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SMITH, James Nelson - 1890 Bio (1841-1904)


Posted By: Joey Stark
Date: 8/27/2007 at 18:55:48

Portrait and Biographical Album of Jefferson and Van Buren Counties, Iowa, Printed 1890 by Lake City Publishing Co., Chicago
Pages 526-527

James Nelson SMITH, one of the most extensive stock-raisers and dealers of Jefferson County, was born in Liberty Township, and is now living in Fairfield. His business interests are extensive and he ranks among the substantial citizens of the community.

The family of which Mr. SMITH is a member is of German origin and was established in America by his grandfather, John SMITH, who emigrated from Germany and settled in Kentucky, where Greenup SMITH, father of our subject, was born November 27, 1806, near Cumberland Gap. In his native State, Greenup SMITH became overseer of an extensive plantation, having charge of some sixty negroes. In early manhood he became acquainted with and wedded Miss Sarah A. JOHNSON, the union being celebrated near Cumberland Gap, August 27, 1829. Mrs. SMITH was born in Kentucky, May 29, 1812, and was also of German descent. Her father served in the Revolutionary War as a valiant supporter of the cause of independence. Among the early settlers he emigrated to Morgan County, Ill., where a marble slab marks his last resting place. His wife spent her last days in Jefferson County, Iowa. Having engaged in agricultural pursuits in Illinois until 1837, Greenup SMITH removed to Van Buren County, Iowa, and in the summer of the following year came to Jefferson County, locating four miles east of Libertyville, where he entered a farm, on which he and his wife spent the remainder of their lives. The Territory of Iowa bore little resemblance to the great commonwealth of to-day. Mr. SMITH bore an important part in the transformation of the wild land into fertile farms and although by an accident he was greatly incapacitated for labor, in all possible ways he assisted in the progress and advancement of the best interests of the community. In 1842, while raising a building, a log fell on his leg and crippled him for life but although this placed him under great disadvantage he made the most of his opportunities and became one of the substantial farmers of Jefferson County. Widely known, he was esteemed by all, and was a leading citizen of the community during the early days of its history. In 1844 and 1845 he served as County Treasurer, being elected by the Whig party of which he was a stanch advocate until the organization of the Republican party. He and his wife were faithful members of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church and church, society, and many friends felt that they had suffered a deep loss when these worthy people were called to the home beyond. On a Sunday morning, the 12th of June, 1870, Mr. and Mrs. SMITH, their daughter, and Mrs. SMITH's mother were driving to church when the horses became frightened and dashed down a slope. The driver tried to stop them, but a bridle bit broke and after running some two hundred yards the team made a sudden turn, throwing all from the carriage. Mrs. SMITH and her mother were killed and Mr. SMITH and the daughter badly injured, but in time they recovered. His death occurred June 12, 1876 (sic - 1875).

In their family were nine children -- John, born July 9, 1830, died May (sic - March) 21, 1861; Martha A., born October 12, 1831, died August 29, 1880; William L., born March 6, 1833, is a farmer of Jefferson County, Iowa; Margaret A., born April 13, 1834, is the wife of Peter YOST, a resident of Jefferson County, Iowa; Mary J., born June 4, 1835, is the wife of Henry NEWMAN who resides in Santa Rosa, Cal.; Washington J. M., who served in the army and received a severe wound in the arm, makes his home in Fairfield, Iowa; Sophia L., born September 7, 1838, died at the age of one year; Sarah L., born December 3, 1843, is the wife of James H. McCOY, a resident of Jefferson County, Iowa.

The subject of this sketch, who was born in the 26th of November, 1841, was the eighth child of the family. In his youth he became inured to the hardships of farm life on the western frontier but the training has doubtless proved a profitable one as the lessons of industry, economy and enterprise which he learned have been important factors in his success in after life. After attending the district schools in the neighborhood he supplemented his early education by a partial course in Cherry Grove Seminary, of Illinois. When the war broke out it was his desire to enter the army but his father, not willing that he should do so, proposed to fit him out for a trip across the plains. In company with Joseph Rodabaugh, he drove five yoke of cattle to Powder River in Baker County, Ore., five months being consumed in making the trip and in the West he engaged in freighting and dealing in cattle. After operating successfully for five years he returned by way of the Isthmus of Panama and New York, in 1867.

In Van Buren County, on the 7th of May, 1868, Mr. SMITH was united in marriage with Miss Isabella, daughter of Joseph and Mary (ROBINS) TAYLOR. She was born in Scotland, November 18, 1846, when seven years of age crossed the Atlantic with her parents to America and in 1853, with the family, located in Van Buren County. The young couple began their domestic life in Birmingham, Van Buren County, where Mr. SMITH dealt in stock and carried on pork packing. The latter business he also followed in Keokuk and in 1873, he shipped from Northeastern Kansas, forty-five car loads of hogs and cattle, being the largest single shipment ever made from that State. His residence in Fairfield dates from 1876, since which time he has dealt in stock and grain, doing a most extensive business in that line in the county. That does not comprise his business interests, however. In connection with J. E. Roth, he owns the Blue Grass Horse Farm, containing three hundred acres in Liberty Township and in 1887 made a trip to Europe, importing ten Norman and Belgian stallions, six for his own ranch and the remaining four for other parties. They now have some sixty horses on the Blue Grass Farm. Besides the above farm, Mr. SMITH owns two hundred and eighty acres of farm land, a grain house, a bus barn and good residence. He has indeed prospered in his business affairs and may be justly proud of his own efforts. Such men make good citizens and it was a fortunate day for Jefferson County when he decided to make his home within its borders. While in Oregon, Mr. SMITH cast his first Presidential vote for Abraham Lincoln, nor has he yet wavered in his support to the Republican party. Both he and his wife are members of the Presbyterian Church of which he is a Trustee.

Mr. and Mrs. SMITH have a family of three children, two of whom are living: Pearl M., died at the age of seven months; E. Russell, the eldest, is a student of Parsons College, and Harry, who at this writing, is attending Elliott Business College, of Burlington, Iowa.

*Transcribed for genealogy purposes; I have no relation to the person(s) mentioned.


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