Horace Manning Smith was probably born on March 17, 1855 in New York State, the son of Harvey C. Smith. By 1876, he had moved to Chicago, where he worked at the West Side bank of Preston, Kean, & Co. He corresponded with Fannie, a young woman who lived on her parent's farm in Winthrop, Conn. and they were married by May of 1878.
Fannie, who was born December 14, 1853, was the youngest of four children. She had a sister Jennie, who lived out west, and two brothers, one who was also out west, and Henry, who was often at sea. Henry's wife and three children probably also lived on his parent's farm, for Fannie referred to her three year old niece as her bedfellow. Fannie spent a couple years with her siblings in Illinois and Iowa, and she might have met Horace while she was out there. Fannie's father died suddenly in his sleep in March 1876, and her mother planned to sell the farm and move west. Fannie couldn't decide whether to continue living with her sister-in-law, move to Delaware and work as a dressmaker, or go west, although her inclination definitely seemed to be to move to Chicago and marry Horace, as she eventually did.
Horace's father died in the spring of 1878, and Horace and Fannie had their first child, Lena, later that year. A second daughter, Blanche Matilda, was born September 9, 1883, followed by Frank, Mildred, and Elizabeth. The young family spent some time in Illinois before settling in Friend, Nebraska, where they lived through the 1890s. There Horace farmed and served in the state government as a Republican State Representative.
By 1900 the Smiths had moved to the Maywood Colony in Corning, California, which had been established by Warren N. Woodson. He offered 10 acre plots to people who wanted to move to California but could not afford large tracts. The family moved once more, to Lodi, and by 1904, Horace had joint interest in the "Young & Smith Lumber Company."
Lena and Blanche were now old enough to strike out of their own. Lena went out to Marathon, Iowa, to teach school in 1903, and then on to Cedar Falls. Blanche headed to San Francisco, probably on account of her delicate health, and she lived at the Mentone residence hotel. Their brother Frank married Mary Whitney, a missionary's daughter, on November 24, 1904.
Blanche's health continued to decline, and in early December of 1903, she relocated to a sanitarium in Colorado Springs, accompanied by Lena. Lena got a job waiting on tables at the dining room of the sanitarium, which was called the Ordrach Ranch, so she could be near her sister. Blanche spent much of her time sitting outside with the other "lungers," and slept in a well ventilated "tent," as part of the fresh air treatment for her tuberculosis. In August, 1905 the girls moved to a cottage in town, and their father visited them soon after. Blanche met a Christian Scientist, Mrs. Carpenter, and began going to her for treatments, and stopped taking medicine. Their mother came out with Mildred and Elizabeth for an extended visit early in 1906. After a rather short and sudden decline, Blanche died in late March of 1906.
After Blanche's death, Lena moved back to Lodi, returned to teaching, and eventually married William Brown, her long-term, long-distance boyfriend. Will, an anti-saloon man back in Friend, Nebraska, had been elected city clerk in 1903. He worked for a number of businessmen, including A. C. White, a dealer and shipper of grain, and often wrote about buying his own grain elevator. In July of 1908, Will was working as an agent at his brother August's insurance company in Hardy, Neb., and by 1912, Lena had finally married him.