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Sheboygan County, Wisconsin Genealogy & History

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This article was contributed by Kay Reitberger

Milwaukee Free Press - June 15, 1913

{There are photos of the former residence of Mrs. H. N. Smith, Plymouth, Wis. and of Mrs. Laura Chase Smith}

Memories Of Mrs. H. N. Smith, Pioneer Home Maker, Early Day Authority On Sheboygan County History

By Irwin M. Howe

Plymouth, Wis., June 14. - The Plymouth Weekly Reporter, founded in 1872, contains the historical writings of Mrs. H. N. SMITH which commence in the number of Dec. 10, 1872. These articles comprise the only extended and the most correct accessible information of the pioneer days of central Sheboygan county.
C. D. WELLS was one of the first Plymouth publishers and it was during his regime that Mrs. SMITH's work appeared. He continued as editor only a few years when he sold to A. F. WARDEN and drifted away.

Forty years have passed since this history was written and most of the dramatis personae including the historian herself have passed to the further shore. Only twenty-eight years elapsed from the time of the first settlement in Plymouth in 1845 to the year 1872 which included the time covered by the work of Mrs. SMITH. It was a most opportune time in the early seventies, a decade after the civil war, to look back and survey and record the progress made while so many of the veterans in the war upon the forests, were still this side of the great divide; and could a more worthy recorder have volunteered, or one more in sympathy with the pioneer who wrought or the soldier who defended?

Writer Is Highly Esteemed

The county of Sheboygan has had the rare distinction of having among its early pioneers a woman of culture and a gifted writer who during the last part of her residence here wrote a series of articles on pioneer days, which together with her beautiful character and personality won for her the esteem and love not only of her companion pioneers but also of those living here at the present time, many of whom knew her only by her writings and reputation.

Mrs. Laura CHASE SMITH was not merely a citizen of Plymouth but was known so widely that to call her a citizen of Sheboygan county would not do justice to her memory. Her reputation was bounded by no state lines. She wrote a book while in California, late in the afternoon of her beautiful life, that won her fame in church libraries throughout the country; and was such a sought writer for magazines and newspapers of general circulation.

Mrs. SMITH was born in Randolph, Vt., in 1827; her father was Joseph CHASE and her grandfather was Bishop Philander CHASE who was the first Episcopal bishop in the northwest, and was the founder of Kenyon college and other institutions of learning. Bishop CHASE was an uncle of Salmon P. CHASE, secretary of the treasury under LINCOLN, and later chief justice of the supreme court of the United States.

Aquila CHASE, the first of that name to settle in America was an Englishman who settled in Hampton, N. H., in 1640. Descendents of this family settled along the Connecticut river on both sides in both New Hampshire and Vermont, in the vicinity of White River Junction, a few miles south of Hanover. Here is the seat of Dartmouth college, where many of the CHASES were educated. In this region was the nativity of both Justice Salmon P. CHASE and Bishop Philander CHASE, the two most prominent of this family name.

Travel With Horace Greeley

When only 17 years of age Miss Laura CHASE was joined in marriage to Horatio Nelson SMITH and two years later they started on their long, tedious journey to Sheboygan, Wis. On the boat which brought them to Sheboygan, Horace GREELEY, then a young man, was a fellow passenger, and of him Mrs. SMITH wrote: "He was quiet and awkward with sandy hair; his trousers were much too short for him and displayed a length of blue sock. He buried himself in a book during most of the voyage, and went on to Cascade, there to investigate the ways of a colony of Fourierites.

Mr. and Mrs. SMITH arrived in Sheboygan in 1847, when the latter was 19 years of age. After residing in Sheboygan three years they removed to Plymouth with their two children and commenced to act an important part in the making of the history of which she has since so beautifully written. They resided here twenty-eight years, Mr. SMITH becoming a merchant, a member of the state legislature and railroad promoter.

Here on the brow of an eminence overlooking the city which they helped to found, they erected a residence and surrounded it with shade trees. flowers and shrubbery, some of which were lilacs planted by the hands of Mrs. SMITH, and they are growing and in bloom today.

They buildings are nearly as they were fifty years ago, but the shade trees have grown and become "forest monarchs, the elms, the maples, the lindens, and oaks," and over-top the buildings. They brought a library from the east and were patrons of churches and schools, and the daughters growing up in such environment became gifted in literary pursuits as were their ancestors. The only son died in early manhood.

Husband Is Prison Warden

In 1875 Mr. SMITH was appointed warden of the state prison at Waupun and to that city the removed. Six years later the family left Waupun and lived a part of the time in Milwaukee and a part in California. Mr. SMITH died in August, 1886 and his remains lie in the Plymouth cemetery beside their only son, Stafford. Mrs. Laura CHASE SMITH closed her long life at Los Angeles, Cal., Jan. 18, 1913, and was buried there.

Mrs. David CHAMBERS McCAN and Miss Laura GROVER SMITH, both of Los Angeles, and Mrs. James F. TROTTMAN of Milwaukee are the surviving daughters of Mr. and Mrs. SMITH.

The author throws a poetic charm about her description of the Sheboygan county wilderness and closes the first chapter with the prophecy of the march of empire that has been fulfilled beyond the dreams of even her poetic imagination.

She writes in concluding "The forest monarchs, the elms, the maples, the lindens and oaks, with their hundred arms so strong, wrestled with the storms of many winters. And still the 'Star of Empire' lingers below the horizon, But it is soon to rise."

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