Buena Vista County, IA
USGenWeb Project

Extracted from:  Wegerslev, C. H. and Thomas Walpole. 
 Past and Present of Buena Vista County, Iowa
Chicago:  S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1909, p. 541-44.

Transcribed by Paul Nagy

Biography of  George W. Smith

The correlation of the individual with the general or composite history is so intimate that a consistent treatise on the history of any community must have its basis in the tracing of the biography of those who have conferred dignity and honor through their personal character and personal accomplishment.  Through all ages the lives of those who have accomplished a good work, have been held up as a source of inspiration, encouragement and example to others.  Heroism in war, devotion to duty, steady application in business pursuits and the determined effort which overcomes difficulties and presses forward to the goal of success; these are the qualities which continually excite the admiration and respect of men and awaken a desire to emulate them. Among those who have been closely identified with the growth and progress of this part of the northwest and who have accomplished not only something for themselves but for others is recognized the subject of this sketch, George W. Smith.  As a dealer of real estate he has not only been instrumental in beautifying the city but has been the means of helping many to secure homes and get a start in life, and thus his memory will be cherished long after he shall have passed from this life.


Mr. Smith was born in Barren county, Kentucky, January 15, 1854, a son of Finis and Fanny (Siddons) Smith.  The great-grandfather on the paternal side was the founder of the family in the United States and two of his sons, John and Hugh Smith, served as captains in the Revolutionary war.  The grandparents of our subject were Captain John and Isabella (Lattimore) Smith, both of whom were of Irish descent and were born in Rutherford county, Canada.  There they celebrated their marriage and in 1798 emigrated to Barren county, Kentucky, taking up land near the head of Beaver creek.  Captain John Smith, who was a fine Latin scholar, engaged in surveying and farming in Barren county, Kentucky, and there made his home for about fifty years, rearing a family of twelve children.  Both he and his wife lie buried in the old Lattimore graveyard.  Francis Lattimore served with the rank of captain in the Revolutionary war, while William Lattimore was a soldier in the Confederate army under John H. Morgan.  In the winter of 1863-4 the latter emigrated to Jefferson county, Iowa.  The Smiths and Lattimores were all Protestants in religious faith.


Finis and Fanny (Siddons) Smith, the parents of George W. Smith, were both natives of the Blue Grass state.  The father there successfully carried on farming and merchandising but at the time of the Civil war was obliged to leave the south because of his sympathy with the Union cause and in 1863 he took up his abode in Jefferson county, Iowa.  He was married twice, his first wife passing away in 1864, at the comparatively early age of forty-five years.  By that union there were fourteen children, three of whom still survive, namely:  George W., of this review; Lewis M., who is living in Gadsden, Alabama; and James Newton, who follows forming in Lee township, and who is mentioned on another page of this work.  Unto Finis Smith and his second wife were born five children.  His death occurred in Jacksonport, Arkansas, when he had reached the age of seventy-two years.


George W. Smith was but nine years of age when his mother died and the home was broken up.  From that time until a young man he worked on farms in various localities.  The time that was afforded him in the public schools was a very brief period, but education is not always limited to schools or colleges and results depend more largely upon the determination of the individual.  So what Mr. Smith lacked in school advantages he more than made up in improving his time in study.  He was taken into the home of a local minister, who took a great interest in him and under whose Christian influence he was carefully reared.  He remained in that home for five years and he realizes fully that his entire life has been benefited by that training and by the blessings and benedictions of a Christian home.  It was on the 8th of August, 1872, when eighteen years of age, that Mr. Smith established a home of his own by his marriage to Miss Mary S. Lentz, a daughter of William H. and Palmah B. (York) Lentz, natives of Alabama and North Carolina respectively.


Following his marriage Mr. Smith engaged in Farming in the south, spending about ten years in the states of Alabama and Tennessee.  He made cotton raising his chief occupation and had in his employ a number of colored people.  In 1882 he made his way north to Iowa, settling first in Newell, Buena Vista county.  His first venture here was at teaching school, teaching for seven years during the winter months, while in the summer seasons he was employed in the creamery in Newell, his duties being to drive over the country and get milk, which he hauled to the creamery.  In this way he became acquainted with the farmers and with the advantages to be enjoyed in agricultural lines in this county.  During this time he located a government claim of one hundred and sixty acres.  For a time he was engaged in the insurance business and eventually became actively engaged in land and farm loans.  His first purchase of land was made in 1885, when he bought forty acres at eight dollars per acre. This he improved and cultivated until 1891, when he sold it at a good profit.  He then took up his abode in Marathon and soon purchased a second piece of land near that city, which he held for a few years and then sold at a good profit.  In 1892 he once more located in Marathon and engaged in the real-estate business.  Upon the completion of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad to Marathon Mr. Smith sold his real estate here to E. B. Wells and removed to Albert City, where he opened a bank, which he conducted for a year.  He then disposed of that enterprise to E. B. Wells and returned once more to Marathon, where he has since made his home.  He now gives his entire attention to real estate, handling both northern and southern lands.  He is meeting with gratifying success in his undertakings and this city owes much to his efforts in beautifying and improving unsightly vacancies until they are now fine residence districts, while he has also been instrumental in giving substantial aid to many desiring to become the owners of property and these citizens have for Mr. Smith none but the very highest praise and commendation for what he has done in their behalf.


The marriage of Mr. and Mrs. Smith has been blessed with thirteen children:  Fanny D., the wife of Samuel Bass, a resident of Fairmont, Oklahoma; Pearl Walton, the wife of Ira B. Atkinson, also of that city; Mabel, who spent one year in that city as assistant postmistress and who is now acting in a similar capacity in the postoffice [sic] at Marathon; Fred R., who is in the employ of the Exchange Bank at Exira, Iowa, as assistant cashier and was formerly assistant cashier of the First National Bank at Marathon; John N., who holds a position of responsibility with the Bank of Enid, at Enid, Oklahoma; C. W., who is employed in Marathon by Mr. Bladine, as foreman of his printing department; W. H., who is a clerk in the employ of H. E. Swope ; and Stella, Gladys, Finis and Bessie, all at home and attending school; and two who died in infancy.


Mr. Smith gives his political support to the republican party and is a Mason, belonging to Universal Lodge, No. 587, and to Enterprise Chapter, No. 332, at Sioux Rapids.  His religious faith is indicated by his membership in the Methodist Episcopal church and his every day [sic] life is lived in harmony with the principles and doctrines of that denomination.


During his busy career Mr. Smith has lived close to high ideals and his citizenship is such that it has imparted strength and stability to every undertaking in which his worth and ability were enlisted.  Companionable and well informed, observing the world from a wide range, with an absolute faith in the goodness of mankind and in the existence of an opportunity for all who seek it.  A man of strong purpose, steady application and keen perception, he has forged his way to the front by his own unaided efforts and has contributed much to the prosperity to the town and county which constitutes the theater of his activity.  Especially has he been helpful to those who were struggling to secure homes and to get a start in the world, and many are the people in Buena Vista county that can testify to the substantial help afforded them in getting a start to the aid of George W. Smith.  He was justice of the peace for nine years and mayor of Marathon one year but the latter office he had to resign when he embarked in business in Albert City.