Isaiah Smelser





Isaiah Smelser
(1999 Kathleen Minion)


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Isaiah Smelser was born about 1801 in Tennessee.  It's believed his father is Jacob Smelser.  Jacob first appears on the Barren County, Kentucky tax list in 1815 and was only taxed for horses.  He is found in Barren Co, until Hart Co, Kentucky was formed in 1819.  Being that Jacob's son, David Clark Smelser was listed on some census as a blacksmith when an adult and the surname SCHMELZER means smelter, it's a possibility that David learned the trade from his father.   

Isaiah married Nancy Green Huston/Hughston (HOUSTON) on 11 April 1819 in Barren County, Kentucky.  Nancy's mother Margaret gave permission for her marriage and Jacob Smelser was a witness.  Males weren't considered of age until 21 years old.   Being that there isn't a permission note in the marriage license files, Jacob was probably present and gave permission.

Isaiah and Nancy had their first child, Margaret B. on 23 March 1820 and are found on the 1820 census for Hart County, KY.  However by the 1821 tax, Isaiah was not listed. 

On 12 October 1822, they had their second daughter, Elizabeth in Tennessee.    

Next Came Mahala Jane about 1825 in Tennessee also.  Followed by George Washington about 1826, also in Tennessee.

They then moved to Crawford County, Indiana where Andrew J. was born about 1827.

Francis Marion was born in June 1832 there also.

Again the family moved locating near Joseph Rowe in Knox County, Illinois in 1832.  Isaiah bought his first parcel of land the fall of 1834, in which year Eliza was born.  Isaiah became and remained a farmer for the rest of his life.

Eliza was followed by Julia about 1837, William Jasper 22 April 1841 and Nancy Green in July 1845.

In their oldest daughter Margaret's obituary, it states she is the eldest of 16 children.  One of those children was a male born about 1838 and was not listed with the family on the 1850 census.

Margaret married John Marlin of Warren County on 13 August 1840 in Knox County and moved with his family to Washington County, Iowa in 1841.  This same year David Clark Smelser also moved there, settling in the same township.

Daughter Elizabeth married James Taylor 12 November 1843 in Knox County, Mahala Jane married Essalum Monroe Hall 21 November 1844 in Knox county, and George Washington married Essalum's sister Nancy Ann Hall 3 July 1845 in Knox County.

Sadly, George's marriage was short, as Nancy died on 2 October 1849.  He returned to his parents home bringing his two daughters: Eliza Jane and Nancy with him.

After the 1850 census Andrew J. moved to Washington County, Iowa also where he met and married Martha Jane Elliott 16 January 1851.  This marriage ended in her death a little more than a year later on 6 February 1852.  After the 1852 census nothing more is presently known of Andrew.  The family also put to rest George's daughter Nancy.

The allure of free land and open space in Oregon resulted in another move in 1852.  This resulted in daughter Margaret being left behind, along with Francis Marion who joined the family in 1854.

From diaries that had been kept by women in 1852 and 1853 traveling the Oregon trail, it is known that these years were very wet.  Often clothing was worn wet and the day ended in sleeping in wet, musty bedding.  It was hard to build a fire.   However, in one diary of a woman who traveled late in the season, rain is only mentioned for a few days at the beginning and just before reaching the Columbia River.   She states as the weather became warmer that illness and death due to cholera and measles became increasingly worse.  Many deaths and graves were mentioned.   Cattle were also mentioned dying along the way. 

Isaiah's son-in-law, James Taylor kept a diary, which became the possession of his grandson Bryon K. Taylor who wrote a Taylor family history.  In the Baker County history, this book was referred to and the families travel from Illinois to Oregon is summarized:
"They arrived late fall at the Dalles.  Although the trip was hard, they didn't lose life to Indians but stock was stolen, some died and James and Elizabeth were broke."
Julia Smelser would have been 15 that year.  Either she stayed behind or didn't survive the trip, as a marriage has not been located for her in Oregon, nor is she found with the family in Oregon. 

On 14 March 1853, Eliza married William Peterson in Linn County where her parents had settled. 

Isaiah and Nancy secured their claim 1 June 1853.  The Taylor's and Hall's had settled nearby.  However, they weren't to have Mahala Jane with them much longer, as she died on the claim 12 June 1853.  It appears Isaiah and Nancy raised their Hall grandchildren: Isaiah, Lurana, Francis and George, along with son George's daughter: Eliza.

In the spring of 1860, Margaret was missing her parents.  They had not met her two youngest children, both daughters.  John was ill with pneumonia and she considered leaving secretly with a wagon train to take them to Oregon to visit her parents.  However, the morning she considered doing so, she found that John had died.   She married again and had a daughter about 1863 in Iowa.  By 1870 her two youngest were living in Missouri with their father's parents.

Nancy Green married James Thomas McCallister 23 October 1861, William Jasper married Electa Lane 12 December 1862 and Francis Marion married Cerilda Carter on 29 January 1864.  All these marriages took place in Linn County, Oregon.

On 23 March 1865, Eliza passed away, joining two of her five children, William Jasper, who died 16 Dec 1863 and Electa who died 26 December 1863.

Jasper's marriage also was short, as he died 25 April 1868 just before the birth of his second daughter Anna M. who was born 10 May 1868.  She joined her father 16 April 1870.

By the 1870 census,  Isaiah and Nancy had moved to Lane County, Oregon as did the Taylors and son Francis Marion, who lived next door.

Margaret eventually joined her parents in Oregon.  Whether she is a widow or divorcee is not known, but she married James H. Loveall 20 November 1873 in Linn County, Oregon.

This same year the Taylors decided to leave farming and take up ranching.   They sold their farm and moved along Willow Creek near Ione, in Morrow County.

With the assistance of neighbors: Elijah Mays, Milton Shannon and John B. Ferguson, Isaiah wrote a will.  Within the court records, his death is listed as 23 January 1875.  His wife Nancy, five children and many grandchildren are known to have survived him.  His wife passed by 1880, Elizabeth 28 March 1888 in Baker County, George Washington Smelser died 17 Aug 1906 in Baker, Baker County, Oregon, Francis 24 October 1904 in Marion County, daughter Nancy 20 May 1907 in Crook County and Margaret 23 November 1911 in Kent County, Washington.