Biography of Eli J. Smith
Iowa County, IA Biographies





Eli J. Smith, the founder of the firm of E. J. Smith & Sons, brick and tile manufacturers, has not only built up one of the leading industries of Iowa county but also has other extensive business interests and has executive ability of a high order. A native of Washington county, Pennsylvania, he was born on the 15th of February, 1835, and is the eleventh in order of birth in a family of sixteen children. His parents were Eli and Mary (Grandon) Smith, the former born in 1796, presumably in Pennsylvania, and the latter born in that state in 1800. In 1836 the family removed to Iowa and located in Le Claire, Scott county. The journey was made down the Ohio and up the Mississippi river and on the loth of April of that year they reached Le Claire. The father located on government land, which he entered some time later when it was put on the market. The family resided there for several years and experienced the usual inconveniences and hardships of pioneer life. When they arrived in Iowa it had not yet been given a separate territorial government. The mother passed away in 1864 and the father then took up his residence with our subject and lived in this county until his demise, which occurred in March, 1874.

Eli J. Smith was but an infant when the family removed to Scott county, where he resided upon a farm until he attained his majority. He then came to Iowa county and located in English township, where he purchased forty acres of land on section 26. He cut the timber on his place and hauled it to North English, where it was sawed into lumber, and then built a frame house upon his farm, eighteen feet square and twelve feet high, with a four foot second story. The roof was made of clapboards which he rived out himself. A year or so later he erected a better residence and continued to reside upon that farm for about ten years, at the end of which time he removed to another farm on that section which he had purchased. At the end of three years, however, he took up his residence upon a quarter section of land just across the line in Keokuk county, where he resided for three years, and at the expiration of that time he removed to North English, which has remained his home for about forty three years. He owns about seven hundred acres of land in English and Fillmore townships, this county, and supervises the operation of his farms. In 1882 he began the manufacture of brick, tile and building blocks and now has an extensive plant in North English. As his sons have reached manhood they have been taken into the business, which is conducted under the firm name of E. J. Smith & Sons. They employ a number of men and the total sales reach a large figure. In 1890 Mr. Smith was one of the incorporators of the Morey Clay Works at Ottumwa, Iowa, investing some twenty five thousand dollars in the building of the plant. The concern has been very successful and he has received good dividends from his investment. It is recognized as one of the important industries of Ottumwa and one factor in its prosperity has been the sound judgment of Mr. Smith, who has had wide experience in the business and particularly in the manufacture of clay products.

In 1854 Mr. Smith married Miss Hannah Conrow, a native of Greene county, Pennsylvania. Her parents, William and Sarah J. (Huffman) Conrow, removed to Scott county, Iowa, in 1837, and located in Le Claire township upon a farm where the father passed away in 1879. The mother subsequently made her home with the subject of this review. Mr. and Mrs. Smith have become the parents of five children, of whom four survive: Ira P., a member of the firm of E. J. Smith & Sons; Mary, the widow of Dr. S. B. Green, of North English, now residing with her parents; Charles C., engaged in the manufacture of brick and tile at Mason City, Iowa; and Omer I., a member of the firm of E. J. Smith & Sons of North English. Albert B., the fourth in order of birth, is deceased.

Mr. Smith, who is a republican in politics, served as justice of the peace for several years and won an enviable reputation for fairness and impartiality in the discharge of his duties. His wife is a member of the Christian church and he belongs to North English Lodge, No. 325, I. O. O. F. For about a half century he has resided in this county and there are few still living who have witnessed as much of the early development of the county as he and few who have contributed in such a large measure to its advancement along business and industrial lines. As conditions have changed he has adapted his activities to the new circumstances in which he has found himself and has continued to be a leader in his community. He is one of the extensive landowners of the county and while engaged in farming was progressive and enterprising, which qualities have characterized him in building up the business of E. J. Smith & Sons.

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


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