Lee County Biography

Joseph E. Smith

Nachusa Township

Joseph E. Smith has been an important assistant in bringing Lee County to its present high state of development, as he has improved two good farms within its borders. In conducting his farming operations he acquired a fortune ample for his needs and for some years has lived retired in the village of Nachusa. He is a man of worth, and his many friends will consider his portrait and biography a valuable addition to this volume.

Mr. Smith was born in Hesse-Cassel Germany December 25, 1821, a son of John and Mary Smith, who were also natives of that province, where they passed their entire lives. They were respectable, God-fearing people and members of the German Catholic Church. Our subject is the only one of the three children born to his parents now living. His only sister died in Germany. His brother ilary left the Fatherland in 1854 to join him in this country but never reached his destination, as the ship in which he sailed was wrecked and he found a watery grave.

Our subject was reared to the life of a farmer in his native province, and was an inmate of the parental home until he attained the age of sixteen. He then set out boldly into the world and with good courage, having faith in his aability to make his way unaided in spite of the hardships he might encounter. He made his way to Bremerhaven, and APril 18, 1837, embarked on a vessel, the "William Brant," that was bound for Baltimore MD, where he landed after a long voyage of 88 days. He proceeded to Alleghany County in that State, and for 12 years made his home in that part of the country. At the expiration of that time he came to Illinois to avail himself of its rich agricultural possibilities, and since 1852 has been a resident of this county.

At once after settling her Mr. Smith bent his energies to his work as a farmer, which, in a country that was still in the hands of the pioneers was often very hard and had to be performed without the adi of the fine farming machinery in vogue today. Notwithstanding he opened up two farms in South Dixon Township, and from being a poor man is now in comfortable circumstances. In 1884 he retired from his labors to a cozy home in the village of Nachusa, and here he and his good wife are enjoying the wealth for which they have toiled together. They hold a warm place in the hearts of all in the community, as they are always cheerful and pleasant, and are charitable and benevolent, no one who is suffering or needy appealing to them in vain for sympathy or help, and by their generous use of their money where it will do the most good they show that it was gathered together for no selfish purpose.

No American-born citizen has greater love for this country or is more loyal to the Government than Mr. Smith, who transferred his allegiance fully to the US when he came to live under its flag, and sensibly adopted the habits and customs of its people instead of trying to retain those of the Fatherland, and has truly Americanized himself, so to speak. He is peaceful and law-abiding, has always sought to avoid discord and has never sued a man nor has he ever been sued. In politics he is a sound Republican, and in relgiion both he and his wife are devoted Methodists, having belonged to the church forty years.

During his residence in Maryland he as happily married to Miss Henrietta E. Merrill, who was born in that county January 23, 1830. She is a daughter of William and Fannie (Holtzman) Merrill, who were also natives of Alleghany County and there they always lived, dying when old people on the farm where they had passed their wedded life. They were members of the Dunkard and Lutheran Churches, respectively. Mrs.Smith's paternal grandfather was Philip Merrill, who was born in Germany but died in West Virginia. Her maternal grandfather was Charles Holtzman, who lived and died in Maryland, he being 72 or 73 years old at the time of his demise. His wife, whose maiden name was Mary LaRue, and who was of French extraction, was born in NJ and died in MD at the age of 71.

After marriage our subject and his wife lived on a Maryland farm until they came to Illinois. Nine children have been born to them of whom five are deceased. Charles W., Alonzo, Arthur L., John R., and Hilary G. Those living are Clarence C., a farmer in South Dixon Twp., who married Amanda Young; Oscar G., who operates an elevator in Nachusa and who married Margaret Burket; Etta, wife of Walter F. Preston , of whom a biography appears on another page of this volume, and Fannie A., widow of John Bossemeyer, who is also reprsented in the Biographical Record.

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