Jacksonville has been fortunate in many of its early citizens. Among the best was David A. Smith. He was not an office holder, except for being a town trustee in 1845 and 1851, nor an office seeker, as so many Southerners were. He did not inflict himself on the public, as some men did, but he was one of the most prominent and best citizens this place has had the privilege of owning.
David A. Smith was born in the state of Virginia in the year 1804. His father, Capt. Smith, being son of a Scotchman. His parents moved to Giles county, Tennessee, and then to Crawford, Lawrence county, Alabama, while he was a child, bringing him with them.
"To obtain a suitable education, Mr. Smith, in early youth, was placed at school in a private academy of the Rev. Mr. Weir, in or near Pulaski, Tenn. Here he pursued the English and classical studies which formed his mental furniture, and trained his faculties for his future life. And the training he received there must have been thorough and intelligent, and taken strong hold on his youthful mind; for few persons had acquired a more competent mental discipline and mastery of their faculties than he; and few spoke and used the English language with more purity and propriety, or with more chaste and classical taste than he. but most important of all in the school of his youth the elements of character were formed. Here he got those impressions of duty, of a noble activity, of a high aim in life, of a disinterested and manly career, of answerableness to god, and of the motives of a useful and benevolent Christian life, which afterwards made him the man he was. At home in his own dear and genial father's house, he was a favorite and petted child. Born to competence if not affluence, he never knew the need of economy or self denial, much less did he ever know want; and hence the wonder that he was not a spoiled child and a ruined man."
"He studied law with Judge Bramlette, at Pulaski, Tennessee, and before his majority was admitted to the bar. He commenced the practice of law at Courtland, Alabama, and married at about the age of twenty. And here it was that he first entered upon life. And more than all, here it was that through the gentle influence and instrumentality of the wife of his youth, he was led to the house God as a constant attendant; and by vows to her upon her dying bed (from which after only a few short months of married life, she passed to the skies) that he persisted therein until he became a truly converted and Christian man. while yet only a very young man, he became not only a Christian but an elder in the church; so that for almost the whole of his life he has been both a member and an officer bearer in the church of Christ. He was hopefully, and as the result has shown genuinely converted at the age of twenty-one, during a season of religious interest in the Presbyterian church of which the Rev. Hugh Barr was pastor, at Courtland, Alabama. Of that church he was first a member and an elder; and though the youngest in years, he seemed to be the maturest in grace, and the most confided in as a man of sound judgments and heartfelt interest in the cause of Christ."
"Having entered the second time into the marriage relation by espousing his estimable wife, Miss Eliza E. Allan, eldest daughter of the Rev. Dr. Allan, then of Huntsville, Ala.; and having also by the death of his father succeeded to the family estate; and being thus brought in to contact with the practical working of the political institutions, social economy and religious systems of the time, he began to evolve and settle for himself more fully his own religious and political principles. His religion, already a vital life, now became a life of faith in the great principles of truth and righteousness; and his personal life, that is his mental growth, his professional knowledge, his political opinions, and his life purpose and aims, now came to the form and fixedness of settled manhood; and the manhood of his religious and the manhood of his years, talents, opinions and attainments, now combined in one personality, with which he was thereafter to enter upon active life. His religious life, as a life of faith in great principles, principles of the Gospel, principles of justice, liberty, righteousness, free government, and of the individual and inalienable rights of man, is now most marked in its distinctness, and most noble and magnanimous in its character. Born and nurtured in the slave states, born a slave holder, and educated from childhood up in the midst of the ideas, the principles, the customs and habits of slave holding communities; and entering upon life with both his property and prospects largely, if not altogether in slave chattels and slave plantations, and slave holding interests, he became notwithstanding, a thorough and radical believer in the doctrine of the immortal Declaration of Independence, viz: "That all men are created equal; and that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. These principles of civil rights became convictions of his religious duty, and articles in his Christian faith; and with the same faith with which he believed in his soul, his God and his Savior, he believed in them."
