Transcribed from "An Illustrated History of The Big Bend Country, embracing
Lincoln, Douglas, Adams and Franklin counties, State of Washington",
published by Western Historical Publishing Co., 1904.
JOHN C. SMITH. Few men
now living have had more varied, and at times hazardous, experiences than
the rugged pioneer whose name appears at the head of this sketch.
He lives on a farm one and one-half miles east of Egypt post office, Washington.
John C. Smith was born on March 19, 1835,
in Holme's county, Ohio, of which county his father, John A. Smith, a native
of Virginia, was an early pioneer. The father was born in 1800 and
died in Butte county, California, in 1889. He was the son of Christian
Smith. Our subject's mother was Eliza (Pickerel) Smith, born in Virginia
and died in California in 1877, aged sixty-two years. The brothers
and sisters of Mr. Smith who are still living are, Lewis C., Buchanan,
and Mrs. Caroline Hetherington, all of California.
At the age of four years, John C. Smith was
taken by his parents to Clay county, Illinois, and six years later to Lee
county, Iowa, After three years the family again removed, this time
to Warren county, Iowa, where the subject farmed a tract of land jointly
with his father.
On September 22, 1856, he took as his wife,
Sarah J. Barlett, who was born in the same county as was himself, May 26,
1836, and who was a friend and playmate of his childhood. Her father
was Paul Barlett, a native of Pennsylvania, who removed to Lincoln county,
in 1885 and died the same year at the age of ninety-seven. Mrs. Smith's
mother died in Iowa in 1856.
In the spring of 1862 Mr. Smith and his father
fitted up ox teams and started with their families across the plains in
company with a train of fourteen wagons. Upon arriving at a point
near Salt Lake City the train was beset by Indians, the stock stampeded,
and the company generally demoralized. All the oxen with the exception
of two yoke escaped, and with those remaining the emigrants, about thirty
men, women and children, started on their journey, taking with them their
provisions, and so forth and leaving the other wagons behind. During
the evening of the same day they were again attacked by about two hundred
and fifty Indians. Some of the men of the company fled, leaving only
a few to fight for their lives and their families. During the conflict,
which was fierce and long, three of the men were killed early in the fight,
the elder Mr. Smith was shot through the hand, John C. Smith's brother
Johnathan now deceased, who was captain of the train, was shot through
both legs, and another brother, Buchanan, was wounded in the hand.
Captain Smith's wife was shot through the lungs, and her little daughter
was so badly wounded that she died on the road six days later. For
her interment our subject dug a grave with a knife, the only implement
at hand. Mrs. Captain Smith is still living in California.
For six days after the fight the company, having made a hasty retreat leaving
behind the dead, and all their provisions, made its way on foot, as the
remaining cattle had been killed. During this time the members of
the company subsisted entirely upon herbs that grew by the wayside.
Thus they finally reached the city of Salt Lake, where they found food
and shelter, and attention for the wounded. Here our subject's parents
remained until the following spring, but he, with his brother Lewis, procured
a team and drove on to the Star City, Nevada mines, passed the winter in
Washo, and came on to Sonoma county, California in the spring. After
three years Mr. Smith removed to Monterey county, in 1867 to Oregon, and
thence back to Nevada. In 1871 he took his family by rail to Red
Willow, Nebraska, where he took a pre-emption. Here he farmed with
poor success until 1875, when he returned to California, where he lived
at various places until driving overland to the John Day country in Oregan
two years later. In the fall of 1878 he removed to the vicinity of
Colfax, Washington, and two years afterward came to his present locality.
He arrived here a poor man so was compelled to work for wages in order
to earn money with which to improve his homestead. Subsequently he
sold one half of his homestead, leaving him now the owner of eighty acres
of improved agricultural land. He has prospered since coming here,
and is now considered well-to-do, and lives a life of retirement.
Mr. Smith was so unfortunate on March 4, 1904,
as to lose by death his wife, who had been his wedded companion forty-eight
Mr. and Mrs. Smith were devoted members of
the United Brethren church. They were parents of four children; Audry
S., who lives at home; Lavina M., wife of John Collins, of Morrow county,
Oregon; Lillie A., wife of Charles Randall, Egypt, Washington; and Nettie,
wife of William S. Blake, who farms near Larene, Washington.