1804-1882 - a few notes...

James SMEAD (SMEED), Convict

Born: 1804 in Hoad [sic Hoath], Kent, England

On 6 January 1827 he was tried in Maidstone, Kent for felony and aiding and abetting smugglers. For this he was sentenced to life transportation. At the time of his trial he was living with a Mr John Brissenden at Allington, Kent, was single and Protestant.

His description was:

  • Height 5'7"
  • Hair brown
  • Eyes grey
  • Trade Farmer, ploughman, groom
  • Marks scar forefinger left hand, high cheek bones
  • Character from gaol "very orderly"; in hulks "good"; in ship "good.
  • He was transported on the "Governor Ready" in 1827 to Hobart, Tasmania.

Records from...

1830, July 14 : Police/drunkenness. Fined 20/- from his salary (W Lyttleton).

1831, July 11 : constable gross disobedience of orders in conveying Geo Woodward charged with forgery from Launceston to Hobart Town by way of the Clyde & N Norfolk instead of the direct road. Recommended to be dismissed from the office of Constable to be suspended until the pleasure of his Excellency the Lieut. Governor be signified.

1835, February 19 : James SMEAD received a Free Pardon, No. 131.
This free pardon was given as a result of James being involved in a shoot out with five wanted bushrangers. He and another former criminal, a man called Buckley worked for Henty an early explorer in Victoria. The party were walking through the bush when they came across these bushrangers and as a result of the shoot out the bushrangers were captured or killed and Smeed and Buckley were each given free pardons along with thirty pounds. Buckley lived with the aboriginals for thirty odd years and was the name used in the express "he/she had Buckley's chance".

In the book "The Hentys" by Marnie Bassett mention is made of a James Smeed, a constable in Tasmania, involved in capturing some bushrangers. It mentions that it was quite common for convicts to be appointed to the government police. James received 33 pounds 6 shillings and 8 pence for his part in this incident.

Mention is also made of James Smead being a companion of Stephen Henty in Victoria.

We know that James Smeed travelled from Tasmania by ship "Mona" to Portland in 1840 but assume this was one of a number of trips as he is reported to have been in Portland in 1837.

1837 - "Mrs Stephen Henty was a courageous young woman, but when Stephen was absent on his journeys to the Plains his wife, expecting her baby, could not help thinking of her husband's danger among those dark and mysterious people, so sudden in their coming and vanishing and so skilled with their arms. In her anxiety she used to remember gratefully the man who was Stephen's usual companion, James Smead, a trust fellow, she said, who looked after his master well. His name, variously spelt, occurs occasionally in the Portland journal; in the Van Diemen's Land records the spelling of names is equally inconsistent and it seems very probable that this man, deservedly relied on by the Hentys, was that James Smead or Smeed, the 'lifer' who two years earlier had been granted his freedom for helping to capture the bushrangers Jeffkins and Brown. When Frank and John took the first flock to the Plains, it was Smead who accompanied them."

In "The Portland Bay Settlement" by Noel Learmonth firstly an indirect mention is made of James Smead

"...Stephen used to be absent for weeks at a time, causing me great anxiety. The natives were not to be trusted so he usually took with him an expiree from Tasmania...."

Later mention is made from Miss Susan Henty's diary (daughter of Stephen) that when Stephen and John struck off inland Victoria to see the wonderful country described by Major Mitchell they took with them a dray and provisions and a man named Smead......"

1838 : The Hentys :- "In 1838 John Henty with James Smead and three other men 'moved to the creek' to begin the homestead later known as Merino Downs."

1882 : A James Smead died in 1882 in Penola, South Australia not far from Portland. Many records have been checked regarding James Smead's life in the intervening years, to no avail. Apparently the Henty’s had property in Penola.

Did he marry? There is an Ann Smead who was buried 19/2/1879. Wife?

Compiled by Sue Lee, 42 Santa Rosa Blvd, East Doncaster 3109 (February 1996, Updated 2005)
email - rob_lee@bigpond.net.au

James SMEAD, Reward & Free Pardon for capture of felons, Van Diemen's Land

"The Cornwall Chronicle" (Launceston, Tas.) Saturday, 21st February 1835


Colonial Secretary's Office, Feb. 18.

