My Genealogy Hound

Below is a family biography included in The History of Benton County, Missouri published by Goodspeed Publishing Company in 1889.  These biographies are valuable for genealogy research in discovering missing ancestors or filling in the details of a family tree. Family biographies often include far more information than can be found in a census record or obituary.  Details will vary with each biography but will often include the date and place of birth, parent names including mothers' maiden name, name of wife including maiden name, her parents' names, name of children (including spouses if married), former places of residence, occupation details, military service, church and social organization affiliations, and more.  There are often ancestry details included that cannot be found in any other type of genealogical record.

* * * *

Sewall W. Smith was born in Lewiston, N. Y., July 23, 1823, and after a number of years’ residence in his native town moved to Youngstown, near Fort Niagara, where he succeeded in obtaining employment, his residence there being varied by occasional trips as a sailor on the steam, sailing and fishing vessels on the Lakes, St. Lawrence River, and also on the Welland Ship Canal. He acted as ferry man’s assistant, also, on the Niagara River, and was clerk in his father’s store, but, owing to his love of adventure and roving disposition, his early school experience was limited, although he had choice of all of the advantages of the common schools and academies of that period. After a time he was tendered a clerkship on one of the sections of the Illinois & Michigan Canal, and at the age of seventeen years made the long trip around the lakes to Chicago, which was then the frontier of civilization, and found himself in that city without a cent, but among true friends. He could have bought many acres of land there for a very small sum of money at that time, but like the man who was offered a thousand acres of land for a jackknife, he had not the jackknife. During the intervals of severe attacks of intermittent and malarial fever, his leisure was spent at the home of his father, who had moved his family there, passing much time in shooting wild ducks and prairie grouse around ponds at and near the spot where the Palmer House now stands. After a short residence in Joliet, Ill., Grand Rapids, Mich., and other towns in the latter State, he drifted back to Chicago at a time when, in spite of commercial depression, it was being rapidly built up. Salaries, however, were small, and after a period of clerking, medical study and school-teaching, he accepted an offer of a lieutenancy in a marching company in the war with Mexico. The company was consolidated with another, and after enlistment in the ranks, and months of exposure in the malarial districts of Tampico, he was stricken with a severe attack of yellow fever; his coffin was sent for, and guard detailed for his burial, but the crisis passed, and he soon began to recover. He then spent some time in caring for others stricken with the fever; was attached to the medical department in line of promotion, and later received orders to march to Vera Cruz, Perote and the City of Mexico, thence back over the route to Pueblo delos Angelos, where he was promoted to a vacancy as captain in command of Company I, Sixth Illinois Infantry, and at the close of the war returned to Chicago. He served as book-keeper for the Two Rivers Lumber Company, then engaged in business with E. E. Smith, and in 1855 he entered journalistic life, founding the Manitowoc (Wisconsin) Tribune, which is still running. He was an ardent politician, and was a number of times chairman of the county, senatorial, and assembly district committees; was an officer in the Wisconsin Legislature; commanded the “Wide Awakes,” and assisted in the equipment of a number of regiments, serving as a staff officer in the Thirty-ninth, and was captain in command of a company in the Fifty-second Regiment Volunteer Infantry, during the late war. He was complimented by Govs. Randall and Harvey with high military appointments in the militia, but never assumed duty under them. Becoming favorably impressed with the advantages offered in Missouri, he came to Benton County after his muster out at the close of the war, and established the Warsaw Times, assisted by Assistant Adjt.-Gen. John M. Read, who soon retired, and the paper has since been published without a week’s intermission or change of management. He has served six years as judge of Benton County Court, nearly as long as justice of the peace, seventeen years as notary public, and is now serving a fourth term as mayor of the city of Warsaw; for over sixteen years was chairman of the Republican County, and a member of the senatorial and congressional executive committees; is an elder in the Presbyterian Church, and was, for a number of years, a superintendent and president of the Sunday-school Association of the county. He is a past presiding officer of the subordinate lodges of the Masons, Good Templars and Sons of Temperance; president and vice-president of editorial associations; was Grand Master in the R. W. Grand Lodge of Wisconsin, and District Deputy and authorized Grand Lecturer of the Missouri I. O. O. F. He is a prominent officer in the G. A. R., and was a delegate to the State Encampment; is president of the Missouri State Central Association Veterans of the Mexican War, and prominent as representative in the national conventions of that organization. Few of his relatives are living; one brother, Hon. O. B. Smith, is State senator from St. Augustine District, Florida, and more than ordinarily prominent as an ex-army officer, journalist, railroad official, and an extensive business man in that city; one, P. A. Smith, died recently at Pontiac, Ill.; another, W. N. Smith, who was a Chicago postal clerk, former route agent and late justice of the peace and postmaster at Englewood, Ill., is now in business in Savannah, Ga., where a widowed sister, Mrs. Hattie, relict of Dr. E. McArthur, with her son, F. E. McArthur, prominent as a business man, also resides. Another sister, Mrs. J. E. Throop, resides in Los Angeles, Cal. Mr. Smith is a son of Hon. Obed Smith, a soldier of 1812, who was probate judge, justice of the peace, and prosecuting attorney at Alpena, Mich., and was once prominent in the business circles of Western New York; was building and managing ship and ferry owner at Lewiston and Youngstown; was a heavy contractor on the Illinois & Michigan Canal, and at the time of his death, which occurred quite recently, held claims against the State of Illinois for work unpaid for as such, amounting to many thousands of dollars. His wife, whose maiden name was Asenath Goff, died in Joliet, Ill., in 1842. Mr. S. W. Smith’s first marriage was at Manitowoc, Wis., with Miss Lena Schetky, a teacher in the public schools of Philadelphia, and sister of Commander Schetky, of the United States Navy, and of Rev. Dr. George Schetky, late rector of St. James, Marshall, Mich., of H. P. Schetky, cashier of the C. E. National Bank of Philadelphia, and Mrs. Lizzie Taylor, of Ridgefield, N. J. Her death occurred at Manitowoc, Wis., in 1853. His second marriage was to Mary A. Laird, a granddaughter of Capt. John Stevens, of the United States Army, and a niece of Mayor Laird, of Erie, Pa. His present wife has the management of the composing and press-rooms of the Times, and also assists in the sales department of the stationery establishment, which nets them a fair income. Of a large family of their children but two are now living. One son, Fred. H. Smith, former local editor and foreman of the Warsaw Times, is now residing in St. Louis, and another, Charles Smith, is in business at Kansas City, both assuming some prominence in societies and business circles. Frank, a young man of rare promise and fine qualifications, died recently, aged twenty-two, in New Mexico, on his way home from California, and is buried in the Warsaw cemetery. The industry and efficiency of all these three young men have left their imprint upon the Times establishment, which can justly claim prominence among the progressive institutions of Benton County, the Osage Valley and the city of Warsaw.

* * * *

This family biography is one of 86 biographies included in The History of Benton County, Missouri published in 1889.  For the complete description, click here: Benton County, Missouri History, Genealogy, and Maps

View additional Benton County, Missouri family biographies here: Benton County, Missouri Biographies

Use the links at the top right of this page to search or browse thousands of other family biographies.