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William and Nancy Smith – Larned Cemetery, Larned

William and Nancy Smith were born in slavery and remained in servitude until the Civil War. Then, together, they came to Pawnee County in 1879.

On December 25, 1841, William Smith was born in Alabama. When the Civil War broke out, he escaped from the plantation where he worked and joined the Union Army as a cook.

Nancy Jane Clement was also born in servitude in Tennessee in March of 1842. However, she remained on the plantation, working until after the Civil War.

The two were married in Tennessee on March 16, 1867. A total of seven children were born to the couple; two in Tennessee, two in Mattoon, Illinois, and three in Barber County, Kansas. When the family left Mattoon, Illinois, for Kansas in 1880, their oldest daughter decided to remain in Illinois and live with her grandmother. Unfortunately, she passed away at the age of eighteen.

The remaining children, three daughters and three sons, settled in the northwest corner of Pawnee County in the community of Ash Valley. William was a successful wheat farmer and made the final payment on his 160 acres in the spring of 1886.

The July 31, 1891 issue of the Larned Chronoscope reports that “In the sixteen years of his (Mr. Smith) residence in the county there has been but one failure. On fifty-eight acres of wheat land he raised the first year 1,280 bushels, or twenty-two bushels per acre, and the second year raised twenty-eight bushels per acre. He realized enough from these two crops to pay for his land and had $400 left for other investments. Seventy acres sown the third year yielded 2,200 bushels. . .” These same numbers stayed close to the same in years four and five.

William and Nancy moved into Larned in 1919. William died in 1929, and Nancy in 1938. They share the same stone in Larned Cemetery.

The rest of the story: William’s mother, Martha, died of injuries caused by a tornado striking Mattoon County, Illinois, on May 31, 1917. Martha was 103 years old.

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