An American Family History

Josiah Smith and Eliza Fox

Maryon White's Memories of her grandparents, Josiah and Eiza Smith
Children of Josiah Smith, Jr.
and Eliza Fox
  • Mary Grace Smith White Hanley
  • John Elmer Smith
  • Bertha Edna Smith Kimsey
  • Harry William Smith
  • Ethel Edith Smith Taylor
  • Bryan Sewell Smith
  • Augusta Lena Smith Larson
  • Andrew Jack Smith
  • Twyla May Smith White
  • Chariton is the county seat of Lucas County, Iowa and is in Lincoln Township.

    I have no idea how they met or when they married, but I am sure it was in Lucas County, Iowa. It was destined to be a fairly rocky union, as two more different personalities could scarcely be imagined. Josiah was fun loving and sociable. He played the violin and sang, (not simultaneously, of course!).  He liked to go to dances, tell stories and try new ventures.  Eliza was (or soon became) very serious and introverted. He was an optimist, she a pessimist. She became very religious and extremely narrow minded. I can't say Josiah was the opposite, but he surely was not as judgmental as she.

    Very soon after their marriage, they went to homestead in Kansas. I can remember Eliza telling stories about their "sad shanty" (whatever that might have been.) Anyway, their part of Kansas had an oversupply of snakes and an undersupply of water, so they soon returned to Iowa. Their first child, Mary Grace was born in Kansas.

    Eventually they settled in Chariton, Iowa, and I think all of the other eight children were born there. Grandpa was primarily a carpenter, but also a jack-of-all trades and was frequently away from home. I don't remember any horror stories from this period in their lives. Ethel tells me that they owned a very nice house in Chariton. Of course, my mother was the youngest and could remember very little of this period and Eliza never talked much about it.

    I don't know why they moved to Red Oak [Iowa], but apparently it was an ill-advised decision. I don't remember anyone who had cheerful, wonderful memories of this town and yet they stayed there for several years (maybe 10 or 15).  Twyla and Gus told me they moved frequently (by choice or by request, I don't know).

    It became necessary for Eliza to go to work in restaurants.  All of the kids had to work, and I don't think any of them every got to finish high school.

    At one time they were managing a place called the Ouller Farm.  This place was big enough that there were several hired men and Eliza cooked and washed and cleaned for them all.  Another time they ran a dairy farm and I guess the whole family worked like slaves.

    Eliza claimed that Josiah drank (an unforgivable sin in her eyes) and was abusive. I never heard that he abused her, but stories like this make me believe he could be very hot headed.  One time Jack asked for a dime, Josiah threw a dime on the floor, and, when Jack bent over to pick it up, Josiah kicked him clear across the room. Another time Josiah bought "store cookies" for his lunch, left them on the kitchen table and went out on the porch where could watch through a window. When Twyla stole a cookie, he started to give her a licking (not a spanking).  He was so angry. The older boys intervened and made him stop.

    Another new venture led the family into further trouble.  Josiah decided to move his family to Wright, Minnesota. The fourth child Harry and his wife Bess were there and Josiah thought he would become a farmer. He bought what he thought was a good piece of land, but when the snow melted, it turned out to be a big field full of stumps. Harry and Josiah build a fairly nice house for the family.

    It was there that an incident occurred which really horrified me. Uncle Bryan maintained that Josiah was a desperate man, and could not see any other way out, but in my opinion, that was no excuse for Josiah telling Bryan it was time for him to get out.  Bryan forgave his father, so I suppose that I should too, but I can still imagine that youngster, crying as he plodded down the road.  Eliza quickly gathered some food together and a tiny bit of money she had saved, and sent Jack down the road after Bryan. This story was related frequently by Gus, Bryan Twyla, Jack and Eliza so I know it was true. Bryan could not have been more than 14 or 15, but he somehow got back to Red Oak where Ethel was working in a bank. She says Bryan had already found a job working for a farmer before he looked her up. From that time on, Bryan was on his own, and later took on responsibilities no person that young should have to endure.

    The Minnesota episode ended in disaster. Eliza left and I know she took Twyla with her. I seem to remember that she left Gus and Jack with their father. If anyone knows for sure, please correct.

