John Gordon Smith was born to David and Ann Smith (both her maiden and married surname) on 1 June 1840 in Dundee, Forfarshire, Scotland. John’s father, David, a joiner by trade, was born about 1802 in Cameron, Fifeshire, Scotland. His mother Ann was born about 1805 in Leuchars, Fifeshire. John was baptized at Tay Square Presbyterian Church in Dundee on 14 June 1840.

As a young man, John traveled to Carlisle, England, where he became interested in the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He was baptized into the church on 31 March 1861. John became acquainted with Ann Elizabeth Gibson, born on 12 September 1841 in Dalston, Cumberland, England. She was the daughter of Elder William Gibson and Ann Adams. John and Ann Elizabeth were married in Carlisle on 8 April 1862, and almost immediately thereafter left England to join the Mormon gathering to Zion, (present-day Utah).

John Smith diary
From John Smith’s diary, 4 February 1884
Photo in the collection of John Headrick
Used with permission

John and Ann departed Liverpool among a group of 702 Saints aboard the Mormon ship John J. Boyd on 23 April 1862, arriving in New York on 1 June. They continued by steamboats, rail, and ferries to Chicago and across war-torn northern Missouri to St. Joseph before re-grouping at Florence, Nebraska, in preparation for the arduous overland journey on the Mormon Trail. They left Florence in the Homer Duncan Company on 22 July 1862 and reached the Salt Lake Valley on 21 September.

The young couple settled in Provo City, Utah Territory, where John was employed as a clerk. The first three of their ten children were born in Provo. However, John and Ann grew dissatisfied with the religious practices in Utah and, in 1870, they settled in St. Louis. In November 1871, John was baptized into the Reorganized Church of Latter-day Saints (RLDS). In 1883, John served as president (presiding elder) of the St. Louis Branch, as well as clerk of the St. Louis District of the RLDS (known today as Community of Christ Church). John and Ann’s seven other children all were born in St. Louis.

John worked as a tanner at Schultz Belting Co. on Barton Street. He also owned forty acres in Wayne County, Illinois, on which he employed a tenant until his sons were old enough to assume the farming duties. Interestingly, the John G. Smith family appears twice in the 1880 U.S. federal census: first, in Arrington Township, Wayne County, in June, and then on Barton Street in St. Louis in November. John was a member of the Tanners & Curriers Union and participated in the Good Government & Live Question Club.

John Gordon Smith was a dutiful record keeper, maintaining in beautiful hand a detailed diary of church activities, correspondence, and transactions, including family records. Unfortunately, only a handful of the diaries covering a few scattered years are extant; nonetheless, they offer informative accounts of St. Louis life and regional agriculture during the late-nineteenth century.

Ann Gibson Smith died of breast cancer at age forty-four in 1885, and John remarried the following year to Anna Elizabeth Stricker, a native of Switzerland. Anna died in 1910. John Gordon Smith died at the home of his son, William, on New Year’s Day 1916 with burial in New St. Marcus Cemetery.

(Sources include censuses from the U.S. Scotland, and England; Scotland Births and Baptisms, LDS records, Community of Christ records, Saints by Sea, St. Louis newspapers, and diaries of John Gordon Smith)

Submitted by John Headrick
January 2021

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