The history of the Smalley family in this country runs back to the year 1716, at which date Mr. Smalley's ancestors settled in New Jersey. Tradition relates that the ship Caledonia, which brought them over from England, afterward rotted to pieces in the Raritan Bay at Perth Amboy. Three brothers by the name of Smalley came to America; one settled in Massachusetts, one in East Jersey, and one in West Jersey, and a number of their descendants took part in the Revolutionary War. His grandfather, David Smalley, was secretary on the staff of one of the generals in the American army during the revolution, and afterwards was county judge in Somerset county, and for a number of years served as justice of the peace. An older brother, Jacob Smalley, was captain of a New Jersey company, and still another brother, Isaac Smalley, was one of the trusty men who carried dispatches from New York to the army stationed in the Highlands of the Hudson.
Mr. Smalley's father, Samuel Smalley, was born in Somerset county, New Jersey, in the same vicinity where his ancestors had lived since they first came to the state. He married for his second wife Mary Pennington. The Pennington family is also an old one in New Jersey, and has been honorably identified with the history of the state. Mr. Smalley's grandfather on his mother's side was in the war of the Revolution, enlisting in the army when very young.
A. J. Smalley was born in the Passaic valley in Morris county, New Jersey, February 14th, 1815. His father was a farmer. He attended the ordinary common schools as he had opportunity, acquiring the elements of a good business education. He was married on the 27th of October, 1836, to Julia Ann Cox, who was born in Washington valley in Somerset county, New Jersey, September 17th, 1818. Her father was Restores Cox, and he had been a soldier in the war of 1812. The Cox family was of English descent, and in early times had belonged to the Quaker denomination. On the 7th of June, 1838, Mr. Smalley left New Jersey for the west. In those days a journey to Illinois was a formidable undertaking, and required weeks for its accomplishment. Beside himself and wife, his father and mother, two brothers and one sister, made up the company, and they brought along seven horses and four wagons. They traveled through Pennsylvania and West Virginia to Wheeling on the Ohio river, and from that point took a boat down the Ohio and up the Mississippi to St. Louis. From St. Louis he came directly to this county, arriving July 4th, 1838. His father had given him one hundred dollars, and this at that time comprised his whole fortune. He entered eighty acres of land in section 3 of township 7, range 8, and began its improvement.
Although he had little capital with which to begin operations, he still possessed that which was quite as important, industrious habits, good business qualifications, energy and perseverance. The eighty acres which he first entered he still owns, and he has been living at the same place he first settled. The number of acres of his land has increased from eighty to one thousand in this county, and he owns some in addition in Kansas. This result has been accomplished not by any accident or chance, but is the fruit of many years of hard labor and the exercise of a sound business judgment. He has been engaged in no occupation except farming, and his success demonstrates that reasonable industry and careful judgment applied to the pursuit of agriculture can be made productive of the most satisfactory results. He has been content to lead the life of a quiet and retired citizen, and has never desired the honors or emoluments of any public office. Politically he is a democrat, as were all his ancestors before him. His first vote for president was cast for Van Buren in 1836, while still living in New Jersey, and from that time to the present, he has never ceased to believe that the principles of free government receive their best application in the doctrines of the democratic party. He has had six children: Restores C. Smalley, who died November 8th, 1875; James H. Smalley, who is farming in Hilyard township; Mary E., now the wife of S. S. Olmstead, residing in Hilyard township; Samuel Walter, who died November 30th, 1862, when nearly seventeen years of age; Freelove B. Smalley, and Oscar D. Smalley. The death of Mr. Smalley's wife occurred on the 11th of January, 1871. He has been one of the best citizens of Bunker Hill township, and is known as an enterprising farmer, a peaceful citizen, and a good neighbor.