An American Family History

John Smith

During the Civil war many citizens of East Tennessee opposed secession, but the area was under Confederate control from 1861 to 1863. Some citizens engaged in guerrilla warfare against state authorities and joined the Union army, while others were loyal to the confederacy. It was a heartbreaking case of neighbor against neighbor and brother against brother.

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

John Smith was the last of Josiah Smith and Sarah Pitt's children to be born in Meigs County, Tennessee. He was born in 1862. 

About 1865, he went with his family by flatboat down the Tennessee River from Tennessee to Tazewell County, Illinois. About three years later they moved on to Chariton, Iowa.

He was listed in the 1870 census of Wapello, Lucas, Iowa as age eight.

At the time of the 1880 census he was eighteen and working as a servant in the Relph home in Lucas County. Oral family history says his wife was named Mary.

John Elmer Smith was named after him. His great-niece, Maryon White, wrote

He was a real windjammer! One of the stories I recall about him had to do with a missing part of his anatomy-a finger, thumb, or maybe entire hand. Anyway, when people asked what happened, he told them he was swimming across the Atlantic Ocean and a steamboat ran over him.

Bill Smith said "Uncle Elmer and my Dad [Bryan Smith] did not know much about John; they only knew that he had been involved with the law in a bad way and that it involved a gun."

Derby- A 12 year old son of John Smith's who lives a few miles southeast of town, shot his sister aged 8 years on Friday morning. He was fooling with a revolver, when it went off, the ball striking the little girl in the back below the shoulder passing dowward and lodged in or near the kidneys. She was soon under treatment by the doctors, but we did not learn the extend of her injuries. June 16, 1880 Chariton Patriot

A Bold Burglary-Last Thrusday afternoon the residence of N. Lyman was entered by a burgler and despoiled of a good gun, jewelry, etc., to the value of $50 or $60. One Friday Sheriff Ramsey, on the lookout for the perpetrator, found the gun at Russell where it had been traded off by the burglar who proved to be a young man named John Smith, a former resident of this county who has been away several years. He was captured and brought to town, waived examination and is held to the next grand jury in bonds of $500.

Today James Marsh claimed the suit of clothes Smith is wearing as having been stolen from him two days before the Lyman burglary. He is to have an examination on the latter charge next Monday. He appears to be a bad one.
May 31, 1888, Democrat

When he was 26, on September 6, 1888 he was admitted to the Men's Penitentiary at Fort Madison, Lee County, Iowa for burglary and larceny for a term of 4 years. He was single. His occupation was listed as pants maker. He was labeled intemperate and had a "dark" complexion. He had a poor "mental culture." He had no religious education. He was released on October 19, 1891.

Meigs County is located in East Tennessee and was formed from Rhea County in 1836. In 1819 the legislature took over part of the Cherokee Nation which was on the south east bank of the Tennessee River and this is the land that became Meigs County.
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
  • Tazewell County, Illinois was formed out of Peoria County in 1827.

    East Tennessee is part of Appalachia. At the end of the French and Indian War, colonists began drifting into the area. In 1769, they first settled along the Watauga River. During the Revolution, the Overmountain Men defeated British loyalists at the Battle of Kings Mountain. The State of Franklin was formed in the 1780s, but never admitted to the Union.


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