Few communities are favored with a more intelligent and enterprising class of citizens than that of Dudley Township, Henry County, Indiana, and of these there can none be mentioned who deserve more favorable attention than the gentleman whose name opens this biographical sketch. James M. Smith is the son of Robert and Elizabeth (Maple) Smith, and was born in Franklin Township, Henry County, Indiana, on the 20th of April 1839. His grandfather, Isaac Smith, was a native of Kentucky and was a veteran of the war of 1812. He was noted as a hunter and many stories are told of his prowess in that line. He removed from his native state to Fayette County, Indiana, and subsequently removed to Iowa, where his death occurred. Robert Smith, the father of the subject, was born in Kentucky August 25, 1804, was reared to manhood in that state and learned the trade of a miller. He ran a gristmill in his native state for a while, but while yet comparatively young came to Indianapolis,
in company with a brother, and assisted in the construction of the second brick building erected in that city. At that time, that city was closely surrounded by dense woods and Indians were plentiful. After remaining a short time in Indianapolis he returned to his native state, but in 1824 brought his family with him to Indiana, locating in Franklin Township, Henry County. He entered land about a mile and a half northeast of Lewisville and here he erected the little log cabin in which they made their future home. He was ambitious and energetic and transformed this land into a neat and valuable homestead. He was one of the constructors of and assisted in building the National road running from Richmond to Terre Haute. He was a Christian in the fullest sense of the term and exemplified in his daily life the teachings of the man of Nazareth. Though reared in a southern state he was one of the early Abolitionists, and was utterly opposed to slavery, being fearless in his
denunciation of the system of holding human beings in bondage. He maintained a membership in the Presbyterian Church and died in that faith at the advanced age of ninety-six years. To him and his wife there were born the following children: Martha E. is the wife of Henry Goar, a prominent citizen of Tipton, this State; Thomas J. has long been a prominent citizen of the state of Illinois; Margaret A, is the wife of Cyrus Spencer, a resident of Middletown, this county; Mary E. is the widow of the late Lewis Fletcher, of Harper, Kansas, but formerly of Henry County, Indiana; Phoebe J. is the wife of Robert B. Carr, ex-sheriff and ex-clerk of Henry County, but now of South Dakota; James M., the subject; Elmira M., the wife of Willis Wisehart, of Middletown, this state; John R, ex-marshal of New Castle and ex-deputy sheriff of Henry county, now lives at Indianapolis. James M. Smith, the immediate subject, was reared under the parental roof and attended school in Franklin
Township and at Knightstown and was engaged in teaching school for twenty years during the winter months. He afterwards took up the study of the law and was admitted to the bar, though he did not follow that profession. After his marriage he lived on a farm for a while and then moved to New Castle that he might accept the position of deputy clerk under Robert B. Carr. In 1875, at the conclusion of his official duties, he located in his present home and has resided here without interruption since. He has a fine and well-improved farm, worth probably one hundred dollars an acre: and is engaged in the general pursuits of agriculture, also giving some attention to the raising of livestock. He has been fairly successful in his operations and today ranks with the most progressive agriculturists of Henry County. On the 17th of December 1868, Mr. Smith was united in marriage with Miss Leora A. McMeans. She was the daughter of Nathaniel and Catherine (Lybrook) McMeans,
and was born in Lewisville, this state, December 31, 1847. Her grandfather, Thomas E. McMeans, was a native of Tennessee, but came to Union county, Indiana, in1819, and to Franklin Township, Henry County, in 1834. He was an active participant in public affairs, served at one time as sheriff of Union county and died at Lewisville, Indiana, at a ripe old age. Nathaniel McMeans was seventeen years old when he arrived at Lewisville. He was a harness maker by trade and followed that occupation for a number of years. He later bought a farm, which he cleared and improved, and then moved into the city of New Castle, but subsequently returned to farming, buying the place which is now the home of the subject. Mr. and Mrs. Smith are members of the Methodist Episcopal church at Straughn, of which he is a trustee and of which Mrs. Smith was a charter member. Both are active workers in the Sunday school, of which Mrs. Smith has been superintendent for a number of years and in which
Mr. Smith has taught a Bible class for thirty years. In politics the subject is an ardent Republican and has always taken a keen interest in the success of his party. In the campaign of 1888, when Benjamin Harrison was the Republican nominee for the Presidency, Mr. Smith and wife and R. L. McMeans and wife formed a quartet, known as the McMeans Glee Club, and sang at many political meetings, acquiring a very enviable reputation through Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. The subject served as justice of the peace in his Township for a number of years and administered justice in a very impartial and satisfactory manner. Mr. Smith possesses strong and positive traits of character, which have won for him a high place in the public esteem. He has always endeavored to he just and such has been his record. His deeds are the best line with which to measure his life, and his good works and beneficent influence will make his enduring monument. Mr. and Mrs. Smith are descendants
from two pioneer and highly respected families of Henry County, and are justly proud of their ancestry.
