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Friday, 26 September 2014

Sibling Saturday - Five Smedley Brothers of Pennsylvania

Civil War combatants, a Yosemite traveller, a news agent and a cigar & tobacco dealer -  all activities of the  Smedley brothers shown  here in this striking collage. 

The brothers along with siblings Lydia, Amy, Abiah T., Catherine Ann, and Anna Mary were fifth generation Americans of English Quaker descent, born to Jeffrey Smedley and Catherine Denny of Chester, Delaware County, Pennsylvania.  

The Ancestry website includes among its American records those of the Pennsylvania Quakers  and the surname  of the extended Smedley family  features prominently.  

The brothers' parents Jeffrey (below)  and Catherine married 18th December 1834.  

The 1850 census showed the Smedley family  of eight children  with only second son John Kinsey not at home on census night.  Jeffrey, aged 39 was described as a Farmer, with his wife, Catherine, eight years older at  47,   What must her life have been like with nine children under the age of 14 and with her three youngest children born when she was in her 40's ? 

Ten years on in the 1860 census, 49 year old Jeffrey was still described as a farmer, as was his eldest son Isaac, with daughter Amy a teacher.  Of his children, only John Kinsey again  was away from home, traced to Philadelphia where he was also farming.

Within a year, Jeffrey senior was dead, as recorded in the "Obituaries of the Members of the Society of Friends in America for the year 1861".  I had hoped for an obituary giving some insight into Jeffrey's life, but unfortunately  only the bare name and date was given in the entry.  

By the time of the 1870 census, his widow Catherine was living a very different life - instead of being surrounded by her family, she was living on her own.  She died in 1877 at Leopard, Pennsylvania, with the Quaker Journal giving a simple entry, with no reference to other family members, and noting she was buried in Williston Friends Ground.  

But what of their sons, with Isaac, John Kinsey and Abiah  serving their country  in the American Civil War, as told in a previous post. 

Elder brother ISAAC was born 1 March 1838 at Chester, Pennsylvania and named after his paternal grandfather. 

The USA Civil War Draft Registration Records   show that 23 year old Isaac enlisted in  the 97th Pennsylvania  Volunteer  Infantry.  He rose to the rank of 2nd  Lieut. but was honorably discharged on a surgeon's certificate at Seabrook Island, South Carolina.  

Unmarried, he sadly died of consumption om 12 February  1867 at the young age of 28, buried in Willistown Friends Cemetery, Chester, Delaware Co.  

 Second son, JOHN KINSEY  was born 10 July 1839 in Williston,
 Pennsylvania.  So far the origin of his distinctive middle name has not been traced.  It was not a name from either his parents or grandparents,  though his uncle was a Kersey Smedley.  

The young John was not with his family on census night in 1850 and ten years on aged 21, he was  a farmer in Philadelphia.

In September 1862 at the age of 23, John  enlisted in the Union Navy as a naval engineer. He  participated in blockade duties and attacks on the Confederate forts in Charleston Harbor including  Fort Sumter,  and served aboard vessels Nantucket, Wabash, Mohican and Tullahoma.

Unlike his brothers, John's life was to move far beyond Pennsylvania to Utah and California, working as an engineer, inventor and traveller.  In 1874, he  wrote an account of his journey into the Yosemite Valley in a journal still in the family safe keeping. John died in California in 1905.

John's eventful life will feature in the next posting on the Smedley family.

Brother JEFFREY, named after his father, was born in 25th May 1845 and was in the family  home in the 1850 and 1860 censuses. By the 1880 census, Jeffrey was married, his wife Sallie, with a 6 year old daughter Florence. His occupation was given as News Agent, The 1900 census again llisted his wife Sarah and  daughter Florence,but Jeffrey this time  described as a Cigar and Tobacco Dealer - an occupation which somehow fits in with his suave appearance in  this photograph. 

Records show that he died  on 12th March 1917 at Bala, Montgomery, Pennsylvania.  The  US Find a Grave Index  noted his burial at Arlington Cemetery on Drexel Hill, Delaware County, Pennsylvania. 


Youngest brother CHARLES D.  was born 6th January 1847 - the youngest of Jeffrey and Catherine's nine children. 

In 1880 Charles was  living on his own at Eastown, Pennsylvania, described as a Dealer in Dried Goods and Groceries.  A year later, he  married Alta J. Epwright, - at 17 years old, half his age.

The 1900 census showed the  family, living at Newtown, Pennsyslvania  with five daughters (Martha, Anna, Jessie,  Helen and Ella), and  one son Jeffrey.. Like his father, Charles occupation was given as Farmer. By the time of the 1910 census, another daughter had been born - Olive,  and Charles was still farming. 

The 1920 census was much more informative than earlier ones,  and showed that the family was living in rented accommodation at Haddinton Street, Philadephia Ward 34 and  that all the family could read and write.   Charles aged 73 had had a change of occupation to that of a Watchman in the River Fuel Industry.  Three daughters were still living at home - 27 year old Helen was a nurse, 20 year old Ella a typist in a printing office, with no occupation indicated for 18 year old Olive. 

Charles died two years later in 1922, with his wife Alta living a further 32 years, dying in 1956 at the grand age of 93 -  both buried in Willistown Meeting House Cemetery, Delaware Co., Pennsylvania. 

Charles death marked the demise of the four Smedley brothers - Isaac, John Kinsey, Jeffrey and Charles.  

However there was a fifth brother  ABIAH, born in 1840, the fifth child of Jeffrey (Senior) and Catherine - his name is of Hebrew origin meaning " God is my Father".  An entry in the US Find a Grave Index brought to light that Abiah served in the  Civil War.  His record   showed that he enlisted in Company B, Pennsylvania 6th Cavalry Regiment on 30 Aug 1861 a few months after the outbreak fo war.    In 1865 was promoted to First Lieutenant.  

Abiah sadly died in 1867, aged 27,  leaving a young widow Mary and a daughter Mary Emma  born two months after his death.  Abiah was buried in
Willistown Friends Cemetery, where his eldest brother Isaac, had been laid to rest just three months earlier.    

  • Family notes and photographs, with special thanks to Gail - John Kinsey Smedley's great granddaughter.
  • US Civil War Draft Registration Records 1863-1865
  • US Civil War Soldier Records and Profiles 1861-1865 
  • Officers of the Continental & US Navy & Marine Corps 1795-1900. 
  • US Navy Pension Records
  • US Veterans Grave-sites
  • US Federal Census Returns 1850-1920
  • US Quaker Meeting Records 
  • Obituaries of the Members of the Society of Friends in America,  1861.
  • Quaker Journal, 1877
  • California Death Index 
  • US City Directories  
  • Biographical and Portrait Encyclopedia of Chester County, Pennsylvania 

    Sibling Saturday is one of many daily blog prompts from Geneabloggers, 
    that encourages writers to record aspects of their family history.

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