You Are Here > Home > Indiana Bios > Jesse & Rachel (Harvey) Smith


In Memory of Daryl Lytyon.

Jesse & Rachel (Harvey) Smith

Submitted by: JP Smith

Jesse Smith was born in 1834 on an Ohio farm after his two older sisters, Martha and Rosanna. The family enjoyed the love and support of his grandparents until a breeze out of the West captured the imagination of his young parents. They became convinced that their future was on the western frontier...Indiana. Even in the early 1800's, there were sobering clashes with the resident Indian tribes all across the Northwest Territories. His grandparents were very concerned as Rebecca and Ransom loaded the wagons. The epic four-wagon/four week trek from Ohio, down the Cumberland Trail to Indianapolis Town is described in father Ransom's notes. One wonders if the travelers took the Burlington Pike to visit his brothers near Smithfield in Delaware County. That would have provided a welcome break to rest the oxen and repair the wagons before the final push to Brown County. Establishing a farm in that county was an extreme challenge. The topography is rolling moraine formed by retreating glaciers. After battling the rocky hills for a year, Ransom yielded to the siren call of rich, flat, bottomland in the newly settled Hamilton County to the north. The family again packed up the wagons and left their cabin for the country they would finally call home. In 1842, when Jesse and his siblings arrived in White River Township, the area was fast becoming a collection of settler villages.

As Jesse entered his ninth year, he was doing the work of a young man next to his father. He couldn't know then, but the land they settled on bordered his future father in law, John Harvey. They worked hard to wrench the fields from the grip of the forest. Over and over Ransom would lead the oxen by a tree stump where young Jesse waited to thread a chain through the roots and back to the clevis. The crack of a whip would signal the oxen to throw their weight into the yoke until the stump loosed its grip. Despite the summer heat brush fires were kept burning, fed by the children. In the evenings there were animals to feed and the essential garden to water. During his first decade Jesse's education was catch as catch can. But in the fall of 1845, Jabez Brown had built a school on John Harvey land, called The Ironwood Seminary. This is the same school that sister Lavisa would later teach in. Along about 1870 the Society of Friends began holding their meetings in the building as well as Rev. Charles Harvey and the first Methodist meeting in 1882. During the winter months there would be school for Jesse and perhaps a couple of traps to earn some money and add meat to mother Rebecca's stew pot. Socializing was mainly enjoyed through church activities, market day and Harvest Rings. That was probably the way Rachel Harvey caught Jesse's eye. There were also trips to the big towns of Perkinsville and Strawtown. The ladies could buy essentials with eggs, the men could keep in touch with neighbors and boys could sell furs.

Malinda and John Harvey emigrated from the Friends community outside Centerville, Wayne County. They were pillars of the local Monthly Meeting near Aroma, and so they were distressed to hear daughter Rachel declare her intent to marry the outsider, Jesse Smith. Never the less the wedding went ahead probably with a Methodist Episcopal circuit preacher presiding. Since Rachel chose to marry outside her faith, she was shunned from her monthly meeting.

As they settled into married life they experienced the hard work of farming with stock animals and the crushing sorrow of losing three babies and his mother. They farmed on what is now called "the Naden place" at the north end of Haworth Road and White River Township. As the family grew, Jesse bought land on Duck Creek road, within sight of the Aroma M.E. Church. It was here that Fernando and Henry helped their father build a solid house that still stands today. Alice, Lindy and Rosey learned the homemaking skills that were such an integral part of successful farm life. While the men bent their backs to the work of farming and construction, it was the women that provided virtually everything else to live, including moral and spiritual example. Jesse also bought a farm at 600 North and Route 13 from the "widow Ault," where he was living in 1886.

Despite the family's apparent success and the support of the nearby church, Jesse went astray. For reasons known only to them, he walked away from farm and family to move to California (or Colorado) with one Ella (Harvey) Lister in 1887. The shock waves of that development rippled through the community, even as far as The Frankton Leader newspaper which described Ella as, "the woman who created considerable furor...by eloping with Jesse Smith." Malinda "Ella" Harvey had a past of shaky relationships. Likely born in 1842 in nearby Tipton county to Malinda and Reuben Harvey, she first married Henry H. Lister in Tipton 9 March 1865. Daughter Sarah (Sadie) was born four years later and abandoned to grandpa Reuben shortly after. This allowed Ella to marry one John Hays 23 December 1884 in Anderson, IN. Three years later she convinced Jesse to elope with her and leave the state. Ella next surfaces when she returns to Elwood, IN facing the glaring stares of local ladies to pick up $350 after her deceased daughter's probate settled on 11 June 1894. The last known whereabouts of Malinda Ella Harvey/Lister/Hays/possibly Smith, she was in the 1900 Florence, Fremont county, Colorado census with her mother and working as a washwoman, both called a widow.

Jesse was 52 at the time he left. The farming community rallied around Rachel and her family, even creating a smoke screen story that he met with foul play and never returned from a trip to sell hogs. He was presumed dead, which, in effect he was. Sons Fernando and Henry stepped forward to provide long term care for their mother. Pictures (tin types) of a mature Rachel show a woman with sadness deeply etched into her face. She had kept her half of the bargain, why hadn't he?

by J.P. Smith, 8/2005.