Clarke Historical Library
Central Michigan University

Finding aid for
Joseph Rowe Smith, Sr., Family Papers

Finding aid created by
Marian Matyn

Summary Information
Title: Joseph Rowe Smith, Sr., Family Papers,
Creator: Smith, Joseph Rowe, Sr., 1802-1868.
Inclusive dates: 1823-1920, and undated
Extent: 1.5 cubic feet (in 3 boxes)
Family papers, photographic images, promotion papers, and medical writings of Joseph Rowe Smith, Jr., letters to/from his brother, Henry Smith, military and medical papers of Joseph Rowe Smith, Sr., and miscellaneous family materials.

Call number: MSS.
Language: The material is in English
Repository: Clarke Historical Library, Central Michigan University
250 East Preston Street
Mount Pleasant, MI 48859
Phone: 989-774-3352
Fax: 989-774-2160

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

no Acc#

Access Restrictions:

Joseph Rowe Smith, Sr., Family Papers are open for research.


Copyright is unknown.

Preferred Citation:

Joseph Rowe Smith, Sr., Family Papers, Folder # , Box #, Clarke Historical Library, Central Michigan University


The collection is truly a family papers collection and is organized into the following series: Papers of Joseph Rowe Smith, Sr. (Box 1 Folders #1-6 and possibly an image in Box 3); Papers of Joseph Rowe Smith, Jr. (Box 1 Folders #7-8-Box 2 and an image in Box 3); Miscellaneous family papers and photographic materials (Box 3). Materials are organized chronologically within each series.



Joseph Rowe Smith, Sr. (1802-1868) was a U.S. Army Brigadier General. He graduated from the Military Academy in 1823 and was assigned to the Infantry. Smith soon became Adjutant of his regiment. He was part of a survey mission in Florida in 1823, during which he fought Seminole Indians. Smith traveled from New York (State) throughout Michigan as well as Florida, 1823-1835. In September 1835 he was appointed adjutant of the 2nd Infantry. Smith fought in the Mexican border wars, in which he was wounded twice. His elbow wound went untreated by American doctors for a year, resulting in disability from active service. Yet, during the Civil War, Smith served as the military commander of Detroit with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He was breveted as a Brigadier General at the end of the Civil War. Smith was happily married to Juliet by 1829. They had at least seven children: Louisa (June 1830- ), Joseph Rowe Smith, Jr. (April 18, 1831-1911? ), Elizabeth (March 21, 1832- ) [all three born in New York (State)[, Caroline (August 18, 1833-August 25, 1834), Warren (December 30, 1834-January 2, 1835) [both born and died at Fort Mackinac], Henry W. Smith (died 1869), and Horace (dates unknown).

Joseph Rowe Smith, Sr. was the brother of Lydia Ann Smith Roberts and General Henry Smith. Lydia married Colonel E. J. Roberts and they had three children: Mrs. George R. Griswold, and twins, Juliet and Col. Horace S. Roberts. Both Joseph Rowe Smith, Sr. and his brother, General Henry Smith, were distinguished officers and residents of Monroe, Michigan. Joseph Rowe Smith died in 1868 and is buried in Woodland Cemetery, Monroe.

Joseph Rowe Smith, Jr. (1831-1911?) graduated from the University of Michigan (U of M), class of 1848. He earned an A.B. and an A.M. He also earned a degree in medicine from the University of Buffalo, New York. Junior entered the army in 1854 and served with distinction in Indian campaigns. During the Civil War he served as an Assistant Surgeon in 1861. In May 1861 Junior and his fellow medical staffers were captured by Confederate troops while working at an army hospital in San Antonio, Texas. Apparently after a prisoner exchange, he returned to the Army. Junior was Acting Surgeon General by July 1863 with the rank of Major. By a General Order from President Lincoln in February 1865 he became Surgeon General and Medical Director of the U.S. Army. Junior was twice breveted, once for meritorious service and once for superior ability and excellent management of his department. In 1901 he received an honorary L.L. D. from the U of M. Junior was later appointed Brigadier General (1904?). He retired from service in 1895 and lived at least through 1908. There is no verification that he died in 1911 except for an old catalog card. It is unknown whether he ever married or had children.

Junior’s younger brother, Henry W. Smith, served as an Assistant Adjutant General during the Civil War. He was appointed as a Lieutenant in the 3rd Cavalry and died a Brevet Lieutenant Colonel at Fort Stanton, New Mexico, in 1869.

Joseph, Jr. seems to have had at least one additional brother, Horace, who married and had a son, Joe R. Smith. Both Horace and Joe lived in Monroe. (This information is from the collection.)

Collection Scope and Content Note

The papers of Joseph Rowe Smith, Sr., 1823-1859, and undated, document his diary of his military career, 1823-1835, which traces his traveling, survey work in Florida, illnesses, births, and deaths of children, his affection for his wife, and conversion to Christianity following exposure to several severe cholera epidemics are particularly interesting. His faith comforted him through the loss of two babies. Also of interest are medical reports on his injured elbow, and estate papers.

The papers of Joseph Rowe Smith, Jr., 1848-1910, and undated, include his promotion papers, photographic images, and his medical writings. Also found in Box 1 are letters from Henry Smith to his brother Joseph R. Smith, Sr., and a journal, 1870-1878, and several folders of miscellaneous materials of Horace Smith, 1870, 1920.

Miscellaneous family papers and photographic materials, mostly undated, complete the collection. Item-level index cards are also found in Box 3. Note: The Clarke also has an oversized framed painting of Joseph Rowe Smith, Sr.