The Lieutenant Governor has much pleasure in notifying the capture of the bushrangers, Jeffkins and Brown, by a party of the Police under, circumstances reflecting much credit upon the individuals concerned, to whom his Excellency has granted the following rewards, under the Government Notices of 21st Feb. and 4th March, 1834, viz :—

To Thomas Walker, free, and Richard Burbidge, (holding a Conditional Pnrdon) 250 acres of land each, for the apprehension of Jeffkins and to the said Richard Burbidge a Free Pardon.

To Thomas Walker, (free) Richard Burbidge, (holding a Conditional Pardon,) James Smeed, (No. 817, life, per Governor Ready,) James Buckley, (No. 1728, 14 years per England,) Henry Chalk, (No 994, 14 years, per Thames,) William Birmingham, (No 881, 14 years, per Medway,) Frederick Carman, (No 934, life, per Georgiana,) John Harris, (No 181, 14 year , per Dromedary) and the representative of Thomas Smith, the sum of £33 6s. 8d. each, being their respective shares of the rewards offered in the before mentioned Government Notices, for the apprehension of Jeffkins and Brown, viz. £200 for the former, and £100 for the latter.

His Excellency has also approved of free pardons and £30 each, being granted to James Smeed, James Buckley, Henry Chalk, William Birmingham, Fredenck Carman, and John Harris.

By His Excellency's Command,

James SMEAD, Pioneers of the Wannon Country

"Portland Guardian" Monday, 20th December 1937.

Pioneers of Wannon Country.

In a letter to the "Spectator" in 1878, Mr. Richmond Henty stated that his father (Stephen Henty), John Henty and an employee named Smead were the first, after Major Mitchell, to see the Muntham and Merino Downs country, the date on which they set out from Portland being July 17th, 1837. The writer says that Edward Henty was on his way to Tasmania at the time in a vessel called the Eagle. In the same issue of the paper, Mr. S. P. Winter stated that the first, person who saw the Wannon country, after Mitchell, was Mr. John Bryan, who, early in 1837, "accompanied by an old whaler and a led horse, travelled along the coast to the Glenelg river, up that river to its junction with the Wannon (on which he selected a run and marked his initials on two gum trees), thence up to the Grange rivulet to the upper portion (in 1878 called Muddy Creek), from which the party turned south until they reached the coast opposite Julia Percy Island, and then to Mr. Winter's camp at the mouth of the Surrey river." Continuing, Mr. Winter writes : "Later in the same year I rode to the Wannon, accompanied by Mr. Stephen Henty, selected the portion of country I now occupy (Murndal), and in March, 1838, brought my sheep from the coast." Incidentally Mr. Winter says that Bryant's Creek, Coleraine, was named after Mr. Samuel Bryan (father of the John Bryan mentioned above) but someone had added a "t" to the name.

James SMEAD, stockman at Mount Gambier

"Border Watch" (Mount Gambier, SA) Wednesday, 11th February 1891.

(To the Editor of the Border Watch.)

The first white man who came to Mount Gambier was James Smeed, stock-keeper to Mr. Edward Henty, who saw the Mount from the Casterton hills. He rode over to it and reported to Mr. Henty the splendid grazing country, who stocked it with cattle. Mr. Edward Henty was the first settler at Mount Gambier, and Messrs. Arthur Bros., nephews of Governor Arthur, of Tasmania, the first to occupy Mount Schanck with sheep. Smeed and his mate, Joe Frost, built a hut on the ridge of the Valley Lake, also a stockyard under the Mount, where Browne's Lake is at present, This shows that the water in the Mount Gambier lakes must have risen fully twenty feet. The only way that I can account for this is that probably some of the subterranean outlets from the lakes have fallen in and checked the flow of water ; there is no perceptible difference in the flow of water at the outlets on the coast.


James SMEAD, stockman at Mount Gambier

"Border Watch" (Mount Gambier, SA) Saturday, 10th October 1891.

