Sunday, August 16, 2020

The Family of Orison Smith and Drusilla Knapp Smith of Bradner, Ohio

     I admit, I have not done much genealogical blogging for my husband's family.  I do have plenty of hard copy research, just never put pen to paper.  A couple of weeks ago, a Smith cousin of his, reached out to me on messenger and it has prompted me to dig a little deeper into Orison Smith, my husband's paternal great great grandfather and Drusilla Knapp, his paternal great great grandmother.

     My husband actually has two Smith branches on his tree--one from his father and one from his mother.  I have passed along all his maternal Smith hard copy to one of his cousins on that branch.  I hope to finally do justice to his paternal side.

     On my genealogy website, I do have very outdated information on the Orison and Drusilla Knapp Smith family written in 1998.  Some new information has been found, along with the ability to trace the children from this marriage and hallelujah, precious photos of Orison and Drusilla posted on ancestry .  I thank those researchers for sharing.  It's so important to put a face to the story.


Early Life

     Orison was born on October 10, 1838 in Wood County, Ohio, the son of Abner C. Smith and Sarah Mott.  He joined a growing family of three sisters and three brothers.  The Wood County birth place is taken from Orison's Ohio Death Certificate.  The exact time that Abner an Sarah moved their family from Portage County to Wood County, Ohio is unknown.  Abner's 1840 Ohio Federal Census, lists him as a farmer residing in Wood County, Portage Township, Ohio. Adding to the confusion, Abner is listed as an early pioneer in 1839 residing in Montgomery Township, Wood County, Ohio.  (Commemorative Historical and Biographical Record of Wood County, Ohio:  Its Past and Present, Early Settlement and Development, Biographies and Portraits of Early Settlers and Representative Citizens,  J.H. Beers & Company, 1897, page 332).

     Whether Bradner Township or Montgomery Township in Wood County, Ohio, during the late 1830's or 1840's, both were fairly undeveloped and not very populated.  Near a more populated area there may be a dry goods/grocery store, a tavern, church, school and possibly a doctor.  Some of the facilities may have been housed in the same building.  There was a mail service to a larger town by horse and rider.  Elections for town and county officials were held with men voting.  For items that early pioneers could not find locally, they had to make the journey to Bowling Green or Perrysburg.

     As pioneer families pushed west, some found a home in Wood County.  There was farm land available in portions of the county.  However, there were a few drawbacks, Native American tribes and the Great Black Swamp.  

     When Wood County was formed there were Ottawa, Shawnee and Miami Native American tribes living in the area. The territory of Wood County was originally set aside for the  Native Americans with the Treaty of Greenville in 1795. The land for Wood County was purchased from the Native Americans living there in the Lower Maumee Treaty of September 28, 1817.  As more pioneers removed to Wood County, the Ottawas were slowly pushed west into Indiana.

Historic Map of the Great Black Swamp.  Created by Gary L. Franks
for "The Maumee & Western Reserve Road:  It's History and a Survey
of the Milestones", 2008. 

         The map clearly shows that Wood County was engulfed by swamp.  Why any pioneers chose to settle there is a good question.  My favorite definition of the area is found online at the Historic Perrysburg website.  " oozing mass of water, mud, snakes, wolves, wild cats, biting flies, clouds of gnats and mosquitoes."  Apparently during the summer, much of the swamp dried up; however with the spring rains, it filled again.  The website mentioned above gives a good description of life during the 1830's and 1840's.  Early settlers drained their land with a system of ditches.  The land under the swamp was rich and fertile.  

      I can only surmise that the Smith family lived in a log cabin farming their land.   It would have been a fairly solitary life except to ride into the closest village or attending church.  I do not know how many acres the family owned or farmed.  Or what crops or animals they raised.  Certainly, they grew what they needed to survive.  Whether any was sold is unknown.  When Orison was old enough, he would have been working on the farm with his older siblings.    

