Thursday, April 12, 2018

Walter Samuel Smith

Walter Samuel Smith with grandchildren Glenn, Virginia and Barbara Smith

Walter Samuel Smith was my second great-grandfather. He was the father of my great-grandfather Glenn Alvin Smith.

Walter was born on July 13, 1869 in Bunker Hill, Illinois. He was the second of four children born to his parents, Samuel G. Smith and Ellen Henrietta Partridge between 1865 and 1884.

Mary Emma Leticia Smith (b. 1865)
Walter Samuel Smith (b. 1869)
George Smith (b. 1877)
Charles Edgar Smith (b. 1884)

 (L): Charles Smith with wife Florence Isaac (C): Mary Emma Smith Partridge with children (R): George Smith

The Smith children were widely spaced. Walter was closest in age to his older sister, Mary Emma, who was four years his senior. His younger brothers were eight and fifteen years younger than him, which meant they were still young children when Walter left home and moved west to Los Angeles. However, both George and Charles later followed Walter to California, while Mary Emma married in Illinois and spent the rest of her life there.

Bunker Hill was a small farming town when the Smith family lived there. In 1880, when Walter was eleven years old, the population of Bunker Hill was just 1,441. (Wikipedia) Samuel and Ellen had moved their family to Bunker Hill from New England, and were joined by Samuel's parents, Samuel Belding Smith and Mary Hall Smith. They lived next door to each other in Bunker Hill, so Walter would have known his grandparents very well.

Walter's father Samuel worked as a stone cutter. This was a good profession in a growing town where new buildings were needed. Samuel would have cut stone for the floors and walls of new structures. The Smith family's neighbors in Bunker Hill were farmers, carpenters and day laborers. Many were immigrants from England, Ireland and Germany, and quite a few were New England transplants, like the Smiths. Many of the men had served in the Civil War, and having returned to Bunker Hill, were now raising children and investing in their community.

Modern day Bunker Hill. It remains a small town, with about 1,700 residents. (source)

It's not clear why Walter decided to leave Bunker Hill as a young man, but he appears to have moved to Los Angeles alone. He was living there by 1890, but his parents and siblings remained in Illinois. George moved to Los Angeles by 1905, when his son was born there. Charles likely migrated west around the same time, although the first record I find for him in Los Angeles is the 1910 census. Walter's sister and parents would never leave Illinois.

Walter's paternal aunt and uncle, Mary Ann Smith and Philip Howe, had been the first of the extended Smith family to move west. They relocated from Illinois to Southern California in the 1870s. This might have provided inspiration for Walter, Charles and George to follow them. These families appear to have had a strong relationship both in Illinois and California. Walter was on good terms with his cousin, Alvin Jared Howe, who became a doctor and community leader in Santa Ana, Orange County. Walter named his son, Glenn Alvin Smith, after his cousin Alvin Howe.

Walter Samuel Smith (third from left) holding great-grandson Tom Smith. At left, his grandson Glenn M. Smith and son Glenn A. Smith

On March 19, 1890, Walter Samuel Smith married Julia Emrette Bigham in Los Angeles. Julia was the daughter of William John Bigham and Angeline Campbell of Pickneyville, in Perry County, Illinois. Pickneyville is just under a two-hour drive from Bunker Hill today. I can't find any evidence that the Smith and Bigham families knew each other in Illinois, however. I've checked to see if Walter and Julia's fathers might have served together in the Civil War, but they seem to have been in different units. It appears that Walter and Julia met for the first time in Los Angeles.

After marrying, Walter and Julia bought a house at 732 East 20th Street, just south of downtown Los Angeles. There, they welcomed their two children.

Glenn Alvin Smith (b. 1891)
Laurita Smith (b. 1893)

732 East 20th Street, Los Angeles

Walter worked for the Union Ice Company in Los Angeles. He started as a driver, but worked his way up to foreman at the plant. The Union Ice Company was founded in 1882, and played a very important role in the lives of Los Angelenos. In a time before refrigeration, residents relied upon blocks of ice to keep food cold. This ice was delivered to their home and placed in a cooler called an "icebox." This kept perishable items cool. Ice was a necessity, and Union Ice Company provided it. Walter would work there the entirety of his career. When his brother, George, came to Los Angeles, he also began working at Union Ice Company, likely because Walter got him a job. For more on the history of the Union Ice Company, I recommend this informative article from the Los Angeles Times.

Circa 1920s photo courtesy of the California History Room Photo Collection - California State Library.

Voter registration records show that in 1896, the Smiths were living in downtown Los Angeles, at 176 Hewitt Street. Today, this is Little Tokyo, just blocks from MOCA and the L.A. River. City Directories from 1903 and 1904 show the Smith family had moved again, to 613 Mimosa Drive in Los Angeles. This is in the Glassell Park neighborhood, northeast of downtown Los Angeles. After that, the family appears to have settled for some time at 1427 E. 6th Street, where they remained through the 1920s. Today, no homes remain in this area just east of downtown Los Angeles and just west of the L.A. River. It's completely industrialized and populated by long rows of warehouses.

Walter and Julia's daughter Laurita married Claude Hill, son of John Wilbur Hill and Julia Oatman of Benton, Illinois. They settled into a home at 953 N. Crescent Heights Blvd., where they lived for decades. They had no children, but were close with the extended Smith family and Laurita's brother Glenn's seven children. I have a couple of letters written from Laurita to my grandmother, the wife of Laurita's nephew, all signed "Aunt Laurita."

The Smith family came together for holidays and important occasions. In 1940, Walter and Julia Smith celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. A family party was held in Los Angeles. The photo below was taken that night, and includes Walter and Julia, their children Glenn and Laurita, and all seven of their grandchildren, plus assorted spouses.

Top (L-R): Virginia Smith Ross, Glenn Murray Smith, Genevieve Murray Smith, William B. Ross, Patricia Smith Quinlan, Claude Hill, Joan Smith McDonald

On Sofa (L-R): Glenn Alvin Smith, Julia Bigham Smith, Walter Samuel Smith, Laurita Smith Hill

On Floor (L-R): Kevin Smith, Shirley Smith Connely

Walter lived to a very old age. His wife, Julia, died in 1958 at the age of 89. Two years later, Walter lost his only son, Glenn Alvin Smith, who was 69. Walter lived two more years, dying on January 20, 1962, at the age of 92. He is buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, alongside his wife, Julia.

No comments:

Post a Comment