Was a native of Sussex County, State of Delaware, and was born January 12, 1780.
His parents being quite poor, he was compelled at an early age to enter the employ of strangers to procure a living. When a mere boy he became a sailor, in the coast trade, on the Delaware Bay. For many years he followed a seafaring life, during which he became well versed in the vocabulary of that branch of human enterprise, and obtained from "Jack" a wonderful store of anecdote and song. He was a vivacious, brave, and uncommonly active, and prided himself on being an experienced sailor and hardy seaman. In the meantime, he acquired a fair knowledge of the English branches taught in the schools of Delaware, wrote a fair hand, and concluded to abandon the sea and seek a home in the far west. In 1805 he married, and in 1806, with his wife and father's family, emigrated, by the usual route, to Fairfield County, Ohio. In 1813 he was drafted to serve in the army in the northwest part of Ohio, and was out twenty-one days, when peace was declared and he discharged. In March 1818, he emigrated to Milton Township, and located for a short time on what was then known as the Jonathan Markley farm.
He subsequently purchased the farm on which his aged widow now resides, near Burns' schoolhouse, to which he removed. Mrs. Smith thinks his nearest neighbors then were: Nicholas Rutan, John Owens, John Taylor, Jacob Foulks, William Houston, Benjamin Montgomery, Boston Burgett, John Crabbs, David Crabbs. Andrew Burns, Robert Nelson, Frederick Sulcer, John Bryte, and a few others, very much scattered.
At the April election, in 1819, Thomas Smith was elected a constable for Milton Township. At the April election of 1820 he was elected one of the trustees for Milton Township. In 1821 he was re-elected. In 1823 he was elected appraiser of property. In 1824 he was re-elected appraiser of property. In 1825 he was elected lister and appraiser of property. In 1826 he was elected supervisor for his quarter of the township. In 1827-8 he was elected overseer of the poor of the township. In 1829 he was elected treasurer of Milton Township. In 1830 he was elected justice of the peace, and was re-elected the six succeeding terms, making a continued service of twenty-one years. During his official career as justice of the peace he was repeatedly elected township treasurer, trustee and road supervisor. Very few officials anywhere had a stronger hold upon the confidence of the public. In the midst of his official duties, in 1837, he taught a district school and acquitted himself to the satisfaction of his employers.
It may be proper, in this connection, to speak more fully of the popularity of the squire. He was benevolent to a fault. He rarely permitted a plaintiff to distress a debtor, always endeavoring to prevent the accumulation of cost, by giving the party notice prior to commencing an action. His docket shows that after judgment had been rendered he often neglected to exact the full payment of his own costs. This act of mercy, though it ill rewarded him for his time and worry, made him many friends among the poor pioneers. Again, he was free with his money, social and remarkably shrewd. He could tell a good story, sing a pioneer or sailor song, and was the central figure at a logrolling, house-raising, corn husking, or at an election. It was his custom, on election days, to treat his friends. For many years saloonkeepers from Ashland were in the habit of sending beer and gingerbread to the polls in Milton Township, at the elections. When Squire Smith was in his prime he often purchased a keg of beer and treated his political friends, and to wind up the sport, took a large roll of gingerbread under each arm, and passing through the crowd, permitted those who desired to do so, to pluck off a large slice. This produced much amusement among the young men, and the mirthful voters joining in, the scene was decidedly rich. In the meantime the voting quietly progressed, and Squire Smith was always elected. In the days of old corn whiskey, he was expected to treat with a stronger stimulant than beer. In his familiar moods, he would take a tumbler of whiskey, put in sugar, and stir it with his finger, and invite his friends to drink health and prosperity. To abstinence people this may seem objectionable; but church members, as well as all others, by the customs of those days, were regarded as uncivil unless they treated their visiting friends.
The long official services of Mr. Smith show that he retained the confidence and respect of the people of his township to the last. He was emphatically an honest man. As a politician he was frank and firm. He declared he was a Democrat after the Jeffersonian and Jackson school.
His death occurred July 18, 1851. Being exceedingly fond of fruit, he climbed upon a rail fence, near his residence, to gather cherries from a tree, and his foot-hold being insecure he fell upon his head and shoulders, dislocating his neck, and expired before he was discovered. He was about seventy-two years of age at his decease. His widow, now (1875) eighty-seven years of age, still survives, and possesses a clear recollection of the past, though physically quite frail. Mr. Smith was the father of eleven children, seven sons and four daughters: Robert, Henry, John, Mitchel, Charles, William and Thomas, and Ardilla, Catharine, Margaret and Malinda, all of whom are married, and some of whom reside in other parts of the State.