     Moving into the 1850's, the Smith family is enumerated in the Ohio Federal Census as still living in Montgomery Township, Wood County.  Orison is age twelve and attending school.  His father is listed as a farmer.  By this time much of the the Great Black Swamp was drained reveling the rich soil underneath.  Orison was probably up early in the morning to do his farm chores before walking to school and evening chores before bed.  Summers were spent off school with farm work during the day and perhaps a swim in a local watering hole with some friends.

Young Adult Years

     By 1860, the Smith family had removed to Sandusky County with a Fremont post office.  Although Orison's father, Abner, lists himself as a day laborer, the family is enumerated on pages of farmers.  It leads me to believe that the Smiths were farmers somewhere outside of the town of Fremont.  Orison is missing in the 1860 enumeration.  In his Civil War pension file he tells that five years before he joined the military, he was a sailor during the summer months and was involved with shoe repair in the winter, living at his home in Fremont.  Since Orison joined the military in August 1862, I concluded that the Smith's removed from Wood County to Fremont in Sandusky County in 1857.

     The United States entered a period of civil war in 1860.  Orison joined for duty in Sandusky County, probably Fremont, on August 20, 1862.  Two days later, August 22, 1862, he was in Toledo, Ohio enlisting.  Two weeks later he mustered in to service in Toledo, Ohio as a private serving with Company G  111th Regiment Ohio Infantry.  I have Orison's service record, sometimes referred to as bookmarks, for his entire time with the military.  When he mustered in the record gives his age as twenty two, his occupation as a sailor, his complexion as light, his eyes as blue, his hair as light and his height as 5 feet 8 and one half inches.

     The company roll (bookmarks) for the first few months of his service are confusing.  He was absent without leave from September 6 to October 31, 1862.  Next bookmark, dated December 31, 1862, lists him as deserted on October 22, 1862 between Crab Tree and Bowling Green, Kentucky.  January and February, 1863 list Orison as having deserted near Lebanon, Kentucky on December 24, 1862. The Muster and Descriptive Roll dated March 26, 1863 shows that he deserted November 22, 1862 and had been absent for four months, 9 days; however as of March 27, 1863, Orison returned to service.

     Orison's service during the first six months of his service are sketchy at best.  Was he a deserter for the entire time or did he come and go?  Records are our best method of tracing a soldier; however during a war in 1860, I'm sure there are gaps and confusion and Orison's early records fall into that category.  

     From March 26 or 27, 1863 through November, 1863, Orison was present and actively engaged in military activity.  He became sick during the war at Knoxville, Tennessee during November and December, 1863.   According to the book, Compendium of the War of the Rebellion, page 1544, some of the war service Orison was involved in, from the time he reentered the army in March, the 111th Regiment was guarding the railroad in Bowling Green, Kentucky to Nashville, Tennessee until May 29, 1863. There was a skirmish at Negro Head Cut near Woodburn, Kentucky on April 27, 1863.Moved on to Glasgow, Kentucky on May 29 and duty there until June 18.  The regiment spent June 18 to July 26 in pursuit of Morgan.  They participated int he Burnside Campaign in East Tennessee from August 16 to October 17.  At Loudoun, Tennessee, September 4 until November 14 then the Knoxville Campaign September 4 until December 23. (Compendium of the War of the Rebellion, Volume 3, 1908, Dyer Publishing Company, page 1544) Towards the end of the year, Orison became sick and left active service.     

     From January, 1864 through April, 1864, Orison was sick on furlough at his parents home in Fremont, Ohio.  May and June, 1864 found him sick at Camp Dennison, Ohio.  He is listed as sick at a Miamiville, Ohio hospital in July and August, 1864.  Two more muster rolls list him as sick at Dennison USA General Hospital, Camp Dennison, Ohio from July through October.   From September, 1864 through April, 1865, Orison is sick in a hospital at Miamiville, Ohio.  I was somewhat confused at his a few of his hospitalizations at the same time in different hospitals.  Google searching a map, I found that Miamiville is 1.4 miles away from Camp Dennison.  Perhaps the two locations/names were used interchangeably.  

