William Jackson Smith 1828-1911
William Jackson Smith, my great-grandmother Annie’s third oldest brother deviated from the mold of most of the Smith family men. While I’m missing some census reports, he seemed to not have a steady career until his late middle age. How ironic that a man who found a career as a postmaster, proves difficult to track by address! And most significantly, he never married.
Lacking a family history narrative or diaries, I will probably never know what made William Jackson Smith a bachelor. However, with all those brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, and probably cousins as well, he would not have led a lonely life.
What a challenge my Uncle William has been. He seemed to go out of his way to hide from me and confuse me. The common name “William Smith” provides challenges in tracing my 2x great uncle’s life. In the most “official” records–his government employment and his obituary, the middle name or initial helps clarify which William Smith, but of course we can’t count on the census takers to always use a middle initial.
That also makes we wary of other “William Smith” records like the Civil War draft index from 1863. Because the birth year is only one year off, I thought at first that his name appeared on that record, but I now have eliminated that possibility. The registration states that William Smith is a resident of Harrison Township, Knox County and is a farmer. I have no other evidence for either of those facts. And there is another William Smith who fits that profile better.
Okay, I know I should not take all this personally. On the bright side, his life interests me because it did not fit the mold of most of the other Ohio.
The same confusion of William Smiths from Knox County made me go through some census reports line by line to try to find “my” William in 1850, 1860 and 1880 census reports. I could eliminate any that were married. The Williams listed were born in Ohio and their parents were born in some place other than Pennsylvania or Maryland. Too many discrepancies to assign the name to William.
William, born and baptized in Maryland (according to Catholic church records for Maryland), moved with the family to Knox County Ohio. According to a census report from 1830, I have learned that the Isaac Smith family probably lived in Quemahoning Township, Somerset, Pennsylvania that year. I can tell it was a brief residence because baptism records show that the family lived in Maryland when William was baptized in 1830, and his sister Elizabeth’s birth and death took place in Knox County Ohio in 1833. Another sibling, George Washington Smith ‘s birth, recorded in the family Bible without location, took place in January, 1831, presumably in Pennsylvania.
That 1830-1840 census reports–the kind that I call the “chicken scratch” census because it has only the name of the head of household plus tic marks for other residents, matches up nicely with Isaac Smiths family.
- The form shows two boys under 5–that would be Jeremiah (3) and William (2);
- one boy between 5 and 9–that would be John Henry (6 or 7)
- and one man between 20 and 29. Isaac would have been pushing the upper edge of that category.
- Additionally, in 1830, the Isaac Smith family included, according to this census and in real life, one girl under 5–that would be Mary Jane;
- And one woman between 20 and 29–Mary Maria who would have been 26.
Since Isaac had already applied for a land patent in Ohio, perhaps the family was just transiting through Pennsylvania on their way to their final destination.
At any rate, William shows up as twelve years old in 1840 in Knox County with the rest of the family.
Missing 1850 and 1860
I have not found him on either the 1850 census or the 1860 census, despite going through every township in Knox County that is anywhere near where his family members were living. A mysterious disappearance. All I know is that he was not living with his parents or his older siblings.
Reappearing in 1870
William reappears in 1870, living with his father and mother in Union Township, Knox County, Ohio, post office: Jelloway. Only his younger brother Dallas still lives at home. William is 40 years old. In 1880, he again is listed with his father, now in College Township next to Union Township.
Civil Service Records to the Rescue
Another gap since the 1890 census is missing. However, since he was appointed as a postmaster in 1883, and reappointed several times, we know that he was living in Knox County, Ohio, perhaps near the crossroads of Hunt, where he worked, or perhaps still living with his parents until they died (1886 and 1892).
William Jackson Smith’s Older Years
The 1900 census confirms that he has never married. At 73 years of age for the first time he is listed as living alone in Union Township, Knox County.
As he ages, William moves in with his younger brother James, a farmer in Union Township of Knox County. In 1910 he lives with James and his wife and their infant child.
Going by the few census records I have and the extensive Civil Service Records, I have pieced together the odd employment history of William Jackson Smith.
What he did in earlier life I have no clue. We do not see an occupation for him until he is forty years old and living with his parents. In 1870, he practices the same trade as his father, shoemaker.
Starting in 1883, at the age of 53, he finally finds steady (more or less) employment. William Jackson Smith receives appointments as postmaster for the tiny village of Hunt, Ohio. Originally called Hunt’s Crossing, the name changed to Hunt in 1882 and the post office survived until a few years before William Jackson Smith died. He served as Postmaster for most of those years, with short breaks in service.
Appointment records show October 1883 – October 1887 and May 1908 to May 1912. These dates do not coordinate with Presidential elections, so his was not strictly a political appointment. Besides, as an article that I’ve linked below points out, people paid more than $1000 a year were appointed by the President or Senators. Below that, by an assistant Postmaster General. And, He actually served between 1887 and 1908 according to the pay schedules, so the break in service starting in 1887 was brief.
Payments for his yearly service show up in the Register of Civil, Military and Naval Service, published every two years, show these annual payments to William.
- 1885: $104.96
- 1887: $89.33
- 1888: $52.40
- 1889: $80.78
- 1891: $81.83
- 1895: $8l.90
- 1897: $99.79
- 1899: $97.18
- 1901: $90.61
- 1903: $73.92
- 1905: $81.80
William Jackson Smith died before he finished his last term of appointment. The post office was decommissioned in 1912.
William Jackson Smith’s Death
William died at his brother James’ home on February 20, 1911, having reached the age of 84.
His brother filed probate papers in lieu of a will, that listed his next of kin:
James F. Smith, brother, Howard, Ohio; Joseph Smith, brother, Columbus, Ohio; Mary Jane Stevens,sister, Howard Ohio; Anna Marie Butts, sister,Buckeye City Ohio (part of Danville); Lillis Blubaugh (niece), Danville; Victoria Blubaugh (niece); Henry Smith (nephew) Coshocton County, Ohio. William left property of $700.
The Final Mystery
Even William’s last address provides somewhat of a mystery. Find a Grave says that he was buried in the Workman Cemetery in Danville, Ohio. Why would this member of an extensive Catholic family be buried in a German Baptist cemetery?
Did you have an ancestor who served a term or more as a postmaster? Check out this National Archives page to learn more.
How I Am Related
- Vera Marie Kaser (Badertscher) is the daughter of
- Paul Kaser, the son of
- Mary Isadore (Mame) Butts (Kaser), the daughter of
- Ann Marie Smith (Butts), the sister of
- William Jackson Smith
NOTES on RESEARCH