Nathaniel Henry Smith
Block 14A Paddys River District – Property Name: 'Freshford'
Nathaniel Henry Smith was born 1891 in the Bungendore District of NSW to Edward and Sophia Smith. Smith enlisted in Sydney on the 3rd February 1915. He served at Gallipoli from the end of August 1915 with the 12th Light Horse Regiment around Holly Ridge at the southern end of the Anzac line. Through 1916 and 1917, the 12th Light Horse fought in the Sinai and at Gaza in Palestine.
In September 1917, Smith was attached to the 11th Light Horse Regiment as a scout. For his work during a reconnaissance of the Wadi el Sufi near Gaza in Palestine on the 2nd October 1917, he was awarded the Military Medal. Smith was promoted to Sergeant and attached to the 4th Light Horse Brigade as a scout just before they took part in the charge at Beersheba on the 31st October 1917. In 1918, Smith was sent to the cadet school at Zeitoun in Egypt and qualified as a 2nd Lieutenant in January 1919. He was promoted to Lieutenant in April 1919 and returned to Australia in August that year.
Smith was living at Lake View near Bungendore when he successfully applied for Paddys River Block 14A. The Block was 1018 acres (412 hectares) and was located on the western side of the Murrumbidgee River, just below Point Hut Crossing and across from Pine Island Reserve. It had been part of James Cunningham's Tuggeranong estate, which was compulsorily acquired in 1916 for the proposed (but never built) arsenal and township near Pine Island. After World War 1, it formed part of the Tuggeranong Subdivision of the Soldier Settlement Scheme. The lease started on the 5th January 1920, for five years at an annual rental of £190/17/6. Smith named the property Freshford.
Plan of Paddys River Block 14A.
Just before his lease expired, Smith was offered a ten year lease with the provision he reside on the block. He accepted the conditions of the lease but the following year was questioned why he had not yet complied with the residency requirement. Smith produced a medical certificate from his wife's doctor stating that she was seriously ill and should not "go right into the bush." The Federal Capital Commission (FCC) Lands Officer, James Brackenreg, thought that Smith was:
"A good type of lessee, a Returned Soldier, who assures me his wife is just as disappointed as he is that they cannot make their home on the block."
He recommended a twelve month extension, which was agreed to, however the Smiths still had not moved by 1929.
Smith requested that the residency requirement be removed as he could not make a living from the block. At the time, he was spending four to five months of the year working as a wool presser in western New South Wales just to make ends meet. He also had a young son and there were no schools nearby. His arguments failed to impress the Assistant Lands Inspector, Fred Cox, who thought that Smith pursued wool pressing as a choice. Cox believed if Smith subdivided the block and worked the land energetically he could make a good living from it. Conditions for the education of his son may be difficult for a while but he would "soon be able to ride to Tharwa to school."
In the end nothing happened. The matter was held in abeyance until the Joint Committee of Public Accounts reported on its enquiry into the rural industry in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). Everyone just seemed to forget that it was an issue.
Google Maps image of area c2013 with Paddys River Block 14A boundary in red.
Like other lessees, Smith struggled through the Depression, falling behind in his rent to the tune of about £326 by the end of June 1933. That did not stop the Government offering him a 25 year lease up until the 30th June 1958 at an annual rental of 2/2d per acre for the first three years, to be reviewed every five years after that. The Government granted lessees the right to pay arrears of rent accumulated to the 30th June 1933 by annual installments (of a minimum of £12) free of interest on the 31st March each year over the term of the lease. Smith advised his acceptance of the new lease on the 7th August 1933.
There were other issues that Smith had to deal with. The Point Hut Road ran through his block and motorists (in particular tourists) would often leave stock gates open. At other times the Murrumbidgee River was so low that sheep would wander across to the other side. Then there was always an issue with ti-tree, particularly along the river banks. However, during the 1930s, Paddys River Block 14A was rabbit-free.
Smith did face one other unique problem. In 1943, he was advised that the Royal Military College would be conducting military manoeuvres within the area of Block 14A on the 26th November 1943. It was proposed that troops would fire smoke and practice bombs from a hill north of the Point Hut Road onto an area near Point Hut Crossing. The troops bivouaced over night and during the evening practiced river crossing exercises north of the crossing.
Although these exercises would be repeated several times in following years, Nathaniel Smith did not live to see any of them as he died on the 20th November 1943. His wife, Louisa, took over the property and by 1951 had built a house and was finally living on the block.
- ArchivesACT: Government Property & Tenancy Registers - Paddys River Block 14A ( PDF 431Kb)
- ArchivesACT: Rate Book : Territory for the Seat of Government - 1927 ( PDF 17.8Mb) - 1928 ( PDF 18.7Mb) - 1929 ( PDF 8.88Mb)
- ArchivesACT: TL1012 (Part 1) - Block 14A Paddy's River - L.M. Smith
- ArchivesACT: TL1012 (Part 2) - Block 14A Paddy's River - L.M. Smith
- NAA: (B2455) First Australian Imperial Force Personnel Dossiers, 1914-1920: http://discoveringanzacs.naa.gov.au/browse/person/3564