Biography of Ira S. Smith

Ira S. Smith, an industrious farmer in Amboy Township, showcases his commitment to agriculture on a 163-acre farm rich with improvements and thriving under his management. Born in New Hampshire in 1829, Smith’s journey from a grocery clerk in Boston to a gold miner in California, and finally to Illinois, reflects a life of diverse experiences. Overcoming a severe accident, he ventured into farming, meat marketing, and even served as City Marshal before settling in Lee County in 1896. Married to Elizabeth Pearl, the couple has two children. Smith’s contributions extend beyond farming; he’s been active in local politics, education, and the Masonic fraternity, embodying the spirit of community service and resilience.

Ira S. Smith. Were mention to be made of the farmers of Amboy Township without giving a prominent place to this gentleman, certainly an injustice would be done both to himself and the community. His fine farm, comprising one hundred and sixty-three acres, is located on section 26 and contains a fine set of farm buildings, well adapted to their varied uses. Although he has resided on the place but a short time, he has already introduced many improvements, and evidence of his thrifty management may be seen on every hand.

A native of New Hampshire, Mr. Smith was born in Enfield, Grafton County, March 11, 1829. His parents, Clement and Lucy (Farnham) Smith, were natives of the Granite State, where both died in Enfield. Their family consisted of eleven children, of whom Ira S. was the eighth in order of birth. He was reared to manhood upon a farm in Grafton County, where he resided until 1848. At that date, he removed to Boston, Mass., and secured employment as a clerk in a grocery store, where he remained several years. When the gold fever was raging at its height, he went to the Pacific Slope, in the fall of 1851, and engaged in mining in California. After an absence of about one year, he returned to Boston, having met with fair success in his mining operations.

Soon after his return to the East, Mr. Smith once more started on a prospecting tour, this time coming to Illinois, where in Springfield he found employment as a fireman on what is now the Wabash Railroad, eighteen miles east of the city. While thus engaged, on December 21, 1854, the boiler exploded, and he was blown into the air, alighting two hundred feet in the rear of the place where the explosion occurred. He was badly scalded and injured, his left shoulder and the ribs on his right side being broken. It was some time before he recovered from the effects of that terrible accident, and when he did so, he removed to Iowa and purchased a farm in Madison County, there engaging in agricultural pursuits for six years.

Then selling the place, which he had greatly improved, Mr. Smith returned to Illinois and for nearly a year lived in Bureau County, whence, in the spring of 1863, he removed to Amboy and procured employment in the machine shop of the Illinois Central Railroad. After following that business ten years, he next opened a meat market in Amboy and continued thus engaged for six years. His fellow-citizens about that time elected him City Marshal and retained him in that place three years, after which he sold his interests in the city and removed to Morton County, Kan., there engaging in farming. For a time, he was also employed as a machinist in the St. Louis & San Francisco shops in Anthony, Harper County, Kan., where he resided two years.

In June 1896, Mr. Smith returned to Lee County, purchased his present estate, and has since engaged exclusively in farming pursuits. During his residence in Springfield, Ill., he was married, April 19, 1853, to Miss Elizabeth Pearl. This lady was born in Oxford County, Me., July 8, 1831, and is the daughter of Benjamin and Susan (Otis) Pearl, natives respectively of Maine and New Hampshire, both of whom died in Porter, Me. They had a family of seven children, Mrs. Smith being the youngest. Of the union of Mr. and Mrs. Smith, two children have been born: Winslow C. and Edgar Otis. The former married Ella Spencer, and they have five children: Pearl E., Henry W., Carrie D., Hollis S., and Edna B. The latter married Julia Duffey, and three children have been born of their union: Ada I., Minnie E., and Hazel P.

In the public life of the community, Mr. Smith has always been greatly interested and has contributed as much as possible toward its success. For several terms he served as Collector, and while a member of the School Board for nine years, promoted the educational interests of the district. As a member of the Amboy City Council, he aided in its deliberations and assisted in the plans for promoting the progress of the place. He has taken considerable interest in political affairs and is a decided Republican. His wife is a member of the Advent Church, while he contributes in that direction liberally of his means. Socially, he holds membership in the Masonic fraternity.


Biographical Publishing Company, Portrait and biographical record of Lee County, Illinois, containing biographical sketches of prominent and representative citizens, together with biographies of all the governors of the state, and of the presidents of the United States, Chicago: Biographical Publishing Co., 1892.

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