From A Biographical
History of Central Kansas, Vol. II, p. 1320
published by The Lewis Publishing Co, Chicago & New York, 1902
John Fletcher Smith
The list of the leading citizens of Rice county contains the name of J F Smith, one of the representatives and honored citizens of the community. His record as a soldier and as a business man has been so honorable that he has gained the confidence and good will of all with whom he has been brought in contact. He was born in Morgan county, Illinois, May 5, 1839, and was reared to the honest toil of a farmer, receiving his education in the common schools. He is a son of Job and Eve (Miller) Smith, natives respectively of Kentucky and Indiana . The father was a son of James Smith, a native also of Kentucky (Maryland). He subsequently removed to (North Carolina, Kentucky, Indiana), Illinois and later to Iowa, where he died. Both he and his wife were called to their final rest in Iowa. He was a broadminded Christian gentleman and was a minister in the Methodist church.
Unto this worthy couple were born the following children: Samuel and Levi, who also followed the high and holy calling of a minister; Thomas, a successful agriculturist; Job, the father of our subject; William; John; Elijah; Ruth, who became the wife of J Lindsey; and Jennie, the wife of I Miller.
Job Smith, the father of our subject, claims Kentucky as the state of his nativity. When seven years old he went with his parents to Illinois, where he grew to manhood, and in that state he was married. In 1853, he located in Iowa, where he secured a tract of raw prairie land, securing seven hundred acres from the government, which he improved as the years passed. In later life he divided this land among his children, but retained a good farm for himself. In 1874 he came to the Sunflower state, locating a homestead claim in Rice county. He afterward sold his Iowa farm and made a permanent location here, since which time he has improved his farm. His persistent and unfaltering labors brought to him a competence sufficient to enable him to put aside the active cares of the farm, and he is now living in quiet retirement, enjoying the rest which he has truly earned and richly merits. In 1898 he left the home farm and removed to Lyons, where he is now living, at the ripe old age of eighty-nine years. He was reared in the faith of the Methodist church, and when about twenty years of age he was converted and became a member of that denomination, ever since living a devoted Christian life. He is familiarly known as Uncle Job, and his life has been ever upright and honorable, commanding the respect and confidence of all with whom he has been brought in contact. His wife, who died in 1897, was a devoted Christian and was a daughter of J Miller, of Pennsylvania, and of German descent. He became a resident of Illinois and was a prominent farmer of that state. Both he and his wife died in Indiana.
They were the parents of three children - Isaac, who died in Iowa; Polly, the wife of Thomas Smith; and Eve, the mother of our subject. Unto Job and Eve Smith were born the following children: Elizabeth, who died in Iowa; J F, the subject of this review; F M and I N, retired farmers of Rice county and both area residents of Lyons; W T, also of Lyons; E T, a resident of Baldwin, Kansas; and Mary J, who became Mrs. Summers. Three of the sons were soldiers in the Civil War, and thirteen members of the Smith family took part in that struggle. Although none were killed in active service, two of the number died from the effects of wounds received in battle.
J Fletcher Smith, the subject of this review, was reared to manhood in Iowa, remaining under the parental roof until 1861, when he enlisted for three years or during the war. He became a member of Company F, Fourth Iowa Volunteer Infantry, and was consigned to the western department of the army, under command of General Curtis. His command saw some hard service, having participated in many skirmishes and hotly contested battles and also went on many long and fatiguing marches. His first engagement was at Pea Ridge, and he continued in the campaign after General Price until reaching Helena, Arkansas, when the command went into camp and remained there for some time. From there they went to Vicksburg, taking part in the siege at that place, but during the first attack Mr. Smith had his left hand shot away. Soon afterward he was sent to St Louis, where he remained in the hospital for about one month and was then honorably discharged and received his pay. Mr. Smith was made acting first sergeant of his company, and during his army service he suffered greatly from chills, which he contracted at Pea Ridge, being thus afflicted until sent to the hospital at St Louis. While at Helena, Arkansas, he also suffered from fever. He now receives a pension in compensation for his army service.
After his recovery Mr. Smith returned to his home in Iowa and as soon as able again took up the work of the farm, which he was obliged to do with only one hand. However, he has persevered in his undertakings and has overcome the obstacles and difficulties which beset his path by unfaltering determination and resolute will. In 1865 he was married and located on a farm of his own. Later he embarked in the grocery business. In 1879 he came to Kansas, and for a number of years remained in his father's home, during which time, in 1888, he was again married. A few years afterward he purchased a farm of his own, where he remained four years, when he sold that place and moved to a farm belonging to his wife. Later that place became the property of his wife's son and Mr. Smith then bought the half section of land which he yet owns, in 1898, located seven miles northwest of Lyons. The place is under a fair state of cultivation, and he is there engaged in general farming and stockraising, in which he is meeting with a very high degree of success. His study of political questions has led him to give his support to Republican principles, and while residing in Iowa, in 1870, he was the choice of his party for the office of register of deeds, in which he served four years. Although never an aspirant for political honors, he has been asked to serve in the same position in Kansas.
Mr. Smith was first married to Mrs. Sophia V Smith, the wedding being celebrated in Iowa. She was the widow of James Smith, a distant relative of our subject, who died from wounds received during his service in the Civil War. She is the daughter of Samuel Craven, a native of Virginia and an early pioneer of Illinois, where he followed the occupation of a farmer. His death occurred in that state, in the faith of the Methodist church, of which he was a member. He was the father of five children - Sophia V, Abner, Elizabeth, who became Mrs. Linn, and Lucretia. Mrs. Smith had two children by her first marriage, and her union with Mr. Smith was blessed with two children also, - William F, an implement dealer of Winterset, Iowa, and Ollie M, the wife of Dr J A Lawson, of Winterset. In 1888, in Kansas, Mr. Smith was united in marriage with Mrs. Susie Murphy, who was the mother of 2 children. Mr. Murphy was born in Illinois, but was reared on a farm in Iowa, and followed that occupation as a life work. After coming to Kansas he was married and located on a farm in Ellsworth county. His children were Arthur, who is engaged in farming, and Stanley, who died at the age of nineteen years. Mrs. Smith is a daughter of E A and Amanda (Oveith) Vermilya, natives of Indiana and Ohio, respectively. Their marriage occurred in Iowa, and in 1876, they came to Kansas, locating on a tract of raw land in Rice county, which he improved. He later sold that place and removed to Frederick, where he engaged in merchandising. Unto this couple were born five children: Wright, who is now deceased; Ovid, a resident of Lyons; William B, also deceased; Guy, who died at the age of seventeen years; and Susie, the wife of our subject. The mother died when Mrs. Smith was only eight years of age, and the father was again married, in Iowa, to Miss Eliza Enoch, by whom he had three children - Percy, who died in childhood; Charles, who died in childhood; and Grace, the wife of J F Olander. The mother of these children is also deceased, but the father still is living and is a resident of Frederick. The union of Mr. and Mrs. Smith has been blessed with five children, namely: M Ethel, who was born December 22, 1890; D Verna, who was born September 21, 1892; Nora L, born August 24, 1894; J Burr, who was born September 19, 1898 and died January 20, 1901; and Dwight Bruce (February 25, 1901). The parents are consistent and worthy members of the Methodist church, and he is a member of the Grand Army of the Republic. He is a man of average intelligence and genuine public spirit, and these qualities, combined with his sterling integrity, have naturally gained for him the respect and confidence of men.