Mary Smith

Mary Smith lived on the family farm in La Salle County, Illinois. During the Black Hawk War, settlers in the area suffered attacks from Sauk and Fox war parties. On 20th May, 1832, a war party raided the farm and after killing the rest of the family, captured Mary Smith.

Smith and two other women were eventually released after negotiations carried out by leaders of the Winnebago tribe. An account of her captivity was eventually published in Elmer Baldwin's History of La Salle County.

In the month of May last, a considerable body of Indians (principally of the tribes of the Sacs and Foxes) having, as they professed, become dissatisfied with the encroachments of the whites, invaded and made a furious and unexpected attack upon the defenceless inhabitants of the frontier towns of Illinois. The first and most fatal was upon a small settlement on Indian Creek, running into Fox river, where were settled about twenty families, who, not being apprised of their approach, became an easy prey to their savage enemies - indeed so sudden and unexpected was the attack, that they were unalarmed until the savages with their tomahawks in hand, had entered their houses, and began the perpetration of the most inhuman barbarities! No language can express the cruelties that were committed; in less than half an hour more than one half of the inhabitants were inhumanly butchered - they horribly mutilated both young and old, male and female, without distinction of age or sex among the few whose lives were spared, and of whom they made prisoners, were two highly respectable young women (sisters Frances and Almira Hall) of the ages of 16 and 18.

The report of the unfortunate young women (Frances and Almira Hall) communicated to their friends and relatives, on their return from captivity, although treated with less severity, cannot fail to be read with much interest - they state, that after being compelled to witness not only the savage butchery of their beloved parents, but to hear the heart-piercing screeches and dying groans of their expiring friends and neighbors, and the hideous yells of the furious assaulting savages, they were seized and mounted upon horses, to which they were secured by ropes, when the savages with an exulting shout, took up their line of march in Indian file, bending their course west; the horses on which the females were mounted, being each led by one of their number, while two more walked on each side with their bloodstained scalping knives and tomahawks, to support and to guard them - they thus travelled for many hours, with as much speed as possible through a dark and almost impenetrable wood; when reaching a still more dark and gloomy swamp, they came to a halt. A division of the plunder which they had brought from the ill-fated settlement, and with which their stolen horses (nine in number) were loaded, here took place, each savage stowing away in his pack his proportional share as he received it; but on nothing did they seem to set so great a value, or view with so much satisfaction, as the bleeding scalps which they had, ere life had become extinct torn from the mangled heads of the expiring victims! the feelings of the unhappy prisoners at this moment, can be better judged than described when they could not be insensible that among these scalps, these shocking proofs of savage Cannibalism, were those of their beloved parents! but their moans and bitter lamentations had no effect in moving or diverting for a moment the savages from the business in which they had engaged, until it was competed; when, with as little delay as possible, and without giving themselves time to partake of any refreshment, (as the prisoners could perceive) they again set forward, and travelled with precipitancy until sunset when they again halted, and prepared a temporary lodging for the night-the poor unfortunate females, whose feelings as may be supposed, could be no other than such as bordered on distraction, and who had not ceased for a moment to weep most bitterly during the whole day, could not but believe that they were here destined to become the victims of savage outrage and abuse; and that their sufferings would soon terminate, as they would not (as they imagined) be permitted to live to see the light of another day! such were their impressions, and such their dreadful forebodings - human imagination can hardly picture to itself a more deplorable situation; but, in their conjectures they happily found themselves mistaken, as on the approach of night instead of being made the subjects of brutal outrage, as they had fearfully apprehended a place separate from that occupied by the main body of the savages was allotted them; where blankets were spread for them to lodge upon, guarded only by two aged squaws, who slept on each side of them. With minds agitated with the most fearful apprehensions, as regarded their personal safety and as solemnly impressed with the recollection of the awful scene which they had witnessed the morning previous, in the tragical death of their parents, they spent, as might be expected, a sleepless night; although the savages exhibited no disposition to harm or disturb them - early the morning ensuing, food was offered them, but in consequence of the disturbed state of their minds and almost constant weeping, they had become too weak and indisposed to partake of it, although nearly twenty hours had passed without their having received any sustenance.

