The Works Progress Administration

Biography of Nicholas Smith of El Monte California

Among the California pioneers of 1849, and indeed one of the very first arrivals in El Monte, was the subject of this sketch.

Mr. Smith was a native of Prussia, his birth being October 18, 1818. His parents were Lawrence and Mary (Maxminer) Smith, both natives of the place of his birth. His father was a farmer, to which occupation the son was reared. At the age of twenty years he entered the Prussian Military service, and served four years in the Ninth Regiment of the Prussian Hussars. After his discharge from the service, he was employed in agricultural pursuits until 1847. In that year he immigrated to the United States, and upon arrival, went to Wisconsin and Michigan, where he was engaged at farm labor. In 1849 the California gold fever prompted him to seek his fortune in the El Dorado of the Pacific Coast, and in the spring of that year he joined a party of emigrants and started across the plains for California.

The journey was made by ox teams, the route taken being through Utah, and thence by the Southern route to California. Late in the year, Mr. Smith arrived in the San Bernardino County, where he established a boarding house, which he conducted until 1851. In that year he came to El Monte and took up a Government claim consisting of 160 acres of land near the site of Gay’s Lion Farm, about one mile east of El Monte. Here he established his residence and devoted himself to Agricultural pursuits. For forty-three years Mr. Smith resided upon his farm giving years of steady toil to its improvement and cultivation. With the exception of planting a small family orchard, his operations were confined to general farming and stock raising. His long residence here made him well known throughout the entire San Gabriel Valley, and his straightforward dealings with his fellow men gained him the respect and esteem of all who knew him. His death occurred in 1903.

In political matters, Mr. Smith was a Republican, and supported that party since its organization in 1856. During the Civil War he was a strong Union man and a firm supporter of the National Government.

In 1850, Mr. Smith was united in marriage with Miss Elmira Pierce, a native of New Hampshire, and a cousin of President Franklin Pierce. She died in July, 1887. From this marriage there were two children born. The first child, Mary, died at the age of twelve. The second child, Nicholas, now deceased, lived on the old homestead for a number of years, and engaged in conducting the farm operations. He married Miss Julia Newman who now resided in Los Angeles. She is the daughter of John and Adelina Newman, early residents of El Monte. Of this union two children were born, Nicholas Erwin, and William.

Source: C. D. Mayon, F. Brow, L. Stoddard, and C. Mudd; El Monte from the Pioneer Days. WPA Project No. N-5740, 1936. In record 19-187072. (California Historical Landmark No. 765: El Monte). On file at the SCCIC, CSU Fullerton.

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