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Smith Family Papers

Identifier: mss-004

Scope and Content Note

The Smith Family Papers contain correspondence, legal documents, notes, typed and printed material, newspaper clippings and assorted family memorabilia. The papers are divided into three categories (business, family, politics) and arranged in a loose chronological order.

The papers of John Smith deal mainly with his law practice with Benjamin Swift (1810-1827). The papers of John Gregory and Edward Curtis Smith are dominated by personal correspondence. There is also a substantial amount of correspondence between members of the family. The campaigns for Governor of Vermont by J. G. (1863) and E.C. (1898), J.G’s raising of pedigree cattle, E.C’s Yale papers (1872-1875), and E.C’s mining interests in South Dakota (1889-1898) are among the subjects covered in this collection. Contributions by Mrs. J.G. and Mrs. E.C. Smith include literary memorabilia such as plays, poems, accounts of travels and a personal account of the St. Albans Raid, 1864.

The collection contains relatively little material concerning the railroads and other businesses in which J. G. and E.C. were involved. The correspondence deals chiefly with the personal lives of the family.

The collection occupies 13 cartons. It is approximately 50% business, 40% family and 10% political papers.


  • 1797-1956



Collection is open for research.

Biographical Note

John Smith was born in Barre, Massachusetts on August 12, 1789. Eleven years later the family moved to St. Albans, pursued legal studies under the supervision of his brother-in-law, Rowsell Hutchins, and Benjamin Swift, and was admitted to the bar in 1810. On September 18, 1814, he married Maria Waitstell Curtis, and they begat seven children: Harriet Maria, john Gregory (1818-1891), Edward Curtis, Worthington Curtis, Julia Pierpont, Francis Curtis, and Louisa Jen Broeck.

John Smith formed a co-partnership-in-law with Judge Swift from 1810-1827. In 1826 and 1829, he was appointed Justice of the Peace of Franklin County and he represented St. Albans in the General Assembly 1827-1833 and 1835-1838. He was speaker of the House in 1832 and 1833 and State’s Attorney for Franklin County 1827-1833. He was a Representative in Congress from 1839 to 1841. He retired from public life in 1841 but continued his legal profession until 1845. In that year, in conjunction with Lawrence Brainerd and Joseph Clark, he formed the Vermont & Canada Railroad (which became the Central Vermont) and served as president until his sudden death on November 20, 1858.

While a member of the national House of Representatives, Smith delivered a famous speech, “The Defense of the Independent Treasury Idea.” He received an honorary Masters of Arts degree from the University of Vermont.

John Gregory Smith, son of John Smith, was born July 22, 1818 in St. Albans, Vermont. He graduated from the University of Vermont in the class of 1838 and from the Yale Law School in 1841. He was admitted to the Vermont bar in 1842 and married Ann Eliza Brainerd in the same year. Several of her novels and other books can be found in the collection. They had six children: George Gregory, Lawrence Brainerd, Annie Brainerd, Edward Curtis (1854-1935), Julia Brainerd, and Helen Lawrence.

In 1843, John Gregory Smith joined his father’s law practice and incidentally became involved in railroad management. He was a state senator 1858-1859 and representative 1860-1862. He was Speaker of the House in 1862. Smith was elected Governor in 1863 and re-elected in 1864. He served as chairman of the state delegation to the national Republican convention in 1872, 1880, 1884.

John Gregory Smith succeeded his father in 1858 as president of the Vermont & Canada R.R. He was one of the founders of the Northern Pacific R.R. and was its president from 1866 to 1872. He presided over the Central Vermont Railroad from 1872-1891 and was president of Welden National Bank, the People’s Trust Co., and the Franklin County Creamery Association. He died November 6, 1891.

Edward Curtis Smith, the son of John Gregory Smith, was born in St. Albans, Vermont, January 5, 1854. He attended Philipp’s Andover Academy and graduated from Yale University in 1875. He received his LL.B. degree two years later from Columbia Law School in New York. In 1877 he was admitted to the Vermont bar. A year later, he was married to Anna Bailey James and they raised four children: James Gregory, Edward Fairchild, Curtis Ripley, Anna Dorothea.

In 1888 Edward C. Smith became junior partner in the law firm of Noble & Smith and practiced law until 1881. In 1890 he represented St. Albans in the state House of Representatives where he was chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. He served as Governor 1898-1900.

He was director and vice-president of Central Vermont Railroad Co. 1881-1892, its president 1892-1895, and its receiver until 1898. In 1898 when the Central Vermont Railroad Co. became the Central Vermont Railway he was made president of the latter, until the start of World War I. He remained a director until his death in 1935. He was president of the People’s Trust Company, Welden National Bank of St. Albans; Sherman National Bank of New York City; Robin Hood Ammunition Company, Swanton. From 1889-1898 he invested over $175,000 in gold prospecting in South Dakota.

Edward Curtis Smith Died on April 6, 1935.


11.0 Linear feet (11 cartons)

Language of Materials



Collection includes correspondence and other papers of a prominent Vermont political family. The Smith Family Papers contain correspondence, legal documents, notes, typed and printed material, newspaper clippings and assorted family memorabilia.

Related Materials

The Library also has a collection of the papers of Edward Curtis Smith while he was governor, 1898-1900; this small collection constitutes his official gubernatorial papers.

Guide to the Smith Family Papers, 1797-1956
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the University of Vermont Libraries, Special Collections Repository

Silver Special Collections Library
48 University Place, Room B201
Burlington Vermont 05405 U.S.A. US
(802) 656-2138
(802) 656-4038 (Fax)