An American Family History

Andrew Jack Smith

A freemason (mason) is a member of an international fraternal and charitable organization pledged to mutual assistance and brotherly love.

Jack's Kids
Lillian Smith

Red Oak is the county seat of Montgomery County, Iowa.

The first U.S. railroad opened in the 1830s. In 1869 the first transcontinental railway was completed.


The eighth child of Josiah and Eliza Smith, born about 1902 or 3, was legally named Andrew Jack , but according to Ethel he always despised that name. I thought he adopted the name Jack when he went into the service, but Ethel says he convinced his grade school teachers that his name was JACK, so even early school records list him so. He never ever learned to accept the name Andrew, and I don't know why my Dad thought it was cute to call him Andy, but he did! And every time, Jack would bristle. Jack was a kidder and a tease himself, but I don't think he was ever guilty of teasing about something the victim felt strongly about.

When Gus and Jack and Twyla were going to grade school in Red Oak, the principal was an old witch named Jennie Kelly.  One of her training techniques was to take rebellious students to the first grade classroom and whip them in front of all the little six year olds. Mr. Jack was frequently featured in these little dramas for such heinous crimes as smuggling acorns into the classroom, laughing loudly when he wasn't supposed to, or teasing the girls. This probably didn't hurt Jack as much as it did Twyla, but both emerged from school with an itching hatred of Miss Kelly. Years later, we went to Red Oak and discovered they had built a lovely new grade school and named it the Jennie Kelly Elementary School. Gus and Twyla were furious, and when they told Jack, he about blew a gasket. It is horrible to think that teachers could get by with physical and emotional torture; now teachers don't dare touch a kid and they'd better be darn careful about what they say to a child or even how they look at him.

Somehow despite all kinds of financial problems, Ethel managed to give both Jack and Twyla voice lessons. They really could harmonize beautifully and Twyla as a very pretty little girl and Jack could be a perfect gentleman at times. As a result, they were frequently asked to perform at various functions around town. Even many years later, they still had good voices and enjoyed singing together, but as they grew older, they wouldn't even try to sing.  (Remember the duet Ethel and Bryan sang at the 82 reunion.)  Apparently musical talent ran in the family, but it totally missed me.

I've told you how mean Josiah was to Jack, and I'm sure you can imagine that he was a mischievous child, but never mean like Harry was. I don't remember hearing much else about his childhood, nor any of his war experiences. I thought he started drinking while in the service, but Ethel says absolutely not. It was not until four of his siblings married within 6 months of each other and left Jack more or less alone that his problem began.

I'm sure it is no secret in the family that Jack had a serious drinking problem for many years. I would venture a guess at 25+ years, and it is a real credit to him that he finally did get his act cleaned up and became the fine person he was capable of being, and also a credit to his wife, Lillian for sticking with him through some pretty bad times.

Apparently Jack got involved with the wrong kind of people sometime between 1923 and 1930. I think everyone tried to help him, but I guess this is something you have to control yourself (like gluttonous over-eating which I still can't control). I know he worked for Raymond Larson as a hired man somewhere during this time and lived with Larsons maybe for as long as a year. I'm not sure when, but Twill has fond memories of her Uncle Jack, so it must have been 1928 or later. I know by 1930, when we moved to Sioux City, Jack was there and drinking heavily. He frequently came to our house to sober up. Donald and I thought he was funny and we loved him dearly. Twyla loved him dearly also, but she did not think he was very funny or cute.

My next memory of Uncle Jack was about 1934-35, the year we lived across the road from Larsons.  Jack and Aunt Orpha were farming together and I simply cannot imagine how such an arrangement came to be.  I suspect that Gussie may have helped evolve this plan and it was doomed to failure.  Orpha would provide the money and do the housework, Jack was to do the farming and be general slave. Gus and Twyla Mae always liked Aunt Orpha, Jack and Twyla and Maryon and Donald did not agree.  She was one really mean old witch.  As an old maid myself, I feel entitled to judge her, and there was never a more typical spinster than Orpha Fox. Jack must have led a dog's life because she was so overbearing. Twill says those farming leases are usually for at least three years. I don't know how they survived without violence.

