Footprints of the Pioneers


Chapter 14—Grit of the Granite State

Uriah Smith

WE WERE not far into New Hampshire until we came to a spot dear to the memory of Seventh-day Adventists as the childhood home of Annie and Uriah Smith, sister and brother, the first of whom was to make an ineffaceable impression upon our cause by her brief but vital service and by her hymns. And the latter of whom was to prove for half a century one of the pillars of the church. No better examples are there of New Hampshire’s granite, not only in the beautiful character that results from its polishing, but in the indomitable grit that comes from its grinding. FOPI 122.2

At West Wilton we found Mr. Archibald Smith and his gracious wife. He is a nephew of Uriah Smith, with whom he was well acquainted, living for a time in his home in Battle Creek. He accompanied us on a tour of the village, and gave us invaluable information, including the loan of a precious small volume, written in 1871 by Rebekah, his grandmother, the mother of Annie and Uriah. It contains poems by Rebekah, Annie, and Uriah, and also a sketch of Annie’s life and of her last days, an account nowhere else available. FOPI 122.3

Almost directly opposite Archibald’s residence is the last home of Mrs. Rebekah Smith, where she died. On the main street is the large brick house which was the first residence of the Smiths, where the children were born. Up a side street is the home of their youth, the scene of Uriah’s operation, and where the family lived when the Seventh-day Adventist faith came to them. FOPI 123.1

In this house Joseph Bates conferred with the mother, that day in 1851, when she laid the cases of her children upon his heart, and together they planned the meeting in Massachusetts where Annie received the message from Elder Bates. There is a variety of testimony as to where that meeting was held. Loughborough states that it was in Somerville, Massachusetts, at the home of Paul Folsom. 87 James White, writing in the church paper in that year, says that Folsom’s home was in ‘ ‘West Medford’. 88 Mrs. Rebekah Smith says that the meeting was at “Sister Temple’s, in Boston.” 89 In any case, it was in the vicinity of Boston. FOPI 124.1

Mrs. Rebekah Smith and her children were believers in the doctrine of William Miller in the 1844 movement; but after the Disappointment the children’s attention turned away. Their mother, however, in 1851, accepted the seventh-day Sabbath from the teaching of Joseph Bates, and “continually strove to guide her children into a deep Christian experience.” 90 FOPI 124.2

It was because of her solicitation and prayers that Annie was led, in 1851, to go to Elder Bates’ meeting, and there was impressed to accept the faith of her mother. Loughborough says that at that time, Annie was attending “a young lady’s seminary in Charlestown, Massachusetts.” 91 But Mrs. Smith indicates that Annie had finished her training at “The Ladies’ Female Seminary,” fitting herself “for a teacher in Oil Painting and French.” FOPI 125.1

In Charlestown her eyes had been injured by too close application in making a sketch of Boston and Charlestown from a hill three miles distant, so that she had almost completely lost her sight, and, bitterly disappointed, she was resting and taking treatment. To please her mother, she decided to go to hear Elder Bates. The night before, she dreamed that she was late to the meeting, that upon entering she took the only vacant seat, a chair by the door, and that she saw a tall, noble, pleasant-looking man pointing to a chart, and repeating, “Unto, two thousand and three hundred days, then shall the sanctuary be cleansed.” That night Elder Bates dreamed the same thing from his point of view. FOPI 125.2

Annie started for the meeting in ample time, but missed the way, so that she was indeed late. Every point in her dream came to pass, and when Elder Bates saw her enter his dream flashed into his mind. The coincidence brought them together in reciprocal states of mind, and, says her mother, “In about three weeks” Annie “committed herself upon the Sabbath and its attendant truths.” FOPI 125.3

The next week she sent to the Review and Herald her poem “Fear Not, Little Flock,” which was her first to appear in that paper, in the issue of September 16. Four numbers later there was published her poem which is still popular as a hymn: FOPI 125.4

“Long upon the mountains dreary
Have the scattered flock been torn.”

James and Ellen White immediately invited her to come and connect with the paper, then being published in Saratoga Springs, New York. Annie replied that she was unable to do so, because of the condition of her eyes. “Come anyway,” they answered. And she went. Upon her arrival, prayer was offered for her recovery, and immediately her eyes were healed and strengthened, so that she entered upon her duties at once as assistant to the editor. FOPI 126.1

“With strong faith and fervent zeal,” writes her mother, “she entered heartily into the work. She rejoiced in the newfound truth. The whole current of her mind was changed, and nobler aspirations took possession of her heart.” Annie herself wrote: “Oh, praise His name for what He has done for me! I feel a sweet foretaste of the glories of that better world-an earnest of that inheritance,-and I am determined by His grace to overcome every obstacle, endure the cross, despising the shame, so that an entrance may be administered abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.” 92 FOPI 126.2

