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WILLIAM T. SMITH.
Philip Smith, the great-grandfather of William T. Smith, whose portrait accompanies this sketch, emigrated from Germany when quite a boy, and settled in Eastern Pennsylvania; from thence he moved into Westmoreland, and married Mary Armel. His son, John Smith, born in 1767, was married to Catharine Shockey. He died in 1807, aged forty years, and his wife died in 1821, aged fifty-three. They had a family of seven children, one of whom died early, but the other six grew up. Four are still living, and are aged from seventy-five to eighty-three years. Of these, William Smith, father, was born February 12, 1800, on the farm now owned by and upon which resides his son, William T., who was the second son and the fifth child.
William T. Smith was born on this farm in 1830. His early years were passed in the domestic employment upon his father’s farm incident to his occupation. He enjoyed no further advantages than were usual to farmers’ boys of his day. His early education was not neglected, and he certainly had superior training under his father’s roof. The bent of his inclination and his desire to acquire a practical knowledge of men and of the world were evinced and partially and practically gratified in his early manhood. In 1856 he ventured in the stock trade, and manifested judgment and business ability of no ordinary character in taking a drove of Eastern horses to a Western market. These he carried to Iowa. Returning successfully from his speculation, but filled with a desire to know more of Western life and its practicalities, he in March, 1859, again went to Iowa to examine some land which he had there purchased. In this trip he walked one hundred and twenty miles from Iowa City to Story County, returned to Iowa City, and thence came eastward as far as McLean County, in that State, where, not far from Bloomington, he engaged with a former Westmorelander to conduct his farming interests. In 1859 he went to Bloomington and took a course at Pratt’s Commercial College. In April, 1860, he rigged up four yoke of oxen and started for Kansas, then the Mecca of so many glowing pilgrims who sought a wider and more prosperous field for their activities. But so many had entered thither that it appeared that the adventure would be fruitless. It appeared so at the time, but in the sequel it proved to be profitable, and was the occasion of an event which rarely happens in this practical world of ours; for engaging with a Mr. Lightfoot to break a tract of land, he was much disappointed when, having nearly finished his contract, Mr. Lightfoot announced that he had to return to his home in Alabama to sell a slave there to pay for the work. He did so return, but shortly after his arrival there he was taken ill. Then followed the war, and nothing was heard of the land-owner till six years had passed; but then who can imagine the surprise of him to whom the money was due upon receiving a draft on New York at his home in Pennsylvania for the amount due with interest at ten per cent. added to date, with an accompanying letter from the former employer.
Late in 1860, leaving his partner in Iowa, whither they had returned to take care of their stock, Mr. Smith revisited Pennsylvania, but in the spring of 1861 returned to Iowa. He then began farming there, and in 1862 married and settled down; but his brother Ezra having died from injuries received in battle before Richmond, his father solicited him to come back and take charge of the old farm. This he did, and upon this farm he has made his home, which is a model for neatness, comfort, convenience, and hospitality.
But practical as Mr. Smith is in all the walks of life, he possesses in an eminent degree the rare faculty of uniting pleasure and enjoyment with his vocation, and of making these elements of higher social and civilized life instruments for his own worldly success, and for the wider scope of acquired information. In 1876 he visited the Centennial Exposition at Philadelphia twice, and he went with his eyes open, for not only did he enjoy with all the full measure of his healthful vitality and strong mind the sights at that wonderful fair, and all the places of interest in Philadelphia, and in New York, Baltimore, and Washington, whither his trips extended, but he utilized many of the improvements and later inventions applicable to an advanced system of agriculture, and only feasible and profitable to a farmer of intelligence, a man who could discriminate between theory and practice, and who unites brain with muscle.
In 1878, the year of the Paris Exposition, Mr. Smith went to Europe. In company with an invalid relative, he went from Liverpool to London, and thence to Newhaven, whence he crossed the English Channel to Dieppe, in France, where he first touched the continent. From here he went to Paris, and after visiting all the more noted places of interest and curiosity in the gay capital of the world, such as the Madeleine, the Palace de Justice, the Louvre, the Place Vendome with its renewed column, the Cathedral of Notre Dame, with its high altars and famous organ and choir, and the suburbs of the city, Versailles and Rouen, he was forced to abandon his projected tour of Italy on account of the failing health of his companion, and to return home.
Of this trip Mr. Smith preserves many gratifying memories and souvenirs. Of these he recalls the peculiar feeling of astonishment he experienced when, upon presenting his letter of credit at the cashier’s desk of the Bank of England, he was handed a quill pen with which to write his signature. But above all and more interesting are his recollections and observations upon the method of farming in France, and the habits, manners, and customs of the agricultural and peasant class of that country. He brought home with him more enlarged ideas of his vocation, and pronounced preferences for his country and its institutions.
In 1880, Mr. Smith made a summer trip to Colorado and the mining regions of the Rocky Mountains, and now contemplates an extended trip to Utah, California, and the Pacific Coast.
The judicious farming of such a man as our subject is, as might be expected, a matter of course. Every resource and applicance calculated to develop the productive power of the soil, either by tillage, by the selection of seed, or by the rotation of crops, is brought into requisition. Particularly has he for years devoted time and care to the improvement of his breed of stock, and from this source has lie been pecuniarily profited. His home is not only comfortable, but it is much more. On his table and shelves are found books in great variety, and periodicals of all standard kinds are constantly being received in his family. He is truly, in every sense of the word, a model and a representative farmer, and this is all he pretends to be.
Mr. Smith was married March 2, 1862, to Miss Maria Wilson, of Washington, Tazewell Co., Ill. In bringing her to Pennsylvania he reversed the usual order of things, as indeed he appears to have done in the most important ventures and transactions of his life. In her he secured not only an intelligent but an intellectual wife and a worthy helpmate. Her great-grandfather, McLure, was of Irish blood, and settled in Tennessee, whence her grandfather moved to Illinois, in Tazewell County, where her father, William Wilson, from Perry County, Ohio, was married to Sarah G. McLure, mother of Mrs. Smith, and where he settled on a farm, on which he remained until his death, Nov. 19, 1857. They have a growing family of intelligent children.