Jack was so helpful in getting that little store started for Twyla.  He occasionally took her to a movie or to a dance, and Twyla said they frequently sang on the way home. You can imagine how sound travels in the quiet countryside on a summer night.  The word soon got around that Jack and Twyla were roaring drunk on these occasions.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  My mother never did drink, and she said Jack did not drink when he was with her.  Apparently Orpha was quick to believe the worst whether true or not.

Eventually Jack went back to Sioux City and got a job driving a taxi.  Lillian was a waitress in a restaurant where he picked up his calls (remember there were no CB radios then).  We know Jack could be a very charming fellow when he wanted to be, but he was much older than Lillian (she is only 9 years older than I am) and she surely knew he had a drinking problem, but they were married anyhow in the late 30s.

All of us who loved Uncle Jack should be very grateful that he found Lillian. It took a while before he finally got his act cleaned up and quit drinking, like 10 or 15 years more.   Not many women would put up with that. Lillian was young and attractive, she was a good worker and good homemaker and mother. Life could have been so much better for them. 

All three of their children were born in Sioux City, and I remember the first time I ever saw Lillian was about 1938 when we were moving from Fargo to Des Moines. I remember her and their apartment very clearly. Seems to me there was a tiny baby, but we didn't see Jack at all. He must have been at work.

Jack continued to work as a cab driver for awhile, then as a salesman for an auto supply company. When the war started in 1944, the family moved to Portland where both Jack and Lillian worked in the shipyards. Jack was injured on the job somewhere along the line, and I know it was a difficult time for them all.

A housing area called Vanport (City?) had been developed for war industry workers and that is where the Jack Smith family and the Bryan Smith family lived. This development was located on the south side of the Columbia River between Vancouver, Wash., and Portland, Oregon. Some of you may remember the terrible tragedy when Vanport was flooded out (in 1947, I believe).  Fortunately, by the time that happened, Bryan and his family had returned to Wyoming and the Jack Smith family had moved to a little house on Edison Street.

I have many pleasant memories of that place, and Lillian and I both felt bad when we drove by the place last year and saw how neglected and run down it had become. It was a cute little house on a great big lot, there was room for an enormous garden and there were two big Royal Anne cherry trees in front. There was a big vacant lot across the street, so you could sit on the front porch and watch the ships go by on the Williamette River (remember Portland is a major U.S. Seaport). Lillian baked their own bread, canned gallons of stuff and really worked hard on that place. One of the main things I remember about our visits there was that Bill and Jim always blamed everything on "Henry."  I can remember if this was an invisible, imaginary companion, or a stuffed animal, but he really was a rascal!

Wyoming was admitted into the Union as the 44th state on July 10, 1890.

When Jack recovered from his injury, he sold insurance for a while, and maybe had some other jobs, but eventually went to work for an outfit called Gunderson's that made railroad boxcars. While here he became deeply interested in union activities. Somewhere along the line, he joined the Masonic lodge and went on to become a Shriner. He enjoyed bowling on their teams and came to Spokane for tournaments several times.

About 1952 or 3, they bought their home on Chautauqua Street. This is a really nice place very close to a lovely park, and best of all, it is an easy place to find. We really had some good times at that place. I will never forget the wonderful Thanksgiving reunion we had in 1966.  I've told you about that before, but again, I ask that if anyone has pictures taken at that time, please share with us.

For some reason, Jack blamed Herbert Hoover for all the troubles in the entire world, and when he discovered that a really beautiful yellow rose in his new yard was named Herbert Hoover, he dug it up and threw it away!  Lillian now confesses that for year she had some sort of small appliance with the name Hoover on it, but she discreetly kept it out of Jack's sight. And you may be sure that they never owned a Hoover vacuum cleaner!

Jack had a small boat at one time, but I don't think he ever really enjoyed fishing that much. He and the boys went hunting (maybe camping too), but Lillian and Kathryn weren't that interested. In addition to developing diabetes, and having a really serious hearing loss, Jack had other health problems in his later years.  He was in the hospital for a long, long time, and I don't really know the cause of his death.