Mary R. Smith

Mary R. Smith
photo from the Oakland History Room

Mary Rebecca Thompson (April 4, 1846 – December 31, 1905), known as Mollie, was the first wife of F.M. “Borax” Smith. She was a young divorcée (Wright) from Brooklyn, NY when she met Smith at a ball at the Tubbs Hotel in Brooklyn, CA. They married (in her hometown) in 1875, and for their first few years lived in Nevada near his borax operation before settling in Oakland in 1881.

Mollie became inspired by Benjamin Farjeon's Blade O' Grass about orphans in London, and she and Frank took in and adopted a number of homeless girls. In 1897, Mollie took in Evelyn Ellis, whose parents lived nearby, as a ward. In 1901 the Smiths started an orphanage, the Home for Friendless Girls. In May of 1901, Mollie was elected a life member of the Children’s Protective Association.

Smith was a member of the Ebell Society.

In July 1905, Mary and Frank celebrated 30 years of marriage. That year, on December 31, she died of a stroke at age 59.


Mary Smith may be remembered for her grand charity fundraising parties at Arbor Villa, her orphanage system, and the Home Club. But less obvious, though probably more important, was the influence this exceptional woman wielded on her husband’s general direction: while he may have already felt an urge to “give back to the community”, she helped strengthen and reinforce his determination to do so, while shaping the direction it took. When she died, he continued doing more or less as she would have wanted, and the benefits to Oakland were huge.

Mary R. “Mollie” Smith and Frank "Borax" Smith at Ram Island - 1905 1

Our Timeline

William Greenleaf Eliot, minister and recent graduate of Harvard Divinity School, arrives in St. Louis (pop. 7,000) to found a Unitarian congregation. It is his first trip west of the Appalachian Mountains.

Concerned with the lack of educational institutions in St. Louis, state Senator Wayman Crow prepares a charter for “Eliot Seminary.”

At Eliot’s request, the incorporators of Eliot Seminary change the name to Washington Institute (later Washington University).

Mary Rhodes Eliot, 16, first-born daughter of William Greenleaf Eliot, dies after a sudden illness. In his grief, Eliot pens a collection of sermons, The Discipline of Sorrow.

Eliot and other trustees establish an “Academic Department” to prepare younger boys for eventual enrollment at Washington University. In 1879, it is given the name “Smith Academy” after one of its principal benefactors.

Eliot and others on the Board of Trustees prompt Washington University to found a “Female Department” to prepare local girls for university. In honor of Eliot’s critical early leadership, the University insists that it be named for his daughter.

September 20: Mary Institute opens on Lucas Place with six teachers. Curriculum includes English, physiology/natural history, vocal/instrumental music, drawing, calisthenics and French. Optional courses include higher mathematics and natural sciences at nearby Washington University.

Margaret Dawes Eliot, mother of William Greenleaf Eliot, donates $1,000 to the new school bearing her granddaughter’s name. She stipulates that “the scholars” henceforth be given an annual holiday “on or near the 11th of May for a May Festival.” Known since as “Grandmother’s Day,” it continues to be enjoyed by MICDS students and is the School’s longest-standing tradition.

Calvin Pennell, nephew and former ward of educator and statesman Horace Mann, is named Principal. Pennell infuses the School with groundbreaking “whole child” educational theories developed by his uncle.

First Mary Institute commencement exercises. Seven students graduate.

Eliot is named the third Chancellor of Washington University, a post he holds until his death in 1887. In his 50 years in Missouri, Eliot is instrumental in founding several notable institutions, including the St. Louis Art Museum, Western Sanitary Commission and the Colored Orphans and Civil War Soldiers’ Orphans Homes.

Mary Institute moves to new Locust Street facility 300 students are enrolled.