     The Muster Out Roll shows that Orison left service on June 27, 1865 in Salisbury, North Carolina.  Also it lists that he was transferred to Company H, 15th Veterans Reserve Corps on December 15, 1864. I have also seen a different place and date of his muster out on page 65, Official Roster of the Soldiers of the State of Ohio in the War of The Rebellion, 1861-1866. Volume 8, Ohio Valley Press, 1888.  In this book, Orison Smith transferred to Company H, 15th Regiment, Veterans Reserve Corps mustering out July 15, 1865 at Cairo, Illinois.

     According to Orison's recollections, found in his Civil War Pension File, he became disabled during the siege of Longstreet in Knoxville, Tennessee in 1863, with chronic diarrhea and piles (hemorrhoids).  Sometime in 1864, he was hospitalized for small pox.  Also on a form for additional disabilities incurred while in service, Orison lists disease of the eyes.

     With the various medical disabilities, following his honorable discharge, Orison returned home to Fremont, Ohio and his parents home.  When his bowel illness would allow, he returned to shoe repair.


     Drusilla, was born on December 17, 1848 in Franklin County, Ohio, possibly in Madison Township.  The third child born to Walter Knapp, a farmer, and Catherine Huffine, she joined a brother and sister.  By the 1860 Ohio Federal Census, Walter Knapp returned to Sandusky County, Ballville Townshio, Ohio.  Walter is listed as a farmer and the family has grown from three children to seven, five sons and two daughters.

     Drusilla was age eleven in 1860, attending school and certainly helping her mother with household duties and raising the younger children.  Perhaps also tending to any farm animals the family was raising.  Her paternal uncle, Issac Knapp, was living in Fremont with his family, allowing her to associate with extended family.


     How and where did they meet?  Probably in Fremont, Ohio since both young folks lived in the area.  Maybe Drusilla took a pair of shoes in town for repair and the courtship began.    Another story lost in time. 

     Orison signed the Intent to Marriage on January 12, 1866 in Sandusky County, Ohio.  Only seventeen, Miss Drusilla Knapp had a signed consent to marry by her parents.  Neither had a previous marriage.

     Orison Smith and Drusilla Knapp married in Sandusky County, Ohio on January 14, 1866 in, Ballville Townshio,  Sandusky County, Ohio.  John B. Hineline, Justice of the Peace.  Orison was age twenty seven and Drusilla, age seventeen.

     In a sworn statement for his pension file, Orison outlines the various places he has lived since his discharge.  He had to move around, as it is difficult to find or stay in work due to his disability.  When he and Drusilla were first married in 1866, the Smiths moved to Williams County, Ohio for a year.  I have found that Orison's brother, Ezekiel Smith married and lived in Williams County, Ohio.  The marriage was not until 1875; however, Ezekiel may have lived there as early as 1866.  Also of interest is Hiram Mott, the men's maternal uncle, who was a successful farmer in Williams County, Ohio.  Perhaps Orison and Drusilla stayed with the Mott's.  Ezekiel definitely did as he is enumerated with the Mott family on the 1870 census.  

     Orison and Drusilla returned to Fremont, Sandusky County in 1867 and made their home there until a move to Bradner, Wood County, Ohio in 1882.  

    I think that a peek into what would be the newly married lifestyle and going forward is important.  In an undated, sworn statement by Orison, claiming disability in the pension file, he indicates that he was a poor man and had to rent houses, never able to purchase.  Manual labor, on a full time basis, was impossible.  He was and is unable to work during the warm summer months or do any heavy lifting which causes his piles to totally disable him for ten days to two weeks.  Although undated, I am ball parking this statement to be around 1888.

