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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Early Residents - Thomas Richard Smith

Thomas was born at Mt. Druitt c1843 to Thomas and Jane (nee Laimbeer) Smith. In 1867 he married Kezia (relative of Viv Colless) the daughter of George Colless and the couple are thought to have had two sons and two daughters named Thomas, Percy, Lillian Jane and Nina Matilda.

Thomas purchased a hotel at Woodside near Bathurst and farmed wheat in the area in approximately 1869.  Later he purchased the Royal Oak Hotel, moved to the Penrith area and purchased the toll on Nepean Bridge.

The lure of gold took him to the goldfields in 1872, and after losing money in speculative deals in Queensland, became a timber supplier at Colong.  In the 1880s he went into partnership with brother Sydney in an auctioneer and land agency firm known as T.R. & S. Smith.  The firm was also called Wills and Smith Bros.

Thomas was the MLA for the Nepean area during several periods 1887, 1895-8 and 1901-4.  He and his brother differed in their political ideals; while Thomas was a Protectionist Sydney followed the Free Trade party.

By 1890 Thomas had the lease of the Red Cow Hotel in Penrith and conducted a Penrith branch of his business.    The book written by Christine Stickley, called The Old Charm of Penrith, mentioned stained glass windows found in the Red Cow.  The windows had once graced the private chapel of Regentville the home of Sir John Jamison.  Thomas changed the wording on the windows to read "I was glad when they said unto me, let us go into the house of T. Smith." The original wording said "into the house of the Lord."  According to Stickley, sandstone from Regentville was used in the construction of the Red Cow.  She suggested that Breaker Morant was a regular patron of the hotel prior to his departure for the Boer War.

Like many others, Thomas went bankrupt in the economic downturn of the 1890s but his debts were discharged by 1898.  The Smith family leased the cottage Elsinor , located on the main road, for six months during 1898.  In 1880 he had become the first secretary for the NSW Bowling Association.  He was also a Freemason and an alderman on Penrith Council 1889-90 and was said to have been a keen sportsman and cricketer.

In 1888 the Nepean Times newspaper announced that he was a general auctioneer and a house, land and estate agent in Penrith.  Around 1890 a prospectus for the Faulconbridge Freehold Estate Co. Ltd assured potential investors that surrounding estates were owned by such prestigious persons as Sir James Martin, Hon. Charles Moore and A. H. McCulloch.  Application could be made to T.R. Smith, Chapman and Smith for shares in the company.  The secretary of the company was Thomas J. Chapman who is thought to have been the brother of Michael Nason Chapman (one-time Mayor of Sydney).  

On a visit to Springwood in 1901 Thomas revealed to an assemblage at the Oriental Hotel that in 1861 he had taken up the option of the large parcel of land on which the hotel stood but found it impossible, despite every effort, to fulfil the grant conditions thus Frank Raymond jumped his claim.  Later he took up land at Valley Heights.  

It was Thomas, as the first subscriber, that launched the first of several attempts to erect a School of Arts in Springwood.  Brinsley Hall replaced Thomas in 1904 as the member for the Blue Mountains.  Thomas died in 1918.
Pamela Smith
The Making of a Mountain Community: A Biographical Dictionary of  The Springwood District. 
Christine Stickley, The Old Charm of Penrith.
Image of T.R. Smith from image collection of Penrith City Library local studies collection.

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