    The Wind in the Willow
    Table of Contents
    Josiah and Sarah (Pitts) Smith
    John Newton and Sarah Jane (Ricketts) Fox
    Josiah and Eliza (Fox) Smith 
    Mary Grace Smith White
    John Elmer Smith
    Bertha Edna Smith Kimsey
    Harry William Smith
    Ethel Edith Smith Taylor
    Bryan Sewell Smith
    Augusta Lena Smith Larson
    Andrew Jack Smith
    Twyla Mae Smith White

    The home in Chariton.


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

    Gus, Eliza and Ethel standing, Twyla is seated in front of the second house in Wright.

    Smith KidsJack, Twyla and Gus in front of the Red Oak home.

    The first home at Wright.

    The Homestead Act was signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln on May 20, 1862. It gave an applicant 160 acres of undeveloped land outside of the original colonies. Anyone who had never taken up arms against the United States could file an application. They had to live on the land and make improvements to receive title.

    [The following four paragraphs are from the composition book about Ethel Taylor.]
    I had thought that Bryan went straight to Ethel when Josiah threw him out, but Ethel tells me that Bryan came back to the Red Oak area and got a job working on a farm before he let her know anything about it.

    Likewise, it was my impression that Eliza and the three youngest children went directly to Ethel. Again I was mistaken. Eliza went to Chariton first and got a job, but soon discovered that this would not work out. She contacted Ethel and Bryan and asked for their help, and it was decided that it would be best for her to bring the children to Red Oak.

    Unfortunately, this arrangement didn't work out either. One of my earliest memories of Eliza was hearing her talk of "flying the coop." This expression baffled me, but apparently it was her way of dealing with difficult situations. Anyway, in a fairly short time, she "flew the coop" and went to Sioux City where Grace and Walt were living.  I don't suppose anyone even remembers (if they ever knew) what prompted that move. I thought that she took Gus with her at that time, but Ethel tells me "no." She and Bryan managed to keep the three younger ones in school, kept them fed and clothed and provided a roof over their heads.  [It was] quite a feat for a couple of teenagers.

    It was only when Bryan went into the service and Jack ran away and enlisted that other plans had to be made. Twyla was sent to Wyoming and Gus went to Sioux City. That is when Gus started to work in the dime store.

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

    World War I was a between the Entente and Central Powers alliances in Europe. On June 28, 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated by a Bosnian-Serb and this activated alliances between all major European powers. The United States became involved in 1918 and the war ended on November 11, 1918.

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

    It has been my impression that most of the older kids, down to and including Bryan, were much in sympathy with Josiah. The oldest were married and away from the family by the time the real trouble started, but Bertha, Ethel and Bryan were in Josiah's camp, while Gussie, jack and Twyla sided with Eliza.

    This marriage ended in divorce! [which was] a really scandalous thing in that day and age (pre World War I).  Eliza, Ethel and Bryan tried to maintain a home for the three younger kids. Soon Eliza left Red Oak and went to Sioux City where Grace lived. Eliza got work in the laundry of a Catholic hospital, and for some reason developed a dislike for Catholics which stuck with her all her life.

    Meanwhile, back in Red Oak, the five youngest struggled on.  Twyla told [me] that when she began to menstruate, Bryan was the only one at home. Can you imagine a young man of 16 or 17 trying to explain the facts of life to a sobbing, frightened little sister? This is only one example of the responsibilities that fell on some pretty young shoulders.

    When the war started, Jack lied about his age and joined some branch of the service (maybe Marines?). Soon after that Bryan went into the army. It was impossible for Ethel to maintain a home by herself, so Gus went to Des Moines to live with Eliza, and Twyla was sent to Wyoming to live with Bertha and Elmer Kimsey.

    When the war ended, Twyla finished the 8th grade in Wyoming and returned to Red Oak. Shortly after her return, she went to Sioux City to visit Eliza, Gussie and Grace. This was when she met my Dad [it was] in the spring of 1918 when she was 14 and he was 19. [There will be more about that in the chapter about the White family.

    I'm sure Bryan or Ethel financed this little trip, and when Twyla returned to Red Oak, it was decided not to try to maintain a home, but live in rooming houses. Twyla and Ethel lived in one home, Bryan and Jack somewhere else. Ether paid the rent and clothed Twyla, Bryan bought her meal ticket at a nearby restaurant.

    When school started, it was discovered that Twyla did not have satisfactory proof that she had completed the 8th grade. School officials insisted that she repeat 8th grade and she refused. Like most of the other young women in that town, she went to work at the Thomas A. Murphy Calendar Company. 

