Historical society honors Smithville founding father

A parade float with a replica of the mill once owned by Humphrey Smith reminds people of where Smithville began and how the city got its name, during a 150-year celebration of Smithville held in 2017. Smithville Historical Society will celebrate Smith on Saturday, June 15.

Fearless, protector, smart, funny, strong, hard worker, disciplined, knows everything and has the right answer to any question, children look at their fathers this way.

Let’s face it, dads, for the most part, are cooler than moms. Two men exemplify this.

The first is Mr. Randolph, a fur trader. I recently came across a story published in the No. 38 Liberty Tribune in 1878 with a headline that read, “THE LOST ONE RESTORED.” The story demonstrated how gentle and intense this man was. Mr. Randolph was a widower who never had children. Around 1861, he and his assistant set out on a trade mission in Liberty and got off the beaten track.

Both men set up shelter the best they could. The men stabilized their shelter for the night and slept with one eye open. Suddenly, both were awoken by a terrifying scream. Mr. Randolph’s assistant retrieved his pistol and both men ran in the dense forest toward the screams of what they thought was some mysterious creature.

They found no mysterious creature, but an 18-month-old girl, clothed in a dress. The child appeared to be wounded. Mr. Randolph, a man who never planned to have children, vowed to adopt the child if the parents were not found. He adopted this little girl in the city of Independence and raised her as his own.

I believe Mr. Randolph named her Madge Randolph. She took care of the family trade business and married well. Madge’s mother was found alive some 17 years later.

The second subject is a man very well-known for sticking to his beliefs, a man who was set in his ways and independent. Humphrey “Yankee” Smith, according to state historical archives, was one of the first settlers of Clay County.

Smith was a patriot that came to Missouri in 1816. He was a man who believed in liberty for all men and equal and exact justice. Smith, I believe, was the first in creating industry and the honor system among the first settlers of Clay County. He did this by constructing a dam and then a mill. This mill was located on the Little Platte River in Smithville.

Calvin Smith, son of Humphrey Smith, wrote a book about his father and the struggles he had. Humphrey was a smart businessman and compassionate about all living things. He never took each day he had on for granted. Humphrey’s children followed in his footsteps in being courageous, hardworking humans.

Katherine B. Stafford is president of the Smithville Historical Society. Stafford can be reached at (337) 424-7170.

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