Transcribed by Teresa Kesterke from: Biographical Review of Des Moines County, Iowa: Containing Biographical and Genealogical Sketches of Many of the Prominent Citizens of To-day and Also of the Past, Hobart Publishing Company, Chicago, 1905.


As an eminently successful farmer and business man and a member of one of the older and better-known families of Des Moines county, Frank M. Smith occupies in the community a position of considerable prominence. He is now residing on his large farm of three hundred and twenty acres in Section 15, Pleasant Grove township, and besides the pursuit of agriculture is interested in a number of other prosperous enterprises. Mr. Smith was born in this township on March 20, 1848, a son of Andrew J. and Jane (Westfall) Smith. The father was a native of the Old Dominion, and was born in Washington county, that State, Dec. 28, 1811, first coming westward with his parents in 1817 and locating in Clarke county, Indiana. From Indiana he came to Des Moines county, Iowa, in 1843, arriving on the first day of May in that year, and settling in Pleasant Grove township. He was a poor man, his entire capital at that time being about sixteen dollars in money; but he secured work plowing up the virgin prairie for other settlers, and by strenuous effort soon placed himself upon an independent footing, besides liquidating some indebtedness which he had previously incurred.

A few years after his arrival in the State he purchased a farm of eighty acres in this township, and on April 18, 1847, he married Miss Westfall. A quick perception of opportunity and an unfailing attention to his work marked him in all that he did, and he rapidly achieved prosperity on a large scale. He increased his original purchase of land from time to time, and at one period was the owner of one thousand and three hundred acres in Des Moines county. His main interests were farming and the raising and feeding of cattle and high-grade stock. Hard and persistent work was the secret of his success. His education was rather limited, and for the most part was obtained after he had reached manhood's estate, but by faithful application and the exercise of native ability he overcame this limitation.

Politically a Democrat, he was honored by election to the office of county supervisor, and also was for a number of years trustee of his township. He and his wife were supporters of the Universalist church, which they attended. His death occurred Dec. 16, 1903, in Pleasant Grove township, and interment was at Pleasant Grove cemetery. He was a man of fine, strong, and upright character, an excellent example of American manhood at its best, and enjoyed the general respect in a remarkable degree.

The mother of our subject was born in Alleghany county, New York, June 20, 1829, and in girlhood came with her parents to Iowa, where her father died when she was quite young. She was the mother of a large family, there being twelve children, all of whom still survive. She died at Yarmouth, Washington township, in 1895.

Mr. Smith, the subject of this memoir, received the advantage of a good training in the district schools of his native township, and on attaining his majority purchased one of his father's farms, consisting of eighty acres near Yarmouth, where he conducted operations in the line of general farming and stock-raising for four years, at the expiration of which period he disposed of his holding and removed to Page county, Iowa. At the latter place he remained for two years, and then returned to Pleasant Grove township, there purchasing a farm, which he conducted for four years. Later he purchased, and for four years farmed one hundred and twenty acres of land in Keokuk county, and subsequently spent three very successful years on a farm of two hundred and ninety acres which he purchased in Jefferson county. Returning to Des Moines county, he purchased his present farm of three hundred and twenty acres, which has been the place of his residence continuously ever since, and although the land was at that time already partially improved, he has by constant care and the expenditure of much time, energy, money, and thought, succeeded in raising it far above its former condition, and made it a model of its class. He had the misfortune to lose the original residence building by fire, but this he has replaced with a large and substantial dwelling-house. Besides general farming he has given much attention to the raising of fine stock, making a specialty of Shorthorn cattle and Chester White hogs, for both of which his farm has become widely and justly celebrated. He also raises some fine sheep and Angora goats, having two hundred of the latter at the present time.

On Dec. 20, 1869, Mr. Smith was united in marriage to Miss Caroline P. Jones, who was Born in St. Louis, Mo., a daughter of Edward and Mary A. (Justas) Jones. Mr. Jones, who was a farmer and millwright, came to Iowa about the year 1855, locating in Washington township, this county. He died there at a very advanced age, but his widow still survives at the age of eighty-eight years, and is residing in St. Louis. They were the parents of eight children. Mrs. Smith is now deceased, her death having occurred at the home in Pleasant Grove, Aug. 16, 1899. She is buried in Pleasant Grove township. She was a member of the Cumberland Presbyterian church, a woman of beautiful character, a devoted wife, and a loving mother, and in turn was beloved by all. To Mr. and Mrs. Smith were born four children, all born in Washington township, as follows: Albert J., now engaged in the hotel and livery business at Burnside, Ill., married Miss Ellen Wasson, at Pleasant Grove: Edward A., now residing on his farm in Pleasant Grove township, married Miss Elizabeth Wasson, daughter of A. J. Wasson, a pioneer settler of this township, and they had four children, Myrtle, Clarence, Leo, and one child which died in infancy; Mary J., wife of John F. Despain of Pleasant Grove township, has five children, Roy, Earl, Cecil, Ruby, and Gladdys; and Minnie, who married Thomas J. Lee, a farmer of Henry county, Iowa, and has two children, Francis and Mabel.

Mr. Smith has long taken part in public affairs as a leading member of the Democratic party, and has occupied the office of director of schools for the past seventeen years, being particularly interested in all that pertains to education, and believing that therein lies the chief security of popular liberties. Two years ago he was elected to the office of township trustee, which he still holds, and as one accustomed to the details of practical business his administration has been one of uniform efficiency. He is a director of the Henry County Telephone Company, holds the same office in the Yarmouth Mutual Telephone Company, and never refuses support to any worthy project looking toward furthering the best interests of the community in which his career is being passed. Eminently conservative, he is nevertheless not inimical to progressive and liberal views, and his position is distinctly one of recognized leadership in many lines.

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