    Thomas D. Murphy Company Red Oak

    Her first job was tying tiny little bows to be glued to the calendars. Later she was given the very challenging job of air-brush painting pink cheeks on the pretty calendar ladies. Talk about child labor, sweat shops and assembly lines--even small towns had them.

    Josiah and Eliza continued to go their separate ways, and I haven't a clue as to where they were and what they were doing.  In 1922, Bill White came back into the picture. He looked-up Bryan (who had once worked with him,) re-met Twyla and they were married July 31, 1922.

    Apparently the other kids now felt their responsibility for Twyla was ended. (How little they knew!!) Bryan and Vivian had been going together for several years, and finally married very soon after this. Ether was married in November and Gussie in December. [It was] really a big year for weddings.

    But to get back to Josiah and Eliza, I still don't know where Josiah was, but eventually he landed in Wyoming where Bertha and Ethel and their families lived. Eliza landed in Omaha where Harry and Elmer and their families lived, and where Twyla lived when she was not on the road with Bill.

    Eliza had a job of some kind, but she lived with us part of the time. She was with us when my brother, Donald, was born in 1925. He was a very tiny baby and was not expected to live.  Eliza nursed him devotedly and I think no one can deny that she thought more of him than any of the other grandchildren, and possibly even her own kids!

    Lucas County is in south central Iowa. It was founded in 1846 and the county seat is Chariton.

    The 1918 influenza pandemic was also called the Spanish flu. It was caused by an unusually deadly strain and most victims were healthy, young adults. The pandemic lasted from March 1918 to June 1920. One third of the world's population, became infected.


    Sometime before 1930, Josiah came to Omaha and proposed. Eliza and Josiah remarried and went to Wyoming.  They tried to run a little restaurant in Moorcroft for a while, but eventually moved to a small ranch not far from Kimsey's and Taylors.

    Soon the family was somewhat scattered; Elmer and Harry and their families in Omaha, Grace, Twyla, Jack and Bryan and their families in Sioux City, Gus on a farm near Sac City Iowa and Bertha and Ethel and their families in Wyoming where Josiah and Eliza now lived.

    Times were really getting bad all over the country. Bryan took his family and moved to Wyoming where he worked for about a year for [the] Taylors. Then he moved over to the Smith place, helped Josiah with a saw mill he had, tried to farm, cut firewood and sold it in Moorcroft. Somewhere along the line, he also worked for the county doing road work. 

    In 1932, my Dad took us to Wyoming to visit Eliza and Josiah and simply did not come back for us at the end of the summer. Nobody ever offered a very sensible explanation except that he realized that he could not feed nor house us, so he took us where he know we would be safe. We stayed with Josiah and Eliza for several months, then moved to Taylors for several months, then back to Josiah and Eliza.

    The next summer, Wyoming was relieved of the burden and we were dumped on [the] Larsons. Finally in the summer of 1934, Bill White finally got a decent job and things were OK for us from then on.


    But that was about the time Eliza left Josiah for the second time. I think Eliza always loved Josiah, and her request to be buried beside him was honored by her children. In his later years, Josiah lived in a little house (or shack) on the Taylor place. I think he died about 1937 or 38. Bryan said he though Josiah had prostate cancer.

    From the time she left Josiah until her death in 1947, Eliza lived mainly with Gussie or Twyla, with intermittent visits to her other children and her brother Bomie (pronounced Bow-mee) in Oklahoma.


    Eliza was more to be pitied than anything else in my opinion. Can you imagine trying to live out of a suitcase for 12 or 15 years? All that she owned had to be contained in one small trunk, a "valise" or "satchel" as she called it, and her very capacious handbag.

    In 1946, she was with in Milwaukee when she fell and broke her hip (or vice versa so often happens). In those days, they didn't know about pinning broken bones. She was in a complete body cast for several months, her legs spread at about a sixty degree angle. She had to lie on her face or back all the time. She never did fully recover. She was with [the] Larsons when she died in her sleep in 1947. Age about 85, I think.

    Maryon Added Later I have thought of another thing you might find interesting.  Josiah always kept a loaded shotgun hanging on the wall, and his treasured fiddle lying on a chest or table nearby.  One day when Eliza was cleaning, the shotgun was accidentally knocked from the wall.  It accidentally went off and accidentally reduced the fiddle to toothpicks.

