Biographies of the Early Aldermen

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John Henry Smith.bedford


Alderman 1880-November 1882.

There were three John Smiths at Newtown in the 1880s but Alderman Smith is assumed to be the hotelier John H. Smith.

A publican named Smith wrote to Council in 1866 requesting that his horse trough remain in its present position of the Newtown Road near White Horse Road. It seems most of the hotels of the day had their own trough and hitching rail. He operated the ‘Somerset’ Hotel in the early 1870s right at the first railway station at the intersection of Crescent and Station Streets.

His first contact with Council was in May 1871. The Government wanted to close the railway level crossing which would have reduced his passing trade. He complained about this and asked them to remove the obstruction. The Mayor was to obtain legal advice as to whether the Government had the power to close the crossing against vehicle traffic. There was a kind of compromise in 1879 with discussions to provide a pedestrian overbridge.

In October 1872 he joined the Masonic Lodge of Newtown Kilwinning which met in the Town Hall but he was suspended in August 1878 because he believed the Lodge should affiliate with the new Australian Lodge rather than remain with the Scottish original. He attended the 1874 campaign meeting for the rebuilding of Newtown School at which Henry Parkes officiated.

By the late 1870s he was running the ‘Duke of Edinburgh’ Hotel on the corner of Enmore Road and Simmons Street opposite the ‘Queens’ Hotel with its statue of Victoria.

John Henry Smith was elected to Newtown Council on 12th. February 1880. He and James Francis Smith were together on the Lighting Committee and the Bylaws and Library Committee, and both Smiths voted together frequently and also attended one inter-council conference. James nominated John as Mayor in place of Ald. Whately, at the beginning of his second year, 1881.

John Henry Smith also served on the Water and the House Numbering Committee. He frequently moved for roadbuilding in the Enmore and Camden area. In December 1880 he noted the messiness and the problem of gas and water utilities opening and reopening the footpaths and suggested that those utility companies pay a refundable licence fee, which did eventuate. In July 1882 he argued that the laying of the tramway on the railway bridge renders it necessary that it be in a “bad state for a long time, and that since the tramway had been laid it had been much worse, they were continually sweeping the dust in heaps and leaving it on the side of the road to the annoyance and inconvenience of everybody who viewed it”.

In August 1882 J. F. Smith apologised for John Henry Smith’s absence due to severe indisposition. John Henry Smith announced two months later “that this would probably be the last Council meeting he would attend under present circumstances as he intended proceding next week to England. As the time of his holding office was now so near it’s close it was unnecessary for him to resign. He desired to thank the Aldermen with whom he had been associated during his term of office for the courtesy and consideration they had always shown him and for the assistance they had always rendered him in carrying out the duties of his office. He was quite aware of his shortcomings and deficiencies but had endeavoured to make up for them by close and zealous attention to the requirements of this Ward and the Borough generally”.

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