Hezekiah Bradley Smith

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Hezekiah Bradley Smith
HezekiahBradleySmith.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New Jersey's 2nd district
In office
March 4, 1879 – March 3, 1881
Preceded by John H. Pugh
Succeeded by J. Hart Brewer
Personal details
Born July 24, 1816
Windsor County, Vermont
Died November 3, 1887(1887-11-03) (aged 71)
Burlington County, New Jersey
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Eveline Verona English
Agnes Mitilda Gilkerson
Profession Inventor, Politician
Agnes M. Gilkerson (1840–1881) c. 1865

Hezekiah Bradley Smith (July 24, 1816 – November 3, 1887), was an American inventor and a Democratic Party politician who represented New Jersey's 2nd congressional district in the United States House of Representatives from 1879 to 1881.[1]

Birth, early career, and marriage[edit]

Smith was born in Bridgewater, Vermont on July 24, 1816.[1] After completing an eighth grade education, he was trained as a cabinet maker and set up shop in a former tannery building. Smith left the Woodstock District in 1846, taking with him Eveline Verona English, whom he married in a civil ceremony in May 1846, in their Boston hotel room. Smith and his wife moved first to Manchester, New Hampshire, where Smith made a living carving wooden patterns while learning the machine business. In July 1846, their first child, Ella, was born. In the spring of 1847 in Manchester there was a scarlet fever epidemic known as 'ship fever', and Eveline took the child Ella and returned to Woodstock. They would never again live together as husband and wife.

Separation[edit]

Smith moved on to Lebanon, New Hampshire, where he began to manufacture items to other people's specifications, including such items as the Howe sewing machine. Smith took the first sewing machine ever to be found in Woodstock and gave it to Eveline, herself a renowned tailor, ensuring her own independence. Smith later moved on from Lebanon to Boston, Massachusetts, where he began manufacturing woodworking machinery of his own design. He subsequently moved his business to Lowell, Massachusetts. However, he continued to visit his wife in Woodstock, fathering three sons with her: Elton (born in 1848), Eugene V. (born 1851) and Edward A. (born 1853).

In Lowell, in the summer of 1854, Smith was introduced to Agnes Mitilda Gilkerson (1838–1881). Gilkerson was mill girl working in a textile factory and living in a boarding house. Smith hired her as his confidential secretary, then sent her to Mrs. Rodgers finishing school. By 1859, Gilkerson would convince Smith that she should go further with her education. Smith sent her to live with family of the manager of his Philadelphia sales office. There Gilkerson attended Penn Medical School, graduating in the spring of 1861 with a degree in medicine, with a major in chemistry.

Wife abandoned and expunged[edit]

In 1865, Smith visited with Benjamin Shreve in Medford, New Jersey. Shreve had a $100,000 investment in his deceased brother's business. Smith managed to acquire from Shreve basically the entire town of Shreveville, in Eastampton Township, Burlington County, New Jersey, for only $20,000. Before moving to his new acquisition (soon to be renamed Smithville), Smith made a final journey to Woodstock to the home he had purchased in 1861 for his wife, Eveline Smith. There he demanded a divorce, but his wife refused to agree to one. Smith then demanded everything he had written her since 1847, which he then burnt in her stove. He then went to the town clerk's office, where he transferred ownership of the house to his wife's maiden name, then to the bank where he established an account, again in her maiden name, and deposited a few hundred dollars. Finally, he went to his sister's house, where he demanded the family Bible. Upon being given the Bible by his sister, he used his pocketknife to excise all record of his marriage and children from the family tree recorded within, burning the paper scraps in his sister's stove. Having completed what he felt to be a divorce, he left Woodstock, never to return.

Smith and Gilkerson were married in a civil ceremony in Lowell that same year, and the two of them made their home in Smithville. There, he continued his business of manufacturing woodworking machinery, while she practiced medicine and made and sold herbal remedies. Smith also published the New Jersey Mechanic trade journal, which his second wife also edited; she also advertised her medical wares in it. In January 1881, Gilkerson died of cancer, without producing any children for Smith. After her death, Smith commissioned an Italian marble statue in her likeness and stood it on a brick pedestal under an iron canopy in the formal garden of the mansion at Smithville.

