John T. Van Smith
VAN SMITH, JOHNSON, HARMON
Posted By: S. Ferrall (email)
Date: 2/14/2005 at 07:59:51
John T. Van Smith
Born in Clayton county, Iowa, in 1862. Son of Philetus and Susan Decker (Johnson) Van Smith. His great-grandfather on his mother's side was killed at the battle of Bunker Hill, and was the son of John Johnson, who came to America from Holland in the latter part of the seventeenth century, and settled in western New York. Mr. Van Smith was educated in the public schools and by private study, and worked on a farm until he was sixteen years old, when he entered a country newspaper office. At the age of eighteen he started a paper in Hardin county, Iowa, but soon sold out and went to New York city, where he attended commercial college. He came to Chicago in 1881, when nineteen years old, and being without recommendation, almost starved before he could find employment. In 1882 he became private secretary to J.C. Peasley, second vice-president of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy railroad, and in 1883 was chief clerk and traveling auditor during the construction of the Mexican National railway in Mexico. In 1884 he was traveling auditor and chief clerk of the Galveston, Houston & San Antonio road in Texas, and in the following year was cashier of a railroad at Tacoma, Wash. Returning to Chicago he engaged in the real estate business from 1887 to 1892 , and is now the inventor and manufacturer of portable electric head lights, electric bridge and carriage lamps and other specialties of that kind. While in Texas he was a member of the Houston [page cut off here]
.... in the United States, having taken three prizes of $5,000 each at international encampments. Mr. Van Smith is an Episcopalian in his religious views, and is a member of the Sons of New York of this city. He was married April 23, 1891 to Frances Isabelle Harmon.
-source: Hand-Book of Chicago biography, a compendium of useful biographical information for reference and study: Chicago, Standard Guide Co.; 1893; page 17.
-note: Philetus [Van] Smith is found on the 1860 federal census in Boardman twp., Clayton co. Iowa with his wife Susan and 3 children.
Clayton Biographies maintained by Sharyl Ferrall.
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