Hon. Fredrick N. Smith, of Burlington, whose activity has been a controlling factor in the material progress and political interest of the State of Iowa for a third of a century, stands today as a typical representative of the spirit of the times, being closely in touch with the world's progress, and possessing an intellectual force that enables him to understand existing conditions and correctly value possibilities and utilize opportunities, not only in the field of commerce and finance, but also in political matters where the general interests of society are affected. Supervising his business interests, and meeting each obligation because it has been the duty of the day, he has at the same time, largely unconsciously to himself, carved his name deeply on the roll of the distinguished citizens of Des Moines county. A native son of the county, he was born at Pleasant Grove, Washington township, Aug. 28, 1850, his father, A. J. Smith, having become one of the pioneer residents of this part of the State. He is descended from one of the old families of Virginia, his ancestral history being given in connection with the life record of his father on another page of this work. He acquired his preliminary education in the public schools of Des Moines county, and continued his studies in Denmark Academy, the oldest incorporated educational institution in the State of Iowa. When his attention was not occupied with the work of the schoolroom, it was largely given to farm labor, for by practical experience he became familiar with the work of the fields as well as with the control of the financial affairs connected with his father's large agricultural interests. More and more largely important duties were entrusted to him, and as he grew to manhood he became accustomed to handling enterprises of magnitude, both for his father and as an independent operator. One of the basic elements of his success is his power to recognize an opportunity for judicious investment. He has never withdrawn from the occupation to which he was reared, but has always controlled extensive farming interests, purchasing land from time to time in Pleasant Grove and Washington townships, until his reality holdings in the latter township, in the vicinity of Yarmouth, aggregate approximately eighteen hundred acres. He occupied his country home there until 1899, when he purchased a beautiful residence at 864 Franklin Street, one of the most desirable residence districts of the city. In addition to the supervision of his general farming interests, he is engaged in the raising, buying, feeding, and shipping of stock, handling about two thousand head of stock each year, while on his farm at Yarmouth alone he now has approximately seven hundred head of selected stock. In addition he owns and operates a ranch of five thousand acres in the State of Kansas, on which he has a herd of fifteen hundred cattle, and he spends two or three months each year upon the ranch in the necessary supervision of the business and the discussion of its conduct with his resident partner, H. M. Peckham, of Ness City, Kans. His business capacity has also permitted his active connection with other commercial interests, and for fifteen years he devoted considerable attention to the buying and storing of grain along the line of the Burlington & Oskaloosa Railroad, being associated in this enterprise for a number of years with R. M. Raab, of Burlington, and George Zion, of Mount Union. In 1895 he established the Farmers' Bank of Yarmouth, of which he has been president since its inception. It is an excellent country bank, drawing a good patronage from the agricultural community, and Mr. Smith brings to it the same keen perception and discrimination which marks his successful control of his other business interests. His attention, however, is given chiefly to the investment of his capital in land, to the control of his stock-raising interests, and to the political affairs which have been in-trusted to him.
Endorsing the principles of Democracy, and deeply interested in their adoption because he believes they contain the best elements of good government, it would be difficult to find a citizen who has manifested so slightly the spirit of the office-seeker and yet has figured so prominently in political circles. His fellow-townsmen, recognizing his ability and his devotion to all that fosters public progress, first elected him to office, and for twelve years he rendered acceptable service as a member of the township board of trustees, and for twenty years he acted as a member and treasurer of the school board at Yarmouth, rendering effective service to the cause of education along lines of practical improvement. His fidelity and capability in local office called to him public attention, and led to the bestowal of further political honors; and his personal popularity was attested when, as a candidate on a Democratic ticket, he won election in districts that the same years gave large majorities to the Republican candidates for governor and president. In 1900 he was elected to the Senate of the twenty-ninth General Assembly to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of W. A. McArthur, and in 1901 he was re-elected. During this incumbency he performed valuable service for his constituents, while as a member of the committees on compensation of public officers, ways and means, federal relations, agriculture, public libraries, cities and towns, and horticulture, he was enabled to make notable contributions to the prosperity of the State at large. As a constant student of the public needs and an unfaltering supporter of meritorious measures and methods, Senator Smith became well known in the capital, and it is the consensus of public opinion that the influence he gained in the matters of legislative polity was never misused. He is equally true to private trusts, as is demonstrated by his administration of various estates, of which he has been made executor.
In fraternal circles in Iowa, Senator Smith is also well known. He is a member of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, and of Federal Lodge, No. 445. Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, at Yarmouth, of which he became a charter member, and which he served as treasurer for many years. In all movements with which he has been identified, his labors and counsels have been eagerly sought and their value proved. In many cases he has subordinated his private interests to the general good, and his course in all relations has been marked by justice and absolute rectitude and impartiality as between man and man in all his dealings and transactions.
In 1874 Mr. Smith was happily married, near Pleasant Grove, to Miss Caroline Beck, daughter of Conrad and Sophia Beck, who were natives of Germany, and became pioneer citizens of Des Moines county, where through close application, unremitting diligence, and judicious investment, Mr. Beck became an extensive landholder and one of the leading and representative farmers of his section of the State. Both he and his wife are now passed away. Mrs. Smith was reared under the parental roof, remaining at home until her marriage. In addition to her attractive social qualities, tact, and kindly consideration, which she always displays in extending the hospitality of their home to their many friends, Mrs. Smith has been a most valuable companion and helpmate to her husband in matters of business concern, her judgment and advice proving correct in many business transactions, and their congeniality of taste along many lines has resulted in an ideal home relation. They have become the parents of four children, but lost one son, Webster, at the age of three and a half years. Three sons yet survive: William B., who wedded Miss Lilly Ashy, is engaged in agricultural pursuits near Yarmouth; Justus C., who married Miss Kate Weber, of Memphis, Mo., resides on a farm near Mount Union; and Burrell D. is yet attending school. The greatest satisfaction that Mr. Smith has gained in the accumulation of wealth has come in the opportunity which it provides him of promoting the comfort and happiness of his family. The genial and wholesome traits of his nature and disposition have won him many friends, in whose respect and warm regard he finds the truest reward for duty well done. As a member of the body politic he has exhibited the virtues of an ideal citizen, and his business career has been marked by consecutive advancement, gaining in each onward step a broader outlook, nor has his path been strewn with the wrecks of other men's fortunes. The virile strength of the West and the dominant spirit of enterprise so characteristic of this section of the country, finds exemplification in his career.