Biography of William H. Smith

William H. Smith, born April 28, 1857, in Juneau County, Wisconsin, was the son of Irish immigrants John and Bridget Smith. Raised on a farm, he moved to South Dakota in 1878, filing a claim in Brookings County. Initially living in a sod house, he later bought a substantial farm in Parnell Township. Smith diversified his agricultural endeavors and amassed significant landholdings. He married Mary Buckley in 1882, and they had nine children. Smith was involved in local politics, the Catholic Church, and fraternal organizations such as the Ancient Order of United Workmen and the Modern Woodmen of America.

William H. Smith is a native of the Badger state, having been born in Juneau County, Wisconsin, on the 28th of April, 1857, and being a son of John and Bridget Smith, both of whom were born and reared in Ireland. The father of the subject left the Emerald Isle as a young man and came to America to seek his fortune, believing that better opportunities were here afforded for the winning of success through individual effort. He was employed for some time in connection with the great lumbering industry in Wisconsin, and through this means accumulated sufficient money to send home for the remainder of his family. He finally secured a tract of land in Wisconsin, and turned his attention to agricultural pursuits, in which he has since been successfully engaged, being now the owner of a well-improved farm of two hundred and forty acres, in Juneau County, Wisconsin, where he is held in high esteem. He and his wife are the parents of the following named children: William H., who is the subject of this review; Elizabeth, who is the widow of Daniel Murphy and resides in Brookings County, South Dakota; Thomas, who is a successful farmer of Parnell Township, Brookings County, South Dakota; Margaret, who is the wife of Michael Mead, of Moody County, South Dakota; John, Jr., who resides in Mauston, Wisconsin; Ellen, who is a teacher in the schools of Brookings County; and Rose and Mary, who remain at the parental home, in Wisconsin.

The subject of this sketch was reared to the sturdy discipline of the home farm and early became inured to the work involved in its improvement and cultivation, while he was accorded good educational advantages, prosecuting his studies in the public schools of his native county until he had attained the age of eighteen years. Thereafter, he assisted in the work of the home farm until he had reached his legal majority, when he initiated his independent career. He came to South Dakota in the spring of 1878, and in May of that year filed entry on a quarter section of land in Section 18, Brookings County, and thereafter he continued to work by the day or month for one year, in the meanwhile instituting the improvement of his claim, to which he eventually perfected his title. In 1878 he built a sod house on his place, the same being equipped with a board roof, and his father sent him sufficient money to enable him to purchase two yoke of oxen. He had no yoke to use when he first began the breaking of his land, and his finances were such that he was compelled to borrow this essential accessory, which he carried on his back for a distance of ten miles when he returned it to the owner. He remained on his first claim for fifteen years, within which time he made good improvements on the property and began to win a definite success. He purchased his present home place in 1893, paying nineteen hundred dollars for a quarter section in Parnell Township, and since taking up his residence here he has made many substantial improvements, having extensively remodeled the house, which is now one of the attractive and comfortable farm homes of this section. He also erected a fine barn, thirty-two by sixty-four feet in dimensions, and a granary eighteen by forty feet. He sunk a deep well, which supplies pure water in abundance, and this improvement was made at a cost of about five hundred dollars. Mr. Smith is now the owner of ten hundred and forty acres of land in Parnell Township, this county, and also owns a half section of excellent land in Ransom County, North Dakota. He gives his attention to diversified agriculture and to the raising of an excellent grade of cattle and hogs, together with sufficient horses to supply the demands of his farm. He is energetic, has excellent business judgment, and is ever fair and honorable in all his dealings, and it is pleasing to note that he has not been denied the due reward of his labors. When he came to this state, his cash capital was represented in the sum of sixty dollars, and a conservative valuation of his property today is placed at fifty thousand dollars. For the past several years, he has owned and operated a threshing outfit, for which he has found a ready demand throughout the season. In politics, he maintains an independent attitude, voting according to the dictates of his judgment and supporting men and measures rather than being guided along strict partisan lines. He and his wife are communicants of the Catholic Church, as are also all of their children. Fraternally, he is identified with the Ancient Order of United Workmen and the Modern Woodmen of America.

On the 26th of July, 1882, Mr. Smith was united in marriage to Miss Mary Buckley, who was born in Wisconsin, being a daughter of Edward and Ellen Buckley, who were early settlers of that state, where they remained until 1880, when they came to Brookings County, South Dakota, and settled in Trenton Township, where they passed the remainder of their lives. Mr. and Mrs. Smith have nine children, all of whom are still members of the home circle, namely: Nellie, John, Nora, Hugh, William, Edward, Charles, George, and Fabian.


Robinson, Doane, History of South Dakota: together with mention of Citizens of South Dakota, [Logansport? IN] : B. F. Bowen, 1904.

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