JOHN SMITH    1805 - 1864

SUSAN KESSLER SMITH    1810 - 1878

Written and Contributed by Phil Drajeske

John Smith (Johann Schmidt) was born December 15, 1805 (6) in Mimbach, Kreis Zweibrcken, Bavaria. He was the son of Johann Jacob Schmidt and Margaretha Weinland (1). Johann served in the Royal Bavarian Army from June 29, 1826 to March 2, 1832 (6) where he served as a sapper (digger of trenches and builder of fortifications).

John's wife Susan Margaretha Kessler was born June 21, 1810, in Mimbach, Kreis Zweibrcken, Bavaria. She was the daughter of Michael Kessler and Katherina Moschel (2). John and Susan were married in nearby Webenheim on January 19, 1834 (3). Their first child, Frederick, was born in Mimbach 13 May 13, 1836 (4). Mimbach is located at latitude 49 degrees, 14 minutes north and longitude 7 degrees, 16 minutes east. The Smith's emigrated to America, probably in 1837. They apparently left Germany clandestinely without filing a police report (5). Did they have unpaid debts? Typically immigrants arriving in New York (assumed) and heading west first went north up the Hudson River to Albany, and then west on the Erie Canal. The Erie Canal parallels the Mohawk River passing through Montgomery County. Another possibility is that the Smith's came through Canada. There were many German settlers in this area, possibly many from Mimbach. Susan's grand uncle, Lawrence Gross, and family lived in Freysbush, Town of Minden, Montgomery County, New York. John and Susan purchased 28 acres of land, in Freysbush, on both sides of, what is now Hessville Road, just east of Gould's Road, although the property was apparently purchased over a period of years (9). The house was on the north side of the road, while most of their property was on the south side. A creek flowed alongside the north side of the property where grew the cattails used in John's basket making.

Son John was born in 1838, Lucy in 1840, Margareth on May 7, 1841, Nancy on February 19, 1843, and Levi on November 6, 1846. The 1840 U.S. census, which shows only the head of household by name, shows 2 members of the family engaged in agriculture. This implies John and Susan. Ferdinand was born on February 6, 1846, and baptized December 25, 1846 at the Lutheran Trinity Church of Stone Arabia, Town of Palatine in Montgomery County.

David was born November 19, 1847 and Ezra December 27, 1849. David and Ezra were also baptized at Lutheran Trinity Church (7), but no baptismal records have been found for the six earlier children. This is puzzling. Also the homestead is 11.8 miles from Lutheran Trinity Church. This would be quite a great distance for people of the day to travel regularly to church. Pastors of the day often traveled about by horseback baptizing as they went. Trinity Church records show many baptismal locations, including Minden, Minden Church, Minden Parsonage, and Frey Bush. These baptisms would be recorded back at their home churches. This raises the possibility that the Smith's never actually attended church in Stone Arabia.

The 1850 U.S. census lists John's occupation as 'Basket maker' and shows he owned property worth $600.00 (Apparently 28 acres). Susan's name is listed as Sarah, but I feel this is the same person. In the 1855 New York State Census John's occupation is still shown as basket maker and he is shown as "naturalized". Son John, at age 16, is also shown as a basket maker. Their dwelling is shown as "frame" and worth $200.00. The oldest son, Frederick, at age 19, is no longer living at home, but is living with the William Walrath family as a carpenter's apprentice. Daughter, Nancy, at age 12, is a servant at the Peter Diefendorf Family just down the road. In the 1860 U.S. census we can no longer find Frederick Smith, the carpenter, as he has moved to Milwaukee. John Smith Sr. is now shown as a farmer with a property value of $1000.00. Margaret, age 18, and Levi, age 16, are still shown at home but no occupation is listed. Daughter, Lucy, is not shown and presumed deceased. Ferdinand is mistakenly listed as Frederick, but the age 15 shown has to be Ferdinand. No occupation is listed for Ferdinand, nor is he shown attending school. Is this the first indication of a teenage rebel? David, age 12, and Ezra, age 10, are shown attending school. The 1862 records for District School No. 16 show David and Ezra attending. The school was located almost directly across the street from their house (8). The older children probably attended the same school.