Annie lived but three years thereafter, to give service to the cause, and that in its earliest days; but her sweet, self effacing, inspiring spirit has left its mark upon our work to this day. In Rochester, where the Review and Herald moved in 1852, she contracted tuberculosis, and died at her home, under her mother’s solicitous care, ‘ ‘July 28, 1855’. We sing some of her hymns, I fear, without ever visualizing the author. In that we have the obstacle of there being no known photograph or other likeness of Annie R. Smith. But she establishes contact with us through the years in such deathless hymns as “Blessed Jesus, Meek and Lowly,” “I Ask Not, Lord, for Less to Bear,” “How Far From Home?” and “The Blessed Hope.” FOPI 126.3

Uriah, younger than Annie by four years, in early youth showed remarkable talent in art. Archibald has a pen-and-ink bird’s-eye sketch of the town of West Wilton, made by Uriah when twelve years old, which is not only topographically correct, but anatomically perfect even to the minute figures of men and the prancing horses drawing the carriages. He was skilled also in mechanical arts, as he well proved in his maturity. Among his inventions was an adjustable school desk, a great improvement upon those of the time, which had a wide sale. And there is in the Review and Herald office a prized heirloom, Editor Smith’s desk, made by his own hands. FOPI 127.1

When Uriah was fourteen years old, an illness resulting in a local infection required the amputation of his left leg above the knee. 93 Losing a leg in those days was not an experience of being ministered to by white-robed surgeons and nurses, with a merciful anesthetic and competent hospital care. Dr. Amos Twitchell, a noted surgeon of near-by Keene, cut it off and bound it up in twenty minutes, while the boy’s mother held his hands; and afterward she and his loving sister gave home ministry. If, in after years, Uriah Smith seemed neglectful of outdoor exercise, if he confined himself too much to the office, and in consequence was a member of that group of leaders-almost the entire corps of workers-who made a sick pilgrimage to the Dansville Sanitarium, put it down to this youthful calamity. FOPI 127.2

Nevertheless, he made a sort of blessing out of it. For, while at first he must use the clumsy artificial limb of the period, with a solid foot, it irked him so that he set to work and invented a pliable foot, for which he got a patent, and with the money he received from its sale he bought his first house in Battle Creek. He always walked with a cane, however, and in my mind’s eye I see him yet, coming with a limp down Washington Street, bound for his editorial office. The Review and Herald building burned down, however, two months before his death. FOPI 128.1

Uriah’s conversion followed his sister Annie’s about a year later, when he attended a meeting at Washington, New Hampshire. And in March, 1853, he entered the employ (for board and lodging only) of the struggling church paper at Rochester, New York. In 1855, when the publishing business was moved to Battle Creek, Michigan, Uriah Smith was made editor, and he continued with the paper for forty-eight years, to the day of his death. Editor, preacher, author, organizer, and officer, he was one of the great fathers of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. FOPI 128.2

The father of the family was Samuel Smith, a man of ability and at one time of wealth. He was a highway builder and contractor, and his mechanical genius was seen also in his sons. In his latter years he suffered financial reverses, which greatly reduced the family’s resources, and was responsible for the failure of Uriah’s ambition to enter Harvard. Samuel Smith died December 1, 1852, after Annie had accepted the Sabbath and just before Uriah made his momentous decision. FOPI 128.3

Their mother, Rebekah Spalding Smith, was a lady of culture and fine sensibilities, also of a lively disposition, tempered by her piety. It is related of her that in the eightieth year of her age she answered the challenge of some of her grandchildren to run and jump into a pile of autumn leaves, and Mrs. Genevieve Webber Hastings tells of the old lady’s once pirouetting around their sitting room in demonstration of her agility. Only a few days before her death she walked to a neighboring town, eight miles and back. However, like Ann Hasseltine Judson, she disciplined her gaity into her mission; and the breathings of her piety show not only in her influence upon her children but in her writings. Some of her poems appeared from time to time in the Review and Herald. She lived until 1875. FOPI 129.1

Up in the Wilton cemetery, on the slope of a hill looking over the rugged countryside, one stone suffices for Samuel, Rebekah, Annie, and brother John, the last six years Uriah’s senior. He and Uriah died the same year, 1903, but Uriah six months before his brother. The other brother, Samuel junior, Archibald’s father, is buried in a separate lot. FOPI 129.2

We trod with reverence this soil; we viewed with deep emotion these scenes, where nearly a century ago these saints of God devoted their talents and their lives to the forwarding of the gospel in these last days. And we departed with the sense of a benediction upon us from those who have laid off the armor but passed their office on to us. FOPI 129.3