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Reuben Smith Diaries, 1854-1904




Farmer, military captain, Kansas legislator.  Of Burlington, Iowa; Miami County, Kan.

Diaries and scrapbooks pertaining to his immigration from England; settlement in Miami County, Kan.; service in the Civil War; travels; election to the Kansas Legislature; appointment to the Board of Trustees & as steward of the Kansas State Insane Asylum; and his family & personal interests.




0.4 ft. (27 folders in 1 box)


Smith, Reuben, 1832-1905.


Reuben Smith diaries

Portion of title: Diaries


Ms. Collection no. 846

Shelf location: 101-06-04-16



Text is in English.


This finding aid describes materials held by the Kansas Historical Society.  Materials may be used in the Research Room in the Society’s Library during regular research hours.  Support for telephone, mail, and online reference and research is limited.

In a continuing effort to improve the completeness and accuracy of finding aids, revisions are made as more or new information becomes available.  Consequently, this finding aid may differ slightly from what is in paper form.


Kansas Historical Society (Topeka)


Reuben Smith was born on October 29, 1832, in Bramhall, Stockport, England to James Smith, a silk hand loom weaver, and Axie Smith. James and Axie also had a daughter, Sarah, born in 1835 and a son, Henry, born in 1838.

On September 11, 1854, Reuben left England for the United States. He arrived in New York on October 23, 1854, and headed for Iowa. Upon arrival in Burlington, Iowa, Reuben worked for Mr. George Walker on his farm for three months. On March 1st, 1855, he started working for George Ibbotson, another farmer. Shortly after Reuben became a United States citizen, he rented the farm of Mr. Ibbotson for a year. At the end of that year Reuben had saved enough money to buy a farm himself.

On January 29, 1857, he set off for Kansas Territory, as there were government lands available for one dollar and twenty five cents per acre in that area. By June of 1857 Reuben had bought land in Osawatomie, Kansas, and started his farm. He married his first wife, Mary Rowcroft, on November 2, 1857. Reuben and Mary had their first daughter, Sarah, in 1858. Reuben was elected a justice of the peace for three years on July 29th 1859. In November he was made chairman of the Township Board and therefore a member of the Board of County Commissioners.

Eighteen sixty proved to be a difficult year for farmers and their crops. Reuben sold his farm and bought a new one. He was appointed chairman of a committee to distribute aid to other struggling farmers. Reuben and Mary also had a son and named him Lincoln after President Lincoln who had just been elected.

Smith enlisted in the military in 1861 and served until the end of the Civil War. During his service, he was promoted to captain in the 2nd Missouri Cavalry. Reuben and Mary had their second daughter, Elizabeth, in 1865. In 1866 Reuben bought 160 acres of land bringing the total amount of land he owned to 220 acres. That same year Mary’s health started to decline. On May 1st, 1868, Mary Smith, who had been bedridden for over a year, passed away at the age of thirty.

On September 15th, 1868, at the urging of his friends, Reuben began his political career by submitting his name as a candidate for the Kansas Legislature for the Osawatomie district. Captain Smith then married the widow Margaret J. Barker on October 29, 1868, his 36th birthday. She had three children from her previous marriage and on January 7, 1871, had a son with Reuben named Edwin.

Captain Smith was a Republican and represented the Osawatomie district in the Legislature in 1870, 1871, and 1873. On March 18, 1873 he was commissioned by Gov. Thomas A. Osborne to be a member of the Board of Trustees of the State Insane Asylum and was chosen to be secretary of the Board at their first meeting. After serving a few months he resigned, was elected steward of the Insane Asylum, and served as such until 1889. Captain Smith’s second wife, Margaret, died on November 30, 1873, at the age of 29. He married his third and final wife, another widow, Mariah C. Bowman, on October 10th, 1874. Reuben and Mariah had eight children between 1874 and 1891.

In April of 1895 Captain Smith set out on a trip for England. On the way he went through St. Louis, Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and spent a few days sightseeing in New York. From April tenth to the seventeenth he traveled from New York to Liverpool on the steamer Teutonic with the White Star Line. During the remainder of April and all of June he spent time with family and friends and went to sights of interest around Stockport. On the way back from England he went through Philadelphia, Chicago, and Kansas City.

