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History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925
George Davis Smith

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[This information is from Vol. III, pp. 736-740 of History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925, edited by Nelson Greene (Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1925). It is in the Reference collection of the Schenectady County Public Library at R 974.7 G81h. This online edition includes lists of portraits, maps and illustrations. As noted by Paul Keesler in his article, "The Much Maligned Mr. Greene," some information in this book has been superseded by later research or was provided incorrectly by local sources.]

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Portrait of George Davis Smith

Portrait: George Davis Smith

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In the passing of George Davis Smith on the 20th of March, 1916, when in the fifty-third year of his age, the city of Little Falls sustained the loss of one of its prominent and beloved citizens and foremost business men. He was a leading factor in financial circles as president of the National Herkimer County Bank, now the Herkimer County Trust Company, with which he was continuously identified for more than a quarter of a century, rising from the position of bookkeeper to that of chief executive officer of the institution. His birth occurred in Bay City, Michigan, on the 18th of November, 1864, his father being George Davis Smith, M. D., one of the early settlers of that place, where he was actively engaged in the practice of medicine throughout his professional career. He was financially interested in a lumber firm and also in a salt concern of Bay City, where he enjoyed an enviable reputation as a man of excellent business ability, as well as an able physician. To him and his wife, who was of English descent, were born four children, a son and three daughters, as follows: George Davis of this review; Mrs. Hattie (Smith) Weir of White Bear Lake, Minnesota; Mrs. Frances (Smith) Wycoff of St. Paul, Minnesota; and Mrs. Clara (Smith) Hogan of Ionia, Michigan. John Hart, maternal great-grandfather of George Davis Smith of this review, was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.

In the acquirement of an education George D. Smith attended the grade and high schools of his native city and when fifteen years of age secured a clerical position in the office of the Michigan Central Railroad Company, being thus employed until he had attained his majority. Subsequently he spent about five years as bookkeeper in the service of a wholesale grocery concern and then in 1890 came to Little Falls, New York, here entering the employ of the National Herkimer County Bank in a similar capacity. He filled this position with marked ability until May 5, 1900, when he was elected cashier to succeed the late Albert Story. In April, 1914, he was chosen president of the National Herkimer County Bank, now the Herkimer County Trust Company, continuing at its head to the time of his demise. The following is an excerpt from a review of his career which appeared in a local publication after his death:

"Mr. Smith was educated as a bookkeeper and became an expert in that work. A little more than twenty-five years ago he came to Little Falls and took a position as bookkeeper in the National Herkimer County Bank. He soon demonstrated his ability, and his aptitude for the banking business won for him a large place in the esteem and regard of his employers and associates. He served with such fidelity and ability that in 1900 he was made cashier and the active executive officer of the bank. After the retirement of David H. Burrell from the presidency, Mr. Smith was elected to that position in April, 1914, and so served up to the time of his death. Mr. Smith was one of our foremost business men, and represented the highest type of citizenship, business integrity and ability. His position as head of a large and prosperous bank brought him into intimate business relations with a large portion of our business community, and in that relation he won and held the esteem of all with whom he had to do. His temperament was not of the demonstrative type, but in his quiet manner he attracted to himself friends who were never failing in their loyalty and admiration. In his home he was as near the ideal as can be attained, giving to those about him the most constant and unselfish love and devotion. He was interested in all that pertained to the welfare of his home city and ready to assist any public enterprise to the limit of his ability. No worthy cause appealed to him in vain. His passing will leave a void in the business and social life of this city that it will be difficult to fill."

Another newspaper printed the following tribute:

"Mr. Smith was of that type of men who build strong business communities and elevate the standard of citizenship. Quiet and undemonstrative, he gave the best that was in him to the needs of his specific work as well as the general welfare of the community. His prominence was not of the spectacular sort so often seen, but so far as his duties permitted he was always ready with his sound judgment and practical assistance in any cause that appealed to him as being for the individual or general good. Naturally he was not conspicuous in these matters, but his influence made itself felt in many directions."

