for minerals in the north-west hinterland.

This was pioneering work since in Tasmania there was virtually no knowledge of mining anything but coal and gold. Prospecting alone, often for weeks at a time, was very dangerous, and internal injuries suffered in a fall during these years troubled Smith for the rest of his life. On occasions Smith was grubstaked by friends, otherwise he survived financially by turning his hand to many labours, including harvesting pine and cutting tracks. In 1861 and 1862 Smith found minerals in the Dial Range area, including copper and silver on the beach near Penguin Creek and galena further east. His samples helped convince the government geologist Charles Gould of the rich potential of Tasmania’s north-west.

By 1871 all Smith had to show for his toil was a sound knowledge of geology, a half-developed farm and failing health. Further, the Penguin Silver Mines Company, founded on his earlier find, had collapsed. A remarkable reversal came late in the year when he set out to examine the Mount Bischoff area. On December 4, in a tributary of the Arthur River on the western slope of Mt Bischoff, he washed a sample of what he recognised as tin ore. Retracing his steps and working upstream, he found the motherlode and with it the first payable tin in Tasmania. Smith applied for four sections at Mt Bischoff and opened a track to them by selling property and taking an overdraft. He said little about the property, placed a trusted friend, William Morgan Crosby, as manager, and concentrated on proving the mine’s worth.

In April 1873, Smith tried unsuccessfully to negotiate the formation of a company in Melbourne. Subsequently, he was able to interest Launceston solicitor William Ritchie, and the Mount Bischoff Tin Mining Company was formed on 1 August 1873. For his part, Smith received 1,500 pounds in cash, 4,400 paid-up shares, a place as a permanent director and the power to elect another director.

Crosby’s resignation as mine manager because of ill-health in 1875 began a period in which Smith effectively severed connections with the company directorate. Although Smith recommended Ferd Kayser as Crosby’s replacement, he and others soon criticised Kayser’s methods, plans and expenditure. The other directors supported Kayser’s plan to install expensive machinery at Mount Bischoff to clear the company’s debt quickly, whereas Smith favoured a cheaper, more gradual approach. Smith prevented Kayser installing a steam-powered plant at the Mount, but was outvoted when he moved to dismiss the mine manager. Feeling betrayed by his fellow directors, Smith resigned his permanent directorship in May 1876. He had already sold about three-quarters of his Mt Bischoff Co shares when they were worth very little, yet under Kayser the shares quickly increased in value, and the delighted directors and most of the shareholders dismissed continuing criticisms of Kayser’s methods.

By the 1880s Tasmania was clearly benefiting from Smith’s discovery and others made in its wake. At the peak of Mt Bischoff production in 1881, tin represented one-quarter of the colony’s export value; together tin and gold constituted more than one-third. Mineral development contributed enormously to Tasmania’s boom. Population, exports, wages and property values increased, and there was much growth in the north and north-west.

In 1874 Smith had married Mary Jane Love, a 33-year-old widow and, abandoning his two-roomed hut, the couple settled near the Forth bridge. The days of long prospecting tours were over, and he spent much time on the property, with his family, in his laboratory, examining geological samples, and surrounded by books in his study. Smith remained an avid reader versed in many topics, and he wrote many letters to newspaper editors. He also took on a prominent role in the Forth community, encouraging the education of children and workingmen and presiding over fund-raising activities and religious functions.

In 1877 a movement began to reward Smith for his pivotal Mt Bischoff discovery. In February 1878 Governor Weld expressed the gratitude of the colony by presenting him with 250 sovereigns. Later that year parliament grudgingly granted him a £a3200 annuity.

In 1879 he became involved in politics by working to elect Sir Edward Braddon as the member for West Devon. Anxious that the north-west no longer be neglected in the way of infrastructure, Smith chaired the North-West Coast Railway and Public Works League which campaigned for a railway along the north-west coast. The League became his stepping-stone into parliament, and Smith served one term as Legislative Councillor for the seat of Mersey in 1886-87. He pressed for expenditure on infrastructure and the needs of a mining industry emerging in the light of important finds at Zeehan (1882) and Mt Lyell (1883). Although highly regarded in the House, Smith did not enjoy parliamentary life and could not be persuaded to stand again.