Submitted by: Lora
Compendium of Biography Of Henry County, Indiana B. F. Bowen 1920
This veteran of the Civil war and educator of youth, who laid down his ferrule to take up arms in defense of his country's flag, and is now a resident and retired merchant of Dunreith, Henry county, Indiana, was born near Canonsburg, Washington County, Pennsylvania, November 3, 1833, a son of Thomas and Jane (Hayes) Watson, who were also born in the county mentioned and of Scotch-Irish descent, their immediate ancestors having come to America from the north of Ireland, where they had their nativity. James F. Watson received an excellent common school education in his boyhood days, which was supplemented by a course in Duff's Commercial College at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. At the age of nineteen he began teaching school, a vocation he followed in all for ten years. When twenty-one years old he left his home, however, and went to Cadiz, Harrison county, Ohio, where he was engaged in teaching when the alarm of war was sounded and, seeing that the rebellion was not to be
trifled with, he went to Belmont county and enlisted in August, 1862, in Company B, Ninety-eighth Ohio Volunteer Infantry. He saw service in the battle of Perryville, in which his regiment lost one hundred and seventy-five men, killed and wounded; it was then sent to Chickamauga, Tennessee, where it fell back, but was reformed and took part in several engagements in Tennessee and Alabama Until the Atlanta campaign was opened in Georgia, the regiment taking part in several severe battles before it was assigned to duty in the siege of that doomed city. It participated in the pursuit of General Hood to Huntsville, Alabama, and then went with General Sherman to the coast. Mr. Watson was appointed corporal at the organization of the company, in which capacity he served until the winter of 1862, when he was appointed hospital steward and served as such until the summer of 1864, when he was promoted to a second -lieutenancy just at the time when General Sherman set out on his
famous march to the sea coast. On reaching the sea coast Lieutenant Watson was ordered to report at Memphis, Tennessee, having been commissioned as a Captain by the, war department. On reaching that city he organized a company of colored troops, which was assigned to the Sixty-ninth Colored Regiment. In command of this company and two others he was stationed at Memphis and later at Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and had charge of a gang of freedmen, whom he caused while on guard duty to raise a crop of cotton near the latter place, keeping the company together all summer, the government furnishing the necessary supplies. The Captain also did court martial service and was finally honorably discharged at Duvall's Bluff in November, 1865, but was not mustered out of the service until December, 1865, when, broken in health and unfit for military duty, he returned to his young wife. Captain Watson was married at Flushing, Ohio, August 13, 1862, after he had enlisted but before departing
for the war, to Miss Margaret C. Winder, an accomplished and patriotic young lady who had an uncle, Lewis Wood, living in Spiceland, Henry county, Indiana, with whom she made her home, her mother having died when young. On Captain Watson's return from the war he located at Spiceland, where he soon afterwards began merchandising with a small stock of goods, but afterward removed to Lewisville where he did a moderately successful business for five years. In 1872 he came to Dunreith as agent for the Panhandle railroad and engaged in dealing in grain for fourteen years. He also invested in land two miles from Dunreith and now owns four hundred and fifty acres, divided into three farms, on which he has made many improvements, clearing off the brush, putting up substantial buildings and laying tiling. These farms he rents out, but retains land enough to fatten from thirty to forty steers per year. He also pays much attention to hogs, in which he has great faith as income
producers, and keeps up his interest in the products of his farms, which cost him from thirty-five to fifty-five dollars per acre. To Captain and Mrs. Watson have been born two children, both of whom died in childhood. The parents are member of the United Presbyterian Church, of which the Captain is a trustee, and after the burning of the old edifice in 1880 he liberally aided financially in the erection of the new. Both the Captain and his wife have been Sunday school teachers for twenty years, but about two years since Mrs. Watson had a fall in which she broke a hip, has used crutches ever since and has been forced to relinquish her work in the good cause. Her work was with the children's class, while the Captain's was with the Bible class, being a reader of the Scriptures and instructing them by explanatory remarks. For a year and a half he taught in the Friends society, but later returned to his old Bible class, above referred to. In politics Captain Watson is a stanch
Republican, and takes an active interest in the success of his party. He is one of the most substantial citizens of Dunreith and one of the most honorable, and he and his wife enjoy the respect of the entire community without exception.
