Saturday, June 27, 2015

Claude Everly Smith, son of Elias William Smith

Claude Everly Smith
Claude Everly Smith, son of Elias William Smith, was born February 9, 1876, at Ceralvo, Kentucky.

Ceralvo was laid out on March 10, 1851, on the banks of the beautiful Green River.  In 1870, it was a thriving little town with two general stores, a blacksmith shop, a boot and shoe maker, three tobacco warehouses where tobacco was bought and sold, two doctors, a post office, a church and a school.[1]  Freight and supplies were brought to Ceralvo by steamboat and transferred by wagon and teams to Hartford, Centertown, and other parts of Ohio County.  In dry weather the dirt roads were dusty, when it rained they were muddy, and in the winter months they were almost impassable.  The ferry across Green River at Ceralvo transported people and vehicles from the Muhlenberg County side of the river to the Ohio County side.

Some of Claude Smith's biographies refer to him as "of humble birth."  By today's standards it would indeed have been so, but the home of his parents was no more "humble" than were other homes in the community.  Most of the citizens were farmers.  Claude's father owned his home and the land upon which he lived and raised his large family of children.  Homes in that era were without electricity, running water, and refrigeration.  It was before the advent of the railroad, and the automobile, telephone, radio, TV, and aeroplane were yet to be invented.

Ceralvo eventually died when new modes of transportation came into use and became widespread, and when educational and employment opportunities in the cities called to its young people.  After attending the homecoming at Ceralvo on August 31, 1958, Claude Smith wrote to his niece Pearl Smith as follows:

"The town to which I resorted during my youth and young manhood with extreme pleasure is gone and instead there has risen a wilderness, but the tragedy of it you could not realize, for you never knew Ceralvo the home and pride of your father and mother.  The school house where I first attended school and last, when I was practically grown, attended a school of select pupils, which is now a church, is the only thing about Ceralvo that remains as it was. ...The cemetery is changed but is so well kept that one can take pride in having known it so long.  I located the graves of Grandfather and Grandmother Baker (Andrew W. and Polina F.) ...All in all, it was a rather sad day for me."

Claude Smith's early education was received in a one-room school house.  Of it, 75 years later, he said, "The schools today think they are quite progressive, but I was studying physiology, trigonometry, and surveying in primary school in 1894."  After the one-room school, he attended special classes at the college level conducted by a university graduate.  He began teaching at age 18.  There were no degree requirements for teachers, but in order to get a license he was required to take an exam before the County Examiner.  He became a “traveling schoolmaster,” teaching for five months in each of seven one-room schools.[2]

In 1903, he gave up teaching to become a manager and editor of the Hartford Republican (later The Ohio County News).

He read law while engaged in teaching and later in the office of M. L. Heavrin.  He was admitted to the bar in 1898 in Hartford, where some years later he began the practice of law.  In 1909, Claude Smith was elected County Attorney and served in that capacity until 1915, when he was elected Commonwealth Attorney for the counties of Ohio, Daviess, McLean, and Hancock.  During his term as Commonwealth Attorney, a term that extended to 1922, he was instrumental in prosecuting and bringing to an end the activities of a group known as “possum hunters.”  (See Exhibit G)

Some time during the 1960’s, Mr. Smith’s fellow lawyers in Owansboro gave a luncheon (or dinner) to honor him, their “nestor.”  In his response to the honor paid him, he said, in part, regarding the “possum hunters”:

“Soon after these bands of marauders began their nefarious operations, the victims of the onslaughts came to counsel with me to devise ways of apprehending the participants and to prosecute them.  Our first step was to establish their identity, as they were either disguised, unknown or not identifiable by the victims in the darkness of the night when the raids were perpetuated.  Our investigation soon resulted in a witness whose evidence was sufficient to submit to the Grand Jury.  This was done in June 1915 and indictments were returned accusing the marauders of confederating and banding themselves together for the purpose of intimidating, alarming, injuring and disturbing another person.

“Not long after the indictments were returned, those indicated had the word passed on to me that if I did not ‘let up’ they would ‘get me.’  I told their emissaries that I was certain they would not accost me in the daytime and if they came at night I would be ready for them; that if they came after I had retired, I would have a double-barrel shotgun standing against the wall by the side of my bed and a Colt automatic pistol under my pillow.  They never molested me.”

At the outset of his law career, Claude Smith pursued the profession alone but in 1912 became associated with W. H. Barnes.  He moved to Owensboro in 1924, but they also maintained an office in Hartford.  “The firm of Barnes and Smith was in 1928 one of the strongest legal combinations in Owensboro and established a large and desirable clientele.  Mr. Smith has a comprehensive knowledge of the principles of jurisprudence. ...Mr. Smith was chairman of the Red Cross committee in Hartford during the World War (I) and did much to promote the success of the organization.  He is a consistent member of the Methodist Episcopal Church and is a republican in his political convictions.  He is a Mason...and a member of the Owensboro Lodge, No. 144, B. P. O. E. He finds diversion in hunting and fishing.  Mr. Smith is highly esteemed by his professional colleagues and has demonstrated his public spirit by actual achievement.”[3]

Claude E. Smith was married on November 3, 1903, to Jessie B. Tatum, who was born February 11, 1884, the daughter of Dr. V. O. and Mattie (Tichenor) Tatum.  Jessie died on March 10, 1910, and is buried in Oakwood Cemetery at Hartford, Kentucky.  

Their only child was Martha Mary Smith.  

In 1912, he married Sue Wright, and the marriage lasted until 1922 and ended in divorce in 1923.  On April 22, 1939, he married Sadie (Adams) Jones, and they had been married 33 years at the time of his death.

September 1964
Claude Everly Smith 88 years old
Jesse Baker Smith II, Sadie Adams Jones Smith 
Claude Smith fell on ice in January 1972.  This resulted in his hospitalization and began his decline in health.  He died July 17, 1972, in his 97th year.  He had until his fall in January continued the practice of law and was at that time the oldest practicing lawyer in the State of Kentucky.  His funeral was conducted in Owensboro on July 20, and he was buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Hartford beside Jessie Tatum Smith, the mother of his child.

 Mrs. Sadie Smith died at noon Wednesday, October 25, 1972, after a short illness. Her funeral was conducted at the Glenn Funeral Home in Owensboro and she was buried in the Elmwood Cemetery there. 

[1]  “The Story of Ceralvo,” by Mary K. Maddox, in The Ohio County Times of July 31, 1969, and August 7, 1969
[2]   Messenger and Inquirer, Owensboro, Kentucky, August 18, 1968, page 1-C
[3]  History of Kentucky, V. IV, S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, Chicago-Louisville, 1928

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