“The John Smith Family of Northwest Princeville” is a biography written by Miss Mary J. Smith in 1906. The book details the lives of John Smith and his wife Jane Payne, who settled in Princeville Township in Illinois in 1844. The couple, along with other friends and relatives, traveled from Virginia to Illinois in prairie schooners, enduring six weeks on the road. The book describes the couple’s lives as pioneers, their family history, and their contributions to the community. The biography also highlights the religious and pious nature of the Smith family, including the family’s devotion to family worship.
By Miss Mary J. Smith, 1906
Miss Jane Payne was born August 16, 1825, near Hillsville, Carroll County, Virginia, when about sixteen years of age she came West to Illinois and settled on Section 7 in Princeville Township, where she resided until the fall of 1890, then becoming a resident of the Village of Princeville.
Her parents, Walter and Rachel Payne, had come up from North Carolina and settled in that part of Virginia when it was a new country, and wild turkey, deer and black bear inhabited the Blue Ridge Mountains, near which they lived, Grandfather Payne was a gun-smith by trade; he also did blacksmith work, both of which trades were very useful to the community in those days when almost everything in those lines was wrought out by hand. He was also a great hunter and loved to tell of his hunting adventures, how straight he could shoot, and of how much game he killed with the first pound of powder he ever had bought for him:
sixty wild turkeys, two deer and one bear. Grandmother Payne also could handle a gun. One day a large blue winged hawk was after her chickens, and she took down grandfather’s gun and went after the hawk and shot it.
In those days the pioneer women were not nervous, they were equal to any emergency. They could kill a snake, shoot a hawk or kill a bear, like Betsey Bobbitt did. Her brother, Uncle Abram Cooley, had come West to Illinois, and had gone back to Virginia to settle up an estate, and told what a fine country this was, and gave such a glowing account of this rich black prairie soil, that Uncle Ben Cooley said that he didn’t believe the Almighty ever made such a difference in countries as he described.
Anyway Grandfather and Grandmother decided to become pioneers once more and cast their lot in the Sucker State this time, and in September 1842, in company with other friends and relatives to the number of twenty-seven, they started ”West” in prairie schooners. Of that goodly number they have “gathered homeward one by one,” until Mrs, Smith now is the only one left to ford the River.
They were six weeks on the road, traveling by day and camping out nights, sleeping in the wagons or under a tent cloth. Sometimes if it rained the women and children were sheltered in the homes, which in those days were very hospitably inclined.
In those days the opportunities for receiving an education were very different from now, Miss Jane had an opportunity to go to Rochester and live with a kind lady and go to school, but fidelity to her mother who was in feeble health, caused her to decide otherwise and miss the opportunity. Surely the promise has been verified in her case, for the Lord hath said, “Honor thy father and thy mother that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.”
Her husband, John Smith, was born in Rutherglen, Lanarkshire, Scotland, December 14, 1822. He removed with his parents to Glasgow when between three and four years of age and was educated at Mr. McEwen’s school in the Barony parish, receiving many prizes from the principal, the Rev. McFarland, minister in the High Church of Glasgow.
After leaving school he spent a few years as clerk in a bookstore, where he acquired a taste for reading which lasted through life, He also worked for a short time in a factory as dresser, He came to America in 1841, and settled in Princeville Township in 1844 as a farmer, where he resided until his death, the 27th of May 1890.
It was here he met his “Bonnie Jean” of whom he sung in the Scottish melody so quaintly sweet. In the flowery month of May he was married to Miss Jane Payne by the side of the log cabin home, under two great spreading oak trees, May 18, 1848. Rev. Robt. Breese, whose narrow home is now in the Princeville cemetery where the weeping willow waves, spoke the mystic words that united their lives until death did them part. To them were born eight children: Isabella, Rachel, John, Walter, Mary J., Margaret A., William W., and Lizzie S.
For more than sixteen ears, his children and grandchildren have missed his fatherly counsel, but the companion who journeyed by his side for forty-two years, has missed him most, And as the boatman, with his noiseless oars, comes to row us one by one over the resistless tide, we trust that only the ripples may come and go, as she crosses the bar that separates her from that great company of loved ones who have already crossed the tide, and hear the Welcome Home.*
Grandfather Smith was born at Rutherglen, near Glasgow, Scotland, about the year 1789, and died at his home near Princeville, ill., March 27, 1852, aged 63 years. His name was John, that being the name of the oldest son in each family for more than two hundred years previously. Grandmother Smith, whose maiden name was Margaret White, died in Scotland leaving four small children. Afterward he married Bethia Eura, who was born at Rutherglen also, in 1798, and died at her home near Princeville, October 24, 1876, aged 78 years.
They emigrated to America in the fall of 1842 and landed at New Orleans after being nine weeks on the ocean voyage. A fearful hurricane off the Gulf of Mexico drove the vessel back 300 miles and prolonged the voyage. They thought, for a time, the vessel with all on board would find a watery grave, but a kind Providence spared their lives, and they reached their destination, America. They stayed in New Orleans a short time and then came to St. Louis, Mo., with their family consisting of the following children: Margaret, Isabella, Robert, Jannet, Archibald and David. After remaining in St. Louis about two years, they came to Princeville Township in the spring of 1844. The oldest son, John, who had come to America about a year previously, came from Canada to visit them soon after their arrival. It was to be with him as well as to better their condition that the family had come to America.
Grandfather Smith enlisted in the Peninsular war when quite a young man (war between England and France and their allied powers, the Duke of Wellington and Napoleon Bonaparte commanding the respective sides). He was in the army about nine years, and his time expired about three weeks before the battle of Waterloo, He was wounded in battle, once lying on the battlefield three or four days before he could get away and saw the hardships of army life. At times they were so reduced in rations as to be glad to get the corn that was fed to the horses.
Grandfather was a man of deeply pious and religious temperament and administered to the spiritual needs of many of the early settlers far and near. He was in the habit of gathering his family around him night and morning for family worship, and died, as he had lived, trusting in the living God.
Grandmother Smith was a strong woman physically. She washed in the early days to help along and walked and carried one of her grandchildren from Peoria to their home in Princeville Township, a distance of 27 miles. She was the mother of eight children, five of whom died in Scotland. She also was a woman with strong convictions of right, and the writer’s earliest recollection of her was of seeing her seated at a table near a window, knitting, with her open Bible before her, sometimes reading aloud from the word of God. Coming here as they did in the early days, they knew the hardships and privations of pioneer life, but by persevering industry accumulated a comfortable amount of this world’s goods and blazed the way for their posterity. They are entitled to our reverence and sincerest gratitude and respect.