A freemason (mason) is a member of an international fraternal and charitable organization pledged to mutual assistance and brotherly love.
Dorothy Kimsey Smith's Memories of her Uncle Jack I really didn't know Uncle Jack very well.  Don't believe I saw him more than a dozen times. Always heard that he was a happy person. I took my parents and Mina Lee to visit him and his family in 1955 in Portland. They were so nice to us and I loved the big house.  My mother cried for an hour when we left.  aid she felt that this was the last time she would see him, and it was.
Ethel Smith Taylor's Memories of Her Youngest Brother Jack or Andy, 1992

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

He was always a happy youngster and very musical. He sang for the high school when he was only in the first grade at Chariton, Iowa. After moving to Red Oak, he didn't like school well, but usually made good grades. Had I known that old teacher Kelly, I would have caused her trouble. No other teacher in town was a strict as she was. When the folks moved to the farm, Twyla, Jack and Gusta walked about a mile, but they all got along OK. In his high school years, he could have gotten into serious trouble as he and another boy spent months turning the clock when it caused a lot of trouble. Finally the police caught the other boy, but his parents were well thought of in town so it was hushed up.

When he got to working at the same place with Bryan, we all had such good times.  [We attended the same dances in a large building with music from Omaha. Dance started at nine till 12 and all went home and worked the next day.

After the boy's time in service we all had rooms and boarded out. It wasn't long till we all got married and lived in different states.  [It was] some years before we got to visit much. All had families and years before we could visit long.

My last time I spent with Jack and Lillian was in Portland, Oregon. He wasn't too well, and I stayed with him as he couldn't be alone and Lillian was working. He enjoyed bowling so much and was really a good player. We really enjoyed our time together. He was so well liked that he spent time on the telephone and visiting with friends who would call to see him. We drank many cups of coffee together and I'm so glad I spent those days with him.

This is 1992 and I am the only child of the family of 9 children living at the age of 98. I often wish for some of them. 4 were older and 4 were younger. I am at a nursing home in Sundance Wyoming and it's a very good place. I am lucky to walk with walker. Still eat well and feel real good at my age.

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

Lillian Smith's Memories of her Husband, Jack, May 11, 1992

I met Jack while working at a Greek diner. As you already know, he was a taxi driver and had their phone there for calls.  I took many calls for them as he had the morning shift and I had the breakfast shift. I didn't pay much attention to who got the calls until the old cook kept saying "Smitty's in love." He would always order toast "with hot mile" which was called "graveyard stew."  We were married July 17, 1937 at South Sioux, Nebraska.

Josiah passed away and Jack and Elmer, I thin,think went to Wyoming. I didn't go as our first son was born in Sept., 38.   After Jack had been at the packing house he heard of a bunch getting ready to go to Portland, so he went to Union Hall and signed up. Tried to tell him they already had filled their quota so I guess you could have heard him all over town. He got on train with the rest, which left on the 22nd of February, so he always said that was his lucky day.  The kids and I left in April.

Vanport was a godsend as housing was for a premium. I guess we were lucky to get out as the ones there lost almost everything. It took several trips to look at this place. I guess it was because I really hated to let go of the house on Edison.

Jack had many jobs after shipyard: real estate, insurance, railroad maintenance and finally Gunderson. It wasn't until he retired in Jan of 1966 that he became interested in Masonic. Went through the chairs and became a Shriner. I continued to work as money was still scarce and he would always have coffee ready when I came home with the "Hello Partner" welcome.

I think bowling was his first and best thing he enjoyed, although he spent many days fishing on Sauvie's Island. He always took a lunch and radio with him.  One day after being out all day, said "I sure enjoyed my coffee." I had put water in his thermos and he was supposed to fill it with his coffee.

Was sorry I put him in Vet's hospital as I guess they didn't have very good help. He was put in a very unkempt room.  He was on a strict diet, so made it a point to be there at mealtime, evenings.