In 1901 Reuben began having chronic kidney and bladder issues. Two years later he and his wife sold the farm and moved into town. Reuben Smith died on July 22, 1905, and Mariah died seven years later on September 15, 1912. Both are buried in Oakwood Cemetery, Osawatomie, Kansas

Scope and Content

This collection includes bound diaries and scrapbooks written and compiled by Rueben Smith from his immigration to the United States in 1854 to his last years in Osawatomie, Kansas. The bound diaries include, but are not limited to, journal entries, newspaper articles and pictures, military records, state government records, correspondence, speeches, and travel records.

The seven series are titled Immigration and Settlement, Civil War, Political & Civil Service, Trip to England, Spanish-American War, Retirement. and Home and Family. Most of the documents within this collection are typewritten, but some of the correspondence, notes, and journal entries are handwritten. The files are arranged chronologically. At the beginning of several of the diaries, Reuben outlines the contents of that diary. He makes a point to frequently include the festivities of the Fourth of July each year. At the end of several years throughout the collection he summarizes the events of the past year in a journal entry.

The collection will be of particular interest to researchers desiring information about the Smith family, military service in the Civil War, the Kansas Legislature, the State Insane Asylum, and more.

Contents List

Organization of Papers

Organized into 7 series by time period.

Contents:  Ser. 1. Immigration and Settlement, 1854-1860 – ser. 2. Civil War, 1861-1864 – ser. 3. Political and Civil Service, 1865-1903 – ser. 4. Trip to England, 1895 – ser. 5. Spanish-American War, 1898 – ser. 6. Retirement, 1904 - ser. 7 Home and Family, 1851-1852

Series Descriptions

Immigration and Settlement Series, 1854-1860

This series includes journal entries detailing his departure from England, journey across the Atlantic Ocean, arrival in New York City, travel to Iowa, and the two years he lived there working for farmers. The series then includes journal entries relating to Reuben Smith’s move, purchase of land, and establishment of a farm in Osawatomie, Kansas. Throughout the series there are newspaper clippings of articles and pictures corresponding to the subjects of the journal entry before or after. During his travel from Iowa to Kansas he includes maps of Iowa and Missouri. Reuben also includes the Declaration to the State of Iowa of his intent to become a United States citizen and “renounce his allegiance to Victoria Queen of Great Britain.”

He begins to express opinions relating to the politics of the time, especially the conflict between pro-slavery Missouri and free-state Kansas. He experiences this tension first-hand by what he calls “border ruffinism” during a stay in Westport (now part of Kansas City), Missouri, on his way to Osawatomie. After Reuben is settled, he marries his first wife and has his first child, a baby girl. They later have a son and name him Lincoln after President Lincoln who had just been elected. He includes documentation of his appointment as justice of the peace, chairman of the Township Board, and a member of the Board of County Commissioners.

Civil War Series, 1861-1865

This series consists of correspondence and journal entries of his service during the War, including his thoughts on the length and outcome, promotion to captain in the 2nd Missouri Cavalry, tracking of William Quantrill, the Price Raids, and Battle of Westport. The series includes military documents such as general orders, special orders, promotions, an arms inventory, and muster rolls.  Last, it includes newspaper clippings of articles, some of which are written by Reuben himself.

Political and Civil Service Series, 1865-1903

This series spans the greatest amount of time and contains the most diaries and scrapbooks. It begins with journal entries detailing his thoughts and newspaper articles on the assassination of President Lincoln and later President McKinley. Other journal entries and newspaper articles include his purchase of more land; the death of his first wife; the marriage to his second wife; the death of his second wife; the marriage to his third wife; his election and service in the Kansas Legislature; and his appointment, charges, and investigation as steward of the Insane Asylum.

The correspondence in this series pertains to his brief national fame as a “crack shot” turkey hunter in Kansas and the charges and investigation of Reuben as steward of the Insane Asylum.  He included documentation of each of his elections to the Kansas Legislature, House roll calls, railway passes, appointment as steward of the Insane Asylum, and membership in Grand Army of the Republic. It includes his remarks at events such as the July 4th, 1866, “gathering of colored people who were slaves only three years ago”; the death of General William Tecumseh Sherman; the Pertle Springs, Missouri, Grand Army Day; and to pupils of the public schools of Osawatomie and Fontana on Memorial Day.

