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"Gentleman' John Smith

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Gentleman John Smith was an interesting character with a rather colorful past.

He was a twice convicted felon who arrived for the second time on the General Hewitt in 1814.

He later married widow Mary Furber and together they opened an Inn in Newcastle in August 1823. (1) The Inn was known as the Newcastle Hotel.  Prisoners assigned to John Smith at Newcastle in 1824/25 included:  William Abrey (Marquis of Wellington) Thomas Evans (Fanny), John O'Neil (Lord Sidmouth); William Payne (Canada); Bridget Roe (John Bull); and James Taylor (Tottenham).

Many convicts were assigned to John Smith by 1828. Although some were employed as stock keepers probably on this land near Maitland, others such as William Worlock (servant), Jane Cameron (Housemaid), Hugh McKenzie (gardener), Catherine Swift (servant), Thomas Jordan (Baker) and Richard Bannister, (Ostler) were probably employed at the 'brick verandah cottage' that was his Inn at Newcastle. Also living with John and Mary Smith and their seven children in 1828 was 18 year old George Furber, the son of Mary and her first husband.

Four years later George Furber married Mary Ann Muir, the daughter of Constable George Muir. Mary Ann Muir probably moved to Maitland with her mother Elizabeth in 1829. Elizabeth managed Alexander McLeod's new Inn until George Muir resigned from his position as constable in Newcastle in 1830. George Furber and Mary Ann's time together was brief. Their son George died in 1836 and Mary Ann after a long and painful illness died at the house of her mother in Maitland in April 1837. Two children survived from their marriage and George remarried soon after Mary Ann's death. He and his new family eventually moved to Queensland where in 1855, he was brutally murdered by aborigines.

John Smith continued to reside at Newcastle for many years and also at Maitland. Despite his success, he was not accepted by some of the emigrant settlers as the following extract from an article favouritism amongst the Hunter River Magistrates published in the Sydney Monitor in February 1833 shows:  

Mr. Maurice Townsend went up to the door of Mr. Muir's Inn, flushed with the victory he had achieved over the yielding carcass of the carrier's assistant, and seeing Mr Smith (a respectable Emancipist, who goes by the friendly name of " Gentleman Smith,") he took the trouble to inform him, in terms and gestures of wrath, that if he, Mr. T. could find Mr. Fleming, he would shoot him. Mr. Smith replied, he had better not do anything of the kind, but go home. Such free, friendly counsel as this, was not to be endured by Emigrant blood, and therefore, making no more ado, Mr. 'T. clenched his fist, advanced towards Mr. Smith, and after informing him ' he was a d.....d treble-convicted convict scoundrel," he floored him then and there. Next day, when Mr. Maurice Townsend found himself sober, he began to ponder his ways. The first thing he did, was, to seek out the carrier's man, and pay him for the chastisement which he had inflicted on him the day before. The next question was, " what shall I do with Smith ?" Mr. Smith appealed against Mr. Townsend, and the latter finally appeared at the bar of the Quarter Sessions at Maitland, and was found guilty of the assault.

John Smith's land at Maitland was probably run by an overseer and later John's son James Smith. John Smith continued to acquire properties in the region.  


Notes & Links:

Black Horse Inn, Maitland, NSW, Australia, April, 1973 

Black Horse Inn - Cultural Collections, University of Newcastle

Find out more about John Smith at NSW Heritage

John Smith also owned the sloop Elizabeth which was almost lost at Newcastle in 1827......

Newcastle— On the morning of the 27th the sloop Elizabeth, belonging to Mr. John Smith,. of this place, attempted to round Nobbys after the top of high water ;— it was blowing very strong; at S. S. E. .with a considerable sea on. The Master of her, it is presumed, had run in under the impression that the flood was still making, and that he might save his distance. He was in some measure justified in acting so, as the signal heretofore used, forbidding vessels to approach the harbour on the, ebb tide or bad weather, was not (indeed could not be) .made— ALL the flags heretofore used signals being warn out

The consequence was, the little vessel was swept down into the bight, and obliged to let go her anchors, which held her about two hours, during which time the sea made, a complete breach over her. At last her anchors came home, and she drifted into the surf, and when at about the distance of 200 yards from the Beach, at a most critical moment, and when all hope of saving her was abandoned, the wind shifted to south west; the people on board made sail, slipped the cables, and got her head to sea, and before sunset she was out of sight . We are still anxious about her fate, as she has neither anchors nor cables on board. She would have been a loss to, her owner of upwards of four hundred pounds, not to mention the almost certain loss of four lives, for there was little chance of their being saved in the tremendous surf that was running.

All this risk and anxiety might 'be avoided, if government .would be at the paltry expense of sending a few yards of bunting to make signal flags, which, till within these ten or twelve months were always supplied and signals accordingly made, which either enabled vessels to approach the harbour with safety, or acted as a caution for them to stand to sea, and yet the harbour dues on Colonial craft are enormous., There is, not a flag here to, hoist, except the Union Jack, and one or two private signals...The Australian 6 January 1827    


References:

(1) Barbara Selby Adams

(2) Sydney Gazette 28 August 1823



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