15 April 2011

Friend W Smith Ancestry

The ancestors of Friend W. Smith, one of the representative men of Bridgeport, active in its business, political, fraternal and social life, came from Holland and England and were nearly all engaged in the ministry.

(I) Eben Smith, the first of the line herein recorded, was one of the foremost clergymen of his time, and was one of the original promoters of Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut. He and his brother, James Matthews Smith, were Methodist circuit riders and made preaching tours through Connecticut and Massachusetts. Eben Smith was a delegate to the general conference of his church for four consecutive sessions. He was also one of the original promoters of Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut.

(II) Friend William, son of Eben Smith, was a clergyman of the Methodist denomination, and for a period of half a century preached in various parts of Connecticut and New York. He married Mary Esmond. They had four children; Friend William is the only son and the only one now living.

(III) Friend William (2), son of Friend William (1) and Mary (Esmond) Smith, was born in Kortright, Delaware county, New York, May 11, 1829. He acquired a practical education in the public schools of New York City and at Amenia Seminary, Dutchess county, New York. His greatest delight was in books and the attainment of knowledge, and he read history, poetry and scientific books with especial pleasure. Wishing to earn his own living, he left school at an early age and became clerk in a hosiery house in New York City at ten dollars per month. After thirteen years of employment in this and other lines of business in New York and New Haven, he came to Bridgeport in 1849, and has remained to the present time (1911), a period of over sixty years, and during that time has always been prominent in its affairs. Possessing a taste and aptitude for commercial life, he engaged in the dry goods business in 1849 and continued in the capacity of proprietor until 1851, when he entered the employ of E. Birdseye, then the leading dry goods merchant of Bridgeport, as a fellow clerk with David Read, who later founded the present great dry goods house of D. M. Read & Company. He remained here until 1860, a period 620 of nine years, when he was made postmaster, which responsible position he filled satisfactorily until 1869, covering the period of the troublous civil war times, during both terms of President Lincoln 's administrations, and during the tenure of office the new postoffice was erected through his instrumentality. During his incumbency of the office of postmaster he was a member of the state central committee, chairman of the executive committee in the city of Bridgeport, and, in fact, one of the foremost politicians of the community. At the close of his official service as postmaster, Mr. Smith entered business and organized the Forrester Manufacturing Company of Bridgeport. In 1871 he went to Nevada as a representative in the interest of the Connecticut Silver Mining Company, of which there were large local interests, and in which capacity he became familiar with the process of mining and milling the precious metals. He remained there until 1873, when he resigned his position and returned to Bridgeport, Connecticut. At this time the postoffice department was advertising for a new letter box lock. Mr. Smith and Mr. Frederick Egge invented together a lock for which Mr. Smith invented a key and they were the successful bidders. The outcome of this success was the organization in 1874 of the firm of Smith & Egge, now one of the most prosperous of Bridgeport's concerns. This continued until 1877, when the firm was incorporated as the Smith & Egge Manufacturing Company, the new company buying out the stock of Mr. Egge and he becoming superintendent. The officers of the firm were: Friend W. Smith, president; Warner H. Day, secretary and treasurer. This continued for many years, when Mr. Day was succeeded by Frederick A. Booth, and he was succeeded by Oliver C. Smith, the present secretary and treasurer. This concern is well and favorably known to the United States government, and for several years they had the contract for manufacturing all the postoffice mail locks for mail bags in use in the postal service in the United States; they also supplied Mexico, Hayti and Chili with mail locks and keys.

About this time Mr. Smith originated the system of carrier and office chains for securing the lock keys and secured orders for the entire country. The appointment of Mr. Smith as postmaster had brought him in touch with many government officials, hence he had but little trouble in securing the contract from this government, as well as the foreign countries above mentioned. He also secured contracts for all the cord fasteners and label cases and punchers used in the postal service, and for many years this firm was one of the largest contractors in the country for furnishing supplies to the mail equipment division of the post office department of Mexico, Hayti, Chili, Santa Domingo, as well as the entire United States, with these articles and other inventions, and had extensive dealings with the treasury and navy departments of the government. There are branch offices in New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and St. Louis. The idea of using chain instead of cord for hanging weights to windows was conceived by Mr. Smith, and the "Giant" metal sash chain introduced by his company is now a standard article in general use. Throughout the country for the general trade they manufacture a variety of chains, padlocks and sewing-machine hardware and attachments.

In 1891 Mr. Smith visited England and organized the Automatic Chain Company, in Birmingham, England, using his methods in the English market, and also made arrangements for the use of his patents in Germany. In addition to his achievements in the invention of many valuable devices used in the postal service and his responsibility as president and owner of such a large concern, Mr. Smith organized the Bridgeport Deoxydized Bronze and Metal Company and was its president for a long time.

