STORY OF THE LIFE OF JOHN ANDREW SMITH
Riding among the dignitaries on parade and seated in a place of honor at the Cedar City Centennial Celebration, was John Andrew Smith being honored as the first white male child to be born there. Not until much later did he learn that a Mr. Adams whose birth had preceded his by a matter of days had deserved the honor. John Andrew Smith was born on June 9, 1856, the first of fourteen children of John X and Margaret Patterson Smith who left their native lands to join others who emigrated to Utah for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. His father had come from Raunds, Northamptonshire, England, and his mother from Clackmanan, Scotland.
Most of John Andrew's life was spent in Beaver where he came at the age of four with his parents in response to a call of Brigham Young to help settle that area. (1)
Like other young people who grew up during the pioneering period of Utah's history, he had but limited contact with the outside world. Necessities of life had to be provided mainly from resources at hand. All learned to work to provide what was needed or do without. For instance, when there was no candy available, they found a way to get their sweets from willows.
His parents home was located at 190 North 2nd West, the present day Hickman home. Space was limited for the care of a large and ever increasing family. He recalled sleeping with the other children on bedding spread on the grain stored in a room adjoining the house.
Schooling was meager. He said little about it except for mentioning going to school barefoot and his reputation as a good speller.
Parents who had paid a high price for their religion instilled in John and his brothers and sisters the beliefs which had brought them to America. All his life he attended and enjoyed the activities of the church. As a teenager he went many times to meet and escort Brigham Young and his party into Beaver when they came for conference and other church business. His baptism took place June 9, 1864. He progressed through the various steps of the Priesthood until as a High Priest he served many years on the High Council His assignment was supervision of the Relief Society. It was his buggy which carried the Stake board on their visits throughout the Stake.
John A. and his wife, Charlotte Swindlehurst, always said they had to get married, then they explained it by telling how parents would take their older children with them when they took the long wagon trip to St. George to do temple work. Both John A. and Charlotte, with whom he had been "keeping company", accompanied their parents on the spring temple excursion in 1878. The young people had talked of marriage and it was included in their plans for the future. After the parents three enjoyable days of temple work, John's father told the young couple that he could see little sense in their making a later trip for their wedding when they could be married then and save the bother. They protested against this premature arrangement. Charlotte had not made the preparations which girls like to make in anticipation of their weddings. John had provided no home for his bride. Their own desires were over powered by the stronger will of their father, John X., and they were married April 26, 1878.
Charlotte's parents, John and Matilda Rothwell Swindlehurst, provided a place in their home for the bride and groom where they stayed until their own home was ready the following October. The two room home with an adjoining cellar at 390 North 4th West to which they moved was their permanent home the remainder of their lives. It was there that their eight children were born, that all the joys and sorrows of family life unfolded with the passing years.
Through the Homestead Act, they were given the privilege of obtaining land under an arrangement with the government which stipulated, among other things, the building of a home on the land and living in it for six months of each year for five years. John A. took land about a mile north of town where he built a one room house with an adjoining cellar. A willow bower offered some protection from the heat of summer. His wife bravely met the challenge of making a home for her husband and three children in this meager little dirt floored cabin.
At the end of the five years residence on the home stead the land was "proved up on", two large rooms were built of pink rock on the front of the house in town.
John and Charlotte were the parents of eight children. All of them grew to adulthood and reared families of their own. The first break in the family came when the youngest son, LeRoy, died on July 9, 1942. The only other loss before that time was a granddaughter who died at the age of seventeen in 1931.
The family was well provided with commodities necessary for their growth and well being. There was always a garden, chickens, pigs and cattle. Cows were kept to provide milk which was brought into the home in the brass buckets so familiar in the Smith kitchen. The big wooden bin was always filled with flour.
John was a hard worker and willing to try most anything that would provide a living for his family. At one time he worked at the sulphur beds. During his early married years he freighted bullion from the mines in Pioche to the nearest railroad which was in York in Juab County. Many times his wife accompanied him on these trips. The long distance would necessitate spending nights out in all kinds of weather. The horses, hobbled and turned out to graze, would often wander long distances from camp before morning.
He loved horses and prided himself in the care he gave them. He always owned a good team and derived much satisfaction from making a good trade. For years he operated a blacksmith shop west of the county court house. The skill developed in shoeing horses was a source of pride and satisfaction to him. He could, if business were plentiful, shoe as many as twenty head per day. He was especially busy in the fall when horses were provided with toe and heel corks for wood hauling. It was a sad day for him and the family when the blacksmith shop burned down. This did not deter his efforts for he was a farmer and cattleman
as well as a blacksmith.
John A. was of medium height with a strong, rather stocky body. His hair and eyes were brown. Though one eye was crossed, it seemed to be no handicap in his blacksmithing and other work.
He had a warm, friendly, outgoing personality which was evident by his host of friends. He mixed freely with all. His friendship with the Indians was as important to him as those among his own people. Children and youth gave him as much companionship as the more mature. At the age of 76 he left an old folks party to join a group of young hikers who planned to reach the summit of Mt. Belknap. Leaving many of the young ones along the way, he was among the few who reached the top.
It was natural that one of his personality would love to dance. When his wife had no interest in participating, he would dance with other mens wives. Often he stirred the jealousy of his brother, Joe, by dancing a little too often with his wife, Amelia (his wife's sister).
Indian Pow Wows was another outlet for his natural exuberance. He learned of these affairs through the Indians who came to his father, the Bishop, for commodities from the tithing house. John was on hand when the Indians from far and near gathered in the fields north of town to dance and sing and hold council. One night a chief was being chosen from among the young braves. The appointment was based on endurance in the dance. John outdanced them all. This called for a lengthy council meeting where it was decided that a white man could not be an Indian chieftain.