The 1860 U.S. Agricultural Census shows John Smith with 20 improved acres, with a value of $1000.00. Livestock was 2 horses, 2 milk cows, 4 other cattle, and 5 pigs. Crops were 15 bushels of wheat, 100 of Indian corn, 60 of oats, 20 of peas and beans, 188 of Irish potatoes, 11 of buckwheat, and 5 tons of hay. He produced 300 lbs of butter and slaughtered $49.00 worth of animals. His farm implements were worth $100.00.

There is a record on file for a Levi Smith claiming exemption from military service during the Civil War. John was by this time in Wisconsin, and Frederick was also. If, however, this Levi is Ferdinand Smith's brother it is not hard to imagine the following scenario. Susan Smith did not want her sons to go and fight in a war. She might have convinced them to apply for exemptions to military service. We know that Ferdinand at age 16, in 1862 ran away from home to become a drummer boy in the 153rd New York infantry during the Civil War. Is this more teenage rebellion? At only 16 Ferdinand probably was not yet eligible for military service, but was perhaps in heavy disagreement with his Mother about exemptions from service. Ferdinand lied about his age, stating it as 18 when he enlisted. Susan was so furious that she disowned him. She would eventually disinherit him by leaving him $5.00 in her will. Ferdinand's brother John also enlisted in Co. G of the Wisconsin 28th Regiment and served as a corporal. He probably moved to Wisconsin prior to his enlistment and is shown in the military records as John H. Smith. He died of disease 27 June 1863 in St. Louis and is buried there at the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, Section 1, Grave 7270.

In 1863, while Ferdinand was away fighting in the Civil War, his Father, John Smith died. His last will and testament was drawn up December 11, 1863. In it John maintains he is sound of mind, but feeble of body. Perhaps he realized death was imminent. John died 19 December 1863 (11). Susan's application for probate of the will was drawn up February 4. 1864 and probate took place March 1, 1864. Regimental records show that Ferdinand was granted a 15-day furlough on January 9. 1864, presumably to attend his father's belated funeral. Due to the frozen ground the actual burial probably took place later in the spring. The Smith property then passed on to John's wife, Susan.

Following his return home after the Civil War was over son Ferdinand moved to Germantown, Wisconsin. Son Frederick was already in Wisconsin. The 1869 - 1870 "Gazetteer and Business Directory of Montgomery and Fulton Counties, New York," shows Mrs. Susan Smith (Fort Plain) farming 27 acres.

The 1870 U.S. Agricultural Census shows Susan Smith with 28 improved acres, with a value of $2800.00. Livestock was 1 horse, 3 milk cows, 2 other cattle, and 1 pig. Crops were 15 bushels of winter wheat, 15 of Indian corn, 125 of oats, 16 of barley, 25 of Irish potatoes, 11 of buckwheat, and 5 tons of hay. She produced 350 lbs of butter, 900 lbs of hops and slaughtered $20.00 worth of animals. The total value of farm production was $440.00 and the farm implements were worth $125.00. The youngest son, Ezra, was probably running the farm.

On 6 March 1875 the Hays and Wells bank was discovered on fire. After the flames were extinguished the body of Edward Yost was discovered with two bullet wounds in the head. The fire was apparently set to obliterate the murder and theft of a gold watch, a diamond pin, and several hundred dollars. Suspicion fell upon a Frederick Smith. Yost and Smith had been in partnership together, but had separated on unfriendly terms. Yost slept at the bank and Smith did sometimes too. Frederick Smith was arrested and after lying in jail for nearly a year was brought to trial and acquitted. The report says Smith then left for California. Is this the same Frederick Smith that is Susan Smith's oldest son? Is this the same Frederick M. Smith that is shown in the 1860 census as a bank teller? Not likely a relative, since our Frederick Smith had moved to Wisconsin in 1857, but an interesting story.

