Amelia (Stearns) Smith

(Argo Fa) - Mrs. Amelia Smith, who will celebrate her eighty-ninth birthday anniversary Sunday, September 25 (1932), was the youngest child of Mr. and Mrs. John Stearns and was born in Norfolk Twp., St. Lawrence Co. New York September 25, 1843.

When she was ten months old her parents left Ogdensburg, N. Y. by boat, and sailed through the Great Lakes for Illinois. They reached Chicago after five weeks on the water. Chicago at the time was a mere village. Here Mr. Stearns hired a four-horse team and wagon to bring his family and belongings to Hickory Grove (near Mt. Carroll) to the home of his brother, Elijah Stearns. At that time Mt. Carroll boasted a few dwellings but very little business. Savanna had few houses and one grocery. There were no railroads.

The family arrived here in the month of July and very soon the mother sickened and died from malaria fever on September 4, leaving three children, the oldest a girl of 11, a boy, 9, and Amelia, 11 months old. They lived with their uncle until spring, when the eldest of the children took upon herself the care of the home and the place of mother to Amelia. Two years later the father homesteaded a quarter section of land located one and one half miles east of Oakville. She attended school at Oakville, in a large one-room log school house, at the age of 5 years. Her first teacher was Miss Amanda Vanalstine. She continued her studies here until 16 years old, the Oakville school being the only one in the township, and had an enrollment of forty pupils.

At this age she taught one term of school at the Red school, now the Hartman school in Fair Haven Township; she being the second teacher at this new school, the first teacher being Miss Celia Lathrop, later Mrs. Timothy Dunshee. She received a salary of $12 per month, paid $1 per week board. She boarded at the Lawson Bancroft home. Mr. and Mrs. Bancroft were the grand-parents of Miss Martha Ashby, present county superintendent of schools. Fourteen pupils were enrolled; only one who remains today, Mrs. Sarah Libberton of Mt. Carroll. She then attended school at Mt. Carroll, with Prof. and Mrs. Hayes instructors. She boarded with Deputy Sheriff and Mrs. William Stouffer. She did not graduate as of today, but her intelligent mind today bespeaks for the splendid work she did in school as pupil and teacher.

She again taught school until her marriage to Rev. Jeremiah Hall, November 12, 1861, a minister of the Free Will Baptist church at Greenvale, Jo Daviess county. To this union two children were born, Frank, deceased, and Wilbur of Jersey City, New Jersey. Mr. Hall died September 15, 1865 and was buried in the cemetery near Stockton. She with her two young sons came to Carroll county to the home of her sister, Mrs. Gould Stevens, and again began teaching in Rock Creek township. Among her pupils were the Spealmans and Davises. At this time there was no Chadwick. April 15, 1873 she was married to Edwin Smith, a veteran of the Civil War. To this union five children were born: Wm., deceased; George, residing with his mother; Fred, residing on the Smith homestead near Argo-Fa; Birdie, deceased; and one daughter, Anna, who is now Mrs. Rush Carroll, of near Thomson. Mr. Smith passed away in 1903 and two years later she left the farm and lived in the Ideal vicinity until 1918 when the son William built a modern house at Argo-Fa and with his brother George, and their mother enjoyed its comforts until the death of William last spring.

She relates that families by the names of Langworthy, Foote, Gorman, Hawlye and Bishop, came west from New York at the same time her parents did, but grew restless and went on further west in the gold rush days of 49. Some grew rich, while others failed.

In the early pioneer days little land was cultivated and there were no fences, travel across country was in whatever direction one might think easiest. There were no bridges and all streams were forded.

Mrs. Smith has lived a most useful and interesting life; has lived to see the raw prairies changed to fields of waving grain, the log school houses to modern buildings, travel by boat or horse and oxen team to the fine limited passenger trains, automobiles and now the airplane. She enjoys watching the changes and enjoys to the utmost conversing with friends.

Her children living are: Wilbur Hall of Jersey City, N. J.; George, at home; Fred, on the farm; and one daughter, Mrs. Anna Carroll, of near Thomson. Mrs. Pearl Hall Robison, of Denver, Colo.; Mrs. Ilva Smith Turney, Ideal; Miss Florence Smith, Argo-Fa; Ernest Smith, Genoa City, Wis.; Ivan Carroll, Ruth Carroll and Robert Carroll of near Thomson, constitute her grandchildren.

Mrs. Smith is a Christian woman, having since early childhood grown strong in the Baptist faith and today hold as her friends all her acquaintances and who on September 25, will hasten to congratulate her. She is in good health, does a part of her own work, always busy and has, during the canning season, canned berries and grapes.

Contributed by Alice Horner - From the Friday, September 23, 1932 issue of the Mirror Democrat.

Back home


Illinois - "Our Way"

Copyright Christine Walters All Rights Reserved