William Smith was born in Bristol, Bristol County, Rhode Island, 9 Dec 1770 and died in Harmar, Washington County, Ohio, 6 April 1851 (RIVR 6:104; gravemarker at Mound Cemetery, Marietta, Ohio).

He was the son of John Smith and Sarah Wardwell of Rhode Island. He was baptised by Elder Wight in the Congregational Church at Bristol 16 Aug 1772.

William Smith married at Belpre, Washington County, Ohio on 9 April 1795 Sabra Gates (Orig. marr. rec. on file at Campus Martius Museum, Marietta, Ohio), who was born in Norwich, Windsor County, Vermont on 13 April 1774, and died at Warren, Washington County, Ohio on 8 April 1831 (Norwich VRs; gravemarker; obit. from Marietta Friend).

Sabra Gates was the dau. of Captain Elijah Gates and his wife Eunice Hatch (Norwich VT Town Records). Captain Elijah Gates was a veteran in the Revolutionary War (Vermont Rev. Rolls, p. 542) and he was another early settler in Washington County. He is listed as a head of family in Stone's Garrison in 1793/1794. So there must have Sabra Gates lived, in the harrowing days of Indian raids and little to eat. Captain Gates operated a ferry between Newport, Wood County, Virginia (now West Virginia) and Jonathan Stone's farm on the Ohio side of the river. He died 11 April 1802 in Wood County, Virginia (Pioneers of Wood County, by John A. House, pg. 84).

Not much is known of William Smith's early life in Rhode Island. He was still a young boy when the Revolutionary War broke out, and his father's name is on the list of men who removed from Bristol when the British attacked and occupied nearby Newport (The Rhode Island Military Census 1777; p. 5). In William Smith's obituary it states his father was a soldier in the Revolution (Marietta Register, April 8, 1851).

Two of John Smith's Revolutionary War diaries have been published. The first appeared in the Mississippi Historical Review, Volume XX, June 1933 to March 1934. pp. 247-270, "Sergeant John Smith's Diary of 1776," edited by Louise Rau.

In the introduction to the diary transcription, Rau describes the provenance of the diary: "The manuscript, four time-worn notebooks, belongs to Mrs. Laura Woodbridge Gallaher of Marietta, Ohio. A label attached to it, seemingly written long since, reads: 'Revolutionary Journal of Smith, father of old man Smith at Joseph Backus.'

Unfortunately, the transcribers misread the name "Backus." William's brother, Samuel R. Smith (more about him below) lived with the family of Joseph Barker at Newport Township in Washington County for many years. He lived to be very old (thus, "old man Smith) and his obituary hints that the William Smith family was a bit put out by the Barker family, because they placed Samuel in the County Infirmary. It could be that the diaries were never given to Samuel R. Smith's brother's family because of this tension.

The second diary has been transcribed and placed online at http://www.revwar75.com/library/bob/smith.htm

These diaries make very interesting reading, and show that William's father, John Smith, was a man of considerable humor.

It is not known where the John Smith family went in 1777 when John Smith removed from Bristol, but by the 1780s they lived in East Greenwich, Kent County, Rhode Island. In the "History of East Greenwich, Rhode Island, by McPartland (1960), it is said that "scores of refugees poured into East Greenwich and became somewhat of a burden to the townspeople."

The John Smith family was in East Greenwich by 1785, when William's sister Mary married Benjamin Weeden (RIVR 1:88). John Smith appears there as a head of family in the federal census of 1790. John Smith died before 1803, when his son Samuel Smith's marriage record states that Samuel was the son of John Smith, deceased. John and his wife, Sarah (Wardwell) Smith of East Greenwich are buried beside their daughter Hannah (Smith) Vernon in the Newport, Rhode Island Common Burial Ground, according to the Rhode Island New Series vital records.

East Greenwich must also have been where William Smith met General James Varnum, who was a well-known figure in the town. It may also be that Varnum was acquainted with William's father because of his Revolutionary War service. General Varnum was a member of the Ohio Company, committed to a new settlement there. At the young age of eighteen William Smith accompanied Varnum to Ohio as his attendant in the spring of 1788 (William Smith Obit; History of Washington County, Ohio). The eight-hundred mile trek through the wilderness proved to be too much for Varnum's health, and Mr. Varnum died on 1 Jan 1789.

William Smith continued to work in the defense of the vulnerable colony. The History of Washington County p. 636 describes William Smith as "young, brave and ambitious. When the Big Bottom Colony was formed, he became a member and afterwards seemingly by chance escaped the horrible massacre of that unfortunate settlement." Fourteen were killed, including a woman and two children, and four were carried away as captives.

In 1793, William was assigned land by the Ohio Company in Wiseman's Bottom, allotment No. 1. (Records of the Ohio Co., v. 2; p. 147). In 1805, William Smith settled in Warren, on the bottom below Philip Cole's (Hist. of Wash. Co; Life of Ephraim Cutler p. 87). There William cleared his land and planted an orchard that became the joy of the youth of the neighborhood. He was also known for his flower gardens.

