The township of Smithfield was an early settlement originally named ‘Smith’s Creek’ after John Smith a Scottish pioneer and one of the first settlers in the area. In 1847 Smith was granted sections 1714, 1715 and 1719 along the Main North Road in the Hundred of Munno Para. The first home Smith built for his family was on Section 1714 with part of the building being used as the first inn in the area. Within six years he had purchased fourteen more sections of land and became the largest land owner in the area. In 1853 Smith again added to his land with the purchase of section 3165. This new section was surveyed and subdivided in 1854 for his new township.
The township reflected nineteenth century South Australian country town design, of streets in a grid pattern which surrounded a central square. Smith named the central square in his plan, Augusta Square. Here in the centre of town Smith wanted the site of a Presbyterian Church for the local Scottish Community. The church, one of the first buildings, was built in 1855 on land donated by Smith and was demolished in the early 1970s Initially, housing in the area was of pise construction or from quarry stone taken from the hills face. Early prosperous wheat farming families included Hogarth,Twelftree, Andrews, Smith, Bald (who also owned a quarry), Coulter, Worden and Crittenden.1
With the arrival of the railway, Smith decided to build a new two-storeyed hotel in 1857. Initially the local residents called the new hotel ‘Smith’s Folly’ because of its grandeur. Smith called it ‘The Railway Terminus’ in recognition of the railway line coming to Smithfield. From 1858 until 1875 the hotel was renamed ‘Smith’s’ and from 1876 onwards the ‘Smithfield Hotel’. Travellers passing through the area on horse drawn vehicles would use the hotel as a staging point.2
The coming of the Adelaide to Gawler railway had been important to the town of Smithfield. The Smithfield Railway Station was open 24 hours a day and had a resident stationmaster and four staff. The farming community had kept staff busy loading and unloading sheep, cattle and bagged cereal crops to and from the district. A granary was built by Smith next to the railway and still stands today. By the early twentieth century the district was well known for its hay production. Hay carters such as Mr Frisby and Mr Scott set up business carting the hay from the township.3
Part of John Smith’s homestead can be seen on the Main North Road. The remaining solid stone building erected sometime in the 1860s was used as a barn or stable by Smith. A well known legend has it that Smith kept an elephant in this barn, however this was not the case. It is also said that he used the elephant to divert the course of Smith’s Creek. However, there is no documented evidence of this. It is true to say that Smith purchased an elephant in 1854 from a Mr T Bentley, the licencee from the Cremorne Hotel in Unley. Bentley was facing court charges over the mistreatment of the elephant and wanted to get him off his hands. The elephant named Jumbo was only five years of age at the time and as an elephant’s life span is much the same as humans, Jumbo was a playful youngster. Bentley had put Jumbo on display in his tea gardens next to the hotel or used him for pulling a plough. However, Jumbo often wandered the district, getting into trouble pulling washing off the line or playing with water. The reason Bentley had been called to court was that Jumbo had picked up a trunk of wet plaster and sprayed builders working on the hotel. With this they chased him and hit him with their shovels. On 24 May 1855, the Register Newspaper makes note of the elephant’s arrival at Smithfield. It is uncertain what Smith used Jumbo for, but it is possible that he was used to build dams and divert Smith’s creek. Smith’s son, also named John, remembers leading Jumbo to and fro to raise and lower buckets to draw water from the well. He was also put to work to pull a plough and even though he did both jobs well he was too slow and Smith sold him in 1855 to Mr Matthews, licencee of the Gepps Cross Hotel for £300. The Matthews family renamed Jumbo to Tommy. Matthews used Tommy for giving people rides, dislodging bogged vehicles, and in log-pulling races against bullocks. It is believed that Tommy was contracted to the South Australian Railway Commissioners to assist with the construction of the Adelaide to Gawler Railway line between Salisbury and Smithfield, hauling heavy materials in 1857. Sadly Tommy died at age nine, after being left out on a cold and rainy night in 1858.4
A permanent school was established at Smithfield soon after the Education Bill of 1875 was introduced. The Bill meant that it became compulsory for children between the age of seven and thirteen to attend school for at least 78 days a year. In 1876 the Council of Education purchased land offered by Smith on which to build a school. Gawler funeral directors, Taylor and Forgie won the contract to build the schoolhouse and residence for £1,200.12.6. It was not uncommon for undertakers to provide building work as their services were usually advertised as undertaker and carpenter. The school was officially opened on the 1 June 1877. Within the first year application was required if the family wished to stay on. The hostel closed when the Commonwealth Migration Programme slowed and new migrants could be given accommodation at Pennington.7
Today the historic Smithfield township is surrounded by urban developments such as Smithfield Plains, Munno Para and Blakeview.Also known asSmith's CreekGeotag
2. Sarah Laurence and Taylor Weidenhofer (comp), City Of Munno Para Heritage Survey 1996, Department Of Environment And Natural Resources, South Australia, 1996, p. 266.
3. City of Playford Local History Collection, Smithfield, n.d.
4. City of Playford Local History Collection, Smithfield, Elephant legend compiled by Gillian Pearson, 1997.
5. Sarah Laurence and Taylor Weidenhofer (comp), City Of Munno Para Heritage Survey 1996, Department Of Environment And Natural Resources, South Australia, 1996, p. 248.
6. City of Playford Local History, n.d.
7. City of Playford Local History, Smithfield. n.d.