Biography of William H. Smith

William H. Smith. It is almost a half century that had crept around on the world’s clock since William H. Smith, one of Chanute’s substantial and respected citizens, came to Kansas, locating in Neosho County, where at present he is held in high esteem with the Old Settlers’ Association, of which he is president. With interest he had watched this section develop and had assisted very materially, ever lending his influence to law and order, encouraging the investment of capital, and setting an industrious example that might very profitably be emulated. William H. Smith was born January 25, 1846, in Warren County, Ohio. His parents were Samuel M. and Phebe (Wharton) Smith.

The early records of the Smith family show that in colonial times there were pioneering members who dared the dangers of the deep and crossed the Atlantic Ocean from England to America, finding harbor in New Jersey, and from these descended Abram C. Smith, who was the grandfather of William H. Smith of Chanute, Kansas. He was born in New Jersey in 1781, was a quiet, peaceful farmer who removed with his family to Warren County, Ohio, in 1835 and died there in 1867. The family were Quakers.

Samuel M. Smith, father of William H., was born near Camden, New Jersey, in 1817, and died at the latter’s home at Chanute, in February, 1902. He came to Kansas in the fall of 1884 and lived practically retired until his death. In politics he was a republican and fraternally was an Odd Fellow, being past noble grand in that order. He was married to Phebe Wharton, who was born in Ohio in 1820 and died in Warren County, that state, in 1847. They had three children: John, who was a soldier in the Thirty-fourth Ohio, a Zouave regiment, during the Civil war, met a soldier’s death at Wytheville, Virginia; Jane, who was the wife of Harvey Beach, a farmer, now deceased, died in Indiana in 1898; and William H.

William H. Smith was reared on his father’s farm and remained at home until he was nineteen years of age, in the meanwhile attending school in Warren County. He then went to Indiana and for four years engaged in farming and teaming near South Bend, but in 1869 he came farther west and located at Osage City in Neosho County, Kansas, and worked in the livestock business with his uncle, B. M. Smith, until the fall of 1870. At that time the present thriving City of Chanute was a village bearing the name of Tioga, and there Mr. Smith went into the livery business, in which he continued for two years and then followed farming for a year in this county.

In the meanwhile travel increased, new settlers kept coming in and the population of Chanute greatly increased, and when Mr. Smith, taking advantage of a business opportunity, opened a cafe, it was a very popular venture and he conducted it until 1878. Because of his business enterprise and personal qualities he became a man of public importance and served both as street commissioner and as city marshal. In 1884 Mr. Smith turned his attention again to farming, having eighty acres of excellent land situated five miles east of Chanute, and continued to conduct this farm until 1901, when he traded it for forty acres nearer Chanute, just north of the present city limits, the present site of the Ashgrove Lime and Portland Coment plant. On that land Mr. Smith engaged in farming and fruit growing for two years, when, having an excellent offer, he sold the place and moved into Chanute, erecting his comfortable residence at No. 313 North Highland Avenue. Other property owned by Mr. Smith as the result of his industry and good judgment includes: a dwelling at No. 707 North Santa Fe Avenue; another at No. 330 West Third Street, and a third at No. 1302 South Edith Avenue; a lot on North Grant Avenue; and a farm of 160 acres located five miles east of Chanute.

Active all his life, Mr. Smith could not be contentedly idle, after coming to Chanute, and he entered the employ of Bloomheart Brothers as a clerk in their grocery store and remained with that firm for ten years. Since Hector Lodge No. 64 was organized at Chanute in 1894 he had been secretary, and is past noble grand, and also is secretary of Evergreen Encampment No. 27, and since 1914 he had acted as janitor and caretaker of the lodge rooms. He belongs also to the Chanute Lodge No. 158, Rebekahs, and to the Sons and Daughters of Justice.

At Caldwell, Kansas, in 1877, Mr. Smith was married to Miss Lizzie W. Wendell, whose parents, both now deceased, were J. H. and Catherine Wendell. The father of Mrs. Smith was proprietor of a hotel at Caldwell. Mr. and Mrs. Smith have two children: Walter L., who is a druggist and resided at Kansas City, Missouri; and Kuty L., who is the wife of Morris Montague, who is in the implement business with his brother, F. W. Montague. Mr. and Mrs. Montague reside at No. 518 North Highland Avenue, Chanute.

In political sentiment Mr. Smith had always been a democrat and on numerous occasions his fellow citizens have elected him to office. He served many years as trustee of Big Creek and Tioga townships, Neosho County. In 1890 he was his party’s candidate for sheriff and his popularity was shown when, in a normally republican county he lacked only fourteen votes of election.



Connelley, William E. A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans. Chicago : Lewis, 1918. 5v. Biographies can be accessed from this page: Kansas and Kansans Biographies.

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