DICK TAYOR, SUSAN STAFFORD and JILL JOSEPH produced this selection.

Life and Times of

     Benjamin Franklin Smith was born 27 September 1834/35/36 in Henry County, Tennessee. With his first wife, Mary Tartt (b. 1839, Edwardsville, IL) he had four children: Jesse, Elsie, Soffia, and Ida. Elsie, my great-grandmother, married Frank H. Wilmoth, 1883, Lawrence, Kansas.

     B. F.'s parents were Henry F. Smith (d. 1842; no other info) and Mary Elizabeth Randle, b. June 1815 in North Carolina; d. 10-02-1903 in Lawrence, Kansas. Mary was descended from John Randle & Sally Callaway; and Richard Randle & Polly Rufty (the soldier mentioned in B. F.'s article.

     Richard Randle is one of 23 Revolutionary soldiers (along with brother Isham) whose names are on the bronze plaque at the entrance to Madison Co., Illinois Court House as those who are buried in Madison Co., Edwardsville, Illinois.

     Interestingly, Benjamin Smith declared himself an only child in the 1900 US census. However, research has shown that he had 3 siblings: James, Mary, and Robert, and 2 half-siblings: George Winn and ? Parker. There is currently no information on these siblings. His mother was married at least 3 times, and Benjamin was married at least 3 times.

     He is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery, Lawrence, along with his mother, 2nd wife Urath, uncle John A. Randle, and Mary Effie Smith (whose exact relationship I have been unable to establish).
                  --Jill Joseph

--From the Lawrence Daily Journal-World, 1921:

B. F. Smith Tells How He Met
Lincoln and Douglas While Railroad Worker

B. F. Smith, Douglas county horticulturist, had a two page article in the March number of the Illinois Central magazine, in which he tells of his railroading experiences as a boy and relates experiences when Lincoln and Douglas were passengers on his train before the civil war. Mr. Smith was moved to write to President Markham of the Illinois Central after reading the story of the latter's life which was published in the October number of the American Magazine. Mr. Smith's letter as reprinted in the railroad magazine, was as follows:

I was an employee of the Illinois Central for eight years, beginning in April 1858. I went to work as a freight brakeman on the South division, and in 1859 I was transferred to the Chicago division, running between Centralia and Chicago. In November of that year I was transferred back to the South division and was promoted to a baggage master, and I continued to serve the Illinois Central until March 1, 1866, when I resigned to go into the business of fruit growing. I was in the fruit growing business more than fifty years, but am now retired, having passed my 85th birthday.

The First Strawberries

In 1860, about the 5th of May, I carried the first packages of strawberries handled on the Illinois Central. The berries were packed in an old fashioned candy box holding about two gallons, and the box was marked to H. W. Newhall, Chicago. They were grown by the station agent at Ullin, twenty miles north of Cairo. Cobden later became the big strawberry center in southern Illinois. In 1862, 1863 and 1864 the Cobden berry growers received $1 a quart during the first two weeks of berry picking. There were other stations along the line of the railroad in southern Illinois in 1865, and a man at Centralia planted ten acres. Anna and Dongola also began to plant small patches; so the Cobden berry men then had only about four to six days advantage at the price of $1 a quart. It was several years before anyone began shipping berries from Tennessee and Arkansas.

The first peach orchard in southern Illinois of which I remember was one of ten acres planted on a high elevation a half mile east of Cobden. During the peach ripening season of 1858 a very poor class of seedling peaches was shipped to the Chicago market in common board boxes before the orchards of fine budded fruit came into bearing for commercial purposes, which was between 1862 and 1864.

The Illinois Central made southern Illinois a good place to live and make money; in fact, the Illinois central did more for settlement in Illinois, than any other railroad in the state.

Heard Lincoln and Douglas

In the fall of 1858 Stephen A. Douglas and Abraham Lincoln were canvassing the state in joint debate for election to the United States Senate. I was the brakeman on the special train sent to Jonesborro, where these two distinguished men were to speak. There were only three Republicans in the town to hear Mr. Lincoln, but thousands of Democrats to hear Mr. Douglas.

When we arrived at the station four or five young men came into the car and carried Mr. Douglas to a hack, not allowing his feet to touch the platform.

