Edgar R. Smith, Fairfield Iowa lawyer

April 22, 2011

Smith family in Fairfield, IA.

Fairfield lawyer and real-estate dealer E. R. Smith and family in front of their house at 103 South B Street, ca. 1903-1909.

Edgar Russell Smith was born on August 25, 1869 in Birmingham, Van Buren County, Iowa, the older of the two surviving children of James Nelson Smith, a livery and feed-store keeper from Jefferson County, and his wife Isabella Taylor, a native of Scotland’s Orkney Islands. Before Edgar was ten his family moved just north to Fairfield, where his father raised and sold livestock. His younger brother Harry Ernest followed in their father’s footsteps as a stock dealer, but Edgar graduated from Parsons College with a B.S. degree in 1891, from the University of Iowa with an LL.B. degree with the class of 1895, and then returned to Fairfield to practice law – now usually calling himself by his middle name, or simply by his initials, E. R. The Fairfield Weekly Journal for January 5, 1898, page 4, advertised that “E. R. Smith, Attorney and Counsellor at Law” did a general law business and wrote deeds, mortgages, leases, etc., as well as collecting debts, offering real-estate loans, and settling estates. His office was on the north side of the Park, over Davis’s store: perhaps at 53 East Broadway, where W. H. Davis had sold groceries until at least the early 1890s. (http://iagenweb.org/jefferson/Weekly_Journal/1898_Journal/Jan_5.html)

On September 28, 1898 Russell married Susan Wilson Blair (1869-1955), a daughter of Mary J. (Wilson) and homeopathic physician Dr. George H. Blair, and a niece of Fairfield’s famous Senator James F. Wilson. Two of Russell and Susan’s first three children — Eloise Blair (1900-1982), Harry Booker (1902-1983), and Mary Alyce (1908-1985) – probably appear on their parents’ laps in this photograph of the family in front of their house at 103 South B Street; if they are the older two, the picture may have been taken as early as 1903, and the elderly gentleman on the porch behind Mrs. Smith may be Russel’s father, who died in March 1904. The woman seated to the right of Mrs. Smith might be her older sister Alice, widow of Fairfield clothier Harry F. Booker. Mrs. Smith had lived with Harry and Alice Booker as a girl after her father died in the early 1880s. The couple at the far right may be Mrs. Smith’s oldest sister Mary and her husband Charles M. Junkin.

Probably not present in the photograph was the Smiths’ live-in servant, Lizzie Bucker, listed as 18 years old in the 1910 U.S. Census. Russell and Sue’s fourth child, Edgar Russell Smith, Jr., was born in 1911, the year his proud father appeared in their National Year Book as member 22514 of the Sons of the American Revolution, tracing his descent from his great-great grandfather, Orderly Sergeant John Hall of the Third North Carolina Regiment.

In 1918 E. R. Smith bought the Gaines building on the east corner of the north side of the Square (61 E. Broadway, 100-104 N. Main), which he occupied as president of the Jefferson County Abstract and Loan Co. – a company he had headed since 1911 or earlier. The building’s original owner was tinsmith Richard Gaines, whose niece Ada Black Smith was E. R. Smith’s sister-in-law. Around 1890 W. M. Black’s insurance, real estate and loan agency occupied the rear of this building, shown in a photograph here: https://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=25692&id=105927739452255#!/photo.php?fbid=147185585326470&set=a.147182405326788.25692.105927739452255&theater.
After Russell’s son Harry Booker Smith also became a lawyer in 1925, he joined his father here in the law-firm of Smith & Smith. E. R. Smith retained this building until 1937, after which it has continuously held a barber shop: first that of “Red” Barton, who cut hair here for nearly 30 years, succeeded by Larry’s Barber Shop for about the last 40 years.

By 1920, real-estate dealer Russell and his family had moved to 206 S. Main, just north across Adams Street from where the Fairfield Public Library has replaced the old Slagle house. He was there still with his wife and two younger children in 1930, working as a lawyer with a general practice, and the Fairfield Directory still listed E. R. and Sue B. Smith there in 1937. (For a picture of the house at 206 S. Main, see https://www.facebook.com/fairfieldhistory#!/photo.php?fbid=179977365380625&set=a.154454417932920.27826.105927739452255&theater.)

E. R. Smith died on September 25, 1949 in Des Moines; his wife Sue followed him on November 29, 1955.

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