Biography of Sheldon Smith
SMITH, SHELDON. The second family of permanent settlers in the town of Bridport, Addison county, Vt., was that of Samuel Smith, of New Jersey, who made the long journey from that State in what was termed a “Jersey wagon,” drawn by a yoke of oxen. They came to what is now Whitehall, N. Y., at the head of Lake Champlain, where they disposed of the team, no roads being then opened, and loaded their goods on a bateau and sailed down the lake, probably to some point within the present town of Panton. They subsequently came to Bridport, and Mr. Smith was one of the few who remained on his land and defied the intrusions of the New York claimants. When Carlton made his destructive raid in this State, the family of Mr. Smith, with the exception of his sons Nathan and Marshall, took what goods they could transport and started through the forest for the Pittsford forts. Their house was burned and the farm left in desolation for six years, at the end of which period Mr. Smith returned to reside with his son Nathan. Here he passed the remainder of his life. Nathan married in 1784, and settled where his grandson, Marshall Smith, now lives.
Asher Smith, eldest son of Samuel Smith, was born on the 4th of December, 1744, and learned the trade of carpenter. April 16, 1769, he married Eunice Lumm, and they had ten children. In the spring of 1787 he sold his farm of twenty acres and started with his family for Vermont. Arriving at Whitehall and learning that he could not get through with all his goods, he left a part, which were taken to Bridport the next winter on the ice. Here he found the Continental money, for which he had sold his property, was worthless, and he was forced to contend with poverty and want in this wilderness world, and provide for a growing family as best he might.
Caleb Smith, the second son of Asher Smith, and grandson of Samuel Smith, was born in New Jersey November 6, 1773, and came to Vermont with his father’s family and remained with them, assisting his father in clearing and cultivating the farm, until his marriage with Catharine Baldwin, March 1, 1795. He built a log house, where he lived until 1810, when he erected a frame one, which stood a short distance from the present residence of his son Sheldon, and where he resided at the time of his death. His children were Lusetta, Jacob A., Perrin; S. Sidney, S. Mervin, Sheldon, Phoebe M., Rachel R., and Caleb T.
Of Caleb Smith it is said that he possessed strong mental powers and a well-balanced, discriminating mind. In 1800 he experienced religion and joined the Baptist Church in Panton, but in 1804 united by letter with the Baptist Church in Bridport, with others of the family, and was elected church clerk at the same time; in 1807 he was elected deacon, and filled the office faithfully to his death. Deacon Smith was remarkably gifted in exhortation and prayer, and from the time of his experiencing religion to his death, the Bible was his constant companion and study. In the War of 1812 he, with others of his townsmen, in the fall of 1814 started for Burlington, and on September 11 went on board a sloop and started for Peru Bay; but they were becalmed and did not reach Plattsburgh till after the battle. He was deeply interested in all measures for the good of the town, filled most of its offices, and for a number of years was acting justice of the peace. He was killed by falling timbers while assisting to raise the frame of a barn, June 28, 1849.
Sheldon Smith, the subject of this notice, is the fifth son of Caleb Smith, and was born in Bridport on the 26th of January, 1810. His educational advantages were not very comprehensive, but he made the most of his attendance at the district schools of the town, supplemented by a period at the academy in Shoreham; these opportunities enabled him, by close study and a naturally vigorous mind, to acquire a fair education, which has since been greatly extended by continued and careful reading. Mr. Smith has never left his paternal homestead, having lived with his father and cared for him in his latter years and until his death. Neither has he ever married, his sister living with him and superintending his domestic affairs. In his younger years it was his habit to teach district school winters and work on the farm the remaining part of the year. As a farmer in the community, none has reached a greater degree of success. Industrious, persevering, and sagacious in the acquirement of lands, he has become one of the wealthy and foremost farmers in the county. He was at one time the owner of about nine hundred acres of land; this amount has been reduced by numerous sales, most of which were effected in 1872. He still owns about two hundred and thirty acres, constituting one of the best farms in Bridport.
Mr. Smith is naturally of a retiring disposition, and has never pushed himself forward before the public in any sense; but his excellent judgment and thorough knowledge of what is best for the town at large has led to his being repeatedly chosen to most of the offices in the gift of his townsmen. All the minor offices were given him many years ago; he was chosen lister selectman many years and until he positively declined to serve; was justice of the peace since about 1850, and still holds the office; represented the town in the Legislature in 1865-66; and many other positions of trust. It is not the least evidence of the favor in which he is held that he has often been chosen to settle the estates of deceased friends and relatives. In all of these directions he has done his duty carefully, honestly, and efficiently. Though now seventy-six years old, Mr. Smith is still hale and hearty, with a promise of many years of usefulness.