As reported in the Canajoharie Radii on 19 September 1878, Susan died of consumption at home on 12 September 1878. Her will showed the apparent favoritism among the children. Both Ferdinand and Frederick got only $5.00 and it was not to be paid until one year after Susan's death. Nancy got $50.00 after one year, Margareth $300.00 plus some household furnishings after 1 year, Levi $200.00 after one year, and David $500.00 immediately. Ezra, the youngest, was apparently the favorite, getting the balance of the estate that included 28 acres of land. Daughter Lucy is not mentioned in the will so it is presumed that she had already died. Why did Frederick and Ferdinand get so little in Susan's will? We know that Susan was furious with Ferdinand when he ran away from home in 1862 to join the army. However, probate of the will lists Ferdinand residing in Wisconsin and Frederick residing in Kansas. The rest of the children apparently still lived close by. Perhaps Susan did not care for children that moved away from home.

John Smith Tomb

Susan Smith Tomb

John and Susan Smith tombstones

John and Susan are buried in section 10 in the Fort Plain Cemetery (10). John's epitaph reads, "Who would not wish to the life those (?), whom God's own spirit denys (?) to bless. To sink into that soft repose, Then wake in perfect happiness." Susan's read, "Asleep in Jesus! O for me may such a blissful refuge be, Securely shall my ashes lie waiting the summons from on high."


Nine children are known by name as per the 1850 U.S. Census. The 1865 New York State Census shows that Susan Smith had birthed 11 children. This leaves 2 children born at an unknown time, possibly in Bavaria, and dying young. Birth places shown for the children, other than Frederick, are as written in the various documents. Chances are good that they were all born at the family home in Freysbush, the hamlet in Town of Minden, Montgomery County, New York.

Frederick Smith

Frederick was born 13 May 1836 in Mimbach (5). In 1855 Frederick was living with the William Walrath family as a carpenter's apprentice (c). Frederick moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin probably, in 1857 (t). He lived around 14th and Fond du Lac plying his carpenter and cabinetmaker trade (u). Frederick bought property in Saukville, just west of Port Washington, on 29 March 1867 (e).

Frederick married Phoebe Hoosen in 1868, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Phoebe was born in Fort Plain, New York. Alvina was born January 20, 1869 and Myron in 1870. On May 14, 1870 Frederick sold the Saukville property (f). The family moved to Lawrence, Kansas in 1871, and Almeda was born in April 1875. The 1875 Kansas census shows Frederick as a carpenter, with family in Lawrence, Ward 1. The 1876 city directory showed the residence to be on Vermont between Henry and Warren. The 1880 census shows the residence at Illinois and Alabama Street. The 1883 city directory shows the residence at the southwest corner of Dane and Mississippi. The 1895 household census still shows the family in Ward 1. The 1900 census shows the address to be 227 Mississippi Street, Frederick owning the house free of mortgage. Alvina married Thomas W. Hunt on December 29. 1891 at the First Baptist Church of Lawrence. Thomas was from Eskridge in Wabaunsee County, Kansas and they moved to Reading, Pennsylvania where Thomas attended medical school. By 1900 they were back in Eskridge (p). In 1894 Myron left home and was never heard from again. He was declared dead in 1913. The 1901 city directory still shows Fred, Phoebe, and Almeda at 227 Mississippi. Almeda is working as a clerk at H L Raymond & Co. In the 1902 directory Fred and Phoebe are still there but Almeda is gone. In May, 1904 they moved to Rifle, Colorado (t), where they are in 1910. Alvina's husband, Thomas had died in 1905 and she is in Rifle, next to her parents, with daughter, Ruth, and son, John.

