Jonathan Fairbanks and Clyde Edwin Tuck

Past and Present of Greene County, Missouri

Early and Recent History and Genealogical Records
of Many of the Representative Citizens

JAMES M. SMITH. While Virginia has been aptly termed the "Mother of Presidents," she has also given to the nation many of its most enterprising and successful people in minor capacities, and thousands in the humble sphere of private citizenship trace their ancestry back to the Old Dominion. This was true of the late James M. Smith, himself a Virginian, and for a long lapse of years a successful farmer of Greene county, Missouri. Just when the original progenitor of the Smith family became a resident of that state is not known, but it is supposed to have been at a time antedating the Colonial struggle for independence, and from that remote period to the present, members of this fine old family have been influential in the affairs of the various communities where they have resided. This may also be said of the subject'smaternal ancestry, who also settled in Virginia at an early day, so Mr. Smith was justly proud of the fact that he belonged to two of the well known yet unorganized class, denominating themselves as the "First Families of Virginia." His popularity as a citizen was due, no doubt, to the fact that he possessed many of the common characteristics of the true Virginian-hospitality, gallantry, courtesy and adherence to right principles.

Mr. Smith was born in Lee county, Virginia, September 4, 1840. He is a son of Hiram and Polly (Ely) Smith. The father was born in Virginia in the year 1812, there grew to manhood and was educated in the common schools. He grew up on a plantation. He came to Missouri in 1845 and settled in Greene county, entering one hundred and sixty acres from the government, cleared most of his land and made a success as a general farmer, and he traded a great deal in live stock, especially horses. Politically, he was a Republican. He died on his farm here when about eighty years of age. His wife was born, reared and educated in Virginia and there they were married. She was a member of the Holiness church. She died about three years before her husband's death. To these parents twelve children were born, namely: Mrs. Elizabeth Biggs, deceased; George, a soldier in the Civil war, was killed during the service; James M., subject of this sketch; Allen makes his home in the West; Mrs. Louisa Smith is deceased; Mrs. Ellen Self lives in Polk county; Robert lives in Sparta, Christian county; Mrs. Martha Hendrix, deceased; William, deceased; Preston lives in Carter county; the two youngest children died in infancy.

James M. Smith was young in years when he accompanied his parents on their overland trip from Virginia to Greene county, Missouri. Here he grew to manhood on a farm and received such educational advantages as the schools of that early period afforded. He remained under his parental roof- tree until he was twenty-three years of age, then, in 1862, enlisted in the Sixteenth Missouri Cavalry, Union army, in which he served faithfully during the Civil war. Toward the latter part of his service he was promoted to lieutenant. He saw considerable hard service in Greene county and various parts of the state, and was with the troops that drove General Price from Missouri when on his last raid into this state, our subject having been thirty-eight days on this chase in Missouri and Arkansas, and was fighting all the while. He was a gallant and brave soldier, and was honorably discharged from the army at Marshfield, Webster county, June 4, 1865.

After his career in the army, Mr. Smith returned home and resumed farming and on February 28, 1866, he married Rebecca Watts. He first rented a farm of sixty acres, which he worked for three years, then moved on a two hundred and fifty acre farm on the James river, which place he rented and operated for eight years, getting a good start, then bought seventy-five acres, to which he later added forty acres, and here his widow still resides. He cleared this land and was very successful as a general farmer, was a hard worker and good manager. Twelve acres of the place has remained in timber. He built a comfortable home and made other modern improvements. He devoted considerable attention to raising live stock, especially hogs. Here his death occurred July 23, 1905. He was well liked throughout his community and had the respect of all who knew him.

Mrs. Rebecca Smith was born in Greene county, Missouri, August 17, 1843. She is a daughter of James and Delila (Taber) Watts. The father was born in Tennessee in 1810, and there grew up on a farm and received a common school education and married and there resided until three of his children were born; then immigrated to Greene county, Missouri, in wagons drawn by oxen, crossing the Mississippi river in the winter, on the ice. He followed farming in Tennessee for a time after his marriage, later was a steamboat pilot on the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. He often made extensive trips, being away from home eight and ten months at a time, when he was a riverman. It was in 1835 that he brought his family to Greene county, and. was thus among the first settlers. He entered from the government two hundred and forty acres, most of which he cleared and developed into a good farm and was rated among the successful pioneers of this locality, was well-known among the frontiersmen and well liked for his many good traits of character. Politically, he was a Republican. His death occurred on his farm here. His wife was born in Tennessee in 1812, was reared on a farm there and received such educational advantages as the schools of those early times afforded. She was a hard worker and was always ready to assist her husband in making the living and in the proper rearing of their children. She lived to an advanced age, dying at the home of her son twenty years after her husband's death. She was a member of the Presbyterian church. To Mr. and Mrs. Watts the following children were born, namely: William Harrison was an artillery man during the Civil war and was killed in battle, shot while tending his cannon; John J., a veteran of the Civil war, lives at Rogersville, Webster county; Thomas J., deceased; James Madison, who was a soldier in the Civil war, is deceased; Isaac Newton, who was a soldier in the Sixth Missouri Cavalry, died while in the service, in 1862; Rebecca, who became the wife of Mr. Smith, of this sketch; Mary T. is deceased; Mrs. Delila. E. Sams lives in Clinton county, Missouri; Robert S., deceased; George W. lives in Rogersville; Andrew Jackson, deceased; Mrs. Mattie Robenau lives in Springfield, where she is engaged in the millinery business, Mrs. Artelia. Jennings lives in Webster county, Missouri.

Mrs. Smith was reared on the home farm and was educated in the common schools in Greene county. She has been a diligent and worthy helpmeet and a prudent and kind mother. She is now getting along in years, but has the appearance of a much younger woman, being well preserved and enjoying good health. She has a wide circle of friends in this part of the county.

To Mr. and Mrs. Smith three children were born, namely: Jerome, born January 4, 1867, is deceased; Leon, born January 4, 1869, is deceased; Mrs. Lennie M. Roach, born June 28, 1877. Mr. Roach operates the homestead for Mrs. Smith, he and his wife residing at the old home with the widow of our subject.


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