FRANK BAKER SMITH. When Rush County enumerates its real pioneers the name of Frank Baker Smith is always given prominent mention, not only because he was one of the first to come out to this part of Western Kansas but also because he was in the thick of the fight whether in struggle with primitive hardships or in local politics and other matters. Mr. Smith has lived long and usefully and eventfully. Many men retire when they can afford to but Mr. Smith, though seventy-five, prefers to be in the ranks of the workers and is giving more or less active interest to his farm in Center Township and to his business as a real estate man.
His family record in the paternal line goes back to Benjamin Smith, his grandfather, whose ancestors came out of England and to America prior to the time of the Revolutionary war and assisted the colonists to win independence. His wife, Lizzie Wedgwood, was also from England. The children were William, Jesse, Millet J. and Mrs. Mary Thomas.
Millet Jefferson Smith, father of the Rush County pioneer, was born in Durham, New Hampshire, October 26, 1799. He lived along the northeastern border of the United States, and when trouble developed over the international boundary and war between the United States and Great Britain threatened he became captain of a military company that expressed a willingness to serve in the so-called Aroostook war. However, the boundary dispute was settled without resort to arms. Otherwise he spent his life as a private citizen and as a blacksmith. When his son Frank B. was a boy he moved to New York State and later to Wisconsin. He died in 1888 at Black River Falls, Wisconsin. M. J. Smith married Mehitable W. Baker, a Quakeress and a daughter of Moses Baker of Maine. She died in Wisconsin when sixty years of age. Eleven of their children grew up, the record being as follows: Samantha I., widow of John W. Garman and living at Alma Center, Wisconsin; Sarah W., who died in Iowa, wife of Oliver Trish; Martha J., who died in Black River Falls, Wisconsin, after her marriage to Gilbert W. Cook; James W., who went into the army in the One Hundred Thirteenth Illinois Regiment and died in 1863, leaving a family of two children; Susan E., who died in Monona County, Iowa, the wife of William T. Boyd; Abbie F., who died in Iowa, the wife of David Pember; Frank B.; Charles H., of Spencer, Idaho; Fred R., of Turner, Oregon; Belle F., wife of Robert Powell, of Long Creek, Oregon; Laura, who married her sister Abbie's husband and now lives at Onwa, Iowa.
Frank Baker Smith was born near Bangor, Maine, February 21, 1841. His youthful surroundings were in the small villages of Maine and his father was a blacksmith. His educational advantages were spread over a period of only four or five years, and when about thirteen he left home and went to work on a farm at $8 a month. His wages he turned over to his father even after he reached his majority, and this method of working he continued until he entered the army. In 1857 he came west from Maine to Winnebago County, Wisconsin, and was living at Omro in that state when the war broke out and he volunteered as a soldier. He became a member of Company C, Fourteenth Wisconsin Infantry, under Captain Wilcox and Col. D. E. Wood. The regiment was ordered south in March, 1862, and joined General Grant's army in time to take a part in the great second day battle of Shiloh or Pittsburg Landing. A few months later he was at Corinth, Mississippi, October 3, 1862, where he was shot in the head. His frontal bone was fractured, but he continued in the service until July, 1863. He was discharged at Milligan's Bend, Louisiana. He had done a soldier's duty, and his record will always be a matter of pride and satisfaction to his descendants.
After his army service he continued to be a resident of Wisconsin until 1865. In that year he moved out to Iowa, and spent several years as a farmer in Monona County. While there he married and was already a man of family when he came to Kansas. Mr. Smith was married in Iowa October 27, 1867, to Miss Sarah A. Grow. She was born at Brownington, Vermont, August 2, 1839, a daughter of N. S. and Margaret (Smith) Grow. Mr. and Mrs. Smith had a happy home life for nearly thirty-four years. She died July 17, 1901. The children of their marriage were: Bertha, wife of William H. Russell; L. Guy, of Rush Center, Kansas, who married Nettie Herring, their children being Hazel, Lee, Elton and Dale; James Glenn, who died when seventeen years of age; Miss Nina, who still lives at home with her father; Clyde, a resident of Rush Center, married Daisy McCaskey and has three children named Gladys, Inez and Margaret; and Ross D., who is the youngest of the family and is still on the home farm.
