Joshua Avery Smith (Senior)


Adult life spent in a variety of service or catering positions.  Appears to have worked for the family of Samuel Clemens at least in 1901, perhaps longer.  Started a catering business [and restaurant?] called The Creamery in Santa Cruz, Cal. ca. 1910; the establishment lasted quite a long time, but he and family had returned to N.J. by 1912. (First two children, born 1905 and 6, were born in N.J.  The third was born in 1910 in California; fourth in 1912 back in N.J., and the following year twins were born in N.Y.--Staten Island, I think--but somebody correct me if that's wrong--have I not asked my aunt Dolly such a simple question as where she was born?)*  In the years near 1920 J. A. Smith worked for the prominent Trowbridge family in Leete's Island, CT.  The 1920 census lists his profession as "Private Butler,"  but in that year the family lived at #11 Roff Street, Staten Island. A momentary guess to replace my faulty memory until I track it down in the notes again (because I'm sure Charlotte and Dolly have explained this to me) is that the family established a permanent residence in Staten Island, from which his job or jobs would take him away for periods of time.

His children vaguely remember talk of a summer at Lake Saranac, in New York, with Mark Twain and family, and a yacht cruise.  In the summer of 1901 the Clemens family was at their Lake Saranac log cabin ("The Lair"), definitely with servants, and Twain sailed to Nova Scotia that August with a gentlemen's party aboard Henry Rogers' yacht.  There was a similar outing to the West Indies the following April.  Twain's logs for these cruises make it fairly obvious that servants are aboard, but they remain nameless and faceless throughout.

Mark Twain signed a book for Avery Smith in 1905 with the quote (quoting himself): "Taking the pledge will not make bad liquor good, but it will improve it."  This remains in the possession of Ethelyn Sawyer Patti, the lone remnant of what several of Smith's children recall as a "full set," which, according to Charlotte, her brother Robert "gave away to his girlfriends."

Joe obtained information that Joshua and Kathleen were married in Washington D.C. by a Rev. Ernest Stires, who is remembered to have commented, "This will be a happy marriage." I'm not sure where the D.C. story came from, but it seems implausible. Stires came to St. Thomas Episcopal Church in NYC from Chicago in 1901, so he was in position to marry them in NY between '01 and '04, the likeliest years of their wedding. Jon visited the church in February, 2010:

"I was in St. Thomas Church, NY, on Wednesday, sitting in a wonderfully appointed room at what looked to be Thomas Cranmer's own table reading the marriage register for 1901 to 1905.  Rev. Stires shows up in the officiating column right on schedule, and this would have been a mini-goldmine (very careful entries in clear writing, giving parents for both bride and groom) had my grandparents appeared there--but alas they did not.  On the other hand, it seems highly unlikely that they would have been married in the church itself, and apparently there was no attempt then (as there is now, the Verger told me) to record off-premises weddings conducted by the rector.  So I just eliminated one slender possibility, and spent a very pleasant few minutes doing it, on my way to a nice lunch and a hilarious Noel Coward play."

St. Thomas was clearly a "rich person" church, and if its rector did indeed marry my grandparents, it seems quite possible that (1) Smith's employer at the time might have been a member of the church; but (2) a church wedding was not desired or appropriate for servants.

J.A. Smith's grave, with those of his wife and parents, are in Elizabeth, NJ, in the cemetery behind Kean College.

*From Trevor Mills, grandson of J. A. Smith (senior), writing in summer of 2012:

After Joshua A. Smith Senior returned from California, he worked for the Trowbridges, a prominent old family of Guilford, Connecticut. Therein lies the  Smith family connection with the Leetes, descendants of Trevor Leete, Colonial Governor of Conecticut. Bernice Leete m. Robert Avery Smith, brother of Joshua Avery Smith II, and Robert and Bernice were parents of Preston Leete Smith, founder of Killington, Vermont.

Grandfather Smith subsequently returned to Staten Island after a second tour in Leetes Island, and obtained the position of butler/ accountant for William V. Griffin, Yale pal of the son of Milionaire James Cox Brady. See bio of William V. Griffin. (financier for Time magazine). Mr Brady's son [Nicholas] became Secretary of the Treasury under George Bush 1. Grandfather Smith worked for Mr. Griffin until his [Smith's] demise. Grandmother would often tell me that she met Pandit Nehru at the Griffin Estate [in Peapack, NJ]. Grandmother was often called by the Griifins to prepare Viennese pastries at their parties. Today, the Griffin estate is totally intact just as it was over 70 years ago. It is now the Home Of the Essex Hunt Club. I hope to get there this summer.


Google images from Essex Hunt Club (showing home where J. A. Smith worked as butler/accountant for much of his adult life):

Painting by Linda Quinn