SMITH, Alexander Hale - I16

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Alexander Hale SMITH

A brief biography of Alexander Hale SMITH
By Gracia N. Jones


Alexander as a Youth

Alexander was the third living son of Joseph Jr.

, and Emma Hale SMITH. Born 2 June, 1838, at Far West, Missouri, he was an infant in his mother’s arms, when she fled across the frozen Mississippi, into Illinois, in February, 1839, to escape Governor Lilburn Boggs’ Extermination order. Thus, the babe, Alexander, whose birth in Missouri was soon followed by mobbings and expulsion from that state, arrived in Illinois a refugee. He was only six when his father was killed by assassins, in Carthage, Illinois. His mother chose not to take her family west in 1846, when the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, led by Brigham Young, made their exodus to the west.
He was a hearty young lad, who grew up to be quite an athlete. A good boatman, marksman, hunter, fisherman, who loved the out of doors. It was said of him that he could place a dime in the bark of a tree and from 50 paces hit it dead center. He knew and loved every foot of the river and the terrain along it. He had a great adventurous heart and longed to explore the west. When a young man, of 19, he made an aborted attempt to go on a gold hunting trip to Pike’s Peak, in Colorado. For unstated reasons the party turned back from western Kansas. He was greatly disappointed. Although he missed this chance to explore the west, he later made no less than seven trips across the plains, twice by wagon train and horseback, and the rest by train. He was even part of the Martin Handcart Company. He was 23

Elizabeth Agnes Kendall "Lizzie"

when he married Elizabeth Agnes KENDALL, on June 23, 1861, at Nauvoo.

A family friend, Charles Derry, wrote, Alexander Smith is not so tall as [his brother] David, nor so heavy as Joseph. Is of light complexion, free and sociable and intelligent. . .” He also commented, “. . .his wife is a pretty, neat little body.” As he matured, Alexander was tall, straight and lithe. At twenty-four his brown hair had turned black. A young husband and father, struggling to make a living, turned his hand to many occupations–photography, carpentry and farming. but his vocation would be the ministry. Alexander was not religiously inclined during his young years. When his brother, Joseph III, decided to unite with the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints,[hereafter referred to as RLDS] Alexander’s journal says, “there was much consternation in the family.” Although young David Hyrum readily joined in this movement, Alexander held himself aloof. The death of their brother, Frederick, in April, 1863, caused Alexander deep perplexity. Thereafter he began studying the scriptures and the writings of his father. As he turned his thoughts toward religion, he realized with great sorrow, that his much loved brother, Frederick, had died without baptism. As Alexander understood what he read, he worried that his brother’s soul was lost forever. This anxiety brought Alexander to his knees in fervent prayer. Vida tells of Alexander’s experience:

“. . .the separation of death still held the bitterness of nameless fear . . .for my father. That his beloved brother was lost was a horror such as has filled many hearts; but to his came a balm, the testimony of the spirit, the first communion direct from the Comforter saying, ‘Grieve not; Frederick’s condition is pleasant; and the time shall come when baptism can be secured to him.’” He was admonished to do his duty and all would be well. Alexander was satisfied that baptism was necessary for the living, and he was comforted by the evidence of its eventual possibility for the dead. On May 25, 1863, his brother Joseph baptized him in the Mississippi River. “

Alex, as he was called, grew to manhood in an hostile and suspicious society. He went to school, roved the meadows, and grew to adulthood amongst the children of some of the very men who had killed his father. He and his brothers endured much torment from those who ridiculed the dead prophet, Joseph Smith. From these beginnings, there was instilled in Alex a defensive attitude that ruled him passionately in his younger years, mellowed with age, but never was completely extinguished. His voice could ring and his fists smash the face of anyone who sought to denigrate the good name of his father. In fact, he and his brothers were quick to declare, “My father was a GOOD man.” He likewise honored his mother with an almost worshipful adoration.


Alexander and Joseph III

Alexander was given many responsibilities in his church, being assigned, in 1866, as President of the RLDS Western States mission, with responsibilities to build up the church in Utah, Montana, Wyoming, Nevada and California. At that time he was just 31 years old. He had no experience, no idea how to accomplish the task, and yet, he had an unconquerable faith that God was with him and he saw in daily incidents the evidence of constant care by unseen powers. This had to have been the case, for from his penniless beginning, he obtained a wagon, teem of mules, a set of Colts (guns) and sufficient provisions to make the journey.

