Biography of Herman C. Smith
Decatur County, IA Biographies





Herman C. Smith, author, minister, editor and lecturer, was born in Gillespie county, Texas, at what was then the town of Zodiac, September 27, 1850. His father, Spencer Smith, son of Heman and Clarissa (Goodale) Smith, was born in Tioga county, New York, December 14, 1817. His mother was Anna Christiana Wight, daughter of Colonel Lyman and Harriet (Benton) Wight. She was also a native of New York, born at Centerville, Allegany county, September 30, 1825.

Although born in the south, Mr. Smith was a thorough New Englander in ancestry, tracing his descent from over thirty families who landed on Puritan soil in the first twenty five years of settlement. These men were among the founders of Plymouth, Boston, Watertown, Salem, Dorchester, Ipswich, Dedham, Medfield, Eastham, Hingham, Newbury, Roxbury, Amesbury, Northampton and Deerfield in Massachusetts; of Windsor, Wethersfield, Guilford, New Haven and Woodstock of Connecticut.

Among the most prominent were Stephen Hopkins, one of the Mayflower Pilgrims and signer of the first compact of free government in the history of America; John Chedsey, deacon of the first church in New Haven and a signer of the Connecticut state constitution of 1643, the first written constitution in our history; and William Phelps, an organizer of Dorchester, Massachusetts, in 1630, the first town in America to have an organized government, also a founder of Windsor, Connecticut, in 1635 and for a long time its chief magistrate.

That branch of the numberless Smiths to which Herman C. belongs had its American beginning with Ralph Smith, who came to Plymouth in 1633 from Hingham, England, and settled finally in Eastham in Cape Cod, where his son, Samuel, died in 1696, his grandson, John, in 1734, and his great grandson, Samuel, about 1760. The family intermarried with the families of Hopkins, Deane and Snow. The son of Samuel Smith, Herman, was born at Eastham in 1741, emigrated to Berkshire Hills and settled at Sandisfield, Massachusetts, before the Revolution. He was captain of a company of the first Berkshire county regiment in the war and in 1793 helped found the town of Berkshire in Tioga county, New York, where he died in 1833. His son, Herman, married Clarissa, daughter of Isaac Goodale, another Revolutionary soldier. They were the grandparents of Heman C.

Upon his mother's side, Mr. Smith was descended from Thomas Wight, who came to Watertown, Massachusetts, before 1635, descended from a family of knights with holdings in Surrey, England, since the twelfth century. Thomas Wight helped found Dedham and Medfield and was one of the original donors of "Indian corns for ye building of ye new brick college at Cambridge's in 1636." He died at Medfield in 1673 His son, Ephraim Wight, died at the same place in 1722, his grandson Nathaniel moved to Killingly, Connecticut, about 1725. Nathaniel's son, Levi Wight (1712-1797), died at Oxford, Connecticut, and his grandson, also Levi Wight, born in 1761, moved about 1794 to Herkimer county, New York, and died in Allegany county, New York, in 1830. The son of this Levi Wight was Lyman Wight, born in 1796 at Fairfield, New York. He served in the War of 1812 at Sacket Harbor and Lundys Lane. He joined the Latter Day Saints church in Ohio and affiliated with that church in Ohio, Missouri, and Nauvoo, Illinois. In Missouri, in 1838, he was commissioned captain of militia by Governor Boggs and fought vigorously to prevent the Missouri mob from seizing his land and that of his fellow believers. He was made an apostle in the church in 1841 and after the death of Joseph Smith, in 1844, he refused to recognize the claims of Brigham Young and led a small band of settlers into Texas in 1845. Here his grandson, Heman C. Smith, was born. He lived with his parents in the counties of Gillespie, Burnett, Llano and Bandera, Texas, until the spring of 1858, when his father, discerning the probability of war between the states and preferring to be on the northern side of the line, moved northward by team, making a temporary home in the Cherokee country of Indian Territory until the autumn of 1860, when he moved into Jasper county, Missouri, and engaged in the milling business. Warned again by the spirit of approaching hostilities, he started northward in the spring of 1861 as soon as grass was sufficiently large to support his team and other stock. This time he got well within the northern lines, making his first permanent stop on the Boyer river in Crawford county, Iowa, just opposite where the town of Anion is now located.

After a few years in Crawford county, residing at different points, the family removed to Shelby county, where they resided at Gallands Grove in Grove township until Heman arrived at his majority. There being a large family to support and his father being a man of limited means, he was obliged to labor on the farm during the summer months, but he improved the winter months in attending the common schools and was always at the head of his classes, especially in mathematics and history.

At the age of twelve years he became a member of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and very early in life became an earnest advocate of the faith promulgated by this church, in the days of Joseph Smith, and an uncompromising opponent of polygamy and kindred ideas introduced by Brigham Young and associates.

He entered the ministry in the spring of 1874 and was occupied constantly in the missionary field until 1909, when he was released to serve more exclusively in his position as general historian of the church, to which he had been elected in 1897.

During his missionary work he traveled extensively throughout the United States and the British Isles, always ranking among the leading preachers of his faith. Since devoting himself to historic work he has gained considerable prominence among men of that class. He is now, in addition to being the authorized historian of the church of his choice, a member of the Mississippi Valley Historical Society, the Iowa State Historical Society, the Nebraska State Historical Society, the Topsfield Historical Society, of Topsfield, Massahusetts, the American Church Historical Society, with headquarters at New York city, the National Geographical Society and secretary of the Decatur County (Iowa) Historical Society. He is also editor of the Journal of History, published at Lamoni, Iowa, by the reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints; president of the board of trustees of Saints Children's Home of Lamoni, Iowa; fellow of American and Church History of Graceland College, Iowa, as well as serving on several boards and committees in church work.

Mr. Smith is the author of the authorized history of the Latter Day Saint church, in four volumes; "The Truth Defended," "True Succession in Church Presidency," as also many pamphlets and tracts, besides numerous articles for church and historical magazines.

He was married, June 2, 1886, at Independence, Missouri, to Miss Vida Elizabeth Smith, daughter of Alexander Hale and Elizabeth (Kendall) Smith and granddaughter of Joseph Smith, the "Mormon" prophet. Mrs. Smith has been a sympathetic, able associate of her husband in all his activities. She is the author of the "Young Peoples History of the Church" and an author and poet of extraordinary ability, her songs being favorites in the Sunday school services of her church.

After their marriage, Mr. Smith was in charge of the missionary work in the Pacific coast and made his home at San Bernardino, California, where the following children were born: Herman Hale, April 28, 1887, now a teacher of economics and modern history in Lincoln high school of Seattle, Washington; Vida Inez, January 16, 1889, now the wife of James W. Davis, of Honolulu, Hawaii; Anna Earlita, November 28, 1890, now Mrs. Evan E. Inslee, of Seattle, Washington; Lois Elizabeth, November 3, 1892, who married Walter G. Badham, of Lamoni, Iowa, and died March 27, 1914.

The family removed in 1893 to the present home of Mr. Smith at Lamoni. In addition to his other work Mr. Smith has found time to take an active part in local affairs and in politics. He has served his community as member of the school board, president of college trustees and member of the city council. In politics he has been allied with the Eryan democrats since the campaign of 1896, although he stands for non partisanship in all local affairs. He is often chairman of party conventions and in 1910 made the race for the legislature, cutting a normal republican majority of four hundred to one hundred and thirty three.

As an orator he is always in demand at celebrations, political campaigns and at old settlers' and soldiers' reunions. As a debater he has a long record of discussions with opponents of the Latter Day Saints.

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


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