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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

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Charles Throsby (Charley) Smith (1798–1876)

In the course of' the present year, Death has been unusually rife in this district, carrying off upon "the bosom of its ceaseless flood" many of our oldest and most respected residents, as well as not a few of the young and middle-aged. Among those who have thus been swept away from the scenes of life is now numbered the gentleman whose name stands at the head of this notice — a name which, since the earliest settlement here, has been "as familiar as household words" throughout the whole of Illawarra. Prior to his death, Mr. Smith was not only the "oldest inhabitant" of this district, but, what was still more remarkable and interesting, his residence at Wollongong was coeval with the history of the settlement of Illawarra and the whole of the South Coast districts from its very earliest date. The lengthened period of Mr. Smith's district career spanned that most important and eventful cycle of years extending back from the present populous and prosperous position of Illawarra, with its advanced civilization and progress, to the time when the aboriginal Chief, standing in his native nudeness, but clothed with the primeval authority of his ancient race in this district, could truly say in his own tongue, though not in that of Cowper, "l am monarch of all I survey; my right there is none to dispute." Indeed, the life and experience of the deceased, as connected with Illawarra— the Garden of New South Wales — would form a fitting subject for the pen of the historian and the rapturous lays of the poet. He was a colonist in the true sense of the term, and he lived and labored during a period, and in connection with the settlement of a district that will over occupy prominent places in the history not only of New South Wales, but of Australia. In health and frame he was strong, robust, active, and energetic, and in disposition and demeanour was genial, kindly, affable, and agreeable toward all with whom he came in contact, no matter whether they were crowned with prosperity or were penniless paupers. Hundreds, we might even say thousands, in this district will well remember the cordial shake of the hand, and the jovial and familiar salutation of "Well, neighbor, how are you?" with which they were ever kindly greeted on meeting 'Old Charley Smith,' as he always desiginated himself, and was popularly and pleasingly known in the district. The deceased gentleman was a magistrate of the territory, having been gazetted as such on the 15th February, 1844. He acted in that capacity with considerable punctuality from the time of his appointment to within a short time of his death. And though usually inclined to be somewhat rash in arriving at conclusions on the Bench, he was in variably correct in the main in his judgment. He was Returning-Officer for this electorate since its first establishment as a Parliamentary constituency, under the designation of the County of Camden, including, as that constituency then, and for some considerable time afterwards, did, the present electorates of Camden, Kiama, and part of Shoalhaven, as well as Illawarra. The efficient and effective manner in which he always conducted Parliamentary elections is well known to thousands in these districts, and especially was his jolly and good-natured banter at nominations a useful and agreeable acquisition for the quieting and quelling of would-be disturbers of the peace on such occasions. The first election he conducted was in 1843, the late Mr. Roger Therry (after wards Justice Therry) and the late Mr. (afterwards Sir) Charles Cowper being the candidates, the former being elected by a slight majority, and that being the first time on which the latter distinguished gentleman came forward as a public man. As regards the early life of Mr. Smith, we learn that he was born in Cambridge, England, on the 1st March, 1798, his father being a member of an old Norfolk family bearing his name. His mother was the daughter of Alderman Throsby, of Leicester. The subject of our notice having lost his father whilst he was very young, he went to sea at the age of 16 years, and followed that vocation until he arrived at Sydney, on the 16th April, 1816. His uncle, Dr. Throsby, being then residing at Glenfieldy near Liverpool, the young, sturdy, and enterprising youth paid him a visit, and enjoyed his hospitality for about three months, after which time— having become weary of a country life and the land of kangaroos — he joined the brig Daphne at Sydney, and in her proceeded on a cruise to New Zealand, the Friendly Islands, and various other places in the Southern Seas, where he became familiar with sights, scenes, and adventures to which he would make vigorous and vivid reference even in his latest years. After a cruise of about 20 months in the Daphne, as thus stated, he returned in her to Port Jackson, and having again stayed for a short time with his uncle, Dr. Throsby, he proceeded in the brig Lynx to Calcutta, for the purpose of joining his older brother, who was then commanding the brig Fanny, of which he was also the owner. On his arrival at Calcutta, young Smith found, to his great grief and disappointment, that his brother I had died some months