Biography - James Smith

JAMES A. SMITH, Postmaster of New Burnside, Ill., was born in Johnson County, Ill., December 14, 1847, a son of J. B. Smith, who was a native of South Carolina and was born in 1805. The latter was a son of Hiram Smith, a farmer of South Carolina, who died on his farm in that State, having reared a family of two sons and four daughters, of whom J. B. Smith was the youngest. The father of our subject received an ordinary education, but being of an inquiring mind he became quite well informed. After the death of his father, Hiram Smith, his mother removed with her children to Kentucky, when J. B. Smith was sixteen years old. Here he was early converted to the Methodist faith, and at the age of twenty-three became a preacher, and was an itinerant minister for many years. He was married early in life to Matilda C. Franklin, a descendant of Benjamin Franklin, their marriage occurring in Kentucky, and in 1826 or 1827 they removed to Pope County, Ill., by the only mode of travel then in vogue, their own horse and cart. Mr. Smith had learned the blacksmith's trade, and upon arriving in Pope County started a blacksmith shop at Golconda.
While there the father of our subject was Captain of a company and an active participant in that brief struggle, the Black Hawk War, and soon after returning home sold out his shop in Golconda and moved to the southeastern part of what is now Johnson County, Ill., where he entered three hundred and twenty acres of timber land. Upon this land he erected a log cabin, in which he and his family lived for a few years, and in the meantime he erected a two-story brick house, the brick for which he burned himself. This house, which was the only brick structure in this section at the time, was then a mansion compared with other houses in this part of the State. It was 30x18 feet in size, and was for many years the best house in the county. He had a blacksmith shop on his farm, and through his trade made sufficient money to pay several men to aid in cultivating his farm, and they, together with others, cleared the estate.
At the outbreak of the Civil War our subject's father enlisted, and soon became First Lieutenant of Company K, First Illinois Light Artillery. Within six months his captain resigned, and he was promoted to the captaincy, which position he filled until the famous Grierson raid. His battery was then attached to Col. Grierson 's regiment, the Sixth Illinois, and the men were in their saddles and boots for seventeen consecutive days, which proved too much for a man of Capt. Smith's age, and he was compelled to go into the hospital at Memphis, from which he was discharged in the early part of 1865. His charger and one other horse were the only ones to come out of this ordeal alive and fit for any further use. He shipped his noble horse home, where he was both useful and famous for many years. During all these years of farming, blacksmithing and soldiering, Capt. Smith preached frequently, and died in the possession of his faith at his home in August, 1872, when sixty-seven years of age. Though he has slept in the grave these twenty years, yet the results of his labors remain, and he lives embalmed in the memory of many besides those of his own household. His faithful and heroic wife survived him but two years, and followed him to the grave from the old brick house, aged sixty-five years. They had buried an infant son, and one daughter, Anna, aged ten years.
Their second child, Thomas H. Smith, was a soldier in the Forty-eighth Infantry, going into the army as Lieutenant-Colonel in 1861, and falling mortally wounded at Ft. Donelson. He was but thirty-two years of age, and left a wife and two children, a son and a daughter. He was a lawyer of ability, had been elected State's Attorney, and was a popular and promising young man. His untimely death was mourned by many people aside from his immediate family, and he was an active and loyal Republican to the day of his death.
James A. Smith has three brothers and two sisters living. John W. Smith is a hotel-keeper at Fordyce, Ark., and the rest are residents of Johnson and Massac Counties, Ill. James A. Smith had a good common-school education only, and was reared to farm life, assisting his father in the blacksmith shop a portion of the time. He remained at home until his marriage, in September, 1874, to Miss H. T. Clymer, daughter of J. C. and Sarah (Shiars) Clymer, early settlers in Johnson County from Tennessee. Mr. Smith began life as a farmer, and three years afterward removed to New Burnside, where he established an implement agency, to which he soon added general merchandise. He continued in these lines of business until 1883, when his wife died, leaving three children, one son and two daughters. Mr. Smith was then in impaired health, suffering from dyspepsia and general debility, and so sold out his business and went to Hot Springs, Ark., where he remained one and a-half years, returning in a greatly improved condition, though he still occasionally returns there. He was married in 1885 to Anna H. Tremble, a native of Tennessee, whose father, R. B. Tremble, is now a Christian minister. Her mother was Nannie T. Nance, of Tennessee. By our subject's second marriage there have been born three sons, Harry, six years old; Robert Ray, four; and Walter, one and one-half years of age. Three children were born to his first wife: Eugene, eighteen years old; Clara, aged fourteen; and Ethel, ten. In 1887, on his return from the Springs, he opened a grain and feed store, which he ran for two years, and then formed a co-partnership with E. Clymer, under the firm name of Smith & Clymer. This firm handles general hardware, lumber, doors, sash, and all kinds of building material. Mr. Smith was Postmaster first under President Hayes, which office he has held ever since, except during the years of Grover Cleveland's administration. His father, after the partial recovery of his health, was elected County Judge, and held the office for four years. Mr. Smith is a Royal Arch Mason and an Odd Fellow, and he is a member of the Christian Church. His sister, Elizabeth, widow of D. T. Cummins, has four sons, who are preachers in the Methodist Episcopal Church. One event of importance connected with the life of J. B. Smith ought to be mentioned in this connection: In 1846, or just prior to the Mexican War, an emergency arose in this portion of the State, particularly in Massac County, which resulted in an organization of the citizens for self-defense. This organization was known as the Regulators, and of it J. B. Smith and Mr. Simpson were leading members. The object of the Regulators was to free the citizens from the depredations of a bad and notorious band of robbers, whose popular designation was "The Flat Heads," and who were banded together for the purpose of horse-stealing, general plundering and "cussedness." There was but one pitched battle between the Regulators and the Flat Heads, in which the latter were completely routed and dispersed, and no further trouble was experienced from their existence afterward.

Extracted 21 Sep 2016 by Norma Hass from 1893 Biographical Review of Johnson, Massac, Pope, and Hardin Counties, Illinois, pages 298-300

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