Biography of William H. Smith

William H. Smith, of Marysville, is a man with a long and notable record in Kansas affairs. He came to Kansas with his arm in a sling as a result of a wound received at Malvern Hill during the Civil war. His home had been in the state for over half a century, and during that time he had been a pioneer farmer, merchant, public official and banker.

A Pennsylvanian by birth, he is a grandson of James Smith, who came from County Tyrone, Ireland, and founded the family in Indiana County, Pennsylvania. William H. Smith was born in that county, at West Lehanon, on December 3, 1841, a son of Robert and Sarah (Wray) Smith. His parents were also natives of Pennsylvania, and they spent their lives as farmers in Indiana County, though his father was also a stook buyer and merchant. Robert Smith was born in 1810 and died in 1906, and his wife was born in 1827 and died June 13, 1860. He was a second time married. By his first marriage there were ten children, most of whom came to Kansas, several of the sons made fine records as soldiers in the Civil war, and the oldest, James, a pioneer and notable Kansan, was for three terms secretary of state.

Mr. William H. Smith grew up on his father’s Pennsylvania farm, attended the public schools, and was also a student in the Elders Ridge Academy. He left school in the spring of 1860 and began work as an oil prospector along the Little Kanawha River near Elisabeth in Wirt County, Virginia, now West Virginia. It became necessary to discontinue these operations under the cloud of approaching civil conflict, and returning to Elders Ridge he and some of his neighbors went to Pittsburgh and in 1861 he enlisted in the Sixty-Second Pennsylvania Regiment of Infantry in Company D. The commander of the regiment was Col. Samuel W. Black. Mr. Smith was in the army three years, twenty days. His regiment participated in many of the hard-fought battles in the early part of the war, and he was in the Peninsular campaign and was wounded at the battle of Gaines Mill, and at Malvern Hill on July 1, 1862, was shot through the left shoulder. That entire night he lay wounded on the field, and it was four days before be was picked up and given attention. Ho was removed to Bedloe Island in New York harbor, and went on the operating table the 6th of July, five days after being wounded. He carried his arm in a sling for eight years, and while he did not take his place on the firing lino again he saw duty in other capacities and was none the less serviceable as a soldier of the Union. He was soon sent to Fort Schuyler and had charge of the night nurses there. During the draft riot in New York City in 1863 he and Sergeant Oliver, of Boston, Massachusetts, formed a platoon and for soveral days fought the rioters and helped restore quiet in the city. At the time he was wounded Mr. Smith had attained the rank of sergeant in his company. During and after the draft riot he was part of the organizntion known as Company G of the Tenth Regiment, Vcteran Reserve Corps, one plntoon of which was under his direct command. He then remained under the command of the provost marshal at New York and also did considerable recruiting and looking after prisoners. When Early made his raid on Washington Mr. Smith was sent to the capital and participated in the battle of Fort Stevens. He remained in the defense of that city until mustored ont in 1864.

Mr. Smith returned to Elders Ridge and for three months was a student in the Iron City Business College at Pittsburg. On September 3, 1865, he started west and urrived in Kansas the 13th of September. He traveled by rail as far as the Missouri River, crossing at Atchison, and from that point walking to Marshall County. His brothers James and Robert W. had already established themselves in this county and had been connected with the overland trading service and also owned a large number of cattle. William h. Smith found his first work in Marshall County, taking the scum off the boilers used for making sorghum. That paid him his hoard. Early in 1866 he ontered the employ of T. S. Vail and traveled through Texas, Louisiana, Indian Territory and Arkansas, cstablishing Star mail routes.

In the spring of 1867 Mr. Smith returned to Barretts Mill, near Frankfort, Kansas, and though still disabled for active work by his wound he did some cattle herding and also spent three summers in breaking the virgin sod of the prairie. In the fall of 1868 he became a candidate for and was elected a member of the Legislature from Marshall County and served in the sessions of 1868 and 1869. During the session he was author of the bill, approved March 2, 1869, which was the first legislation in Kansas to compel the railroads to pay taxes. The bill authorized the treasurer to issue his warrant and sell rolling stock for delinquent taxes. In 1870 Mr. Smith was appointed deputy United States marshal under Colonel Houston, and in that capacity took the census of the southern half of Marshall County. He was again elected to the Legislature in 1870, and during the following session introduced the herd law, which was enacted February 28, 1871.

In the spring of 1871 Mr. Smith came to Marysville, and after a few months as deputy register of decds was appointed postmaster, an office he filled continuoualy for fourteen years. He held the office until the beginning of Cleveland’s term. With L. W. Libbey as a partner he also entered merchandising, selling groceries and farm implements and buying and shipping grain. The firm of Smith & Libbey became an important factor in the early commercial enterprise of Marysville. He was one of the active merchants of the city until 1888. During that time he erected the building on Broadway at lot 3, block 7, a two-story structure, since improved as a double building and still under his ownership. The postoffice had quarters there, and on the second floor he had his own home.

On retiring from the office of postmaster Mr. Smith was elected county treasurer, and by re-election served two terms. In 1890 he was appointed supervisor of the census of the fifth eongressional district. Mr. Smith was secretary of the board which built the Kansas Building at the Worlds Fair in Chicago. This building had been started by the State Board of Agriculture and the Columbian Club, and later the Legislature made a sufficient appropriation to carry out the plans, In that work Mr. Smith was associnted with Mr. Mohler, father of the present secretary of the Board of Agriculturs, and also with Mr. Harris. Mr. Mohler on account of advancing years was preparing to retire from the position of secretary of the State Board of Agriculture, and Mr. Smith’s numerous friends suggested that he be appointed to the position, but he preferred that it should be given to Mr. Coburn, and thus he may be credited with having given Mr. Coburn his splendid opportunity to serve the state and nation as well.

Mr. Smith was secretary of the State Railroad Commission, with headquarters at Topeka, from 1902 to 1904. For a number of years he owned a farm of 160 acres a mile east of Marysville, and though always living in Marysville he supervised its cultivation and management. He sold his farm in 1911. Mr. Smith was one of the organizers of the Citizens State Bank of Marysville, which was established in 1907, and filled the position of president until he resigned January 1, 1913. He also helped organize banks at Bremen, Bigelow and Winifred, and is still a director in the Citizens State Bank of Marysville and in the Citizens State Bank of Bremen and Winifred. He is an active member of Lyons Post No. 9, Grand Army of the Republie, had been its commander a number of terms, and was also a member of the council of administration of the Grand Army for the department of Kansas. For many years Mr. Smith had been intimately associated with the work and maintenance of the Kansas State historical Society, had been a director for about thirty years and was president of the society in 1902. Politically he is an active republican.

On October 30, 1871, at Barretts Mill, Kansas, Mr. Smith married Miss Mary E. Allen. She was born April 5, 1848, in Keithsburg, Illineis, a daughter of O. C. and Joan Allen. Her father was an early settler in Marshall County, Kansas, and was identified with the pioneer development of some of its farm lands. Mrs. Smith died December 9, 1910, at Marysville. Her only child, Robert Allen, was born August 2, 1872, and died August 27, 1875.

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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