To the early settlers of Kansas, all honor is due. To the pioneer who bore the hardship and overcame the obstacles of frontier life, the present generation should take off their hats. The subject of this sketch, U.J. Smith came into the country when the territory was designated as the Great American Desert, when destitute of law and order, and when the settlers were in constant fear and terror on account of the threatening perils that surrounded them incident to border ruffianism, and Indian depredations. He is not only one of the pioneers of Cloud county, but among the oldest settlers in the state. He, with his father Andrew Smith, emigrated west in 1855, and located in the town of Topeka, then a mere trading post. The following year, 1856 they removed to Cottonwood Falls, where they met with a serious misfortune - the death of our subject's mother. Mr. Smith had not attained his fifteenth year when he returned to his native state and enlisted in the One Hundred and Twenty-sixth New York Volunteer Infantry and participated in some of the hardest fought battle's in the history of the Civil War. His regiment took part in the battle of Harper's Ferry, Gettysburg, Ream's Station, Appomattox Court House, Cold Harbor, The Wilderness, Petersburg, and in the pursuit of Lee until the surrender. When this event took place the One Hundred and Twenty-sixth was a depleted regiment; both officers and privates came near being annihilated. Though constantly in the midst of shot and shell, Mr. Smith escaped without a wound, but was made prisoner under the surrender of Colonel Miles. He was immediately paroled but only to be captured the second time by the celebrated guerilla chieftain, Mosby, and confined in the noted Libby prison. He was subsequently carried to Belle Isle, where he witnessed many appaling sights that corroborate the fame of this rebel prison; but owing to his extreme youth Mr. Smith received better treatment than many of his comrades. Immediately after the close of hostilities Mr. Smith joined his father in Kansas, landing in the vicinity of Clyde on the last day of the year 1865, where he has been a prominent citizen for thirty-eight years: where he married, built up a home, and reared a family of useful men and women. Though a tall, slim boy but eighteen years of age, he had served three years under Uncle Sam; and this had in all likelihood stimulated his tastes for life on the frontier, for no sooner had he become one of them, and a scouting party was being selected to reconnoitre over the Indian hunting grounds than he would be one of the first to respond to the call. Mr. Smith, with Jack Billings, his comrade of pioneer times, have perhaps killed more buffalo than any two men in the county. In the chapter of buffalo stories some of their experiences are given.
Our subject's father, Andrew W. Smith, was a frontiersman for many years. Leaving New York, his native state, he emigrated in an early day to Wisconsin and thence to Kansas in 1855. Mr. Rupe, in his "Early Recollections," says of him in substance: "To oppose border ruffianism and mingle with the sense of danger incident to those turbulent times was a source of amusement to Andrew Smith. He was not created as a leader of men, but a fitting representative of an advanced portion of the masses, consequently he maintained fixed principles with honest convictions, among them the belief that right should assert itself even though it be in conflict with the laws of the country, and in accordance with these views would violate the well known fugitive slave laws with impunity. Many a southern darky has gained his freedom through Andrew Smith's connection with the underground railroad. He was a conspicious character in the early days of Kansas and came to the state with General James H. Lane, and Colonel E.G. Ross. He was a brave man, seemingly insensible to fear, even bordering on to recklessness, a trait that in all probability cost him his life. In October, 1886, Mr. Smith, in company with James Neely, and his son, the subject of this sketch, left the Elk creek settlement for the purpose of trapping. When about twenty miles west of where Cawker City now stands they were joined by a band of Otoe Indians. Mr. Smith was desirous of meeting a financial obligation and allowed the two young men to return home with a load of buffalo meat while he remained and trapped with the Indians and concluded with the remark, 'I'm going to pay that debt off or die in the attempt,' perhaps little thinking that this would be the last known of his earthly career. The Otoes declared he left them and was murdered by the Cheyennes, but suspicion pointed to them as being the guilty culprits who committed the dark deed, as the pony Mr. Smith had with him was afterwards seen in the possession of the Otoes."