previously. He remained for some time in Calcutta, with his sister and his brother's widow, who were there at the time. After assisting those ladies to settle his brother's affairs, he took his passage in the ship Bombay for Sydney, and arrived at that port in November, 1819, having called at Madras on the passage. Having made up his mind to remain in this colony on that occasion, he obtained the Governor's written permission to do so. A copy of that document appeared in our issue of the 29th January last year, and was as follows — "Government House, Sydney, 17th March, 1820. — The bearer, Charles Throsby Smith, recently arrived from India, has my permission to remain in the colony and become a settler in it. L Macquame. To all whom it may concern." At or about the same time Mr. Smith obtained an order for a grant of 300 acres of land from the Crown. Shortly after this he proceeded in charge of an expedition to explore the country south of Lake George, and was away in that then unknown wilderness for some time with his party. In the course of his tour he discovered some fine grazing country, and also some streams previously un known, as also the first bed of limestone discovered in the colony. Shortly after his return from those explorations he took up his residence near Appin, and having in the meanwhile chosen his grant of land at Wollongong, then called "The Five Islands," he commenced clearing it. He had previously visited the Illawarra district with one of his uncle's stockmen dining his first visit to the colony in 1810, and it was consequent upon that visit that he was induced to return and select his grant here, he having noticed the fertility of the soil in the locality, and also the existence of the boat-harbor or bay in connection with which Belmoro Basin has since been constructed. In 1823 he married, and in the same year removed altogether to Wollongong, and took up his residence permanently on his grant, and, with the exception of a two years' absence on a visit to the old country in 1840 and 1841, he resided at Wollongong ever since until his death. By this it is shown that the deceased visited Illawarra casually exactly sixty years ago, and that he has been a permanent resident of the district for a space of no less than between fifty-five and fifty-six years. He was the first man who either cleared land or produced crop of any kind in any, part of Illawarra or the South Coast districts. He was therefore a pioneer in a most practical sense; he cast his lot in the district whilst it was in its wildest condition, and he lived to see it attain a front rank in this colony as regards density of European population and the carrying on of useful industries. The deceased at all times took a deep interest in the welfare of the district, and was one of the first to promote steam navigation between Wollongong and Sydney by means of the steamer Sophia Jane, of which he was part owner and manager. We may here state, as we have omitted to do so in its proper place in the foregoing, that he held the office and performed the duties of Crown Lands Commissioner for the whole of the Illawarra district for many years. Mr. Smith was thrice married, his first wife being a daughter of Commissary Broughton, of Sydney, his second, the widow of P. Jackson, Esq., and his third who survives him) Miss Fry. He leaves three sons and seven daughters, numerous grandchildren, and also great grandchildren. He enjoyed excellent health until within a short time of his death, when the inroads of decay of nature were becoming apparent. About four months ago, whilst an ingrown toe-nail which he had was being cut, the quick was touched and the wound bled slightly, but he took no particular notice of the circumstance for some days. Eventually, however, the toe began to inconvenience and pain him, and on Dr. Thomas being called in, that gentleman detected symptoms of gangrene and mortification setting in. From this time little hopes were entertained of his recovery, his advanced age being a serious obstacle in the way of a cure. The work of death began to progress slowly but surely from the toe onwards and upwards in his foot and leg, and from the 14th June he was compelled to remain confined to his bed. At this time the members of his family residing at a distance were sent for, as were other relatives and friends, to take a final farewell of him, the time of his departure being clearly at hand. His great strength of body and the soundness of his constitution continued to sustain him wonderfully, however, and it was not until early on Monday morning last that the 'vital spark' took its flight from the earthly tenement that had been its abode for nearly fourscore years. The funeral took place on Tuesday afternoon, being very largely attended by all classes from every part of the district. The remains were interred in the family vault in the Church of England cemetery, the Rev. Dean Ewing officiating.

Original publication

Citation details

'Smith, Charles Throsby (Charley) (1798–1876)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 19 May 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Life Summary [details]


1 March, 1798
Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, England


25 September, 1876 (aged 78)
Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia

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