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THE SMYTHE BROTHERS, HENRY & GEORGE, SURVEYORS IN VICTORIA

The cover is addressed to H.W.H. Smythe Esq. J.P., Commissioner of Crown Lands, Murray District, Broken River, Sidney Road and it was sent by Saml Watson, June 30/(18)46. There is a fine MELBOURNE/ [crown]/ JU 30/ 1846/ PORT PHILLIP postmark, a red manuscript 1/8 rating as well as red boxed PAID AT/ MELBOURNE. The reverse was not seen and the vendor supplied the following information: "The Broken River crosses the (present day) Hume Highway (Sidney Road) near the town of Benalla, Victoria (Figure 1).

Henry Wilson (a.k.a. Henry William) Hutchinson Smythe started out as a surveyor in Tasmania and an old plan of the Town of Launceston, Van Diemens Land (VDL) on the River Tamar was drawn by him from an actual survey in 1835, and at that time he was only 19, as he was born in 1816 (Figure 2).

The only other biographical information found on him in VDL was that he married Jessie Allan in Launceston in 1841 when she was aged 20. All subsequent mentions of him, his brother and sister are to be found in Victoria. By the end of 1838, according to Port Phillip’s Crown Lands Commissioner, there were fifty-seven squatters in the Port Phillip District. The N.S.W. Governor (Sir George Gipps) continued to be dissatisfied with the progress of the surveying in the Port Phillip District, but in Sydney he found that the salaried field officers were unwilling to go to Melbourne.

During 1838 George Douglas Smythe (Henry’s older brother, a.k.a. G. D. Smythe) had traversed along part of the Barwon River, and had marked out parish boundaries from near Geelong to Lake Colac. His younger brother, Henry William Hutchinson Smythe had measured the portion of the Sydney Road between Melbourne and Seymour, laid down a township reserve at Seymour. He had traversed part of the Goulburn River near Seymour, also Woody Yalloak and Violet Creek. Assistant Surveyor Smythe was advised by Deputy Surveyor-General Perry that he had approval to do contact work in the Barwon River locality.

The contract was "to afford information as to the contour of the country on the western side of the great basin of Port Phillip. It is essential that your principal points should be fixed trigonometrically and your lines run horizontally so as to adopt themselves to the fixed points". The contract rate was 20 shillings per mile, 1½d per acre. Contract Surveyor H.W.H. Smythe’s work was in Counties Grant and Polwarth in 1839-40.

Brother George continued surveying during the summers of 1851-53 and he surveyed the whole length of the Gippsland coast of Victoria and his work was reproduced in the Map of the Province of Victoria, published in 1853 by John Arrowsmith, London. A little more was learnt about other members of the family, in that Anne Wilson was the mother of the two brothers and that their youngest sister Martha married Captain William Lonsdale at Port Macquarie, N.S.W. in ca.1835, and he became the first Police Magistrate of Port Phillip in 1836. The father of the Smythe siblings has been identified as Benjamin Smythe, a civil engineer in Launceston VDL.

The remainder of the information I gleaned on Henry was even more fragmentary, but he was made a Crown Land Commissioner in 1843 (as titled on the cover) because of the shortage of funds in the Survey Department; he was the surveyor who laid out Geelong; and, his name is celebrated in Portarlington township’s Smythe Street.

The Smythes were one of Melbourne’s earliest families.

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