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Smith, William Sidney

Ridge from Yaphank As It Is and Was
by
Beecher Homan


HON. WILLIAM SIDNEY SMITH

AS A MILITARY TACTICIAN-FROM THE DRAWING-ROOM
ACROSS THE WILDERNESS-AS A PUBLIC MAN-PERSONAL.

Mr. Smith is a lineal descendant of Col. William Smith, the patentee of St. George's Manor, and was born at Longwood, a portion of the Manor, July 8th, 1796.

At seven years of age he was left an orphan, and his educational culture was under the direction of his uncle and guardian, Gen. John Smith, of Mastic, Long Island. After completing a thorough course, he entered the counting-house of Cotheal & Russell, in the City of New York. When twenty-one years of age he returned to his home at Longwood, and took possession of the vast estate inherited from his ancestors, and in the year 1823 he married Eleanor, a daughter of Major William Jones, of Coldspring, Queens County, Long Island, and settled permanently at Longwood the following year.

AS A MILITARY TACTICIAN.

Mr. Smith has been a public man for over forty years. In 1815, while in the militia service in New York City, he was appointed an ensign in the 142d regiment of the New York State Infantry, by Daniel D. Tompkins, then Gov. of New York State, and in the following year was promoted to the lieutenancy of a company in the same regiment by Gov. Tompkins. From that period until the year 1823, he continued in the militia service. After his return to Long Island, Gov. Yates tendered him a commission as Brigade Major, after which he was offered a commission as Colonel, which he declined.

FROM THE DRAWING-ROOM ACROSS THE WILDERNESS.

In the year 1819-over half a century ago-Mr. Smith undertook, and actually accomplished, a perilous journey from New York to Natchez, Miss., through a trackless wilderness of howling forests and barren plains.

In those semi-barbarous days, and in that wild country, life was purely original, and it must have been an effort for a gentleman-born and bred within the delicate circles of refined life-to have burst the silk and satin ties and plunged into the then almost unexplored precincts of savage Indians and wild beasts.

He was obliged to adapt himself to the primitive. and novel modes of travel; the hardships of crossing mountains, fording streams,. &c., and the many inconveniences of "roughing it." Having accomplished the desired business, he returned in safety, after an absence of four months.

AS A PUBLIC MAN.

Mr. Smith has held various town and county offices, and has been a public man for nearly three score years. He was County Treasurer for fifteen years; has been Supervisor of the Town, a School Commissioner, a Trustee, and a Member of the State Assembly in 1834, '48 and ' 56. He has also been a railroad director, trustee, executor of many estates, and many minor- offices of trust and responsibility has he filled, and always with honor to himself and satisfaction to his constituents.

His many years of official life are an undeniable verification of his ability and integrity, and the utmost confidence always reposed in him, a proof of his honor, ableness and solidity of character.

PERSONAL.

Mr. Smith is of the medium height, about seventy-nine years of age, with a slight, erect form, straight as an arrow. His manners are quiet and unostentatious. He is a man of great liberality, and a, devout Presbyterian. He erected a handsome residence at Longwood, and reared a family of smart, energetic children. His sons are mostly public men, and inherit much of their father's popular spirit.

People know Mr. Smith but to honor him. Conservatives and Radicals, Democrats and Republicans, Catholics and Protestants, say nothing ill of Mr. Smith.

There is an air of frank benignity in his manner, sometimes a tenderness in his tone, and always so sincere in his efforts to please that one is captivated with his society. He has a mass of information, anecdote, incident and story about earlier days that is interesting and pleasing.

Mr. Smith is a generous creditor. If a man cannot meet his contracts, and Mr. Smith is satisfied that be is honest, he will never press him. He is a liberal supporter of the gospel, and his family imitate his philanthropy. Like the immortalized Sidney Smith, he is a great joker, and a more merry, jovial man one seldom meets.

I But the eye once bright is growing dim, and the machinery of life runs no more with noiseless accuracy. The snows of many winters have whitened the auburn hair, and the weight of years causes the stately form to totter.

Sidney Smith has been a busy man, and has taken an active part in the town-and county affairs for many years, but his busy days are over. A few years ago he suffered a paralytic shook, and his health is greatly impaired.

His son Robert conducts his affairs here, and his sons and agents in the City of New York manage his business there and elsewhere. He is very wealthy, but to what extent cannot be definitely stated. He has interest in railroads, banking and other stocks, besides thousands of broad acres.

The pleasure is a sufficient remuneration for me to write of such men as James Weeks and Sidney Smith, and I acknowledge the honor and privilege of first recording in history the most important facts connected with their lives and times.

Men who live peaceful, honorable and active lives, and who live for the benefit of others as well as for themselves and families, are men the world love to honor and read about.

Messrs. Smith and Weeks are men that have lived for some good in life; men that have advanced enterprise, and men that may die, but can never be forgotten.

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