Subject Terms

    • Smith, Joseph Rowe, Sr.,1802-1868.
    • Smith, Joseph Rowe, Jr.,1831-
    • Smith, Henry W., 1869.
    • University of Michigan--Alumni and alumnae.
    • Medicine, Military--United States.
    • Black Hawk War, 1832.
    • Gratiot County (Mich.)--History.
    • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865.
    • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Medical care.
    • Florida--Description and travel.
    • Mackinac Island (Mich.)--Description and travel.
    Contents List
       Container / Location    Title
    Joseph Rowe Smith, Sr., Family Papers. [series]:
    Box   1 F   1
    Joseph Rowe Smith, Sr. Papers, Biographical Materials, undated
    Box   1 F   2
    Joseph Rowe Smith, Sr. Papers, Letters from his brother, Henry Smith, to Joseph Smith (JRS), Sr., describing Business Ventures, Bank Stocks, Politics, and Advice on Mexican Affairs before the War; also Receipts, Orders, Invitations, and a Cure for Cholera, 1830-1849
    Box   1 F   3
    Joseph Rowe Smith, Sr. Papers, Diary, an account of JRS, Sr.’s military career as a Brigadier General (75 pp.), 1823-1835
    Box   1 F   4
    Joseph Rowe Smith, Sr. Papers, Copy of Diary with Genealogy Notes, undated
    Box   1 F   5
    Joseph Rowe Smith, Sr. Papers, Doctor’s Report on JRS, Sr.’s Injured Elbow, Senate Bill, Invitations, Receipts, Deeds, 1850-1859
    Box   1 F   6
    Joseph Rowe Smith, Sr. Papers, Photograph of JRS, Sr., undated
    Box   1 F   7
    Joseph Rowe Smith, Jr. Papers, Receipts, Canceled Checks, Indentures, Forms of Business Papers, Baptismal Certificates, Letter about the Changing of Churches into Hospitals for the Wounded, 1860-1862
    Box   1 F   8
    Joseph Rowe Smith, Jr. Papers, Civil War Letters, mainly about Hospitals for the Wounded and Medical Supplies, Dedication of Temporary Hospital Building at the University of Michigan, and Letters from the Government about Female Nurses, 1863
    Box   1 F   9
    Joseph Rowe Smith, Jr. Papers, Letters on Family Affairs and State of Health, describes the living conditions, also includes Letters concerning the War and Jefferson Davis’ Position, Receipts, and Business Letters on Real Estate, 1864-1866
    Box   1 F   10
    Joseph Rowe Smith, Jr. Papers, Letters to JRS, Sr.’s children about Family Health, mentions Court Martial Cases and other Military Affairs; Military Lists and Rolls; Letters from Wm. Savior, Lawyer of JRS, Sr.’s Estate about JRS, Sr.’s Death on September 3, 1868; and Letters on Stock and Stockholders’ Meetings, 1867-1869
    Box   1 F   12
    Joseph Rowe Smith, Jr. Papers, Family Correspondence, Letters inquiring about methods used in different surgical operations, Financial Status after Settlement of the Shortz Estate, Letters about Medical Books/Pamphlets, and Letters concerning the Divorce of Mrs. Peak, 1870-1879
    Box   1 F   13
    Joseph Rowe Smith, Jr. Papers, Transcript of part of “My First Woodcock” (Excludes last 7 pages, see Hunter’s Journal), undated
    Box   1 F   14
    Joseph Rowe Smith, Jr. Papers, Horace Smith, Journal, 1870-1878
    Box   2 F   1
    Joseph Rowe Smith, Jr. Papers, Materials mainly about medicine and surgery for amputation, American Medical Association, memorandum to Josh Billings, Receipts, Stock, Program, 1880-1889
    Box   2 F   2
    Joseph Rowe Smith, Jr. Papers, Letters from Admiral Wallace on Books, Views on Military Promotions by Seniority, Retirement from Medical Corps, Lumber Price List, Mortgage, Letters telling of Pamelia’s Death, 1890-1899
    Box   2 F   3
    Joseph Rowe Smith, Jr. Papers, Resolutions and Letters urging Congress to promote Soldier JRS to Brigadier General, Property Report for St. Clare Flats Canal, Letters concerning the Ontario Game and Fish Act, and Hunting Permits for Horace Smith, 1900-1910
    Box   2 F   4
    Horace Smith, Hunting Permits, Stockholder Reports, Receipts, and Stock Dividends, 1911-1916
    Box   2 F   5
    Horace Smith, Receipts, Miscellaneous Letters to, about Stock Dividends, Letters about a Sears, Roebuck and Company Payment, and Detroit Western High School Graduation Exercises Programs (3 copies), June 23, 1920, 1917-1920
    Box   2 F   6
    Miscellaneous Papers, Cures for Hydrophobia, Receipts, etc., undated
    Box   2 F   7
    Smith Family Photographs (36), Daguerreotypes (2) undated
    Box   2 F   8
    Joseph Rowe Smith, Jr., Photographs (5), Tintypes (2), Carte-de-Visites (3) of University of Michigan Reunion of Class of 1848, etc., undated
    Box   2 F   9
    Map of Belle Plaine Territory, Minnesota, undated
    Box   2 F   10
    Miscellaneous Army Pamphlets and Articles by Joseph Rowe Smith, Book entitled Field Surgeon Duties of. Wounded in Battle Care of. By Lt. Col. Joseph R. Smith, USA, undated
    Box   3 F   1
    Item-Level Index Cards, undated
    Box   3 F   2
    Daguerreotypes, 1) Joseph Rowe Smith, Jr., as an adult, JRS, Jr. when at the U of M Medical School in 1848, and JRS, Jr. in uniform, undated, 1848, undated
    Box   3 F   3
    Daguerreotypes, 2) Joseph Rowe Smith, Sr. (?) with his wife and son, undated
    Box   3 F   4
    Daguerreotypes, 3) Roberts, Colonel Horace, undated