(His neighbor, Philip Cole, was also William Smith's brother-in-law, as Sabra Gates's sister Eunice was Philip Cole's wife.)

According to the "Life of Ephraim Cutler," William Smith donated his first cabin to house the local school in Warren Township and he sent his children to school there.

William's wife, Sabra Gates Smith, died April 8, 1831. Apparently, William Smith married again. From a letter dated July 1865 from William's daughter, Polly Pattin (Mary Gates Smith) to her long-lost brother William Smith (II) of Alabama: "Father lived a widower some little time then married again, sold his farm, moved away and after a few years his second wife died leaving him alone again. Elijah took him home and he died at his house. He spent the most of his property before he died was little left after his death. Our parents sleep on the plains of Warren."

From an email from lookup volunteer Merry Anne Pierson : P 69 William Smith married Jane Davis 10 Sept 1835 p. 82. I don't believe William and his second wife Jane had any children as there were no other children listed in his probate as heirs. At least one of William Smith's relatives came to Washington County. William's brother, Samuel Smith, came to Washington County in 1814 (obituary pasted into the Smith Family Bible in my possession) and lived with the family of Joseph Barker. Samuel R. Smith died 14 Oct 1875 in Washington County. Polly Pattin also mentioned him July 16, 1865 in writing to her brother William of Alabama "Uncle Sam Smith was here a few days ago. He looks feeble. He wanted to be remembered to you." This is the "Old Man Smith" who was in possession of the Revolutionary war diaries.

William and his wife Sabra Gates had eight children, seven of whom lived to adulthood and are listed as heirs in his estate of 1851 (History of Wash. County; Smith Family Bible; Abstract of Probate Records, Washington Co., by Bernice Graham and Elizabeth S. Cottle).

Children (Smith): all born in Washington County, Ohio:

i. Samuel Royal Smith, b. 17 Feb 1796; d. 1 Sep 1882 Belpre, Wash. Co. OH.; m. 1) 27 Jan 1820 Eleanor Pattin/Patten in Washington County. He married second to Jane. His obituary states he left an "aged wife and five children." He was a cooper by trade. Records indicate that between his two marriages he had about ten or eleven children, but he must have outlived most of them. Since I don't know which ones survived and which ones did not, I will not list them here, except Samuel's daughter Julia, who married Jacob Travis, according to the 1880 Belpre census.

ii. John Smith b. 29 Jun 1797; d. bef 1851 prob. in Gallia Co., OH; m. 18 Oct 1827 Caroline Bishop. He had two daughters, Hannah and Clarinda Smith.

iii. Alden Smith b. 9 Feb 1799; d. 27 Mar 1800 by drowning.

iv. William Smith, Jr. b. 31 Oct 1800. Residence unknown when his father's estate was probated in 1853. A descendant of this William Smith read an earlier version of this biography on this website and contacted the author with more information on this line. He went to Alabama and married to Olivia Jones. His sons served for the Confederacy in the Civil War.

v. Sarah Wardwell "Sally" Smith, b. 16 Nov 1802; d. 30 Aug 1877 in Ironton, Lawrence County, Ohio; m. 5 Sep 1831 John Newton of Lawrence Co. Ohio. "Moved to Ironton." Acc. to Wms. History of Wash. Co. p 636. They had at least six children: George, Lydia, Mary, Sabra, Alice (or Sarah?) and Eliazur Newton. A family letter indicates that Sarah was John Newton's fourth wife.

vi. Elijah Gates Smith b. 2 Jun 1805, Warren Twp.; d. 27 Mar 1871 Harmar, Washington County, Ohio; m. 30 Sep 1834, Eliza Hanley, daughter of William Hanley and Elizabeth Hutchinson, in Washington County. He served in the Civil War for the Union, as did his two sons, William Hanley Smith and John Smith.

vii. Mary Gates Smith, called "Polly" b. 2/3 Oct 1807 in Washington County, Ohio; d. 9 Sep 1891 Gallipolis, Gallia, Ohio; m. 15 Mav 1831 Richard Patten in Washington Co. They had six children: Sabra Gates; William Smith; Charles, George, Richard and Mary Patten.

viii. Huldah Smith, b. 1 Jan 1811; d. 1 Nov 1853, Wash. Co.; m. 25 Oct 1832 John Test in Washington Co.; she died without issue.

Note: The parentage of John Smith, William's father is not known. However, the prevalence of the name "Royal" in this family makes the Boston, Massachussetts marriage of Rebecca Royal to Richard Smith in 1730 of interest in further research on this family. Rebecca is reputedly the daughter of Samuel Royal of Boston, Mass and Bristol, RI. The family of Sarah Wardwell, William Smith's mother, is traceable to the first immigrant William Wardwell or Wardell. Another name of interest is Alden Smith, which appears in almost all the branches of this family.

Written and contributed by: Gail Blankenau

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