FRANK M. SMITH is the directing head of a business, a department store in scope, which is known to every family in Rooks County and which for many years has had an undeviating patronage among the best families in and around Stockton. He has spent most of his life in Rooks County and is a son of the late John Thomas Smith, whose life was a noteworthy contribution to that community.
John Thomas Smith was born on a farm in Andrew County, Missouri, September 22, 1850, and died suddenly at Stockton October 3, 1917, aged sixty-seven years and eleven days. As a boy he showed ambition to acquire more than an average education and made the most of opportunities. He attended the public schools, the high school at Savannah, Missouri, the Kirksville Normal School and the St. Joseph Business College, paying his way through most of these institutions by his individual earnings. He taught school for several years, his work as teacher being done in Missouri, Colorado and one term in Paradise Township of Rooks County.
October 31, 1874, he married Martha Elizabeth Snowden, one of the pupils in a school where he taught. After his marriage Mr. Smith went to Colorado and spent five years herding and rounding up cattle along the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, between Pueblo and Colorado Springs. Seeking a permanent home, he found it when a chance visit brought him to Rooks County in 1879. He took up a homestead in Paradise Township, but was soon more than a homesteader or farmer in that locality. He taught a school, was a township officer, and in 1886 was elected county clerk, moving his family to Stockton. His record as county clerk for four years set a high standard for efficiency in the conduct of the affairs of that office. In 1890 he formed a partnership in the hardware business with C. H. Dewey, who retired after six years and left Mr. Smith to conduct the business alone. After one change in location the business was moved to the building now owned by the J. T. Smith Hardware Company. In 1902 Mr. Smith bought the Wilson Furniture and Hardware Business, and the two stores were then conducted as the J. T. Smith Hardware and Furniture Company. For fifteen years he was an ideal example of the service that can be rendered by an undertaker. He was a member of the city council, for four years was mayor, and it was largely through his efforts that the Stockton Cemetery was bought by the city and plans made for its beautification. He was a member of five fraternal organizations and for thirty-one years was a Mason, for twenty-three years he was a member of the Eastern Star, and in 1888 was initiated into the Odd Fellows. He was also a member of the Knights and Ladies of Security, being president of the Stockton Council at the time of his death. He belonged to the Modern Woodmen of America and had been a member of the National Guard. At the age of sixteen he joined the Christian Church, but his later years were spent in membership and communion with the Congregational Church.
Beyond this brief statement of facts the best appreciation of J. T. Smith's career and character is found in the words of his pastor: "For nearly forty, years he has lived in Rooks county, and but few men have come in contact with more people in business, social life and religious work than he did. As a county official he knew what was right, and did what was best for the people. While he was managing the affairs of Stockton as mayor he showed the same honesty and good judgment that he used as a county official. He did not seek office for himself but that he might be of service to the county and town where he lived. As a successful business man he was willing to give his time and means to the community that had helped him to succeed. In the councils of the lodgeroom or the church his judgment and faithfulness will be missed. There are young men here today who have been influenced by his life who will take up the work that he has laid down and learn the joy of service. His heart was as sensitive as that of a child. His work during the past fifteen years in hundreds of sorrowing homes with their tears and broken hearts made him as tender and sympathetic as a woman. He lived a beautiful life and at the end was rewarded by being called home without a pain."
Martha Elizabeth Snowden, wife of J. T. Smith, was born in Andrew County, Missouri, in 1854 and is still living at Stockton. They had four children: Frank M.; Ada, who died at the age of twenty-eight, the wife of B. C. Slason, a farmer at Stockton; Edith, wife of J. J. Winter, secretary of the Metz Packing Company at Concordia, Kansas; and Myrtle, wife of E. J. White, business partner of Frank M. Smith at Stockton.
Frank M. Smith was born at Savannah, Missouri, October 28, 1876, and was three years old when his parents located in Rooks County. He attended the rural schools, graduated from the high school at Stockton in 1894, and after two years experience in a store learning the business he entered the hardware and furniture business with his father and later with E. J. White as partner. As above noted, this is the leading store of its kind in Rooks County and in Western Kansas, and draws a trade from a radius of twenty-five and even forty miles away. The partners owns [sic] the building in which the store is located, which affords space on the main floor 25 by 150 feet, an upper story 25 by 80 feet, and a basement 50 by 150 feet.
Mr. Smith is secretary of the Rooks County Fair Association. He has been a leader in the war activities of Rooks County, and from the beginning of the war was chairman of the County Council of Defense. Much credit is due his capable administration for the fact that Rooks County always quickly responded and "went over the top" in every campaign for funds.
Mr. Smith is a republican, a member of the Congregational Church, was several times elected worshipful master of Newahcuba Lodge No. 189, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, is past high priest of Solomon Valley Chapter No. 81, Royal Arch Masons, a member of Phillipsburg Commandery of the Knights Templar, of Isis Temple of the Mystic Shrine at Salina, and of Concordia Lodge No. 586, Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks. Mr. Smith has a beautiful modern home surrounded by fruit and shade trees, the house being built in 1906. June 3, 1903, at Stockton, Frank M. Smith married Miss Eva M. Brobst, daughter of J. H. and Belle Brobst. Her father, now deceased, was a pioneer attorney of Stockton. Mr. and Mrs. Smith have three children: Ethel, born in 1904; John, born in 1908; and Edwin, born in 1914.
Source: A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, 1919, pp. 2403-04
Submitted: Monica Schirmer Eshelman