    Also, Twyla said one time that Eliza's idea of a bed time story was to tell you about the Voluska (sic) axe murders!  Poor Eliza was always afraid and managed to instill this fear into some of her children and grandchildren. It must have been terrible to be so frightened all the time.

    The Villisca ax murders took place in Iowa in 1912 and the crime was never solved. An entire family was killed. The home is now a museum.
    Maryon's History Lesson

    I don't want to offend any of you be offering a history lesson at this point, and I know many of you already are aware of the things I want to talk about, but some may not be, so please be patient.

    When Josiah and Eliza were raising their family little was to be found in the way of entertainment. Remember there was no TV, no movies and few radios, if any. The larger cities had the theater, opera and fine restaurants where entertainment might be offered, but there was nothing like this in smaller communities.  Eliza's refuge was the church and its activities, two services on Sunday, plus Wednesday prayer meeting and any other church activities including funerals.

    During the 1880's two enterprises developed addressed to the need for entertainment: Vaudeville houses in the large cities and Chautauqua houses or tents in smaller communities. As you know, vaudeville covered a large range of entertainment:  Singing, dancing, acrobats, magicians, comedians, animal acts etc., and it was frivolous in nature.  The Chautauqua circuit was different. At first it was mainly speakers, then later "good" music (as opposed to "popular music") and still later, plays.

    Maryon Writes about William Jennings Bryan

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

    One of the most popular speakers on the Chautauqua circuit was one William Jennings Bryan (1860-1925). This man was a triple threat: he was considered an authority on the Bible (his views were very conservative and fundamental) as an attorney he was much interested in the government of our country and was considered to be very well informed in this area; and as a humanitarian, he professed to be the spokesman for the common man. One title given to him was "The Great Commoner" and he was sometimes referred to as the "Silver Tongued Orator." I think this may have been a play on words because one of his crusades was to get the United States off the gold standard and to adopt silver as the monetary unit.

    He was a Democrat who tried to run for president four times, and was actually nominated as the Democratic candidate in 1896, 1900 and 1908. He worked very hard to push through the 18th amendment (prohibition) in 1919, and also for the 19th amendment (women's suffrage). 

    Are you surprised that Eliza would find this person a very admirable character? And that very early in his (WJBs) career, she chose to name her sixth child after him? I think that choosing this name was a very good idea and I hope it will be carried on as a family tradition. We already have four other Bryan Smiths although not all of them go by that name: William Bryan Smith, David Bryan Smith, Bryan Smith (Craig's son) and Bryan Allan Smith, Jack's son. 

    It is unfortunate that William Jennings Bryan's last spot in the limelight turned out so badly. He volunteered to serve as a prosecuting attorney in the Scopes' Trial (Darwin's theory of evolution) and Clarence Darrow volunteered to serve as defense attorney. Although Bryan won the case technically (teaching any explanation of earth's creation other than the Bible version was against the law in Tennessee), Darrow managed to get Bryan on the witness stand and made a complete fool of him. Remember Bryan was 65 years old in 1925 and that was OLD in those days.  Darrow proved that Bryan was considerably less than an expert on the Bible and profoundly uninformed on biological science.  This devastating cross examination by Darrow may have contributed to his (Bryan's ) sudden illness and death only 5 days after the trial ended (Source: Encyclopedia Americana). A movie based on the trial was made some years ago. It starred Spencer Tracy and Frederic March and it seems to me the title was something about the wind "Inherit the Wind" or something like that. See it if you get a chance.

    Marion Adds some Smith Trivia
    Baptist churches were found in early colonial settlements and grew out of the English Separatist movement and the doctrine of John Smyth who rejected infant baptism.

    Another bit of trivia regarding music in the Smith Family. I will be much surprised if some of you have not mentioned Eliza's habit of singing hymns while she worked. She knew every verse of every hymn in the Baptist hymnal. She had a pleasant voice and really loved to sing. The one I remember best is "What a Friend We Have in Jesus," but she knew them all. 

    Josiah also liked to sing, but his taste ran more to folk songs.  Casey Jones was one of his favorites and a song about "Jesse James." I can remember only the part that said

    Twas a dirty little coward
    who shot Mr. Howard,
    and laid Jesse James in his grave

    Incidentally, Jesse James had ridden with Quantrell's Raiders during the Civil War. I know that someone told me Josiah's father also rode with this bunch, but Bill Smith says I'm wrong. It is not impossible that Si Smith did both-rode with Quantrell and later became a Confederate spy. The James gang was busy robbing banks and trains from 1866 to 1879. Josiah was in his early teens (if that old) at this time and I theorize that he picked up his admiration for Jesse from his father Si.

