Edward Payson Smith was born in Middlefield, Massachusetts, on January 20, 1840, the son of Samuel Smith and Lucina Metcalf. He studied with Dr. Judson Smith of Oberlin College and graduated from Amherst College in 1865. Smith worked as a school principal and teacher for several years before traveling to Halle, Germany, where he studied from 1870-1871. Upon his return to the United States, he received his preaching license in Boston, Massachusetts, in January 1872, and became Professor of English and Modern Languages for the Worcester County Free Institute of Industrial Science. During the summer of 1872, Smith lived in Paris, France, where he studied the French language.
Edward Smith married Julia Mack Church (1845-1924), a graduate of Mount Holyoke College, on November 26, 1868; they had four children: Emily Lucy (1872 or 1874-1951), Edward Church (b. 1877), Philip Mack (1883-1951), and Robert Metcalf (1886-1952). Edward Payson Smith died on May 2, 1892.