Smith had become a popular hero, sometimes being compared to the heroic achievers who were subjects of his own poetry. He invested in several mines on or near Mt Bischoff, pioneering the development of silver and lead mines in Tasmania. Coming years after the Penguin debacle, the Mt Bischoff silver-lead mine, the Mount Zeehan Silver Lead Mining Co operation and the Heazlewood silver mines were largely failures, but they pointed to more valuable finds. Magnet (silver-lead) and Mt Cleveland (tin) were eventually opened up not far from Heazlewood and Mount Bischoff, and Zeehan, as well as being a highly successful field, attracted the investors who later developed Mount Lyell.
In 1894 Smith’s prospecting career came full circle when, aged 67, he had his ‘second wind’ as a prospector. He determined to beat hard economic times by establishing the elusive Forth River goldfield. In the summer of 1894-95 he spent four months in the bush, including a 34-day trip to Mt Bischoff. In April 1897, after consulting with William Gibson about a mining venture, Smith collapsed at the Perth railway station. He continued on the train to Launceston, where he died two months later at the age of 69.

Smith stands high in Tasmanian history. By sparking the mining industry, he precipitated profound economic and social change. His discovery at Mt Bischoff rejuvenated the Tasmanian economy. The discoveries of others following his example led to a mining boom and the establishment of towns in the north-west and on the west coast, changing the balance of power in Tasmania by creating a constituency for the Labor Party in the west and loosening the southern stranglehold on parliament. While mining is no longer the pre-eminent Tasmanian industry, Smith must be given credit for shifting the island away from its agrarian base – metal product manufacturing is now easily Tasmania’s biggest export industry.


Taken from Dr Nic Haygarth, University of Tasmania

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Re: Tasmanian James Philosopher Smith

Postby Philski » Mon Dec 10, 2012 8:16 pm

James Smiths Parents transportation history

NAME. John Smith
B. 1788 D. 1830's
Ship. FAME 1817
Convicts on the transport ship Fame - 1817
Convicts embarked – 200 male convicts
Convicts relanded before sailing - 0
Convicts who died on the voyage – 2
Sailed from Spithead, England on 9 October 1816
Arrived in Sydney on 8 March 1817


Married. 1825 Ann Grant[ arrived 1820 Lord Wellington]
Married Launceston Tasmania
Abode Tamar River east.
Children.1. John [ went to California U.S.A.] 6 children
2. James"Philosopher" m. Mary Love nee Please 6 children.
3. Mary Ann m. John B. Mark 99th Reg.no children
Comments.
John seems to have disappeared in early 1830's. His widow
marrying Jonathon Griffiths in 1834.

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Re: Tasmanian James Philosopher Smith

Postby admin » Fri Sep 20, 2013 11:36 pm

By Nic Haygarth

James Smith was born in 1827, the second of three children to John Smith and Ann Grant, who married after coming to Tasmania as convicts. James had an unsettled family life and in 1836, at the age of 9, he became the ward of John Guillan, a Launceston miller and merchant.
Smith wrote little about his early life, though it appears he had a rudimentary education in Launceston. At an early age he started working at Guillan’s flourmill at the Supply River, where he also began to take an interest in exploration and minerals. Smith’s fellow apprentice Charles Monds probably introduced him to Congregationalism (also known as Independent), which would provide much of his moral framework.

Smith’s zest for self-education was already evident in his adolescence. He bought books on many topics, possibly doing so as a result of the influence of the popular Scottish geologist Hugh Miller, who encouraged ‘self-culture’ – the idea that workingmen could improve themselves by achievement and study, particularly of the Bible. Smith and the journeymen he lived with attended the Independent Church where, according to Monds, Smith’s developing faith set him on his successful life’s course. It is also likely that membership of the church community shaped Smith’s lifelong friendships and business associations, perhaps even where he subsequently lived, for James Fenton, the pioneer Forth settler and Smith’s neighbour, was a Congregationalist and Charles Monds’s brother-in-law.