     I mention this wondering how and who supported the growing Smith family.  Orison, a shoe repair man, who was able to work part time due to disability, could not have provided much financial support.  Did Drusilla also find some way to help with the finances?  Perhaps sewing, baking or cooking? Once they moved back to Fremont, did their parents, siblings or other relations help them?

     Their first child, a son, George W. Smith was born on  October 20, 1866 in Crawford County, Ohio.  Crawford County is not mentioned as a residence in the pension file.  About every two years an additional child was added to the family.  Hannah May Smith, June 5, 1868 in Fremont; Charles Walter Smith, April 29, 1870 in Sandusky County;  Eleanor (Ella) Smith, May 2, 1872 probably Sandusky County; Harriet (Hattie) Jane Smith, January 23, 1874, Bradner, Wood County, Ohio; Isabelle "Belle" Smith, September 26, 1875, Fremont (my husbands paternal great grandmother); John Wesley Smith, August 4, 1877, Ohio; William "Willie" F. Smith, March 8, 1880, Sandusky County, Ohio, Ezra Smith, June 13, 1881-September 21, 1881, Bradner, Ohio and Orison "Oria" Smith, Jr., April 15, 1882, Sandusky, Ohio.

     During their time living in the Fremont area in the 1870's, Orison lost his mother and father and two sisters to death.  Drusilla lost her father and one brother.  Drusilla's mother died in Bradner, while living in the Smith home on December 7, 1894.

     There are no records, newspaper articles, history written in county books to add to the Orison and Drusilla Knapp Smith story while they were raising a family in the Fremont area.  Orison, in the pension file, says the family removed to Bradner, Wood County, Ohio around 1882.  

     The 1890 Veterans Schedule lists Orison Smith enumerated in Prairie Depot, Wood County, Ohio.  Prairie Depot P.O. is listed with the town of Freeport, Wood County,on the Ohio 1912 Atlas.  Digging into just where today this place is located, I happened upon a Prairie Depot website that answered my question.  Apparently, today this town is called Wayne.  Wayne is a town located south of Bradner.   
     Weddings are a time for celebration and community in most families.  I have shown weddings that were celebrated during the life of Orison and Drusilla.  Numerous grandchildren were born; some died.  All were loved.  During this time, John Wesley Smith's first wife, Catherine, died in 1913.  Isabelle divorced Quincy in 1923.
Hannah May Smith and Sylvester Leroy Heckart married in 1887.  

Eleanor Smith and Albert William Webb married November 8, 1887, Wood Co, Ohio

George W. Smith and Olive Jones married February 11, 1889, Sandusky Co, Ohio

Harriett Jane Smith and William Silas Heckart married September 21, 1890, Rollersville, Ohio

Charles Walter Smith and Florence Rebecca Diehl married February 21, 1891, Seneca Co, Ohio

Isabelle Smith and Quincy LaRue Hiser married June 21, 1894, Bradner, Ohio (my husbands paternal great grandparents)

John Wesley Smith and Matilda Catherine Myerholts married June 9, 1899, Wood County, Ohio

William F. Smith and Mary Emma Bihn married March 8, 1904, Wood County, Ohio

Orison Smith, Jr. and Maude Brandon married January 11, 1905, Bradner, Ohio

John Wesley Smith and Lottie May Bogan married July 25, 1916, Sandusky County, Ohio

Isabelle Smith and William A. Nance married January 26, 1924
     The next document is the 1900 Ohio Federal Census.  Orison has no occupation listed.  Sons John, William and Orison are at home.  John was employed as a teamster and William and Orison, Jr. as farmer labor.  John's wife, Matilda is also listed.

     Moving into the 1900's, there are some photos that have survived.  As I mentioned at the beginning of this blog, I was fortunate to find pictures shared on ancestry.  I have a plastic bag of photos that belonged to Isabelle Smith Hiser Nance.  Unfortunately many do not look like any of her Smith family, so I am depending on those from ancestry.  

Orison Smith with unknown child.  Maybe outside Bradner home.

