Silas SmithSilas O. Smith


Birth date (1846) is derived from 1850 census, and confirmed by the family Bible, which says he was 86 when he died. He was the ninth of ten children.

A grain dealer in N.J. who somehow had a windfall around the age of 40 and "never worked another day in his life."  William Smith's will singles out two of his ten surviving children for maintenance trusts rather than direct bequests.  One was John C. Smith, who was unmarried and may have either been incompetent or for some reason not in need of the money.  (John was co-owner, with his brother William, of a grain elevator.) The other was Silas, and his is almost certainly a "spendthrift trust," protecting his own family from his irresponsibility in financial dealings.  The inventory with the will indicates that Silas was the child of William Smith with the most unpaid loans to his father at the time of William's death, and though most were for small amounts, the picture of  a family man in his forties and fifties borrowing 25 dollars at a time from his father is not a very wholesome one.

Robert Smith remembered his grandfather as an "old Tartar" who had once given him a whipping; Charlotte Mills remembered him less negatively; Avery Smith once remarked on the nimbleness of his grandfather, that well into his fifties he could hold a cane in both hands in front of him and jump over it (this would have to be "by report only" unless he could still do it at an even older age). He had a way with animals, and was often called upon by neighbors to cure livestock of ailments.

He survived his wife, and after her death went to live with his sister Harriet Edmonds ("Aunt Hat" to his children and grandchildren) in Mt. Horeb, N.J. Buried with his wife and two of his sons in Evergreen Cemetery in Elizabeth, N.J. Grave site has only "SMITH" on a tall stone, but his marker says "Silas O. Smith.  His middle initial might very well stand for "Orlando," his uncle's middle name, and the middle name of at least one (possibly two) of his sons.

Charlotte Mills was told that her grandparents met when Eliza came to N.J. to find a teaching job, fell in love with another man, but had her heart broken when that man turned out to be an alcoholic.  But according to the 1870 census, Eliza's whole family had moved into Silas's neighborhood between 1860 and 1870 and were farming there.  It's still possible that she encountered Silas on the "rebound," but it also seems consistent with other known facts that Silas himself as an older man turned out to be a severe disappointment compared to the dashing young man from a prosperous family whom she married. In any case, it seems not to have been the best match--or at least in their later years, when Charlotte as a small girl would visit, they ate in separate rooms and seemed to have very little to say to each other. It could not have helped that four children died without reaching maturity and one--Lester--reportedly died early of a drug overdose in the Bowery; Joshua A. Smith Senior had to identify his brother's body in the morgue.