Smith Creek was a small running stream of clear water originating from a spring in the foothills that passed through John Smith’s land, from where its name derived. Stemming from One Tree Hill, the creek runs down the side of Uley Road, passed over Main North Road and continues alongside Curtis Road.
The creek gave the surrounding area importance and where early settlers chose land. The creek first made its presence in the late 1840’s, before that time there was a deep dry creek, or gully, but no water which extended beyond the spring. It was believed that the creek first broke out in the latter part of 1847. Previously there was no flow of water there except after rain. It did not reach the Main North road until 1849.
The creek was extended for about 1 mile due west of the town in 1850. Smith Creek ran constantly for many years but became an intermittent stream and by 1870 it ran only in time of flood.
The creek carries the flood water away from the town. Although few references to flooding were found, in May 1875 the railway line was under, 1-3 feet of water. The Creek flooded again in June 1889 and February and July 1890.
It was reported in the Bunyip on 11 July 1890;
The rains of the first week have deluged the neighbourhood of Smithfield; Smith’s Creek ran in a good volume, and the railway in many places was under water. In the neighbourhood of Smith’s Creek is a dam that is supplied from the creek, in which has been stocked with fish. It is supposed that some of these fish escaped in the flood and the lads of the township have had quite a gay time of it in fishing in the creek.
Quite a number of them have been caught and of a decent size, one of them measuring a foot in length.
As Smith’s Creek crosses the Main North road, in times of flood twice as much water goes down the main road as is carried away by the creek, doing damage all the way.
Smith’s Creek flowed past the Yelki property at One Tree Hill whether it flowed continuously, at least until 1932.
Until the 1850’s the creek was never known to flow across Main North Road during the summer months but became more powerful and constant that James Adamson constructed a flour mill at the base of the foot hills.
Adamson’s altered the water flow of the creek, stopping regular flow of water by 1854. He stored water in a dam to elevate the water to a sufficient height to work his mill. At this point the water fell 9 metres enough to work the 10 metre wheel. The dam was about 50 or 60 feet in length, and about 20 or 25 feet in width. It was used as a roadway. It was from 8 to 10 deep on the lower side. The dam was constructed in October, 1851.
Previously to the construction of the dam, farmers could get their water for their cattle at the main road but now they must drive their cattle two miles previously to give them a drink. The water stoppage discouraged improvements as to who would stop in an area where the water was cut off.
This action resulted in a Supreme court case in1855 as to who has the right to the flow of water in a natural creek, or the power of another landholder to divert the water from its natural course.
Previous to the erection of the dam the water used to flow through Smith’s property, except in the very height of summer, but there would be water always in the holes. It used then to stop for a few hours during the heat of the day, but it would resume running in the evening, and continue during the night.
From 1851 – 1853 there was a good supply of water. The bed of the creek below the dam would, when the water was stopped, dry up and open so that when the water would be let out there would be a waste before the bed of the creek became so saturated as to allow the water to flow.
Grinding in the mill commenced in 1854, but the stream had by that time diminish, and it had continued to diminish.
Gavin Scowler, farmer, Smith’s Creek, had known the creek since August, 1848. At that time it flowed across the Main North-road. In January, 1849, it only reached to within a mile of the main road. In 1852 and 1853 the creek ran strongly, but since then it had been gradually decreasing in volume. It varied in strength considerably during this summer.
W.J. Peterswald had some property on Smith’s Creek. The creek had each year diminished. The number of cattle that were watered on his ground last year nearly doubled. He attributed the want of water to the absence of rain.
The creek ran by Thomas Hogarth’s property, 100 acres on the banks of the creek near the house. The area had got so trodden with the feet of cattle coming to water and camping on it that the rain couldn’t penetrate it. When Thomas first settled in the area, the creek flowed past his door giving him a plentiful supply of running water throughout the year. After a few years either in consequence of the dry seasons or been dammed up and the water diverted to turn a water mill, the creek has dried up and water had to be carted from the spring heard, two miles from the house. A well has been dug a little distance from the house but was unsuccessful. A tank was then used to lead the water unto it by a plough furrow from the creek, to save the water for summer use. The tank is a round one 33 feet in diameter and 12 foot deep. It was built up with a stone wall lined with Portland cement and held enough to supply the house as well as the horses and cattle for four months. It was covered with a galvanised roof and pump attached. A second tank was built to collect the water from the house roof.
The creek where it crosses the Main North Road was locally known as Breakneck Creek. At this point there used to be a sharp bend and motorists taking the bend too fast after a long straight stretch of road used to end up in the creek. The bend was straightened out by the Highways Dept in 1960 when they were putting in the second track of the Main North Road during the construction of Elizabeth.
A footbridge to be built at Smithfield near James Scott’s property in 1886.