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SMITH, Henry Irving (ca. 1916)


Posted By: Jennifer Gunderson (email)
Date: 4/19/2021 at 17:03:38


Character and enterprise impress themselves upon a community in proportion to the worth of the work of the individual. The world has little use for a misanthrope, the man who lives to himself, but accords respect and honor to him who feels that life is purposeful, that his duty lies beyond the interests of self and takes cognizance of duties and obligations to the public. Such was the career of Captain Henry I. Smith, a prominent banker of Mason City, a leading resident of northern Iowa and an honored veteran of the Civil war. Mr. Smith was born in Nottingham, England, May 4, 1840. He was but eight years of age at the time of his father's death in 1848, and the same year the mother with her family came to the United States, settling in Kane county, Illinois, where they resided until 1854. In that year he arrived in Iowa, taking up his abode in Cerro Gordo county. The journey was made in a prairie schooner and their first home was a log cabin sixteen by twenty feet, which was built upon the farm. They experienced the usual hardships and privations of pioneer life, when they had to depend upon the farm for almost everything which they needed or possessed.

Henry I. Smith aided in the work of developing and improving the farm and as opportunity offered he supplemented his education, pursued in the district schools of Kane county, Illinois, by further study in Cerro Gordo county, this state. He continued to till the soil until after the outbreak of the Civil war. He enjoyed the distinction of being the first man to enlist from Cerro Gordo county, offering his services to the government in July, 1861, at which time he became a member of Company B, Seventh Iowa Volunteer Infantry. His regiment rendezvoused at Burlington, Iowa, and in August went to Benton Barracks, St. Louis.

The first engagement in which Mr. Smith participated was at Belmont, Missouri, on the 7th of November, 1861, on which occasion he was wounded, a bullet breaking his collarbone. He carried the rebel lead in his shoulder throughout the remainder of his days and it was finally the cause of his failing health and death.

Because of his wound he was in the hospital at Mound City, Missouri, until the day following the battle of Shiloh, when he rejoined his regiment, after which he participated in the engagements of Corinth, Iuka, Resaca, Dallas, Big Shanty and Kenesaw Mountain and in the three battles of Atlanta. He was also with Sherman on the march from Atlanta to the sea, during which time he served on the staff of General E. W. Rice. He afterward went with Sherman's army to Washington and participated in the Grand Review when the victorious Union army marched through the streets of the capital, while over broad Pennsylvania avenue hung a banner bearing the words “the only debt which the country owes that she cannot pay is the debt which she owes to her soldiers.” While in Washington, Mr. Smith was promoted to the rank of captain of his company. He was a gallant soldier and received a congressional medal for conspicuous bravery in recognition of the fact that he “voluntarily and under fire rescued a comrade from death by drowning,” on March 6, 1865.

After being mustered out at Davenport, Captain Smith returned to Cerro Gordo county and engaged in farming for a short time but his fellow citizens, appreciative of his worth and ability, sought his service in public office and in 1869 he was elected county treasurer, after which he removed to Mason City. He held that office for four years, making a creditable record as the custodian of the public funds. Later, in 1875, he turned his attention to the banking business, conducting a private bank in partnership with J. V. W. Montague, under the firm style of Montague & Smith, they having purchased what was then known as the old Lytle Bank, the only bank in Mason City. They conducted a private banking business until 1881, when they joined with others in organizing the First National Bank of Mason City, into which the banking house of Montague & Smith was merged.

Mr. Smith was the moving spirit in this undertaking and was elected the first president of the new institution, continuing as its chief executive officer and directing head until 1900, when ill health compelled his resignation. From that time until his demise, November 12, 1910, he was forced to spend the greater part of his time in bed and while in that condition he wrote a history of his regiment.

He bore pain and suffering with fortitude, just as he had stood the hardship of war without complaining, nor regarded it a sacrifice to thus aid his country. In 1868 Captain Smith was united in marriage to Miss Delight E. Bogardus, and they became the parents of five children: William I., Lou D., Henry Carl, Robert Percy and Warren B.

Fraternally Captain Smith was a Mason and a member of the Grand Army of the Republic, proudly wearing the little bronze button that indicated his active association with the boys in blue. He was one of the foremost citizens not only of Mason City but of northern Iowa and no one contributed in larger or more substantial measure to the business development, the growth and progress of Mason City. He had the deepest interest in the town and put forth every effort in his power to promote its welfare. His was the largest bank in northern Iowa and he built up a business of extensive proportions, the institution proving of the greatest possible benefit to the district in which it was located. He was a man of strong convictions, clear in his conception of right and wrong, forceful in his views, fearless in the discharge of his duties and ever loyal to a course which he believed would be beneficial to the individual or the community. He was the soul of honor, his life being an open book which all might read. In it were no esoteric chapters, for the record was ever the expression of high principles, of noble qualities and good deeds. Old and young, rich and poor spoke of him in terms of warm regard and high respect and those who came within the closer circle of his friendship entertained for him feelings of deepest affection.

Source: Brigham, Johnson. Iowa : its history and its foremost citizens. Chicago : S.J. Clarke Pub. Co., 1916. Transcribed by Jennifer Gunderson (Mar 2021).

Index of bios from Iowa : Its history and Its Foremost Citizens

Cerro Gordo Biographies maintained by Jennifer Gunderson.
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