Submitted by: Lora
Compendium of Biography Of Henry County, Indiana B. F. Bowen 1920
George H. Prigg, deceased, was born in Dayton, Ohio, January 12, 1829, and died in Fall Creek Township, Henry County, Indiana. May 1, 1894. When about ten years old he was brought to Indiana by his parents, William and Mary (Campbell) Prigg, who were born and married in Maryland, removed to Ohio and later to Indiana, and died two and a half miles west of Mechanicsburg, Henry County, the father at the age of eighty and the mother at seventy-five. George H. was the second born in a family of four sons; Edward, who lives on the old homestead; Parker, a merchant at Howard, Indiana, and William, in Middletown, he log the other three. George H. Prigg was married at the age of twenty-three to Miss Jane Clark, at the time nineteen years old, a daughter of Jesse and Priscilla (Alley) Clark, natives of Virginia, who came to Indiana about 1831 and settled on the farm on which the widow of George H. Prigg now lives. This farm comprised eighty acres, was improved with a small
cabin, in which Jane Clark was born March 25. 1833. About eight years after locating here Mr. Clark erected a hewed-log house of two stories, and in 1857 put up the present dwelling. During the Civil war the premises were bought by Mr.Prigg and, Mr. and Mrs. Clark went to Fulton County, Indiana. Whence migrated about 1885 to Lawrence county, Missouri, where Mrs. Clark died when sixty-four years old and Mr. Clark at seventy. Of a family of five, three sisters and one brother live in Fulton and Miami counties. Mrs. Prigg being the only one to remain in Henry. After his marriage Mr. Prigg rented land for three Years, then purchased a farm; he next bought a second one three years later and three years afterward bought the Clark homestead, on which Mrs. Prigg has lived all her life with the exception of about ten or eleven years. Mr. Prigg acquired in all about five hundred acres and presented to each child at his or her marriage a tract of forty acres. George H. Prigg devoted
the greater part of his life to the breeding of livestock, and eventually met his death through a kick from a horse. He was very domestic in his habits and very fond of the society of his wife and children, to all of whom he was kind, intelligent and affectionate. He was a Republican in politics, but was too domestic a man to seek public office, although he was truly a public-spirited man and charitable citizen, whose death was greatly deplored by the entire community. He died in the faith of the Bristol New Light (or Christian) church and freely contributed to the aid of the congregation west of Middletown, of which he was a pious and consistent member. To George H. and Jane (Clark) Prigg were born six children, all but one of whom have been schoolteachers. They were born in the following order: John, now in Middletown; William, agent for the McCormick Reaper Company at New Castle; Martha, wife of Lon Nolan, of Frankton, Indiana; Monroe: twin of Martha, in Sulphur Springs,
Henry County: Joseph, a farmer in Delaware County, and Roberta, wife of Dolph Franklin, a farmer near the old Prigg homestead. There are eight grandchildren in the family and Mrs. Prigg resides on the old farm place, but rents the farm, and is frequently visited by such of her children as are within accessible distance, while her neighbors honor her with their constant attention.
