Smiths Mill Campground offers 28 tent campsites with adjacent vehicle parking, and 5 drive-in sites for camper trailers, caravans, campervans and larger tents. All sites are unpowered. Maximum of 6 people per site. All campsites need to be booked in advance.
Bookings and fees are required year-round, and are charged per campsite. Bookings can easily be made online using Parks Victoria's booking page.
The following text is displayed on a beautifully presented information sign at Smiths Mill Campground
SMITH'S MILL - STEP BACK IN TIME
Harold Smith's sawmill operated here for about 20 years, from the early 1930s to 1950. It was one of a number of mills working in the Grampians before the national park was established in 1984.
Only a few relics of the mill remain today, but with the help of this information board and on-site signs you can explore the area and find out about the mill, its owner and how it worked.
If you have more information about the history of the mill that you would like to share, please contact the Horsham Historical Society, 33 Pynsent Street, Horsham.
Harold Smith 1877 - 1955
Harold SMith was born in Horsham on 29 April 1877 to John and Elizabeth Smith, and grew up on his father's farm at Lower Norton, 12 km south-west of Horsham.
He first worked as a salesman then joined his brothers working on the farm. Harold was a member of the Victorian Rangers (civilian militia) and served on the Arapiles Shire Council.
In November 1914, aged 37, he joined the 8th Battalion of the AIF. Harold went to Gallipoli and was wounded in action there in April 1915, and was sent home. He was discharged on December 1915.
In 1920 his father decided to split up the farm. His brothers remained farming and he was paid out. Harold's share was 10,000 pounds. At this time the average house was worth just 400 pounds, so this was a lot of money.
In February 1922 Harold bought land in McPherson Street, Horsham, and built a house for his wife Mary and their three children. He also started a timber and general hardware business next to the house. The business soon expanded and he bought adjacent land.
Buying a sawmill
By the early 1930s Harold could have retired comfortably, but instead he bought a sawmill at this site to supply his business with timber. He obtained a boilermaker's 'ticket' so he could operate the steam-powered mill. His sister Mamie took over the running of the business in Horsham and Harold stayed at the mill during the week in a house he named 'Wywurri'.
Life at the mill
Because of its distance from any town, workers lived at the mill during the week. On Friday afternoons most made the two-hour journey home to Horsham or Halls Gap to spend the weekend with their families, returning on Sunday afternoons to start early Monday.
There were around 15 employees who were mostly long-term workers. Basic accommodation was provided: houses for Harold Smith and two married men and their families, and huts for the single workers over the creek from the mill. These huts had just a bed, table and chair. Married workers tended to move on once their children reached school age, as there were no schools nearby.
Food supplies were taken to the mill each Sunday and added to during the week when the truck returned from taking timber to the yard in Horsham. In addition, meat, mail and papers were dropped off at Rosebrook Homestead in Wartook to be collected and taken to the mill. Fresh water was pumped from the nearby MacKenzie Creek, which never ran dry.
The mill and the timber
At this time the Forests Commission managed the Grampians and its timber. The mill had a forestry lease and the Commission controlled where trees could be felled. Long Gully north of Lake Wartook was a main source of timber. Logs also came from Brimpaen and north of Zumsteins.
An old Chevrolet ute would take the men to Long Gully, where they felled the trees by hand with axes and crosscut saws. It was tough work. For safety the men would throw stones at other cutters if they got to close to the area where they were felling. At the call of 'Billy O!' they all stopped work to enjoy a cup of billy tea.
Weather conditions dictated work. Some logs were not taken to the mill until spring because it was too boggy in winter. Unusable logs were burnt to keep the area clear for summer.
Caterpillar tractors, trucks and timber jinkers took logs to the mill. Some red gum logs were nine feet (nearly three metres) in diameter so transporting them was difficult. The edge of the narrow gravel road would often give way and the logs had to be pulled back onto the road. This became a major problem in the 1940s when tourist buses started using the roads.
The mill was powered by a steam engine with flat belt drives to a shaft that drove the circular saws. These belts could slip off their wheels and injure anyone standing nearby.
At about 7.15 pm on Friday 10 February 1950 a fire started in the mill. It was not noticed until falling iron from the roof caused the steam whistle to sound, and by midnight the mill had completely burnt to the ground.
This was one of the most serious fires for years around Horsham. The loss, put at 5,000 pounds, included 13 saws worth a total of 1,000 pounds and a steam engine valued at 2,000 pounds. Large stocks of valuable timber were also burnt.
The Forests Commission did now allow the mill to be rebuilt here as regulations had changed following the disastrous 1939 fires and mills were being relocated in towns rather than in the forests. Harold restarted the business in Osborne Road, Horsham.
Naturalist and community leader
Harold Smith was a very keen naturalist and loved the bush. When wet weather stopped the mill working he would explore the forest to see wildflowers and orchids. He passed his love of the bush on to his workers by highlighting the damage they could cause to it.
Throughout his life Harold was a member of community groups like the Horsham and District Base Hospital, the Horsham Rotary Club and the Horsham Agricultural and Pastoral Society. He was also a very active member of the Anglican Church and the Masonic Lodge.
Harold was also a great community worker. When he died on 14 September 1955, aged 78, the Mayor of Horsham stated that he was 'a person who placed service to others above selfish aspirations'.
(A map of the site is presented on the information sign at Smiths Mill Campground)
Follow the map and discover other signs that give further insight into the history of Smith's Mill.
Source: Information sign at Smiths Mill Campground, presented by the Horsham Historical Society and Parks Victoria.