The subject of this sketch is R.W. Smith, the resident and owner "Clover Valley Stock Farm," one of the most beautiful and valuable estates in the country, situated in the southwestern corner of Cloud county. Mr. Smith is a grandson of the Reverend Joseph Smith, who had charge of the Cross Creek and Buffalo churches in Washington county, Pennsylvania, in 1790, and from that time onward until his death in 1800. His salary was small; too small to support himself and family, so he bought a farm on credit, expecting to meet the consideration to be paid with a salary promised by the people of his parish. Time rolled on until three years' income was due. The people wanted to remunerate their minister, but how could they? Wheat was abundant but there was no market; it would not bring over a dime per bushel; even salt had to be brought across the mountains on pack horses and in exchange for one bushel of that commodity twenty-one bushels of wheat was given. At last the day dawned when the minister's salary must be forthcoming or lose his farm, for the mortgage was overdue. Meetings were called to consider the matter but nothing tangible materialized until one day, Mr. Moore, who had the only mill in the settlement, agreed that if the people would furnish a boat, barrels and wheat he would give them a boat load of flour, providing they could get it transported to New Orleans, adding that the proceeds would pay off the debt. The offer was received with favor; coopers and boat builders went to work with a will and farmers subscribed wheat lavishly. Many of the brethren donated fifty bushels and others more. Within a month the boat was loaded and ready for market, but in the meantime a new difficulty arose. No one volunteered to take the transaction in hand or seemed willing to go on a venture fraught with so many dangers and hardships. Finally Elder Smiley, an old man, and a granduncle of our subject, offered his services, while two men were induced to accompany him. Starting on this journey was an event which called forth not only the Pennsylvania settlement but the neighboring colony in Virginia to attend the Elder in his journey to the landing, fifteen miles distant. Men, women and children congregated together to bid - as many thought - the old gentleman and his assistants a final adieu, an everlasting farewell, and as they gathered at the river many tearful good-byes were exchanged.
More than nine months elapsed and no message was forthcoming from the little crew of brave and daring men until one Sabbath morning, to the joy and satisfaction of the whole community, Elder Smiley appeared in the congregation looking younger and better that when he had departed on this perilous journey. A meeting was appointed for Monday following and the good Elder reported as follows: "I have faced more dangers than I could tell you about in a week, but thanks be to God I am safe, and sold the flour at twenty-seven dollars per barrel." He then presented a hugh buckskin "poke" and poured on the table such a pile of Spanish gold as that primitive people had never seen. The church debt was paid and the pastor, Reverend Joseph Smith, our subject's grandfather, made independent, and there was cause for universal rejoicing. Te[sic] relate Elder Smiley's experiences on this journey would fill a volume. It was before the days of navigation and he made the return trip from New Orleans on foot and was twice captured by the Indians.
Mr. Smith's maternal grandmother was Eleanor Adams and after her husband's death she married Isaac Stout, of Rome, Adams county, Ohio. Isaac Stout was captain of an Ohio regiment in the war of 1812, and a major in the Mexican war. Mr. Smith was born in Lewis county, Kentucky, April 13, 1841. He is a son of Alexander and Margaret (Stout) Smith. His father was a native of Pennsylvania, and subsequently emigrated to Kentucky, where he was a farmer and boat builder, following the latter avocation on the Ohio river. His mother was born in Ohio but of Scotch parentage. He removed with His parents from Kentucky to Missouri in 1857, and returning to visit friends in his native state during the period of the gathering war clouds, he joined Company I, Fourth Kentucky Infantry, under Colonel Speed S. Fry, and during his three years of service protecting the glorious stars and stripes - for, though he was a Kentuckian born and bred, he was loyal to his country - he participated in thirteen engagements. Thirteen has been Mr. Smith's lucky number, always producing good fortune. He was born on the 13th instant and many of the important or weighty matters of his career have seemingly hinged upon this ordinarily condemned numeral.
Mr. Smith's career and that of the members of his regiment were distinguished by fearlessness of danger and undaunted spirit. They fought valiantly in the battles of Mill Springs, Kentucky, the second days' fight at Shiloh, Chichamauga, Missionary Ridge and siege of Atlanta. His Company experienced the greatest hardships while on the McCook raid. Of their nine hundred and fifty-two brave soldiers, all but one hundred and twenty were killed, wounded and captured. Company I, after a hard and well fought struggle, was forced to surrender. The Confederates came upon them about daylight and were driven back, but the rebels were reinforced and as the Union soldiers repaired to a crossing further down the stream they suddenly found themselves in the midst of an overwhelming number of rebels, and but fourteen men of Company I escaped, four were killed, nine wounded and the others taken prisoners. Mr. Smith was one of the fortunate fourteen, but while cutting his way through he was slightly wounded in the hand. When the little fragment of men swam their horses through the Chattahoochee river and reached the Union lines at Marietta fourteen days later they were exhausted. They had been almost constantly in the saddle and five days during this time were without sleep, and with but very little to eat.
