8.03.2013

RESURRECTING THE MEMORY OF JOHN SMITH

NO LONGER CLOAKED IN OBSCURITY

John Smith.  His name may seem obscure, but his relationship with the Daily family of Clark County, Indiana, seems anything but.

Born in Baiern, Germany on 10 Mar 1827, Johann Schmidt came to the United States with Charles Kreiger in 1846 and after a short service with him, became associated with the David Wise Daily and Mary (Shirley) family of Charlestown.

The 1850 census finds him listed as an "ostler" or groom in the household of David and Mary’s married daughter, Mary Ann, who was the wife of John C. Parker.  In 1860 he was listed in the home of James Neely and Rosanna (Royer)  – James being the brother of Sarah (1819-1878) who married Francis J. Stierheim – and were the parents of Barbara who then married Seth Daily, the son of David and Mary, in October of 1864.

Of the eleven children born to David W. and Mary (Shirley) Daily, “Lizzie” was the nearest in age to Seth and was born Elizabeth on 17 Jun 1837 in Charlestown.  She spent all of her life under the roof of her parents, and by 1870 was most probably the caretaker of her parents (who were in their early seventies), and her sister Louisa, who was noted in the census records as “insane" or "idiotic.”

John Smith does not appear in the 1870 Daily household nor has he been located living elsewhere, which leaves the researcher to presume he may have simply been overlooked by the enumerator.  Judging by his lengthy obituary which stated that he died in the Daily home, it seems obvious he was more than the family’s gardener.  He was loved, respected, admired, and buried in the family plot when he died in 1907.

These notes, however, were not what led David James, great-grandson of Lizzie Daily, to question the relationship of John Smith and Lizzy (Daily) James.  It was the time frame of Lizzie’s marriage to William James who died nine months later on 14 Dec 1872, and the birth of her son, James Beverly James, who was born 2 years, 7 months and 30 days after his “father” died.

Surely the residents of Clark County, and perhaps Lizzie’s grandson, David Lewman James (1901-1967) who was well-known as  the Charlestown historian, had calculated the impossibility of William James being the biological father of Lizzie’s son, “Jimmy” who had been born in 1875.  It seems the well-respected society simply chose to overlook the obvious.  Not only did Lizzie appear to maintain her social standing, but her son received the reputable James name and was the accepted grandson of Dr. Beverly James who had come to Charlestown, Indiana in 1828, practiced medicine, was elected judge of Clark Circuit Court, was employed as village school master, and had commenced the publication of the Statesman and Clark County Advertiser.

The paternity of Jimmy James appears to be one of those social charades of the prominent, one of those well-known secrets which other dared not dispute; and appears to be supported by the 1880 and 1900 census which finds Lizzie, son Jimmy, and the “gardener” John Smith all living in the same household in blind sight.

Exhuming the remains of John Smith who died on the 11th of February, 1907, to test for DNA seems unlikely.  However, resurrecting the few remnants of information and piecing them together one hundred and some odd years later, one can easily conclude through common sense that John Smith and Lizzie were quite likely more than just friends, but whether they lived “openly” together as husband and wife is not known.  It would seem, if this were the case, that had their son or grandson known this truth for fact, one or the other might have set a headstone in the family plot marking his grave, but this was not the case - until now.

Thanks to David James, a small and private family memorial including David's wife, Ruby (Morrison), their son Kevin James, and brother and namesake, Jim James, took place this April 14th at John Smith's grave side.  A portion of the emotional tribute included the following:  "It is with over-due respect that the Daily descendants, finally and publicly, honor you as the common-law husband of Lizzie Daily James, and the biological father of Jimmy James, our grandfather."

"We are here today, John, having set your name in stone beside those to whom you were devoted.  We honor your memory and your place within our family and leave today knowing you will forever be remembered by us and those that follow."

And so it is and shall always be.  John Smith, no more merely gardener to the Daily family.  No longer cloaked in obscurity.




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