REV. MOSES SMITH

Source: Album of Genealogy and Biography, Cook County, Illinois with Portraits 3rd ed. revised and extended (Chicago: Calumet Book & Engraving Co., 1895), pp. 69-70.

REV. MOSES SMITH was born in Hebron, Connecticut, August 16, 1830.  He is the youngest of five children born to Nathan and Jerusha (Ashley) Smith.  His father cultivated a rocky farm, situated a long distance from any market town, and much hard labor devolved upon every member of the family.  Yet such was the moral atmosphere of the home, that it was ever regarded by all its inmates with unfailing love and reverence.  It had long been the earnest prayer of both parents that one son might follow the calling of a minister.  In his eighteenth year Mr. Smith was converted and at once determined to fulfill this cherished wish.  He spent one term at an academy at Westfield, Massachusetts, and entered Yale College in the autumn of 1848.  During his college life he was obliged to use rigid economy.  His two eldest brothers generously remained at home to assist on the farm.  Mr. Smith was able to earn money each year to pay all his bills, and was graduated in 1852, in the first ten of a class of marked ability.

Mr. Smith received the offer of a tutorship under President Sturdevant, of Illinois College, but declined the position and returned to Westfield as a teacher, meantime prosecuting his studies.  His health soon failed from undue exertion, and he was obliged to suspend literary labor for one year.  In 1854 and 1855 he again taught in Westfield Academy, after which he began the study of theology in Andover, Massachusetts, taking an extra course of one year under the late Dr. Nathaniel Taylor, of New Haven, Connecticut.  While there he was licensed to preach, and labored with much success at Ansonia and Farmington, Connecticut, during the revival of 1857 and 1858.  At Farmington he was invited to become associate pastor with the late Dr. Noah Porter.  This he declined, and began a course of medicine at New Haven with a view to becoming a missionary to Africa.  He was graduated from Andover in 1859, but his health was such that no mission board could wisely adopt him.  On the 22d of September, 1859, he was ordained pastor of the Congregational Church of Plainville, Connecticut.

From the beginning of the Civil War Mr. Smith warmly supported the Government.  In August, 1863, he was drafted, and, refusing a substitute, entered the volunteer service.   He was at once offered a Lieutenancy under his classmate, Col. H. B. Sprague, but he refused it and was enrolled in Company A, Eighth Connecticut Volunteer Infantry, Col. L. B. Ward commanding.  He was unanimously elected Chaplain of the regiment, and was commissioned by Governor Buckingham.  Under the guidance of Mr. Smith numbers of men and officers were converted.  He always accompanied the regiment, whether on the march or in the field, and was engaged in  front of Richmond, in 1864, under Generals Butler, Smith, Perry and Grant.  He shared in the battles of Bermuda Hundred, Drury’s Bluff, Cold Harbor and Port Harrison.  He entered Richmond with the first troops, April 3, 1865.  The following summer he served in detached service under the Freedman’s Bureau.  His district embraced three counties, with headquarters at Danville, Virginia.  In this district he was first to establish law and justice.

Mr. Smith’s church had retained him as pastor, with leave of absence, and in October, 1865, he resigned the chaplaincy and was gladly welcomed home by his people in Plainville.  In March, 1869, he resigned that charge to become pastor of the Leavitt Street Congregational Church in Chicago.  He was there during the Great Fire and until the summer of 1873, when he resigned.  During his pastorate the membership of the church was quadrupled.   In addition to the work of his parish, Mr. Smith had been connected with the relief work in Chicago, and for two years was Secretary of the Western Education Society.  He was unanimously called to the Tabernacle Church of Chicago, but declined the position, and January 1, 1874, accepted the pastorate of the First Congregational Church at Jackson, Michigan.  His ministry there was attended with much spiritual prosperity, and the church became second of its denomination in the state, with a Sunday-school the largest of any Congregational Church in Michigan.

He resigned in 1878 and accepted the pastorate of the Woodward Avenue Congregational Church of Detroit, where he labored successfully for ten years.  The church there had suffered severely in its financial management; its fine church edifice, together with all its furniture, had been lost under foreclosure of a mortgage amounting to $25,000, and it was also carrying debts of honor to the amount of more than $10,000, with no assets.  The debts were paid and the church property re-purchased, at a price of $27,500, during the first two years.  This achievement was a surprise to the church members and the citizens of Detroit.  It was, perhaps, the greatest task of its kind, under such conditions, that was ever undertaken in the United States.  Under his ministry the church became the largest in membership of any of the Congregational Churches of Detroit, and its benevolences exceeded those of any Congregational Church in Michigan.

While in Detroit he and his excellent wife twice conducted small parties of young people through Europe, visiting Great Britain, France, Germany, Austria, Italy and Switzerland.  In 1888 he finally resigned.  At the urgent solicitation of his devoted members, and by vote of the church, a volume of his sermons, entitled “Questions of the Ages,” was published by F. H. Revel & Company, of New York and Chicago.  He at once accepted the call of the Congregational Church in the beautiful Chicago suburb of Glencoe, a position which he is now filling with great tact and ability.

In the temperance cause in all his churches and in the army he was especially active.  In theology he is both orthodox and progressive, and in matters affecting church and state he is very democratic.  He abhors laziness and shams.  He favors philanthropy and every measure which has for its aim the advancement of true science.  He was a Trustee of Olivet College, Michigan, and Director of the Chicago Theological Seminary, and is a corporate member of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions.

June 12, 1860, Mr. Smith was married, at Marengo, Illinois, to Emily Austin, daughter of Deacon Marcus White, well known for his anti-slavery principles and his interest in churches and education.  Mrs. Smith is a graduate of Mount Holyoke College.  She is President of the alumni association of that institution, and President of the Woman’s Board of Missions for the Interior.  The only child of Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Clayton W., born April 4, 1875, died August 6 of the same year.  They have brought up in their home three other children.  Mr. Smith possesses a fine library, especially good in the departments of history and natural science.

                                -- Submitted on 10/17/99 by Sherri Hessick ( slhessick@crosswinds.net )