REV. Peter Smith Story 1753-1816




Peter5 SMITH was born February 06, 1753. There is record of his father, Hezekiah, in Sussex Co., NJ, 1753. Dr. Hezekiah SMITH was born June 3, 1714 and died April 6, 1801. Peter’s mother, Sarah, born September 25, 1719 and died July 31, 1804. 

On December 23, 1776, Peter married Catherine STOUT, daughter of Samuel STOUT, (a Revolutionary Soldier) and Anna VAN DYKE (STOUT Gen. 1951, p. 31) who was born November 25, 1758, in Hopewell, NJ.  Peter was 24 years old and Catherine was 18.

Peter is believed to have attended Princeton College until 1776. According to family tradition, Peter attended Princeton University, although the University has no record of it. It is certain that he did not graduate, since the graduation lists are complete. Since the matriculation lists are incomplete, it is possible that he was there for a year or two, but there is no absolute way to to determine that fact. 

At the age of twenty-three, he appears in New York City, probably in military service. A letter dated, July 9, 1776, written by Peter’s brother, Hezekiah Jr. from Wall Street, New York City and addressed to his “Dear Parents,” says in part: “I had the privilege of hearing four sermons in town, one from my Brother Peter…” From the text of this letter it is known definitely that the writer was then in military service and it is presumed that his older brother Peter was also there in the same status, although no official record of this term of service for Hezekiah Jr. 

Rev. Peter SMITH, was a Private during the American Revolutionary War, in the Morris County Militia, New Jersey with J. Ten Eyck’s men at Bound Brook, April 1, 1777, Captain Carter’s Company, Colonel Seeley’s Eastern Battalion. Seeley’s regiment was called out to watch the British in New York City while Washington went south to Yorktown. During the Revolutionary War, Morris County was known as the Military Capital of the American Revolution, because of its strategic location, which prompted Gen. George Washington and his Continental Army to make their winter encampments near Morristown on two different winters. Much of the historic lore of these encampments is preserved today in Morristown National Historical Park. 

Peter very early turned his attention of medicine, under his father and became familiar with the works of Dr. RUSH, Dr. BROWN, and other writers of his day on “physic,” as well as with the works of CULPEPPER. Also acquired during his life much information from physicians he met in New Jersey, Penn., Virginia, North and South Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky and Ohio. He called himself an “Indian doctor,” as he said he relied much on herbs, roots and other Indian remedies. Seems to have been an original investigator, availing himself of all opportunities with his reach for acquiring knowledge. 

It is recorded that he inoculated 130 persons in New Jersey for smallpox in the year 1777. 

Sometime between their marriage and 1779, Peter and Catherine moved to Virginia as the published Town Records of Hopewell, New Jersey, 1931, p. 142, edited by Lila Cokefair Gedney, state that “Catherine Smith, wife of Peter Smith (was) dismissed to a church in Virginia, July 26, 1779.” 

Children born to Peter and Catherine:

Samuel  born April 4, 1778, Princeton, Mercer County, New Jersey.

Ira born   July 9, 1780, New Jersey.

Sally Sarah born June 29, 1802

Hezekiah born July 17, 1784, near Augusta, GA

Abraham born March 15, 1788, Milledgeville, Baldwin County, GA

Nancy born December 6, 1790

Margaret and Catherine (twins) born August 15, 1793 (in Kentucky?)

Jacob born March 5, 1797  Duck Creek, Columbia, OH

Mary born January 31, 1799, Duck Creek, Columbia, OH.

Rhoda Allison born October 27, 1801 Duck Creek, Columbia OH 

The Revolutionary War was not over yet. Probably the years 1780-1781 were spent in Virginia while the British Army, under Cornwallis was contending against Generals Greene, Morgan, Marion and other American patriots for supremacy in the Carolinas and while the culminating victory of Washington over Cornwallis at Yorktown was taking place (October 19, 1781). 

Unfortunately the names of the cities and counties indicating the stopping places of the family on its journey through the southern States have not been handed down to us. Not even the exact location of the family home in Georgia, where they resided for a number of years, is a matter of record.  (John Perry Miller, 1922)

“They afterward journeyed to the South, and settled in Georgia, where he was minister and physician. 

Samuel SMITH, Rev. Peter SMITH'S first son was born April 4, 1778. He was but two years of age when his parents, Dr Peter Smith and Catherine, started on their journey to the Southland. His childhood was spent in the Carolinas and Georgia. He was sixteen years old when they arrived at Old Columbia, on Duck Creek, near Cincinnati, Ohio, in the year 1794. 

