Oregon Pioneer Biographies


"Portrait and Biographical Record of the Willamette Valley - Oregon," Chapman Publishing Company, Chicago, 1903, pages 231-235


Irvin Lucien Smith was born in Franklin County, Ohio, six miles east of Columbus, his natal day being May 16, 1827. His paternal grandfather, Samuel Smith, removed from New York to Ohio, becoming one of the pioneer farmers of the latter state. Among his children was Thaddeus Smith, the father of our subject, who was born in the Empire state and with his parents went to Ohio, where he too devoted his energies to farming and there engaged in the tilling of the soil until 1834, when he became a resident of Tazewell county, Ill., not far from Peoria. At that point he carried on farming for many years and at length died in that locality. His wife, who bore the name of Mary Ross, was born in Ohio, of Scotch ancestry. Her death occurred in Illinois soon after the removal of the family to that state and the father later married again. By the first marriage he had four children, two of whom reached manhood: Irvin L. of this review and Levi E., who came to Oregon in 1870 and now resides in Portland. Of the eleven children born of the second union all reached adult age and two of the sons were soldiers in the Civil War. Eli, who served throughout the entire struggle in the Fourth Illinois Volunteer Cavalry, enlisting in 1861, now resides on a farm in Washington county, Ore. William, who became a member of the Sixth Illinois Infantry, was killed in battle at Altoona, Ga. One brother, Leonard, died in Medford, Ore.; and a sister, Mrs. Stephenson, lives in Forest Grove.

In 1834, when Irvin L. Smith was about seven years of age, his parents removed from Ohio to Illinois, making the journey overland by wagon, a distance of four hundred miles, across corduroy roads. He was reared on the old family homestead, attending the public schools and in his youth he was a schoolmate of the Hon. Shelby M. Cullom. The "little temple of learning" was built of logs and was furnished in the primitive style of the period, the methods of instruction being little better than the building and its equipment. Quill pens were used and it was a very common thing to hear the remark from a scholar, "Master, please mend my pen." When nineteen years of age Mr. Smith began work at the carpenter's trade, afterward mastered cabinet making and then engaged in the furniture business in Mackinaw, Ill. Subsequently he resided at Pleasant Hill, in McLean county, that state, and in 1856 he took up his abode upon a farm in the same county, carrying on agricultural pursuits until after the outbreak of the Civil War. In August, 1862, he responded to his country's call for volunteers and joined Company H, Ninety-fourth Illinois Infantry, under Colonel McNulty, being mustered in at Bloomington. The regiment was sent to Springfield, Mo., where Mr. Smith, because of his ability as a carpenter, was detailed to build a hospital, remaining there until after the battle of Prairie Grove, Ark. While there the Confederate troops under Marmaduke advanced upon Springfield and he was engaged in repelling them. Later he participated in the siege of Vicksburg, his regiment being one of the first to enter the city after its capitulation. He participated in the battle of Yazoo City and Port Hutchison, going thence to New Orleans, where for a time he was ill in the hospital. Following this, he crossed the Gulf of Mexico to Brownsville, Tex., and the Ninety-fourth Illinois was one of the two regiments which crossed the Rio Grande into Mexico to protect the American consul, bringing him back into the United States. This trip consumed ten months. Later Mr. Smith participated in the capture of Fort Morgan, Spanish Fort and Fort Blakely, then crossed the gulf again to Galveston, Tex., and a month later returned to New Orleans, where he was mustered out in the fall of 1865 with the rank of sergeant and received an honorable discharge upon his return to Illinois. When he went to the war he left a family consisting of his wife and five children. He had a farm that was in an excellent state of improvement and well stocked and which was free from all indebtedness. It was of course a sacrifice for him to join the army and fight for the flag, but he did this willingly and was most loyal in his attachment to the United States. His wife, in order to meet the living expenses of the household and to pay the high assessments which the war made it necessary to institute, had to sell off the stock and also to incur indebtedness, and thus upon his return Mr. Smith found it necessary to again resume work at the carpenter's trade in order to pay off this indebtedness and gain a new start.

Upon his Illinois farm the subject of this review remained until 1870, when he came to Oregon, locating near Forest Grove, where he purchased a farm, conducting it for a year. He then established the Western Hotel in Forest Grove, which he conducted for four years, at the end of which time he built a shop and embarked in the furniture business. Subsequently he and his sons, James and George, erected a sash and door factory and furniture plant and continued its conduct until the second Democratic disaster, when they retired from business. At that time Mr. Smith took up his abode upon his place of seven acres in Forest Grove and there he lived in honorable retirement until April, 1903, when he moved to Sheridan, Yamhill county. He has passed the Psalmist's span of three score years and ten and well does he merit the rest which is vouchsafed to him.

