On May 8, 1792, Jacob and Barbara Schmidt, of Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, purchased a tract of unimproved land in what was then Greenwood Township, Mifflin County, from James and Elizabeth Barr. Jacob and Barbara lived on a large farm in Paxton Township where they raised their family. In 1797, they sold the Mifflin County land to their son, Jacob Smith, and son-in-law, Jacob Hart, who was married to Elizabeth Smith. The younger Jacobs began carving out a life for themselves and their families from this wilderness.
Jacob Smith, Jr. cleared land to farm and began building structures. By 1799, there were two houses on the farm. Unfortunately, in 1817, Jacob died of typhoid fever, leaving a widow and children–the youngest was only four months old.
By 1830, Jacob, Jr.’s estate was finally settled by the orphan’s court. The oldest son, John, took none of the homestead property. He was living on the edge of what would become McAlisterville on the farm of his wife’s family. Today, that farm is in possession of one of the descendants of Jacob and Elizabeth Hart. Two other sons, another Jacob and Joseph, divided their father’s farm. Joseph ended up with the majority of the farm (Lots 1, 2 & 3, below), which was subsequently divided among his children, (Judge) Jacob Smith, Isaac Smith, and Anna (Nancy) Bay.
On March 2, 1831, Juniata County was formed and the municipality was renamed to Fayette Township. In the early days, and by some today, this location was considered part of the village of Cocolamus. The postal address and the way that most folks generally refer to this place is McAlisterville, the largest hamlet in the township.
Jacob Smith, III, remained in the old home along with 15 acres of the original parcel. Jacob and his wife, Catherine Leckington, later sold two acres at the northern edge of the farm to her sister and brother-in-law, Barbara and John Varner. Their son, Daniel, would be the next to make major changes to the farm. Soon after his parent’s deaths in the 1870s, he began to replace the farm buildings.
Daniel Smith learned the cobbler’s trade and his shoe bench and tools remain here today. In his early years, he purchased several additional tracts of land: his cousin Judge Jacob’s mountain ground, 100 acres of woodland that is now home to our sawmill, and a few small parcels on the south and west of his father’s farm. He purchased 26 acres of woodland to the west side of the original property and cleared the land, using the timber for construction. Beginning with the barn in 1877, the pigpen in 1879, and many other outbuildings after that, Daniel rebuilt the farm structures. In 1885, he replaced the old log cabin with a two-story plank “balloon” house with brick siding. The brick was made in a neighbor’s field adjoining the northwest corner of the farm.
Lucian and Emma Smith lived and worked on the farm. They spent their last few years with their daughter, Ada Hood. When Lucian was 10, in 1870, he planted a walnut tree. The tree still stand 150 years later and provides a majestic greeting to visitors of Smith Farm.
On September 22, 1891, Banks Arthur Smith was the first child born in the brick house. In 1909, Banks, his father Lucian, and grandfather Daniel purchased a sawmill. For a few years when first married, he and his wife Myrtle (Landis) Smith lived in a house just to the north of the farm, on the property that was sold by his great-grandparents to his “Aunt Bevy.” Returning to the farmhouse to raise a family of four, Banks remained here until the last year of his life. He added a root cellar to the house, a milkhouse, our laying house, pig pens and a lean-to onto the tractor shed, and, importantly, a modern two-seat outhouse. He was a lumberman, farmer, craftsman and engineer.
Banks and Myrtle’s son, Arthur Landis Smith, and his wife Elsie (Davis) Smith (picture above standing on the left) lived on the farm. They raised five children here, including Roy, standing on the right side of the front row. Roy now operates the sawmill with his wife Nancy (Donaldson) Smith. Roy and Nancy assist in farm chores such as collecting eggs, harvesting pumpkins, and other tasks.
Today, Roy and Nancy’s son, Dan and his wife Cori (Bower) Smith live on and operate Smith Farm. The interior of the farmhouse was renovated in 2014. New pasture fence, roofs, and other improvements are being made. They are assisted by their son and daughter-in-law, Nirloy and Malynda (Reinford) Tamang. There is still much work to do, but we are building on foundations laid by the toil of those who came before. As we grow, we honor the fact that our roots run deep.