 After seeing the workings of slavery he concluded he would not raise his family in a slave state, and the Northwest territory being dedicated to freedom, he decided to take his wife and children and seek a home in the wilderness. 

Peter decided to move his family to free territory and about the year 1794 he, with five or six other families, arranged to move to the Northwest Territory.  The country through which they passed being a wilderness. The only roads they had to guide them were the Indian trails blazed through the wilderness. 

Before starting they organized by electing Peter, Captain. In moving they used packhorses, on which everything they had was carried. Peter’s family consisted of nine children, two of these, the youngest, being twins. Abraham, being six years old, remembered a great many incidents of this journey. Catherine rode a big horse and led another horse on which the twins were placed, each in a basket, especially prepared, being fastened together and placed on the horse, one on each side, so that they balanced. In these baskets were good pillows, so that it made a comfortable way of riding. Some of the streams were so deep that Catherine had to raise the baskets to keep the children out of the water. If they made 10 miles a day, that was considered a good day! 

Recorded stories from family say that they started their trip about the year 1794 from Kentucky to Ohio. The twins were born, August 15, 1793. You will note that Catherine had the infant twin’s in baskets on the packhorses. 

 They made the rule of going into camp on Friday evening, always trying to camp on some stream of water and not breaking camp until Monday morning. This gave them a chance to do their washing and Sunday was strictly a day of rest and for religious worship. 

 They crossed the Miami River near the Block house station of Columbia and located on Duck Creek. At that time Duck Creek and the Miami River at a point about where the modern Cincinnati’s Eastern Avenue meets Red Bank Road; the course of the Miami River has since changed and Duck Creek is now piped to the river over the flat lands. 

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Partial View of Columbia Twp.

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Old Duck Creek Church

The records of the Old Baptist Church at Columbia show that Rev. Peter SMITH and wife Catherine united with that church in 1795, by letter and was ordained as minister in 1801.” Peter is listed as Pastor of the Columbia Baptist Church from 1801 to 1804. The historical sketch indicates that “Elder Peter SMITH” (from Georgia) was called by the church to the pastorate. Peter was involved in establishing the Carpenter’s Run Baptist Church, material dated June 17, 1797. (Olden Historical Sketches, pg. 178). That church ceased to exist on August 24, 1828. Peter was a delegate from the Columbia Baptist Church who helped establish the Miami Baptist Association. Formal establishment date was June 3, 1797. A listing of members indicates the following SMITHS became members of The Columbia Baptist Church during the following years. 1801 – Ira SMITH, Elizabeth SMITH. 1802 – E. SMITH.  1806 – Jonathan SMITH. 

 In an account of the Centennial Celebration held June 21, 1890, of this the first Baptist Church in the Northwest Territory, the Cincinnati Commercial Gazette says, “In 1801, under Elder Peter SMITH'S preaching, a great revival came, and in a few months over one hundred and fifty members were added to the church.”   

 Old Duck Creek Church Columbia, OH

 Peter bought 160 acres for $106. Recorded February 17, 1797. On April 1803, Peter bought a tract of land in Columbia Twp. (Hamilton Co. OH). On  October 29, 1804 Peter sold that same property, or a portion of it, to his son Samuel SMITH.  During the years of residence on the farm, Peter practiced medicine and spent  his time preaching. 

The original marriages of their children: Peter solemnized the marriages of many of his children. 

Samuel Smith married Elizabeth MCCLEAVE August 22, 1801

Ira Smith married Margaret DODSON February 16, 1802

Sally Smith married Henry JENNINGS March 15, 1799

Hezekiah Smith married Sally DRAKE April 3, 1806

Elizabeth Smith married John FERRIS January 20, 1803

Abraham Smith married Edey MORGAN August 11, 1807

Nancy Smith married John JOHNS April 3, 1806

Margaret Smith married Hugh M. WALLACE October 13, 1808

Catherine Smith never married

Jacob S. Smith ?

Mary Smith married Joseph KEIFER November 7, 1815

Rhoda Allison Smith married William LINDSEY March 22, 1819, Clark Co., Ohio 

 Catherine STOUT SMITH’S father died and in the will of her father, Samuel STOUT of Hopewell, dated September 12, 1803, she is bequeathed the sum of $533.33 (NJA:39:430).   

In the year 1805, “this Doctor, Preacher and Teacher decided to move again,” this time up the Miami Valley to Donnels Creek, a branch of the Mad River, where  he settled a short distance above the present village of Donnelsville and about seven miles west of the present city of Springfield, Ohio. It is stated by William W. KEIFER of Springfield, OH, a great-grandson of Peter, that he selected this high piece of land for health reasons.  Few others had preceded him to the Mad river country. Here he and his sons located on three half-sections of land (a poor farm) and a part of this in later years became the home of Abraham SMITH. 