In 1852, along with other Tasmanians, Smith left the colony for the Victorian gold rushes. Between periods in several fields, he returned to Tasmania where he prospected in the Great Western Tiers and Mersey River regions in 1852. In 1853 he went to Bendigo where he was active in movements for reform, occupying two positions in the Anti-Gold Licence Society and taking part in the August 1853 anti-gold-licence march.
Like many Tasmanians returning from the Victorian diggings, Smith secured property, settling at the still isolated Forth River in 1853. He planned to set up a farm and, if successful, to embark upon a system of mineral prospecting. It was to be six years before he was in a position to prospect, but already, by 1859, his studies and wisdom had earned him the nickname ‘Philosopher’. His poetry, published regularly in the Examiner newspaper, showed his commitment to following a moral course according to God’s design and his belief in the heroic achiever.

In the years that followed Smith earned fame for his singlemindeness, his pioneering work, endurance and perseverance. Owning property when he began prospecting made him relatively secure financially (if still poor), and on several occasions he sold land to finance his exploration.
Beginning with an expedition up the Forth River system during the autumn of 1859, much of Smith’s early work until 1871 was educational rather than successful, though time would reveal a small goldfield at Middlesex and significant mines at Moina and Round Hill. In 1860 Smith focused on a more general search for minerals in the north-west hinterland.

This was pioneering work since in Tasmania there was virtually no knowledge of mining anything but coal and gold. Prospecting alone, often for weeks at a time, was very dangerous, and internal injuries suffered in a fall during these years troubled Smith for the rest of his life. On occasions Smith was grubstaked by friends, otherwise he survived financially by turning his hand to many labours, including harvesting pine and cutting tracks. In 1861 and 1862 Smith found minerals in the Dial Range area, including copper and silver on the beach near Penguin Creek and galena further east. His samples helped convince the government geologist Charles Gould of the rich potential of Tasmania’s north-west.

By 1871 all Smith had to show for his toil was a sound knowledge of geology, a half-developed farm and failing health. Further, the Penguin Silver Mines Company, founded on his earlier find, had collapsed. A remarkable reversal came late in the year when he set out to examine the Mount Bischoff area. On December 4, in a tributary of the Arthur River on the western slope of Mt Bischoff, he washed a sample of what he recognised as tin ore. Retracing his steps and working upstream, he found the motherlode and with it the first payable tin in Tasmania. Smith applied for four sections at Mt Bischoff and opened a track to them by selling property and taking an overdraft. He said little about the property, placed a trusted friend, William Morgan Crosby, as manager, and concentrated on proving the mine’s worth.

In April 1873, Smith tried unsuccessfully to negotiate the formation of a company in Melbourne. Subsequently, he was able to interest Launceston solicitor William Ritchie, and the Mount Bischoff Tin Mining Company was formed on 1 August 1873. For his part, Smith received 1,500 pounds in cash, 4,400 paid-up shares, a place as a permanent director and the power to elect another director.

Crosby’s resignation as mine manager because of ill-health in 1875 began a period in which Smith effectively severed connections with the company directorate. Although Smith recommended Ferd Kayser as Crosby’s replacement, he and others soon criticised Kayser’s methods, plans and expenditure. The other directors supported Kayser’s plan to install expensive machinery at Mount Bischoff to clear the company’s debt quickly, whereas Smith favoured a cheaper, more gradual approach. Smith prevented Kayser installing a steam-powered plant at the Mount, but was outvoted when he moved to dismiss the mine manager. Feeling betrayed by his fellow directors, Smith resigned his permanent directorship in May 1876. He had already sold about three-quarters of his Mt Bischoff Co shares when they were worth very little, yet under Kayser the shares quickly increased in value, and the delighted directors and most of the shareholders dismissed continuing criticisms of Kayser’s methods.

By the 1880s Tasmania was clearly benefiting from Smith’s discovery and others made in its wake. At the peak of Mt Bischoff production in 1881, tin represented one-quarter of the colony’s export value; together tin and gold constituted more than one-third. Mineral development contributed enormously to Tasmania’s boom. Population, exports, wages and property values increased, and there was much growth in the north and north-west.

In 1874 Smith had married Mary Jane Love, a 33-year-old widow and, abandoning his two-roomed hut, the couple settled near the Forth bridge. The days of long prospecting tours were over, and he spent much time on the property, with his family, in his laboratory, examining geological samples, and surrounded by books in his study. Smith remained an avid reader versed in many topics, and he wrote many letters to newspaper editors. He also took on a prominent role in the Forth community, encouraging the education of children and workingmen and presiding over fund-raising activities and religious functions.

