My Genealogy Hound

Below is a family biography included in Portrait and Biographical Album of Greene and Clark Counties, Ohio published by Chapman Bros., in 1890.  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.

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ERWIN L. SMITH, better known as “Ed,” is a gentleman of varied experience, having led a very eventful life. He was graduated at the Wilberham, Mass., Wesleyan Academy when seventeen years of age, which was in 1857. His father, Stephen Smith, who was one of the largest cotton manufacturers in the Granite State, and who had held the position of Councilman, which was an office similar to that of Lieutenant Governor, had intended that his son should take a full course at Yale. Owing to his sudden death the fall after the son’s graduation from the academy, the youth was allowed to have his own way, and he chose to accept a position which was offerred him, as assistant book-keeper in a large mercantile house in New York. There he was rapidly working his way to the front when the fatal shot was fired on Ft. Sumter.

Dropping his pen, young Smith took up the sword in defense of his country, being one of the first men to enlist. He was placed in the Seventy-first New York Regiment, three month’s men, and sent at once to the defense of Washington, whence he took part in the first battle of Bull Run. At the expiration of his term of enlistment he returned to his native village. Mason, N. H., where his mother still lived, and recruited a company for a New Hampshire regiment. His mother objected to his again entering the service, and sent him on a trip to California. For the next few years therefore, his life was spent in mines and among miners, his headquarters being at Virginia City and Austin, Nev., during the wildest days of those places.

The desire of young Smith to serve his country was still strong, and, in 1864, he again enlisted, becoming a member of the Eighth California Infantry and Light Artillery, and going to San Francisco on duty, where he stayed until the close of the war. He then returned to his home by way of the Isthmus and New York, but three months after his arrival in his native State he went to St. Louis, and took passage for Ft. Benton, Mont. The trip to that place consumed seventy-two days, and thence he went Helena, where with others he fitted out for a trip to the Salmon River country, in Idaho. The entire winter was spent by him and two partners in the solitudes of the mighty forest. In the spring they went to the Sweetwater mines in Wyoming, where Mr. Smith built the first house in the town, the structure bringing in a rental of $100 per month. There the prospectors “struck it rich,” which was very fortunate for them as they were without means. Taking what rock they could crush with a common hammer, crushing and washing it, they would collect gold enough for all their needs. During his sojourn in the West, Mr. Smith was present at the ceremony of driving the gold spike on the Union & Central Pacific Railroad.

At the beginning of the Leadville excitement, Mr. Smith was early on the ground, where for five years he operated in mining stock and became very wealthy. “Fortune is a fickle jade,” and so she proved with him, for soon her smiles gave place to frowns, and he left there about as poor as he went. Seeking new fields to work, with a miner’s outfit, he made an extended tour through Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona. Taking the train at El Paso, Tex., for Shreveport, La., he there embarked on a steamer for New Orleans, whence he came by boat to Cincinnati. Having spent the best years of his life chasing the will-o’-the-wisp, Dame Fortune, through the mountain gorges of the Rockies, he made up his mind to quit mining forever, and seek some occupation which, although slow, would be sure. Making his way to Cedarville, Greene County, he engaged as a laborer in a sawmill, and in this place has resided since 1885.

In 1886, the mother of our subject, who up to that time had resided in Mason, N. H., Norwich, Conn., Brooklyn, N. Y., and Pawtucket, R. I., and who was quite wealthy, came to live with her only child, rejoicing that he had settled down, and that she could be with him in her last days. Under his supervision she had a fine modern residence built, but lived only a short time to enjoy it, dying April 5, 1889. The house is heated by steam, and has fine bath rooms, laundry and pantry supplied with hot and cold water, and is lit by gas which is generated on the place by Mr. Smith. He now busies himself at market gardening, and also raises chickens, using the most approved incubators, from which the young chicks come in long files.

Mr. Smith is a Democrat, and is now a member of the County Central Committee, from Cedarville Township. His father was a Whig and an Abolitionist. He belongs to the social orders of Odd Fellows and Free Masons, and is also a member of Post No. 94, G. A. R., of which he is Past Commander. He was married in 1886, to Miss Lillie M. Phillips, daughter of John and Mary Phillips, of Cedarville, and is the father of two interesting little ones: Stephen, named for his grandfather Smith; and Maria, the baby, named for her grandmother Smith.

Stephen Smith, the father of our subject, was a son of Darius and Ruth Smith, the former being a sea captain, all of whose sons followed the sea except Stephen, who became a cotton manufacturer. The mother of our subject was in girlhood Miss Maria Ellis, of Attleboro, Mass., a daughter of George and Patty Ellis, and a granddaughter of Richard and Mehitable (Draper) Ellis.

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This family biography is one of the many biographies included in Portrait and Biographical Album of Greene and Clark Counties, Ohio published by Chapman Bros., in 1890. 

View additional Greene County, Ohio family biographies here: Greene County, Ohio Biographies

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