Ernest John Smith skilled timber man

Ernest John Smith and his wife Sarah Ann (nee Bostock).
Ernest John Smith and his wife Sarah Ann (nee Bostock).

MANY of our early settlers arrived in search of wealth from the vast timber supplies in the district. Some became timber-cutters, others were bullock drivers.

As settlement increased more people arrived to become shop owners or innkeepers while others preferred the farming life.

A few became timber mill owners and these employed men who were skilled in operating machinery. Some of these men were ship builders, used to working with fine timbers, or ex-seamen with experience in the new-fangled steam engine. Such a one was Ernest John Smith.

Ernest John Smith was born in Newport, Staffordshire on December 22 1858, the son of John and Fanny Smith (nee Lester).

As a young lad he began working in Birmingham in a well-known engineering firm where he qualified as a fitter and turner.

He had always yearned to go to sea, however, and when he finished his apprenticeship he joined a ship as a junior engineer.

He travelled to many different places, all over the world, but in 1878 he arrived on the Richmond in the schooner "Victory".

It is said that he liked the lush, green country around Lismore and he decided to stay for a while.

He soon found employment in Robert Knight's sawmill at Lismore. Later he was to move to the larger Cottee and Sharpe sawmill.

Here he was working as an engineer, no doubt looking after the milling machinery. His short stay became permanent when he met Sarah Ann Bostock, the daughter of Charles and Mary Ann Bostock (nee Browning). Sarah came from a large family and was only 16 when she married the 24-year-old Ernest.

Her mother was from the pioneering Browning family, said to be the first white family to reside in Lismore.

Ernest and Sarah were to have a large family of 14 children, 12 of whom survived infancy. Perhaps because of his growing family Ernest changed his place of work several times over the years, each time improving his situation.

Soon after his marriage he obtained work at the famous O'Flynn's foundry in Lismore. This was one of the largest industries in Lismore at the time and Ernest worked there probably as a fitter and turner.

He later became one of the first managers of the Lismore Gas Works.

His younger brother, Tom Albert Smith, arrived in Lismore some time later and the two brothers decided to purchase a sawmill at South Lismore, dismantle it, and take it to Dunoon where Ernest and Sarah were then living.

The scheme was not successful, however, because of the lack of an adequate water supply. Ernest was forced to return to Lismore for some time and seek work again, this time as a skipper of the drogher "Pasha" owned by Cottee and Sharpe.

The "Pasha" was used to carry railway sleepers.

In the 1930s, and over seventy years of age, he and Sarah moved to Coraki where Ernest became manager of the Oakland sawmill. The mill closed shortly before Sarah died in 1941.

Ernest was offered part-time work with Bennett Bros at Casino and he accepted. He was to remain in Casino for the rest of his life, even in retirement, in a house built and given to him by Bennett Bros.

Ernest John Smith died in 1951 aged 93. He is buried at Coraki alongside his wife.

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