IT’S the mid-1830s. Dawn is breaking over the military stockade established shortly after Governor Lachlan Macquarie set up camp during his expedition over the Blue Mountains to inspect the road constructed by Cox and his party just over 15 years ago. Due to the views, wooded area and running water, Governor Macquarie called the place Spring-Wood.
An Englishman, Francis Smith, is on duty. He is a soldier attached to the 4th King’s Own Regiment, aged in his early 40s, a veteran of the Peninsular and Second American Wars who garrisoned port-Revolutionary France, the West Indies and Ireland after joining the army in 1813.
He accompanied the regiment to New South Wales in 1832 as a guard on the convict ship Catherine Stewart Forbes and was stationed at Sydney, Parramatta, Liverpool, Mount Victoria, Coxs River, Emu Plains and 17 Mile Hollow, now Bulls Camp at Linden.
He was charged with guarding convict road workers and works at the stockade protecting travellers on the western road, the kind of experienced fellow suited to such a rugged terrain and dangerous duty.
Fast-forward to 2012, and as romantic as it sounds, Private Francis Smith did exist and was the first soldier to die at the Springwood military stockade after its establishment by Governor Macquarie. He died in May 1836 and, as there was no cemetery in Springwood, was buried within the grounds of the stockade. When the cemetery was established 50 years later, his grave was relocated and remains there to this day.
Private Smith’s grave is the earliest known European grave in the Blue Mountains, his headstone considered a “locally significant colonial era historical monument”, according to a statement from Blue Mountains City Council (BMCC).
But without interpretation, the relocation of his grave gives the impression that the Springwood cemetery is older than it is.
BMCC has now been given funding to tell Private Smith’s story through interpretive signage at the cemetery, “drawing together the two threads of Springwood’s early history, being the use of the site as a military stockade and checkpoint, and the establishment of the first village in the Blue Mountains”, according to the statement.
“The proposed interpretive signage will allow visitors to the cemetery to understand when the cemetery was established and place Private Smith’s grave in the context of the historical development of Springwood,” BMCC stated.
“Interpretive signage will also allow people to read the text of the inscription of Private Smith’s grave, which over time, has become less legible due to environmental weathering . . . Socially and culturally, Private Smith’s story relates to the early colonial history of New South Wales and the way in which the early settlement of New South Wales was regulated and policed by military garrisons until the establishment of a police force.”
Further funding has been provided for a second project in the area, titled the Macquarie Monument: Establishing Springwood. The project aims to develop and install interpretive signs explaining why Governor Macquarie established the military stockade, as well as the subsequent development of Springwood township.
The Macquarie Monument itself today stands about where Governor Macquarie and his party camped in 1815, established by the Australian Historical Society in 1938.
“Residential development has resulted in the area Governor Macquarie described changing significantly, with none of the wood or spring now evident,” the council stated.
“Interpretive signage can explain the reasons for the establishment of the military stockade and the subsequent development of Springwood as the number of people crossing the Blue Mountains increased.”
Signs in both projects will be equipped with a QR code that can be read by smart phones and other devices providing visitors with links to more information on the internet and making history come alive for the young and young-at-heart.
Labor spokesperson for Macquarie, Susan Templeman, said she was delighted the Federal Government grants would fill a gap in understanding the European settlement of Springwood.
“Springwood gets overlooked when we talk Blaxland, Wentworth and Lawson, so I don’t think I’m the only long-term resident who feels ignorant about the people and the stories of the town,” Ms Templeman said.
“The Springwood projects are fascinating, and they are possible thanks to a new heritage program aimed at helping communities preserve and celebrate their important places and stories . . . I hope the work will bring to life some of the history of Springwood that will be of interest to locals and visitors alike.”