THE FIRST WHITE MAN - In answer to a correspondent who asks who was the first white man known to visit Mount Gambier, Mr W A CROUCH informs us that James SMEAD enjoys that distinction. SMEAD, who was a stockman in the employ of the late Mr Edward HENTY, saw Mount Gambier from the Casterton hills, and believing that good country existed in its neighbourhood, he induced Mr HENTY to send him with some cattle to stock it. SMEAD was accompamied by another stockman named Joe FROST. No surface water being available, a camp was formed at the Valley lake, where until a few years ago the ruins of the hut and yards were plainly visible. Several feet of water now cover the spot. The blacks were very troublesome, and kept the two men fully employed protecting themseves and their cattle. Mr HENTY intended taking up the country, but he was forestalled by the man in whom he confided to do the business for him. SMEAD, it may be added, died a few years ago in Penola at a ripe age.

James SMEAD, stockman at Mount Gambier

"Border Watch" (Mount Gambier, SA) Saturday, 14th November 1891.

THE MAYOR, Mr. F. Davison, has shown us a map of South Australia published in 1839, on which the information then known about the colony is carefully set out. The results of various explorations made later on are filled in by the Mayor's father, who had settled near Mount Barker. Among the latter is the track taken by Sir George Grey, the then Governor, and the late Mr. Burr, in a journey to the south. This shows that the explorers crossed the Murray at Wellington, travelling southward together as far as Salt Greek. The Governor turned baok at this point, but Mr. Burr held on. He skirted Lacepede Bay, and, keeping to the east of Lake Howden, missed Guichen Bay. He had a look at Rivoli Bay, from whioh he made Mount Burr, which was named after him. His next point was Mount Gambier, from where he visited Mount Schanck. He then travelled through the Hundreds of Kongorong, Benara, and Mayurra till he picked up his down track at Rivoli Bay, by which he returned to the city. This journey was made in May 1842. Mr. G. Glen has pointed out one or two inaccuracies in the paragraph which recently appeared in our columns relating to the first white man to visit Mount Gambier. The station now named Moorak was originally known as the Mount Gambier station, and when taken delivery of by Mr. Glen from Mr. W. Mitchell, the then owner, for Mr. David Power, the name was altered by the latter gentleman to Anne Field station, that being the maiden name of his wife, There were 600 cattle on the run, which were bought at £3 per head with the station given in. Later on Messrs, Fisher & Rochford purchased the property from Mr. Power, and then Mr. W. J. Browne became the owner, when the name, as stated, was changed to Moorak. The stockman (Smeed) had a "history." He was employed as one of a gang of smugglers who carried on operations between Calais and Dover, and he must have led a most adventurous life. His party eventually came into conflict with the excise officers, and in the melee which ensued one of the latter was killed. Smeed denied having any hand in the crime. He was, however, tried, and with the rest of his party transported to Tasmania. He subsequently drifted over to Victoria. Smeed, it may be added, was in Mr. Glen's employ after he left Mr. E. Henty.

James SMEAD & Hugh GLANCY, view Mount Gambier from west of Casterton

"Portland Guardian" Wednesday, 5th April 1911.

Early Mount Gambier.

Mr. E. Crouch writes thus to the "Watch" :--I read with interest the account you gave of Moorak, and it might interest you to know that on the 9th February, 1908, I met Mr. Hugh Glancy in the Carlton Gardens, Melbourne, and he spoke of the early days, and mentioned that it was the anniversary of his landing at Melbourne on 9th, of February, 1841. So I asked him if I might jot down a few notes in a pocket book, which I have just found. Glancy said James Smeyd went from Muntham in 1841, to see a hill he was able to sight, from one of the high points about Casterton, and this turned out to be Mount Gambier. He rode up by himself, and on his return reported what he had seen to Mr. Edward Henty, who went back with Smeyd, and took up the country, On their return Mr. E. Henty sent up Jim Smeyd, Joe Frost, Jim McCoy, and Paddy Hand (cook), with a mob of heifers, and camped in the valley, between the lakes, near the island in the Valley Lake. Mr. E. Henty applied for a licence to occupy the Mount Gambier country from the New South Wales Government, and when a survey was made it was found the run was in South Australia, Mr. Sturt then took up the run from the South Australian Government, and Henty had to go. Jeff went up later from Muntham. Glancy was at Muntham in 1841. Hastings Cunningham sold the land to A. Mitchell"