Orlen Lawhead Smith, pastor of the First Christian Church of Emporia, and one of the leading divines of that denomination in Kansas, was born near Aledo, Mercer county, Illinois, Oct. 1, 1868, son of Randolph D. and Sarah (Lawhead) Smith. On his father's side he is a descendant of English ancestry, while his mother's peoples the Lawheads, were of Scotch-Irish descent and of an intellectual bent. Randolph D. Smith was born in Marion county, Ohio, Nov. 4, 1844, and accompanied his parents to Illinois when a boy. In the spring of 1864 he enlisted in the Forty-fifth Illinois infantry and served to the close of the Civil war. He then returned to Illinois and was married in Indiana, in 1867, to Sarah Lawhead. The earlier years of his business career were spent in fence building, coal mining, and running a threshing machine, the latter having been his occupation thirteen years. In 1886 he came to Kansas and in the following year bought a claim, on which he resided until 1910, when he sold that farm, comprising over 500 acres, and bought another of 240 acres of fine land along Mission creek, in Shawnee county, where he resides. He took a prominent part in the Farmers' Alliance in the days of its greatest influence and is still actively interested in different farmers' associations. He was also an auctioneer for a number of years. Both he and his wife are members of the Congregational church. John B. Smith, the paternal grandfather of Rev. Mr. Smith, was a native of Ohio and was a farmer by occupation. He served as deputy sheriff of Mercer county, Illinois, for a number of years. Isaac Lawhead, the maternal grandfather of Rev. Mr. Smith, was born in Lancaster county, Pennsylvania, but moved to Indiana with his father-in-law, in 1836, and spent the remainder of his life there, engaged in agricultural pursuits.
Rev. Mr. Smith was educated at Aledo Academy and at Eureka College, both in Illinois, his course in the former school having been completed prior to his removal to Kansas, in 1886. For the following nine years he was identified with the teaching profession, the last four years, from 1891 to 1895, as county superintendent of Phillips county, Kansas. In the meantime he was studying for the ministry, and later, in 1903, completed a four-years course at Eureka College, a sectarian school of the Christian denomination, where he received the degree of Bachelor of Arts. He accepted his first charge at Burr Oak, Jewell county, Kansas, in 1895, and remained there one year, when he was called to take charge of the Christian church at Wellington. Kan., remaining there until 1899. His next pastorate was in Elreno, Okla., where he remained five years, and in that time secured 575 additional members for the church. He took an active and prominent part in making Oklahoma a prohibition state, being one of the five men who managed the prohibition campaign. He also served as treasurer and later as chairman of the board which founded the Christian university at Enid, Okla., and was president of the Christian Endeavor Union of Oklahoma one year. On Jan. 1, 1910, he came to Emporia, Kan., as pastor of the First Christian Church, which has a membership of nearly 600, and is one of the largest congregations of the city. In June, 191O, he was elected president of the Christian Endeavor Union of Kansas. Rev. Mr. Smith took a prominent part in the reform campaign of 1888, in Kansas, and in 1890 was the Sixth district lecturer for the Farmers' Alliances of the state. He made three campaigns with Congressman William Baker, and from 1894 to 1896 was a member of the state central committee of the Populist party, together with John Breidenthal. He declined the nomination for Congress on the Populist ticket in 1896.
In 1898 was solemnized the marriage of Rev. Mr. Smith and Miss Emma Parshall, daughter of Charles W. Parshall. She was born in Iowa City, Iowa, and was reared in Kansas City, Mo. Rev. and Mrs. Smith have two children: Randolph P., who is in school, and Treda May, who is four years old. Rev. Mr. Smith is a member of the time-honored Masonic fraternity, holding his membership at Phillipsburg, Kan. As a public speaker he is forceful, impressive and eloquent, and his labors and influence in behalf of the church have been a potent element for good, resulting in the substantial growth of the various churches with which he has been connected. He takes a deep interest in the moral values of life and is especially interested in the work for young people and children and in Sunday school work. He is a member of the state board of the Christian church in Kansas. C. A. Smith, a brother, is professor in the department of history in the University of Wisconsin. D. O. Smith, another brother, graduated at the University of Kansas, where he is now studying medicine. C. I. Smith, also a brother, is a prominent and successful farmer in Shawnee county, Kansas.Pages 283-285 from volume III, part 1 of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed December 2002 by Carolyn Ward. This volume is identified at the Kansas State Historical Society as microfilm LM195. It is a two-part volume 3.
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