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W B Smiley


REV W. B. SMILEY. John Smiley was born in 1730, in Ireland, to which country his grandfather had fled from Scotland about 1612 for religious freedom. With his father John came to this country when quite young. About 1758 he married Ann Houton Stewart, and they lived in Dauphin county, Penn., where ten children six sons and four daughters were born to them. The family belonged to what is known as the "Seceder" Church, one of the "straitest Sects;" and because Thomas, the eldest son, turned Baptist, he became as a stranger to the rest of the family, and so remained behind when the father and mother and other nine children crossed the mountains and located in Mt. Pleasant township, Washington Co., Penn., in 1785. Thomas, however, became renowned as a Baptist missionary in the early history of Pennsylvania. He died in 1832 at the age of seventy-three, leaving a large posterity, and his monument stands in White Deer cemetery, in Lycoming county, Penn., where he had organized a church in 1808. John Smiley, the pioneer of the family, died in 1811 in the eighty-first year of his age, and Ann, his wife, passed away in 1814, aged seventy-five years. The sons who came west with them were: James (who died in 1844, aged eighty-two years), Robert (who died in 1853), John (who died in 1818, aged fifty-eight years, leaving no descendants), Samuel (who died in 1806, and whose family afterward moved west, and their descendants are now living in Illinois and Iowa) and William (who died in 1866, in the eighty-eighth year of his age). The only descendants of James Smiley now living are two grandsons, James A. and Leander, the former of whom now lives on his grandfather's farm in Mt. Pleasant township. Robert has one son living, James G., who is a farmer living on the "Middletown Road." Robert's other children were John, who died in 1877; Jane (Gabby by marriage), who died in 1842, leaving three children; Anne (Coulter by marriage), who died in 1882, leaving one son, Nathaniel; Thomas, who died in 1885, leaving two daughters and one son, who live on a part of their great-grandfather's farm; Margaret (Thompson by marriage), who died in 1890; Sarah (Thompson by marriage), who died in 1865, leaving descendants in northern Pennsylvania; Mary, who died in 1858, and three that died in infancy. John had no children, and Samuel's family moved to the West. When William married he located in Robinson township and raised eleven children nine sons and two daughters. William and his wife on their wedding day weighed just 400 pounds, he weighing 198 pounds and she 202 pounds, and the aggregate height of the nine sons was fifty-five feet. "There were giants in those days." But these nine sons have only left four sons, now alive, to carry the name down to future generations. The older ones all left the county, and all but one the State, John, the oldest, locating in Beaver county, Penn. The one next the youngest died just after he had finished his education for the ministry. David, the youngest, inherited his father's farm, but afterward sold it and located near Burgettstown, where he lived until 1890, when he moved to Coraopolis, Penn. The farm is now occupied by two of his children, the oldest, Martha J. (now Mrs. W. F. Purdy), and the youngest, John N. Both these have families, the former a daughter and a son living, and a daughter and a son dead; the latter has two boys and two girls, all living.

The second son, William Brownlee, very early in life manifested a strong inclination for study, and when six years of age memorized and recited without missing a single word the "shorter catechism of the Westminster divines." He received his English education in the public schools of Burgettstown, which he completed in the spring of 1873, at sixteen years of age. During the winter of 1874-75 he taught school in Robinson township, having spent eighteen months in the meantime on the farm with his father. In the fall of 1875 he commenced the study of the classics in Jefferson Academy, Canonsburg, Penn., and in the autumn of 1876 entered the sophomore class in Westminster College, from which he graduated in 1879 at the head of his class. Together with J. S. Garvin, his intimate friend and roommate at college, more than a year was spent as joint principal of McKeesport Academy and Normal School. He entered the Theological Seminary in September, 1880, having studied privately a year under Rev. James Kelso, of McKeesport, and graduated in 1882. The following is taken from the Burgettstown Call: "W. B. Smiley has just completed the course at U. P. Theological Seminary, Allegheny City, with the highest grade in a class of eleven. We believe he is the first young man that has been raised, educated and licensed to preach within the bounds of Burgettstown U. P. Congregation. The young gentleman has fine abilities, and is, no doubt, entering upon a career of great usefulness."