Frederick Smith Family

The Frederick Smith family - Ruth Hunt, Phoebe Smith, John Hunt, Frederick Smith, Alvina Hunt, about 1908

Frederick became part owner of the Soule Ranch and moved there to take an active part in its management in 1906 Frederick died in his home on Taughenbaugh Mesa near Rifle on March 5, 1913. Phoebe then moved in with her daughter, Vinna Hunt. Phoebe died on June 19, 1930.

John Smith

John Smith

John was born in 1838 in New York. John moved to Wisconsin at an unknown time. He was probably following his brother, Frederick, there. There is a John Smith that shows up on the 1860 census as a 24-year-old working as a journeyman at the home of carraige maker, John D. Barke. This may or may not be our John Smith. John enlisted in the Wisconsin 28th on August 21, 1862 in Germantown (or Waukesha). He died of disease in St. Louis on June 26, 1863 and is buried in the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery there.

Lucy Smith

Lucy was born in 1840 in New York and shows up on the 1850 census as a ten year old. She presumably died young. An 1853 School District 16 tax document shows John Smith with 8 children. If this is meant to be total children, not school age children, then Lucy had died by this time. However, there is a Lucy Smith, age 16, in the 1855 census, living at the Baltis Cook house as a servant. This may or may not be our Lucy Smith.

Margareth Smith

Margareth Smith

Margareth (Maggie) was born in May 7, 1841(o) in Freysbush and never married. She lived all but the last two years of her life in the Town of Minden. She then moved to Starkville, living with her niece, Margaret Hotaling. She died 22 December 1926 at the Utica, New York State Hospital (l).

Maggie is buried in section 10 in the Fort Plain Cemetery in the same plot as her mother and father, next to her brother, Levi. Strangely, her tombstone shows the birth date but not the death date.

Nancy Smith Iffland

Nancy (Smith) Iffland

Nancy was born 19 February 1843 in New York. In 1855 she was living with the Diefendorf family as a servant (c). On September 15, 1859 she married Paul Iffland, a shoemaker. Paul also served as the Freysbush postmaster. Their children were Carrie born September 30, 1860, William born August 1861, Margaret born 1862, Lydia born February 3, 1866, and Alice born 1867. Nancy died in Freysbush by hanging herself in the barn on July 23, 1888 (k). Paul died February 2, 1889 in Freysbush (k). Nancy and Paul are buried in the Freysbush Cemetery (s).

Paul Iffland

Paul Iffland

Levi Smith

Levi Smith

Levi was born 6 November 1844 in New York (r). He never married. He was still at home in 1865 (b). In 1870 there is a Levi Smith shown as a farmer with 6 acres in Sprout Brook (g). This may or may not be our Levi Smith. In 1888 he is shown as a carpenter at 26 Hancock in Fort Plain (h). In around 1900 he still lived in Fort Plain (a). Levi died July 17, 1920 at the Utica State Hospital (m). Levi is buried in section 10 in the Fort Plain Cemetery (j), next to his brother, Ezra. Like Maggie his tombstone shows his birth date but not his death date.

Ferdinand Smith

Ferdinand Smith

Ferdinand was born February 16, 1846 in Freysbush. He served with the NY 153rd during the Civil War. Following the war he moved to Germantown, Wisconsin, following Frederick to Wisconsin. He married Catherine Staats on February 3, 1868. Their children were Susan born December 19, 1867, Nancy born November 7, 1868, Lucy born November 29, 1870, and John born March 26, 1872. Susan and John died as infants. Catherine died April 14, 1875. Ferdinand moved to Waubeka, Wisconsin and married Friederike Helm on 13 March 1876. Ida was born January 14, 1877, and Lydia Edna on July 9, 1878. Moving to Iron Mountain, Michigan, Carrie was born on May 17, 1880, Emily and Lily on March 21, 1882, Frederick on July 17, 1883, John on September 15, 1885, and Ella on July 7, 1887. In 1891 the family moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Ferdinand died January 24, 1920. He is buried in Wood National Cemetery in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Since Ferdinand is the author's great grandfather, his story is told in much greater detail in a separate document.

