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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

Rev. James Smith Has Many Descendants In County

Dallas Bogan on 27 July 2004
Dallas Bogan, Warren County, Ohio and Beyond (Bowie Maryland: Heritage Press, 1979) page 202
Related Links:
Smith-Whitehill Family History by John Quincy Smith
Return to Index to see a list of other articles by Dallas Bogan

Rev. James Smith was a traveling minister of the Methodist faith during the last half of the eighteenth century. He wrote journals of his travels pertaining to the years 1783, 1795 and 1797. These were recorded in the July 1907 issue (Vol 16) of the Ohio Archaeological and Historical Quarterly Publications. His journals were entitled, "Tours into Kentucky and the Northwest Territory." This is certainly highly recommended reading. Theodore Roosevelt used these journals while collecting materials for his "The Winning of the West." He mentions them in footnotes, and also makes several references to these manuscripts. He furthermore makes mention of them in his preface.
Since Rev. Smith has many descendants in Warren County, the writer feels it relevant that a sketch of his travels and family be written.
Rev. Smith was born in Powhatan County, Va., September 17, 1757, and died near Columbia (now a part of Cincinnati) July 28, 1800. He was the son of Thomas and the grandson of George Smith, who were believed to have been born in England.
Tradition has it that George Smith moved from Virginia to the valley of the James River, in his possession taking only a gun, tomahawk and buffalo robe. He was a hunter by trade, but he acquired great wealth and left a large estate to his son, Thomas. The farm was located in Powhatan and Chesterfield Counties, Virginia, about twenty miles above Richmond.
Thomas Smith also accumulated great wealth and consequently left to each of his six children a fine farm and a number of slaves. He was married three times, and by each marriage had one son and one daughter. His third wife, Mrs. Margaret Guerrant, her maiden name being Trabue, was the mother of our subject, James.
(Oddly enough, the two elder sons were named George and each carried as a middle name, the maiden name of his mother. The eldest was George Rapin and the second George Stovall.)
During Rev. Smith's first journey into Kentucky, his half-brother George R. accompanied him to Jessamine County to visit their half-brother, George S. George R. also kept a journal of his travels, but it was unfortunately destroyed in a fire at the home of his son, Gen. George R. Smith, founder of Sedalia, Missouri.
Thomas Smith instilled deep religious beliefs into his family and all three of his sons became preachers. He had belonged to the Church of England. Discovering the preaching of the Baptist faith, the two elder sons were converted and became Baptist preachers.
James, at about the age of ten, was introduced to the theology of Methodism, and father and son were among the first disciples of the Wesleyan Reformation in Virginia. Thomas resigned from the established church and became a Methodist.
James O'Kelly organized the Republican Methodist Church in 1792. This occurred after an unsuccessful attempt to limit the power of the Bishop in the Methodist Episcopal Church. James Smith became a preacher of the former. This organization numbered in the thousands in Virginia and North Carolina.
Rev. Smith has no record of being a preacher in the M.E. Church, but it is believed in his later years that his intentions, because of his close and friendly relations with the pioneer preachers of the M.E. Church, were to be united with this church. He, unlike many other Methodist preachers who were poor, had great resources, among which was a large plantation and Negro servants. However, he continued to preach the Gospel until his death, whether in a cabin, by the side of the road, or before a church congregation.
Rev. James Smith, because of his convictions concerning slavery, although he owned slaves, decided to rid himself of this tragic human bondage theory that had been so instilled into the Southern States, and move to the Northwest Territory. He writes in his journal of 1795: "I determined if God spare my life to visit the western country, if haply I might find a place answerable to my wishes." His journal in 1797 stated: "A wish to provide a place to carry my family to."
Among his journals, referral is made concerning his route from Virginia, through the Cumberland Gap, overland through Kentucky to the land north of the Ohio River. Landing in Clermont County, along the Ohio between the Miami Rivers, he traveled northward and discovered the beautiful lands of the Miami Valley. He journeyed up the Great Miami as far as Ft. Hamilton, and traveled up the Little Miami for a distance of sixty miles from its mouth. (This venture also included the exploration of the wilderness from the Little Miami to the Scioto.)
Liking what he saw, Rev. Smith brought his family permanently to the Northwest Territory in 1798. He purchased a tract of land on the Little Miami at the mouth of Caesar's Creek. This tract was in the Virginia Military District and was purchased as 1,666 acres, but was surveyed as 2,000 acres. He bought this tract sight unseen, the purchase being nothing but uncleared wilderness. He consequently took up residence at Newtown (then called Middletown Station), near Columbia, until at a future time when he could clear the land.
He had no permanent church in his newly found lands. He preached where and when he could, the means of support of his family not depending on preaching.
His life was ended short, his death coming in 1800 at age 43. A bout of bilious fever had proved fatal. Rev. Smith did not realize the establishing of his purchase. He had previously married Elizabeth Porter (a daughter of John and Sarah Watkins Porter) while she was still in her teens. After the Reverend's death, she moved from Newtown with her nine children to the newly purchased lands at the mouth of Caesar's Creek.
We shall now highlight the family of Rev. James and Elizabeth Smith, it being one of the most prestigious in Warren County history. Among the grandsons were Hon. John Quincy Smith of Clinton County; Judge James M. Smith of Lebanon; Judge James S. Halsey and Judge James S. Goode, of Springfield; Judge J. Kelly O'Neall, of Lebanon; and Judge Ignatius Brown, of Indianapolis.
Sarah, age 19 at her father's death, was the oldest child, she being born in 1781. Tradition has it that Ichabod Halsey was standing on shore when the Smith family arrived at Columbia. Little did he know that he was encountering his bride-to-be for the first time?
Thomas Smith, the second child of James and Elizabeth, was 17 years of age when his father died. He was the one in command when the family moved to the newly purchased lands. He was born in 1783 and married Mary Whitehill in 1817. He died in 1843.
Elizabeth, the third child, was married in 1807 at the age of 20 to Burwell Goode, a neighbor. Their son, James S. Goode, was a renowned jurist and one time mayor of Springfield, Ohio. Elizabeth died in 1863.
John W. Smith was born in 1785 and passed away in 1843, the same year as his brother, Thomas. He married Sarah Evans, daughter of John and Elizabeth Browning Evans of Gloucester, N.J. They had several children, one of which, Philip, married and moved his family to Guymon, Oklahoma.
The fifth child, Magdalen, was born in 1789 and married Robert Sale in 1808.
Martha Smith married William O'Neall in 1816 at the age of 25. She died in 1873, surviving all but her youngest brother, George James.
Judith Smith was born in 1794 and married Hiram Brown in 1817.
The only child who did not marry was Cynthia, who was born in 1796. She died 13 years later.
Judge George James Smith was a mere infant in arms at his father's death. He was born in 1799 and was the only child that was born in the Northwest Territory.
He married, in 1822, to Mrs. Hannah Whitehill Freeman. Two sons, James S. and John E. Smith, followed in their father's footsteps and distinguished themselves in the law field.
It might be said of Elizabeth Porter Smith that she was an exceptional mother. Almost single-handedly she raised her family, and stood back and watched as they gained prominence in Warren County and beyond. She died in 1825 at the age of 62 and was interred in the family plot, but, in 1867, the remains of she and James were removed and placed in the Miami Cemetery in Corwin, Ohio.
There is a much greater history of this family and its offsprings in Beer's 1882 History of Warren County. Also, the Mary L. Cook Public Library in Waynesville has much history on the Rev. James Smith family.

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