Cleveland County, Arkansas

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Captain James Smith

Capt. James Smith, owner and proprietor of the Smith Hotel, Kingsland, Ark. 

There is nothing that adds so much to the prestige of a city in the estimation of a stranger as first-class hotel accommodations. First among those of Kingsland is that owned and conducted by Capt. Smith, which has every convenience to add to the ease and comfort of the inmates.

The Captain was born in what is now Lincoln County, in 1836, and is the senior by a few months of his native State.  His father, John Smith, better known as "Bear Hunter John," was born in Mississippi, was twice married; his last wife,
Miss Sarah Bowden, being our subject's mother, whom he married in Louisana (her native State).

At a very early day, about twenty-five years before the Captain was born, Mr. Smith with his wife and a number of slaves entered a boat made by himself, rowed themselves up Bayou Bartholomew to a point somewhere near what is now Chicot County, landed, and with their knives, cut away the cane and selected a suitable place for a cabin. They opened up a settlement, and Mr. Smith afterward returned to Louisiana for the rest of his property, leaving his family alone in the forest, far from human habitation, and was gone about twenty-one days.

Soon after his settlement some of his relatives and friends followed and settled near him, which made one of the first white settlements in this part of the State. Mr. Smith was a famous hunter, and delighted in ridding the country of the wild animals with which it was overrun. He also attended very closely to his domestic affairs, and through his industry and good business capacity, became quite an extensive land owner.

He continued to purchase land and moved farther up the bayou until he finally settled about twenty-five or thirty miles below Pine Bluff, where he passed his last days. His death occurring in 1862. He served in the War of 1812, and was with Gen. Jackson at New Orleans. His second wife died about 1867, and was a member of the Methodist Church for many years. They were the parents of twelve children, Capt. James Smith being sixth in order of birth.

He was reared in the wilds of Arkansas, and as a consequence, received but a limited education. At about the age of sixteen years he took charge of his father's plantation, which he managed very successfully for quite a number of years. He selected his wife in the person of Miss Mary Ropers, a native of Georgia, and was united in marriage with her in 1847. Her parents, James and Matilda Ropers were natives of North Carolina, but came from Georgia to what is now Lincoln County, Ark., at a very early day. Mr. Ropers died there about 1852, and his widow died about eleven years later.

The result of the union of Captain and Mrs. Smith was the birth of nine children, two sons and five daughters now living.

Capt. Smith continued as the general superintendent of the plantation until the war, and in 1861 joined Company F, Ninth Arkansas Infantry, and operated in Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Georgia and Alabama, until the close of hostilities. He surrendered at Vicksburg, Miss. He took a prominent part in the fights at Belmont, Corinth, siege of Vicksburg and was all through the Georgia and Atlanta Campaign, never receiving a wound.

After the war he farmed for a few years in Lincoln County, and then for about twelve years was in the liquor and merchandising business at Star City. His business was destroyed by fire, and in December, 1883, he came to Kingsland, erected the building which he now occupies, and is naturally adapted and suited to the hotel business.

He has been a Democrat in his political views all his life, and his first presidential vote was cast for J. C. Breckinridge in 1860.


Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Southern Arkansas
Copyright 1890
Published by The Goodspeed Publishing Co.; Chicago, Nashville and St. Louis