Biography of William L. Smith

Since 1864 Mr. Smith has been a resident of Colorado, working at its various industries, enjoying and promoting its progress and through effort and vicissitude, through triumph and defeat, through trial and privation, winning his way by a varied course to final success and prosperity. He is a native of Kentucky, born on November 13, 1840, and the son of Robert and Sophornia (Lewis) Smith, natives of that state who emigrated to Iowa in 1849. They remained in that state until 1867, at which time the father came to Colorado, where he joined the Second Colorado Battery against Price. He served three years under McLean and had three encounters with the Indians prior to the decisive engagement and his enlistment under Russel and Major Waddell as a wagon master. They freighted provisions from the Missouri river through Colorado to Salt Lake. After leaving this service he became a frontier ranchman, following the pursuit he had in Iowa. He belonged to the Grand Army of the Republic, and was a member of the Baptist church, as his widow is now. He died at the Soldiers’ Home at Monte Vista on May 16, 1902. The mother is living at New Castle, Garfield county. Their family comprised eight children, six of whom are living: William L.; Mary J., wife of George H. Norris; Rosamond A., wife of John M. Springer, of New Castle; Zachariah T., of Wyoming; Isaac J. and Cyntha, wife of W.J. Myrtle, of New Castle. William attended the public schools available to him for short periods at intervals, beginning at the age of thirteen to assist his parents in supporting the family, and he has been a help in this respect ever since. While in Iowa he learned his trade as a cooper and also acquired a good practical knowledge of farming. In 1864 he started, in company with Abraham Springer, George Brooks and Thomas Venator, to travel overland with three yoke of cattle and an outfit from Napello county, Iowa, to Denver, and after their arrival at that city he turned his interest in the outfit over to his companions, and with his blankets on his back started for the mines. On the way he met a man who gave him employment on a ditch on Clear creek. He completed his work on August 29, 1864, and his employer had no money to pay him for it, so gave him a milk cow in part payment. This he took to Golden, where he sold it. From there he moved on to Mill creek and there engaged in sawmill work at five dollars a day, continuing his labors until the snow got too deep. He then returned to Golden and opened a meat market. Credit business ruined him and in the spring of 1865 he was obliged to close his doors. He was next employed in partnership with a Mr. Burts in burning lime near Morrison. This enterprise he continued eight years at a fair profit. In 1873 he was elected sheriff of Jefferson county on the Democratic ticket, and at the close of his term in 1875 he was re-elected. In 1878 he moved to Leadville and there passed the spring and summer prospecting with only moderate success. He returned to Morrison and traded some limestone property which he owned for a livery and feed stable which he conducted three years, then sold it at a good profit in 1882. After the sale he moved to Garfield county and located the ranch he now owns, a squatter’s claim which his mother filed and he afterward purchased. He has made additional purchases and the ranch now comprises six hundred acres, one-half of which can be easily cultivated. It has a good supply of water and responds generously to the persuasive hand of the husbandman. Hay and cattle furnish his staple industry, and grain, vegetables and fruit are raised with success. He owns the oldest orchard on the south side of the Grand river, and its products are of the finest quality, the apples taking the first premium at the state fair of 1895. The ranch is sixteen miles southwest of New Castle in the midst of a fertile and productive region which is abundant in all sorts of farm products suitable to the climate. In 1884 he was elected county commissioner on the Democratic ticket, and in 1900 he was re-elected. He belongs to the Masonic order as a Master Mason, a Royal Arch Mason and a Knight Templar, and is very active and serviceable in the work of the various bodies. In September, 1859, he was united in marriage with Miss Emeline Fowler, who was born in Iowa. They had two children, Lafayette, living at home, and Martha, wife of John Cunningham, of Aspen. Their mother died on February 29, 1880, and on February 28, 1893, the father married a second wife, Mrs. Adell Adams, a native of Medina county, Ohio, the daughter of James S. and Jane (Cannon) Stephenson, the father born in New England and the mother in Pennsylvania. They settled in Ohio in early life and later moved to Wisconsin, and finally to Minnesota, being farmers in three states. They had a family of ten children, seven of whom are living, Theresa, George, James, Franklin, Alphius, John and Mrs. Smith. Mr. Smith is well pleased with Colorado, both on account of its extensive industries which afford large and fruitful opportunities to men of enterprise and the generally agreeable conditions of life for residents.

Source: Bowen, A. W. Progressive Men of Western Colorado. Chicago: A. W. Bowen & Co., Publishers. 1905.

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