After serving three years, two months and sixteen days, Mr. Smith was honorably discharged, returned to his home in Carroll county, Missouri, and a few months later emigrated to Kansas and on October 19, 1863, he filed on a homestead. His present fine country seat, then on the frontier. Could Mr. Smith and his father's family have "dipped into the dim future" and foreseen all the sorrows and horrors of Indian warfare, their hopes for a home in the "wild west" would have died within them. After filing on his land and building his dugout, fourteen dollars, a wagon, a span of horses, and a cow represented Mr. Smith's capital stock. The second year the Indians stole his horses and the cow died. The Union Pacific railroad was under course of construction and he became an employe, earning enough to procure another start in life and in December, 1866, he was married to Mary Ann Hendershot, who came to Kansas from Ohio with her parents a short time previously. They are still living in the Solomon valley just over the line from Cloud, in Ottawa county.
Mr. Smith's father located a homestead on Brown creek, in Mitchell county, in 1866, and was the earliest settler in that vicinity. With the building of the railroad the Indians assumed a more hostile attitude. Prior to this event the Cheyennes, Sioux and Arapahoes were friendIy and would camp near by, but they were opposed to civilization and with the building of a railroad through the country they realized their hunting grounds would soon become cultivated fields and the buffalo would be no more. Thus thinking the settlers were encroaching upon their rights, with savage threats they ordered Mr. Smith's father to leave the country, but he was heedless of their declarations until they murdered Bell, Bogardus, the Marshall boys and young Thompson. Directly after this raid took place Mr. Smith and his brother Alex moved their father's family onto what is now known as the Thomas Bennett farm, two miles southwest of Delphos. They had laid in a supply of provisions, prepared comfortable winter quarters and the father, with his two sons and their families feeling more secure, occupied the same dwelling. Although they felt a security in numbers they were destined to share the awful fate of many pioneers. Our subject, with a younger brother, had gone to Asherville for the purpose of joining a militia that was being organized for the protection of settlers. During their absence the father and son, A.C. Smith, were plowing furrows around some hay stacks to protect them from the prairie fires that were so common in those days, and while engaged in this, a party of Indians rode up from behind and shot them both down. The women ran screaming from the house, entered the brush along the river, waded through the stream for a considerable distance that the savage demons might lose trace of them, and finally dragged themselves out of the water, and with hearts wrung with a anguish and despair they crawled into the underbrush. These terror-stricken women - the mother and her two sons' wives - supposed the father and son were killed outright and knew not what fate, perhaps a thousands times worse than death, would be imposed upon them. But their screams had frightened the cowardly murderers, for an Indian is only brave when all the advantages are his. Who can imagine the horror-stricken scene that presented itself to the brothers on their arrival home the next morning, to find the father still living, but with a mortal gunshot wound through the shoulder near the lung, and with a spear, which had gone through his mouth and passed to the outside of the neck, knocking several of his teeth out. He died at 10 o'clock A. M., shortly after their arrival. The brother whose body was not found until two days later, was shot in the back and presumably in an attempt to cross the river was drowned. Not content with the heinous crime already committed, the Indians had entered the house and destroyed everything possible. They ripped open four large feather beds, broke in the staves of three barrels of molasses, and in one conglomerated mass were feathers, flour, molasses, coffee, sugar, etc. They carried away all the sugar and coffee they could and made a hurried flight, thinking the women of the house might appear with reinforcements at any moment. The family had provided a year's supply of provisions that had been hauled from Salina. On this same raid Mrs. Morgan was taken into captivity. Several years elapsed ere this family recovered from the shock of this terrible scene and the mother, completely bent and broken down with sorrow and grief, could not throw off the burdens of her cares, and after one year of repining, joined her husband and son in their "eternal home."
