THOMAS WASHINGTON SMITH
(1815 - 1892)

BY ELIAS SMITH

Thomas Washington Smith was my paternal grandfather. He was born 23 December 1815 in Smith County, Tennessee. James Agee Smith and Margaret Love were his parents. They were honest, hard working people. James Agee Smith owned and operated a ferry on the Mississippi River.

We have very little information about Thomas Washington Smith in his younger years. He was a farmer and followed boating. He married his childhood sweetheart Mary Ann Ross on 3 March 1836. She was known by all as Aunt Mary. Relatives and friends, everyone loved her.

They were a very happy couple. Expecting their first child they knew it would be a boy and had even chosen a name for him - Robert A. Smith. My mother used to tell me the following story as often as I could coax her to. It seems they were out of flour and from the ranch where they lived it was 40 or 50 miles to the gristmill. Everything was well at home, Thomas Washington thought, with Mary and the expected child, but when he was ready to go, Mary kissed him good-by and told him she'd never see him again. But life must go on. He thought she was nervous and he talked to her and she smiled again and kissed him good-by. He felt sure she was just frustrated but after he had gone many miles, he thought of what Mary had said. The further he traveled, the more worried he got. He turned around, driving early and late till he almost killed his team but bad roads delayed him and he was late getting back. He was very concerned about her last remark.

When he finally was in sight of his home, he saw that the light was on though it was two o'clock in the morning. When he arrived, he found his beloved wife had died in childbirth. Their friends were making her burial clothes. He thought that life was over for him.

Thomas Washington was baptized and confirmed a member of the LDS church on 6 January 1841. His parents and the family were converted about the same time and baptized in Gibson County, Tennessee.

On May 15, 1842 Thomas Washington married Sarah Ann Boren (my grandmother) in Gibson County, Tennessee. My grandfather took up boating also at his time and made several trips to New Orleans. About 1843 he moved to Nauvoo, Illinois with his second wife, Sarah Ann Boren. His parents, brothers and sisters also went with him. They finally located across the river from Nauvoo in Iowa.

They were all acquainted with the Prophet Joseph Smith and my maternal grandfather, William W. Smith, (Thomas' brother) was at the meeting when "the mantle of Joseph fell on Brigham Young." and Brigham was chosen President of the LDS church.

In 1846, Thomas Washington and his family went with the body of the church to Kanesville - later named Council Bluff, Iowa. "Many thousand inhabitants in the vicinity of Log Tabernacle, which is situated on the Government Purchase of the Pottowattamie and in the state of Iowa. No Post Office within 40 or 50 miles of said tabernacle. The partitioners wanted a Post Office located near, or at said tabernacle without delay to be called 'The Tabernacle Post Office', to appoint Evan W. Green, Post Master and to cause semiweekly mail of Austin or Linden to be continued to said Office. Log Tabernacle, Millers Hollow subsequently were named Kanesville, Pottawattamie County, Iowa." (Taken from the Pottowattamie Co. paper, 1847) Among thousands of signers were William W. Smith and Thomas W. Smith. Both were my grandfathers. Also was an Eden Smith - no relation.

In 1848, Thomas W. smith was called to be President of the Shirtses Branch in Council Bluff when it was organized where he labored until 1851 when they left for the West. In May of 1851, he and his families started across the plains with ox teams. Margaret Smith (daughter of William W. Smith) was just seven years old and was playing in the wagon when she fell off and under the back wheels which went over her. Her father saw the accident too late to prevent the fall. He thought she was dead when he picked her up. They asked the elders to administer to her. She survived and lived to be an old lady. (I remember Margaret very well.) They suffered many hardships but arrived in Utah Valley - Provo in early September 1851. Thomas W. Smith and his brother William W., built the first gristmill in the valley - Provo Valley.

On October 5, 1853, the following were called to go to the Southern Settlements from Provo: Silas Smith, Thomas W. Smith and others. (Deseret News)

In 1855, he was called by the church authorities to move to Filmore and help colonize that section. Thomas Washington like the location and built a small grist mill there and was building what he expected would be a permanent home, but the church leaders were looking for someone with the know-how to grow cotton in the hot climate of Utah's Dixie. My grandfather was from the South (Tennessee) and had grown cotton there. So again the call of the authorities came. At the General Conference of the LDS Church, held in April of 1857 in Salt Lake City, Thomas Washington Smith was called to settle in Washington County. The purpose of the "call" was to raise cotton. The members of this group were all from the Old South and had had previous experience in the production of cotton.

The company, under the leadership of Robert D. Covington, arrived at the site of the present town of Washington, Utah on May 5th of 6th, 1857:

"Thomas W. Smith built a corn-cracker on the creek in 1857, the year of arrival of the Covington Company of which he was a member. Thomas W. Smith had a mill (grist mill) directly South of town on the creek, close by the road leading to Washington Field by the way of the cower crossing of the Virginia River. (The foundation of the old mill is still visible. Years ago there was a huge millstone at the site, but the stone was moved up to the Calvin Hall Tourist Camp on Highway 91 where it still remains, though the camp no longer exists.)"

