My husband’s 2nd great-grandfather John B Smith is, as my brother-in-law Bryan says, “a mystery surrounded by a riddle inside of an enigma”. And he is quite correct. There isn’t a lot of information about John B Smith, but maybe, just maybe, someone out there (a John B Smith descendent, perhaps?) will have a back bedroom full of information (fingers crossed!). I’m going to touch on a few points related to known information about him, but then I am going to touch on a few speculative points that may or may not be helpful in figuring out where this guy came from.
My husband’s relationship to John B Smith:
Ashley Berrell Smith (his father)
Henry Thomas Smith, Jr (his grandfather)
Henry Thomas Smith, Sr (his g-grandfather)
John B Smith (his gg-grandfather)
The first record that can be found for certain for John B Smith is his marriage record. On January 19, 1850 John B Smith married Harriett A Grant in Richmond County, North Carolina. The only other information given on the marriage bond is that the bondsman was DD Morrison. I really wish the bondsman could have been a Smith or a Grant!
I have searched and searched for John and Harriett on the 1850 census and I cannot find them anywhere. I have searched all through Richmond County, North Carolina and into Marlboro County, South Carolina. Unless my eyes are skipping over them I haven’t seen them. Yet! I’m still searching!
In 1860 I can find John B Smith on the census in Post Office Rockingham, Wolf Pit, Richmond County, North Carolina. Oddly, though, Harriett is not on the census record with him. John is listed as 35 years of age, male and mulatto (there is a reason for listing race, I promise). He is shown as having been born in North Carolina and was a person over the age of 20 years who could neither read nor write. He was a farmer, his real estate was worth $100 and his personal estate was worth $150. His children listed in the household are: Malcolm (age 10 years), Martha (age 8 years), Eugenia (age 6 years) and Randolph (age 2 years). There is another Smith family on this page consisting of father William, mother Elizabeth and children: Isabella, Penelope, Elbert, Jane and Amanda. This family is also listed as mulatto, so I wonder if William is possibly a brother to John B…or even an uncle, cousin, etc?
In 1870 the family is still living in Post Office Rockingham, Wolf Pit, Richmond County, North Carolina. John B Smith is listed as such, age 48 years and white. He is still a farmer with a real estate value of $100 and a personal estate value of $100. Harriett does appear on this census (though I sure would love to know where she was in 1850 and 1860), age 36 years, white and born in North Carolina. Her occupation is listed as “keeping house”, and it appears that she was able to read and write. The children in the household are: Eugenia (at home, age 16 years), Randolph (farm laborer, age 13 years), Gilbert (farm laborer, age 11 years), John (age 6 years) and Mary L (age 10 months). On this page there are two other smith families listed. The first, just above John B and family, is his son Malcolm and family: wife Mary and son Joseph. The second is listed just below: a 56-year-old Lucy Smith living with Lucy Stephens and John Smith. If the second family is related I do not know how (though it is possible that Lucy is a sister-in-law, perhaps? or not related at all, I suppose). And interesting thing to note here is that Malcolm’s family is listed as mulatto, even though his father’s family is not.
Once again John B Smith and family are found in 1880 living in Wolf Pit Township, Richmond County, North Carolina. John B is listed as such, age 56 years and mulatto (again). He is a farmer and the value of real estate and personal estate is not asked about on this census year. This does tell us that not only was he born in North Carolina, but both his mother and father were also born in North Carolina. Harriett (listed as Harriet) is shown as age 49 years and also mulatto. Her occupation is shown as housekeeping (house wife), states that she was born in North Carolina; and both of her parents were also born in North Carolina. The children listed in the household are: Randolph (laborer, age 21 years), Gilbert (age 19 years), Mary L (age 11 years), Lucy (age 9 years), Henry (my husband’s g-grandfather, age 7 years) and Cornelia (age 3 years). All of the children are also listed as mulatto. The only other Smith family listed right around John B’s is, once again, his son Malcolm. Malcolm’s family consists of himself and: wife Mary and children Joseph, Sarah, Hudson and Charlie, also all listed as mulatto.
These are all of the records that I am able to find on John B Smith. Now for the fun stuff (the speculative stuff!):
Ok, we do not know who the parents of John B Smith are, but if that could be answered it would be fantastic. Assuming that he was mulatto (whether that is mulatto from Freed People of Color or mulatto from Native American, I don’t know) then the first thing I would look for is other mulatto families in the area old enough to be his parents. Well, I did that and I found an Ellen Smith, age 40 years, in Marlboro County, South Carolina (which butts up against Richmond County, North Carolina) who is mulatto. But her husband is only 35 years of age. Which means that if she were to be John B’s mother her husband wouldn’t be old enough to be the father. So scratch that. And except for a 32-year-old Neill Smith listed as mulatto in Moore County, North Carolina, I cannot find any others in the area, but there are plenty of mulatto Smith families across the state.
Now, the other thing to keep in mind is that Harriett is also listed as mulatto in the 1880 census. It is assumed (probably correctly) that Harriett’s parents are Malachi and Penelope Grant, who in 1810 Malachi is listed as white, in 1820 listed as white, in 1830 listed as white, in 1840 listed as Free Persons of Color, in 1850 listed as mulatto and in 1860 listed as white. The only problem that I can see with Malachi and Penelope being her parents is that they were both born in South Carolina and the 1880 census shows Harriett’s parents having been born in North Carolina. Of course, amusingly enough there was a John and Penelope Grant in Wolf Pit at the same time, and about the same age as Malachi and Penelope, with John having been born in South Carolina and Penelope having been born in North Carolina, and they are also listed as mulatto.
Pretty much I am at a loss on going back further in the Smith and Grant lines. I don’t know when John B Smith, or Harriett for that matter, died or where they are buried. But maybe someone out there will have the information we are looking for in order to figure out who John B Smith’s parents are! I’m still shuffling through Civil War records, other war pensions and census records, wills and online Bible records trying to find something, anything, that will help with the research.
If you are a descendent of John B Smith and Harriett Lou Grant of Wolf Pit, Richmond County, North Carolina then pop on over to Facebook and join the John B. Smith Descendants group. You can share photos and stories and get to know your cousins!