  Rev. Peter SMITH had his home on what was called the HARDACRE and BRANDENBURG farms. His son Abraham, the present site at Donnelsville. His daughter Nancy JOHNS, the Daniel FROSS Farm. Samuel built his cabin one-half mile northeast of the forks of the creek, in all three half sections.


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Donnelsville and Surrounding Area


Mrs. Margaret GAINES says that the Smiths first stopped near the present village of Medway, on the land afterward owned by the LAMMES, but for some reason they thought best to settle on Donnels Creek where there was a cabin and small clearing. At that time Mrs. Mary KEIFER was about six years old, but remembered of hearing the Indian babies cry on being plunged into the icy creek—this was their way of hardening the youngsters.  When her father preached in Kentucky it was necessary to have sentinels stationed around the church for protection from the Indians. 

 Peter spent nearly all his later years in life, traveling on horseback, preaching. In two to three  years time he traveled as far east as the state of New York to attend yearly meetings, which were similar to our camp meetings. 

February 1, 1812, Peter SMITH joined the Mad River Church by letter from the Beavercreek Church (near Fairfield, Greene Co. OH) by vote of the membership immediately assumed ministerial charge. 

There was a book written called, “Record of Mad River Church, September 27, 1818. It is of special interest to the Smiths because of the many family names therein recorded. 

 After a life described by his biographers as “eventful,” Peter, at the age of sixty, wrote “The Indian Doctor’s Dispensatory, being Father SMITH’S advice respecting diseases and their cure, consisting of prescriptions for many complaints and a description of medicines, simple and compound.” The book was published in 1813 by Brown and Looking, in Cincinnati, and a copy is in the library of the University of Cincinnati. 

Peter was a heavy set man of medium size and in old age stoop shouldered, leaning to one side. A broken thigh and other infirmities brought him to his deathbed and he passed away on December 31, 1816. He was buried on his farm and a plat surrounding his grave became the Donnelsville burying ground. 

Old Donnelsville Brandenburg Cemetery 

His wife, Catherine STOUT, must have been very handsome in youth, as she carried her comely features and fair complexion in the decline of life. She was gifted in conversation, could well maintain her own side in disputing points of docturine with ministers of that day. She could then recite whole poems that she had learned in childhood. Her father’s house in New Jersey was surrounded with British soldiers during the Revolutionary War. Fearing confiscation, they had buried their valuables, such as jewelry and silverware, being in affluent circumstances and owning slaves. The old chest which contained these valuables was used by Catherine in carrying her wedding outfit—that, with spoons and other relics, are still in possession of one branch of the family. The pioneer woman and widow of Rev. Peter SMITH died at the home of her son Samuel, November 3, 1851. 

Death Dates of Children:

Samuel SMITH died August 12, 1856

Ira SMITH died February 6, 1866, Lafayette, Tippecanoe Co. IN

Sally Smith JENNINGS died sometime prior to 1827, Lafayette, Tippecanoe Co. IN or Montgomery Co. OH

Hezekiah SMITH died February 2, 1871, Shelbyville, IN

Elizabeth Smith FERRIS died July 21, 1809, Columbia, OH

Abraham SMITH died November 1873, Lawrence Co. IL

Nancy Smith JOHNS died August 28, 1813, Clark Co. OH

Margaret Smith WALLACE died July 3, 1810, Clark Co. OH

Catherine died unmarried July 7, 1807, Clark Co. OH

Jacob S. SMITH died October 14, 1815

Mary Smith KEIFER died 1879, Clark Co. OH

Rhoda Allison Smith LINDSEY died October 10, 1840, Richmond, IN 

The story doesn’t end with their deaths. These families had families and they left a long legacy.

Sources:  Data compiled by Smith cousins, from the wonderful volunteers on rootsweb lists, documents, books, and the many who have researched before us.

Early Settlers and Early Times on Donnels  Creek and Vicinity, Clark Co. Ohio By Samuel S. Miller 1897.

Peter Smith of Jamaica, Long Island, and Some of his Descendants, Contributed By Samuel Steel Smith, 1954.

The Genealogy of the Descendants of Samuel Smith, Sr. and Elizabeth (McCleave) Smith by, John Peery Miller, A.M. Formerly Professor of History, Antioch College, Yellow Springs, Ohio

Slavery and Four Years of War, by Joseph Warren Keifer, Vol. 1 1861--1863

Early American Trails and Roads

8 Mar 2002