"A trip to Franklin was the highlight of our existence. It was a big bustling town then, with trenches of all the big Hobart stores… Friday night shopping was a marvellous treat. It was a blaze of light…"
These are the words of Jim Skinner of Huonville, recollecting in 1987, the Franklin of his youth in the nineteen twenties. The "blaze of light" was the result of an early local government initiative in 1916 to supply Franklin, then the civic centre of the Huon Valley, with electricity. A small hydro-electric scheme was designed by Mr. G. H. Crofts, using the water of Price's Creek to provide street and domestic electric light for the town.
Thirteen years later, in 1929 the Scheme was overtaken by the Hydro Electric Commission which monopolized the supply of electricity in Tasmania from then onwards, and the first period of fame for Price's Creek came to an end.
The present name of this tributary of the Huon river attributes ownership to John Giles Price, the first person to receive a large grant of Crown Land (1,280 acres) in this locality, in 1836.
Price, according to his biographer, J.V. Barry , was a man of "haughty and authoritarian temperament" who "valued the efficiency and predictability of a totalitarian system above the intangible benefits of a free society". He became notorious as the Muster Master of convicts in Hobart, for his inhumanity as Commandant on Norfolk Island (1846-53). Price is reputed to have been the model for the Commandant in Marcus Clarke's novel, For the Term of His Natural Life. This may help to explain his murder by convicts in Victoria in 1857.
Nevertheless, Price became friendly with the liberal-minded and progressive Sir John Franklin, Lieutenant Governor of Tasmania from 1837 - 1843 and of his wife, Lady Jane Franklin, to whom he sold 640 of his 1,280 acres. In the 1840s, Lady Jane subdivided this land into smaller blocks which became the basis of the town of Franklin. Price moved to Hobart where as "a figure of significance in the class-conscious and obsequious society of Hobart Town" he was an eligible match for Mary Franklin, Sir John's niece, of whom Sir John was legal guardian.
The end of Price's Creek hydro-electric scheme was the beginning of a period of relative decline in the fortunes of Franklin. In 1929, local government moved its headquarters to Huonville, and as road transport replaced river transport in the 1930s and 40s, so Franklin's commercial, civic and sporting life declined. The Creek became overgrown with weeks and choked with Crack Willow. Water sampling in the mid-1990s showed that Price's Creek had become one of the most polluted tributaries in the Huon catchment.
In 1998, there was a local government proposal to remove three wooden bridges which criss-crossed the Creek behind Franklin School, and straighten the last 100 metres of its course, confining it within a concrete culvert. This proposal galvanised the local community into action. The Creek had become a favourite playground and outdoor classroom of the students of the School. They petitioned Council and wrote numerous individual letters asking that the natural flow of the Creek and the delightful precinct it created should be preserved. Council agreed and the Parents and Friends Association formed a Landcare group with Council support to restore the lower reaches flowing behind the School to the state in which John Price and Lady Franklin found them.
They gained the practical support of Forestry Tasmania in removing the willows and teaching the students how to monitor the quality of the water. At the same time, steps were taken through Council's Healthy Rivers project, to remove the causes of pollution.
In 1999, a platypus, probably the first for many years, was sited in the Creek, providing evidence of its restored health. The Franklin Streetscape Reference Group resolved to re-establish a rain forest at the mouth of the Creek, starting with tree ferns, but there is still a huge task up-stream, if the restoration of this powerful little Creek is to be completed.