Mr. Lincoln's three Republican friends were not there to receive him. Though only a boy then, it seemed to me that Mr. Lincoln made the best argument on slavery. His face was covered with smiles from the beginning to the last words of his speech.

In the spring and summer of 1859, when I was a brakeman on the Chicago division, Mr. Douglas came aboard at Odin, going to Chicago. He asked me if he could sit in my seat, as he wanted to step out and shake hands with his friends. I told him he must sit next the window, that I must sit near the door to attend the brake at the station. He offered me a cigar, which I refused, saying I never smoked.

He shouted, "What! A railroad man who does not smoke?"

"Yes, sir."

After we had lunch at Champaign Mr. Douglas went into the second class car and rode until we reached Chicago, where I went forward to look after my train chest. Mr. Douglas had a bottle in his grip that had a little whisky in it.

He said, "Here, Brakeman, is some mighty good whisky."

I refused to drink it, saying that I did not like it. Friends carried him out and put him in a cab and sent him to a hotel.

A Ride With Lincoln

The same year, in October, that Mr. Douglas sat with me on a 20 mile ride, Mr. Lincoln sat in my seat for a ride of twelve miles. He had been sleeping all night, having got on the train at Chicago. He got up at Champaign and sat with me until he arrived at Tolono, where he changed cars for Springfield. He saw the sun rising over the beautiful praries. Mr. Lincoln, like Mr. Douglas, seemed to want to get acquainted with the boy brakeman and to see the beautiful sun rising.

When Mr. Lincoln stepped off the train at Tolono I never saw his face again, but if he could have seen my face on the 15th of April, 1865, after the assassination in the theatre, he would have seen tears trickling down my face all day.

When I began work on the Illinois Central I was newsboy and attended to carrying water to passengers, etc. Beginning in April I worked as a freight train brakeman. The officials often sat in the baggage car with me in those days.

--From the Topeka Capital, March 5, 1922:

He's 86 Years Old But Tobacco And Whisky
Have No Chance in His Young and Healthy Life

Lawrence, Kan., March 4.--(Special)

--Benjamin Franklin Smith has lived eighty-six years without having smoked a cigar, cigaret or pipe, or had a chew of tobacco or a drink of whisky in his mouth. He is 86 years old, consequently he is a teetotaller and an abstainer from all intemperate habits. The greatest moment of his life, he says, is when he came to Kansas and cast a vote for prohibition.

He comes from a strictly colonial family. His great grandfather, Richard Randle, was born in Guernsey county, Virginia, in 1752, and served in the Revolutionary war under the command of Col. Ethan Allen and Capt. John Macklin.

It was Randle's eldest son, Parham Randle, who started the family's emigration West. He set out in 1827 in search of a better location and found it twenty miles east of St. Louis. He was 80 years old and made the trip from North Carolina on horseback. His family joined him in 1832.

It was here that Benjamin Frank Smith became a man. He grew fruit and marketed it to the big market in St. Louis. He became an expert truck gardener which he followed when he came further West and settled in Kansas. He was the first Kansan to ship strawberries to Denver. The state horticultural society is what it is today largely through his efforts.

He has been a member since 1881 and was elected president in 1914, after serving two years as vice-president.

Smith was not always engaged in the fruit growing business. For years after he moved to St. Louis he was in the employ of the Illinois Central railway. The jobs of brakeman, conductor, expressman and baggageman, were intrusted to him, a lad of scarcely 21 years old. At one time nine money safes, containing $3,000,000 to pay to Union soldiers at Vicksburg, were under his care.

While many of his fellow workers were addicted to drug and strong drink which was for sale at nearly every store, he stuck to his clean habits and won out.

--From Lawrence Today and Yesterday: Daily Journal World, 1913:

Benjamin F. Smith, owner of Smithland Homes, purchased in 1880 three acres in the suburbs. {Barker Street at Banks} About the first improvements he made was the planting of walnut and maple trees that now make his home an abiding place, admired by all who pass through the southeast part of the city. At that time there were no shade trees of any size in this part of Lawrence. Now nearly all the neighboring properties are lined with trees, planted by Mr. Smith. It is safe to say that he has planted most of the ornamental shade trees in South Lawrence. Mr. Smith has been a trustee of the Kansas State Horticultural Society for eight years and made a national reputation in the strawberry culture, still continuing his efforts in small fruit growing.

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