Tarrant County TXGenWeb
Contributed by Michael Patterson
by Texas History LAMP Class
Tarrant County pioneer Eli Smith (1848-1879) was eleven years old when he moved to Texas in 1859 with his parents. Though he lived only thirty years, he made many contributions to his community. As a result of his generosity, his neighbors renamed their community "Smithfield" in his honor.
Eli Smith was born March 11,18481 in Golden Grove, Jasper County, Missouri.2 Eli's father, William Smith, was born about 1826 in Tennessee. Eli's'mother, Elizabeth (her maiden name was Smith), was born about 1826 in Ohio.3 They were married in Jasper County, Missouri on August 10,1843.4 Only three of their children are known: David W. Smith (1845-1920), Eli Smith, and John Smith (born about 1849).5 Eli's grandfather, Joseph Smith, was a frontiersman; he lived in Tennessee in the 1820's and 1830's before moving to Newton County, Missouri about 1840.6 Eli Smith lived with his parents in Golden Grove until the family moved to Texas. They arrived at Fort Worth in Tarrant County about 1859 and camped for one year at the spot where Trinity Park now sits. About 1860, they moved to present-day Smithfield.7
When he was twenty years old, in 1868, Eli Smith married eighteen-year-old Sarah J. (Sallie) Hightower, the daughter of the Smith's neighbor, Alfred M. Hightower (1824-1897). She was born in Illinois, March 25, 1850.8 She lived for a while with her father's family in Missouri before he moved them to Tarrant County in 1858.9 Eli and Sarah J. Smith had five children, all daughters: Sarah E. (Sadie) Smith, Mary Idena Smith, Lue Effie Smith, Mellie Smith, and Ellie Alta Smith. Sadie Smith was born January 11, 1870, married John Perry Brown on July 3, 1888, and died at Gustine, Texas on November 19, 1905.10 Mary Idena Smith (October 8, l872-July 22,1887) was buried near her father in Smithfield Cemetery.11 Lue Effie Smith was born August 3, 1875 and died September 27, 1876.12 Mellie Smith was born February 27,1876 and died December 21,1941; she was married first to Dave Lucas (1870-1910) and second to a Mr. Durham. Mellie Lucas Durham is buried in Grapevine Cemetery.13 Ellie Alta Smith died while she was a small child. Ellie's tombstone in Smithfield Cemetery is so weathered that only the month of her birth, February, and the month of her death, April, can be read.14
During the years that Eli and Sallie Smith were raising their children, their community was called Zion, named after the Zion Methodist Church they attended.15 About 1876, Eli and Sallie decided to give part of their cleared land to the community for a Methodist meeting place and cemetery.16 Their neighbors were so grateful they renamed the settlement "Smithfield" in Eli's honor.17 Even though Eli was a young man, he worked hard and took part in the life of his community. He owned some of the first shorthorn cattle in the area.18 He made his living by farming.19 On October 13, 1875 he became a Master Mason in the Grand Prairie Masonic Lodge #455.20 Grand Prairie Lodge was located in Eli's home community, and was so named because it sat on the eastern edge of the Grand Prairie, one of Texas' geographical regions.
Eli Smith might have had a long and productive life, but in the winter of 1878-1879 he became ill and soon died. He died during the night of January 27, 1879.21 Members of the Grand Prairie Lodge conducted his funeral on the morning of January 29.22 The Lodge's members honored Eli Smith, saying he was "...one of the first members of our Lodge,...a useful and deserving citizen."23 His fellow Nasons wore a badge of mourning for the next thirty days. Eli Smith was buried beside his two small children in Smithfield Cemetery. A tall marble monument was soon erected so the community and family could remember him.
Mrs. Smith was remarried on April 10, 1881 to A. B. Clark. They were married in Tarrant County,24 but soon moved away and lived for a time at Lelia Lake, Texas and Clarendon, Texas. She and Mr. Clark had two more children. After Mr. Clark's death, she returned to Tarrant County and lived with her daughter, Mellie Durham, in Grapevine. She died there on September 15, 1926, and was buried in Smithfield Cemetery. Her grave is unmarked.25
Eli Smith 1fould have been proud to see what his Smithfield became. He lived to see the Smithfield Post Office opened in 1878.26 In the 1880's, the Cotton Belt Railroad passed through the community and its growth was assured.27 Smithfield remained an agricultural community. In 1951, the town's residents voted to become incorporated, but seven years later they voted to drop their 1ncorporation.28 Smithfield is now a part of the City of North Richland Hills, and its schools are a part of the Birdville Independent School District, one of the largest in Texas. Mr. Smith's name is now written thousands of times daily by people who write letters to and from Smithfield. Eli Smith would certainly be very proud.
Today many people even in Tarrant County do not know there was a town of Smithfield. Few people who know the town existed have heard of Eli Smith. The Texas History LAMP Class at Smithfield Jr. High School wants to make sure that Eli Smith is not forgotten. He will be remembered for many years because of the Texas State Historical Harker to be placed at his grave in Smithfield Cemetery.
This historical marker application was compiled and edited by the members of the Seventh Grade Texas History LAMP Class at Smithfield Jr. High School, during September, 1983.
Signed by: Joe Baker, Lori Barber, Lewis Biscamp, Craig Cormier, Chris Dossey, David Fidler, Scott Fraser, Seane Fry, John Harris, Chad Hogan, Christine Kemp, Christopher W. Lowe, Scott Meyer, Cory Mitchell, Amy Payne, Cory Post, Paul Shuga, Chad Steenerson, Carma VanZandt and Michael E. Patterson, Teacher.
Deaton, Charles. Texas Postal History Handbook. Private printing, 1980.
Everton, George B., Sr. ed. The Handy Book for Genealogists (Sixth Ed.) Logan, Utah: Everton Publishers, 1971.
Fort Worth Democrat.
Fort Worth Record.
Grand Prairie Masonic Lodge #455. Membership Records.
Grapevine Cemetery. Tombstone inscriptions.
Lewis Publishing Co. History of Texas...Biographical History of Tarrant and Parker Counties, Texas. Chicago: Lewis Pub. Co., 1895.
Milson, Maurine. Interview with Patterson at Smithfield, Texas.
North Rich1and Hills Signal. June 1958.
Perry, Lyda B., ed. Jasper County, Missouri Marriage Bonds. Carthage, Missouri: private printing, 1942.
Smithfield Cemetery. Tombstone inscriptions.
Tarrant County, Texas. Commissioner's Court Minutes. Deed Records. Marriage Records.
Texas Writer's Project. Research Data Fort Worth and Tarrant County, Texas. 1941. Copy at Fort Worth Public Library.
United States. Federal Census. Jasper County, Missouri, 1850; Newton County, Missouri, 1840; Tarrant County, Texas, 1870, 1880.
von Steinwehr, A. Centennial Gazetteer of the United States. Philadelphia: Ziegler and McCurdy, 1873.
Wilson, Billie. Interview with Patterson at Waco, Texas. Sept. 3. 1983.
This page was last modified 22 Jan 2005.
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