Harvard graduate Edmund Sears is named Mary Institute’s fourth Principal. Under his quiet, gentlemanly leadership, the School moves away from an exclusive focus on scholarship and embraces virtues of a “full, well rounded life” for young women, including “entertainments, exhibitions, festivities, recreations and pastimes.” Sears also introduces the first Domestic Science program offered in St. Louis.

Enrollment exceeds capacity on Locust Street. Mary Institute moves to a state-of-the-art building on Lake Avenue (current home of New City School).

First May Queen crowned at a Maypole dance held in the School gymnasium. Over the years, annual fêtes are held at various locations around the city, including the Washington University Chancellor’s Garden and Forest Park’s Municipal Opera Stage.


At the turn of the 20th century, urban overcrowding, pollution, crime and vice are facts of life. Families across the United States begin favoring educational options for their children that remove them from such seemingly unhealthy environments during the academic day.

St. Louis civic leaders invite Charles Bovey, trustee of the Blake School in Minneapolis, to visit and share information about the country day school approach to education.

Spring: Smith Academy closes after 61 years because of declining enrollment, disciplinary problems and parent dissatisfaction with its “classical” curriculum.

May 11: Several prominent St. Louis families – some formerly involved with Smith Academy, some not – file incorporation papers establishing St. Louis Country Day School. George Herbert Walker is named vice-chairman of the organization committee formed to create the school. Decades later, Walker’s grandson and great-grandson will be elected the 41st and 43rd Presidents of the United States, George Herbert Walker Bush and George W. Bush.

Summer: Country Day trustees lease the Julius Walsh estate on Brown Road in north St. Louis County. The rural site is easily accessed by a streetcar line from the city. The Walsh mansion becomes classrooms the stables and carriage house are transformed into a gymnasium and locker room a horse track serves athletic needs. The School purchases the property in 1918.

September 29: Country Day opens with 45 students. Enrollment grows to 52 this first year, including 30 previous Smith Academy students. Two former Smith instructors are among the five faculty members present on the first day.

From 1917 until the mid-1930s, a daily streetcar service ferries Country Day boys from their city neighborhoods to the north county campus. Affectionately known as “The Special,” the trolley is chartered for exclusive use by the School. School “masters” are assigned the unenviable roles of supervisors, as hijinks and horseplay (and last-minute cramming) characterize each 50-minute trip to and from campus.

Country Day chooses red and white as its school colors. Boys are divided into “Red” and “White” teams for athletic competitions, a tradition that continues for the Lower and Middle Schools into the 1960s.

At least 16 people are confirmed dead following the collapse of an apartment building in Surfside, Florida. Over 100 people remain missing and search and rescue workers are continuing to search. Pray for the families of the deceased. Pray for the missing and their families.

Black History Month: Mary Louise Smith, Remembering the Women Who Came Before Rosa Parks

On December 1, 1955, a woman, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama to a white person. This act ignited a spark in the American Civil Rights movement, leading to boycotts of the busses and demands to an end of racial segregation. But everyone knows about Rosa Parks and her famous refusal! But, do you know about the woman who came before Rosa? About the other women who refused to give up their seats?

Mary Louise Smith was born in 1937, to a Catholic family in Montgomery, Alabama. During her childhood, she attended and graduated from St. Jude Educational Institute. On October 21, 1955, at the age of 18, Mary was returning home by way of the Montgomery city bus. At a stop after Mary had boarded and seated, a white passenger boarded. There was no place for the white passenger to sit. Mary was order to relinquish her seat. She refused. Mary was arrested and charged with failure to obey segregation orders and given a nine dollar fine, which her father paid.

Like Claudette Colvin, Mary was considered and rejected as the person to build a lawsuit around against segregation of city buses. She was rejected in part for her age, which was thought to be too young, but also because of a rumor that her father was alcoholic. Until the Browder v. Gayle lawsuit, Mary’s arrest, and the incident which led to her arrest, were kept quiet, known only to family and neighbors.