"Thoroughly convinced that the religious, social and political systems of the South were all wrong - were hopelessly, incurably and inevitably wrong - and thoroughly sickened, disgusted and abhorrent of that "sum of villainies," slavery, and determined not to rear his family in the midst of its corruptions and vices, he decided to leave the country, and go to a free state, a land of liberty, and there to emancipate his slaves, and thus free himself and his family, if he could not his country, from the contamination and the curse of slavery. And this thing he did. With his wife and children and twenty-one slaves, (all he had) he left Alabama, and came to Carlinville, Ill., in the year 1837. Here he settled, emancipated his slaves, and provided for them and gave bonds to the meanness of the State of Illinois. Thus he inaugurated himself, and began his life as a citizen of a free State."
"Carlinville still remembers with benedictions the residence of David A. Smith there, whose sojourn with them, like the resting of the ark of God at the house of Obed Edom, brought with it great spiritual and temporal blessings upon the. he infused public spirit into the town, and the spirit of grace into their church. he taught them the value of the Gospel, the means of grace, the ministry, and a becoming and just liberality in supporting them. In 1839, he left Carlinville, and settled here in Jacksonville, where he has resided now for a period of twenty-six years until his death. Since his arrival in this place he has, as a Christian and a citizen, a householder and a neighbor, been working out a good man's life, and making the history of his religious faith."
"In all his course, to the extent of his knowledge and ability, he has been embodying his Christian vitality and his Christian faith in great principles into one historic life, a life of righteous deeds and benevolent and useful dispensations of the property which God had placed in his hands."
These quotations and some following have been made from the funeral sermon preached upon Mr. Smith's death, by his pastor, the Rev. D. H. Hamilton, D.D., of Westminster church. The sermon was published, being headed. "The excellency of a good man's life."
"As a man of benevolence and public spirit, his acts and benefactions are well known. In what school or what church, what enterprise or what charity, what public good, or what private benevolence, has he not borne a real and, in most cases, an important part?"
Mr. Smith was a trustee and patron of Illinois College, serving on the board from 1842 until his death, in 1865. He was also a trustee and patron of Jacksonville Female Academy, and a trustee of Blackburn Theological Seminary. In the First Presbyterian church, of which he became a member after coming here, he was both a trustee and elder, serving as elder from October 25, 1840 until he withdrew, in 1860. At that time he became a leader in organizing Westminster Presbyterian church, in which he was a trustee and elder until his death. he left an annuity of $300. continued for five years, to that church. He had already been a most generous supporter of it.
"As a man of means and of productive industry, and as to the relation of these to his liberality, it may be said that his ability and his disposition were in happy harmony. Few men had his laborious industry and his powers of endurance. He worked hard, did his work well, and gathered the proceeds. Thus he was always able to follow up the impulses of his heart by the gifts of his hands, and to maintain his opinions and to achieve his enterprises of the public good by the necessary material aid. he would say to his friends "tax me what you think is right, and I will pay it." He gave like a prince."
Mr. Smith was first a Whig, probably, and afterwards a stalwart member of the Republican party, and a staunch upholder of the Federal Union.
"As a lawyer and a public speaker he was a man of no ordinary power. Either associated with or pitted against such men as Hardin, Baker, Douglas and Lincoln, and others, and sustaining himself among them, he must have had a high order of legal learning and ability. When his partner, Col. Hardin, went to the Mexican war, he remained behind, did all the business of the office faithfully, and then scrupulously divided the profits with his absent partner, just the same as if he had been at home - a nobleness of conduct only equaled by his patriotic liberality in the amounts of money which he so freely gave to soldiers during the last national war, which has now so gloriously terminated. It is but just to say, that besides giving a premium at the outset of a hundred dollars to each of the twelve companies first raised here he gave his money by thousands during the whole war."
Of course he was, even before leaving the South, he thought it out, a most unswerving anti-slavery man; and when David A. Smith was opposed to a thing no one needed to ask any questions.
