Abner Smith, of Center township, is an honorable representative of one of the oldest and most highly respected families in central Indiana. He is also among the leading farmers and stock raisers of Hancock county and his labors have contributed more to the material advancement of the community in which he lives than those of any other man. His life has been a busy and useful one and furnishes an example of honorable dealing, steadfastness of purpose, fidelity to principle and invincible moral courage that are well worthy of emulation by the young man obliged to rely upon his own resources for a start upon the rugged highway of success. Seventy years, the term of his natural life to date, have been spent within the geographic limits of Hancock county, during which time he has achieved in worldly wealth much greater success than falls to the lot of the majority of men, built up a character for honesty and uprightness that may well be envied, and won for himself a place in the hearts of his neighbors and friends that long since caused him to be looked upon as one of Hancock county’s most intelligent, substantial and enterprising citizens.

Josiah Smith, father of the subject, was born near Chillicothe, Ohio, and there married Betsey Burrows, who first saw the light of day near the old Smith homestead. In 1829 he came to Hancock county and settled in Buck Creek township on land which his father, Daniel Smith, had previously given to him. The place consisted entirely of woodland and after erecting a small log cabin of the conventional type he went to work with a will to clear the land and fit the soil for cultivation. He was a hard working man and in due time, by diligence and consecutive effort, removed the dense forest growth from about twenty acres and brought the soil to a successful state of tillage. He was not permitted to live long enough to clear all of his land, as sickness laid hold of his strong and vigorous frame and within three years after moving to his new home he was summoned to another home, where illness and death are unknown. During the ten years following his decrease his widow remained on the farm and kept her children together, displaying good judgment in the management of the place and providing well for those dependent upon her. Subsequently she married one John McDuffie, of North Carolina, an early settler of Buck Creek township, and the two spent the remainder of their days in that township. Josiah and Betsey Smith had three children, Archibald, who died in 1861; Abner, the immediate subject of this review, and Becky Ann, who became the wife of Frank Osborn, of Greenfield. By her marriage with Mr. McDuffie, the mother had four children, John H.,. of this county; William, also a resident of Hancock, James and Malissa, deceased.

Abner Smith was born in Buck Creek township, Hancock county, Indiana, August 30, 1832. By reason of the straitened circumstances in which the family was placed after the father’s death, young Abner’s educational advantages were sadly neglected, the mother being unable to pay the tuition required for the boy to enter the subscription schools which were common in this county at that early period. All told, he attended school but one month and a half, a deficiency which he atoned for in later years by reading such books and papers as fell into his hands, also by coming in contact with the world in various business capacities, by means of which he obtained a valuable practical knowledge of men and things. He early became a youth of reliant and independent nature and resolute character. As soon as old enough he assumed much of the responsibility of the farm and with true filial devotion began while still a mere lad to look after his mother’s interests. Hard work fell to his lot and he little knew or understood the meaning of rest, while idleness was a work not found in his vocabulary. At the early age of sixteen he began the battle of life for himself as a farm laborer in the employ of an uncle, Daniel Smith, of Buck Creek township, with whom he lived until twenty years old, receiving for his services for the first year the munificent sum of twenty-five cents per day for time actually employed, and thereafter ordinary wages of thirty-seven and one-half cents, increasing to fifty cents per day.

When a little past twenty years old Mr. Smith chose a life companion in the person of Miss Martha Griffith, whose parents were among the early settlers of Hancock county, and immediately after marriage began keeping house in a little log cabin, eighteen by twenty feet in size, which stood on a small piece of land in section 35, Center township. He built this house a short time before and the first work which demanded his attention after setting up his domestic establishment was the making of rails with which to enclose the land, consisting of eighty acres. By much hard and unremitting toil, Mr. Smith in due season had the satisfaction of knowing that all the land on his place was in cultivation and as prosperity came to him he purchased an additional forty acres, which was also reduced to a state of tillage at the earliest time possible. Then a new and much more commodious and convenient dwelling took the place of the primitive log structure, the farm was well stocked with superior breeds of cattle, hogs and horses and a general appearance of thrift marked the farm which but a few years before looked like a mere niche in the deep surrounding forest.