In 1877 a movement began to reward Smith for his pivotal Mt Bischoff discovery. In February 1878 Governor Weld expressed the gratitude of the colony by presenting him with 250 sovereigns. Later that year parliament grudgingly granted him a £a3200 annuity.

In 1879 he became involved in politics by working to elect Sir Edward Braddon as the member for West Devon. Anxious that the north-west no longer be neglected in the way of infrastructure, Smith chaired the North-West Coast Railway and Public Works League which campaigned for a railway along the north-west coast. The League became his stepping-stone into parliament, and Smith served one term as Legislative Councillor for the seat of Mersey in 1886-87. He pressed for expenditure on infrastructure and the needs of a mining industry emerging in the light of important finds at Zeehan (1882) and Mt Lyell (1883). Although highly regarded in the House, Smith did not enjoy parliamentary life and could not be persuaded to stand again.

Smith had become a popular hero, sometimes being compared to the heroic achievers who were subjects of his own poetry. He invested in several mines on or near Mt Bischoff, pioneering the development of silver and lead mines in Tasmania. Coming years after the Penguin debacle, the Mt Bischoff silver-lead mine, the Mount Zeehan Silver Lead Mining Co operation and the Heazlewood silver mines were largely failures, but they pointed to more valuable finds. Magnet (silver-lead) and Mt Cleveland (tin) were eventually opened up not far from Heazlewood and Mount Bischoff, and Zeehan, as well as being a highly successful field, attracted the investors who later developed Mount Lyell.
In 1894 Smith’s prospecting career came full circle when, aged 67, he had his ‘second wind’ as a prospector. He determined to beat hard economic times by establishing the elusive Forth River goldfield. In the summer of 1894-95 he spent four months in the bush, including a 34-day trip to Mt Bischoff. In April 1897, after consulting with William Gibson about a mining venture, Smith collapsed at the Perth railway station. He continued on the train to Launceston, where he died two months later at the age of 69.

Smith stands high in Tasmanian history. By sparking the mining industry, he precipitated profound economic and social change. His discovery at Mt Bischoff rejuvenated the Tasmanian economy. The discoveries of others following his example led to a mining boom and the establishment of towns in the north-west and on the west coast, changing the balance of power in Tasmania by creating a constituency for the Labor Party in the west and loosening the southern stranglehold on parliament. While mining is no longer the pre-eminent Tasmanian industry, Smith must be given credit for shifting the island away from its agrarian base – metal product manufacturing is now easily Tasmania’s biggest export industry.

Taken with Permission: Professor Nic Haygarth, University of Tasmania

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Westwood Hamilton of Forth Tasmania

Postby admin » Fri Sep 20, 2013 11:42 pm

Westwood Hamilton on Forth
James Philosopher Smith's Farm

I estimate that between the Forth and Leven 60,000 acres are taken up, the blocks varying from 600 acres to the modest 50. In a few instances tolerably large estates have been created by the purchase and cohesion of several blocks: one of these is Westwood, the property of Mr. James Smith, the honoured discoverer of Mount Bischoff tin mine. It is about 1,400 acres, a great portion being improved, and the whole substantially fenced. The main road divides the hilly section (chocolate soil, black bottom and light loam) from the rich river flats mentioned earlier. Besides extensive farming, cattle and sheep breeding, Mr. Smith has put up a brick and pipe making plant, employing a number of men. The brick machinery is capable of Putting out 13,000 bricks daily, but I believe the heaviest tale to date has been 8,000. Some slight alterations are contemplated of a labour-saving character which will enable the same number of men to turn out 50 per cent mosr.

