JOSEPH A. SMEDLEY was born May 2, 1850, on section 21, township 18, adjoining the one on which he now lives. His present place, comprising one hundred and twenty acres, was traded in the early days for a shotgun, an entire section being given in exchange for the firearm. Cultivation, however, carried on by former generations of the family and by our subject have wrought a wonderful transformation in the appearance and value of the land, which is now worth one hundred dollars per acre.
The Smedley family is of English lineage and the ancestry of Joseph A. Smedley can be traced back to Christopher Smedley, the great-grandfather, who was sent to sea by his older brothers, who were angry with him. He lived to the advanced age of one hundred and eleven years and six months. Becoming a resident of America, he was married in Pennsylvania and afterward removed to Kentucky. He had three sons, including Thomas Smedley, the grandfather of our subject, who, with his brother William, went to St. Louis, Missouri, at an early day and later came to what is now Menard county, Illinois, then a part of Sangamon county. He settled at Clary's Grove and there reared his family. He had five sons and five daughters, three of whom were born in Kentucky, while the others were born on the old family homestead in this county. He purchased one hundred and sixty acres of land on section 20, township 18, and was the first man to settle upon the prairie adjoining where Joseph A. Smedley now resides. He took an active and helpful part in reclaiming the wild land for the uses of the white man and assisted materially in the early development of the county - a work which has since been carried forward by the family in later generations. Thomas Smedley had ten children, as follows: Sarah married Spencer Merrill and they reside in Little Grove. William is the second of the family. Richard, who lived in Menard county on the farm which is now owned by Mrs. Marthena Gum, was a soldier of the One Hundred and Fourteenth Illinois Volunteer Infantry and died in the service. Irene, deceased, was the wife of John N. Osborne and lived in Jacksonville. Eliza became the wife of Barton Osborne and they resided on the old Smedley homestead, but both are now deceased. He was a member of the One Hundred and Fourteenth Illinois Infantry in the Civil war. John, was a member of the Fourteenth Illinois Volunteer Infantry, was a quartermaster sergeant and served throughout the war. He was under Grant at Shiloh and Vicksburg. He was educated for the ministry, engaged in teaching for a number of years and is now living in Cass County, Illinois. Thomas, who resides in Bloomington, this state, was also a member of the Fourteenth Illinois Regiment, was the regimental fifer and, being captured, was confined in Andersonville prison. Hannah, deceased, was the wife of David Bell, a resident of Dakota. He was an orderly in the One Hundred and Fourteenth Illinois Infantry and was with Sherman on the celebrated march from Atlanta to the sea. Christopher, who was orderly sergeant in the same regiment and likewise marched with Sherman's Army to the coast, is now living in Pittsburg, Kansas. Catherine married Anson Ferguson, whose military service was with the same regiment, and who went to the sea under Sherman. He was wounded in the head, but recovered from this, although he was afterward killed by a mule.
William Smedley, the father of Joseph A. Smedley, was born in Kentucky, but in his youth accompanied his father on his removal to Menard county, where he spent his remaining days. He was reared among the wild scenes of pioneer life and assisted in the arduous task of developing a new farm. He followed agricultural pursuits throughout his entire life and was known as an energetic, capable business man, who carefully controlled his farming interests. His early political support was given the Whig party and on its dissolution he joined the ranks of the new Republican party, with which he continued to affiliate until his death. He held membership in the Christian church. His wife bore the maiden name of Martha Hurd and they became the parents of seven children: Christina, who died at the age of eight years; Joseph A., of this review; John Thomas, who died at Coldwater, Florida, where he was following the occupation of farming; Edwin, who was a machinist and died at his home in Jacksonville, Illinois; Martha, who married a Mr. Allen, but both died of yellow fever about 1889; Nancy, who died in infancy; and Hamden Jewett, who owns and operates a farm near Athens.
Joseph A. Smedley was reared in his father's home and pursued his education in a private school at Petersburg. He was trained to habits of industry on the home farm, assisting in its further development and cultivation until twenty-one years of age, when he began farming for himself. He makes a specialty of bee culture. He was married October 7, 1875, to Henrietta Godwin, a daughter of John and Mary Ann (Truitt) Godwin, who resided in Missouri, where Mrs. Smedley was reared and educated. The father was born in Virginia, and the mother in Baltimore, Maryland, where they were married. They came west about 1853 and settled in Montgomery county, Missouri, where Mr. Godwin entered a large tract of land and was a slave holder. Mrs. Smedley has two brothers and two sisters living, three of whom are residents of Missouri, while one lives in Colorado. Four children have been born unto Mr. and Mrs. Smedley: Charles Frederick, who was born September 7, 1876, married Adriane Masline and resides in Jacksonville, Florida; Arthur E., who was born October 5, 1878, married Daisy gum and is now a student in the Chicago Veterinary School, but owns property in Menard county, where he makes his home; Harry R., born August 14, 1882, married Clara Acre, and now resides upon the old homestead, but expects to remove to a farm near Athens in the spring of 1905; Marshall A., born July 20, 1885, was educated in Petersburg and is now at home.
Mr. Smedley first voted with the Republican party, but has since supported the candidates of the Democratic and People's parties, and is independent in support of the political measures which he deems will bring the greatest good to the greatest number. Both he and his wife are members of the Christian Church and take a helpful part in its work. Having always lived in this county, Mr. Smedley has a wide acquaintance within its borders and receives favorable regard and friendship from the majority of those with whom he has been brought in contact, either through business or social relations.