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Smith F. Bryan Biographical Sketch

[From the PORTRAIT AND BIOGRAPHICAL RECORD of Hancock, McDonough and Henderson Counties Illinois, Lake City Publishing Co., Chicago, 1894.]


SMITH F. BRYAN, who for years has followed farming, now lives retired in La Harpe, enjoying the rest which he has so truly earned and richly deserves. His energy and enterprise in former years brought to him a competency, which supplies him with all the comforts and many of the luxuries of life, and his declining years will be pleasantly passed among his old friends and acquaintances in this sommunity.

A native of Mercer County, Pa., Mr. Bryan was born November 17, 1832, and is a son of Jacob Bryan, who was also born in the same county and was of Irish extraction. The family resided in New Jersey prior to 1819. The father received but limited school privileges, but through reading, experience and observation, he became a well informed man. On the 14th of May, 1824, he was joined in marriage with Mary Bagley, daughter of Daniel and Elizabeth (Showerman) Bagley, the ceremony being performed in Crawford County, Pa. Seven children were born to them, four sons and three daughters, but the eldest daughter died in infancy. Rice B. is also deceased. Hannah was killed by a runaway in La Harpe Township in 1850. Cowden M., a jeweler of La Harpe, died December 9, 1884. Smith F. is the next younger. John F., a soldier of the late war, died of exposure at Port Hudson, La., March 9, 1864. Elizabeth B., deceased, was the wife of J. W. Cassingham, a resident farmer of La Harpe Township.

Smith F. Bryan was reared on the old homestead in Mercer County Pa., and upon the farm in Hancock County, whither he came with his parents May 15, 1840. The trip westward was made by boat from Beaver down the Ohio River to Cairo, and up the Mississippi to Warsaw. On landing at that place they loaded their household effects on wagons, and in this way completed their trip to what is known as the James Gittings farm, three miles north of La Harpe. The father purchased four hundred acres of land on section 3, La Harpe Township, one hundred and twenty acres of timber-land. The son, Smith F., was educated in the subscription schools of La Harpe Township, but he too is mostly self-educated, for altogether his attendance at the common schools would probably not cover a period of more than fifteen months. He became familiar with all the duties of farm life, however, and aided in the cultivation of the old homestead until about twenty-seven years of age.

On the 28th of January, 1859, Mr. Bryan was united in marriage with Miss Delina Painter, daughter of Joseph T. and Phoebe (Rea) Painter, a native of La Harpe Township, born November 13, 1836. Her family had located in that township on the 4th of May previous. Our subject and his wife became the parents of nine children, namely: Emma V., wife of James Brown, of La Harpe; Ida May, who died October 25, 1865; Joseph P., who died August 10, 1891; John F., a farmer of La Harpe Township; William E. and James R., who both carry on agricultural pursuits in that township; Mary A., wife of Elmer M. Spiker; Charles C., at home; and one son who died in infancy.

In 1860 Mr. Bryan purchased two hundred acres of land on section 9, La Harpe Township, and still owns this farm. He continued its cultivation until the 14th of August, 1862, when he enlisted in Company G, One Hundred and Eighteenth Illinois Infantry, under Capt. Joseph Shaw. He faithfully served for three years, and was then mustered out in Davenport, Iowa, June 5, 1865. His first battle was with Sherman in the three-days fight at Yazoo River. He also participated in the engagement at Arkansas Post, and the battle of Thompson's Hill, and was under fire at Champion Hills, Black River Bridge, siege of Vicksburg, and the battle of Jackson. For three months he was confined in the hospital at Keokuk, Iowa.

Mr. Bryan is now a member of Geddes Post No. 142, G.A.R., and takes an active interest in the organization, which perpetuates the fraternal feeling which existed among the boys in blue. He cast his first Presidential vote for John C. Fremont in 1856, and has since been a stalwart supporter of the Republican party and its principles. He has served as Township Assessor, and for twenty consecutive years was School Director. Both he and his wife are members of the Christian Church, and their well-spent lives entitle them to the high regard in which they are held, and make them well worthy a place in this volume, among the best and most prominent citizens of Hancock County