Submitted by: Lora
Compendium of Biography Of Henry County, Indiana B. F. Bowen 1920
The study of biography yields to no other subject in point of interest and profit. It tells of the success and defeats of men, the difficulties they have encountered and gives an insight into the methods and plans, which they have pursued. The obvious lessons therein taught will prove of great benefit if followed and the example of the successful self-made man should certainly encourage others, into whose cradle smiling fortune has cast no glittering crown, to press forward to noble aims and higher ideals. Such a man is William Franklin Byrket, of this review, and in a biographical compendium of Henry County's progressive and representative citizens his name is deserving of conspicuous mention. Mr. Byrket is one of Indiana's native sons, born in Henry County on the 5th day of April 1863. His parents, Jonas and Luzena (Beeson) Byrket, were early settlers of Henry and representatives of two well-known families that figured prominently in
the growth and development of Greensboro Township, where the subject of this sketch first saw the light. Jonas Byrket began life poor in this world's goods and for some years after his marriage followed agricultural pursuits on land leased for the purpose. By industry and well-directed energy he succeeded in saving sufficient means to buy a piece of land of his own, from which in due time he cleared and developed a good farm of eighty-five acres upon which he lived until his retirement from life's active duties in the year 1900. His early environment being anything but encouraging, he was denied the educational privileges, which the majority of country boys enjoy, and at the time of his marriage he had not the slightest acquaintance with the first principle of scholarship. Possessing a naturally alert and inquisitive mind, he learned to read and write after reaching manhood's estate, his wife being the first teacher to instruct him in the
art of reading. Subsequently he became well read and was classed with the most intelligent and well-balanced men of the community in which he resides. In politics he was a life-long Republican, active in upholding the principles of his party and taking that lively interest in the great issues and questions before the American people, which characterizes the broad-minded and progressive citizens. He was a member of the Society of Friends, as likewise is his widow, the pure, simple teachings of which excellent church they always endeavored to exemplify in their daily walk and conversation. To them were born a family of six sons whose names are as follows: Edward Benton, a farmer and stock raiser of Greensboro township residing at the village of Shirley; Brooks and Amos, twins, the former an agriculturist living at Kennard, the latter still with his parents and for a number of years an invalid. The next in order of birth is William Franklin, of this
sketch, after whom comes Charles E., a farmer and merchant of Kennard; the youngest member of the family is Benjamin L., a resident of Greensboro Township and at the present time postmaster at Shirley. The father was called away by death in June 1902 by heart failure while attending court at Anderson, Indiana, and his death was mourned by all who knew him. His widow still survives and resides at Shirley. The old Byrket homestead contains the site of the last named village, which was founded by the Byrket family. It is about ten miles from Knightstown, and the country immediately, surrounding it is one of the best agricultural regions of Henry County. Two railroads are in the vicinity of the old place, thus affording fine local markets and bringing the village and adjacent territory into easy communication with the larger towns and cities of the county and state. The boyhood years of William Franklin Byrket were spent on the home place
and when a lad of fifteen he began working for himself as a farmer. Meanwhile of winter seasons he attended the Beeson school where the village of Shirley now stands. He continued to work by the month as a farm hand until the construction of the Big Four rail road, when he hired to the contractor having in charge that section of the line running through Greensboro township. While thus employed he worked on the grade helping to dig out stumps, remove trees and operating a scraper, in fact turning his hands to all kinds of hard labor required to make a road through a wooded and, in some places, a considerably broken country. With the money earned while working on the road he attended, the following fall and winter, a term of school at Greensboro and the next summer prosecuted his studies still further in a normal institute at Spiceland with the object in view of preparing himself for teaching. Realizing the value of an education and the advantages it
would bring to him from a financial point of view, he applied himself very assiduously and when sufficiently advanced to take a teachers examination, presented himself as an applicant for a license. Successfully passing the examination, he took charge of the old Union school in Wayne Township where he taught two consecutive terms, earning an enviable reputation as a capable and painstaking instructor, winning the esteem and confidence of patrons and pupils. Mr. Byrket spent the intervening summer in the Northern Indiana Normal School at Valparaiso and the summer following his second term found him pursuing his studies at the Central Normal at Danville. Actuated by a laudable desire to increase his scholastic knowledge and at the same time the better to fit him for successful school work he spent about four years in those two institutions, mean while teaching of winter seasons to obtain the means necessary to defray his expenses. Mr. Byrket taught his
third term at Woodville, following which he became principal of the graded schools of Cadiz, where he remained two years. Subsequently he had charge of the schools at Grant City two terms; these were also graded and while there he had two assistants. He next accepted the principal ship at Raysville, where he also had two assistant teachers, continuing there two years with success, which won for him much more than local repute as an able and popular educator. He received good salaries while teaching and, husbanding his earnings with great care, succeeded in accumulating sufficient capital to purchase a stock of general merchandise at Maple Valley, remained there a short time, then was in Grant City two years, then at Knightstown. He managed his store with encouraging success and divided about three years between merchandising and teaching, devoting the winter seasons to the latter and the remaining months of the year to the former. In due time
he found himself upon a solid financial footing. Mr. Byrket built up a large and lucrative trade and was thus engaged until 1894, when he was elected trustee of Wayne Township, the duties of which position he entered upon in September of the following year. To better discharge his official functions, which at that time were many and important, he disposed of his stock of goods at a liberal figure and during the succeeding two years attended to the trusteeship with credit to himself and satisfaction to the public. Mr. Byrket's long connection with educational work in Henry County and the high reputation he sustained as a teacher led his many friends to prevail upon him to become a candidate for the superintendence of the county schools in 1897. At their urgent solicitation he made the canvass and when the time came for choosing a man for the important position he led his competitors and was triumphantly elected in June of the above year.