Mr. Smith was first married in Illinois, the lady of his choice being Miss Margaret Mathews, who was born in Ohio and died in Oregon. They became the parents of twelve children, ten of whom reached years of maturity, namely: Mary, who died in this state; James, a farmer of Umatilla county, Ore.; Mrs. Flora Hinman, of Baltimore, Md.; George, who is engaged in the furniture business in Sheridan, Wyo.; Elmer, of Forest Grove; Mrs. Esther Kane, who is a teacher of Portland; William, a carpenter of Portland; Fred, who is engaged in the furniture business in Sheridan, Wyo.; Mrs. Carrie Merchant of Yamhill and Lillie D., the wife of Rev. W.E. Stewart, of Reno, Nev. After the death of his first wife Mr. Smith was again married, in Salem, Ore., his second union being with Mrs. Margaret J. McMeekin, who was born in Sangamon county, Ill., a daughter of James H. Brown, Sr., who was born in Virginia, and a grand-daughter of James Brown, who removed from the Old Dominion, settling in Columbus, Ohio, while later he became a resident of Tazewell county, Ill., where his death occurred.

James H. Brown, the father of Mrs. Smith, took up his abode in Sangamon county, Ill., where he followed farming and was married. In 1850, with his wife and seven children, he crossed the plains to Oregon, driving an ox-team, and in September he reached his destination. Portland at that time contained but one store. He settled three miles from Sheridan, in Yamhill county, where he purchased a tract of land and engaged in the raising of grain and stock, succeeding so well in his undertakings that in course of time he became the owner of sixteen hundred acres. His death occurred upon his farm in 1875, when he was seventy-two years of age, and the old homestead is now owned by his three sons. His wife, who bore the maiden name of Sophia W. Hussey, was born in Sangamon county, Ill., a daughter of Nathan Hussey, who was born in Ohio and took up his abode upon a farm in the Prairie state. In 1846 he, too, made the long and perilous journey across the plains with an ox-team and settled on the Yamhill river near Fort Yamhill, where he resided until his death in 1895. In the family of Mr. and Mrs. Brown were four daughters and three sons, all of whom are living. Their daughter, Margaret J., was reared in Oregon and in Yamhill she gave her hand in marriage to Archibald McMeekin, who was born in Scotland. His parents removed to the north of Ireland, settling in Antrim, whence they came to America, their home being first established in Canada. In 1852 Mr. McMeekin crossed the plains to Oregon. He was a blacksmith and farmer and after reaching this state carried on agricultural pursuits on Mill creek, in Polk county. Later, however, he sold the property and located in Salem. The year following his marriage he was stricken with paralysis and for twenty-four years could not walk a step, during which time with wonderful devotion Mrs. Smith cared for him as she would a child and also managed their farming interests. She owned five hundred acres of land in Mill creek which she has since sold. Her husband died in Salem in 1885 and later she was united in marriage with Mr. Smith. She is a lady of marked force of character, of splendid ability, and is deserving of the greatest credit for what she has accomplished.

In public affairs Mr. Smith has been prominent and influential. An earnest advocate of Republican principles, he served on the first board of trustees of Forest Grove and for three or four terms was a member of the city council. For two terms he was mayor of Forest Grove and in 1878 he was elected county commissioner. In 1880 he was honored with the election to the office of state legislator and in 1886 he was again chosen to represent his district in the general assembly and served during the special session of 1887. A prominent and patriotic member of the house, he did everything in his power to promote the welfare of the state and advance the interests of its institutions. He belongs to James B. Mathews Post No. 6, G.A.R., of which he was the first conductor, and his wife is a member of the Women's Relief Corps, in which she has served as senior vice-commander. This worthy and highly esteemed couple belong to the Methodist Episcopal Church, of which Mr. Smith formerely served as trustee. His has been an eventful career. He lived in Illinois during an early period in the development of that state and has served upon juries there when Abraham Lincoln was one of the attorneys at the bar. Going to Oregon he has borne an active and important part of in the progress and substantial upbuilding of his section of the state and has been particularly helpful along educational lines, serving upon the school board when the schoolhouse of Forest Grove was built. Character and ability will come to the front anywhere, and the genuine worth of Mr. Smith has been widely recognized, making him a distinguished citizen of the Willamette valley.

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