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Samuel Francis Smith


Posted By: Annette Lucas (email)
Date: 7/12/2021 at 17:37:45

SOURCE: Biographical History and Portrait Gallery of Scott County, Iowa. American Biographical Publishing Company, H. C. Cooper, Jr., & Co. Proprietors. 1895

SAMUEL FRANCIS SMITH is of Puritan ancestry, his progenitors on both paternal and maternal lines joining the Massachusetts Colony early in the seventeenth century. They were people of consequence in their day, and many of their descendants have achieved distinction in various walks of life. Perhaps the most distinguished member of the family, a man certainly whose name and fame will last while civilization endures, or love of liberty warms the human breast, is the father of the man whose name heads this sketch. Rev. Samuel Francis Smith, a distinguished Baptist clergyman, who is still living in Newton, Massachusetts, and who, although in his eighty -sixth year, still retains his vigor and faculties in a most remarkable degree, was the author of the national hymn of our Republic, My Country, ' Tis of Thee, " an ode which has been translated into almost every civilized language and dialect throughout the world, and which is sung in every land and clime. One of his biographers very justly says : This ode has found a merited response in every Christian heart, not only in this ' sweet land of liberty, but throughout the globe, and is sung as frequently in the Alpine valleys and on the slopes of the Himalayas as in the fair land that gave birth to its venerated author. To be the author of that hymn is glory enough for one man and one lifetime.

Mr. Smith was fitted for Harvard College and carried through the Freshman year by his father. He was an indefatigable student and, not being robust, excessive application to his studies so undermined his health that much to his regret he was compelled to forego the completion of his college course and for a time give up his studies entirely. He was of an active temperament, however, and would not remain in idleness, so he obtained employment in a wholesale drug store in Boston, and a little later as clerk in the office of a manufacturing company ; this he abandoned for a clerkship in a bookstore . As soon as his health would permit he resumed his studies, which he kept up after business hours and at night, until he completed the curriculum of his college course. The opportunities for advancement offered in the West to young men induced him to come to Chicago, which he did in 1856 . He spent a few months clerking in a store in that city, when he was sent to Davenport to take charge of a branch store at that place. During all this time Mr. Smith had never lost sight of what had been, from his earliest recollection, the ambition of his life, viz : to become a lawyer. In 1857 he became a law student in the office of Judge James Grant, then and afterward one of the foremost lawyers in the State. Perhaps no higher compliment could have been paid to the qualities of the young man than the fact that three years later he was admitted into partnership with his preceptor. Their practice consisted largely in the collection of defaulted city and county bonds, in which they were very successful. This partnership continued up to 1876, during which time they were engaged upon some of the most important law suits in the Northwest. As an illustration of the growth of their practice, it may be stated that Mr. Smith's proportion of the earnings of the first year of the partnership amounted to two hundred and forty dollars, while during the last year of his active partnership his share of the proceeds amounted to more than fifty thousand dollars . One of the most notable cases in which this firm was engaged is known as the Mark Howard case , arising out of the sale of the old Mississippi & Missouri Railroad to the Rock Island Company, in which they secured to their clients nearly a million dollars, and to themselves the largest fee which had ever been paid to any lawyers in any one case , in the State, understood to be not less than one hundred thousand dollars.

In the autumn of 1873 Mr. Smith's health gave way from overwork, and, relaxation and change being necessary for his restoration, he, with his family, visited Europe and remained abroad two years and a half, visiting in that time the principal cities and points of interest in that part of the globe. Upon his return to Davenport, although his health was fairly recuperated , his fortune being ample for his needs, he did not re-enter the practice of law , but gave his attention to financial matters. Since that time he has been engaged chiefly in banking and settling estates . He was one of the organizers and charter members of the Davenport National Bank, and has been connected with that institution , either as director, vice -president or president, from its organization to the present time, retiring from the presidency in January of the present year.

Mr. Smith has been identified with many other financial and public enterprises, among which may be mentioned the Union Savings Bank, which he helped organize and of which he is a director and attorney. He was president, from June, 1892, to June, 1893, of the Iowa Bankers' Association, an office of distinction which can only be held for a period of one year by each incumbent. He has been, from the organization, and is now , the vice- president of the Iowa Sons of the Revolution. He was a member of the city council four years, to April, 1893, during which time he advocated and secured the passage of measures which resulted in the paving of many of the principal streets of Davenport. To him perhaps more than to any other man is credit due in this matter, as he was the prime mover, got the necessary legislation through the General Assembly, was chairman of the paving committee, and most of the time chairman of the finance committee, and laid the first brick in the pavement.

He has been president of the Davenport Business Men's Association, is now president of the Children's Home Society of the State ; he is a director of the Academy of Science, of the Ladies' Industrial Relief Association and of the Davenport Library Association.

Mr. Smith was brought up in the Baptist faith and was a member of the Baptist Church until some years after his marriage, when, his wife being a Congregationalist, he transferred his membership to that Church. He is a Republican in politics and an earnest supporter of the cause of temperance .

He married, August 17, 1861, Mary, daughter of Rev. Julius Reed, D. D., of Davenport. They have one child , Anna R., who is now in school at Jacksonville, Illinois.


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