A. C. Smith

~ A. C. Smith ~

     Anderson Corden Smith was born in Franklin county Illinois, August 16, 1831.  After a very active and useful life spent in the adventurous and hazardous pioneer days he died at the age of eighty in Enterprise, Oregon, August 10, 1911.

     He was the son of Benjamin F. and Sarah C. (Drummond) Smith.  The parents lived in Franklin county, Illinois, the remainder of their lives, and are buried there.  Having been unable to go to school during his childhood, his first venture after reaching the years of maturity was to rent land, and the proceeds of this were used in attending an academy in Benton and then afterwards he continued in attendance working for his support.  There being so much change in teaching methods, it is not now definitely known just what progress was made except that spelling was the main subject and at the end of his matriculation there he had not learned to write, but this he taught himself later on.

     In the fall of 1851 he went to northern Illinois, and a few months later traveled to St. Joseph, Missouri, remaining there until the following spring, when he took up the journey across the plains with ox teams to California.  In September, 1852, he arrived in Marysville and there on the Yuba river he mined for a few months and then ascended to the source of that river, where and at Monte Cristo he continued successfully in mining until 1855, when he returned by way of the isthmus to Illinois, visiting his old home. 

     The following year he and Miss Sarah A. Whittington were married.  Mr. Smith and his bride immediately started out for the raw prairies of eastern Kansas, locating near Iola.  Here he farmed for a few years until the beginning of the Civil War. 

     He helped organize Company D of the ninth Kansas Cavalry, and was commissioned first lieutenant and was in the campaign in southwest Missouri in 1861, when ill health forced him to resign his commission.

     That same year he and his wife began another journey westward with ox teams.  They arrived in Grande Ronde Valley September 28, 1862, and located near Cove.  The first few settlers in this valley had been there just a year, and Mr. Smith was the first in that section of the county known as Cove.

     The whole valley was covered with a dense luxuriant growth of rye and bunch grass, sometimes as high as a man's head, and always so thick and tall that it was impossible for a man to see more than a few feet ahead of him.  Stock could not be seen at all but had to be tracked around thru the vast ocean of grass.  Emigrants had passed through here, but had not stopped because of its remoteness from a base of supplies and settlers would have been at the mercy of the Indians.

     He and John Wagner and Cyrus Barnes located the warm mineral spring which now furnishes the water for the Cove swimming pool.

     In addition to his farming, he did considerable practice in the justice courts of the county, spending his spare time in the study of the principles and books of law.  It those days there was no lawyer either in Cove or Union.  As there was many local difficulties which could not be settled without some recourse by outside parties, the justice of the peace had much to do and A. C. Smith and T. T. Geer were often called upon to present the case to the court from the respective viewpoints of the plaintiff and defendant. This situation, agreeable to them, continued until one day in the spring of 1875 it was announced that a young lawyer had located in Union.  The very next case which came before the Cove justice of the peace, one of the parties employed this newcomer, and as the other was afraid to trust his side of the difficulty to either Smith or Geer, he brought a lawyer form La Grande and the Cove barristers were henceforth out of business. 

     In the early days in the Cove he was friendly to the Indians and frequently several hundred could be seen camped near his farm while on their way from Umatilla to Snake and Wallowa rivers on their annual hunting and camping expeditions.  A practice which they continued after he had moved to Wallowa valley.  He could talk their tongue, no matter what the tribe, and as he usually wore moccasins and white canvas trousers, his unique appearance appealed to the red-men and his fidelity to his word and his convictions gave him the confidence of the Indians, as will as the white men.  Thus, he could make almost any sort of a potlatch bargain with them to the satisfaction, if not profit, of both parties concerned.

     In 1875 he sold the farm at Cove and went to the Wallowa river across which with the assistance of M. B. Rees he built a toll bridge about a mile below the Minam, and a road up the mountain which has ever since been known as Smith Mountain.  Before the road was built the difficult task of descending the Wallowa hill was accomplished by tying a large tree to the rear of a wagon and allowing it to drag.

     Here he remained for about a year until the Chief Joseph War broke out, when he moved his family back to the Grande Ronde Valley and raised a company of scouts, who gave excellent service in both this and the Bannock War.  He was very useful in these times to the government, being a fine interpreter, and always used his services for the pacification on the Indians, and much credit is due him for protection of the early settlers and in averting more bloodshed.  His friendship and good opinion was one of Chief Joseph's most highly prized possessions.

     After 1876 he sold his road--it was later the first county to be established--and moved to the Wallowa Valley, settling on Alderslope, where he acquired title to three hundred and twenty acres of land and engaged in stock raising, handling horses principally and farming for twenty years.  He then moved to Enterprise.

     During these years he continued the study of law as occasion provided and in 1888 was admitted to the bar.  A remarkable achievement for a 57 year old, especially so when his formal education was so scanty.  It shows more than anything else his perseverance, and keen and alert mentality.

     He practiced law from then on and, although he was not an office seeker, he was Justice of the Peace for many years prior to his death.  His character was forcefully marked by intrepidity and positiveness.  And another characteristic was his mental and physical strength which prevailed until his very last days.

     Though a small man in stature, yet by reason of his physical prowess, his abounding vitality and indomitable spirit he was well fitted for pioneer life.  He had a broad, high forehead, sharp blue eyes, and a high-bridged nose.

     He was much loved and respected by his family of whom there were ten children.  He was a member of the Mason Lodge, and he was an ardent Democrat.
Contributed by Jim Reavis

(Enterprise Business Directory 1902--Smith & Hodgin, Attorneys-at-Law)

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