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William Tipple SMITH


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History stands corrected: Smith, not Hargraves, first to discover gold in NSW
A clerical filing error in the mid-1840s meant that William Tipple Smith's claim to be the first to discover gold was lost in the mists of time.

For 170 years all that remained of mineralogist William Tipple Smith was a quartz gold sample, an unmarked grave and a reputation as the fraud who claimed to have discovered payable gold before Edward Hargraves.

On Thursday the history that most Australian schoolchildren learnt about events leading to the NSW gold rush in 1851 was corrected.

An anonymous grave, previously known only as number 4929, section four, Rookwood Cemetery, was marked for the first time. It now reads: "William Tipple Smith, 1803-1852, Mineralogist, discoverer of Australia’s first payable gold and co-founder of Australia’s iron and steel industry."

A commemorative plaque also details Smith's contribution to Australian history, ending a decades-long fight by his descendants to correct the record.

"A wrong perpetrated by a corrupt colonial administration in 1851 has been put to rights by its successor, the NSW government, almost 170 years later," was how his descendant and author Lynette Silver summed it up.

Ms Silver found missing documents that proved Smith had sent gold nuggets to England and letters detailing his claims that in 1848 he had found a payable goldfield near Yorkeys Corner. Missing for decades, the letters had been filed under "M" for Sir Roderick Murchison (a prominent British geologist who encouraged Smith) instead of "S" for Smith.

Three years later in February 1851, Hargraves heard there might be gold in the hills west of the Blue Mountains. He only found a few specks, but that didn't stop him from boasting of it to the Colonial Secretary and asking for a reward.

Hargraves returned to look for more gold, helped by men who had been told where Smith had found gold. When one of the men relieved himself in a creek near Yorkeys Corner, Ms Silver said, something sparkled – and he found a gold nugget. After Hargraves had claimed credit and boasted miners would find nuggets as "big as your boot", thousands rushed to the goldfields.

Smith had emigrated to Australia from Suffolk in 1835. In 1847, he went looking for gold on the western side of the Blue Mountains and he found it the following year. That same year he and partners produced Australia's first iron and steel at Mittagong. His company would later become BHP.
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Burials in the Parish of Saint Lawrence in the County of Cumberland in the Year 1852
William T Smith Age: 49 years Abode: Glebe Sydney When Buried: Dec 4th 1852 Ship's Name: - Quality or Profession: Mineralogist By whom the Ceremony was performed: Jas. Fullerton LL.D.
There are gaps in my database.

William SMITH & Jane SMITH
13 Oct 1833 Hacheston, Suffolk, England
Batch M063171

Bap V1837250 22/1837 SMITH WILLIAM S - WILLIAM T - JANE
Page 70
Baptisms solemnized in the Parish of St. Philip Sydney in the County of Cumberland 1838
No. 1018 When Baptised: Novemr. 1838 When Born: 23 April 1837 Wm. Sydney son of William Tepple and Jane Smith Abode: Sydney Quality or Profession: Grocer By whom the Ceremony was performed: William Cowper

I have nothing before the 1833 marriage and no arrival.

So born 8 Jul 1803.


The Sydney Morning Herald - Fri 11 Jun 1869 p.1
On the 8th instant, at her residence, Christie-street, Glebe, Mrs. JANE SMITH, widow of the late William T. Smith, aged 55 years.

JANE SMITH Age 56 - 10/06/1869 Zone B A 813

Jane c. 3 Jun 1834 Hacheston, Suffolk, England
William Tipple SMITH & Jane
Batch: C063171

Index to Miscellaneous Immigrants 'James Pattison' 11/02/1836
SMITH Jane (Mrs) 23
Jane 2
William -

The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW) - Tue 9 Feb 1836 p.2
From Cork, on Sunday last, whence she sailed the 31st October, the ship 'James Pattison' Captain Cromarty, with 324 female emigrants. Passengers, Dr. Osborne R. N., Mrs. Osborne, Miss Osborne Misses Jane and Mary Osborne, and Masters William, John and Alexander Osborne.
I have nothing before the 1833 marriage and no arrival.
Even then Smith is quite common and a fair number of convicts at that time, if he arrived unassisted then it may be even harder. I've found a couple of trees, a sibling, Thomas T may have arrived around the same time and a possible marriage in 1836 [Elizabeth Bean].

Thanks Geoff.

Looks as though William T arrived alone or with his brother Thomas T who was born 1806.

I've not traced Thomas. Connection to my tree is Jane born 1834.

Trees have a fair bit in them, but very little of the early material is sourced/validated. A couple have b. 1803 Aldborough, Suffolk not validated..

Apparently their father was named William Smith as well and was a geologist to. Tho i don't know how reliable the below info is.

The Southern Mail (Bowral, NSW : 1889 - 1954)
Fri 1 Oct 1948
One of them was Thomas Tipple Smith, a son of the noted English geologist William Smith, who was born in England in 1800, and another, his brother, William Tipple Smith, who first saw the light of day at Halford, near Shakespeare's birthplace, on October 12, 1803.
Thomas, a builder, came to Australia about 1826, and became well known at Glebe, where he leased certain St. Phillip's Church lands, whilst William, after some years with the Red Path Ironworks, arrived at some time prior to 1836.
Thanks gibbo.

Thomas T born abt 1806.

If the new gravestone is correct 12 Oct 1803 could be a baptism date for William T.

No match for that as a baptism date.
2825/1836 V18362825 74A

115/1836 V1836115 75


I have the images now.

Page 49
Presbyterian Marriages solemnized in the Parish of St. Andrew's Ch Sydney in the County of Cumberland in the Year 1836
No. 194
I, - do hereby declare that I am a Member of, or hold Communion with, the Church [signed] -
I, - do hereby declare that I am a Member of, or hold Communion with, the Church [signed] -
I, the Revd. John McGarvie, of Sydney N.S.W., Minister of the Scots Church there, do hereby certify that Thomas Tipple Smith, of Sydney, Bachelor and Elizabeth Bean, of Sydney, Spinster, were joined together in Wedlock by me on the twenty seventh day of February 1836, at Sydney, by Banns, in the presence of Wm. Tipple Smith and Jane Smith.
Parties signed: Thos. Tipple Smith, Elizabeth Bean [signed] John McGarvie Minister
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