What comes to mind for me when you say “Close to Home” is when families stay in the same general area for several generations. When grandchildren and grandparents grow up and old together. When cousins grow up together and are your first and longest friends. When adult siblings remain close and they often are doing things together. In 2020, I believe that this is a rarer occurrence than ever. The small towns of America just do not have the jobs that can support families. Adult children need to move to locations where they can find good employment opportunities. Retirees move to the small towns where the cost of living becomes more affordable.
I have found through my family history research that our families were wanderers. Searching for that right place to raise families. We have many lineages who have moved to another county, state or territory in search of a better life. We will look at one family today and their descendants.
James and Susannah (Overly) Smith and their fourteen children were a prime example of a wandering family. They were from Darke County, Ohio and they left Ohio for Indiana between 1843 and 1847. James W Smith was the last child born in Darke County, Ohio in 1843 and John F. Smith was the first born in Nine Mile, Indiana in 1847. The older adult children moved with their parents but most of them stayed a very short time in the Nine Mile, Indiana area before moving on.
Margaret Smith married Benjamin Davis after his first wife died in 1851. Benjamin, his wife and family had come from Darke County with James and Susanna along with several other families. In the 15 years that Margaret and Benjamin were married, they had 6 children. Benjamin had six children from is first wife. His three oldest children were married before Margaret and Benjamin were married but the three youngest were raised by Margaret. Margaret died in her mid thirties after the birth of her last daughter, Elnore in 1866 and prior to Benjamin Davis marriage to Hannah J Spencer in 1868. I have not found the exact date that Margaret died. With the death of Margaret, Hannah now raises Margaret’s children and two of her own.
Mary Ann Smith married Jonathan Kimble in Pleasant township, Allen County, Indiana in 1852. They had their first son, Jacob in Indiana in 1853 before they moved to Pickaway County , Ohio. By the 1860 Census, Mary Ann has had three additional children who were born in Ohio. It appears that Jonathan and Mary Ann return to the Nine Mile area when Mary Ann and her daughter Susanna became ill. Mary Ann and her daughter, Susanna died in 1868. They were both buried together in the Nine Mile Cemetery with the rest of the Smith family members.
Sarah married Robert Hood and they settled in Columbia City, Whitley County, Indiana. Sarah and Robert Hood had three sons; Robert F., James A., John William. James died at 2 months old. Sarah died in 1873 at the age of forty.
The Smith brothers, William and Branson along with several of the Benjamin Davis’s adult children moved to Madison County, Indiana in the late 1850’s and early 1860. They settled in Pendleton and married two sisters, Hannah and Emily Kinnamon.
Charles Smith died in the Civil War and a daughter Kisiah died a short time after Charles. They are both buried with their father in Nine Mile Cemetery. Joseph Smith moved to the Grand Rapids area of Michigan with his sons after the death of his wife in 1890. John Franklin and Henry Charles have been very elusive. In the 1900 census, I find John F Smith living with his niece, Dora E Whitely in Grant County, Indiana. He is listed as single, never married.
Of all of the adult children of James and Susanna, only three remained in the Fort Wayne area to raise their children. My two times Great Grandfather was one of those three remaining adult children.
Front row: James F. Wert, Lulu Etta Wert, Alvin Sparks, Everett Smith, Virgil Sparks, Talmedge Sparks, Nora Sparks, Ethel Straley
Second row seated: Ruth Jackson, Dora Smith Jackson, Cora Crites Smith holding James Fredrick, James W Smith, Oella Denny Smith, Dessie Heckman holding Virgil.
Row three standing: William H Jackson, Alvin O Smith, William Sparks, Della Smith Sparks, Oscar Jackson, Homer Wert, William F. Smith, Francis W. Smith, Arena Straley Smith.
James and his wife Oella (Denney) Smith had five children who they raised near Nine Mile, Indiana.
William F Smith was a farmer who lived in nearby Wells County. My Great Grandfather, Alvin Smith and his wife, Cora Crites and their two children left the Fort Wayne area in 1919 for Flint Michigan where the new auto industry was flourishing and providing many new opportunities for employment. Alvin landed a job at the auto plant which today is the GM Truck plant. By 1920, Alvin’s brother Francis also came to Burton and became an auto worker too. In 1925, Alvin who was 51 years old, had a fatal heart attack while working the assembly line.
Cora and her sons, Everett and James Fredrick remained in Burton, Michigan. Everett became a minister and Fred followed in his fathers foot steps by working his entire career in the auto industry.
My Grandfather was Everett Smith. Everett’s ministry took him and his family to three Michigan counties during his career; Genesee, Lapeer and St Clair counties. In today’s mobile environment these three Michigan counties are relatively close together but in the mid 1930 through the late 1950 they were quite a distance apart. He was ordained in the Methodist church. They moved every few years as the Methodist Church found new places that he needed to attend to. He served in 8 churches in three counties. Everett and his wife Lillian had two children. Their first daughter Lucille died when she was six years old. Their second child was my father, Harold.
Harold met my mother Leah while his father was the minister at the Marine City Methodist Church. When they married, they lived in Lapeer near Everett and Lillian for four years and Harold worked in retail for J.C. Penney. In 1955, shortly after I was born they moved to Romeo, a small farm town in Macomb County, Michigan, where Dad found employment with a family run clothing store called Egelstons.
We moved into a new small rural subdivision built by the Fritz Family and lived on Fritz Drive. We had no family nearby. Our Grandparents live in opposite directions thirty miles away. We had no cousins on my fathers side of the family. My Mother was one of eight children so we had many cousins on her side but we lived so far away that we only saw them for special family events.
Our neighborhood was filled with young families who had come from all over Michigan or even from around the country to fill jobs being created by industries that were directly or indirectly related to the automotive industry. These young families became our friends, our cousins, if you will. The Randalls, the Jacobsens, the Trombleys, the Hughes, the Deaners, many of whom were are still friends with sixty years later.