To trace in detail Mr. Smith’s remarkable rise as a farmer and note the success which attended all of his labors and business transactions would far transcend the limits allotted this article. Suffice it so say, however that his progress from a very humble beginning was almost phenomenal. By fortunate investments he was enabled to extend the areas of his real estate until his holdings in Center township alone amounted to one thousand acres, all but one hundred acres of which are improved. His farm is now one of the largest and most valuable in the central part of the state and his improvements, from building down, rank with the very best in Hancock county and prove the owner an agriculturist far in advance of the great majority of the farmers in this section of the state.

In the management of his extensive agricultural interests Mr. Smith has demonstrated ripe judgment, rare foresight and business abilities of a very high order. His activity and unerring sagacity, backed by a liberal endowment of good common sense, directed and controlled by an almost unswerving judgment, have enabled him not only to take advantage of every opportunity, but to create opportunities, in which respect he stands almost alone among his companions. Few men with his limited means have accomplished as much and no man in Hancock county has done more in the way of overcoming unfavorable environment and removing from the pathway of success the many obstacles which formerly proved impediments to his progress. To do what he has done and that by steady and legitimate methods and not by recourse to speculation of any kind, implies a comprehensive knowledge of business, with the native ability to reduce it to a practical use - such knowledge and ability as few men in the county possess. Mr. Smith’s eminent success is due entirely to his own unaided efforts and in the widest acceptation of the expression he is the "architect of his own fortune." Always an industrious, hard-working man, he believes in making the best possible use of the good things of this world; consequently he has surrounded himself with many comforts and conveniences. His home, beautiful and attractive, is supplied with much that is calculated to make farm life ideal and he has always taken great pains to make his fireside the one place where cares are forgotten and where happiness and content may reign supreme.

Mr. and Mrs. Smith have two children, the older of whom, John, married Dora Hawk and is now one of the enterprising farmers and successful stock raisers of Center township. Margaret, the second, is the wife of Peter Lord, who is also engaged in agricultural pursuits in the township of Center. In addition to general farming, which he carries on more extensively perhaps than any other man in Center township, Mr. Smith has made much of his money by raising stock, in which his success long since became assured. He pays especial attention to fine shorthorn cattle, of which he has a great many, all valuable, Poland China hogs, of the most approved breeds, and Norman horses, some of which were obtained at large cost. He takes great pride in his animals and has demonstrated that it really costs less to raise superior breeds of great value than it does to keep an inferior class of live stock that barely pays for their maintenance.

Mr. Smith is a gentleman of wide and varied information. Like all good and intelligent citizens he takes much more than passive interest in political affairs and in earlier days was called to fill various local offices, in all of which he proved worthy of the confidence reposed in him by the people of his township. He has been a Republican ever since the organization of the party and, though never a professional partisan, his interest is always such as to induce him to work for the success of his ticket and his voice and influence have been freely used to persuade the management to put forward none but good and well qualified men for office. His religious belief is in harmony with the Methodist creed and for a number of years he and his good wife have been consistent members of that large and influential communion.

In a large degree success has crowned Mr. Smith’s every effort and by correct living he has earned the confidence of his friends and fellow citizens wherever he is known. Actively interested in everything pertaining to the public good and ready and willing at all times to put forth his best efforts to benefit his fellow man and make the community wiser and better, he is a commendable example of the successful self-made man and his life and influence have been fruitful of great good to his fellows, especially to the young of the rising generation.

Transcribed from Biographical Memoirs of Hancock County B. F. Bowen, Publisher, Logansport, Indiana, 1902 Pages 375-378.

Submitted by Sylvia (Rose) Duda, Laingsburg, MI October 25, 2002.

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Tom & Carolyn Ward / Columbus, Kansas / tcward@columbus-ks.com

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