A. J. Smith, a leading farmer residing on section 5, Pleasant Grove Township, and a pioneer of Des Moines County, Iowa, was born in Washington County, Va., in 1817. He is a son of Daniel and Isabel (Gilson) Smith, the father a Virginian, and the mother a native of North Carolina. The paternal grandfather, Robert Smith, who was a farmer in Virginia, his native State, served in the War of the Revolution. The maternal grandfather, William Gilson, was also a farmer by occupation, and was of Irish descent. Daniel Smith was reared upon a farm in his native State, and there was united in marriage with Isabel Gilson. In the spring of 1818, they emigrated to Washington County, Ind., where Mr. Smith rented a farm until 1823, at which time they removed to Rush County, the husband there entering eighty acres of raw timber land among the settlements of the Indians. He erected a cabin, and immediately began the improvement of the tract, grubbing up the trees, and developing a farm upon which he lived for twelve years, during which time, by his thrift and enterprise, he was enabled to double his land, both in quantity and quality. Selling out, he next made his home in Hancock County, Ind., where he purchased a partially improved farm of 160 acres, and there resided until his death, which occurred Dec. 29, 1848, at the age of sixty-five years, ten months, and twelve days. Mrs. Smith survived her husband until Aug. 15, 1864, having reached her ripe old age of eighty-one years and twenty-three days at the time of her death. They were both members of the Presbyterian Church. Mr. Smith was a public-spirited man, taking an active interest in all enterprises for the good of the community. He served as Probate Judge in Rush County, Ind., for a number of years, and held the same office in Hancock County. In his political views, he was a supporter of the Whig party. Noted for his honesty and integrity, he was ever a leading man in the community where he resided, and was highly esteemed by all.
To Mr. and Mrs. Smith were born sixteen children, all of whom grew to manhood and womanhood, except one, and eleven are still living: Hiram, born Jan. 28, 1805, a retired farmer of Keokuk County, Iowa; William G., born Feb. 9, 1806, died in Indiana, Feb. 16, 1868; Robert and Jane (twins), born July 26, 1808, are both deceased; Samuel, born Nov. 26, 1809, departed this life in Rush County, Ind., Aug. 13, 1835; Mary, born Sept. 1, 1810, married Thompson Fleenor, and died in 1842; Louisa, widow of Benjamin Fry, of Hancock County, Ind.; her twin-sister Lavenia, died at birth; Elizabeth, born April 15, 1814, wedded Thomas McKinnon, of Henry County, Iowa; our subject is next in order of birth; Nancy Ellen, born Sept. 24, 1819, became the wife of Solomon Tiner, of Missouri; Sarah Ann, born July 27, 1821, widow of A. J. Porter, of Dallas, Tex.; Diroxia L., born Dec. 5, 1826, married Samuel Tibbits, a resident farmer of Pleasant Grove Township, died Feb. 22, 1888; Lillas, born Dec. 24, 1828, wife of David Davis, of Keokuk County, Iowa; Jeroial D., born Jan. 14, 1829, now residing in Texas; John H., born July 16, 1832, whose home is in Keokuk County, Iowa.
At the age of twenty-five years, our subject left the parental roof and emigrated to Iowa, settling in Pleasant Grove Township, Des Moines County. In the spring of 1843, he purchased 120 acres of partially improved land on section 10, immediately began the work of development, and upon that farm twelve years were passed. Then purchasing a farm on section 11 of the same township, he made it his home for the succeeding ten years, when he removed to Washington Township. After residing upon the last-purchased farm for three years, he again removed to Pleasant Grove Township, residing for twenty years on section 15, and then moved to section 5, which still continues to be his home. After having given his children farms, Mr. Smith is yet the owner of 1,518 acres of land, all of which were gained through his own efforts. His father being a poor man, he received no financial aid, but began his financial career by working for twenty-five cents a day. At the time of his emigration to Iowa, he had but $64 in money, and two ox teams, with which he commenced breaking prairie. The perseverance and energy which have made his life a success, may well serve as an example to future generations.
On the 18th of April, 1847, the marriage of Mr. Smith and Jane Westfall, a native of New York, born June 20, 1829, was celebrated. This worthy couple are the parents of twelve children, all of whom are living: Francis M., born March 20, 1848, a resident of Pleasant Grove Township; Frederick N., born Aug. 28, 1850, whose hone is in Washington Township; Isabella, born Aug. 30, 1852, is the wife of David L. Davis, of Keokuk County, Iowa; Asbury D., born May 17, 1854, is engaged in farming in Ness County, Kan.; A. J., born June 1, 1856; Mary J., born March 26, 1858, is the wife of Ira Reedfern, a farmer of Pleasant Grove Township; R. A., born April 8, 1860, whose home is in Wapello County, Iowa.; A. E., born Feb. 18, 1862, of Pleasant Grove Township; John H., born Oct. 30, 1864, residing in Jefferson County, Iowa; Minnie, born Nov. 12, 1865, wedded George Overman, of Des Moines County; Squire, born Nov. 18, 1867, now of Pleasant Grove Township; Ira, born Feb. 23, 1870, is still at home.
Mr. Smith has held various township offices, was Trustee for several terms, and County Supervisor for one term. His occupation has always been that of a farmer, though he also engages in raising and shipping stock. In the support of charitable, educational and religious institutions, he is very liberal, and in him the temperance cause finds an earnest advocate. To such men as Mr. Smith, Des Moines County owes her present prosperous condition, and as a pioneer, citizen and friend he receives the highest respect and esteem from all with whom he comes in contact. He can now look back over a well-spent life, and also takes pleasure in his children, who are honorable men and women in their several communities. The portraits of Mr. and Mrs. Smith appear upon the preceding page.