Andrew Smith was twice married, his second wife being Miss Mary Morley, now the wife of John B. Rupe. To this union one son was born, Owen Smith, who lives in Clyde and is an employee in the office of C.H. Armstrong.
Uriah Smith, with Oswin Morley, narrowly escaped the fate of the Lew Cassel party. Only a few days prior to the time, and a short distance from where their massacre took place, near the head of Little Cheyenne, they were approached by three savages, followed by two others a few yards distant and still two more moving in that direction. Their attitude was that of hostile Indians with bows and arrows ready for action; but true to their Indian nature they determined to know the cost before acting. That each of the young hunters was well armed made the redskins cautious it was observed by the boys that the redskins kept in the rear. Three of them were riding a short distance in advance of the other two and just before they reached their wagon the trio overtook them and shaking hands said, "Good Injuns."
One of the other two proved to be a chief and he did not extend a friendly hand but in broken English said, "The buffalo belongs to the Indian." Mr. Smith told him to "puckachee," which they did not readily proceed to do. They presented a harrowing sight with their vivid war paint, a fantastic strip of hair through the middle of their heads, bows and arrows ready for use in one hand and reining their ponies with the other. Mr. Smith inquired, "Are you Otoes?" to which they replied they were; but our subject was familiar with that tribe and knew that they were not speaking truthfully. That their intentions were hostile could be discerned in the wicked gleam of their eyes, as they glanced from the guns in the possession of the two heroes to their own weapons. Anxious to avoid an encounter Mr. Smith said, "Good-bye," and started in the direction of their wagon, but the chief said, "No wait," to which the hunters replied, "No, we're in a hurry." Growing more bold, the chief answered, "No, you can't go." Not heeding the command of the Indians they bade them good-bye and started. The Indians then formed a line and followed. After advancing a few paces Mr. Smith decided whoever began first would have the advantage, and suiting the action to the word suddenly wheeled about, drew his gun, and in tones even a savage could comprehend ordered them to "puckachee." They were disconcerted by this act of bravery, but the chief however, looked him straight in the eye for a moment while the others pulled away in a westerly direction. Maintaining his ground Mr. Smith told him in the same imperative way to go, or he would shoot him. The old chief sullenly obeyed but they dismounted when about a quarter of a mile distant and held a council. The other Indians who were riding in the distance joined them and they discussed the situation, doubtless concluded two or more of their number must succumb while securing the booty, and left the young huntsmen masters of the situation. While this council was taking place Mr. Smith told Mr. Morley to get the team in readiness and while doing so, our subject stalked over in the direction of the warriors and stood leaning on the muzzle of his gun until they departed; singly riding away, reminding one of Goldsmith's lines: "He who fights and runs away, will live to fight another day; but he who is in battle slain, can never rise and fight again." These courageous youths resolved that they were on dangerous ground and retraced their journey homeward. They had nerved themselves up to the ordeal but when the danger had passed they were almost ready to collapse. The Cassel party were massacred a few days later near where this event took place and in all probability this same band participated in their foul murder, and had it not been for their daring, they too would have met a similar fate, and had they not returned home via the salt marsh to procure salt for curing their buffalo meat they would have met the Cassel party of hunters.
Mr. Smith arrived in Clyde on December 1, 1865, with the teams that brought the Cowell and Davis stock of goods for the first store in Cloud county. There were but three houses on the town site. They were of log and occupied by Moses and David Heller, Tom Hay, and a Mrs. Berry. Mrs. Smith, who was Miss Mary Sitton, died several years ago, leaving a family of seven children: Lillian, Nelson, Daisy, Leroy, Walter, Honor and Leslie. Mr. Smith is a farmer by occupation and owns a valuable estate just beyond the city confines of Clyde. Besides being a practical farmer, he is a successful horticulturist and owns one of the finest orchards in the county. He is a member and one of the most active workers in the Methodist Episcopal church.
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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