Biography of Solomon Howard Smith

SOLOMON HOWARD SMITH. – Mr. Smith, a most generous and public-spirited citizen, and a pioneer of so early a day as 1832, was born at Lebanon, New Hampshire, December 26, 1809. He came of Revolutionary stock, his maternal grandfather having been a soldier in the war for Independence, and a relative of the Greeley family. His father was an assistant surgeon in the war of 1812, and died at Plattsburgh, New York, in 1813.

The boy Solomon was afforded good advantages, receiving his academic education at Norwich, Vermont; and he studied medicine with his uncle, Doctor Haven Foster, not, however, taking a diploma. In 1831, with a number of other adventurous spirits, he went fishing for cod on the Newfoundland banks, and met with good fortune, except that upon the return the schooner was run over by an English packet ship and sunk with cargo and all. Smith and the others were picked up and left at Boston bankrupt, as they were staking their fortune upon the sale of their fish, which they shared alike. At the city in which he found himself, Smith obtained employment as clerk, but in 1832 was moved to cast in his fortune with Captain Wyeth, and build up a great business upon the Pacific coast.

The severe journey across the plains and mountains he endured as well as the best, bidding adieu to one after another of the scions of the first Boston families who were in the party, as they turned back, meeting with William Sublette at the rendezvous on Green river, at Pierre’s Hole. On the trip from that point to the Columbia, this side of the Salmon River Mountains, he endured seven days’ fasting, eating nothing but the buds, or pome, of roses. Being at the head of one of the little parties into which Wyeth had divided his company he descried, on coming out of the mountains, an Indian tent with smoke in the distance, and making his way thither at the top of his horse’s speed discovered upon arrival that the Indian had but shortly returned from the hunt, – a buffalo lying at the side of the tent; while the heart of the animal was boiling in the pot over the fire. To his eloquent gestures indicating his hunger, the Indian replied by immediately tendering the whole morsel; and the feast was royal and just completed as the other members of the party arrived. Their hunger was soon relieved, however, by recourse to the buffalo.

Reaching Vancouver, Mr. Smith soon found employment to succeed Mr. Ball as teacher of the school at the fort, filling out the term of which but two weeks had been taught, and following the first with a second term. The year following he married Celiast (see biography of Mrs. Helen Smith), and went to Gervais, making a settlement and teaching school at Chemawa. Afterwards he went to the mouth of the Chehalem creek, and assisted Ewing Young to build a mill, and made that point his home until 1840. Suffering, however, from ague, and hearing his wife tell of the excellent climate at her old home by the ocean, and conferring with McLoughlin, who advised the making of settlements only in communities large enough for protection, he with Daniel Lee went down the river in May, 1840, meeting at the mouth of the Columbia the ship Lausanne, with the reinforcements for the Methodist Mission. In August of the same year he made a removal to Clatsop, advising the missionaries also to establish a station there. From that time he made his home upon the beautiful Clatsop Plains.

He became the real agricultural pioneer of Clatsop county, as the fort of Astoria was simply for purposes of trade. In his capacity of pioneer he was the first to bring horses in the spring of 1841 to the mouth of the river, making a ferry-boat by means of two canoes lashed side by side. The horses were Spanish animals obtained from the place of Ewing Young and were put aboard the craft at St. Helens. With Mr. Frost he went to the Willamette valley and brought cattle via the Grande Ronde, Salmon River and Tillamook, and made subsequent trips. He opened out a farm, and, upon the great revival of business and trade consequent upon the opening of the gold mines in 1848, sold butter and beef to great profit, getting two dollars per pound for the former. He also had supplied beef to the wrecked crew of the Peacock in 1841, and for the Shark in 1846.

In 1849 he opened a store at Skipanon, Oregon, doing a large business and at one time carrying a stock worth twelve thousand dollars. In 1851 he went into the lumber business, leasing the old Harrall mill on the Lewis and Clarke river, and operating it successfully. From 1852 onwards he confined himself more strictly to conducting his farm. From the earliest years he was a friend of good order and progress. He was especially interested in schools, and with the few settlers in that region kept a teacher at a salary of twelve hundred dollars a year. He held school offices constantly, and in 1874 was chosen by the people of the counties of Clatsop, Columbia and Tillamook as senator to the state legislature. It was while serving in that office that he died, in August, 1876. Sol H. Smith will always be remembered as a pioneer of great enterprise and generosity, opening out a new country and extending every possible assistance to those who came after him.

He had a family of seven children, three of whom are living: Silas Smith, born in Chehalem valley September 22, 1839, was brought up with his father, and at the age of majority went East to study law, reading with W.N. Blair, a county solicitor, and a cousin of Senator Blair of New Hampshire. Mr. Smith is a thorough lawyer and a very effective speaker, a man indeed of much culture and broad ideas. He resides upon the old place of his father near Skipanon. His wife, Mary H., daughter of Deacon G.W. Swain, of Laconia, New Hampshire, is a lady of culture and attractive social qualities. They have five children. Mrs. Josephine Ketchum, Sol Smith’s elder daughter, resides in San Luis Obispo county, California; Mrs. Charlotte Braillier, the younger, resides near Skipanon.



History of the Pacific Northwest Oregon and Washington. 2 v. Portland, Oregon: North Pacific History Company. 1889.

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