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Origin of the name

Smeaton was named by Captain John Hepburn after Smeaton in South Scotland. [1] It has always been important for agriculture on account of the rich volcanic soil.[2]

A major agricultural show was held annually and flour milling was an important activity.[3]


Four and often six in hand Cobb and Co. coaches ran between Ballarat and Castlemaine, passing through Smeaton around noon each day. They changed horses every 10 or 15 miles and had stables at the Standard Hotel, between Powlett Hill and Glengower. The service ended in the Smeatron locality with the coming of the Ballarat to Maryborough railway. [4]

Cover of The Dreaming Hills of Smeaton,University of Ballarat Library Research Collection


List of hotels in Smeaton

Smeaton Centenary

On 15 April 1938 Smeaton celebrated its centenary. Over 3000 visitors participated in the opening of the celebration, and Prime Minister Lyons attended. Electricity was turned on at Smeaton for the first time at the official dinner. A centenary memorial to pioneers was dedicated and special church services were held.

A centenary song, The Dreaming Hills of Smeaton, was written by two Smeatonians to commemorate the centenary. The words were written by James Branagan and the music by Florence A. Righetti.

Cover of The Dreaming Hills of Smeaton by James Branagan,University of Ballarat Library Research Collection

Mr. Lyons Attends
CRESWICK, Sunday. - In the presence of a large crowd which had gathered in Corringarra street, the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) formally opened yesterday the Smeaton district centenary celebrations. Mr. Lyons was accompanied by his daughters, Sheila and Kathleen.
It is estimated that about 3,000 persons participated in the opening festivities.
Mr. Lyons said that Australia was passing through a period of anniversary celebrations. His own State of Tasmania was approaching its 150th anniversary. Compared with most other countries, Australia was young in actual years, our, it was old in experience. It was something to be thankful for that our history had been written not in blood but in the pioneering achievements of our forefathers.
What epic story could be written, Mr. Lyons asked, greater than that of Captain Hepburn, who, with his flock of sheep, his cattle, and his horses, crossed from New South Wales to the fertile land round Smeaton, where no white man had been before.
Mr. Lyons was the principal guest at an official dinner. In the evening the ceremony of switching on the electric supply for the town took place in the presence of about 3,000 people. Dame Enid Lyons was to have performed the ceremony, but in her absence through indisposition her place was taken by Miss Sheila Lyons.
Later Mr. H. S. Kilfoyle, chairman of the Melbourne committee of old Smeatonians, dedicated a memorial to the pioneers, which Mr. C. W. Sewell handed over, and Councillor A. C. Bousted accepted on behalf of the shire council, special services were held at the Presbyterian and Catholic churches to-day, and at the Mechanics' Hall by the Rev. H. C. Kent, for the Methodist Church.[5]


