HH Baily, 'Township of Franklin, Huon River', 1875 (W.L. Crowther Library, SLT)

Franklin's first settler was said to be a 'bolter' named Martin in 1822, though the first official settler was John Price who purchased land in 1836. Lady Franklin bought land in 1838 and tried to create a 'decent yeoman' class through renting small holdings to distressed settlers. River transport took their potatoes, palings and shingles to Hobart and by 1850 the township boasted a church, school and post office. By 1866, when Franklin was proclaimed a town, its population far outstripped that of other local townships, and Franklinites could enjoy local ale from Spooners Brewery at the Lady Franklin Hotel or seek moral and intellectual improvement at the Mechanics' Institute (1860).

With its Magistrate's Court and Police Force, the town became the Huon's administrative centre, its economic life underpinned by timber, ship construction, apples and small-fruits, and a vibrant retail sector. But Franklin's geography barred further progress, and Huonville, with its more productive hinterland, became the Huon's centre. The failure of reclamation works in the 1920s, aiming to provide land for expansion, symbolised Franklin's future. Recently Franklin has undergone a transformation revitalised by tourism and its shipbuilding school.

Further reading: R Ely, The history of the Huon, Channel, Bruny Island Region, Hobart, 1989; D Hammond & A Nuss, Franklin, Hobart, 1987.

Chris Martin