Captain Robert Blair Smith was born March 15th, 1834 in Blairsville, Pennsylvania. As a young man he visited a relative in Social Circle, Walton County, Georgia. Apparently liking the South, he soon moved to Sanford, Florida, lured there by stories of commercial farming probably in its infancy at that time. He became involved in this activity for a few years. Prior to Florida's secession, he also taught at the Jefferson Academy at Monticello, Florida. Dates of these moves are not known, but he was in the South long enough to volunteer in the militia of this adopted state of Florida shortly after Florida seceded from the Union to join the Confederacy. No doubt this was a hard decision for Captain Smith to make as he knew he would have brothers and other kindred and friends in the Union army.
He mustered the Mulrenan's Company on December 1, 1861, and was appointed as Master's Mate. He was sworn in before Judge Steele, at Cedar Key, Florida on December 13, 1861. He remained in this unit until mustered into Confederate service on April 2, 1862 by Major R. B. Thomas at Tampa, Florida for a period of 3 years or the war. He was elected to Captain of the Company, and was appointed as such on April 24, 1862.
He was reported sick at Knoxville, Tennessee on October 24, 1862, and again for an unspecified period between April 30, 1863 and July 13, 1863. He was admitted to the Ocmulgee Hospital at Macon, Georgia on July 20th, 1864 for debilitas and discharged back to duty on July 26, 1864. He was wounded at Missionary Ridge.
He reported as present on a Muster Roll of Officers and Men of Company F, 1st Regiment of Florida Volunteers paroled at Greensboro, North Carolina on May 1st, 1865.
Captain returned to Walton County, Georgia after the war and in 1867 married Anna Jane Clark, the daughter of General Josiah Clark (Georgia Militia) and probably the granddaughter of General Elijah Clark of Revolutionary War fame. Shortly thereafter he bought a farm in Greene County midway between the towns of Woodville and Union Point. It was here that Captain Smith spent the next 42 years of his life. He became the father of eight children, rearing all but one to adulthood. Robert Findley, the son who died at the age of one and a half years, was probably named for his regimental commander Robert Bullock and his brigade commander Jesse Findley. Anna Clark died May 20, 1890.
Captain Smith’s prime interests in life were his church, education and farming. He was a devoted Presbyterian, active in every phase of church work but particularly interested in Sunday School. He produced cotton for his money crop, but like all other farmers of his time he produced bread, meat and vegetables for ht table. He served for many years on the Greene County Board of Education and served at County School Commission for eight years. While serving as Education Commission, it was his duty to visit over 40 rural schools operating in the county at that time. His mode of transportation was a horse and buggy. He was an able substitute for any absent teacher. He resigned as Commissioner of Education in 1904 but continued to live on his farm alone for all of his children had left home by this time.
Apparently remembering the Florida climate and the productivity of the Florida soil, Captain Smith and a friend drove a two-horse wagon from Greene County, Georgia to Sanford, Florida, a distance by today’s highways of over 450 miles. The year was 1910, and he was 76 years old. The particular mode of transportation was chosen no doubt so that he would have the wagon and horses with which to resume his farming operation he had abandoned in 1862, a lapse of 48 years. His letters from Florida at this time state that he was producing vegetables—beans, celery, tomatoes, etc rather than livestock, poultry and eggs as some of his neighboring farmers were doing.
Captain Smith would stay overnight at his (Captain Smith’s) daughter’s home in Greensboro. On such occasions he would share a bed with her son. (The time of these visits would coincide with the eight years he was County School Commissioner. While visiting the various schools it was more convenient to stay overnight in Greensboro rather than return to his home 10 miles away). Intrigued by the scars of four wounds the old soldier suffered during the war, the grandson would ask to see them as they prepared for bed. One of the wounds was in his back, and the grandson soon learned he could aggravate his grandfather by asking, “Grandpa, how did you get shot in the back?” Invariably the impatient reply would be “Tut, tut, my boy, we’ll not discuss that.”
During the last ten years of his life while residing in Sanford, Florida, Captain Smith made occasional trips to Atlanta to attend Confederate reunions and would take this opportunity to visit his daughter (my grandmother) in Greensboro. While on such a visit in 1920, Captain Smith became seriously ill and died September 7th of that year at the age of 86 years and 6 months. Funeral services were held at the Greensboro Presbyterian Church, and he was buried in the city of Union Point cemetery beside the grave of Anna Jane and near the church of which he was longest a member.