Legacy left in John Martin Smith

JACK OF ALL TRADES: Portrait of John Martin Smith. Photo: Mavis Gaff-Smith

JACK OF ALL TRADES: Portrait of John Martin Smith. Photo: Mavis Gaff-Smith

This is the second instalment on the history of the Marmont family.

When John first came to the district he worked with an undertaker in the Taralga area then lived at “Rockgrove” on the Bolong River.  

When he first came to the Bolong River area he became lost and was without food for some time. He came across several Chinese men prospecting for gold and they gave him a very nice stew which had some small bones in it.  

John thought he might be eating possum and asked them what was in the stew. They were unable to understand what he was saying so he asked them what noise did the animal make. They said, “Meow” and with that he threw his bowl of stew away.  He felt quite ill.

He then moved from the Bolong area and lived near Wong’s place, and then eventually he acquired a place of his own near Blackfellows Flat.

No one knows exactly when or how he got to the Golspie/Bolong/Fullerton area.  He arrived in the district along with several other men.

One of them, Charlie Wade, had worked in treadmills in England as a child and was very broken down in the legs.  Charlie was afraid that if ever he was found he would be taken back to his ship and flogged. His correct name was Daniel Hale and there are only two occasions when he used his real name - when he took up land at Reedy Creek and when he was buried under his correct name.  The others were Phil Cumberland and Thomas Grundy. These four men maintained a conspiracy of silence and none talked about the others to any of their descendants.

In the district John Martin Smith was known for his skills with a pit saw.  He would take up land on which there was good timber, mill the timber then move on.  

Another of his talents was that he was a coffin maker – important in this isolated area.  If an undertaker was required he also filled this role and, being a man with some education, conducted the funeral service including the readings for the service.  He was also a very clever blacksmith. His blacksmith shop was set up on his property “Pine Grove” on Phil’s River.

He forged cart wheels, fitted iron tyres, made picks and other tools.  He also had a wooden shoe or boot last that he used to make shoes or boots from leather. If he undertook a repair job, time was not a consideration. If he did not have tools he would make them.

His talents in all areas were well recognised.  Shearing was conducted in the old buggy shed and John Martin Smith would chew tobacco whilst he used a single box and splade and a stone to weigh the fleece down prior to pressing the wool.  He made the wool press. He was known to be a meticulous, versatile and accomplished tradesman in the district.

He was certainly a man of many talents, as well as conducting his own business transactions he would write business letters for those who were unable to write.  

In his travels it is known that he built a large shearing shed on Fort Bourke Station. He also built a bridge over a gully close by the old St John’s Church at Bolong, the large bearer timbers are still there.

John also built two bridges which were covered over with water when the Pejar Dam was built near Goulburn.  In addition to all of this it is known that he had hidden medical talents as well. One of the Croker’s set an engine up on a grinding stone and it exploded and a piece of stone shot out and hit him in the head.

According to Les Sharwood there were many small broken bone fragments and his brains were exposed, but John Martin Smith put it all back together and he fully recovered but in later life he took fits.  

John and Jane made their home at “Pine Grove” on Phil’s River at Fullerton and had eight children:

  • Mary Ann 
  • George 
  • Alice Louisa 
  • Emily Jane 
  • Eliza Ann 
  • John Christian 
  • Jane Caroline 

As well as rearing her own children Jane raised her sister, Elizabeth Anne Marmont. 

John Martin Smith is remembered for holding his grandchildren on his knee and singing African spirituals or sea shanties to them. He could not stand injustice of any kind. Both are buried in Bolong Cemetery.

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