    I can remember Uncle Bryan singing these songs and others.  Remember the lovely duet Aunt Ethel and Bryan sang at the 82 reunion?

    The Confederate States of America (CSA), also known as the Confederacy, was a government set up by southern states during the Civil War. The states who left the Union were Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.

    Bill Smith Adds: Josiah and Eliza Smith were married May 6, 1886 at Chariton, Iowa. According to my father (Bryan) Eliza kept her and Josiah's wedding certificate above the headboard of their bed. I don't recall it being there in Wyoming. Someone obtained an affidavit from the county clerk in 1971 of the fact of their marriage and a copy fell into my hands.
    Bill Smith's Summary of Bryan Smith's Interview at Wyoming State Sanitarium at Basin Wyoming , March 22-23, 1980

    About the time Aunt Grace was a baby, Josiah and Eliza Smith went to Kansas from Chariton, Iowa for about a year. While there they lived in a sod dugout. They returned to Chariton. The family lived on the McCurdy farm 14 miles south of Chariton before moving into a house in Chariton. (This house is the one taken from Aunt Twyla's album). Josiah bought this house which had a mortgage on it. 

    While in this house, Grace was married to Charley (Walt) White and lived at Winter, sd where Charley ran a pool hall. During this time Josiah went to the Rosebud Indian reservation near Winter, sd to work for awhile. About that time, Bertha Smith Kimsey was in Rock Springs Wyoming, Elmer Smith lived in Red Oak, Harry Smith was free and worked in farms moving about often, Grace Smith White was at Winter, S. D.

    Bryan was 12 when they first went to Red Oak. They first lived about one year in a house at 203 2nd Street right on the end of Russia Town. They moved to the Fuller farm next and lived there about a year. (This farm as well as the dairy farm were owned by the Hayes, a father and son)  Then they moved to a dairy farm where they lived about a year. Josiah did carpenter work on these farms. They moved into Red Oak and Josiah went to Wright, Minnesota and bought 120 acres of wild land and then bought another 100 acres. He cut timber on this land.

    The Rosebud Indian Reservation is located in south-central South Dakota and is home of the "Sicangu Lakota Oyate" or "Burnt Thigh People" of the Great Plains.

    Harry went to Minnesota with Josiah, Elmer was in Omaha, then.  Grace was in Sioux City, Iowa then. Bryan went to school part of one year in Red Oak (what grade?)

    When working for the Adams Express Co. He lived in a house with Aunt Twyla, Aunt Ethel and Jack.

    Elmer and Bertha Kimsey lived in town in Moorcroft in the house that Cash Minnich was to live in so that Dorothy could go to high school. (Punk or Mina Lee Kimsey sent to high school in California where she lived with Grandma Kimsey and son Lyle.)  Uncle Elmer's ranch was leased out to Kirshners then.

    Josiah and Eliza Smith had been working at the care in Moorcroft (Which they had bought for $3000.00) for about a year then.

    From Jack Smith's Letter to Shelley Mitchell

    Grace: Married Charles Walter White, one kid only Vera, at present in a hospital in San Antonio (I think)

    John Elmer: your granddad, married Emma Bertrand; 6 kids

    Harry: Married Bess Lukehard 10 kids, all dead but one or two.  Your Aunt Hazel could fill you in on this

    Ethel: Married Eil Taylor; 5 kids

    Bryan: married Vivian Young; 3 kids

    Gusta: married Ray Larson; 1 kid

    Bertha: married Elmer Kimsey; 3 kids, the youngest was a boy Donald, but they lost him when he was about 2 or 3 years old.  The two older ones were girls. Dorothy married a guy named Robert Smith. Both lived at Buffalo Wyoming

    Jack Andrew: by far the best looking and sharpest one of the family, was married once before. One boy, Robert Smith killed in an auto accident in 1949. Finally after many, many stormy seas, I married Lillian Rasmussen and as you know, we had 3 kids, Bill, Jim and Katherine and have 9 grand kids.

    Twyla: married William White; 3 kids; last one died at birth.  Maryon with her now and Donald killed in World War II

    World War II was a global conflict that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The Allies (United States, British Commonwealth countries, and the Soviet Union) fought against the Axis (Germany, Japan and Italy).



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