Marcus Lafayette Smith

MARCUS LAFAYETTE SMITH, of Galena, a representative man of this section, belongs to one of the earliest pioneer families of Cherokee County. He is a son of Marcus and Sarah (Rowark) Smith.

To a true American citizen there can be no more absorbing study than that of the settlement and development of the country he loves so well, and there must be few indeed who do not feel an interest in those whose pioneering feet made the first paths of civilization through wilderness where before only wild creatures had trod. Every section has had its heroes as every section has its advantages. Cherokee County with its gently undulating prairie, with its rich, loamy soil and its meandering streams could not help appearing a goodly land to those in search of pleasant homes, and despite its unsettled portions, its bands of Indians who still claimed it as their heritage, it looked so attractive to the three brothers, as they drove their ox-teams within its borders, in 1840, that they decided to face the dangers and to settle on the banks of a pleasant stream near by.

These early pioneers into Cherokee County,—Marcus, Moses and Isaac Smith,—had started from Knoxville, Tennessee, had paused in Missouri and then had come, unbidden, to this land of the Indians. They established the first homes on Short Creek and until about 1856 were the only settlers on this stream. Later, Moses removed from his farm, on the present site of Central City, and went to Arkansas, were he was lost sight of. Isaac, who located on the State line, on the present site of Cave Springs, lost his life through being accidentally shot.

Marcus Smith, a man of courage and determination, was also one of justice and consideration, these qualities being exhibited in his association with the Indians, with whom he soon established friendly relations and ever found them reliable in word and deed. He built a log shanty on Short Creek, about two miles from the present city of Galena, and this served as a shelter until he could erect one of hewed logs. When the latter was completed, the former was used for a workshop, as he was mechanic and was able to make or repair both tools and furniture and fashion many necessary articles, from household utensils and furniture to the coffins in which the dead were laid away. He also built the looms on which both the whites and Indians made cloth, and he also cultivated his land and kept "open house" for all who chanced to come that way. When the tired circuit rider came within sight of this hospitable home, he knew that a welcome awaited him. The affairs of the little settlement were discussed under Smith's roof, his opinion and judgment being consulted as long as he lived. Game was abundant at that time, wild turkeys and prairie chickens were plentiful and pigeons were so numerous that they darkened the sun in their flight. All the clothing was necessarily made at home from the flax and wool raised on the farm and the excellent dinners, which built up brawn and muscle, were cooked in the great fireplace. Fish were abundant, bass and others of the finny tribe being caught in every stream, and the family never suffered for food. Nature supplying the larder.

Mr. Smith was a type of the best pioneer class, honest, upright, deeply religious and possessing the calm judgment which many among the pioneers lacked. His death in 1854 was a serious loss to the little community. Troubles came but they never drove him from his homestead and there he passed away. His worldly wife survived lustily 1863, the troubles incident to the Civil war despoiling her home and breaking up her family, clouding the last years of a most admirable and exemplary life.

Marcus Lafayette Smith is the fifth of the family of seven children, consisting of four sons and three daughter, of which family two daughters and three sons still survive. He was born May 13, 1844, two miles east of the city of Galena, across the line in Missouri, and his boyhood was passed on the farm. His education was such as could be secured in a subscription school which was a primitive log structure that stood on the present site of Central City. The door was of puncheons and the benches were slabs, while a long slab desk sufficed to hold the copy book and the few scattered textbooks. Three months in the year was the limit of his school attendance, yet who shall say, in considering Mr. Smith today, that modern methods and appliances are necessary in the education of a useful and successful citizen.

After the death of his father, Mr. Smith continued to farm the home land and was making satisfactory progress when the Civil War broke out. Taking the advice of the officers of the Union Army, Mr. Smith decided to remain on her homestead, but our subject and his brothers were taken prisoners, their home was despoiled and for four months the sons were confined at Little Rock and Fort Smith. Finally they were exchanged at Helena, Arkansas, proceeded up the Mississippi River to St. Louis and then by trail to Rollo, that being the terminus of the railroad line; two days later, our subject's brother died, at Marsfield, Missouri, from the hardships of prison life. In the spring of 1862, Mr. Smith reached home, having come the distance from Rollo on foot. He did not feel secure from capture, but put in a small crop on the land, hoping for the best, and in the following July moved his aged mother and his family to Humboldt, Kansas. On the following day he enlisted in Company M, 9th Reg., Kansas Vol. Cav., and saw much service on the border and in Arkansas, serving until the close of the war under Captain McConnell and Colonel Linn.

After the war had ended, Mr. Smith, with the rest of the family, moved back to the old dismantled home, rebuilt the log houses and for a while followed farming on the old fields. Finally he left the farm and went down on the river and settled at the point where old Boston Mills was afterward built on land where he settled. He remained there until 1870. This property, situated two and a half miles northwest of Galena, he traded for a farm due north of Galena, to which he moved and where he continued to follow the pursuits of agriculture until about 1873. Then he returned to Boston Mills and engage in storekeeping for three years, when he removed his stock and family to Lowell. There he continued in the mercantile business for a number of years, but in the summer of 1880 he removed to Summer County, Kansas, where he was extensively interested in farming, stock-raising, merchandising and banking. For some time he also engaged in a mercantile business at Canyon City, Colorado. When the Cherokee Strip was about to be opened, he returned and remained at Wichita until the time came, when he moved to Perry with a transfer outfit and for about two years, with three good teams, did an immense transportation business. In 1896 he returned to Galena, where he had begun to develop mines on his property and settled permanently, engaging in mining until 1903. Since then he has resumed merchandising.

Mr. Smith was married in 1866, in Missouri, to Mary L. E. Kelly, who is a daughter of John D. Kelly, a prominent man of Southeastern Missouri, and they had three children, of whom two grew to maturity: J. F., who married Amanda Cummings and has three children,—Flossie May, Fleta and Marcus Lafayette, and Nannie J., who is the wife of J. P. Broomfield, of Galena, and has one child,—Maude Lee. The family belong to the Christian Church.

Mr. Smith was taken an active part in Galena affairs. He has served on the Lowell township board on the School Board and as a member of the City Council of Galena. Fraternally, he is an Odd Fellow and has passed all the chairs. He belongs also to the Frank P. Blair Post, G. A. R., of Galena. Politically a stanch Republican, he has many times been honored by appointment as delegate to various conventions.

Mr. Smith has witnessed almost all of the development of this section. He can recall crossing from Spring River to Osage Mission, a distance of 60 miles, by ox-team, not a single dwelling the whole way and not a foot of it where he could escape those early pests, the green flies and numerous snakes, many of them of a poisonous variety.


History of Cherokee County Kansas and its representative citizens, ed. & comp. by Nathaniel Thompson Allison, 1904, transcribed by David Helman, student from USD 508, Baxter Springs Middle School, Kansas, 4-25-97


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