Westwood is a beautiful property. The level land and part of the hillsides can be irrigated from the Clayton rivulet and an ample creek, with but little trouble, and some of the paddocks, both sides the road, have drainage and irrigation channels cut, through which the water courses. It is adapted for fruit-growing on any scale, dairying and fattening, cereals and roots, and stud sheep and cattle-breeding, of which later. There are rich moist flats for summer pasture, sheltered woody hills for wintering, sound loamy flats and rises, with ample feed and shelter during wet weather, and the salt marshes for sheep fattening. Rome was not built in a day; and, in like manner, the capabilities of Westwood are being progressively brought out. I am a great believer in fruit in spite of all the codlin moths in creation. I think my remarks on this head to Mr. E. Webb, of Badgad, had some effect in inducing him to lay out the beginning of one of the gardens of the colony. The apple trees are spaced to admit of small fruit, vegetables, etc., being grown between, while the former are attaining maturity, and in 10 years, when the currant and gooseberry bushes begin to lose their bearing power, the apples are at their best. When irrigation is possible, without too much outlay, whether for orchard or paddock, too early attention cannot be given. One acre of land ploughed up, pulverised, and having worked in a moderate quantity of wood yard chips or fencer's chippings and borings or sawdust, and if poor, just a sprinkle of guano or bone-dust, and sown with permanent grass, is worth at least five acres treated as land is too often treated, and will, additional to its ordinary yield, produce the wherewithal to treat the other four and bring them to like perfection.

Many of the very best properties in the colony have been thus made what they are little by little. I strongly advocate the out planting of hawthorn or African box-thorn hedges, for the orchard as well as stock paddocks, also setting walnut, pines, and other useful timber along the line a few feet clear. The laurel grows readily, and makes both an ornamental addition and grateful shelter for stock, summer or winter. Cattle and sheep must be kept happy if they are to thrive.

The owner of Westwood has a flock of Angora goats, that is, this strain predominates. They are useful for nibbling down blackberry brambles, but it is a slow process thus. Better the wholesale slaughter by poison, and have done with it. He has also flocks of pure Merino, Leicester and Lincoln sheep, and a herd of Hereford cattle. Without aiming at the production of those high quality stud sheep, which is a profession requiring a life experience and very favourable conditions, some selections from the flock are among the highest class of flock rams and ewes. The Merinos are mainly of the Scone strain, of which 50 ewes dropped to a son of Goldmine 57 lambs last season. Goldmine's son was purchased for 110 guineas at the Melbourne stud sale 1882. Another pedigree ram, purchased from Mr. J. Brock, Campania, is grandson of a celebrated sire imported from Germany, and purchased by Mr. R. Pitt. This ram took first prize at Hamburg, and high honours in the colonies. In 1868 he was champion at Campbell Town and Longford, and first prize ram at Campbell Town in 1869, being then owned at St. Johnstone's. Two pairs ewes, three individuals being by him, gained first and second prizes, New South Wales Intercolonial Exhibition, 1871; also the Earl of Belmore's £10 prize for best four ewes.

The Westwood Merino flock numbers about 500. The Lincoln sheep are from Lauraville, and the flock of the late Mr. A. Clerke. The Hon. W. Dodery writes, March 30, 1878:- "I have this day sold to Mr. J. Smith, Westwood, Forth, two pure Lincoln rams (2-tooth), and four pure Lincoln ewes (2-tooth), from pure imported ewes, bred by W. Marshall, Lincolnshire, England; sire Chaplin, pure Lincoln ram, bred by H. Chaplin, Esq., M.P., Lincolnshire, England, and purchased by me in Melbourne for 135 guineas." The dams cost 43 guineas each. The Leicester flock is from ewes from the flocks of Mr. R. M. Ayres, Quamby, and Mr. Grubb, Glenore; rams from Esk Vale, etc.

The Hereford cattle combine the best Cressy, Clarendon, and Quamby blood. The bull Zeal was bred by Mr. Joseph Archer, of Panshanger, from a picked Cheshunt cow, No. 15; sire, Cressy, by Zealous, etc., therefore closely related to the renowned Undergraduate. The pure bull Lincoln, sire Quamby, bred by Mr. W. Field, is a Westwood sire now. Quamby was by Garibaldi (imp.), dam Peggy, selected from Cressy stock by the late Sir R. Dry. There are some splendid scions from this quality, and cows hard to beat in the colony. A young bull by Zeal beat Lincoln at Leven show, 1883. This abstract of the stock on one farm in the north-west will be interesting to breeders and farmers elsewhere.

There is a very good homestead, with garden and outbuildings, at Westwood, and orchard fully illustrating my views that this should be a great fruit country.