Inventions[edit]

Smith had over forty patents for his inventions with the United States Patent Office. The Smithsonian Institution describes Smith as having taken the woodworking business from hand tools to mechanized[citation needed]. His business (which he incorporated in 1878 under the name "H.B. Smith Machine Company") In addition to the woodworking tools which were the staple of his business, he also manufactured the American Star Bicycle. This bicycle differed from others of its time by having a larger back wheel, where the rider sat, and a smaller front wheel for steering. The Star was driven by ratchet drive, had a hand brake and a sprung leather seat. The Star sold for $150 at a time when the average person earned $500 a year. Not the greatest of commercial successes, it was however fast, and a great stunt bike, winning many track races, endurance rides, and stunt exhibitions, as well as being a great advertising tool for the Smith Machine Co. He also manufactured the first steam-driven vehicle operated in New Jersey, although only one was ever manufactured as he died before it could go into regular production. On his desk at the time of his death was a prototype of an autogiro.

Political career and bigamy[edit]

He was elected as a Democrat to the 46th United States Congress, serving one term from March 4, 1879 to March 3, 1881. During the election it was discovered that he was a bigamist.[2] He was not re-elected to the 47th United States Congress; however, it is likely that his defeat was a result of the changing winds of American politics and not a reflection on the electorate's opinion of his bigamy, as that year James A. Garfield's Republican Party dominated the election.[citation needed] Smith also later served as a member of the New Jersey Senate, from 1883 to 1885.

Death, burial and aftermath[edit]

Smith died in Smithville, Burlington County, New Jersey on November 3, 1887.[1] He was buried next to his second wife, in the Saint Andrews section of the Pine Street Cemetery in Mount Holly, New Jersey. Upon the death of his mother, in 1897, Elton Smith, Hezekiah's oldest son, went to Mount Holly in an attempt to remove his father's remains. He wanted them transported to Woodstock to be buried next to his mother. Hezekiah had anticipated any attempts to move his body, and had been interred in an iron coffin encased in an iron cage that had been set in concrete. Elton then had the statue of his father's second wife toppled, broken into pieces, ground to dust and scattered along Rancocas Creek, using workers from the family business.[3]

Legacy[edit]

Smith's papers are archived at Rutgers University, in Special Collections and University Archives, Rutgers University Libraries, New Brunswick, New Jersey. Smith's great-great-great-grandson is Congressman Jim Marshall of Georgia's 3rd District.[citation needed]

Patents[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Hezekiah B. Smith Dead. The End Of A Long And Active Business Career." (PDF). New York Times. November 4, 1887. Retrieved 2007-08-21. "Trenton, New Jersey, November 3, 1887. Hezekiah B. Smith died at Smithville, Burlington County, today. Mr. Smith was born at Bridgewater, Vermont, in 1816. He learned the trade of a worker in wood and at 19 went into business for himself." 
  2. ^ "Hezekiah's two wives. A Congressman's predicament. One wife in Vermont and another in New Jersey.". New York Times. November 22, 1878. "The greenback congressman elect in trouble. The friends here of Hon. H.B. Smith, of Smithville, New Jersey, will be glad to learn that be has been elected to Congress by the Democrats of the Second District of that State. He will be an honest and faithful member." 
  3. ^ "Fateful Statue Broken. Marble Effigy of Agnes Gilkerson Demolished by Orders of the Son of Hezekiah B. Smith. A Family Deserted for Her. Her Advice Made Her Lover a Millionaire. The Last Relic of a Historic Domestic Tragedy Swept Away as Dirt.". New York Times. May 28, 1897. "Mount Holly, New Jersey, May 27, 1897. The statue of Agnes Gilkerson was destroyed today. The work was done by the men employed in the mills at Smithville under the direction of Capt. Elton J. Smith, son of Hezekiah B. Smith, who erected the statue in memory of the woman who was his companion for many years."" 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
John H. Pugh
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New Jersey's 2nd congressional district

March 4, 1879 – March 3, 1881
Succeeded by
J. Hart Brewer