Mr. Smtih[sic] brought with him to Kansas rather more equipment and capital than the average early settler. He arrived in Rush County in March, 1873, having come out by the overland route from Monona County, Iowa. He drove several teams into Kansas, and was accompanied by three young men and his father-in-law N. S. Grow. Mr. Grow homesteaded a claim, but did not remain as a settler. He went back to Iowa but eventually returned to Rush County where he died.
The home now occupied by Mr. Smith in Center Township was his pre-empted claim. It is in the northeast quarter of section 30, township 18, range 18. His first home there was a part dugout and part stone house, containing only one room, and this humble dwelling gave shelter to him, his wife and three children. Besides the horses he had three or four cows and he also acquired some sheep. Thus he did not depend altogether upon crops, which for years were total or part failures. At first he emphasized the sheep business, but disease invaded his flock, and he soon quit that branch of husbandry altogether. After that he did mixed farming and cattle raising. The year 1875 was the first banner grain year in this section of Kansas, and while Mr. Smith's plantings had been rather small he gathered a splendid crop.
That year of good crops was also marked by Mr. Smith's election to the office of county treasurer of Rush County. The first treasurer of the county was John W. Felch, and Mr. Smith was his successor. He filled the place four years and three months, and it was during his term of office that the county seat fight began. Several times he was ordered to move his office from Rush Center to La Crosse, but he declined to do so and at the end of his term he turned over his accounts and books to his successor at Rush Center.
In the meantime he had kept his farm going and he has never been completely out of the farming and stock business. He has bought and sold land for himself and others, and his present holdings comprise about 300 acres. After retiring from the office of county treasurer he became a land locater. He located people on government land, and his experience affords a graphic view of some early conditions in this part of the state. Owing to a recurrence of dry years and other causes, many claims in Rush County were settled over and over again and as frequently abandoned. Thus in a period of several years Mr. Smith located different people on the same claim many times. For a number of years he had as a partner in the land business another old settler of the region, Mr. Hallett, now deceased. Mr. Smith is still in the land business, and he still keeps his letterhead reading "Smith & Hallett, Land and Real Estate."
Politics was of course one of the principal diversions of the early settlers, and Mr. Smith had his share in political discussions almost from the time he arrived in Kansas. He is a republican, and has never wavered in that allegiance even in the face of rampant and rabid populism and free silver. Because of his business relations for the sale of railroad lands he had a railroad pass in the days before anti-pass legislation, and this privilege he used to attend nearly all the political conventions in his district and also numerous state conventions. He assisted in nominating Governor St. John the third time and also other governors. Governor St. John signed Mr. Smith's first commission as a notary public in January, 1879. Mr. Smith is still a notary and is serving his tenth consecutive term of four years each. When he came out to Kansas Rush County was in the Fifth Congressional District, and Judge Sam R. Peters was its first district judge. Mr. Smith arrived in Western Kansas in time to help organize Rush County and also his township and school district. He is now in school district No. 9 and for twenty years was one of its directors.
He is a past master of Walnut City Lodge No. 415, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, and a number of times has attended the Masonic Grand Lodge. He assisted in organizing Dahlgren Post No. 474, Grand Army of the Republic, is its present commander and has been commander in the past. He has attended the Kansas Encampment of the old veterans. At the present time the post at Rush Center contains only three members living in the town and only a few scattered through the adjacent country.
Transcribed from A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. [Revised ed.] Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1919, c1918. 5 v. (xlviii, 2530 p.,  leaves of plates): ill., maps (some fold.), ports.; 27 cm.
Tom & Carolyn Ward
Home Page for Kansas
Search all of Blue Skyways
The KSGenWeb Project