This is what our good and bad times were during our almost 30 years of married life.  We had many trips, hunting, fishing, folks and Spokane and Wyoming and Calif.

The first U.S. railroad opened in the 1830s. In 1869 the first transcontinental railway was completed.

More from Maryon White

This memory reminds me that Jack was terrified, yet fascinated by snakes.  He had lots of unbelievable tales to tell. One time, Gus and Twyla were mad at him about something so they warmed up a length of rubber tubing, coiled it like a snake, and put it in Jack's bed. When he crawled into bed and stretched his legs down into that coil, you could have heard him yell all over Sac County. Before he ever even landed on the floor, he realized it was a dirty trick and started to swear at his sisters. Common sense tells you there is little likelihood of a snake being under the covers in a bed on the second floor of an Iowa farm house, in the dead of winter. But whose brain functions when terrified!

He had reason to worry in Wyoming in mid-summer.  Bertha had actually found at least one snake in her kitchen. Loyal Wyomingites always say "Yes there are some snakes back in the timber-or up on the divide-or down by the creek, but not where we live! I remember Uncle Elmer taking Dad to see a rattlesnake den within walking distance of their home!  The kids couldn't go along for obvious reasons.

Robert Jack Smith's Memories of his Uncle Jack,
Albuquerque, New Mexico , August 22, 1922

Sorry I don't have much to add as the breaks of the game kept me from getting better acquainted with him. 

1.  He came to Moorcroft, Wyoming to visit on about 1966 or 67 on some occasion and I had a short visit with him then and my prior view of him was based on my father's well-embroidered stories and he lived up to my expectations.  I liked his attitude on life.

2.  About 20 years ago, Speed and I and our own family popped in for a visit with him and Lillian in Portland.  Only spent a few hours, met 2 of the kids and were treated like the King and Queen.  It was clear to me that Aunt Lillian was the mainstay of the family.

Twyla Mae Larson King's Memories of her Uncle Jack

Uncle Jack was the man in my life when I was young.  He was more fun and oh, what a tease he was. I loved every minute of it.  He sure did tell some wild stories. I think it must run in the Smith Brothers. Uncle Jack and I used to ride the horse or the pony, that if you got near a ditch, she would rub on the fence.  Uncle Jack, Dad and Mom all loved to sing. We never took a car ride that they did not sing.

I remember at the store they used to play music, etc.  I can remember Uncle Jack trying to learn how to play the bone with Lee Lipton.  It seemed our house was the place for all to get together to start on the music for the next program.  Another one of my great buddies was Bob Smith.  He and Uncle Jack lived with us, helping Dad. I remember them helping me find all the Easter Eggs they had put out the night before.  They were both so much fun.

I remember when Uncle Jack and Lillian came to our house the first time after they were married.  I also remember Aunt Lillian asked me to come to Sioux City and stay with them for a week.  I sure had a great time.  I bet she was glad when the week was over.  I also remember the first time they brought Bill to our house as a baby.

I remember Uncle Jack and Aunt Orpha on the farm east of our farm. That was a fun time for me also. Now as you know, Maryon had her say about Aunt Orpha, but I will say this, I would take Aunt Orpha over Grandma Smith (now there was a real witch).

I feel Aunt Orpha was too much older than Jack for them to get along. Uncle Jack liked to have too much fun and come home a little worse for his fun, and like Grandma, she didn't like it.  But as far as my thinking there will never be any one like my Uncle Jack, and Aunt Orpha wasn't as bad as you make her out, Maryon. If she was, or had been, how could I go to Des Moines and stay a week or two and have such a great time? As I say, each to his or her own. I loved them both.

As Maryon said, I would see Uncle Jack and Bob coming with hay rack and off down the road I would go to meet them.  They would pick me up and swing me around, then tell big stories about all the things I liked to eat.  Well, of course, that would be just what they had for dinner that day.  It was always hot dogs. Maryon has told most everything so there isn't much more to say, but Uncle Jack was the love of my life and I loved him dearly.



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©Roberta Tuller 2020
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