Biography of Thomas E. Smith

Thomas E. Smith. The name Thomas E. Smith is at once associated with the wealthy and successful business men of Champaign. Success did not come to him like manna from the skies, but was earned by the hardest kind of effort. He gained some of his early experience as a pioneer on the Northwestern prairies of the Dakotas and Montana. For many years Mr. Smith has been in the meat business at Champaign and is now proprietor of two large cold storage plants and handles his business on a wholesale scale.

He was born near Potomac, Vermilion County, Illinois, January 13, 1862. His parents were William H. and Emily (Copeland) Smith, the former a native of England and the latter of Vermilion County, Illinois. William H. Smith was brought to America when an infant, his parents locating on a farm in Vermilion County, where he grew to manhood and thereafter until his death was a successful dealer, buyer and shipper of live stock. His widow is now living in Paxton, Ford County, Illinois, having married as her second husband Lynn Corbley. William H. Smith and wife had eight children: Charles S., of Kansas City, Missouri; Alice, wife of William Palmer, of Los Angeles, California; Thomas E.; Anna, deceased; Clara, widow of Lincoln Armstrong, living at Terre Haute, Indiana; William S., who occupies the old home place in Vermilion County; Lillian, deceased; and John E., in the meat business at Champaign.

Such advantages as the district schools were able to afford Thomas E. Smith availed himself of when a boy, but he was only fifteen when he began the battle of life for himself. His first experience was on the farm, and on account of failing health he soon went out to Minnesota. He spent two years there and then going to South Dakota took up a claim. It would be a long story to recount all his experiences while in the Northwest. He broke the virgin prairie lands with ox teams, and hauled his supplies on a stone boat drawn by oxen from Huron, South Dakota, eighteen miles from his settlement. It required a courageous spirit and an unlimited determination to survive the life of that period in the far Northwest. Mr. Smith finally sold his claim in South Dakota and for a time was a cattle rancher in Montana.

On May 1, 1884, having returned to Illinois, Mr. Smith engaged in the retail meat business at Champaign. That business has grown apace. He proved an adept not only in the service which a retail trade demands but in all other departments of the business, both buying and selling, and his interests have consequently assumed a large scale. In 1916 he built a cold storage plant four stories high and 80×195 feet in ground dimensions, absolutely fire proof, of brick and cement construction. This plant is adapted to the manufacture of ice and the handling of all kinds of meats and produce for cold storage. Mr. Smith also has another cold storage plant in Urbana, though not so large as the Champaign plant.

While building up his business he has not neglected the general welfare of the community. He served two terms in the city council, and for nine years was a member of the school board and during that time was chairman of the Building and Grounds Committee. Mr. Smith is a Republican, is affiliated with the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks and the Woodmen of the World, and though not a member gives his active support to the Christian Church.

On March 17, 1890, Mr. Smith married Amanda Gibson, a native of Jasper County, Illinois. They are the parents of five children: Gladys May, a teacher in the public schools at Champaign; Florence E., who died in August, 1915; Cleone, Harold T. and Alice, all at home.



Stewart, J. R. A Standard History of Champaign County Illinois. The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago and New York. 1918.

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