Undated postcard of Smithton (Tasmaniana Library, SLT)
Smithton was first settled in 1856, but growth was slow. Forestry brought life to the region, with a thriving trade to Victoria in blackwood timber from the 1880s. The Duck River valley became the timber capital of Tasmania – and still is. Most country sawmills eventually closed, but Gunns is the biggest eucalypt sawmill in Australia and Britton Bros the biggest producer of minor species, mainly blackwood.
Cleared areas were converted to farmland, with dairying, beef cattle and cropping. The Duck River Butter and Bacon Factory (1904) became the biggest in Tasmania, and Henry Jones IXL (1953, now McCain Foods) is a major vegetable processor. Tasmanian Seafoods is Australia's biggest producer of abalone. By the early 1920s Smithton had outgrown nearby Stanley, and the seat of local government moved there in 1923.
Further reading: K Pink & A Ebdon, Beyond the ramparts, Smithton, 1988; B Grey, The Duck, Smithton, 1997.