From: Aiken, Andrew J., 1897, Men of Progress, Wisconsin. Evening Wisconsin Co., Milwaukee WI.
SMITH, Augustus Ledyard, one of Appleton's most prominent citizens,
was born in Middletown, Conn., on the 5th of April, 1833. His father, Augustus
W. Smith, LL.D., was a native of Newport, N.Y., one of a family of prominence
in social and educational circles. He was a graduate of Hamilton College,
and from 1826 to 1830, was principal of Cazenovia, N. Y., Seminary. In
1831 he was elected to a professorship in the Wesleyan University of Middletown,
and was associated with Dr. Wilbur Fisk in the organization and management
of that institution. He retained his professorship in the university until
1852, when he was made its president. In 1857 he resigned his position
as president of the university and received from President Buchanan the
appointment to the vacancy in the professorship of mathematics in the United
States navy, and was assigned to duty in the United States Naval Academy
at Annapolis. He held this position till his death in 1866. Dr. Smith's
ancestors are from England and among the earliest settlers in Massachusetts.
His grandfather, Eldad Smith, served with the minute men who went from
Hartford to the relief of Boston on the Lexington alarm, and was subsequently
school commissioner for the state of Connecticut. The mother of Augustus
Ledyard Smith, the subject of this sketch, whose maiden name was Catherine
Rachel Childs, was a descendant of revolutionary stock. Mr. Smith is the
great-great-great-grandson of Timothy Childs and Hannah Chapin Sheldon,
who was at the massacre at Deerfield perpetrated by the French and Indians
in 1704, and was carried prisoner to Canada. Their son, the great-great-grandfather
of Mr, Smith, Capt. Timothy Childs, led a company of minute men from Deerfield
to Boston on receiving the news of the battle of Lexington, and his son,
Dr. Timothy Childs, Mr. Smith's great-grandfather, was a lieutenant of
a company that left Pittsfield, Mass., on the same occasion. He was also
a surgeon in Col. Patterson's regiment, which went from New York on an
expedition to Canada, and remained with the army until the surrender of
Burgoyne in 1777. Mr. Smith's great-grandmother was Rachel Easton Childs,
the daughter of Col. Easton of Pittsfield, Mass., who raised a Berkshire
regiment and was second in command under Ethan Allen at Ticonderoga, May
9th. 1775. His great-grandfather was major Benj. Ledyard, who is said to
have raised the first company in New York City, where he resided, for service
in the war of the revolution, which was called "Hairy Caps." He served
a long time and was promoted to a majority. Catherine Foreman, his wife
and great-grandmother of Mr. Smith, was a daughter of Col. Foreman, a hero
of the revolution, and both Benj. Ledyard and Col. Foreman were charter
members of the Order <:175> of Cincinnati. Col. Ledyard, who fell at
Groton, Conn., was of the same family.
Augustus Ledyard Smith was brought up and educated in his native town, graduating at the age of twenty-one at the Wesleyan University of Middletown. Coming to Madison, Wis., soon after, he accepted the position of tutor in the University of Wisconsin, and held it for two years, when he became connected with the state school land office. He also accepted the office of secretary and treasurer of the Fox and Wisconsin Improvement company--a company formed for the purpose of improving the navigation of the Fox and Wisconsin rivers from Green Bay to the Mississippi river. To this company the state transferred the lands granted it by the general government, stipulating that upon the completion of a navigable route from Green Bay to Portage City, the title to the lands should pass to the company, and that a part of them might be sold on condition that a portion of the proceeds be devoted to the improvement. The remainder was to be the property of the company. Mr. Smith represented both the state and the company--a very responsible position, one requiring both ability and fidelity in large measure. The work was completed as far as Oshkosh, when the disturbance of business consequent upon the breaking out of the civil war caused a suspension of the work of the company. Mr. Smith accepted an assistant professorship in the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, and, removing to Newport, Rhode Island, was assigned to duty on the frigate Constitution. In 1863, the affairs of the company having improved, work was resumed on the upper Fox river, funds therefor being obtained through the sale of bonds secured by mortgage upon the property of the company. Mr. Smith's services were in requisition again, and, resigning his position in the naval academy, he returned to his old one with company. Three years after this the mortgage bonds of the company were foreclosed, the purchasers of the property organized the Green Bay and Mississippi Canal company, and Mr. Smith has been its secretary, treasurer and general business manager up to this time.
In 1870 he organized the First National bank of Appleton, and was its president until the close of 1891. He was president and one of the original members of the Appleton Iron company until the destruction of its works by fire in 1887. He was leader in the organization, in 1881, of the Appleton Edison Light company, which was the first organization in the world to distribute light for commercial purposes from a central station. The electricity is generated by hydraulic power, and the enterprise has been profitable from the beginning. The company now owns the streets railway system, which it operates in connection with the lighting. Three years ago Mr. Smith was elected vice-president of the National Association of the Edison Illuminating companies.
In politics Mr. Smith is a Democrat, and has been the standard-bearer of his party at different times, but is not known as a strong partisan. He has served as mayor and councilman of Appleton, and state senator from <:176> the Appleton district. In the senate he was on the committees on education and incorporations, displaying unusual aptitude for legislation, and proving of especial service in promoting and directing the measures for the reorganization of the university. While a member of the senate, Gov. Fairchild appointed him regent of the university, and this position he held for six years. He was also trustee of Lawrence University at Appleton for many years, and is trustee of the Wesleyan University at Middletown, Connecticut, his alma mater. He was president of the Wisconsin board of World's Fair managers, and took a deep and active interest in that great exposition. He was Democratic nominee for congress in 1884, but the Republican majority in the district was too large to be overcome, although he greatly reduced it.
His interest in the growth and prosperity of the city of his home has always been conspicuous, and several years ago he established the Appleton Athletic Amusement association, embracing a reading-room, gymnasium, and rooms for recreation and for receptions, the expense being largely borne by himself, and the greater part of a large building owned by him being devoted to the use of the association.
Mr. Smith was married in October, 1860, to Miss Edna Taylor of Chicago, but formerly of Madison. Two sons were born to them: Augustus Ledyard Smith, Jr., general manager of the mills of the Manufacturers Investment company, and Franklin Taylor Smith, an attorney of Milwaukee. Mrs. Smith died April 3rd, 1894, greatly lamented by those who knew of her many admirable qualities.
Mr. Smith has a fine residence overlooking the beautiful Fox river, where are gathered a choice library, beautiful pictures and many other things indicating intellectual culture and refined tastes.
He is an attendant of the Congregational church, and a liberal contributor to whatever tends to promote the social, moral and intellectual growth of the city.