At a session (of the County Court) held on March 24, 1859, Thomas W. Smith was appointed road supervisor for Washington precinct. The contract for building a road between Washington and Fort Harmony was then left to Thomas W. Smith, Samuel Pollock, and N. J. Davis (supervisors from Washington, Toquerville, and Harmony) at $2.00 per day for good faithful able-bodied men. A day's work was to consist of 10 hours and the time taken both coming and going was to be applied to the poll tax. At the March 1860 term of the County Court held in Washington, Thomas W. Smith, Samuel Pollack, and John D. Lee presented claims for labor on the road from Harmony to Washington for $166.25, $106.24 and $25.00. At the June term for the same year, Judge McCullough's Court approved a claim for Supervisor Thomas W. Smith for $225.00 and made recommendation for its payment by the Treasurer of the Territory.

In 1860, in the little town of Washington, Kane County, Utah, Thomas Washington Smith's seventh child was born on 11 June 1860 - George Albert Smith. He was my father. His father seemed to take him along on his trips when he was quite young. At this time grandfather had a gristmill and a sawmill running early and late. Money was scarce so he sold his lumber for produce and cattle.

He was a very good judge of cattle and soon had a large herd of the best cattle, both of dairy and beef, in the state. He became on the leading cattlemen in the state and what with his mills, dairy farm, and much farm land he must have realized the promise in his patriarchal blessing that he would receive wealth by his labors. I am very sure he could use it. For now, besides Mary Ann Ross, his first wife, and my grandmother, Sarah Ann Boren, his second wife, he had married Susan Reynolds (Stephens), a widow with 3 children by her husband Stephens. He adopted the children subsequently. She had five other children by my grandfather. Later, he married Nancy Matilda Ross (Kilbraith) with eight Kilbraith children whom he adopted. Nancy was the sister of Mary Ann Ross, his first wife.

The day he married Nancy Matilda Ross, the two of them sealed an Indian baby, Clare, whose mother had just been killed. His first wife had one child; Grandmother had 10; his third had 8; and fourth wife, Nancy, had 9.

During the 1870's, a few of the people of Washington established a settlement on the Pahreah River (called Pahreah). They were called there presumably to colonize in the locality and especially to help build roads to the crossing of the Colorado River.

When his son, George Albert was about 19, he contracted typhoid fever. The family had almost despaired of his ever living. One night a man rode up and knocked. He said he was impressed to come, that there was a seriously sick man he was to administer to. They truly welcomed him. As he laid his hands on father's head, the fever left. They were all so grateful and surprised that they didn't know when the man left or who he was. They thought he might have been one of the three Nephites. Many times I've heard my father bear testimony that he felt the fever leave at once and he had no recurrence of the fever.

Extracts of letters written by John W. Radford - 16 April 1855:

February, Thursday 22, 1872. "When I went up the trail to the settlements of the Pahreah River 45 miles. Exchanged some Navaho blankets, lauso, handkerchiefs, etc. for 300 grape roots and a few varieties of other choice shrubs and seeds from Brother Thomas Smith and Allen Smithson and returned. I reached Washington 23 July 1871. David (Lee's son) and Robert Smith returned with me, also Rachel Andora. Both David and Smith were well pleased with the trip."

Sunday, 3 March 1872. "In company of Rachel Andora, my wife, started back to the settlement on the Pahreah, taking with us six geese to let Thomas Smith have as they have a mill race and have no place to keep them here. Kind reception."

"I agreed with Brother Thomas Smith to put up a sawmill in the fall to grind corn, etc."

Monday, December 16, 1872. "Uncle Tommy set to help me get a couple of rooms of house covered in to shelter my family from the storm. He also let me have his open to haul rock at 100 cents a day and he at $3 per day and then I was to go with him to the Dell (Lee's ferry) and help put in the boat."

Sunday, December 29, 1872. "After a short deliberation Uncle Tommy Smith concluded to return home by way of the trail and look after his corn crop, lest it would be destroyed by rain. Jackson also went with him. I also let him have a horse for his son to ride home. They were back Sunday following."

Saturday, January 11, 1873. (Lonely Dell), Arizona. "About 12 noon we had a public dinner on the bottom of the ferryboat, just having finished pitching her preparatory to launching her. Those present and assisted me were myself, and wife, Emma, and her children, seven in number; Uncle Tommy Smith, the head builder and two of his sons, Robert and George. Joseph Wood and Helen and child, my son-in-law by Rachel Amorah, my daughter by Rachel, Jackson and an Indian named Toetaw, making in all 22 persons."

"After dinner we launched the boat and called her the Colorado and the skiff we named Pahreah. The Colorado is 26 by 84/2 ft. long; a staunch craft and well constructed and a light runner. The party present all crossed on her to christen her and take a pleasure ride. We crossed her over and back twice. Uncle Tommy Smith and son Robert rowed her over and I steered. Set down a good post and fastened her with a cable."