His experiences in Utah were difficult for him. His encounters with Brigham Young, and others of the Utah Church, angered and frustrated him as much as it did them. Neither could persuade the other concerning doctrinal issues. He worked hard and traveled far. In California, he was successful in setting up branches of the RLDS church all along the coast of California. After an absence of two years, traveling by river, lake and overland to the Gulf of Mexico, and up the Mississippi, by River Road to Nauvoo, he returned to his family. He was home only a short time before he was sent back to California, in 1869.

His intention was to build a mission home in California and take Elizabeth, affectionately known as Lizzie and his children west with him. But Lizzie refused

Alexander Hale Smith

to go until the house would be completed. Therefore, Alexander bought her a little house in Plano, Illinois, near the church. She remained there with her children: Alexander and Lizzie’s first son, Frederick Alexander, was born 19 Jan 1862, in Nauvoo; Vida Elizabeth, was born on 16 Jan 1865 and then Ina Inez, was born 22 Nov, 1866, in Nauvoo, during his absence to Utah and California, and Emma Belle, 17 March 1869, was born while he was once again laboring in a far away mission. It turned out that Lizzie had been wise in her determination, for money was not raised to build the mission home. And at the next conference of the Church, Alexander was called to be an apostle. Reluctantly he turned his labors in California over to others. He was not reluctant to go home. His family needs weighed heavily on him. In ten years of marriage he had spent less than four years at home.

Upon his return, the little house in Plano, was sold, and the family moved back to the Mansion House in Nauvoo. Alexander had bought out his brother’s share and owned the old building. It was drafty, dilapidated, and some parts of it were unsafe. He set about with all his energy repairing what could be salvaged, and tearing down the part that was unsafe. He wrote his daughter Vida, “Old #9 is gone the way of all the earth and we cannot help but mourn the passing of the room in which you were born.”

Don Alvin was born 17 May 1871 and Eva Grace in 1874. While Alexander traveled as an apostle, Lizzie held her family together, at the Mansion House, never far away from their beloved Emma. He would visit Australia, Hawaii, New Zealand, Wales, England and Canada, as well as nearly every state of the Union.

The years sped by, and the family moved again. Headquarters were moved from Amboy to Lamoni, Iowa. The feeling was that Nauvoo was a dead field; the fertile soil of new settlers in the west promised new hope and new blood for the Reorganization. Alexander was called to serve as first president of the Lamoni branch, and the family moved to a farm just a few miles inside the Missouri state line, Township of Colfax, Harrison Co., Missouri, not far from Andover. Lamoni was just a few miles north of the southern border of Iowa.

RLDS Leadership

Emma Belle gives a poignant account of the last view she had of her grandmother Emma, standing at the open window, as the riverboat carrying the little family passed the Riverside Mansion (Nauvoo House), bearing them south, on their way toward a new life in Northern Missouri. Emma stood at the window, waving her checkered table cloth, until the boat went out of sight. Lizzie said to her children, “Look children, it is the last time we will see Grandmother.” Emma Belle, who was just a child, recalled that her mother wept as though her heart would break. Emma Belle observed that Emma was the only mother Lizzie ever knew.

Life on the farm was filled with hard work for the entire family. But they also enjoyed each other. There was sleigh riding in the winter, and in the summer, berry picking and picnics. As the children grew, Lizzie guided them with her firm standards of etiquette and culture. They produced their own food on the farm. Cash money was almost non-existent. Alexander was seldom home for long at a time. Finally, in 1877, he was appointed postmaster of the Andover post office. Joseph George was born 7 May, 1874, at the farm in Colfax Township, Harrison County, Missouri. In February of 1879, Alexander visited Far West, Missouri. Of this visit he wrote,

“. . .near the place of my nativity I met the saints, among whom I met Uncle William [his father’s only surviving brother]. It was with peculiar feelings that I joined in the business of the conference. . .these feelings were intensified when I was called upon to speak in this place from whence forty years ago my father and mother were driven by mob violence. . . I could not help thinking that God in his own time and way was preparing for the return from evil of those who are faithful to their land of promise and my heart was soft, my trust strengthened in the Lord. . .”

