Biography of Alexander H. Smith
Decatur County, IA Biographies





Alexander Hale Smith was born in the little town of Far West, Missouri, on June 2, 1838, inheriting right and title to strong character and pure, clean blood from two worthy streams of ancestry, his surname coming to him through sturdy, intelligent, respectable New England stock from the earliest years of the seventeenth century, when one Robert Smith set the first family rooftree in the historic state of Massachusetts, in the county of Essex, in what is now known as Topsfield, near the picturesque little Ipswich river. Running swiftly with the years, the family shared in the romance and history of the state and community, taking places of honor and trust as the need arose, whether fortune led them to battle, legislative hall, forum, pulpit or plow, counting the nation's glory their glory and her betterment their duty, until, in the course of generations, one Joseph Smith was born of Asael Smith and wife in the old family home in Topsfield. This man married one Lucy Mack, a woman born of the blood of heroes in the month of July, 1776, leading to the final development of a man born for a message and a mission when in the beautiful heights of the Green Mountains of Vermont their son Joseph was born. Moving westward, this boy met his work in the hills of Palmyra, New York, and delivered to the world the Book of Mormon and founded by revelation the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

By reason of his translation and presentation of the Book of Mormon to the world, he was known to them as the Mormon Prophet. This man joined his life fortune to Miss Emma Hale of Harmony, Pennsylvania, a woman coming through a line of refined, "well to do" pioneers of excellent and strong character and of good repute. To this union came the subject of our sketch, Alexander H. Smith, the fifth son and sixth child. The fortunes of the church had led the parents, Joseph and Emma (Hale) Smith, onto the western frontier and into the acquaintance of General Alexander W. Doniphan, with whom Joseph Smith was counseling in the matters of church property and with whom he was studying law. This intimacy being ripe at the time of his birth, the little son born in Missouri was named for the hero of Sacramento, Alexander, the mother's name, Hale, following it in his signature and record.

The persecution of the church and troubles arising therefrom threw the father, with many other of his brethren, in a Missouri jail while this child was yet an infant. The mother, with difficulty and much suffering, made her way before the edict of evacuation, issued by Governor Boggs to the "Mormons," across the state to the shores of the Mississippi. This was in February of 1839. The river, wide and dreary neath the grey sky, lay frozen and chill. With the small son, Frederick, and baby, Alexander, in her arms and little son, Joseph, and adopted daughter, Julia, clinging to her dress, Mrs. Smith crossed the river on foot and found protection from mobs and menacing foes on the friendly shores of Illinois, in Quincy, at the home of Mr. Cleveland. Here her husband found her and together they removed to Commerce, Illinois, afterward and ever since known as Nauvoo. Buying an old but strong and comfortable blockhouse from Hugh White, this they made their home and here come first the events of memory to Alexander.

The Church rallied to this point and grew to a people of thousands. When the man was but a child of six years there were imprinted upon his mind the horrors attending the killing of his father and uncle by a mob in Carthage. Blurred and terrorized into more or less confusion, the scenes attending those months were like a hideous dream to the man in after years. Swiftly there came dissension within the circle of his acquaintance that he felt in a childish way, and then the troubled time of war and finally the evacuation of Nauvoo. His mother's brave and singularly well possessed spirit shielded him from many things then as well as through his boyhood, which was spent at Nauvoo, either in the "Mansion," a hotel owned and conducted by his mother, or at the Homestead, the old blockhouse added to and improved upon and occupied at times by the family, or maybe on the family farm a few miles east of Nauvoo. He grew to manhood, received his education, formed his friendships and in 1861 was married in Nauvoo to Miss Elizabeth A. Kendall, daughter of John and Elizabeth Kendall. She was born near Liverpool, England, but was reared in and near Nauvoo, being left an orphan when but eight years of age.

Mr. Smith allied himself with no religious sect until after his brother Joseph took his place as the head of the remnant who remained true to the original faith and doctrine of the church and refused to follow Brigham Young and drink of the cup of his iniquitous doctrines. With this little band of followers who invited his brother to take his legitimate place as their earthly head, he joined his powers for good and became a missionary for the Reorganized Church.

In company with William Anderson and James Gillen he made the trip across the plains of North America to California with a small span of mules, one wagon and a riding pony. This journey was beset with many perils and unguessed hardships, attended as it was by dangers from wild men and wild beasts and the intrigues and hatred of the western church. This mission was the first one of many to the western lands.

His home was in Nauvoo until 1876 with the exception of two years spent at Plano, Illinois In the spring of 1876 he removed to Andover, Missouri, near the Iowa line on the south, the beautiful country in and surrounding Decatur county having attracted his eye. He lived on this farm for five years, removing from thence to Independence, Missouri, stopping en route for one year at Stewartsville. Missouri, but keeping his farm across the Iowa line. In 1890 he bought his home in Lamoni, Decatur county, Iowa, and there spent the remainder of his life, when not traveling in the interests of his church work, in which connection he traveled and preached from the Atlantic to the Pacific, in the southern states and to the Great Lakes and Hawaii and the Society Islands, holding the office of an apostle, for many years an active member of that quorum, later counselor in the presidency and at last president of the Order of Evangelists and Patriarchs. He died in the Mansion, his own property, while on a hurried visit to the old town of Nauvoo, on the evening of August 12, 1909, after an illness of three nights and three days.

Mr Smith was a man of keen, sensitive, impulsive nature; bighearted, big bodied, moved quickly to action, to tears or to laughter; throwing himself into any undertaking with zeal and devotion. He was a forceful, eloquent speaker, moving sometimes in poetic language and similes when under the fervor of deep feeling. With friends he was jovial and easily approached and affectionate, although rigid in his ideas of morals and ethics. He moved with quick, springing step and erect figure and always with dignified bearing. Politically he claimed the faith of "an old time Lincoln republican" and lived the life of a patriot.

He loved the wide outdoors, land and water and sky, and delighted in athletic sports, holding a record in his younger days as one of the best skaters and one of the two surest shots in the community. Of the nine children born to him, one daughter, Mrs. Grace Madison, died and is buried in San Bernardino, California, and one son, Don A., is buried at Lamoni. The second daughter, Mrs. Ina I. Wright, lives at Avalon, New South Wales, Australia, and Mrs. Coral Homer near Davis City, Iowa. Mrs. Emma Kennedy and the youngest sons, Joseph G. and Arthur M., reside at Independence, Missouri, while the oldest children, Fred A. and Mrs. Heman C. Smith, are residents of Lamoni, where the widow still lives in their home on the south side.

Mr. Smith was buried in Rose Hill at Lamina, Iowa, and left the record of a busy, honest, progressive citizen, without fear and true in very truth to the high principles for which he always stood defender and promulgator.

From:
History of Decatur County, Iowa
And its People
Vol II
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co.
Chiago 1915


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