Trip to England Series, 1895

This series includes journal entries, newspaper articles, and pictures chronicling his trip to his home town in England. On the way there he stopped in St. Louis, Washington, Baltimore, and Philadelphia and spent a few days sightseeing in New York. He sailed across the Atlantic on the steamer Teutonic with the White Star Line. Upon arrival he wrote about his impressions of England after being gone so long. He then spent time with family and friends going to sights of interest around Stockport such as Marple Church, the art gallery at Manchester, Witton Church, Manchester Ship Canal, Lyme Park, Disley Church, Cheadle Church, a naval exhibition, and more. On the way back from England he went through Philadelphia, Chicago, and Kansas City. He includes his remarks at the Great Moor School House and correspondence during his trip to England.

Spanish-American War Series, 1898

This series includes a scrapbook of newspaper clippings of articles, sketches, and drawings related to the Spanish-American War.

Retirement Series, 1904

This series includes journal entries on Reuben Smith’s failing health due to liver and kidney ailments, the sale of the farm, the move to the new house in town, the settling of his son-in-law’s estate, and various newspaper articles on things such as the high waters that year.

Home in England Series, 1851-1852

This series was a later donation, added in as series seven though chronologically, the first diary that was created.  

Container List



File title


Series 1. Immigration and Settlement, 1854-1860





Series 2. Civil War, 1861-1864

















Series 3. Political and Civil Service, 1865-1903





























































Series 4. Trip to England, 1895



Trip to New York April 1895




Trip from New York to Liverpool April 10-17, 1895




Rambles in England April-June 1895




Letters written on my trip to England 1895




Trip from Liverpool to Philadelphia 1895






Series 5. Spanish-American War, 1898



Spanish War 1898


Series 6. Retirement, 1904





Series 7. Home and Retirement, 1851-1852, Box 1, Folder 1


Related Records or Collections

Other Finding Aid

Copies of this finding aid are available in the Research Room of the Center for Historical Research; on its web site, http://www.kshs.org.


Alphabetical card index to correspondents by name available in the repository.


Cutler, William G.  History of the State of Kanas.  1883. A. T. Andres, Chicago, Ill. http://www.kancoll.org/books/cutler/miami/miami-co-p4.html#ELECTIONS_AND_LAND_SALES.

Walthall, Charles. GenForum. 2009. http://genforum.genealogy.com/smith/messages/62091.html

Index Terms

Personal Names

Smith, Reuben, 1832-1905.

Smith, Mary Rowcroft, 1838-1868.

Smith, Margaret J. Gillehand, 1844-1873.

Smith, Mariah C. Kyle, 1849-1912.

Family Names

Smith family.

Geographic Names


Liverpool (England)

New York (N.Y.)


Burlington (Iowa)



Kansas – Emigration and immigration.

Osawatomie (Kan.)

Miami County (Kan.)

Philadelphia (Pa.)

United States – History –Civil War, 1861-1865 – Personal narratives.


Migration, Internal – Iowa – Burlington.

Migration, Internal – Kansas – Miami County.

Migration, Internal – Middle West.

Spanish-American War, 1898.


Farmers – Iowa – Burlington.

Farmers – Kansas – Miami County.

Legislators – Kansas

Soldiers – Kansas

Soldiers – Missouri.

Additional Information for Researchers

Restrictions on Access


Restrictions on Use

Notice:  This material may be protected by copyright law (Title 17, U.S. Code).  The user is cautioned that the publication of the contents of this microfilm may be construed as constituting a violation of literary property rights.  These rights derive from the principle of common law, affirmed in the copyright law of 1976 as amended, that the writer of an unpublished letter or other manuscript has the sole right to publish the contents thereof unless he or she affirmatively parts with that right; the right descends to his or her legal heirs regardless of the ownership of the physical manuscript itself.  It is the responsibility of a user or his or her publisher to secure the permission of the owner of literary property rights in unpublished writing.

Alternate Form Available

Selected documents; Available on the Kansas Memory web site; http://www.kansasmemory.org/item/47491.

Preferred Citation

Smith, Reuben.  Reuben Smith Diaries, 1854 – 1904, State Library & Archives, Kansas Historical Society.

Acquisition Information

Gift: Scott Smith, 2009; accession no. 2009-342.01

Processing Information

Collection processed by Nicole Chapman, volunteer, 2010


No additions to this collection are expected.