            Drusilla with daughters and grandchildren       
       The 1910 census gives Railroad Street in Bradner, Ohio as the Smith's home.  Orison is age seventy two and has his own income.  Drusilla is age sixty one.  Their son, Orison, Jr. along with his wife, Maude, and two sons, James B. and Cleo V. are living in the house.  Orison, Jr. is listed as a day laborer.  Orison, Jr. is probably assisting with the household income.  Interestingly, Orison owns his house free of mortgage.  In his pension file he has a sworn statement that he was never able to own property due to his disabilities.

     Census reports show that all of Orison and Drusilla's children were able to make their way financially.  All stayed within an hour or two voyage to Bradner, so family gatherings were able to be held.  The photos I found on ancestry show Orison and Drusilla with their adult children and grandchildren.  

     On Ancestry I found a directory with Orison's information in it.  I also included his son, Orison "Oria".  This is the 1916 Wood County, Ohio Farmer's Directory, page 199.  Orison, wife, Drusilla, 5 children, shoe repairer, own house and lot, Railroad Street, Bradner, Montgomery Township.  I'm questioning the five children.  Orison and Drusilla had ten.  As of 1916, only two had died, Ezra and Hannah.

     Two years later, on March 10, 1918, at age seventy nine, Orison died from heart disease.  He was buried locally, on March 13, 1918, in Chestnut Ridge Cemetery, Bradner, Ohio.



     On December 2, 1919, Drusilla joined the Church of the Latter Day Saints.  There was a 1955 newspaper article out on Ancestry that I downloaded.  It was posted by a descendant/researcher from the Ella Smith Webb line.  Of interest is the number of Smith adult children of Drusilla who attended a LDS meeting in Fremont and others who visited. The family continued to be close, even after their parents passed.

     The 1920 Federal census lists Drusilla living in a house alone.  She is enumerated on the same page as her daughter, Ella Smith Webb and her son, William Smith.  In fact Drusilla is enumerated directly under William and his family.  Perhaps they lived next door.  

     Drusilla died on December 15, 1925 at her son, Ora Smith's home in Bradner, Wood County, Ohio at age seventy seven just shy of her seventy eighth birthday by two days.  She died at home from a heart attack.

Thank you to another family researcher for
this obituary

     Drusilla was buried on December 18, 1925 at Chestnut Ridge Cemetery, Bradner, Ohio.  Her tombstone is located beside her husband, Orison Smith and near her mother, Catherine Huffine Knapp.  Numerous of her adult children and grandchildren are also buried in Chestnut Ridge.


     I'm not certain where I got this photo.  Perhaps in a photo album or someone sent it to me.  George died in 1936, so the picture was taken before then.

   Memories of her Maternal Grandparents
Orison and Drusilla Knapp Smith
Mildred Hiser Wendt  

     Years ago, when I was first into genealogy, I took the time to interview, Aunt Midge.  Actually she would a a great aunt to my husband.  Midge visited her grandparents in Bradner and told me some of her memories.  It is important to remember time and place with memories.  Midge was ten when her Grandfather Smith died.  She was probably in her late seventies or early eighties when I interviewed her.  Still, I found her account interesting and gives a glimpse into her grandparents.  Midge's stream of consciousness that day.

     Grandpa Smith was quite tall and had a long white beard.  In his large garden out back, he raised vegetables and berries.  Grandma Smith was short and heavy.  Grandpa called her "Duck".  She was a wonderful cook.  Her bread would melt in your mouth.  Midge remembered that Grandpa Smith would to "the boys" about fighting with General Grant.  One evening, after dinner, Midge spent with her Grandpa on the porch, which ran the full length of the house.  "I was siting on Grandpa's lap after a chicken and dumpling dinner and saw a caterpillar under the porch.    Grandpa held me by my feet while I leaned over the edge.  Grandpa asked, 'Is it a snake or a curlyhead?'

Orison Smith on Timetoast--A timeline of his life


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