Mrs. George D. Smith has in her possession a beautiful leather-bound book, on handsome parchment paper, and beautifully engraved. On the first page is the inscription: "In Memoriam — George D. Smith", and on the next page: "The National Herkimer County Bank". The tribute between the covers reveals his high place in the regard of his business associates:

"George D. Smith, the president of this institution, having passed away, we his associates upon this board, do hereby record our appreciation of his public and private character and the love and esteem which we individually and collectively bore him. Mr. Smith entered the employ of this institution in 1890 as bookkeeper, to the duties of which he gave that thorough and painstaking attention that was so characteristic of him and by means of which he acquired for himself the thorough training that so well fitted him for more important duties. Mr. Smith was elected cashier to succeed the late Albert Story on May 5, 1900, in which position he diligently served until 1901 with the Hon. George A. Hardin as president, and after the latter's death, he likewise served through the incumbency of David H. Burrell until the latter's resignation in 1914, when Mr. Smith was elected to the presidency, in which position he remained until his death. As a private citizen Mr. Smith was kind, courteous and helpful to neighbors and friends and to those who sought his aid. As an employe and afterward as an official, he earnestly and diligently sought by all honorable means to promote the interests of this institution, and the record of his progress is a monument to his ability and success. While commending our friend's earthly career, now brought to an end, we also wish to extend to his beloved wife and children and to all his friends our deepest sympathy for their loss.

"I hereby certify that the foregoing is a true and correct copy of a resolution adopted and spread upon the minutes of the meeting of the board of directors of the National Herkimer County Bank held on March twenty-first, one thousand nine hundred and sixteen."

Howard C. Miller,

On the 14th of September, 1887, in Saginaw, Michigan, Mr. Smith was united in marriage to Miss Nellie Elvira Stinson, who was born at St. Catharines, Ontario, July 18, 1864, her parents being James and Ann Jane (Potter) Stinson, while her maternal grandparents were Ira and Jane (Backus) Potter, who lived and died in the state of New York. James Stinson, a native of Ireland, was for a number of years engaged in business as a retail merchant of Saginaw, Michigan, where he dealt in glass and crockery ware. His demise occurred in Little Falls, New York, March 24, 1902, when he had attained the age of seventy-two years. His widow, who was born at Pittsford, New York, June 18, 1832, had reached the age of nearly ninety-two years and was living in Little Falls, New York, with her daughter, Mrs. Smith, when she passed away on the 7th of June, 1924.

Mr. and Mrs. George D. Smith were the parents of two children, a daughter and a son: The former, Marie Stinson, who was born in Bay City, Michigan, September 27, 1890, obtained her early education in the public schools of Little Falls, completing the high school course by graduation with the class of 1906. Two years later she was graduated from Dana Hall of Wellesley, Massachusetts; George Hardin Smith, whose natal day was April 5, 1892, attended the public schools of Little Falls, continued his education in the Pennsylvania Military College of Chester, Pennsylvania, and later spent nearly two years as a student in the Tome School at Havre de Grace, Maryland. After putting aside his textbooks he became an employe of the Gilbert Knitting Company of Little Falls, with which he remained until April, 1917, when he enlisted for service in the World war and went to the Officers Training Camp at Madison Barracks. He was stationed successively at Sackett's Harbor, Fort Niagara and Camp Travis, Texas, and went overseas as second lieutenant in the Forty-fifth Machine Gun Corps, Ninetieth Division, and returned as first lieutenant. This was the division in which served Colonel Teal of Little Falls and also General Allen; George Hardin Smith, who is now manager of the Little Falls branch of the Glidden-Morris Company, brokers of New York city, volunteered for service as soon as the United States entered the world conflict and after the signing of the armistice continued abroad with the Army of Occupation. On the 18th of August, 1917, he was married to Miss Hazel Huntley, a native of Syracuse, New York, and a daughter of William Huntley of that city.

In politics Mr. George D. Smith was a stanch republican. He was a regular attendant at the services of the First Presbyterian church and for several years one of the trustees, taking an active interest in the affairs of the church. Fraternally he was identified with Rockton Council, No. 337, of the Royal Arcanum and with Little Falls Lodge, No. 42, of the Benevolent Protective Order of Elks, and he also held membership in the Little Falls Country Club and other social organizations. Mrs. Smith is a devoted member of the First Presbyterian church of Little Falls, in the work of which she is helpfully interested. She is a republican in politics and she belongs to the Fortnightly Literary Club of Little Falls. In the city where she has resided for more than a third of a century the circle of her friends is a wide one.

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