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Title: William C. Smith
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It is with a great degree of satisfaction to the biographer when he averts to the record of one who has made the rough path of life smooth by his untiring perseverance, has attained success in any vocation requiring definiteness of purpose and determined action. Such a life, whether it be one of calm, consecutive endeavor, or of sudden meteoric accomplishment, must abound both in lesson and incentive and prove a guide to the young men whose fortunes are still matters for the future to determine. For many decades the late William C. Smith directed his efforts toward the goal of success in Warren county and by patient continuance won, not only material prosperity but the confidence and esteem of all classes and set a worthy example to the rising generation, and his name is eminently entitled to conspicuous mention in the histories of the far-famed Wabash country. He was one of the most distinguished native sons of this county and here he was content to spend his long, useful and industrious life, taking a leading part in the general development and progress of the same from the pioneer epoch to the present time, and no man took greater pride in seing his native community grow than did he.

William C. Smith was born in Medina township, Warren county, Indiana, April 22, 1832, and died in Williamsport, this county, October 1, 1911. About 1863 he came to Williamsport and took up his home with Mrs. Margaret Sturgeon, who was conducting a hotel here. After she died he took up his home with Mr. and Mrs. Stephenson, a daughter of the former lady, at whose home he passed away, after a long residence in the two families of about forty-five years.

It is only just and due the deceased that the biographer take the reader back to the boyhood days of the subject of this memoir, that the strong characteristics of this fine character may be more fully understood. We find a boy in his teens, trudging along the dusty highway on a summer's evening, clad in a pair of overalls, wearing an old-fashioned straw hat with a hole in the top. This was William C. Smith, the boy, wending his way from his mother's house to that of his uncle, Edward S. Coats, in Independence, where his sister, Hester, was already making her home, as they were orphans, the father having died some time previous to this incident in his life. This was William C. Smith starting on his long business career, which was to be crowned with success in after years. This was the boy, yet unmatured, but with a foresight of greater things. This was the boy that became the central figure in Warren count'y financial affairs.

When he arrived at Independence on this eventful Sunday evening, his uncle, a kind-hearted man, took him in and gave him employment in his store, where he remained until the death of his uncle, which occurred in 1852. With the knowledge he had gained of the mercantile business while with his uncle, it was easy for him to secure like employment elsewhere, and he secured a position in the same town with J. A. Ryan, for whom he worked about two years. Prior to his engaging in the mercantile business, he went to Lafayette, where he attended a business college, and made his home with Martin L. Pierce, then president of the First National Bank, who was always afterwards a very warm friend of Mr. Smith's. Then he returned to Independence and formed a partnership with Mr. Ryan and for two years conducted the business under a firm name until reverses came, and the firm was forced to make an assignment, which left young Mr. Smith worse off than nothing-no means and badly in debt, but this failure nor this sad state of affairs did not for one moment daunt his courage, but made him more determined. He saw the light at the top of the ladder of success, and with a renewed effort he started to climb to the top. The next two years was spent by him in collecting the outstnading debts due the firm. This gave the young financier a new experience, and by his diligent and persistent work he led others to look upon him as the coming man of the county, and he was employed as a collector of delinquent taxes. Later he worked on a farm as a laborer, to the entire satisfaction of Laban Waymire, by whom he was employed, and afterward owned the farm upon which he worked as a hired man.

Mr. Smith was above the average individual, who, having been born poor, never rises above a nominal standard. He made good use of his talents. Being born in the county when it was in its incipiency, he grew with and kept pace with its steady progress and development. He never allowed opportunity to turn from his door; he grappled with the knotty problems of life, both political and financial, and solved them to his own satisfaction. He was strong mentally and possessed a keen foresight. Financially, he was successful, because he adhered to the adage that "care for the pennies and by and by they'll make dollars," which is attested by his vast accumulations and his large holdings of realty. Morally, he stood out as an example worthy of emulation. He despised sham, hated a liar and was radically against anything that was in league with vice or crime in any form whatsover. He, like all human beings, had his peculiarities, but they were greatly counterbalanced by his many good and commendable traits. In a way he was liberal in mind, thought and purpose. Charity to him was not in wasting works, but in doing and giving substantial aid. Along this line he took under advisement the real necessity of such charity, and if in his judgment the party asking seemed worthy, he never turned him away empty handed. Many men in Warren county today owe their position and their financial success to his charitable hand and his timely advice and counsel.

In the year 1859 Mr. Smith served in the House of Representatives as a clerk, which position he secured through the influence of Hon. George D. Wagner, who afterward became a distinguished general in the Civil war. In the year 1860 the subject entered the field of politics and became a candidate before the Republican voting convention of Warren county for the office of county auditor. He was then a very young man, inexperienced in politics, without influential friends and comparatively unknown over the county generally. He had recently met with financial reverses in business and was without means to conduct an expensive campaign. Warren county was then, as now, overwhelmingly Republican and the party nomination was equivalent to election. His competitor was a popular gentleman who had served as deputy auditor for four years; was well acquainted all over the county and had the support of many of its influential citizens. Yet Mr. Smith made such an energetic campaign and created so favorable an impression that he came within four votes of the nomination.

At the outbreak of the war between the states Me. Smith raised a company of volunteers for the Union, but the supply of soldiers at that time far exceeded the demand and the company was refused, the state's quota of troops being them already filled.

In 1862 Mr. Smith became a candidate for clerk of the circuit court and the favorable impression he had made and the friends he had won in his previous campaign for auditor easily gave him the nomination. He was elected to this office in the fall of that year, and assumed its duties in June, 1863. He filled this responsible office for eight years, with great credit to himself and satisfaction to all who had business relations with the office. And though he had no experience or knowledge of the duties of this office when he entered upon the same, his natural quickness and ability soon enabled him to master all its details and the county never had a more eddicient and capable public officer. After leaving the clerk's office Mr. Smith was very prominent and active in the business life of Warren county. His ability as a financier was of the very highest order and not only enabled him to acquire a large fortuen, but was helpful to a great many others, to whom he furnished capital to carry on their enterprises and whom he aided by his advice and counsel.

In 1889 Mr. Smith, together with the late James H. Keys, Judge Joseph M. Rabb and others, organized the Warren County Bank of Williamsport, and the success that has marked the career of this institution was a souce of great pride and satisfaction to him and his sagacity and wisom in the conduct of its affairs contributed much to its success.

Mr. Smith never enjoyed robust health, but what he lacked in strength he made up in energy. His whole life was a battle with disease and infirmity, but his indomitable will and courage repeatedly held the grim monster at bay and made him retreat time and again, but finally he was forced to yield when lacking but a few months of attaining his four score years.

Mr. Smith was a strong and positive character; he had a bright mind, a quick intellignece and was a keen judge of human nature. He despised hypocrisy, sham and fraud. He was always true to his convictions and honest and fearless in expressing them in his friendships. He was truth and loyalty itself and will long be missed and mourned by a wide circle of devoted friends.


[Page 729-732.]

Date: 1/1/1913
Origin: Past and Present of Fountain and Warren Counties Indiana
Author: Thomas A. Clifton, Editor
Record ID: 00001126
Type: Book
Source Archive: Williamsport-Washington Township Public Library
Date Entered: 8/10/2001
Collection: Williamsport-Washington Township Public Library
Entered By: Leslie J. Rice

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