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Biography - REV. WALTER S. D. SMITH

Sometimes one finds a man who unites in himself the fine moral sense of a minister of the gospel with the keen business sense of a man who lives his life among material things. Such a man is of great value to both his friends and to the community in which he lives, for he is, as a rule, one of the few truly normal men living today. This unusual combination is to be found in the person of Walter S. D. Smith, of Pinckneyville, Illinois. He comes of a long line of educated and cultured men and women, and it is no wonder that he has the ability to speak words of weight and influence from the pulpit, for the founder of his family in this country was a well known Scottish divine. It is less easy to see where he gets his fine business instincts, but he certainly has them, having held his present difficult position for upwards of twenty years. He has not allowed absorption in other things to keep him from observing closely the political and civic life of the community, and the services that he has rendered as a public servant have been much appreciated by the people who repeatedly placed him in positions of trust.

Reverend Walter Scott Dinsmore Smith, or “Elder Smith,” as he is called, represents one of the earliest of the newer families that settled in Perry county, his father, Dr. George S. Smith, having settled here in 1862, about the time of the real development of Egypt. This branch of the Smith family was founded in America about the middle of the eighteenth century, its founder being Reverend Samuel Smith, who was a native of Scotland. He had received a very fine education in the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and on his arrival in America was made a tutor in Princeton College. After he had severed his connection with this famous old institution of learning he taught a select and very popular school at Rahway, New Jersey, and here he died about 1795. His wife was a Miss Baker, and Samuel B. Smith was the only child to perpetuate the family name, his sister, Mary, living and dying a spinster.

Samuel Baker Smith was born near Princeton, New Jersey, where his father was engaged in both ministerial and educational work. The date of his birth was 1790, and he received his early education from his father. The atmosphere of his home while that of a Presbyterian minister, of the old school, was yet full of refinement, and if a bit austere and straight-laced in many respects, yet furnished the lad with what to him was meat and drink, that is books. He was a soldier in the War of 1812. He was a man of rare intellectual gifts, which even the hard life of the backwood's man could not smother. His wife was also from a family of considerable mental attainments of the old German stock, being Martha Siegfried, a daughter of the Reverend George Siegfried, a Baptist minister and editor in Bucks county, Pennsylvania. Settling in eastern Ohio prior to 1820, these two reared a family of ten children, of whom two are still living. Mr. Smith died in 1858, at the age of about sixty-eight, and his wife passed away at the age of sixty-two, in 1855. Their children were James M., who died in Erie, Pennsylvania; Dr. George S.; Samuel, who did not live to maturity; Sarah A., who became the wife of John C. Hess and died at Iowa City, Iowa; Simeon B., who lost his life during the Civil war, wearing the uniform of the boys in blue; Nathan M. was a doctor and is buried at Kirksville, Missouri; Mary, who married Dr. A. C. Moore, and is now living in Cincinnati, Ohio; Martha, who married Rev. Charles Kimball; William Wilgus, who was one of the pioneer in telegraphy and went to the Pacific coast in 1849. Here he built numerous lines of telegraph under contract, and later went into the dreaded desert country of Nevada with the same purpose. Here, near Wilgus, a town that was named for him, he was murdered by a roving band of Indians, his horse being coveted by them. The two younger children were Benjamin F., who passed his life in California and Nevada, and Maria J., who became the wife of J. H. Arnold, of Beallsville, Ohio, where they still live, honored parents of a numerous family.

