Sunday, October 10, 2010

To Lie Down in Green Pastures

(Click on image to enlarge)
This is Cyrus Smith's land as shown in the 1926 Plat Book. The 1874 Plat Map shows him holding 240 acres in this location, but by the time of the 1890 Plat Book, he had apparently disposed of some of his land, including 50 acres sold or given to his brother, William. His remaining 160-acre parcel roughly accorded with the image above.

Cyrus E. Smith was not the joining type. He belonged to neither church nor lodge. Yet he was liked and respected by his Ainsworth and Hobart neighbors, who knew him well, as he had been farming southwest of Ainsworth since 1863. In testimony of their fondness, a group of friends gathered at his home on September 29, 1915, to celebrate his 76th birthday along with his little family.

And his own family was comparatively little. Cyrus and his wife, Ellen, had had only one son of their own, William, born in 1875; they had also raised from childhood a girl named Pearl, presumably an orphan. At the age of 22 William married Emily Hayward, daughter of some farming neighbors, but after only a year of marriage he died, childless. After that, Cyrus and Ellen took the formal steps to adopt Pearl, making her their daughter legally as well as emotionally. In 1911 Pearl married Ellen's favorite nephew, Robert Harper; the young couple lived and worked on the Smith farm, and by the time of Cyrus' birthday party, Pearl had already delighted her parents with a grandson — and in August 1915, a brand-new granddaughter.

The crowd gathered at the Smith home probably included Cyrus' younger brother, William, along with William's daughter Mabel and her family. For about three decades William had farmed a parcel next to Cyrus' own; it had once been Cyrus' own. In 1907 William sold his farm and moved with his wife, Caroline, to Hobart. In 1908 Caroline died; about a year later William moved south of Ainsworth to live with Mabel, who was by then the wife of Frank Peterson and the mother of four children.

The birthday celebration went off well. Cyrus was still an active and energetic man at the age of 76. Two days after the party, he and Ellen traveled to Crown Point and spent a pleasant day at the Lake County fair.

They returned home about five o'clock. Going about the evening chores, Cyrus noticed that a cow and a calf had not returned from the pasture. He went out to look for them.

As a few hours passed, as darkness approached and Cyrus had not come back, Ellen began to fear some accident. She sent for help, and her neighbors responded quickly. Word spread that Cyrus was missing, and more and more neighbors showed up at the Smith farm, until there were about 50 lantern-bearing searchers wandering over the dark fields and among the dark woods.

It was about 11:00 p.m. when they found him. He was not injured — he was dead. He had simply collapsed and died in his own pasture. Dr. C.C. Brink of Hobart was called to the scene; he gave the cause of death as acute gastritis.

♦    ♦    ♦

Cyrus was born in September 29, 1839, in Pennsylvania, on the farm where his grandfather had settled in 1801. The first vote he ever cast was for Abraham Lincoln. In 1861 he married Ellen Harper, and two years later they came to Lake County, to the farm southwest of Ainsworth where they would spend the remaining 52 years of their marriage.

As a young man, Cyrus taught school in Ross Township for eight years. He was elected a county commissioner in 1884 and served for six years. He was also appointed to fill out a vacant term as township trustee. He became affiliated with the First State Bank in Hobart, serving as a director and vice-president. Two weeks after his death, the First State Bank published its last statement bearing Cyrus' name:

(Click on image to enlarge)

And so Cyrus Smith, defender of the Ainsworth Grand Trunk crossing as well as the dairy farmer's interests — and would-be defender of the Ainsworth saloon's character — was laid to rest in Merrillville Cemetery beside his son, and where his wife would one day join him.


♦ "Bank Statement." Hobart Gazette 15 Oct. 1915.
♦ "Cyrus W. Smith Found Dead in Pasture Field." Hobart News 7 Oct. 1915.
♦ "Death of Ross Township Citizen." Hobart Gazette 8 Oct. 1915.
♦ "Local Drifts." Hobart Gazette 4 Oct. 1907; 6 Nov. 1908; 6 Aug. 1909.
♦ "Merrillville." Hobart News 23 Jan. 1913.
♦ "Personal and Local Mention." Hobart News 19 Aug. 1915.

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