Charlotte often remarked that it was a wonder he hadn't married a squaw instead of her. He was familiar with the Indians for miles around and could speak much of their language. They referred to him as "Smit". This friendship with the Indians is understandable inasmuch as they knew his parents. His mother, who had readily mastered their language, traveled to court trials from Fillmore to Washington to interpret for them.
John had a ready sense of humor and a twinkle in his eye. On one occasion when his son Thomas was with him in the wagon, he was stopped by a patrolman on the road to Milford, who informed him that he couldn't drive a wagon with narrow tires on the highway. It was against the law. John told him that the wagon was new and that he intended to use it until it was worn out. When the patrolman asked who he was, he said, "I'm Old Beaver Adds and I came here when these mountains were just little hills," and then he drove away. He did wear the wagon out and nothing more was ever said about it.
Throughout his life, he enjoyed the annual deer hunt. About the time the trees donned their fall finery, John, with all the other local males, donned red apparel and took to the hills. He thrilled to every stage of the highly contagious "buck fever", from the early purchase of cartridges to the later exchange of favorite deer stories long after the last shot had been fired. His disappointment at being left at home for the first time at the age of 92 knew no bounds.
Always he was eager for new experiences and interested in people and current affairs. Not even the passing of years dimmed his spirit of adventure. Automobile driving was one of the delights of his life. How he enjoyed venturing forth on a long trip with his wife be side him. Twice he tipped over but with no great harm to anyone. One of these accidents occurred on a return trip from Lee's Ferry where he and Charlotte had driven in company with two other cars. Occupants of the other two vehicles were Charley and Mr. Roper of Oak City and Wayne and Mrs. Harris and Roy Harris of Beaver. Having gone one way, they decided to return by an unfamiliar route. This brought them over the mountain between Panguitch and Cedar City past Cedar Breaks. At one point, his car tipped over a thirty foot dugway. It was found, after the dust had settled and the damage surveyed, that the car had lit right side up and that nothing more serious than a few scratches had resulted. Charlotte was surprised to find her glasses safely in place. Asked if he intended to drive on, John said, "Of course, I intend to drive on."
John in his black 27 Chevrolet was a familiar sight about the town until 1944 when at the age of 88 the dreaded day arrived when he was forced by failing eyesight to stop driving. Giving up the old car was like giving up a beloved friend. He was never quite reconciled to the loss.
Everywhere he was greeted warmly by the small fry as "Uncle Johnny". He had won them over with friendliness and gifts of nickles and dimes. His time, talents and funds were shared generously with neighbors and family as the need arose. It can truly be said that he was no respecter of persons. The unfortunate or less favored were treated with as much consideration and respect as the more respected people in the community. He was equally at ease with all.
A former Beaver resident recently told his son that he would never forget John A. Smith. As a boy he had passed him on the way to the pasture with his cows. Upon being asked why he was barefoot, he confessed that he had no shoes. Whereupon, John took $2.50 from his pocket and told the lad to go buy some. The act had meant so much at the time when their large family was having a struggle to make ends meet that it had never been forgotten.
Passing years brought their attendant joys and sorrows. As the ranks of older friends thinned out, new joys came with the birth of additional grand and great grandchildren. Posterity all looked forward to Grandfather and Grandmother's birthdays, holidays and anniversaries when they gathered at the old home for food and fun. Both of their birthday parties were yearly family highlights. Children fondly recall the song fests which were part of these celebrations. The singing of Charlotte and her sisters was reminiscent of their solo and duet singing with the choir and particularly of the duets they sang at the dedication of the St. George Temple. Many of their children brought prepared foods and came with the ir families to enjoy every Sunday with their parents.
How glad they were to invite family and friends to the IOOF Hall in 1928 to rejoice with them in the 50th milestone of their married life. It was a gala evening with program, dance and refreshments. J. F. Tolton with a spicy humorous talk was just one of the many participants on the program. The children presented their beloved parents with gold pieces indicative of their fifty golden years together. Young and old joined in the dancing to the strains of music by Charles Waters, Margery Mackerell, Wallace Paxton and Kate Joseph. It may have been Ila Fox at the piano for both she and Kate played with the orchestra. Daughters and daughters-in-law had prepared refreshments in abundance.
Children gathered at the family home to celebrate thirteen more anniversaries before Charlotte died September 5, 1940 leaving John to adjust to life without her. His youngest son and wife, LeRoy and Anona, and their children moved into his home with him. From them he received thoughtful care and close association. This arrangement lasted until shortly after Roy's death in July 1942, when he went to live in the homes of his children, moving about from one to another.
He couldn't be entirely contented under these conditions mainly because he was unable to get about much because of pain and weakness in his legs. He often said that if it weren't for his legs he would be as good as a young man. This problem he solved by fastening casters to the legs of his chair. It offered support as he walked and a ready place to sit when he became tired.
His birthdays were remembered and mentioned in the local press. The last one to be observed as the 93rd, the month previous to his passing July 17, 1949.
He contributed much to his posterity and the community. Truly the world is better for his having lived.
(1) It is believed that the John X. Smith family went to Beaver in the spring of 1858 or 1859. He was not 4 years old. His brother Joseph was born in Cedar City 26 Feb. 1858 and his sister Margaret was born in Beaver 4 Nov. 1859. If they went to Beaver in the spring of 1858, John A. would have been 2 years old, but if they went in 1859 he was 3 years old.