LEVI S. SMITH. Besides that body of pioneers who took the lands of Western Kansas in their virgin state and undertook their development through numberless vicissitudes and difficulties, this country has proved an attractive field to more recent comers and particularly to men who have made a success of farming in other states. One of this class is Levi S. Smith, who came to Edwards County in 1900, and has since lived at Kinsley. Mr. Smith was a prosperous man when he came to Kansas, having lived to develop a fine farm estate in Michigan. It was a complete and abrupt change when he moved to Kansas, where he found, instead of a timbered area, the rolling prairies originally covered only with buffalo grass, but in fertility hardly less attractive than the soil of Michigan.
Mr. Smith was born in Chautauqua County in Western New York November 11, 1846. He has lived past the Psalmist's span of years, but is still active. He had only the advantages of the rural schools, and during his active business career has found opportunity to supplement what he learned in a country school back in New York.
When not yet nineteen years of age Mr. Smith went to Michigan, arriving in Eaton County January 14, 1865. He moved into the midst of the woods of that county. It was necessary to cut a wagon road from the nearest highway to his land, and once there he proceeded with characteristic vigor to the development and creation of a home. Years brought him complete reward for his ambition and efforts, and he had an ideal Michigan home. Besides the acres he brought under the plow he erected a fine farm residence, barns and other improvements, and his industry was that of a grain raiser and sheep feeder. He brought his stock animals from Chicago, and after feeding them marketed at Buffalo. For a number of years he served as county commissioner of Eaton County, and was a member of the board of education of his district for nine years. In politics then and always he has been a democrat.
Finally, seeking wider opportunities for his activities than could be obtained in the populous district of Michigan, he came to Kansas. Here he invested in lands in Franklin Township of Edwards County and began developing his holdings. He bought the entire section 3, township 25, range 17. The land had no improvements, and he employed tenants to work it and develop it. On this land he has since built two large granaries, a barn 38 by 42 feet, fourteen feet to the square, also a residence of seven rooms. Windmills supply the water for home and stock. Of the section all but eighty acres have now been brought under cultivation and are devoted to wheat and corn. In wheat production Mr. Smith's best crop has ranged between twenty to twenty-five bushels to the acre. The smallest yield brought nine bushels to the acre. He has had some large corn crops. The land in his section of the county is well adapted to the growing of the yellow cereal, and his own farm has produced many thousands of bushels. Here, as in his former Michigan home, Mr. Smith has proved one of the substantial farm makers and rural home developers. When he came to Kansas he combined general farming with stock raising, but as a result of cheap prices paid for cattle he soon abandoned that and turned to grain.
After getting well established as a farmer Mr. Smith went into an even more important work when the general interests of the community are considered. This was the general co-operative movement among farmers. He promoted co-operative stores, and also combined and created stock companies and talked and advocated such plans with his farmer neighbors. During the few years he was active in that work he promoted stores at Kinsley, Belpre, Halstead and Mound Ridge.
His attention was next turned to railway promotion. He was connected with the Wichita, Kinsley and Denver Air Line Railway. The company was organized, Mr. Smith being chosen president. A survey was made from Wichita to Scott City. As a result of adverse congressional legislation toward railroads it became impossible to float the sale of the bonds and the building of the road had to be suspended. More recently Mr. Smith has become connected with the development of oil in Western Kansas. He had acquired experience in the oil fields of Pennsylvania when a young man and felt competent to locate oil trends and take charge of the promotion of a company for securing leases and beginning development. As a result he has acquired a controlling interest in more than 50,000 acres in Edwards and Hodgeman counties. He is also a director of the Guarantee Title & Trust Company of Wichita, capitalized at $245,000, which has organized the Guarantee State Bank of Wichita, housed in the same building, with water proof vault. He has an active connection with a live gold mining concern operating on the Taylor River in Colorado.
In ancestry Mr. Smith traces his descent from one of the passengers of the Mayflower which landed the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock in 1620. His grandfather, Joseph Smith, was born near Cabot, Vermont, and was both a farmer and blacksmith. He built the first church in his community, making the nails at his own forge. Two of these nails hang on the wall of his grandson's office in Kinsley, suspended by a ribbon. This marks the interest the family has in their history. Joseph Smith also raised a regiment of troops in Vermont for service in the War of 1812, but he died before the regiment was mustered in. He married Miss Betsy Adams, a first cousin of John Quincy Adams. They had two sons, Joseph and William S., and a daughter, Faluria, who never married.
Joseph Smith, Jr., father of Levi S., was born in Cabot, Vermont, July 3, 1809, and was the forerunner of the family into Western Michigan. He built a farm in the woods of Michigan and lived there until his death at Bowne Center in Kent County June 20, 1874. He was a democrat and a member of the Methodist Church. He married Matilda McConnell, who was born near Belfast, Ireland, March 11, 1799, a daughter of William McConnell, who brought his family from Ireland to the United States. She died at Bowne Center, Michigan, July 8, 1880. Their children were: John, who was born April 8, 1844, lived as a farmer in Michigan, Illinois and Kansas, acquired extensive interests as a stock man in Western Kansas and died at Kinsley June 16, 1907, leaving a large family; and Levi S., the only other child.
Levi S. Smith was married at Wattsburg, Erie County, Pennsylvania, December 19, 1867, to Miss Parintha A. Maxon. Her father was Daniel S. Maxon, a lawyer of Jackson, Michigan. Mr. and Mrs. Smith were married about twenty years, had no children, and her death occurred in Michigan in June, 1887. At Nashville, Michigan, May 9, 1899, Mr. Smith married Ella B. Barber, who was born at Battle Creek, Michigan, April 24, 1858, a daughter of Stephen D. and Mary E. (McCanley) Barber. Her mother's mother was a Miss Gregory of a New Hampshire family. Stephen D. Barber was born near Syracuse, New York, a son of William Barber, who died in that locality and whose widow subsequently came with her family to Calhoun County, Michigan. Stephen D. Barber grew to manhood in the vicinity of Battle Creek, became a millwright and contractor and at the time of his death at Nashville, in March, 1899, at the age of seventy-three, was engaged in milling. His wife died at Kinsley, Kansas, in 1905. The children were: Frank Barber, of Kinsley; Mrs. Smith; and Emma, wife of A. F. B. Odein, of Hot Springs, Arkansas.
Mr. and Mrs. Smith have an adopted son, Ernest D. Smith, who is connected with the Stockgrowers National Bank at Cheyenne, Wyoming. He married Florence Reed. Mr. and Mrs. Smith occupy one of the two brick residences of Kinsley, a commodious and attractive home, erected in 1906.
Mr. Smith became identified with the Masonic fraternity at Nashville, Michigan, Lodge No. 255, and is now a member of Mount Moriah Lodge No. 179 at Kinsley. He is a trustee of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and his wife is active in the church and the Foreign Missionary Society.
Mr. and Mrs. Levi S. Smith recently made to Southwestern College of Winfield, Kansas, a gift of $25,000 for the purpose of building a dormitory to be known as the "Mr. and Mrs. Levi S. Smith Home for Young Women." This munificent gift makes possible a dormitory for young women which will cost $50,000 total. This is the largest individual gift given at any one time in support of Christian education within the territory.
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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