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Henry Kenton Smith
THE CAREER of the late Judge Henry Kenton Smith, of
Chardon, Geauga County, Ohio, may be profitably emulated by any young man, for he attained success along
an honorable route. He was a self-made man and reached the goal of his ambitions because he never undertook anything without completing it and because he investigated thoroughly any proposition which came before him—in short, because he applied himself closely, used good judgment, and after reaching a decision acted with determination and threw all his energies into realizing the plans which he had made. He was a splendid example of a successful American lawyer, jurist, and business man, who was shrewd and able, yet who was considerate of the interests of others and who was always ready to make sacrifices in order to contribute to the welfare of humanity and to uphold his community, State, and Nation.
Judge Smith was born August 10, 1832, in Parkman Township, Geauga County, Ohio. He was a son of Marsh and Eliza (Colton) Smith, a pioneer couple of the Buckeye State. He spent his boyhood on the home farm in Geauga County and there worked hard, as all boys of those early days found it necessary to do. He received such educational advantages as the schools of that period furnished, later attending West Farmington Academy. In 1850, his parents removed to the town of Chardon, Geauga County, where the future home of the family was established. Our subject remained studious and continued studying at home. He was also very industrious, and was first employed as deputy auditor of his county, also worked in the county treasurer's office. During this period he studied law under the direction of A. G. Riddle and A. H. Thrasher, well-known and very successful early-day attorneys there. He was admitted to the bar in 1856, having made rapid progress in his studies. He was successful in the practice of his profession from the first and built up a very satisfactory clientage. Taking an interest in public affairs, he served for a time as deputy sheriff, and in 1857 was elected treasurer of Geauga County. In the autumn of that year he was also elected prosecuting attorney and served two successive terms in this office. He gave eminent satisfaction as a public servant and fulfilled to the letter the expectations of his constituents. He formed a partnership with a Mr. Forest under the firm name of Smith & Forest, and in the year he associated himself with D. W. Canfield. They practiced together until 1866, when he was elected judge of the Probate Court of his county. During his association with Mr. Canfield, he was elected to the office of justice of the peace, serving two terms. He gave each of these offices his closest attention and honest service; in fact, he proved to be such a popular public servant, was so prompt, obliging, learned and courteous, that he was continuously returned by the people of Geauga County to the office of probate judge until he served consecutively forty-two years, a most unusual record, of which his descendants may be justly proud. This is the longest term of service as pro- bate judge in the history of the State of Ohio. His decisions were
always marked by a uniform fairness to all concerned, by a love of justice and right, and by a profound knowledge of the basic principles of jurisprudence. He was also a member of the school board at Chardon for a period of fifteen years, during which time he did much to improve the schools and encourage education in his locality, for he was a man of progressive ideas as well as high ideals. He was decidedly one of the most valuable and influential citizens of Geauga County for a half century.
On his retirement from the bench as probate judge, Mr. Smith was presented with a handsome gold watch by his large circle of friends, among whom was Willis S. Metcalf, judge of the Court of Appeals. He engaged in business with his brother in the raising of blooded horses and sheep, and also operated a large dairy. Their fine stock was greatly admired by all, and this venture was successful from a financial standpoint.
Judge Smith was married on February 22, 1855, to Harmony G. Stocking, a daughter of Dennis and Mary (Wells) Stocking. Mrs. Smith received a common-school education, and she proved to be a sympathetic and helpful companion for over a half century, or until she was called to her eternal reward on April 11, 1909. The death of Judge Smith occurred on August 6, 1914, at the age of eighty-two years, at Chardon, Ohio. He was one of seven children, his brothers and sisters being named as follows: Theron C., Newell R., Marsh H., Hannah B., Eliza M., and Elizabeth.
Surviving Judge Smith and wife, are two sons, Halbert D. Smith, who was a member of the law firm of Hamilton & Smith, of Cleveland, Ohio; and Stuart S. Smith, who, at the age of twenty-one years, became cashier of the Geauga Savings & Loan Association. He has been and is in charge of the First National Bank of Chardon since it was organized in 1891, having been the organizer and cashier of this sound and popular institution from the first and its ever-increasing prestige is due for the most part to his able and conservative management. He has made a brilliant record in the financial world in this part of Ohio for so young a man, having had a strong natural bent toward business, and he will doubtless go far as a financier. His brother is making equally as splendid a record in the legal profession.
Politically Judge Smith was a Republican and was very active in party affairs. He was a delegate from Geauga County to the Constitutional Convention of Ohio in 1912, and he made his influence felt for good in that distinguished body. He was hos- pitable and liberal in his gifts to the needy and in his support of worthy causes. He was a true friend, a very lovable character, and was greatly esteemed by the entire community, all recognizing his fine qualities. He was decidedly a public benefactor. He was a student of nature, delighted in outdoor life, and could see beauty where the average person could not; in short, he was a wholesome, well-rounded, broad-minded, and altogether most admirable character. His memory will continue to he held in grateful reverence by the people of Geauga County for generations to come, and the world is better for his having lived in it.
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