Born in Scotland, Smith was educated at University College,Durham University receiving an MA in 1852 and held the post of curator and chaplain at Northumbria before he arrived in New South Wales with his family in 1855. He moved to Canberra and lived at a cottage at Acton until 1873 when he and his family moved into the new Glebe House (which was demolished in the mid 20th century). Many of Canberra's trees were propagated from the trees that he planted around Glebe House. In 1889 he was thrown from his horse and broke a leg. He was unable to ride again and had to visit his parish in a carriage. In 1905 he retired to Queanbeyan where he died in 1908. He is buried at St John's.