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Monday, September 1, 2008

HANS SMITH: The Silver Tongued Orator

Hans Smith, born in Pennsylvania Sept. 15, 1799, was already a well established man before he took his chances with the Peter's Colony. He had represented Missouri and Arkansas in both Houses of government. He was General Commander of the Missouri militia for two years. Appointed Bank Examiner by Governor Boggs over the State of Missouri on Sept. 1, 1840. He even gave Missouri's famous "Bullion" Senator, Thomas Benton, a run for his money in one election for the Missouri Senate race. Hans Smith was a very big fan of President James K. Polk and was a 100 percent behind Polk wanting Texas to join the Union. In fact he named one of his sons James K. Polk Smith. The big problem with Texas joining the Union was the abolitionist felt Texas being a slave state would be moving the country in the wrong direction. Hans was a slave owner so I imagine he had no problem with this.

In the fall of 1845 Hans and his family began their move to Texas from Crawford County Arkansas. His wife Nancy and their children Robert aged 19,Sid aged 17, George aged 15, William Penn aged 12, Leila aged 8, and the baby ("little Jimie") James K. Polk started their journey. Also the slave Jerry was with them. They left Arkansas in three covered wagons drawn by oxen. They had all their belongings and necessities in their wagons. On the Smith's way to their future home they crossed the Red River and came into contact with the founder of the Dallas village,John Neely Bryan, at his one room cabin on the Trinity River.

From Bryan's home the Smiths forded the Trinity River and camped in the current location of Lancaster, Texas. Hans was headed toward Waco Country(named after the Indian village near the land) where Waco is today. While following the road south which was probably what became the Preston Road (Preston Road/ military road/ Shawnee trail)they went off a fork to the left taking them southeast(not their intended direction due south.).

They ended up on the north bank of Red Oak Creek in between the present day Rockett and Palmer, Texas. There camp was near Rutherford's crossing at Red Oak Creek. When they camped the kids went fishing and Hans killed some game. Later, Hans went walking on his own taking in the view of the Black Prarie land. South of Red Oak Creek Hans topped a beautiful hill and looked over the prairie valley. (I've always wondered if this hill may be where Hans is currently buried in Smith Cemetery. He is the first buried here and it sits upon a knoll looking over a valley.) Then he knew this was his new home! Hans said to his wife, "Nancy, I think we have traveled far enough. Their is plenty of timber and water here.


Hans built his house and claimed his 640 acres from the Peters Colony contract.Hans was elected representative of Navarro County. Two notable contributions to Ellis County by Hans Smith was he brought the first cotton seed to the area and he sat at the table for the organization of Ellis County out of Navarro County. It was thought that Texas lands could not grow cotton but they couldn't be more wrong! The Ellis County area at one time became the world's largest producer of cotton and it all started with Hans Smith. With the success of the cotton in the area Hans built the areas first cotton gin and ginned the areas cotton for 4 years. He also built a dry goods store being that the nearest was either north to Dallas, Texas or south to Corsicana, Texas. In 1852 Has Smith headed to Houston to get supplies for his dry good store. He took a $1000 of his own and $500 from a neighbor and left for Houston for supplies. He would not return. He was robbed a murdered in Houston. Nancy got her kids together and went to Houston putting Hans body in a metallic coffin. They brought him back and buried him on the beautiful knoll on their property now Smith Cemetery. Hans is the first burial in the Smith Cemetery. Emory Rogers said he was the greatest orator he ever heard and called Hans the silver tongued orator. He could have been one of the greatest politicians and business man in Ellis County history but his life was cut short March 20, 1852 at the age of 52. His wife carried on the honor of the family and paid back the neighbors $500 that had been stolen from Hans and kept the family going. She also settled his estate among her and the children.

"Under certificate 257 Volume 1, a survey of 640 acres granted in Ellis County was made in the name of Hans Smith, who emigrated to Texas and entered the colony which was granted to Peters and others prior to July 15, 1848, under patent 362, Volume 10, to the Heirs of Hans Smith deceased."

The story of the pioneers, Hans and Nancy Owen Smith
Ellis Country History-pg 70
Hans Smith pg 117-119

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