Early and Recent History and Genealogical Records
of Many of the Representative Citizens
JOHN RANDOLPH SMITH, M. D. That life is the most useful and desirable that results in the greatest good to the greatest number and though all do not reach the heights to which they aspire, yet in some measure each can win success and make life a blessing to his fellowman; and it is not necessary for one to occupy eminent public positions to do so, for in the humbler walks of life there remains much good to be accomplished and many opportunities for one to exercise one's talents and influence which in some way will touch the lives of those with whom we come in contact, making them better and brighter. In the list of Greene county's honored citizens is Dr. John Randolph Smith, now living in honorable retirement after a long, useful and eminently successful career as a physician, having for many years ranked among the leading professional men of southwestern Missouri. In his career there is much that is commendable and his life forcibly illustrates what one can accomplish even in the face of obstacles if one's plans are wisely laid and his actions governed by right principles, noble aims and high ideals.
Doctor Smith was born on January 27, 1836, at Monticello, Kentucky, a scion of an excellent old southern family. He is a son of David and Charlotte (Havens) Smith, born in 1777 and 1800 respectively, who removed to Newton county, Missouri, in 1836, and were thus pioneer settlers in this, state. David Smith died January 24, 1845, when Doctor Smith was nine years of age, and his wife died in May, 1884. Our subject was an infant in arms at that time and he grew to manhood in Newton county, received a limited education in the old-time subscription schools and worked on a farm during his boyhood. But he was an ambitious youth and studied hard at home, taking an interest in medicine when only sixteen years of age, and about that time began studying medicine under, Dr. J. W. Walker in Jasper county, Missouri. He made rapid progress and was equipped for his chosen career at an early age, being a fine example of a self-made man. He first began practice at Diamond Grove, this state. Seeing the need of a college training he went to Cincinnati, Ohio, and took the course in the medical college there. He owes much of his success in life to his mother who was a well educated woman and taught him much at home. In his youth he taught school for a time in Newton county, Missouri. Finally turning his attention to the newspaper field he started, owned and operated the Weekly Record at Stella, Missouri, which he retained until in February, 1914, when he retired from active life. From 1871 to 1873, inclusive, he owned and operated a wholesale and retail drug store in Springfield, under the firm name of W. G. Porter & Company, at the southwest corner of the public square. Upon the death of Mr. Porter, Doctor Smith continued the drug business at 223 South street, under the firm name of J. R. Smith & Company. He enjoyed a large trade, maintained one of the leading drug stores of Springfield and was very successful as a business man. In connection with his business interests he followed his profession and had an extensive practice. Being of a literary turn of mind he has written and published a number of books on varied themes, principally of a religious tone. His writings show a depth of thought, broad culture, a splendid general knowledge and a fine literary finish.
Doctor Smith was never named by his parents, being known only by a "nickname" until he was eight years of age when he selected his own name. He comes from an excellent old American family. Robert Smith, his grandfather, was born in England, and he served in the Revolutionary war, becoming captain of a company in the Fourth North Carolina regiment. He was a gallant officer and took part in many engagements, including the battle of King's Mountain. After the war he was a merchant and ship builder of note, owning several vessels which operated between North Carolina ports and the West Indies. Nathaniel Geist, the doctor's great-grandfather, first married Mary Howard, of Baltimore, Maryland, and later Dinah Volkeer of Holland. His daughter, Mary Geist, by his first wife, married Robert Smith, our subject's grandfather. Nathaniel Geist served with George Washington in the war with England against France, and he was captured in 1773 at Braddock's famous defeat by the Cherokee Indians, who held him four years. During his captivity be married an Indian maiden and they reared a family. One of their sons, George Geist, was a man of exceptional prowess and ability and the Indians called him Chief Sequoyah, and he was for some time chief of the Cherokee tribe. He has been held in great reverence by the succeeding generation of Cherokees in view of the fact that he originated the Cherokee alphabet.
David Smith, father, of our subject, was born in North Carolina. He lived in Tennessee, Alabama and Kentucky before coming to Missouri in 1836. He was a great cattleman, raising large numbers in the above mentioned states, and in the early days before there were any railroads in the South, he practiced driving immense herds of cattle to Baltimore, Maryland, where he marketed them. Many claim that he originated the familiar term "cowboy." He was left an orphan in infancy, his father and mother both dying at that period of his life. All his life he was a dealer in live stock and was one of the most widely known cattle and horse dealers in his day and generation in the localities where he resided. He was one of the first to import blooded horses, and he raised thoroughbreds for a number of years. He lived to a ripe old age, spending his last years on his large stock farm in Newton county, this state. His family consisted of the following children: Benjamin F. died in infancy; Sarah A. married Thomas Walker, Mary J., who is now eighty-two years of age and has never married, is living at the old homestead, "Kent Park," Newton county, Missouri; Dr. John R., of this sketch; Charlotte E. married James W. Roseberry, now deceased; their son Chalmer H. Roseberry, owns and conducts a large deer farm at "Kent Park," Newton county, and is a member of the Society for the Preservation of Wild Animals of the United States Government. Thomas H. Benton Smith died in 1863 while in the service of the Confederacy, having been with General Rains brigade at Ft. Smith, Arkansas, at the time of his death.
Dr. John R. Smith owns a gun which was made to order for his father in 1829, by John Bull, a gunsmith of Warrior Mountain, Alabama. It is a fine specimen of guncraft of those days, is mounted with silver and has a gold powder pan and bushings. The stock is of curly maple and the barrel of a very soft iron. It is a remarkably accurate shooting piece and it was designed as a "target" gun for the pioneers. The mounting has several inscriptions on the silver plating. The doctor values this heirloom very highly.
Doctor Smith was married October 3, 1861, to Frances Ruth Keet, a daughter of Josiah T. and Elizabeth Proctor (West) Keet.
To Doctor Smith and wife the following children were born: Kenyon Ida died in infancy; Ernest V. is a lieutenant-colonel in the regular army of the United States, now stationed at Honolulu, Sandwich Islands; he is a graduate of West Point Military Academy, which he entered when seventeen years old; he married Cora Young, of Troy, New York. Grace K. Smith became the wife of the late George Cooper, a sketch of whom will be found in another part of this work; Charlotte married Willard P. Paddock, who was for many years a professor in the Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, New York, he is now a well known artist, and has made a fine bronze statue of Noah Webster, that was unveiled in September, 1914, in Massachusetts. Mr. and Mrs. Paddock reside in New York City. Clara, youngest of the doctor's children, married Edward Steichen, a well known artist of New York City, where they reside. The mother of these children, to whom they owe so much for their general culture and success in life, is now seventy-one years of age.
Doctor Smith has been living retired for some time, making his home with his daughter, Mrs. Grace Cooper, at her beautiful home on Cherry street, Springfield. He is now in his seventy-ninth year, but is still comparatively hale and hearty and possesses all his faculties and has a fine memory. For a number of years he was medical examiner of the pension bureau of the United States government. Politically, he is a Democrat. He is a member of the Sons of the American Revolution and Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, and belongs to the Christian church. He and his good wife are indeed a grand old couple, greatly beloved by a very wide circle of close friends. They have led useful and helpful lives, being hospitable and charitable by nature, but never from a desire for display rather from an innate love for suffering humanity and to meekly follow in the footsteps of the lowly Nazarene.
Springfield-Greene County Library