Peter Kerce Smith, son of George Rudolphus Smith and Lydia Tate
Peter K. Smith was born on October 17, 1803 in Caswell County, North Carolina before his mom and dad moved north into the hills of Kentucky. He was the elusive Peter Smith, whose parents my father could not identify. For a century or more, Smiths believed that Peter was a British immigrant who came to this country as a former King’s soldier who helped General Wellington defeat Napolean at Waterloo. Without birth records or any tangible evidence on which to build, our forefathers couldn’t identify Peter’s roots. I can recant that story for you elsewhere in this growing body of dirge and documentation. Suffice it to say: We have found the guy coming off a slave plantation and into the Northwest Territories that included Indiana and Illinois. His mother passed away when Peter was young and his father remarried Sarah Armstrong, another rugged pioneer family that helped conquer the frontier.
Peter married one of the Davis family when they were both young. Sally Davis wasnt quite 20 when she said ‘I do so with the help of God.’ They tied the knot on November 27, 1822 and shortly after giving birth to her second child she passed. Peter then married Matilda Montgomery on April 27, 1825. She was descended from the famous Montgomery family whose surname helped defeat the British in the Revolutionary War and the Natives in the frontier land. They were the same Montgomery clan that dominated Celtic history in Scotland and Ireland.
Peter farmed for a living and a glance at the Census Record provided indicates his property was valued at $2,500, quite a bit more than his neighbors. Throw that number into an inflation calculator and you come up with land worth $75,000. Modest by today’s standards.
Peter was commissioned a lieutenant in the Indiana Militia, a bit like our present day National Guard. The Commission paperwork is also appended within these walls, compliments of my cousin, Joelene Robinson Smith Vickers. I threw that Robinson in there to make the point I have been making all along…. The Robinsons knew the Smiths a long time ago.
Peter and Matilda moved circa 1858 to the vicinity of Benton, Illinois. Nearing the final decade of his life he and Matilda found comfort living alongside my great grandfather, James Monroe Smith and others of the brood. When the Civil War broke out he hustled up a bunch of home guard civilians and headed toward Cairo, Illinois to stop a Confederate invasion that never got past Ulysses Simpson Grant to become a threat for Peter. His dreams of valor crushed he at least got to live to see another day. And yes… I do wonder about that ‘Simpson’ that appears in U.S. Grants name. I am guessing they crossed the Ohio River into Ohio while others of the Simpson clan headed into Indiana and Illinois.
Peter died December 15, 1870 shortly after the Civil War, a war which might more aptly be called the Uncivil War for all the harm it did to families that found loved ones facing each other on the battlefield. It did a whole lot of other harm as well. No need to remind me of that.