Mary’s civil rights activities did not end with her stand - sit - on the bus. She, along with her sister and their children, were part of a class action law suit for the desegregation of the Montgomery YMCA. Mary also participated in the March on Washington in 1963, and the march, led by Marin Luther King, Jr., from Selma to Montgomery in 1965, for equal voting rights.

Mary was proud of her actions that day, just as she was proud of the action of Rosa Parks, the woman whose stand - sit - spearheaded the bus boycott. Mary was also proud of what she was able to help accomplish for the civil rights movement. In 2005, Mary attended Rosa’s funeral saying, “I had to pay by tribute to her. She was our role model.”

During the month of February, Black History Month, we must remember to look back at incidents such as these. As uncomfortable as remembering these events may be, they are part of our history as Americans. To move forward in the present, we must remember the past, but not dwell in it, and, if possible, right the wrongs that have been made.

The Cottages

There were between 9 and 13 cottages around the grounds where the girls lived, a number of which are still standing and are now private homes. The cottages were named for young women the Smiths knew: Evelyn, Florence, Grace, Josephine, Lila, Mae, Marion. Several of the cottages were designed by well-known architects. Each cottage had its own endowment fund, and was run semi-independently by a house “mother”. (Special thanks to Phil Bellman who leads the Oakland Heritage Alliance “Borax” Smith tour and provided the details on the cottages.)

Marion Cottage

Marion Cottage was the first cottage built in 1901, and was designed by Bernard Maybeck. Reportedly the Smiths refused to pay his $400 fee, considering it exorbitant. The fee was later reduced to $250, which they paid. The building is still standing at 2817-23 Park Boulevard, though remodels have covered many of the details. Documented in records at the Bancroft Library showing a contract between Mary R. Smith and BR Maybeck (source: Oakland Survey records), and is significant because it is one of only a few Maybeck buildings still standing in Oakland.

1910 Residents

Name Age Notes
Carrie C. Boettcher 50 house mother widowed
Edna P. Boettcher 19 daughter
Lilian Beals 12
Leona McLoud 12 born in Nebraska
Violet Crewe 12
Mabel Jones 10
May Anna Burdge 7
Martha L. Hunt 4 born in Nevada

Initial Cottage

Initial Cottage, despite the name, was not the first cottage built it was where orphans new to the system were “initially” placed (provisionally) until the cottage to which they were best suited could be determined. It was designed by George W. Flick, built for $4,350, and dedicated in 1902. The building still stands at 23-27 Home Place West.

On April 23, 1985, the Initial Cottage was designated an Oakland Landmark, under Zoning Case #LM 84-417.

1910 Residents

Name Age Notes
Katharine Saunders 31 house mother widowed
Hilda Kent 16
Bertha Remer 13 born in Texas
Daisy Hosford 12 born in Massachusetts
Amy Howe(?) Hanford 11
Mabel Remer 11
Lunette Faure 6
Dorothy Marie Williams 10 m.

Florence Cottage

Florence Cottage was designed by Walter J. Mathews in 1901. The building still stands at 1125-29 McKinley Ave.

1910 Residents

Name Age Notes
Florence Owen 39 house mother
Bonnie Dale Overall 20 bookkeeper, printing house
Alfreda Johnson 19 stenographer, typewriter company
Maybelle Denny 17
Ethel Denny 15
Katherine Gallo 18
Anna Teresa Hesketh(?) 14
Marguerite Viers 14
Hazel E. Viers 10

Josephine Cottage

Josephine Cottage was designed by George W. Flick, built for $5,300 and dedicated by 1901. It still stands at 1 Home Place East.