Mr. Smith 's transactions throughout the many years of his business career have been characterized by the utmost honesty and integrity, and his business associates and patrons repose in him the greatest confidence, a fitting testimonial of his character as a man. He has been active in the councils of the Republican party, representing Fairfield county in the Republican state committee for several years, his work therein proving satisfactory to his constituents and the people at large; also he served as a member of the board of apportionment and taxation of Bridgeport, retiring on account of impaired health. He enjoys the distinction of being the first man in Bridgeport to answer the call by the laboring men for the nine-hour-a-day work, which fact gained for him great popularity, and he was solicited by the Labor party several times to act as their nominee for the office of mayor of the city. At one Labor Day parade his photograph, an oil painting, was carried through the streets. He was grand marshal of the Grand Army parade, June 5, 1903, and was presented by this body with a memorial commemorative of the occasion. Some of his employees have been with him for a quarter of a century, a fact which amply testifies to his qualities as an employer. Not only in Bridgeport, but throughout the entire country, 621 he is recognized as a man of public spirit and influence, and although he has attained the ripe age of eighty-two years, he is active and clear on many points. The poem which appears at the close of this sketch was written by himself on the fifty-seventh anniversary of his marriage. It is but one of a large number which Mr. Smith has composed, covering many subjects. He also contributed "The History of the Bridgeport Post Office," which appeared in the Municipal Register for 1876, and the article was republished in Orcutt's "History of Bridgeport" in 1887. Mr. Smith was a member of the reception committee which greeted Abraham Lincoln upon his visit to Bridgeport. He holds membership in St. John's Lodge, No. 3, Free and Accepted Masons, and has passed through all the bodies, including the Scottish Rite bodies up to the thirty-second degree. Though reared a Methodist, he is now a member and vestryman of Christ Church (Episcopal). He is a member and past governor of the Seaside Club, a member of Algonquin, the Seaside Outing Club, the National Manufacturers' Association and the Bridgeport Historical and Scientific Society. He is a director in the City National Bank. He is a trustee of the Mechanics' and Farmers' Savings Bank.

Mr. Smith married, February 23, 1853, in the old First Methodist Church, to which church the family formerly belonged, the ceremony being performed by Mr. Smith 's father, Rev. Friend William Smith, assisted by the Rev. Edmund S. Jaynes, brother of the late Bishop Jaynes of the Methodist church, Angeline Amelia Weed, born in the town of Bethel, May 3, 1833, daughter of Zilpah Northrop and Zerah Weed. Her father was a well-to-do farmer and manufacturer, and her mother came from Ridgefield; the family came to Bridgeport between sixty and sixty-five years ago and Mrs. Smith lived there until her death. The remainder of her family died when comparatively young. Children of Mr. and Mrs. Smith : 1. Friend W. Jr., born December 20, 1854; graduated from Yale Law School, 1882, and was admitted to the Fairfield county bar in June, 1883; he makes a specialty of patent law and has had a large number of cases before the United States circuit court, and has testified as an expert in many cases in all the courts. He married, November 11, 1884, Harriet, daughter of Jonathan M. and Sarah Knowlton Merritt, of Tarrytown, New York; children: Sophia, Julia and Friend W. (3). 2. Oliver Cromwell, secretary and treasurer of the Smith & Egge Company. 3. Charles Esmond, superintendent of the Smith & Egge Company; both at home. 4. Maybelle, wife of Horace H. Jackson, of Bridgeport; children: Esther and Doris.

Mrs. Friend William Smith died at her home, No. 732 Lafayette street, January 21, 1911, aged seventy-seven years, seven months. Funeral services were conducted by the Rev. Earnest J. Craft. Interment was in Mountain Grove cemetery. Mrs. Smith was a woman of more than ordinary intelligence and one who had a very active life. She was very prominent in charitable associations. She was a member of the Bridgeport Ladies' Charitable Society and its president until by reason of her imperfect hearing she deemed it best to resign the office, but still remained on the board of managers. Her personal attention was always given to visiting of the poor and she dispensed her charities herself. She will be greatly missed in this direction. Mrs. Smith became a member of Christ Episcopal Church and was confirmed with her husband under the rectorship of the late Rev. Beverly Warner. An efficient member of the different societies of the church, her helping hand will be much missed.


Yes, 'tis a long, long time from "Now"- Fifty and seven years all told- Since we were pledge by marriage vow, And sealed that pledge with ring of gold.

'Twas early Spring when we were wed, The birds were seeking out their mates, The flowers were waking from their beds, New life was opening wide its gates.

Ah well! the many years have passed, The hour with us is past eleven. The happiest day must end at last- God grant that ours may end in Heaven.

We're living in the twilight now, The brilliant colors of the day- The gold and crimson-graceful bow And yield themselves to sober gray.

The evening of the day has come, And weary labor greets its close, And in the peaceful, quiet home, Awaits the hour of sweet repose.

Thankful for blessings we have had, For health and comfort all along, So many things to make us glad- Hopeful, we'll sing our evening song.

And blended with that evening song Forgiveness for each seeming wrong. And when that evening song shall cease, Both sink to rest in perfect peace.

The stream that borders "Better-Land" Is near, and we can almost toss A pebble to its waters clear- And soon we'll gently step across.

But when the border stream is crossed, And we have reached the farther shore, It cannot be! we are not lost To all our loved one-evermore.

Death cannot conquer in the strife, For God is love, and Love has planned That Death itself shall yield to Life Love finds its own in "Better-Land."

And ere we leave this world so fair, The last sweet effort of the mind Shall be an earnest, ardent prayer, God bless the loved ones left behind.

Source: Cutter, William Richard. Genealogical and Family History of the State of Connecticut: A Record of the Achievements of Her People in the Making of a Commonwealth and the Founding of a Nation. New York, NY, USA: Lewis Publishing Company, 1911.

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