LOUIS SMITH. There are few men who possess a greater personal familiarity with Kansas history dating from territorial days to the present than "Louie" Smith, as everyone knows him in Southwestern Kansas. Mr. Smith is now a retired farmer living at Meade and has made his home in this section of the state for thirty-four years. His life record constitutes an unusual personal chapter in the history of the state.
He is an Englishman by birth. He was born in the County of Norfolk, 100 miles from London, May 17, 1836, and for all the ruggedness of his experience has lived more than fourscore. His father was named Samuel Smith. An only son among three children, Louis Smith was a youth when he started from England alone for the United States. He began his journey at Yarmouth, traveled to London, and there took passage on the Queenstown, an American ship bound for New York. The journey was made without special incident except for encountering a violent storm, and about four weeks after setting sail from London he landed at New York. From there he went up the Hudson River to Albany, over the New York Central lines to Rochester, by canal boat to Albion, New York, and spent eighteen months there, working for a living and also attending school in that country. His next stage of progress westward took him to Dixon, Illinois, where he worked as a teamster hauling rock and other material. Going then to Rock Island, he found a job in a hotel, and from there went to St. Louis and enlisted as a cabin man on the steamboats of the Mississippi and Ohio. He made trips as far south as New Orleans and up the Ohio to Cincinnati. He remained on the river until 1857, the year which first brought him to Kansas as a witness and participant of the stirring scenes of this border country. Mr. Smith was at Lawrence in 1857, and of many events described elsewhere in the history of this old capital he was a witness. He worked in the Johnson House at Lawrence, but in the fall of 1858 went across the plains as cook for a party of gold hunters bound for Pike's Peak. The caravan comprised three wagons and a dozen men. On one occasion they were beset by a band of Indians, evidently hostile, and who threatened to wipe out the party altogether. The foreman of the white men explained that they were traveling with orders from the Governor of Kansas. This mollified the Red Skins, who at once put away their bows and arrows and came into camp on most friendly terms. Mr. Smith had to cook supper for the entire outfit, and need an entire sack of flour for biscuits, besides large quantities of meat. After eating and smoking the friendly pipe the Indians left, carrying with them a supply of provisions. As reward they loaned a chief and two bucks to guard the little white band for three days. Reaching Colorado the gold seekers established themselves on Sugar Creek, four miles from where Denver now is. Mr. Smith also took a mining claim, upon which he found shale gold and worked it. The next year he returned to Lawrence for provisions, but then decided that he would not go back to the mines and instead resumed his work in the Johnson House. In 1860 he made another trip across the plains in company with a brother-in-law. This journey was made without molestation from hostile Indians. Hundreds of emigrants and gold seekers were then crossing, and the old Santa Fe trail was well worn. Mr. Smith and his brother-in-law engaged in sluice mining in California Gulch, but in the fall returned home to Kansas and Mr. Smith then located at Blackjack, an historic locality frequently mentioned in early Kansas annals.
Just south of that settlement he took a pre-emption, but afterwards sold his relinquishment. On April 4, 1862, his military service began when he enlisted in the Union army in Company D of the Thirteenth Battalion of the Missouri State Militia under Colonel Nugent. He was mustered in at Harrisonville, Missouri, was sent to Independence, and was engaged in escorting the United States mail from there to Pleasant Hill. He was in the fight at Independence August 11, 1862. Though his colonel ordered the surrender of the command Mr. Smith with some of his comrades and with some Illinois troops escaped and made their way to Kansas City. He was discharged before completing a year of service and afterwards joined the Kansas State Militia. He took part in the battle of Westport and in some other skirmishing along the border, and also witnessed some of the scouts of the Quantrell band on their way to the sacking of Lawrence. The next morning early he saw the smoke from the burning ruins of that town, and subsequently witnessed the passage of the retreating foe over the highway to Missouri.
Mr. Smith is one of the few men in Western Kansas fully competent to tell what the life and conditions were during the Civil war epoch. After the war he engaged in farming near Blackjack, subsequently moved to Americus, Kansas, and then went across the line into Missouri and lived in St. Clair County and Bates County, in all of which localities he did farming. It was from Bates County, Missouri, that he came into Southwestern Kansas and established his home in Meade County.
