Tombstone Tuesday – January 28, 2019 – James W. Smith


James W Smith was the son of James and Susanna (Overly) Smith. He was born in Darke County, Ohio on July 26, 1843. When James was just a toddler, his parents moved to Nine Mile, Indiana with several other family members and friends from Darke County when these families obtained land patents from the government. James and Susanna had fourteen children; Margaret (1831), Mary Ann (1833), Sarah Elizabeth (1834), William (1835), Branson (1839), Charles (1840-1863), Kisiah (1842), James W. (1843), Joseph (1847), John Francis (1849), Susan M. (1852), Henry C (1854), Martha (1856) Barberry (1857-1857)

In the 1860 Census, James and Susanna are found in Nine Mile, Indiana with all of the children listed except Barberry who had died. It is my belief that Susanna misunderstood the purpose of the Federal Census and simply told the census taker who her living children were. This record was an early stumbling block for me. All the marriage records for the older children I had found. I thought were different Smith children who were not related because this census record indicated that they all still lived at home. How could Margaret have married Benjamin C Davis if she is still listed with her parents in this record, I wondered. Eventually I determine where the error was. The oldest five children were married prior to the 1860 Federal Census and are also found listed in the Census where they lived.

James  W., the subject of this blog, enlisted in 142 Infantry during the Civil War. He signed up in June of 1863. At the time his residence was listed as Whitley County, Indiana. His sister, Sarah Elizabeth and her husband, Robert Hood, lived in Whitley County, Indiana.  Several of his Overly cousins also served but they still lived in Allen County, Indiana.


After returning from the War, James married Oella Denney on March 12, 1869.  James and Oella had six children; William F. (1869), Alvin Oliver (1873), Della (1874), Dora Belle (1876), Etta Clare (1882-1905), Francis Willard (1887).

In the 1870 Census, James and Oella live in Lafayette Township, Allen County, Indiana. They live near his mother, Susanna, who is a widow. Two years earlier, his father, James, had died. Living with James and his family which consisted of Oella and William F, is his brother, Henry Charles.  The census states that Charles is 7, but he is 17 and likely helping James on the farm. He is using the name Charles instead of his given name, Henry. I believe this is because his brother, Charles Henry had died in 1863. While I can not confirm it, I believe that Charles Henry died early in the Civil War. That remains a mystery yet to be solved. It is also my belief that James W joined into the conflict due to the fact that his brother had been killed. Charles H. Smith is buried in the Smith plot in the Nine Mile Cemetery.

In the 1880 Federal Census, James and Oella have four children listed ; William, Alvin, Della, and Dora. James is a farmer by trade and they live in Union Township, Wells County, Indiana. I see no evidence that his mother Susanna is still alive but I can not find a death record for her yet.

By the 1900 Federal Census, James and Oella live in Zanesville, Indiana. They have three children living with them; William F who is twenty eight and still unmarried, Etta Clare and Francis. This is the only official record that I find Etta Clare in. She married Homer Wert in 1903 and dies in child birth in 1905.


I first discovered that she was a member of this family after seeing this photo of the Splinter School which showed Etta and Francis (Frank) Smith. I had a picture of her all these years, Grandma I had written on it long ago, Etta Wirt but I did not know how she fit into the family.  I did later find a marriage record for her and Homer Wert. It had been there all the time waiting for me to find it. This census also reveals that Oella and James have had eight children and six of whom have survived. Another fact that had I had not known.

In the 1910 Federal Census, James and Oella are found in Union Township, Wells County, Indiana. Alvin and his family and William F and his family live a few doors away. In the this census it states that James and Oella have had eight children and five of whom are living.

James W Smith FamilyCP

James W Smith Family –  1908

This was the last and only photo taken of James W Smith that I have. It was likely taken around 1908 and I am giving it that date based on the children that are in the photo and the child who is not in the photo. Etta Clare has already died and the little girl seated in the front row second from the left is her daughter, Lulu Etta. She was born in 1905 when Etta died. She looks two or three years old. William and Dessie Heckman Smith have a daughter born in 1910, Della. She is not in this photo.

Seated in the front row : James Wert, Lulu Etta Wert, Alvin Sparks, Everett Smith, Virgil Sparks, Talmage Sparks, Nora Sparks, Ethel Straley

Seated in Row two : Ruth Jackson(standing), Dora Smith Jackson, Cora Crites Smith holding James Fredrick Smith, James W Smith, Oella Denney Smith, Dessie Heckman Smith holding Virgil Smith.

Standing in row three: William Henry Jackson, Alvin Smith, William Sparks, Della Smith Sparks, Oscar Jackson, Homer Wert, William F Smith, Francis Smith, Arena Straley Smith.

One hundred and seven years ago today, James W Smith died in Wells County, Indiana.

James WSmith

James W Smith is buried in the Uniontown Cemetery in Union Township, Wells County, Indiana.


Rest in peace, James!

Love, Jan

James W Smith is my 2X Great Grandfather.




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