David Smith

David Smith

David was born November 19, 1847 in Freysbush. As a young man David moved to Fort Plain and worked for the grocery firm of Diefendorf & Walrath (i). In 1872 he opened a grocery business of his own, which he ran for 40 years. This grocery and stoneware store was located in Fort Plain (a) at 13 Main. The residence was also on Main (h). David married Mary Salman on February 28, 1872. Their children were Fred F. born in August 1873, Anna born November 7, 1877 and Carmeta born February 8, 1890. Carmeta died November 30, 1890 (k).

David Smith Grocery

David Smith Grocery - 1878: Note the bananas by entryway. Reuben Geesler, John P. Grant, David Smith, Rev. Theodore Krug, and the small boy, Fred F. Smith, in front of Rev. Krug, pastor of St. Paul's Lutheran Church.

David Smith Grocery

Supplies for the grocery store arrived by barge, via the Erie Canal, from Amsterdam, New York. The David Smith Grocery was the first to bring bananas to the area. They were red in color. David was one of the best-known men in the village. He was one of the charter members of the Mohawk Valley Lodge, K. of P. He was also a member of the official board of the Methodist Church. For many years he was a trustee of the local school (i). Mary died December 4, 1912 and David January 31, 1918 of complications from kidney and bladder surgery. Apparently David had a premonition of his death and before leaving for the hospital he fully completed the arrangements for his funeral (i). He walked to the train station, stopping at the mortuary, and made his funeral arrangements. He then took the train to Troy, location of the hospital, and died from surgery.

David is buried in section 10 in the Fort Plain Cemetery in the same plot as his parents. His death year (1918) was never engraved into the tombstone. Mary died visiting her daughter in New Jersey (New York City?) and is buried there although there is a memorial stone next to David in the Ft. Plain Cemetery.

Ezra Smith

Ezra Smith

Ezra was born December 27, 1849 in Montgomery County. In 1875 he was living at home, but working as a clerk in his brother's grocery store (d). Eventually though he was the only son to remain home and run the farm after his father died in 1864. As a reward Ezra received the farm in the will when his mother died in 1878. He must have been in poor health though, because in 1881 he began selling off the property.

Ezra died young on 18 February 1885, and is buried in section 10 in the Fort Plain Cemetery, next to his father and mother. In contrast to his parent and sibling's tombstones, Ezra's name is engraved on the top of the stone.


1. Ev. Gemeinde Mimbach Kirchenbezirk Zweibruecken, LDS Film No. 584867. Baptism #15, 1813.
2. Ev. Gemeinde Mimbach Kirchenbezirk Zweibruecken, LDS Film No. 584867. Baptism # 28, 1810.
3. Ev. Gemeinde Mimbach Kirchenbezirk Zweibruecken, LDS Film No. 584867. Marriage #78, 1833 - 1834.
4. Ev. Gemeinde Mimbach Kirchenbezirk Zweibruecken, LDS Film No. 584867. Baptism #31, 1836
5. Konskriptionsliste des Bezirks Zweibrcken 1857, Number 613
6. Royal Bavarian Army Discharge for Sapper 2nd Class Johann Schmidt
7. GPS coordinates; North 42 degrees, 56.496 minutes, West 74 degrees, 33.342 minutes
8. This school building still existed until around 1959 when it was torn down.
9. GPS coordinates; North 42 degrees, 54.182 minutes, West 74 degrees, 41.564 minutes
10. GPS coordinates; North 42 degrees, 56.090 minutes, West 74 degrees, 37.916 minutes
11. John Smith tombstone, Ft. Plain, New York Cemetery

