Ohio History Journal

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John Smith, United States Senator from Ohio, 1803-1808,

was "a Virginian by birth and education."1 Because of the double

misfortune of name and locality there is apt to be considerable

uncertainty as to the early career of this gentleman in relation to

all the other "John Smiths" of Virginia.2 In 1790, Smith was

definitely located on the Forks of the Cheat River, Monongalia

County, Virginia, as the ordained minister of a Baptist Congrega-

tion of twenty-nine members. The following year he moved to

Columbia, now a part of Cincinnati, Ohio, to take charge of the

little church but recently organized there.3

At this settlement founded at the mouth of the Little Miami

River in November, 1788, by a party of men under Benjamin

Stites, there had been organized the first Evangelical Church in

the Northwest Territory.4 When Stephen Gano5 declined to re-

1 "Queries Addressed by the Committee, Dec. 9, 1807 to Mr. Smith with His

Answers as Finally Given" (printed by order of the Senate, December 31, 1807), 126.

2 See "Smith, John," in Biographical Directory of the American Congress

(Washington, 1928); also National Cyclopedia of American Biography (New York,

1892) (Cf. "Index to Pickering Papers," in Massachusetts Historical Society Collec-

tions (Boston, 1794-), Ser. 6, VIII (1898), 458). The date and place of his birth

is given as 1735 in Hamilton, County, Ohio, which is obviously erroneous. No check

has been found for the date. There is also an error in the place and date of his


John Asplund (ed.), The Annual Register of the Baptist Denomination to

Nov. 1, 1790 (1790), 25. Asplund has tabulated, state, county, location, affiliation,

ordainment, number of members, and date of information. Smith is listed at the

Forks of the Cheat, in the third week of September, 1790. A footnote indicates

that he moved to the Miami country, April 1791. Anthony Howard Dunlevy in his

History of the Miami Baptist Association (Cincinnati, 1869), 18, agrees in the time

of arrival at Columbia, but says that Smith had been residing in western Pennsyl-

vania and came for a visit. His preaching was acceptable and he agreed to remove

to this country after settling his business at home and so returned May, 1791.

Confusion as to the locality may have arisen from the fact that the Cheat was

a part of the disputed area claimed by both Virginia and Pennsylvania. The church

on the Cheat had been affiliated with the Redstone, Pennsylvania, Association from

which the Baptists of Columbia had come. Asplund, op. cit., 34.

4 Jacob Burnet, Notes on the Early Settlement of the North-western Territory,

(New York and Cincinnati, 1847), 46. Burnet includes Smith among the original

members of the Stites party. Others do not. Cf. Charles Theodore Greve, Cen-

tennial History of Cincinnati (Chicago, 1904), I, 177; Charles Cist, Cincinnati in 1859

(Cincinnati, 1859), 13; James McBride, Pioneer Biography (Cincinnati, 1869), I, 11;

Albert Henry Newman, History of the Baptist Churches (New York, 1898), 838; John

Ewing Bradford, "Centennial Churches of the Miami Valley," in Ohio State Archaeo-

logical and Historical Society Publications (Columbus, 1887-), XXV (1916), 236.

5 Of New York, brother of Major John Gano, an original settler of Columbia.