Smith M. Lindsley, whose demise occurred in Utica on May 17, 1909, was for many years numbered among the most
distinguished and successful attorneys of the city. His birth occurred in Monticello, New York, in 1847. The family
of which he was a member, its ancestors and various branches, have always been identified with the history of Sullivan
county, New York. His paternal grandfather, Eliud Lindsley, was one of the pioneer settlers of that region and
was a man of marked characteristics. The local histories contain detailed accounts of his sturdy and honorable
character and of the manner in which he impressed his views, and the example of his stanch integrity and upright
life upon the people who settled in that county. It is also a branch of this family from which sprang the several
noted college presidents and professors who have been so conspicuous in the educational history of the state of
Tennessee. Rufus B. Lindsley, the father of our subject, was successfully engaged in business as a farmer and stock
dealer and was long a respected resident of Monticello, New York. The mother of Smith M. Lindsley was a daughter
of Smith Weed, who was also an early and prominent resident of Sullivan county and a member of the Weed family
of which the famous Smith M. Weed, of Clinton county, is a member.
Smith M. Lindsley received an excellent English and classical education at the then noted academy of his native
place and graduated therefrom as valedictorian of his class. He afterward continued his studies at the Wyoming
Seminary and College in Pennsylvania and was a member of the faculty of that institution for one year. He had long
before determined upon the profession of law as his life work and previous to his leaving the college had begun
its study. From Wyoming he went to Wilkes Barre in the same state, where he continued the study of the law through
one year and down to 1869, when he removed to Utica and entered the office of Hon. Francis Kernan. There he finished
his legal studies and was admitted to the bar in 1870. He immediately entered upon practice in this city, where
his natural and acquired qualifications for his profession soon gave him a large measure of success. He had, too,
at the same time so early gained the confidence of the citizens of Utica in both his ability and his integrity
that in 1872 he was elected to the office of city attorney by the democrats, with which party he was always identified.
In that campaign every other candidate on the democratic ticket, with one exception, was defeated. His service
in that office was so entirely satisfactory to the community that he was reelected by a largely increased majority.
Meanwhile his private practice had greatly advanced, making such demands upon his time and energies that he declined
a third nomination. He had now won the broad confidence of many of the leading business men of the city, and his
business became correspondingly lucrative and extensive, while at the same time his rapidly extending reputation
as a brilliant and successful court lawyer and pleader brought him into connection with many prominent cases, where
large interests and intricate legal questions were involved.
In 1884 Mr. Lindsley was unanimously nominated by a joint convention of citizens, representing both political parties,
for the office of mayor of Utica; but long before this he had become fixed in his determination to give all his
energies and time to the practice of his chosen profession and with that end in view to accept no offer of political
preferment, however flattering it might be; he therefore declined this high and exceptional honor. Subsequently
he had many flattering inducements to enter the political field as a candidate for important positions but uniformly
and persistently refused. In 1895 he was unanimously nominated by his party for justice of the supreme court of
the state but declined to make the race. In his later practice Mr. Lindsley achieved conspicuous success, counting
a large number of the best and most substantial business men of Utica and its vicinity among his clients. He had
also a large consulting clientage; but it was as a lawyer at trials and in the argument of appeals that he attained
his greatest prominence. His success was reflected in a continually increasing business. He was the standing counsel
and attorney of a number of insurance companies and, had especial success in that branch of legal effort. It is
not out of place to mention his successful defense of the Utica Observer, which he conducted in the noted Van Anken
libel case in 1891, which attracted attention throughout the country and for which he was highly complimented by
the legal profession, the press and others throughout the state. Mr. Lindsley was continually retained by other
attorneys as advisory counsel and for the trial of cases and the argument of appeals; and he was selected by the
attorney general to act for the state in important affairs.
It was said of Mr. Lindsley by one who knew him intimately from the beginning of his career that "he has acquired
his present conspicuous position at the bar by being an almost tireless worker. He sharpened his natural abilities
by fearless contests with the ablest among those older in the profession when he began. When he enters court with
a case not one atom or item of preparation is wanting. Every fact is marshaled and weighed and in his mind is placed
where it belongs and where it will be most effective." In another and a different direction it was flattering
to Mr. Lindsley's capacity for practical business and financial undertakings that he was in 1885 chosen president
of the First National Bank of Chittenango, an office which he successfully administered until his death.
Mr. Lindsley was a Mason and an Odd Fellow and an active and prominent member of other well known organizations
of a special and benevolent character. In 1887 and the two years succeeding he served as supreme regent or chief
executive officer of the Royal Arcanum, one of the principal fraternal benefit and insurance societies of the country.
He managed its business of collecting and disbursing several millions of dollars and in the line of his profession
successfully solved many intricate legal problems involved in the adjustment and payment of death claims and losses.
He infused vigor into every department of the organization, so that its growth was almost phenomenal. As the official
head of this organization he was called to many parts of the country and thereby he acquired a very wide and extended
acquaintance in many states. Socially and in the everyday affairs of life Mr. Lindsley was a popular and respected
gentleman, aththred for his manly independence and adherence to the principles of living which he believed to be
right and hold. ing the warm regard of many friends for his excellent qualities.
In 1873 Mr. Lindsley married Dorlissa, daughter of John W. Johnston, a well known and prominent lawyer of Sullivan
county. They had two children: Lew Johnston Lindsley, who was born in Utica, February 11, 1874, and died December
4, 1878, and Orma, a daughter, born May 21, 1876, who died November 26, 1894. Mrs. Lindsley, who still survives
her husband, makes her home at the Olbiston apartments.
History of Oneida County, New York
From 1700 to the present time
of some of its prominent men and pioneers.
By: Henry J. Cookinham
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company
Oneida County, NY
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