Local Identities

Harry Smith of Mornington Mill

The recent opening of Camp Mornington as a youth centre, and the publishing of the brief history of the town which is no more, has brought to light some wonderful memories of the old days at Mornington. Among these memories are many of the manager, Harry Smith and his family. This is a brief history of that family, and of his life before he built the mill at Mornington, to settle there for the rest of his life.

Harry had been a mate on a Norwegian sailing ship before settling in South Australia at the age of 19. Several years later he married Hielda Mattner, at the same time working in a timber mill at Naracoorte, where their first child Augusta was born. Another daughter Edith was born there and a third daughter, Matilda was born in Albany, after their arrival in WA.

This was in 1887, when Harry Smith was engaged by C and E Millar (of Millar Bros), to work at their timber mill in Torbay. This mill was a very busy one, engaged in cutting sleepers for the railway line being constructed from Albany at that time. The family lived at Torbay and at Denmark, where Harry was principal benchman and proved his worth by working up to be manager of the mill. Two sons Henry and George were born during the stay at Denmark. The next move came when Harry, in company with Mr Teasdale-Smith, a brother‑in‑law of the Millars, was chosen to look for new timber milling sites further north.

The Yarloop area was selected after looking around. They inspected a site at Wagerup in June 1895 and a few months later trainloads of workers and their families arrived from Torbay to begin the mill at Yarloop and prepare the yards to store the timber from mills in the hills.

Mornington Mill came later, and after Harry had built the mill and a home for his family, they were brought up from Denmark. They lived in the ‘Big House’, until Harry’s death in 1937. Two more children were born at Mornington, James and Grace. These two were renewing old friendships at the opening of Camp Mornington recently. After her husband’s death, Hielda moved to live with her son Jim and his wife Janet, at Wokalup, where she died in 1938.

‘Mornington Man’s Story’, Community News, (Coordinated by Harvey Shire Community Committee), No. 42, December 1979, p. 11.

NOTE: Harry Smith, also known as ‘Big Smith’, was the Manager of Mornington Mill from 1898 until his death in 1937.