Into this western region he traveled in the fall of 1884, and settled twenty-five miles southeast of Meade upon a homestead. His claim was along Five Mile Creek. On this prospecting tour he was accompanied by a son-in-law and a neighbor boy and all of them took claims in the same locality. In 1885 Mr. Smith brought his family out to the home he had prepared for them, his house being a sod and rock dwelling in the side of a hill containing a single room. After breaking some prairie he began freighting from Dodge City to Englewood and Camp Supply, and freighting gave him much of his living in those early years. It was a business which he kept up until the construction of the Englewood Branch Railway. Such shifts of employment were necessary since his crops were irregular and undependable. Gradually he got into the cattle business. The equipment with which he began life in Meade County was two teams, two cows, half a dozen pigs and some ducks and chickens. For all his other experiences the cattle industry has been the permanent and reliable department of his enterprise. He and his wife and family experienced some of the real hard times. They always felt they were too poor to get away from the country. Many of their neighbors left, and this was in the nature of a double discouragement to those who remained, though the fact proved a blessing in disguise, since it threw open the range and made it profitable for him to engage in stock raising on the free grass. Mr. Smith continued to use the open range as long as he could, and after twenty-two years of residence at his first location sold out in February, 1907. His pioneer dugout had been succeeded by better improvements from time to time, and he left his land well improved as a farm, with barn, granary, sheds and house.
The locality is endeared to him by many of the family associations, and he was a factor in its life, not only as a farmer but as a good citizen. He was one of the organizers of the school district No. 5, known as the Five Mile School, and was a member of its board all the time he lived there. His children went to school in that district, and three of his daughters after completing their education were teachers in the school. Mr. Smith also served as a trustee of Sand Creek Township, but never held a county office. Politically he has been an unwavering republican, having started to vote at Dixon, Illinois, and supporting John C. Fremont for president when the republican party was in its first presidential campaign. He twice voted for Abraham Lincoln, and has never missed a republican presidential election through all the years of the party's history.
At Blackjack, Kansas, November 17, 1859, Mr. Smith married Sophia Hanson. They are one of the oldest married couples in Western Kansas, and their married lives cover more than the period of Kansas history as a state. Mrs. Smith was born in Norway and came to the United States when sixteen years old with her mother and other members of the family. Mr. and Mrs. Smith now have children and grandchildren, some of whom are living near them, and others are widely scattered over the western states. Nine children were born, named Etta, Isabel E., Anon, William L., James T., Charles L., Florence A., Laura May and Maggie Rosella. Etta is the wife of Samuel Hink, of Clark County, Kansas, and their family consists of William L., Lehman G., Oletha and Etha, twins, Mabel, Lottie, Jesse, Alonzo and Charlie. The daughter Isabel is the wife of U. G. Park, of Englewood, Kansas, and their family consists of Ethan, Naomi, Nettie and Lewis. Anon is a resident of Garden City, Kansas, and by his marriage to Lizzie Truhart has children named Nina M., Eddie L., Anon, Jr., Albert, Robert and Leanna. The son William L. died when young. James T., a resident of Portland, Oregon, married Ollie Wilkins, and their children are Chloe, Otto and Urban. Charles L., of Garden City, Kansas, married Bertha Long, and his children are Harry, Herman, Wyona, Lois and Lester. Florence A. is the wife of Harry Williams, of Minneola, Kansas, and she has a daughter, Mercedes. Laura M. married Henry Burford, of Meade, and their family consists of Opal Marie, Zona May and Helen Elizabeth. The youngest of the family, Maggie Rosella, now deceased, married A. L. Young of Englewood, and was the mother of two sons, Leonard and Arthur L.
Because of his long residence in Kansas Mr. Smith had the rare opportunity to participate in the stirring events of this commonwealth during its territorial period, through the war of the rebellion and the days of reconstruction, and also as a pioneer in developing one of the rich and fertile districts of the southwestern quarter of the state. He came to know personally and enjoyed the esteem of some of the big men of Kansas. General James H. Lane, Kansas' first United States senator, was a guest at the old Johnson House at Lawrence while Mr. Smith was employed there, and he served the General with an oyster supper prepared by Mrs. Smith, who was then the hotel cook. Mr. Smith was personally acquainted with Senator Plumb and Senator Ingalls, and knew other pioneers who attained positions as governors and prominent men of affairs. It is a source of creditable pride with him that he has lived a span of years which has covered the making of Kansas and has borne a humble and useful part in the settlement of many great national questions.
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.
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