His oldest son, Thomas W. Smith, went out as second lieutenant in one of our first companies, April 22, 1861, re-enlisted for three years, and became captain of his company. He resigned on account of ill health, and came home. Soon after, in May, 1864, Capt. Smith went overland to California in hopes of benefitting his health, in vain as it proved. He returned here in 1865, in the Fall of which year he died. Illinois college being then in session the students attended his funeral and marched in procession to the college graveyard, where his remains were laid with those of his father, who died in July, 1865. the family burial place has since been made in Diamond Grove cemetery.
David A. Smith had gone with his wife and some friends to Minnesota, where he was attacked by the fatal spell which resulted in his death there. His remains were brought home and buried with much consideration and ceremony in the cemetery just in sight of his home.
Thus lived and died David A. Smith; thus worked he out his life's problem, and filled up life's career.
As stated above, Mr. Smith married Miss Eliza Eleanor Allan, in Huntsville, Ala., Aug. 4, 1831. She was a daughter of Dr. John Allan, a native of England, but whose father was Scotch - from Ayreshire - and his mother English - from Dorchestershire. These Allans are of the same family as the Allan steamship people of today. And they were also related to E. K. Collins, who started the great American line of steamers from New York - before the Civil War.
Miss Allan's mother was a Hodge, thru whom she was related to the Greenleafs and Barrs here, the Lynns of Carrollton.
Miss Allan was born in Christian county, Kentucky, Dec. 7, 1812. She was a sister of Mrs. M. P. Ayers and of Miss Sarah Allan, of this city. Mr. and Mrs. Smith were parents of:
Thomas William, a lawyer by profession, and a graduate from Illinois College in the class of 1852. Capt. Smith married Miss Annie E. Sisson of LaPorte, Indiana, in 1863. They were parents of David Dubois and the Rev. Thos. W. Smith, D.D., now of Newark, N.J. Capt. Smith died in Minnesota, Oct. 29, 1865.
Ann Mary, married Mr. James Moore, of LaPorte, Indiana. they were the parents of eight children - four boys and four girls. Mrs. Moore died in LaPorte, May 9, 1891.
Elia Eleanor, who married the Rev. George C. Noyes, D.D., then of LaPorte, afterwards, and to the last, of Evanston, Ill. They were parents of six boys and one girl. Dr. Noyes was a leading Presbyterian minister. he died Jan. 14, 1889, in the fifty-sixth year of his age. He was a graduate from Illinois college in the class of 1855.
John A., a farmer, first married Mrs. Laura French Atkins, and, after her death, Miss Emma gilbert. By his second wife Mr. Smith had one son, David A., and two daughters. Mr. Smith was graduated from Illinois college in the class of 1860.
David Brainard, a business man here. He never married. He was a graduate from Illinois college in the class of 1860. He, as well as Thos. W., John A. and Dr. Noys, was a Sigma Pi. he died Oct. 12, 1904.
Effie W. married Judge John M. Lansden, of Cairo, Ill. They were parents of two boys and four girls. Mr. Lansden was graduated from Illinois college in the class of 1861. He was also a Sigma Pi. Mrs. Lansden was one of the finest singers Jacksonville has produced. She died Jan. 31, 1907.
Laura Allan, married Capt. Jas. H. Kellogg, a prominent lawyer here, and veteran of the Civil war. They were parents of two children, who died in infancy. Capt. Kellogg died April 29, 1891.
Catharine Barr, who married Jas. F. Munroe, one of the ablest of Chicago lawyers. They were parents of two children, a boy and a girl. Mr. Munroe was graduated from Illinois college in 1868. He was a President of Sigma Pi society. he died in June, 1913. Mrs. Munroe was also one of our noted singers.
S. Emma, who never married. She was a graduate from the Young Ladies Athenaeum. She died July 15, 1887.
Hugh Barr, a well known business man here, and a fine singer. In Illinois College he was a member of Phi Alpha society. Mr. Smith married Miss Josephine Newman.
James Edward, a twin with S. Emma, died in infancy.
Mrs. David A. Smith passed away Nov. 19, 1890. Mr. and Mrs. Smith had twenty-five grandchildren at the time of her death, and one great grandchild.