At the time of the Civil war Robert McLanahan SMITH, upon his enlistment for service in the Union army, was given the name and recorded as Robert McSMITH, to distinguish him from the numerous SMITHs who were in the army, and thus the subject of this review came into possession of the name by which he has since been known. His life record began in Brown county, Ohio, June 2, 1824, and he is a representative of an old Southern family. His father, Affney SMITH, was born in Virginia and, removing to Ohio, there engaged in the operation of a mill given him by his father. While in that state he was married to Miss Susan McLANAHAN, who was born in Ohio and there lived until 1834, when she accompanied her husband and her family upon the removal from the Buckeye state to Putnam county, Illinois. This was prior to the era of railroad travel, and the party proceeded down the Ohio river upon a keelboat drawn by mules and up the Mississippi and Illinois rivers to Hennepin. Having arrived in Putnam county, Affney SMITH purchased eighty acres of government land near the village of Granville. Not a furrow had been turned or an improvement made upon the place, but with resolute spirit he undertook the task of evolving a farm from the tract of wild prairie. There he carried on general agricultural pursuits until his death, which occurred when he was sixty-seven years of age. He was one of the early pioneers of the county and was closely associated with the task of improvement and development in pioneer times. He helped to build the first academy in Granville and also assisted in the erection of the old Union church. In the early days he would make trips to Chicago with wheat and bring back a small amount of salt and leather. The only cook stove which he and his wife ever owned was purchased by him in Chicago. The metropolis, whose growth has been one of the miracles of the age, was then but a small town, but it was the nearest market, and to be reached necessitated a journey over roads; which were often almost impassable, for the soil of Illinois, although most rich and fertile for farming purposes, does not make good highways in the spring time when left in its natural condition. Mr. SMITH became deeply interested in the agitation consequent upon the slavery conditions of the south and was a strong abolitionist. In his family were ten children, eight sons and two daughters: Isabelle, who is now a widow, was formerly a resident of La Salle county and at this writing lives in Kansas. Levi, who served for four and a half years in the Civil war with the Fourth Iowa Cavalry, died about four years ago at Atlanta, Georgia. Jane is the deceased wife of Joseph McCLELLAN, a resident of Kansas. Robert, is the next of the family. Hugh M. is living in Buchanan, Michigan. Samuel D., who served with the Kansas state militia in the Civil war, is living in Atchison, Kansas. Rufus D., who was a member of the Twentieth Illinois Infantry during the hostilities between the north and the south, is now a resident of Colorado. Henry T., who served in the Twentieth Illinois Regiment, is in San Francisco, California. William left home at the age of sixteen years and was not heard from for a long period, but is now in Mexico. George C., who completes the family, is living in Wisconsin.
Until eighteen years of age Robert McSMITH remained upon the home farm with his parents, working in field and meadow as his age and strength increased. He then learned the blacksmith's trade, after which he engaged in business on his own account at La Moille, but when the Civil war broke out he offered his services to the government, enlisting as a member of Company K, Eleventh Illinois Infantry, under Colonel William Wallace, with whom he served for three months. He then returned home, disposed of his business and afterwards re-enlisted at Mendota in 1862 as a member of Company C, One Hundred and Fourth Illinois Infantry. With that command he remained until July, 1865. He was detailed for provost duty and had a varied experience. Although he was never in any battle, he suffered a wound and numerous hardships incident to a life on the tented field.
After his return from the war Mr. McSMITH started on a trip to Ohio to visit his mother's people. At New Albany, Indiana, he met an officer of the state penitentiary, whom he had known in the army, and who gave him a position as guard at that state institution. He remained there from September, 1865, until March, 1867, receiving a salary of eighty dollars per month. He afterward engaged in blacksmithing at Mount Palatine for five years, on the expiration of which period he purchased a small farm in Iroquois county, Illinois, whereon he resided for three years. On the expiration of that period he came to Granville township, Putnam county, and for seventeen years engaged in blacksmithing, after which he retired to the little farm upon which he now resides.
At Mount Palatine, Illinois, Mr. McSMITH was married to Miss Isalva H. RING, who was born in Mississippi, September 3, 1848, and is a daughter of Alfred G. RING, who, removing to La Salle county, Illinois, settled near Mount Palatine, when his daughter was but sixteen years of age. Unto Mr. and Mrs. McSMITH have been born two children: Charles G., born at Mount Palatine, March 6, 1869, wedded Myra PLETCH, a native of Putnam county, and they have three children, Kenneth Paul, Marvin Robert and Veda Elmina. The father of these children owns one hundred and ten acres of rich and productive land in Granville township which adjoins his father's place. Mame Belle, the only daughter, died at the age of nineteen years.
Mr. McSMITH has always been a stalwart republican since casting his. first presidential ballot for John C. Fremont. He has, however, never aspired to office, preferring to devote his time and energies to his business interests, though for five years he served as school director. He now owns and occupies a good tract of land of thirty acres about three-quarters of a mile north of Granville, where he has erected a neat cottage near that of his son's. He belongs to the Grand Army post at Hennepin and takes great delight in meeting with his old army comrades. He has always been a great reader, has been a deep thinker and has kept well informed on the questions of the day, both current and political. He came to this country in pioneer times, and the story of his experiences here in early days would present a very complete picture of conditions that at that time existed. He has noted with interest the progress that has been wrought and has withheld his co-operation from no movement calculated to benefit the community. He has now passed the seventy-second milestone on life's journey and his has been an honorable career, characterized by many good qualities that have won for him the friendly regard of those with whom he has been associated.
Extracted July 2011 by Norma Hass from Past and Present of Marshall and Putnam Counties Illinois, 1907.