Rev. Smiley was married June 7, 1882, to Miss Maggie D. Fergus, a daughter of Thomas Fergus, of Elizabeth, Penn., and in publishing an account of the wedding, among other things the McKeesport Times said: "The bride-elect was most handsomely dressed, though richer than robes of silk is the tender grace of youth and maidenly worth with which she was adorned. The happy groom was our former fellow citizen, Prof. W. B. Smiley, who is held in such high esteem by all who know him here, for his Christian character and intellectual attainments." Three bright children have blessed this marriage one daughter and two sons. Mr. Smiley was licensed to preach by the Presbytery of Allegheny on April 4, 1882, and by the 1st of July had the opportunity of three settlements West Newton (Penn.), Washington (Iowa) and Chartiers Congregation, Canonsburg (Penn.). The latter he decided to accept, and on August 1 entered upon his duties as pastor of one of the oldest and most substantial congregations in the Church. He preached his tenth anniversary sermon on the first Sabbath of August, 1892, in which it was stated that 384 persons had been received into membership in the congregation during the ten years of his pastorate, or an average of one for every two sermons preached. A large congregation of the most intelligent people wait regularly upon his ministry, and manifest in every way their loyalty and devotion to him as their pastor. He was recently urged to take charge of an important station in the West, but the ties by which he and his people were bound together were so strong that the thought of separation could not be entertained. Just recently the people have greatly beautified and enlarged the seating capacity of their church building, and they have now a very inviting place in which to worship.

DESCENDANTS OF JOHN AND ANN SMILEY: Thomas, a Baptist preacher who remained in the eastern part of the State. JAMES descendants: James A. and Leander.

ROBERT children: James G. (has four children three living and one dead all daughters); John, who died in 1877; Jane (Gabby, by marriage), who died in 1842, leaving three children; Anne (Coulter, by marriage), who died in 1882, leaving one son Nathaniel; Thomas, who died in 1885, leaving two daughters and one son, who live on a part of their great-grandfather's farm; Margaret (Thompson, by marriage), who died in 1890; Sarah (Thompson, by marriage), who died in 1865, leaving descendants in northern Pennsylvania; Mary, who died in 1858, and three that died in infancy.

JOHN, who had no family.

SAMUEL, whose family moved west.

WILLIAM children (1) John, who had no children, and died in Burgettstown, Penn., after spending most of his life in Beaver county, Penn.; (2) Margaret, who married John Witherspoon, and moved to West Virginia (she has two sons living); (3) Thomas, still living in Ohio (has no children); (4) Ann, who married Matthew Bailey, lived all her life near the old homestead in Robinson township, and left eight children; (5) William, who left one daughter, living in Ohio; (6) Robert, who left two sons and one daughter in Iowa; (7) Ebenezer, who lives in New Lisbon, Ohio (has no children, but one grandson); (8) James, who left one daughter; (9) Samuel, living in Bloomfield, Ohio (has no children); (10) Archibald, who died upon entering the ministry; (11) David, who had three children; (1) Martha J. Purdy (has two children living: Maggie Belle and Brownlee Smiley, and buried two: Lizzie Lena, and an infant unnamed); (2) John N., who has four children, all living: Eva Leona, Earl Brownlee, Lena Florence and Charles Raymond, (3) William Brownlee, who has three children, all living: Olive Bell, Thomas Fergus and Howard Brownlee. The four daughters of John and Ann Smiley married, respectively, Robert Thome, Archibald Brownlee, Atchison (who moved to Ohio), and Stewart (who moved to the northern part of Pennsylvania).

Through all the different generations there has been manifest in the Smiley family that integrity of character and devotion to religious principles which characterized their forefathers. There has not been one of the descendants of John and Ann Smiley, so far as known, that has been a dishonor to the family name. When John Smiley first settled in Washington county, he became identified with what is now known as the North Buffalo U. P. Church, then known as the Associate (or Seceder) Church, and to this faith his descendants remained true, being characterized, with scarcely an exception, as faithful and earnest Christian men and women, and a great many of them holding office in the church. They have not aspired much after political honors, and not many of them have turned aside from the pursuits of their father agriculture but sterling worth of character has been a feature prominently marked in the family history. An ensign, in the form of a chevron, with an armed arm (on which is a wreath) as a crest, and bearing the motto: "VIRIBUS VIRTUS" (meaning "valor in arms," or "virtue with power"), was conferred upon the ancestors of the Smiley family in Ireland, probably in the seventeenth century, and was confirmed by the Crown through Sir William Betham, Knight, Deputy of Ulster King of Arms, in 1815, and duly recorded. The occasion of its being confirmed was probably some special act of valor or bravery manifested in defense of the Crown.

Commemorative Biographical Record of Washington County, PA, page 888


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