An American Family History

Sarah Pitts Smith

Sullivan County is in far northeast corner of Tennessee between North Carolina and Virginia and was originally part of those states. It was formed in 1779 when it was divided from Washington County.


Chariton is the county seat of Lucas County, Iowa and is in Lincoln Township.

Tennessee was admitted to the Union on June 1, 1796. It was initially part of North Carolina.

Sarah Pitts Smith was born either in Blountville, Sullivan County, Tennessee or Virginia on April 30, 1826 according to her Mexican War Widow's affidavit or in 1828 according to her death certificate. Her death certificate records her parents as John and Sarah Pitts. According to a family member "Sarah said that her mother could hardly be understood because of her heavy brogue." Her grandson, Clell Downard, told William Smith that she was short and chunky.

She married Josiah Smith in 1846 when she was about 20 years old. Their life together and children are described in detail in the section on Josiah and Sarah Smith. She gave birth to thirteen children between 1862 and 1879 when she was about 52 years old. The census information indicates that she was not literate and she signed documents with an "X".  

After Josiah's death, she lived with her children in Derby, Benton Township and Chariton, Iowa. As the widow of a Mexican war veteran, she received a pension check beginning on January 29, 1887 for $8.00 a month which rose to $12.00 a month by the time she died. According to the oral family history

when Sarah got her pension check the neighbors clucked their tongues because they thought that the widow of a Confederate soldier was really ripping off the government. What they didn't know was that it was for the Mexican War.

In her declining years she lived in Russell, Iowa at her daughter, Cora Smith Downard's house. Clell Downard remembered an incident that happened while she was there.

. . . she was poorly, [and] a man came to see her and he said 'Do you remember me Mrs. Smith?' 'Yes, damn you Jimmy White, now you take your staff and walk out the way you came in.' replied Sarah.

Icyle Downard said

Sarah was a little off in her head when she was old, but she still knew a lot of things and had a good memory.

Icyle also remembered that when she was a girl, Sarah saying that "they would have to put rocks on Icycle to keep her from going over to the neighbors."

She died there at age 83 on August 8, 1911 of "old age." She is buried in the Salem Cemetery in Lucas County, Iowa in plot 50 next to her husband.
Children of Josiah Smith, Sr.
and Sarah Pitts
  • Elizabeth Jane Smith Frank
  • Allison Woodrow Smith
  • Nancy Ann Smith Wilson
  • Mary Ellen Smith Widaman Dixon
  • David Henry Smith
  • Josiah Allen Smith
  • John Smith
  • George Washington Smith
  • William Smith
  • Ida Belle Smith Hoops
  • Sarah Catherine Smith Hoops
  • Charles Elmer Smith
  • Cora Edna Smith Downard
  • Lucas County is in south central Iowa. It was founded in 1846 and the county seat is Chariton.




    Mrs. Sarah Smith Dead
    Mrs. Sarah Smith died at the home of her daughter, Mrs. F .B. Downard in Russell, Tuesday morning, August 8, 1911 at ten o'clock after a lingering illness of over two years. The funeral services were held this (Thursday) morning at the Salem church, conducted by Rev. Young and Rev. Tinkham. The remains were Intered (sic) in the Salem cemetery.


    Sarah Pitts was born in Virginia, April 30th, 1828, and died at the home of F.B. Downard in Russell, Ia. August 8, 1911, aged 83 years, 2 months and 8 days.

    She was married to Josiah Smith in 1843. To this union were born thirteen children, seven boys and six girls, ten of whom survive to mourn her loss. Her husband died in 1880.

    She was converted at the Mt. Carmel church at the age of 58 years. At the time of her death she was a member of the United Evangelical church. She was a faithful and consistant (sic) christian, a devoted wife and a loving mother. Her friends were numbered by the score, but those who will miss her most will be the children who still survive together with her grandchildren.  The sweet motherly face and loving deeds will ever be held sacred in the memories of her children and grandchildren.

    Mt. Carmel United Evangelical Church was in Benton Township, Lucas County, Iowa.

    In the 1830s settlers began arriving in Iowa from Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Indiana, Kentucky, and Virginia. Iowa became a state in 1846.




    DNA match with other descendant in this line.

  • John Pitts
  • Sarah Pitts Smith
  • Josiah Allen Smith
  • John Elmer Smith
  • Virginia Smith Miller
  • DNA match with other descendant in this line.

  • Sarah Stanfield Pitts
  • Sarah Pitts Smith
  • Josiah Allen Smith
  • John Elmer Smith
  • Virginia Smith Miller
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    ©Roberta Tuller 2023
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