Private's death not cherished

Ward 3 Independent Councillor Shae Foenander has called for proper recognition of an important figure in Springwood's history - Private Francis Smith - the first man buried in the town after a long career of military service here and overseas.

Private Smith was active at the Springwood military depot which was set up in 1816. He was one of a handful of soldiers giving essential support to weary travelers passing through "before lawful settlement was permitted" according to his plaque. And it was a hardship posting.

"In that time, such journeys were arduous," Cr Foenander said. "It must have been a tough, remote and lonely existence."

In fact, one traveller, Mrs Elizabeth Hawkins, complained in a letter home to England that "the lowliest barn would be a palace compared to this place [the Springwood military depot]."

The Army private was in the 4thFoot of the Kings own regiment, a veteran of the Spanish Peninsular War and the Second American Wars. He garrisoned post revolutionary France, the West Indies and Ireland before coming to NSW.

Springwood Historical Society secretary Dick Morony said "wherever he went disease would follow them - it certainly wasn't beer and skittles". He died of suspected yellow fever on May 5, 1836 leaving behind a wife and child.

The Society raised concerns the private's memorial had fallen into disrepair. It sits outside the Hub on a sandstone rock in Springwood's main street in an almost unreadable state, if not for the laminated sheet of information on top.

Mr Morony said the 43-year-old private's bones are either buried in Springwood cemetery with his headstone, or remain at the original site at Ferguson Road (removed later to make way for the highway). No-one can definitively say.

But council recently unanimously voted to pay the $1000 to fix up the memorial and will also see to his grave site after Cr Foenander requested it be conserved.

"I took a request to the floor of council that will ultimately see Private Francis Smith's memorial properly restored ... if we lose our history, we lose our sense of ourselves," Cr Foenander said.

She had also raised concerns about the state of Springwood cemetery, where her own serviceman father lies.

"We need to do better. I intend to work hard to ensure council has a renewed focus on our local history.

Blue Mountains Mayor Mark Greenhill said he shared the councillor's concerns about the cemetery and added she had the elected council's support to ensure it was properly maintained.

Mr Morony said they hoped to contact Private Smith's descendant, Nathan Craig Dubber, who attended the original plaque unveiling in 1990, then aged just 15 months. He would now be 29.