Tag Archives: Danville

William Jackson Smith, The Bachelor Uncle Postmaster

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.

1830 Census

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



The Isaac and Mary Smith Family, A Guide

When families like the Isaac Smith family come up for discussion it sometimes is “hard to tell the players without a program.”  Here is a guide to the family (sisters and brothers of my great-grandmother Ann Marie Smith Butts) with birthdates and (mostly) places of birth. Twelve children, of whom seven lived to adulthood, plus one who died when he was twenty-two (Probably). Six left “issue” as the old biography books say.

Much of the information here comes from the transcription of an old Smith family Bible, which is not always correct.  Therefore I have put question marks beside most information that I am not sure of from more than one source. (Always remember that genealogical research is a work in progress.)

Father Isaac Smith. Born circa 1800 either in Pennsylvania or Maryland.  Died 1 November 1886, Ohio.

Mother Mary Maria Krigbaum Smith. Born 26 July, 1804, Maryland. Died 28 November 1892, Ohio.

Smith Children:

*Lived to Adulthood

*John Henry Smith. 26 January, 1823, Maryland. Died 17 December 1864, Nashville Tennessee. (Civil War)  [Referred to as Ivan Henry in Family Bible] (Married Rebecca Jane Draper.)

*Mary Jane Smith (STEVENS). Born Circa 1825 in Maryland. Died September 1913 (?) in Knox County, Ohio.

Jeremiah Smith. Born 19 February 1827 in Maryland. Died 9 January 1849 (?) in Knox County, Ohio. (22 years old, not married)

*William Jackson Smith. Born 1 December 1828 in Maryland. Died 20 February, 1911, Howard, Knox, Ohio. (never married)

George Washington Smith. Born 1 January 1831(?). Died October 1838 (?), Knox County, Ohio. (7 years old)

Susan Elizabeth Smith. Born 16 June 1833 (?) Knox County, Ohio. Died October 1838. (?) Knox County, Ohio. (Infant Death)

*Ann Marie Smith (BUTTS), Born 12 April 1835, Knox County, Ohio. Died 24 April 1917, Danville Ohio.

Priscilla Belle Smith, Born 20 February 1838 (?), Knox County, Ohio. Died October 1838(?), Knox County, Ohio. (7 months old)

*Isadore Orilla Smith (CRITCHFIELD).  Born 13 June 1840, Knox County, Ohio. Died 28 January, 1879 (?), Knox County, Ohio. (no children, although her husband remarried and had two daughters.)

*James Francis Smith. Born 27 September 1843 Danville, Knox, Ohio. Died 13 September 1930, Millwood, Knox, Ohio. (Married Rebecca Hawn)

*Joseph Dallas Smith, MD. Born 24 January, 1845, Knox County, Ohio. Died 26 April 1933. (Married twice: Martha Fitzpatrick and Elizabeth Fitzgerald.)

Rebecca Francis Smith. Born 12 September 1847 (?), Knox County, Ohio. Died February 1848(?), Knox County, Ohio. (5 months old)

Research Questions: Who, What, Where, When, Why and sometimes How

The questions Who,What,Where,When,Why and How are known as the journalistic questions, but they cover pretty much and research questions you might have.  In genealogical research, the why may be the most enticing and the hardest to find answers for, but who, what, where, and when rank as essential.

Several people commented to me and expressed some curiosity about how the pieces came together to show my great grandmother’s connection to an Archbishop who became famous in a novel.

Because some readers were curious about the research path, I decided to do a rare “behind the curtain” look at where the stories come from that I tell on Ancestors in Aprons.

After all, that Archbishop, Jean Baptiste Lamy gained some fame serving in New Mexico, and my great-grandmother, Anne Marie Smith (Butts)  never left Knox County, Ohio.  So how did he get into the story? And how did I find him?

Who is Ann Marie Smith (Butts)?

First, I have to inventory what I know.  I’ve been doing research (of various types) for a long time, so I no longer feel a need to write down a list of “things I know” before I start asking research questions.  However, with my genealogy research, a timeline makes the skeleton I build on.

In creating a timeline for Ann Marie Smith (Butts), I relied on the usual paper trail– birth or baptism records, census reports, death information (if no death certificate, Find a Grave provides clues and a photo of a gravestone is more solid evidence, family Bibles shine.) But with Annie, I had the advantage of some background from family members.

My father had written a bare bones report of his ancestors, that included Annie’s name, so I knew her maiden name was Smith.

From a cousin who has been a mentor in my research, I had a transcription of information from a Smith family Bible. The Bible provided her parents’ and siblings’ names and the date of Annie’s birth. I also learned of the deaths of some of her siblings.

I had an informal family history that had been dug up by a remote cousin who in the nineties had written about the Butts of Danville, Knox County, Ohio that included details about Annie’s life.

So from the Bible and census reports I knew that Annie was born in Knox County, Ohio, in 1835, and that she stayed there.  From the informal history, I knew that she had been a devout Catholic. On Ancestry, I discovered her marriage certificate proving the date she married Henry Allen Butts. Census records also confirmed the names of siblings and their dates of birth.

Another bonus that doesn’t usually exist came in four letters from Henry Allen to his wife when he was in the Civil War, which gave a feel for their life that goes beyond the bare facts. For those letters I have my brother to thank. He talked to a relative in Ohio and found a man in California who owned copies of the letters. Although he would not part with the originals, the man allowed us to have copies.

