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Rediscovering Ginninderra:
Edward Smith

Born: 1822; Died: 1888; Married: Mary Kilby

Edward Smith was born at Huntingdon, England, to John and Rebecca Smith, on 4 June 1822. On 6 November 1840 he married Mary Kilby at nearby Ramsey. In 1852 Edward and Mary Smith sailed for Australia as assisted migrants on the Irene with their three young children Shelton, Louisa and Anne. One daughter, Maria, died by drowning before they departed. Their fourteen week journey on the Irene - a ship of a very modest 823 tons - was a torrid one. From 441 passengers and crew there was thirty four deaths before arriving in Sydney - mostly from measles. This was followed directly by a three week journey by bullock cart from Sydney to Duntroon!

Edward was identified on immigration as a 'shepherd', and found ready employment at Robert Campbell's Duntroon station on a salary of ₤25 a year plus rations for he and Mary. He and Mary are both recorded as being 'unable to read and write'. Edward worked at Duntroon for just over eight years. While at Duntroon he was assigned by his employer Charles Campbell to assist Thomas Southwell to erect a headstone for his deceased wife Eliza at her grave at St John's church. This was the beginning of a lifelong friendship between the Southwell and Smith families. (Campbell, 1955)

Around 1860 he was offered work as a ploughman for William Davis at the Ginninderra estate, where he was eventually to become superintendent. He was an astute and innovative agriculturalist. He introduced ploughing with draught horses rather then bullocks, was the first to bring the combined reaper / binder into the district, and offered a mechanical threshing service. He imported and trialled some English wheat varieties and later exhibited his wheat at the Yass Show on many occasions with great success. After introducing horse drawn ploughing he was an initiator of ploughing matches in the 1870's. His son George was to become a champion ploughman.

While an employee on the Ginninderra estate he also operated as a tenant farmer, before eventually selecting land in Weetangera (around 1870) on his own account and establishing a home there - 'Old Weetangera', often shortened by the family to 'Weetar', their wool bale brand mark.

Edward gradually earned a reputation as a breeder of top class 'Shire' draught horses (Clydesdales came later); his champion animal 'Honest Tom' was a blue ribbon winner at the Sydney Show. As well as breeding he was a successful horse dealer (doing all his business on the strength of a handshake), horse breaker, and occasional horse racer.

Their childrens' marriages interconnected them with other district pioneer families, particularly the Southwells. Daughter Louisa married John Southwell, while Ann married Ewan Cameron. The three children who journeyed with their parent to Australia were joined later by three more - George, Ellis and Amelia. Amelia married Richard Southwell. Son Ellis Smith also married into the Southwell family - marrying Jane Southwell - and settled at Woodgrove, Wallaroo. Edward died after a long and painful illness in 1888; his wife Mary lived until 1907. They were both put to rest at the old Weetangera cemetery, not far from their home.

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