Brevet Brigadier General Colonel Israel Smith
1838 - 1899
Burial: Oakhill Cemetery, Grand Rapids, Michigan
Israel Smith as a young man he worked in his father's lumber mill on the Muskegon River. Later, he attended Albion college for two years, then studied law with a legal firm but the law was not what he desired. At the age of 20 he went to California searching for gold but never found any. The trip west conditioned him for the war in which he would be very involved. When he returned from the west, he once more took up law for about a year until the Civil War broke out. He enlisted as a private; was promoted to Second Lieutenant in 1860; July, 1861 he was promoted to First Lieutenant at the first Bull Run battlefield. He was wounded several times including at Gettysburg where he was shot and commended for his gallantry. He returned home due to his wounds in 1863. In August of that same year, he was promoted to Major of the 10th Regiment Michigan Volunteer Cavalry, taking command of the camp at Grand Rapids. The fall of 1863 the regiment headed south through Kentucky and East Tennessee to the Virginia line. By 1865 he was made Colonel of his regiment. The then returned to Michigan where the regiment was mustered out. He was commissioned Brevet Brigadier-General on 13 March 1865. He carried the bullet in his body from the Battle at Gettysburg until he died. General Smith died of a gunshot wound in a hunting accident in 1899 near Reeds Lake.
After being mustered out, he became the manager of the National Hotel, which
stood where the Morton House now stands in Grand Rapids.
He married Ada Elizabeth Meeker in 1867. She was born in New York City, daughter of William D. and Abbie R. Meeker.
In 1867 they moved to Kansas City and opened a hotel, the Pacific House, and he remained proprietor of the establishment for three years. Then he raised cattle and was involved in mining at Denver, Colorado having one ranch in Colorado and one in New Mexico. While in Denver, he commanded a military company, the Governor's Guards. Their only child, Morton Fitz Smith was born in Denver. In 1875 he returned to Grand Rapids and with George B. Morton bought the old National Hotel property and erected the Morton House.
In 1875, their having been several destructive files in Grand Rapids, General Smith was appointed Fire Marshal. He became an agent for the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad and Star Union Line in 1876. After he had reorganized the Fire Department, he resigned his position in 1878. In 1881 the Legislature passed a bill placing the police and fire departments of Grand Rapids in the hand of five commissioners, including General Smith.
During this time, he was Captain General of the Commandery of Knights Templar, DeMolai No. 5. In 1882 he resigned his position with the Commandery and as fire and police commissioner to become general manager of Barnhart Lumber Company. In 1887 he was appointed Superintendent of Police and within a short time had reorganized and made the department more efficient and disciplined.
In 1874 General Smith had accepted the Captaincy of the Grand Rapids Guard. When they were organized into regiments, he became Colonel of the Second Regiment. 1884 found him appointed Brigadier-General of the Michigan State troops until the expiration of his term in 1889.
He was a member of St. Mark's Episcopal Church; Custer Post G. A. R, and the Michigan Commandery of the Loyal Legion. He was elected vice-Commander of the latter in 1889 and Commander in 1890.
In 1890 he was appointed by the Governor of the State as one of the board managers of the Soldiers' Home.
He came out of the war a brevet Brigadier General. Israel Smith was commander of the local state troops in the 1870's in Grand Rapids. He was in charge of a regimental encampment at Reeds lake. The area near Reeds lake was mostly rough saloons and one night some soldiers got in a fight with some local roughnecks. The fight in a saloon spread outside. All of a sudden, over a hill came a man on a black horse, riding like the wind. Sword flashing, he charged among the fighters, scattering them. He rode right through the door of the saloon swinging his weapon. After the fight broke up, he used his sword destroying the bottles behind the bar. Within a short time, the saloon was closed and padlocked. That man was General Smith. He was a born soldier and leader, a terror on horseback.
Created: 26 June 2009