In April, 1879, he happened to be near Nauvoo, on one of his journeys. He had a strong urge to return to his old home and visit his mother. Upon arriving, he was surprised at not finding his mother in her usual place in the kitchen. Learning that she was ill, he went to see her. He was immediately convinced that she was dying. He sent for his Brother Joseph III, then went out to the garden, to pray. He pled with the Lord, asking that his mother might be spared a little longer. But the Spirit comforted him, and he knew it was best to let her go. Both Joseph III and Alexander had a friendly relationship with their step-father, Louis C. BIDAMON. They, and their adopted sister, Julia Murdock Smith Middleton, were present in the upstairs front bedroom of the old Riverside Mansion, when Emma passed away on 30 April, 1879.

In 1880, Arthur Marion was born, May 7, at the farm, in Missouri, but by 1882, the RLDS church headquarters had been moved to Independence, Missouri. Alex and Lizzie’s last child, Coral Cecil Rebekah Smith, was born, in Independence, Jackson Co., Missouri, on 29 October, 1882. For a time he was in charge of the Church work in Missouri, and then in Illinois.

The extent of his ministry is incredible. In 1885, he took charge of the Pacific Slope, returning in 1886. Thereafter, his labors were extended to many other states–he was on the go continually. In 1890, he was ordained president of the Quorum of Twelve, which office he held until 1897, when he was also called as counselor to President of the church, and patriarch and evangelical minister unto the RLDS church.

In 1895, Alexander was on the founding board of directors for Graceland college, established in Lamoni, Iowa. In April, 1901, in his evangelical capacity, he left his family home, in Lamoni, Iowa, while he went on a mission to Australia, the Society Islands, and Hawaii. He spent nearly a year in the Islands, then in April 1902, he received word that he was relieved of the responsibility of being counselor in the presidency, in order to leave him free to act in his evangelical calling as Patriarch to the Church. He traveled to Botteneau, North Dakota, where on July 1, 1902, he addressed a congregation of young people, on the subject of “The Second Coming of Christ.” It would seem his lifetime of study and faith was distilled in this address. It was published in the RLDS publication, Zion’s Ensign, December 31, 1908. His extensive travels in the ministry took him away from his family during much of their crucial growing up years–a sadness lingers in the writings of Emma Belle Smith Kennedy, who remarked that perhaps, had he been more available, some of the more disappointing events of their lives might have been avoided. Even so, each son and daughter who survived him, revered his name and memory. One daughter, and one son preceded him in death: Eva Grace, who died in childbirth, in California. Vida went to California and brought the baby, Lamont Madison, home to Lamoni. Lizzie, who was almost completely stone deaf by that time, raised him, with the help of her youngest daughter, Coral (then about 11 years old). Lizzie also took in Zennetta, wife of Don Alvin, and her five little children, after Don Alvin died in 1904.

When Alexander was at home, Coral lent her skills as stenographer, taking down patriarchal blessings, which her father gave to many who came to receive his counsel and blessing. In his old age, he enjoyed the society of his family. His daughter, Vida, who is his chief biographer, recalls his boyhood on the river–his exertions in behalf of the RLDS church, world wide, his gentle nature, and love for the soil and working with his hands. She said, while tending him at his home in Iowa, she observed him gazing out the window, in his home in Iowa. Vida, thought he looked peculiar, and asked if something was ailing him. He replied, “It is the river-lust in me, daughter; the river lust; why, I can see the white caps riding in, and the fret line on the shore, and I’m hungry for it; sick for the sound of the river, I want to go to Nauvoo.” And so his loving family took him to Nauvoo. There, in the upstairs front bedroom of the Riverside Mansion, on 12 August 1909, he died, at the age of 71.

Bibliography: All quotes or data referred to in this document are taken from either Alexander Hale Smith’s Journal, edited by Vida Smith, or, from the Journal of Emma Belle Kennedy. Some dates have been verified from the RLDS Church History.


Alexander's family

# Frederick Alexander Smith born 19 January 1862 in Sonora, Hancock, Illinois. He married (1) Mary Angelina Walker on 16 November 1884 in Tiffan, Johnson, Iowa. They had 8 children. Mary died 3 December 1931 in Independence, Jackson, Missouri. Five years later in 1936 in Independence, Fred remarried (2) Ester Clark Gates born on 1 September 1901 in Independence Jackson Missouri. They had one child, a daughter, Marilyn Esther Smith. Then on Frederick died 25 June 1954 in Independence, Jackson, Missouri. Ester

survived him to 3 August 1987 passing away in Independence.