The history of Tasmania would be imperfect without special reference to Mr. James Smith, of Westwood, and his memorable discovery of Monday, December 4, 1871. If the 4th of July, in its sense, as the anniversary of the birth of a great nation is honoured, so in our modest island home the 4th of December is a red letter day deserving of grateful commemoration as the birthday of an era of independence in its sense. The influence of Bischoff's discovery has permeated every institution in Tasmania for good. Every church, bank, mercantile house, Government office, workshops, and private dwelling within our shores has benefitted by it, and without them it ramifies through ships at sea, people we deal with from Melbourne to London change, and the industrial factories of Manchester, Chicago, and Hartford. The dusky Oriental to-day at Calcutta gazing on our tin trophy, and the rest of the exhibits sent there, respects Tasmania, but dreams not that but for that 4th of December there would be no show in our court to excite his query, "Yeh saman coon sa moluk si ia," or exclamation "bhoat at-oha." Mr. Giblin's ornate and thoroughly genuine panegyric at Formby banquet, as he was carried forward on the rising wave of sympathetic feeling, indexed on all faces present, broke the attentive silence into a storm of applause; the hearty voice of an appreciative section of the country, I watched the subject of the Premier's period. I like to watch men. Beyond the slight flush, born of the heart's increased action, giving that indescribable rising sensation about the roots of the hair, this tribute produced no effect. No vain weakness was tickled, and he went on dotting notes as before.

I think a man who takes praise well will take suffering kindly, and if need be, die well; but its a spirit that won't take defeat. As the Premier said, in 1871 no Government, however anxious for the country's weal, would have dared to unfold a policy of progress involving an extensive onslaught on the Treasury chest. Bischoff's startling discovery and subsequent development inaugurated a new era. The baring of its inexhaustible treasure burned the fact of profitable tin-mining indelibly into the country's faith, and sent men, athirst for discovery, courageously into other parts with what results we know. The Ruby, Full Moon, Crystal, Brothers' Home, All Nations, Union, Alba, Pioneer, and hundreds of other claims are turning out or have turned out thousands of tons of ore.

Mr. Smith is 57 years of age, and excepting his hair and beard having turned, and a slight stoop, the consequences following the hardships and privations he suffered in the inhospitable bush, appears not a day older. In stature, when younger, he would be 5ft. 10in. or 11in.; is of strong, sinewy build, and resolute and thoughtful expression. In early life he followed the calling of a miller on the Tamar, and as his correctness of diction, freedom with the pen, and habit of mind were certainly not acquired during the twelve years bush experience, and as certainly not during the worry and application due other matters since, it follows he made good use of his time when a boy and youth. Prior to '59 he gleaned some gold mining experience in Victoria, and in that year began his self-appointed task of prospecting, choosing the northern watershed as the field of operations.

No person unacquainted with the bush of the north-west, or unaccustomed to hunger, cold, wet, privation and want of appreciation and intelligent sympathy can know what that means. Generally exploration is carried out by parties. Supply depots are made at stages as the advance is pushed for- ward, but here is a man who carried his heavy burden a stage, thence returned to civilisation for another, and yet another. Now the accumulated burden must be transported again piecemeal through tangle and brake, over huge fallen timber, and through creeks and rivers, and yet again the wearisome repetition goes an alone through oppressive heat and chilling cold alike to the point where indications hold hope of success or gold or other metal or ore. Then with toil he digs and picks and watches a residue in the dish for only a speck. This goes on, sometimes alone, sometimes accompanied by a dog.

It’s bad to be hungry, and cold, and wet, and weary, and sore, amid ordinary surroundings, with the knowledge that two or four hours at most will rise the light of home and comfort to view. What must it be in the lonesome forest, when supplies fail, dependent for very strength to reach a place of restoration on a chance porcupine, wallaby, or other animal? Nature will only give limited credit, will only stand so much physical prostration. How if cramp, or dysentery, or accident come along, and build a barrier between the man and succour?

Year after year this goes on; no hospitality is received without requital in money or value from the outlying settler or stockman.

Ways and means are obtained from the produce of a farm, and occasional visits to the head waters of the Forth, near Cradle Mountain, and felling pine. Occasionally other work is obtained. The logs are dressed, and a way cleared for handspiking them into the river. They may float with the flood to where conversion into gold is possible; they may not. "It's a dubious bill. One fine log was found on the beach at the meeting of the salt and fresh water, which brought £18. All money earned goes the one way.