Deseret Evening News - 3 November 1873. Doc. History 2878. 15 October 1873, page 1. Journal History. 1873. September -October, Thomas W. Smith wrote from Pahreah, 15 October 1873 as follows:

"Brother John L. Blythe and David Bennett, two of the missionaries, myself and son have just completed a ferryboat on the Colorado River for the benefit of the Arizona missionaries and the public in general. Our little settlement has enjoyed good health, peace and quietness this summer. We have had a good harvest, plenty for settlement and to spare. We have a settlement well attended and are preparing to build a schoolhouse, and start a day school."

Extracts of letter written by John W. Radford, 16 April 1855 to George A. Smith, Journal History, page 2, 16 April 1855.

"Thomas W. Smith, E. Holden and myself have built a mill, which is now in successful operation. The mill is about 200 yard below the bridge in Chalk Creek. William Stott is making a threshing machine, which would be in addition to the two power machines already in operation, which I consider will amply supply the wants of the place at present."

In early 1884, Thomas W. Smith was informed that his brother William W. (known as Billy by his friends and family) was very ill. Thomas Washington rented a house and sent for Billy to come to the warm climate. This William is my mother's father. They had visited as a family with Thomas many times before my mother taught school in Pahreah and in 1880 married my father, George Albert, in the St. George Temple. Billy visited with Tommy - went to the dairy, the ranches, but did not improve in health. After a long illness, he passed away on 7 December 1884. Grandfather Thomas W. Smith and brothers prepared him for burial. They had him all dressed in temple clothes. They thought they did a very good job.

Grandmother, Billy's wife, had been persuaded to go into the bedroom and lie down. She came to the room and told the elders, "Billy came to me and told me he wasn't dressed right." Thomas Washington said, "Eliza, I assure you his clothes are on right. Don't allow yourself to doubt that." She again left the room but almost immediately returned and said, "Billy says his robe is on the wrong shoulder." The three men checked and found that Uncle Billy was right. The robe was on the wrong shoulder.

Thomas Washington Smith and families resided in Washington, Kane County, Utah where he was called for a cotton growing project on 2 April 1857 until December 1871 when he was called by President Erastas Snow to settle at Pahreah and was selected as first counselor to Bishop Allen Smithson in Pahreah ward. They worked very hard in the ward and all the business projects. Then Thomas Washington fell ill. It seemed when quite young he dreamed that he would die when he was in his fifties. He thought of that dream and became seriously ill. He worried about his families and all his responsibilities and he proceeded to arrange the business making a will to prepare his family for the worst and all that time he was getting weaker. Finally, he sent for Bishop Smithson and asked him to "dedicate him to the Lord". This meant holding the priesthood (in cases when it seemed the patient could not recover and was suffering terribly). The priesthood prayed to Heavenly Father beseeching him to release him from this life, if the time had come when they were taken. When Bishop Smithson started to pray, he told Grandfather he would be fully restored to health, would live many years and would like to preach the Bishop's service and that Thomas would be bishop at this time. All of which was fulfilled literally.

During the year Grandfather and Grandmother's girl just younger than my father, Tabitha, was modeling a dress for her Aunt Jane which her aunt had just made. It had a wide, wide skirt and was so beautiful. She said, "Aunt Jane, see how it twirls!" She turned before an open fireplace. The skirt caught fire and Tabitha was burned to death.

Thomas Washington was a very busy man in a business way. He owned sawmills and produced excellent building materials which he sold at a good price for a very good breed of cattle which made him a nice profit. He had cattle at ranches at "Kaub," "Last Chance", "Tropee", the Smith ranch, and many others. He was promised in his Patriarchal blessing "because he had been willing to come down to poverty to help the cause of the Gospel his granary would be full." This he lived to see. He had a reputation of owning the best breed of cattle in the state. And with his three wives and 11 children of his own and several adopted ones he needed his granary full.

He was also a very busy man in church as well as many other responsibilities. He was a real genealogist. He gathered the information for literally hundreds of people (I suspect his wife and family had helped much). Grandfather left a book he had written - a report of his genealogy that so many people he and other proxies had done the work for.

Thomas Smith, a cousin of mine, very little relation to Grandfather, has the book and he refused to let us copy it.

It seems Grandfather was a much-loved man by all who knew him. He was a good friend to the Indians. It is recorded that he always told the Indians if they wanted any of his cattle to tell him and they would get them, but asked them not to steal them. His cattle brand was 7WS. Up to the time of his death, 25 December 1892, in Pahreah, Kane County, Utah he ran a sawmill that furnished the lumber for 90% of the work for the Tropic town and other towns nearby and the Bryce Canyon project.

When he died the record says Indians came until the canyon was full, mourning for Tommy, as his friends called him.


The history of Thomas Washington Smith was written in 1880 by Elias Smith, youngest son of Thomas Smith and Sarah Ann Boren. This history was compiled and furnished by Alta Smith Booke, granddaughter of Thomas Washington Smith and Sarah Ann Boren, in January 1967.

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This history is copyrighted and is offered for personal use and research only.
It is not to be reprinted or used for commercial purposes without written permission.

Copyright 2001 by Lisa Talbert


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