Finally, I had made a personal visit to St. Luke Catholic Church in Danville, Ohio that Annie and Henry Allen attended. (I knew they attended there because of the family history and because Henry Allen is buried there, and I talked to a priest who showed me their register with the names of Butts family members.)

Background on Lamy

Who is Jean Baptiste Lamy?

Incidentally, I had recently read  “Death Comes to the Archbishop” by Willa Cather, together with a short bio of Jean Baptiste Lamy. I learned that before becoming Archbishop of New Mexico in 1850, he was an itinerant priest in Ohio, based in Cincinnati (in the southwest of Ohio).  Since Danville is in the northeastern central part of Ohio, it did not occur to me that he might have been anywhere near St. Lukes.

What Else Do I Want to Know?

After inventorying what I know, my next step is to start asking research questions.  Using the Who?What?When?Where?Why? and sometimes How? questions, I check to see if I have already discovered answers to some, and what questions remain.

I won’t go through all the questions I had about Annie and her life, but start with one of the research questions, “When?” . I recalled my visit to St. Luke’s church, and looking at the time period when Annie and her siblings were born, I realized that the church I saw probably was not there when Annie and her earlier siblings born in Ohio were christened. While I know that the Danville church has hand written records that go back to at least the early 1900s, I have not discovered their records on line. Since I already had satisfactory proof of Annie’s birth I did not plan a trip to Danville, nor did I write to the church, although I may some time in the future.

The church is a beautiful brick building, and much too sophisticated to have been built in the early 1800s.  So I looked for a church website to answer my “when” research questions. Fortunately St. Luke maintains a website that includes a history.  My objective was to find when the brick building was built, but as I read down through the chronology of events at St. Luke, I abruptly stopped with this entry:

The first resident pastor was appointed in September 1839. He was a young Frenchman Father John Baptist Lamy born October 11, 1814 in Lempdes, France and ordained in December 1838.

Was there more than one John/Jean Baptiste Lamy? Or was this the Archbishop written about by Willa Cather?  As I read more of the history, I learned that Danville’ Ohio’s Father Lamy was indeed the man eventually made Archbishop of the territory of New Mexico.

Father Lamy arrived as pastor to St. Luke in 1839.  Annie had been baptized in 1835, so the celebrant at that occasion would have been a visiting priest, because Lamy was the first appointed exclusively to Danville.  Although there may have been a wooden building constructed earlier for church services, no one is sure.  However, it is known that Lamy constructed a log cabin sanctuary at the graveyard–the graveyard that I visited just down a rural road from the church, which stands on the Main Street of Danville.

Father Lamy continued to serve the congregation at St. Luke until September 1847, and in 1850 went west to Santa Fe according to the church history on line.

Next I asked the research question, “What?”  What was happening during the period Father Lamy was there?

Four of Annie’s siblings were born during that period, and three died. Another baby was born in September 1847, so I don’t know if Father Lamy would have presided over her baptism.

UPDATE:  Look back at the story about Annie to see a new piece of evidence I collected that ties the Smith family to Father Lamy!

At any rate, from the timeline of the Smith family, and the timeline of Father Lamy’s service, I could clearly see that the family had extensive contact with him over eight years.

And by the way, the answer to my original questions, “When was the brick building of St. Luke built? ” proves that I was definitely right about it being much to new for Annie’s childhood–although she certainly attended it as an adult.  The first St. Luke brick church was dedicated in 1877. However, it stood near the original wood church by the cemetery rather than in the present location. Re-reading the history, I find that when Henry returned from the Civil War, and he and Annie eventually moved into town, various changes came to the church.

I do not have pictures here, because all of the good pictures of St. Luke that I have found are copyrighted. You can see several photos at the St. Luke website.

Annie’s father died in 1886, and her mother in 1892, so their funerals would have taken place in that church by the cemetery. (I have not checked to see if they or other family members are buried there, but it is a good guess.)

Henry and Annie would have been there in 1895 when the brick church near the graveyard burned and services resumed temporarily in the old wooden church built by Father Lamy. Congregants had to bring their own chairs, as there were no built-in pews.

In 1896, the present beautiful church was dedicated.  Members of the community had pitched in to help with the details of hauling materials, cementing the bricks, installing pews and windows.  I have no doubt that Henry Allen Butts, listed as a laborer on some census reports, would have been one of the laborers, and I can imagine Annie helping other women feed the laborers.

My great grandparents DID attend the church that I visited on Main Street in Danville, and mass would have been said for them when they died. But when she was young, great-grandmother Annie Smith knew Father Lamy as her priest.

So putting together Father/Archbishop Lamy and the life of my great-grandmother Annie Smith Butts, turned out to be less strenuous than much genealogical research. However, it did involve a source that might not have occurred to you in the past.  Look not just for histories of your family, but histories of the town, county, state in which they lived.  If they worked on or lived near a railroad, look for the history of railroads in the region.  Look at school yearbooks and school histories. And don’t forget to look for the history of the church they attended.

Now that I have learned the history of St. Luke, I can tie events in the lives of other Smith and Butts families to a particular building and a particular minister. All I have to do is remember to ask the right research questions.