Mr. Smith took up 640 acres at the Forth for a homestead, and 160 at the Gawler; 300 of the cherished land had to be sacrificed. After the discovery, the Gawler land was sold and proceeds devoted to the fees for taking up and survey, cutting a track to the mount from Knole claim, and opening the ground. While matters were pending, a journey was undertaken with a gentleman at the instance of the V.D.L. Co. to the Montagu, where indications of precious stones were said to exist, and afterward, as the season was dry, and rivers lower than usual, Mr. Smith proceeded on his own account to examine the bed of the Inglis for gold. The survey of the first section was effected in August 1872, Messrs. Sprout and Jones being the surveyors, and occupied a month. Mr. Smith was present, and men were employed to cut the lines through the horizontal. There were parts where this was so thick that a man could walk on the flexible tangle seven feet from the ground.

The first globule of metallic tin smelted from Bischoff ore was produced by the discoverer at Table Cape, on Mr., now the Hon. Mr. Moore's premises. There had been delay in the coming to hand of some chemicals; so Mr. Smith, with a flux of pulverised charcoal and lime, and a flowerpot for crucible, blew a blast that released the silvery button. That blast, like the Parsee's fire, will never be quenched.

There is a pleasing conceit current about this first fruit of tin from Bischoff, this ingot's baby, the earnest of the 18,000 tons of white metal exported to date. One gentleman, to whom it was shown, and knew it to be tin, claims credit of solving a doubt which never existed in the discoverer's mind, and though I would not for the world destroy the claimant's chimera, I think the evidence of Mr. Smith's interim actions, between the time of finding the deposit and the smelting episode rather takes the edge off it. I know it's nice to feel that if you don't earn a victory yourself, it adds to importance, in one quarter, at any rate, to believe you are the first to convey the intelligence to the commander. But it's cruel to hear that his glass acquainted him with the fact before you were aware of it. Why are there such things as wet blankets?

Mr. Smith has £200 per annum from the State in recognition of his services, and on the eighth day of February, 1878, received an ovation in public assembly. The governor, F. A. Weld, Esq , (now Sir F. A. Weld) on behalf of the gentlemen who had interested themselves in the matter, handed him a beautifully illuminated testimonial executed by Mr. James Steer, of Launceston. The margin, foot, and head are finished with a Tasmanian forest scene, true to nature. The text reads "To James Smith, Esq., Westwood, River Forth, Tasmania. Dear sir, - For many years you have given yourself up to the work of exploring the mineral resources of Tasmania, struggling with hunger, cold, and weariness; facing with a manful courage all kinds of difficulties and disappointments, until, to use your own words, 'death or victory should settle the question.' Such quiet heroism, apart from all question of success, would have merited and won our approval: but we are glad to be able to congratulate you as the First Discoverer of a workable Tin mine in Tasmania on Monday, the Fourth day of December, 1871, and thus preparing the way for other discoveries of great value. It is not saying too much when we declare our firm conviction that to you, more than to any living man, our colony owes its present state of prosperity. As the fair result of your discovery, property has increased in value, commerce has developed, the tide of immigration has turned to our shores, and all classes of the population have been benefited. As a community we owe you much honour, because we know that in your prolonged search you were more anxious to benefit the colony than yourself; and as a small proof of our sincere gratitude to you as a public benefactor, and our high appreciation of your character as a man, we respectfully beg your acceptance of the accompany purse of 250 sovereigns. Wishing for Mrs. Smith, yourself, and children, long life and much happiness. We are, dear sir, on behalf of the subscribers - W. LAW, Chairman: E. D. HARROP, Hon Treasurer; WM. RITCHIE, Hon. Secretary.”

This gratifying tribute was accompanied with the sovereigns upon a pretty silver salver, having a suitable inscription engraved thereon.

Temperance friends, who may read this paper all over the world, will receive the fact with peculiar interest that Mr. Smith is and was always a total abstainer, and a non-smoker. He is an un-ostentatious Christian. The Divine institution of the Sabbath was over kept sacred in the solitary camp; and, scoff at the fact who will, I think research will establish that the Great Ruler invariably chooses men of sterling principle and obedience to convey great benefactions to his subjects.


1.The Mercury 29 March 1884

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