Five Things I Didn’t Know About Sedalia’s Founder, George R Smith
Now don't laugh too hard, because we all know that I'm not the brightest bulb in the room.But I know some stuff! And I can learn! Whether or not I maintain it, though, that's another issue. So the other day I was doing my thing, you know, looking for stuff to write about, and came across this. It's a biography of George R Smith from 1904. So I thought to myself, "Well geez, what do I really know about the guy anyway. I know he named the town after his daughter. Other than that.... what?" Admittedly I'm no Becky Imhauser (she's the expert, really), I'm just a regular shlub with an internet connection. But I figured, why not find out a little more about him?
And I did, although at times, reading the book was.... a little above my ability to follow. I'm trying to be kind to myself here. But here are a few things I didn't know, that might surprise you a little, too!
1. His first mentor was a teacher.
School was not as important as church back in those days, and sometimes schools were partly doing religious study. In his teens, George was sent off to get a better education, and found himself in the care of a strong teacher mentor named Elder Barton W. Stone. He seems to be one of those teachers that really got to you. In fact, ol' Georgie got in a fight once, and the teacher basically sat him and the other boy down, gave them a little lecture, and had them make up. His teacher got a little disappointed in the middle of his speech and started to cry - so George started to cry, too, because he hated the thought of letting his teacher down.
'How could I help it ?' he exclaimed; 'I be hanged if I wouldn't rather take a whipping than to have that good old man preach to me and cry.'
You know that feeling. The "I'm not mad, I'm just disappointed" feeling.
2. He was Sheriff, and didn't kill a guy.
At one point, George was a sheriff, and as part of that, ya gotta enforce the law, right, but also.. the punishment. He apparently did well as a sheriff, but there was a time when someone was meant to be totally executed, but George just couldn't bring himself to murk the guy.
The duties of this office were discharged to the satisfaction of all concerned; but when called upon to inflict capital punishment upon a condemned criminal, his kindness of heart led him to refuse personally to perform the duty, and a second term of the office was declined.
I wonder what the guy did, that he was going to be put to death. Either way, it just shows our boy isn't a murderer. Or executioner? I don't know which term is better.
3. Had a brother named George.
Yeah. Kinda strange to us, huh. His brother was George S Smith, He was George R Smith. I also learned that the R stands for Rappeen. But then sometimes they called him Mill-pond George. Because there was a pond nearby? I don't know. I couldn't find anything on the name "Rappeen" that wasn't connected to George. Maybe it's an old family name or something?
4. He participated in the Mormon war.
Okay, so this is kind of one to unpack. Joseph Smith was the leader of the Mormons, and in the 1830s or so he had a vision that his church would build the city of Zion in Missouri. So they came and started that - but didn't really care who's land they were on. So that and other personality conflicts between the Mormons and the "Gentiles" (I am WAAAY simplifying this because my poor little brain can only understand so much) lead to the Mormons getting driven out of places.
Smith enrolled as a private, refusing any higher post. The company twice marched to Carroll county and back, and endured some hardships; it was not engaged in action, for the Mormon surrender took place the very day the Pettis county troop arrived in camp.
Basically they saw the Pettis County troops and noped out of there.
5. He bought his family a secret piano.
This story was pretty cute. I had read other stories about their house burning down, people getting sick, such difficulties that my spoiled with technology self would just have a meltdown about (basically, I'm an adult baby). So you can imagine, it was super not easy to have such things like a piano when you're relying on wagons pulled by horses and sometimes non existent roads. But, he did it! And he did it without telling his family - so they knew he was late coming back home, but didn't know why. And it's not like he can just text them to let them know he's okay.
Our father's ambition led him on one of his business trips to St. Louis in 1851 to buy a piano, which was brought up the river by boat as far as Jefferson City. He there hired a wagon and brought it through the muddy roads over a journey of sixty-five miles to Georgetown. His purpose was kept from the family, and the carrying out of the project delayed him several days beyond his usual time. The mails were tardy, but we tried to suppress our uneasiness and keep cheerful. He had often been delayed in his return, and almost always arrived after midnight; so we tried to flatter ourselves that all was well. But at last, not being able longer to stand the anxiety, my sister and I had our horses saddled and started out, hoping to meet him. We tried to talk cheerfully as our horses plunged through the mud, but our real feelings must have been revealed when the sight of a slowly-moving covered wagon was discovered approaching in the distance, its wheels digging deeply into the mud. Our suspense increased as we neared it, not knowing what might be in store, and we lapsed into perfect silence. Before we were near enough to distinguish our father under the shadow of the cloudy sky and the cover of the wagon, his great cheery voice of greeting reassured us; and when he explained that a piano was behind him in the wagon, our joy was unbounded.
So really, I may have LOOKED like I was goofing off on the internet, filling in for the receptionist, but I was LEARNING. Maybe I'm the only uneducated heathen, though. Did you guys know this stuff about George? What else do you know about Sedalia's founder?