This is the story about my 3rd-great grandfather, Joshua Smith, gleaned exclusively through genealogical research with just a smidgen of family stories.
He was born about 1833, according to his Civil War Records, in Fayette County, VA (now West Virginia). He enlisted in the Union Army at the age of 34 on 24 Sept 1863 at Catlettsburg, KY for one year of service. He was mustered in and assigned to Co. I, 45th KY Regiment at Mt. Sterling, KY. He was described as having blue eyes, brown hair, a fair complexion, and a height of 6′ 4″. He went in as a Private and came out as a Corporal. The military records were pulled from Fold3.com.
I was next able to find Joshua in the 1870 Federal Census living in Perry, Lawrence County, Ohio. He’s 37 years old and is employed as an iron ore worker. He is listed with an assumed wife named Eliza J, aged 32, daughter Frances aged 11, and daughter Cynthia A. aged 6 months old.
I’ve yet to find Joshua in the 1880 Census. However, Eliza J. and the two daughters are living in the household of William Colvin in Washington, Scioto County, Ohio. “Anne” or Cynthia Anne is now aged 10, Frances is aged 17. Both are listed as Colvin’s stepdaughters. Be advised that records, be they censuses, tombstone, vital records, and others can and do contain errors so if you’re curious as to why Frances only aged six years instead of ten since the previous census, or mother Eliza J actually got younger, please know that data contained in historical records is only as accurate as the individual who entered it or the person who provided the information.
While there is no 1890 Federal Census for most of the U. S., there is the 1890 Veteran’s Schedule. By this year, Joshua Smith resided at Poca in Putnam County, WV. It’s on this schedule that we learn of his service in the Civil War. It states that Joshua’s disability is due to a rupture, neuralgia, and rheumatism. He’s most likely drawing a veteran’s pension from the U. S. government but think of that in terms of a small stipend, not a living expense.
The 1900 Federal Census reveals that living with 68-year-old Joshua Smith in Charleston Ward 1, Kanawha County, WV is daughter Fannie (the “witch”) aged 29, and grandchildren Major C. Norris aged 13 years old and Bertha Norris aged 10 years old. While I don’t know this for a fact, I suspect that “Ward 1” was probably closer to the vicinity of Poca or Sissonville than it was Charleston because Bertha Norris met her husband Ira McClanahan from the Poca area and the two eventually became my great-grandparents. Cynthia Anne Smith married George Frank Norris, bore him four children of which only Major C. and Bertha survived, then died either during childbirth or shortly after the birth of their fourth child (male), Unnamed Norris on 4 October 1891. (It is my understanding through other genealogists that it was common practice for the children of the deceased mother to be sent to her closest sister to raise. In this instance, sister Fanny / Frances, the “witch”).
Finally, we find that Joshua married a woman by the name of Louisa Anderson on 20 June 1904 in Kanawha County (line 371). I didn’t believe it myself until I came across his Civil War Pension that made Louisa “Smith” his beneficiary. He spent his last days living in a home for disabled veterans, the National Military Home at Dayton, Montgomery County, Ohio. He died there on 1 May 1917 and the body was shipped back to Charleston, WV for burial. Louisa applied for, and apparently received, Joshua’s Civil War pension.
It is my understanding through tales handed down from my McClanahan grandmother and her sisters and from Mike Dacy (a recent acquaintance and cousin descended from Major Curtis “Michael” Norris) that Joshua Smith was a mean and stingy old man. Major Norris – known to his Chicago-offspring as Mick or Michael – suffered Joshua’s brutality until he reached an age at which time he hopped trains and stayed gone for weeks and months at a time. Major came to Joshua’s wake where I was told, he spat in the deceased man’s face and cursed him for all to hear. The brutality apparently did not reside solely in Joshua. It was told that his daughter Frances or “Aunt Fannie the Witch” as she was known in my family, was a hard and spiteful woman. And sadly, Major himself could be a difficult man to live with at times.
And this, Dear Cousin, is all I know about Joshua Smith.
As for his former wife, Eliza J., I still have no maiden name but I am thoroughly certain it wasn’t Veach. I traced several individuals named Elizabeth Veach in Kentucky. One of them did marry a Joshua Smith but I was unable to tie him and her to Fanny and Cynthia Anne. And remember, you have to take her second husband, William Colvin into the overall picture.