Resigned as trustee, he at once assumed the duties of the superintendence and it was not long until his aggressive but judicious course fully justified the wisdom of his selection. Mr. Byrket was well fitted both by nature and professional 'training for the various duties which come to a superintendent of a county public school system. He is a man of great force of character, possesses executive ability of a high order, and under his able supervision some needed reforms were introduced and the schools brought to a state of greater efficiency. He did good work in perfecting the grading in the country districts, and through his persistent and effective efforts a class of teachers of exceptional professional ability was secured, the immediate results of which were seen in the excellent standing attained by the schools. During his incumbency the schools of this county were considered outclassed by none in the state and had he seen fit to continue as their executive
and professional head, they no doubt would have made still greater advancement in general efficiency. After serving with great acceptance to teachers and the public for nearly four years, Mr. Byrket resigned the superintendence to become cashier of the First National Bank of New Castle, a position which he has since filled. He entered upon the discharge of his duties in this capacity without previous knowledge of banking, being entirely without instructions when he accepted the place in June 1901. His well-known ability and unimpeachable integrity were his most effective recommendations and it was not long until he obtained a practical knowledge of the business, becoming in due time not only efficient and skilled in matters coming with in his official sphere, but acquiring a familiarity with banking in all of its minute details. Trained to habits of logical thinking, and possessing a remarkably quick and alert mind, he easily grasped the
fundamental principles of the business and the duties were mastered in regular order until he became not only an efficient cashier, but an able and wise adviser as well. Mr. Byrket enjoys the unlimited confidence of the officials and directorate of the bank, while his relations with the general public have been such as to win both friends and popularity for the institution. Eminently popular in the various positions he has filled, he is no less so as a man and citizen, being held in high esteem by all who know him and numbering his warm personal friends by the hundreds in New Castle and throughout the county of Henry. Taking an active interest in public affairs, his reading as well as his inclinations early led him into the domain of politics, though not as a zealous partisan. He is a Republican and as such is recognized as a potent factor in the councils of his party, as well as an influential worker in the ranks during the
progress of campaigns. He is a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, having filled the chairs in the local lodge to which he belongs, also representing it in the grand lodge of the state. In addition to merchandising he was interested for some years in a planning-mill in Knightstown and also carried on the lumber business there during his incumbency as trustee. Mr. Byrket has been successful as a businessman, having by sound judgment and good management acquired a sufficiency of this world's goods to place him in independent circumstances. In every relation of life he has been actuated by correct motives and his career throughout has been that of an intelligent, broad-minded, courteous gentleman, whose aim is to so live that his influence may be felt for good and that the world may be better by reason of his presence. By sheer force of character, directed and controlled by moral principles, he has risen from obscurity to positions of honor and trust
and today his native county can boast of no better or more enterprising and progressive citizen. Mr. Byrket has a beautiful home, presided over by an estimable and popular lady, who became his wife on the 16th of September 1897. She was formerly Miss Hattie May Cook, daughter of Rev. Madison Cook, for many years a well-known minister of the United Brethren church, but now deceased. Mrs. Byrket received a good education in the district and graded schools. She has borne her husband one child; a daughter, Arista Fay, a bright and interesting little miss of fourteen years. Mr. and Mrs. Byrket are members of the Society of Friends, belonging to the local church at New Castle, Indiana, and have consistently lived up to its teachings.
Submitted by: Lora
Compendium of Biography Of Henry County, Indiana B. F. Bowen 1920