  1. Vida Elizabeth Smith born 16 January 1865 in Nauvoo, Hancock, Illinois. She married (1) Heman Conoman Smith (born 27 September 1850) 2 June 1886 in Independence, Jackson, Missouri at age 21; however, she divorced him and remained single until 1 October 1926 in Potlatch, Latah, Idaho she remarried to James Elmer Yates born 12 mar 1874 in Johnsonville, Montgomery, Ohio, but they did not have any children. Vida and Heman had 4 children. Heman died 17 April 1919 in Independence. Vida died 3 January 1945 in Los Angelas, California. James survived Vida until 7 April 1954 when he died in Phoenix, Arizona.
  2. Ina Inez Smith born 17 March 1869 in Nauvoo, Hancock, Illinois. Ina married on 22 April 1891 in Independence, Jackson, Missouri to Sidney Garden Wright born 26 July 1869 in Boolambayte, New South Wales, Australia. They had 10 children all raised in Australia where even today most of this family line currently lives. Sidney dies 8 Aug 1936 in Nabiac, New South Wales, Australia and just under 10 years late, Ina passes away on 18 August 1945 in Chatswood, New South Wales, Australia.
  3. Emma Belle Smith born 17 March 1869 in Plano, Hancock, Illinois married to William Forrester Kennedy born 5 June 1863 in Egremont, Grey, Ontario on 5 October 1887 in Andover, Harrison, Missouri. They had 5 children however, lost the first 3 early. William died 22 March 1938 in Independence and Emma on 3 May 1960 also in Independence.
  4. Don Alvin Smith born 17 May 1871 in Nauvoo and married Susan Zeanette Pearsall (born 21 April 1873 in Nockenutt, Wilson, Texas) on 11 April 1893 in Lamoni, Decatur, Iowa. They had 6 children. Don Alvin died at an early age 8 Sepember 1904 in Lamoni. Susan did not remarry and died 22 Jun 1957 in Dow City, Crawford, Illinois.
  5. Eva Grace Smith born on 1 March 1874 born in Nauvoo, Hancock, Illinois married Forrest Lamont Madison (born 9 October 1871 in Nauvoo) on 17 September 1892 in Lamoni, Decatur, Iowa. They had only one child who eventually was raised by his grandmother. Eva passes away less than a year after their marriage on 26 March 1893 in San Bernardino, California. Lamont, nicknamed, Ford, remarries to Katie A. Dodson on 17 September 1892 in Leon, Decatur, Iowa. He dies 18 mar 1945 in San Bernardino.
  6. Joseph George Smith born 7 May 1877 in Colfax, Harrison, Missouri. He marries (1) Nellie May Daudelin (born 19 Jun 1879 in Crete, Saline, Nebraska) on 27 Nov 1902 in Wilber, Saline, Nabraska. They have 2 children. Some time after 1935 he marries (2) Agnes Viola Farrow born 17 April 1881 in Colfax, Harrison, Illinois. They have no children. Nellie May dies on 2 April 1935 in Independence. Joseph dies 27 Dec 1936 in Independence. Agnes dies 4 December 1973 is buried in Oakland Cemetery in Jackson County, Missouri.
  7. Arthur Marion Smith born 8 February 1880 in Colfax, Harrison, Missouri. He marries (1) Estella Almira Danielson (born 7 March 1884, in Miller, LaSalle, Illinois) on 15 Jun 1904 in Lamoni, Decatur, Iowa. They have 6 children. Estella dies 23 Jun 1916 in Independence, Jackson, Missouri. On the 21 May 1922 in Des Moines, Polk, Iowa Arthur remarries (2) Minnie Catherine Smith born 20 May 1894 in Charlestown, Clarke, Indiana. They have 5 children. Arthur dies 7 March 1965 in Ava, Douglas, Missouri and Minnie passes away 30 January 1988 also in Ava.
  8. Coral Cecil Rebekah Smith (Coral named after Alexander's experiences swimming in the Great Barrier Reef in Australia after a visit with Ina) was born 29 Oct 1968 in Independence, Jackson, Missouri. She married Louis Hurst Horner (born 21 September 1878 in Davis City, Decatur, Iowa) on 22 February 1905 in Lamoni. They have 4 children. Coral dies 17 August 1968 in Troy, Lincoln, Montana. Louis dies 18 February 1970 in Ronan, Lake, Montana.