a. "History of William E. Walrath" unpublished autobiography.
b. 1865 New York State Census.
c. 1855 New York State Census.
d. 1875 New York State Census.
e. Ozaukee County Deeds, Vol 21, No. 150
f. Ozaukee County Deeds, Vol 24, No. 93
g. Gazetteer and Business Directory of Montgomery and Fulton Counties, N.Y., 1869-70
h. Nelliston Directory, 1887-1888, Fort Plain
i. David Smith Obituary, "Fort Plain Standard," February 7, 1918
j. Fort Plain Cemetery records
k. Montgomery County Town of Minden Register of Deaths
l. Margaret Smith Obituary, Fort Plain Standard, December 23, 1926
m. State of New York Certificate of Death No. 44078
n. State of New York Certificate of Death No. 74789
o. Maggie Smith tombstone, Ft. Plain, New York Cemetery
p. 1900 US Census
r. Levi Smith tombstone, Ft. Plain, New York Cemetery
s. GPS coordinates; North 42 degrees, 54.657 minutes, West 74 degrees, 40.129 minutes
t. Frederick Smith obituary, "The Rifle Telegram" March 7, 1913, page 6.
u. Milwaukee City Directories 1858-1867.

John Smith Descendants

John Smith Descendants: R to L are Phil Drajeske, Everett Smith, Carol Smith, and Harlan Smith. Tombstones R to L are John Smith, Susan Smith, Ezra Smith, Levi Smith in the Fort Plain Cemetery.


"I have been researching in Montgomery for about 6 years now and get back there about once a year. Mainly it is my John Smith/Susan Casler (great great grandparents) family which settled in Freysbush in 1837. I have tracked all the children to current day cousins. Other surnames that are relatives are Gros, Iffland, and Walrath. I am trying to pin down just how many families from Mimbach/Webenheim/Brietfurt in the Zweibrcken area settled in Montgomery County."

"The picture of my great grandfather, Ferdinand Smith, was taken in Wisconsin. I have found no pictures of him taken in New York. Ferdinand left New York after the Civil War, no doubt because his mother had disowned him."

Philip Drajeske
Munster, IN

Obituary of David Smith, from the Fort Plain Standard, February 7, 1918.

David Smith aged 70 years, died Thursday night at Samaritan Hospital in Troy, where he was recently operated upon for relief from kidney and bladder trouble. Mr. Smith was one of the best known men in this village and at one time was one of the village's substantial business men. He was born at Freysbush and was a son of the late Mr. and Mrs. John Smith. When a young man he came to this village and worked for the grocery firm of Diefendorf & Walrath. In 1872 he opened a grocery business of his own and conducted the same for 40 years, retiring only a few years ago. He was one of the charter members of the Mohawk Valley lodge, K. of P., and was always proud of this fact. It is said that there now remains but one charter member of the local order. He was also a member of the Fort Plain lodge, F. and A. M. He was a trustee and a member of the official board of the Methodist Church. For many years he was a trustee of the local school. Mr. Smith seemed to have a premonition of his death and before leaving for the hospital he fully completed the arrangements for his funeral. When relatives remonstrated with him for his doing these things he stated that "It was a business proposition and would not hinder his returning should he recover." The deceased was a man who had many friends. He had a congenial nature and many will regret his death. The survivors include one son, Fred F. Smith of this village: one daughter, Mrs. W. A. Leavy of New York, and two brothers, Ferdinand Smith, and Levi Smith, and one sister, Miss Margaret Smith. The funeral, in charge of the Masonic Lodge, was held from the Methodist Church Sunday afternoon, Rev. W. T. Wees officiating. The remains were placed in the Catherine Nellis Memorial chapel vault and burial later will be made in the Fort Plain Cemetery.

Obituary of Nancy Smith Iffland, from the Amsterdam Evening Recorder, July 24, 1888.

While Mentally Deranged

Mrs. Nancy Iffland, wife of Paul Iffland, postmaster of Freysbush Post Office, committed suicide Sunday night, by hanging.Her husband on going to the barn yesterday to do his usual work found her lifeless body suspended from a beam.Mrs. Iffland had been in poor health for a number of years and at times slightly deranged.No other cause can be assigned for the act as her home and family relations were peculiarly pleasant.Her age was about forty six years. Coroner Biggam is now holding an inquest.

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Created 12/12/03
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