Mr. Smith returned to his homestead, where they eked out an existence until 1872. During that year he received one hundred dollars additional bounty and this money he invested in twenty-five calves. Two years later he sold them and invested the proceeds in fifty calves. Two years hence he sold this herd and bought one hundred head, fed and shipped them on the market. This was the starting point of his financial success. He bought more land and more cattle. Instead of selling his stock he raised corn, fed it and reduced the bulk instead of shipping the grain. He and his sons now own one thousand two hundred and forty acres in Cloud and Ottawa counties, with over one thousand acres under cultivation. He has a herd of about two hundred finely bred cattle, and of this number one hundred and twenty-five are Herefords. His farming is diversified, wheat, corn and alfalfa being his principal crops. He was among the first farmers to introduce the raising of alfalfa into his community.
To Mr. and Mrs. Smith have been born eleven children, seven of whom are living; four sons were deceased in infancy. Frank Wiley, born March 10, 1870, is married to Marctha Carten and lives on an adjoining farm. America, born March 5, 1873, is the wife of Pierce Lynch, a farmer living in Oklahoma; they are the parents of one son, Ernest. Minnie Myrtle, born May 5, 1873, is the wife of William Jones, a farmer of Ottawa county; their children are Esther and Lucy. Alexander, born October 17, 1875; Leroy born May 31, 1877; Alva, born August 25, 1881, and Archie, born February 24, 1886. The four last named are unmarried and living at home. Bertha Ellen Lyons, born March 10, 1892, is a little girl whose parents died and she has found a home with the family of Mr. Smith. Their children have been educated principally in the schools of Delphos, driving to and from. Leroy graduated from the Delphos high school in 1898, and took a business course in the Wesleyan College of Salina, and was a student one year in the State Normal of Emporia.
Mr. Smith is a staunch Republican, and was appointed one of the first commissioners of Cloud county in 1866; he did not qualify for this office, a severe blizzard preventing his appearance, but assisted in the organization of the county. It was some time after Mr. Smith's advent in the county before Delphos, Beloit or Concordia were even thought of, and he knew every settler within a radius of many miles or between Solomon City and the head of the Solomon river, until 1870. Socially, Mr. Smith is a member of Delphos Lodge, Knights of Pythias, and was commander of Wilderness Post No. 116, Grand Army of the Republic, of Delphos. Mr. Smith's brother, A.C., was the first county clerk elected in Ottawa county, but was killed before entering upon the duties of that office.
After living seven years in a dugout Mr. Smith built a two-room log house and the old landmark still stands as a monument of the shelter afforded in the primitive days. In 1893 he erected a handsome eleven-room residence, which is situated in one of the bends and on the banks of the Solomon river. This stately home is the outcome of years of suffering, privation, bloodshed and harrowing hairbreadth escapes. There are good outbuildings with stable room for fifty head of horses and sheds for all his cattle. An orchard loaded with the crimson and golden fruit and a mill from which was dispensed deliciously sweet cider is one of the author's most pleasant recollections.
Mr. Smith has witnessed the change and progress of a sandy desert, where the buffalo and Indian roamed unrestricted, into one of the most magnificent agricultural and stock raising countries in the United States, with handsome residences and fine barns on nearly every quarter section; school houses and churches that compare with those of any state in the Union, the telephone system, free rural-mail delivery at nearly every house and the recipients of these favors a contented and happy people. The present prosperous conditions do not bear out the statement made by General W.T. Sherman, while commanding the United States army in 1866, who, when appealed to for protection by the settlers of this locality, replied. "The settlement is one hundred miles too far west; that country is only fit for the Indians and buffalo."
Mr. Smith's only surviving brother, John S. Smith, is a well-to-do retired farmer, residing in Beloit. He settled in Mitchell county in April, 1866, and underwent many turbulent experiences with the redskins, at one time losing all his stock through them. John S. Smith was moving a family to Wamego, Kansas, and with them passed through Leavenworth the day prior to Quantrell's raid and massacre. They were allowed to pass through at the instigation of some Missouri abolitionist refugees.
Mr. Smith, the subject of this sketch, is awake to the interests of agriculture and stockraising; he is a director for the fifth district of the Co-operative Grain and Live Stock Association, and was recently re-elected to serve his second year.
Mr. Smith retains his Kentucky hospitality and the guest, whether friend or stranger, receives the welcome hand of fellowship his countrymen are famous for extending.
Transcribed from E.F. Hollibaugh's Biographical history of Cloud County, Kansas biographies of representative citizens. Illustrated with portraits of prominent people, cuts of homes, stock, etc. [n.p., 1903] 919p. illus., ports. 28 cm.
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