Biography - Thomas Smith

THOMAS SMITH, of Moweaqua, Shelby County, worthily represents the farmers of this county who have aided in its agricultural development in years past, and are now living in honorable retirement in the enjoyment of well-earned competencies. Our subject is a native of Salem Township, Warren County, Ohio, born January 3, 1833. Peter Smith, his father, is thought to have been a native of that State. He was a son of Caleb Smith, who was a Virginian by birth and was an early pioneer of Ohio.

The father of our subject was a cooper by trade, and carried on that calling in addition to farming. He died in Warren County while yet in life's prime. His wife was Elizabeth Varner, a daughter of Jacob Varner.

He of whom we write was but ten years old when his father died, and, though he was so young, as he was the eldest son, he had to help his mother support the family. She married again seven years later, and he then went to work on a farm by the month, remaining thus employed in his native State until 1853. Then, in the prime and vigor of a stalwart young manhood, he came to Illinois to seek fortune's favors on this productive soil, and by dint of hard pioneer labor has accumulated a comfortable property. In coming hither he traveled by what was then the most expeditious route, proceeding by rail to Terre Haute, Ind., thence by stage to his destination in this county, arriving in Flat Branch Township after a journey of three days and two nights.

The first four years that he lived here he made his home with William Snell, and subsequently rented a farm one year. After that he traded land in Flat Branch Township for a tract of wild land on section 30, Penn Township, and for a time lived in a log cabin that he bought and removed to the place. He then erected a frame house, and during the time that he resided there made many other improvements. In 1870 he exchanged that farm for eighty acres of wild land in Flat Branch Township, the land being fenced, a half of it broken, and an orchard was set out, but there were no buildings.

Mr. Smith lived on that farm until 1890, developing it into an attractive and valuable piece of property, and he then removed to Moweaqua, where he has since lived retired. He is now building a neat and substantial residence on the south side of the Park, where he and his family propose to fit up a cozy and comfortable home.

Mr. Smith was married in 1858 to Miss Ruth E. Clark, and by her ready helpfulness and sage counsel he has been greatly aided in what he has accomplished. They have three children — Frank L., Edward and Nora. Mrs. Smith is a native of Ohio, a daughter of one of its pioneer families. Her father, William R. Clark, was also a native of the Buckeye state, born in Warren County, February 26, 1803. His father, who was also named William, was born in Virginia, and died a short time after the birth of his son, who was named in his honor. His wife, Rachel Ross, was born in Kentucky, and was a daughter of Jonathan Ross, who was a native of Maryland, was a soldier in the Revolutionary War, and afterward emigrated to Kentucky, of which he was a pioneer settler. He assisted in building the blockhouse on the Ohio River at Newport, opposite Cincinnati. He was in the latter city when it was a small hamlet of but four houses. He afterward settled in the wilds of Warren County, thirty miles east of Cincinnati, where he died in 1841, at the remarkably advanced age of one hundred and four years.

William R. Clark was reared in Warren County on the banks of the Miami River, four miles from Lebanon, the county seat. In the days of his boyhood but little attention was paid to education, and he did not often attend school. As soon as he was old enough he was obliged to work, and his grandfather, with whom he lived, being crippled, he was given full charge of the farm at an early age. December 29, 1824 he secured a helpmate in the person of Miss Nancy Burger, to whom he was then married. She was born in Virginia September 15, 1806. He was employed several years in teaming between the Miami River and Cincinnati. He afterward went to farming for himself on rented land. The Miami Valley was surpassingly rich and productive, and land being held very high there, Mr. Clark decided to come to Illinois, where he could secure land of his own at a reasonable price. He journeyed thither with teams, bringing with him his family, and camping and cooking by the wayside whenever necessary. He came to Flat Branch Township in 1854, first settled on the prairie north of the timber, and in the fall of the same year located on the homestead of eighty acres where his son now lives, which he had entered at the rate of $2.50 an acre. He built the first house on the prairie in Flat Branch Township, between the timber and the railway. It was not customary then to locate on the open prairies, and he had no idea that they would become so well settled as at present. He and his good wife lived to a ripe age, and reared a family of nine children, as follows: Rebecca, Rachel, Mary Ann, Matilda Eliza, James, William, John, Jasper and Emory. Mr. Clark was always a sturdy Democrat in politics, and from the time that he cast his first vole for Andrew Jackson in 1824 he supported every Democratic Presidential candidate until his death.

Extracted 10 Apr 2018 by Norma Hass from 1891 Portrait and Biographical Record of Shelby and Moultrie Counties Illinois, pages 518-520.

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