Dr. George Siegfried Smith was born in Bucks county, Pennsylvania, March 23, 1817, and received his literary education in Mount Pleasant, Ohio. He later received his professional training in one of the medical schools of Cincinnati, after a course of study under Dr. James Kirkpatrick. He began to practice as an exponent of the regular school, but in 1857 he became a converfto the eclectic system, and continued to uphold the tenets of this school to the end of his medical career of more than sixty years. In 1858 he left Newport, Ohio (in which state, at Beallsville, his son Walter was born January 12, 1845), and went to Jefferson City, Missouri. He spent the next four years practicing his profession near that place, and in 1862 came to Perry county, Illinois, where, and in Jackson and Williamson counties he spent the remainder of his life. He married Rachel M. Garvin at Martin's Ferry, Ohio, March 3, 1840. She was a daughter of James Garvin and Jane Dinsmore, who lived near Moundsville, West Virginia, all of the closing years of their lives. Her father was a farmer and she was brought up as a capable housewife, and became an able assistant to the doctor in his rather trying profession. Mrs. Smith died near Sand Ridge, Illinois, December 22, 1866, leaving four children: Jennie, who is the widow of L. T. Ross, of Pinckneyville, Illinois; Adoniram Judson, of Sand Ridge, Illinois; Walter Scott Dinsmore; and Friend Smith, who was cashier of the Murphy- Wall Bank in Pinckneyville for seventeen years and at the time of his death. Dr. Smith was a Republican in his political beliefs, and in his religious creed was a Baptist. He died in Pinckneyville April 2, 1902.

The larger number of the boyhood days of Walter S. D. were spent at Newport, Ohio, and at Saint Mary’s, West Virginia, on the opposite side of the Ohio river. He recently had the interesting experience of returning to the haunts of his boyhood after an absence of fifty years. The old, well remembered scenes had changed much, but here and there a spot seemed to have stood still, and he could imagine himself a bare-foot boy again. Not so his old friends, the little girl whom he had gazed at timidly from behind the refuge of his speller was a grandmother, and the boy who always used to play Indian with him, and run faster than any of them, was all doubled up with rheumatism, but what fun it was to talk over old times with them all.

The common schools gave Walter Scott Dinsmore Smith his early training and to this was added a course in Shurtleff College, Alton, Illinois. As a young man he engaged in farming, later turning to school teaching as a means of livelihood. Before he was of age he was conscious of a call to the work of a minister, and at eighteen he was licensed to preach by the authority of the Ebenezer Missionary Baptist church, of which Rev. Josiah Lemen was then pastor. He has held different pastorates around Pinckneyville, and is yet subject to a call from the Nine Baptist Association, of which body he served many years as clerk. He has been clerk of the First Baptist church of Pinckneyville for about forty years.

At the age of twenty-one W. S. D. Smith entered the court house in Pinckneyville as deputy county clerk, under L. T. Ross, and remained in this position for eight years. He was then elected to succeed his chief and was repeatedly re-elected until he had spent twenty-five years in this office. He retired December 1, 1890, and on the 1st of January, 1891, became bookkeeper and cashier of the Pinckneyville Milling Company, a position which he still holds. He is a Republican, who holds no bitterness against those who do not think as he does, and in his public service was known far and near for his courtesy and kindness to everyone.

Reverend Smith was married on the llth of September, 1868, in Pinckneyville, Illinois, to Laura Ann Gordon. She was a daughter of James E. Gordon, one of the early settlers of Perry county and a noted justice of the peace. Her mother was Lucy A. Jones, a sister of Humphrey B. Jones, the founder of Pinckneyville and first county and circuit clerk of Perry county, who was appointed in 1827. Of the Gordon children there were William G. Gordon, deceased; Mary L., the widow of Matthew Charlton, of Saint Louis; Lucy A., who married William E. Dunn, a volunteer in the War of the Rebellion, who after the war took up the shoe-making trade, and became the father of the Dunn Brothers, merchants of Pinckneyville; and Mrs. Smith, who was born on the 8th of February, 1851.

The children of the Reverend Smith and his wife are Elmer Gordon, cashier of the Southern Illinois Milling Company, at Murphysboro; Arthur C., who is secretary and treasurer of the Bessemer Coal and Mining Company of Saint Louis; Percy B., who is secretary of the Egyptian Coal and Mining Company, also of Saint Louis; Elsie, wife of S. J. Harry Wilson, superintendent of the Pinckneyville schools; Lucy, who married Charles F. Gergen, president of the Gergen Coal Company; and Stanley G., editor of the Searchlight, a weekly paper published at Marissa, Illinois.

Extracted from 1912 A History of Southern Illinois, by George W. Smith, volume 2, page 994.


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