The Hepburn Country
In the old Presbyterian Church at Smeaton, north of Ballarat, a tablet commemorates the founding of the settlement by Captain John Hepburn. The district will celebrate its centenary in 1938.
THE first overlanding drama had ended. After having established their cattle station In what are now the grounds of Scotch College, Hawthorn, with a herd of cattle which they had overlanded in active partnership with John Gardiner, Hawdon and Hepburn returned to New South Wales and led another expedition to Victoria. The first led to the settlement of the City of Malvern, the second to that of Uie rich and beautiful hill country of the Hepburn Estate, In the parishes of Smeaton and Bullarook. A reference by Captain Hepburn to the settlement of Malvern In "Letters from Victorian Malvern in "Letters from Victorian Pioneers" reads:- We crossed the Yarra River at the only ford we could find, just at the point above where Dight's Mill now stands, and took up ground on the south side of the river, where Mr, Pinnock's house now stands, and what is known as Gardiner's Creek. This was the first cattle station in Australia Felix. Mr. Gardiner and myself purchased Mr. Hawdon's share of the cattle, and some six months after Mr. Gardiner purchased mine, so that he became sole owner." Last year the Hawthorn City Council, in marking the approximate site of Gardiner's house a memorial cairn, claimed too much in its inscription in attributing to Gardiner alone the driving of the herd, but this is one of those mistakes which good sense can be trusted to put right.
Squatter and Magnate - The story of Captain Hepburn's settlement in Smeaton is interesting because of the approaching centenary. In his historic letter he writes: "I took up Smeaton Hill on April 15, 1838, having been just three months travelling." He had previously pitched his tent where the Church of England now stands in Castlemaine on April 12, 1838. He had still 31 years to live, during which time he played a stalwart part as squatter and country magnate. Captain Hepburn was chairman of the Road Board in the Creswick district from the time of its Inception on January 11, 1859, until his death six months later.
In 1849 he built of brick Smeaton House, now the residence of Mr. Righetti, on the northern side of the valley of Captain's Creek and just on the fringe of the primeval bush. Some little distance to the west of the homestead lies the dust of the Hepburns in a quiet cemetery of sylvan beauty and woodland charm. In a letter to an old friend - John Betts, of Birmingham, a gold refiner - he described the country he had passed through on his journey to Smeaton, and received the following advice:- "John, look closely into all the streams; dig and wash the earth; search diligently for gold, for I am sure your feet are passing over immense wealth every day." Here was the key to a great opportunity, but, as the captain significantly remarked, he was not to be Hargraves. Except for one episode the aborigines gave little trouble. Traces of their camps were once to be seen on the farm of Mr. May at Smeaton and also at Mr. Whatmore's nursery ot Ti-tree. Captain Hepburn suggested the founding of on aboriginal station at Mount Franklin, in those days called Jim Crow. This was done later, and, under the management of Mr. Parker, the work of training the aborigines in useful occupations continued for some years.
During his stay in Smeaton Captain Hepburn bought an estate of about 33,000 acres, and his account of his property is of special interest to-day. It reads:- "The land on my run is very prepossessing in appearance, but in many places there is only a shallow soil, which lies on a bed of lava, which dries up early in the season; but this is not the case all over it. There is some very fine land. The Seven Hills (estate) is much the same, but all the best land on that station is heavily timbered. . . . The average crop of wheat grown at Smeaton for 13 years does not exceed 20 bushels an acre. . . . My knowledge is very limited, and having no general knowledge of the qualities of land, must therefore be taken for what it is worth." It may be added that later agricultural land on the Hepburn Estate was let at £2 an acre at a time when wheat sold at 10/ a bushel.
The first sales of land at Smeaton were held at Ballarat on July 14, 1856. The upset price was £ 1 an acre, but the different prices paid ranged between that and £6/17/ an acre paid for lot 46, purchased by Mr. M. Martin. The pro clamation in the "Government Gazette" dated April 6, 1856, shows that original purchasers from the Crown were Messrs. John Hepburn, William McAlplne, Andrew Wilson, Robert Cowie, Anthony Dockery, G. M. Woodhouse, William and David Anderson, William Miller, Fred Toose, Alex. Calder, Jabez E. Dance, Thomas Lovett, M. Martin, Patrick Curtain, A. Maher, Robert Maher, and David Taylor. The township allotments of Smeaton were sold at Creswick in 1861 at prices ranging from £2/17/ to £31/5/. The list of purchasers includes the following: - Messrs. Curtain, Pegler, Anderson, Bateman, and Brannigan.
Farms on Estate - In 1859 Captain Hepburn began to let out farms on his estate instead of devoting it entirely to the rearing of stock. He had always strenuously opposed the coming of the goldmines, holding that their rapid success made them difficult to deal with, as will be seen by a reference to the issue of the Creswick Advertiser for March 26 1861. Long after his death the choice areas of pastoral and agricultural land of the estate were sold at prices to suit tenants and other purchasers. These farms extended from the borders of Campbelltown on the north to a group of farms lying east of Newlyn as the plan of the auction sale shows. The most easterly group extended from McLachlan's, or Deep Creek, to farms near the Smeaton plains, on the west toward Clunes. Part of this is watered by Langdons and Birchs creeks. Most of it, if not all, lies in the Allandale electorate, which has recently attracted all the attention given to ill fated triangular political contests. At the time of the sale it was said that rich chocolate farms that had been cultivated for as many as 40 years were sold at £40 an acre. Through it on the east side runs the Castlemaine road and across it a well known road bearing north-east known as the old Castlemaine road.
Along the Castlemaine road now run the motor traffic between Castlemaine and Ballarat at a pace of which the pioneers who set their clocks by Cobb and Co., never dreamed. Almost across the centre runs the road from Campbelltown to Mount Prospect, and across the south-east, through the teeming fertility of Dean and Newlyn, runs the picturesque road from Ballarat to Daylesford, requiring as it approaches Daylesford only the towering majesty of the Alps to complete the magnificence of the picture. This part of the district should be viewed from Forest Hill, Kingston from which stretches a landscape of hills and ranges which may one day have the good fortune to attract the genius of Lionel Lindsay.
Smeaton once became a goldfield and many of the mines derived their names from the Hepburn family, among them Hepburn Home Paddock Nos 1 and 2, Captain Hepburn and Lady Hepburn, the Golden Stream, the Kooroocheang mine, Brawns Freehold, and one or two others paid remarkably well. In 1881 mining was still in its infancy, but in the end the agriculturist and the pastoralist held their own.
A closing note in the captain's letter commends the good behaviour and usefulness of several prisoners of the Crown, who received £30 per annum when in service. Others proved troublesome, but in making his commendation Captain Hepburn wished to show that prisoners are sometimes painted in worse colours then they deserve."
A mural tablet in the Smeaton Presbyterian Church which must be one of the oldest churches in the State, possibly 76 years old, is an interesing historical document, as well as a memorial to this worthy pioneer. The admonitory nature of its texts reflects the outlook of the geneeration that placed it there. It is of pure white marble with a black border and its inscription reads -
... It will be observed that the date then in the inscription of Captain Hepburn's arrival in Smeaton namely, 1837, differs from that given himself in his letter, namely, 1838.[6]

Other Notes

''The Berry Leads'' article from the Ballarat School of Mines Students' Magazine, Term Four, 1908.

See also

Gold Ore Mining

Anderson's Mill

David Anderson

John Anderson

Brian Gervasoni

Elizabeth Hepburn

John Hepburn

William McKnown, boot maker

E.M. Redman

Adam Ronaldson

David Ronaldson

Smeaton Honour Roll

Berry No. 1


  1. Centenary of Smeaton, 1838-1938 : a souvenir booklet with historical sketches …, Smeaton Centenary Committee, 1938, p13.
  2. Jacobs Lewis Vines Architects and Conservation Planners, 'Historic Sites Survey: Ballarat Study Area', 1980.
  3. Jacobs Lewis Vines Architects and Conservation Planners, 'Historic Sites Survey: Ballarat Study Area', 1980, pp28.
  4. Centenary of Smeaton, 1838-1938 : a souvenir booklet with historical sketches …, Smeaton Centenary Committee, 1938, p13.
  5. The Argus, 18 April 1938.
  6. The Argus, 16 May 1936.

--C.K.Gervasoni 20:13, 28 December 2012 (EST)

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