From the Shenandoah to the Kanawha
- Life Story of Colonel John Smith, His Decendents and Their Ancestors
- Three Centuries of American History
- Migration of Irish Immigrants and Their Families Through the Shenadoah
John Smith was born in 1701 in Marlborough, England. His father was Daniel Smith, Jr., and he likely received a military land grant in Ulster Province, Ireland. In 1719, John Smith married an Irish lady named “Margaret”. During the first eight years of their marriage, John and Margaret had three sons including Abraham in 1722, Daniel in 1724, and Henry in 1727. On May 2nd, 1724, John Smith accepted a captain’s military commission as a horse lancer in Phineas Bowle’s English Regiment of 12th Dragoons located in Ireland.
In 1730, John Smith and his family emigrated from Ireland and relocated to the Philadelphia area of America where they had two more sons, John in 1730 and Joseph between 1734 and 1737. Shortly after the birth of Joseph, they migrated to the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia where they built their home and had four more sons and a daughter including William Patrick between 1735 and 1738, Margaret Louisa in 1740, David in 1741, Jonathan in 1744, and James Jordan in 1746.
In 1740, John Smith and others received a 100,000 acre land grant in the Big Lick area, which is now Roanoke. John Smith developed the area through his surveying and his encouragement and support to the settlers. In 1745, Captain John Smith repeated the process when he and others received a 50,000 acre land grant that was located mostly where Buchanan is today.
In 1752, John Smith became a Major of Foot and the County Coroner for large Augusta County. When the French-Indian War started, Major John Smith built a fort on the James River. In 1755, he was directed by Governor Dinwiddie to protect the settlers by having his company of rangers scout the frontier for hostile Indians. Later, Major Smith was commissioned to participate in the Sandy Creek Expedition with Major Andrew Lewis.
On June 25th, 1756, John Smith directed a group of about 15 men in a valiant defense of Fort Vause against 205 Shawnees and 25 French Canadians led by a French Military officer, Marie Francois Picot, Sieur de Belestre. Finally after an intense all day battle, the buildings in Fort Vause were burned and Belestre promised safety for John Smith, his soldiers, and the settlers if they surrendered. At that time, Major John Smith decided it would be best to surrender, and he did. However, Belestre had been twice wounded; and once he left to get medical treatment, the Indians became more hostile and burned John Smith’s namesake son to death while they forced John Smith to watch. Then they left with their captives including John Smith and his son Joseph, who had also been wounded. The major accomplishment of their valiant Fort Vause defense was that the wounding of the French leader stopped the French-led group of Shawnees from further executing their plan to advance further east into Virginia towards Williamsburg.
During his eleven months of captivity, John Smith recorded the numbers of warriors, soldiers, guns, and cannons as he passed through the Indian villages and French forts. Remarkably, John Smith learned the language of the Indians, and he received commitment from well over a thousand Indian warriors that they would fight with him against the French if he returned. To celebrate this commitment, the Indians danced under an English battle flag that had been taken in 1755 when General Braddock was killed. Finally, John Smith was prisoner-exchanged and sent to England from Quebec on a cartel ship. While in England, Smith communicated directly with the Secretary of Defense and acting Prime Minister, William Pitt. He supplied Secretary Pitt with much critical information detailing the geographical locations of the Indian villages and the French forts, the numbers of the French and Indian warriors, soldiers, and weapons. John Smith even suggested a plan to win the war and volunteered to lead the expedition.
After John Smith’s return to Virginia, even though the young ambitious Colonel George Washington did not support his proposed plan, John Smith was honored by the reading of a Memorial documenting his accomplishments to the House of Burgesses. More importantly, William Pitt, armed with the newly acquired information that John Smith had given him, reversed the battle outcomes from victories for the French to victories for the English. He did this by overwhelming the French through the use of an extraordinary amount of English resources and professional military leadership. Within a year of the conversations between William Pitt and John Smith, the English were well on their way to winning the French-Indian War. I strongly believe that John Smith’s conversations were highly influential on William Pitt to convince him to place the appropriate resources in America to quickly turn around and win the French-Indian War. John Smith’s meetings with William Pitt were certainly a turning point to the French-Indian War.
When the Revolutionary War started, Colonel John Smith was disappointed when he could not receive a military commission to fight due to his advanced age. However, due to his outstanding communication skills and personality, he continued to participate in the war by recruiting militia and preparing them for battle.
Fortunately, Colonel Smith was able to observe, with great pride, his sons’, son-in-law’s, and grandsons’ heroic participation and involvement in the Revolutionary War. There were definitely no Tories in Colonel John Smith’s family! Finally in late 1782 or early 1783 about a year to 18 months after the victory at Yorktown, Colonel John Smith, a true Pioneer Patriot of the 18th Century, died peacefully as an American hero.
Robert Douthat Stoner stated in his book, A Seed-Bed of the Republic, that Colonel John Smith, “was considered by many to be the noblest patriot of them all.”
The last half of From the Shenandoah to the Kanawha documents the 300-year history of Colonel Smith’s descendants focusing mostly on his descendants that directly connect to our current Smith family today. Also, the final part of the book identifies most of our direct ancestors by going back in time for three centuries from today’s generation to Colonel John Smith’s generation. There is also an appendix that shows illustrations related to Colonel Smith’s life, family pictures and portraits, and family homes. From the Shenandoah to the Kanawha has 560 pages, an attractive hard cover, and is priced at $28.00 plus sales tax and S&H, if applicable.
August 7th, 2008