1910 Residents

Name Age Notes
H. Mills 45 house mother
Irene Alexander 19
Charlotte Schuster 17 born in Montana
Marian Noble 12
Ruby J. Gore 12
Minnie M. Creed 10 born in Oregon
Josephine Cooper 9
Ada Louise Gorge 9

Evelyn Cottage

Evelyn Cottage was named for Evelyn K. Ellis, a ward the Smiths had taken in, who worked as Mary "Mollie" Smith' personal secretary, and who became the second wife of Frank "Borax" Smith after Mary passed away. The cottage was designed by Julia Morgan, built for $5,900 and dedicated on December 28, 1906. The home still stands at 3001 Park Boulevard.

On April 23, 1985, Evelyn Cottage was designated an Oakland Landmark, under Zoning Case #LM 84-415.

1910 Residents

Name Age Notes
Emily T. Hahn 52 house mother
Myrtle Lilian Babcock 14
Pearl Frances Hill 13
Minnie Troussaint 14
Gertrude F. Groff 10
Lolita M. Groff 13
Ethel Lillian Struthers 8 born in Canada
Marian Isabel Struthers 6 born in Canada
Evelyn Price 4

Evelyn Cottage
photo from Our Oakland Evelyn Cottage
photo from Our Oakland

Grace Cottage

Grace Cottage was designed by architect George W. Flick and built about 1902. After a 1922 fire gutted the house’s upper stories, it was rebuilt as a one-story house. The building still stands at 1101-1105 McKinley Avenue.

On April 23, 1985, Grace Cottage was designated an Oakland Landmark, under Zoning Case #LM 84-412.

1910 Residents

Name Age Notes
Agnes Cooke 49 head mother
Maud Elizabeth Hine 14
Helen Hine 10
Viola Ida Brown 14
Grace McPeters 13
Lila Parkinson 12
Bernice Parkinson 10
Charlotte Grace Wolfe 6
Margaret Edwards 6 born in Nevada

Grace Cottage
photo from Our Oakland

Mary Evelyn Cottage

The Mary Evelyn cottage stood at 3015 Park Boulevard, and was designed by Charles W. Dickey. It is no longer standing.

Mae Cottage

Mae Cottage was designed by Julia Morgan, but is no longer standing. [ or is it, but heavily modified? ]

1910 Residents

Name Age Notes
Frances Witherly 48 house mother
Vivian Warren 22 worked as a clerk, art store
Bertha Reid 19
Mildred Wilson 16
Frances Wilson 14
Jean Reid 13
Helen Beach Cole 11
Lilabel Corte 10
Ione Wilson 9

Lila Cottage

Lila Cottage is no longer standing. In 1910, Mary "May" Elizabeth Black, widow of Albert L. Black, was the house mother of Lila Cottage, and their daughter Dorothy lived there with her. Lila Cottage is not to be confused with Lilac Cottage, which stood on the grounds of Arbor Villa.

1910 Residents

Name Age Notes
M. E. Black 39 house mother
Dorothy Vera Black 10 daughter
Irene Mabel Elliott 17 born in Pennsylvania
Stella Mabel Price 15
Violet Rippon 15 born in Wisconsin
Ethel Russel 13 born in Canada
Adele Narinian 11
Hannah Johnson 9
Lila Sterling 3

Other references

From Past & Present of Alameda County, California (Vol II, S. J. Clarke Publ. Co., 1914):

"Any girl that is in need of a home and worthy of aid is admitted to the cottages and she is always allowed to stay as long as necessary. There are from five to eight in a cottage and the ages are from four to twenty-five years. There has only been one death on Cottage Hill since the work was undertaken and there have been five marriages there. All of the girls attend the public schools, several have been high-school graduates and one has been graduated from the university. Another has been a student in the San Francisco Art Institute and several attend the Normal School. The number includes nurses, stenographers and teachers. They make most of their own clothes and help with the housework and have a real home life, under the direction of a matron in each cottage."

From an S.F. Chronicle article, “A Revolution in the Orphan Asylum System”, Sunday, October 11, 1903:

Just across the way from F.M. Smith’s magnificent East Oakland home the “Mary R. Smith Cottages” are nestled on a flower-bedecked hillside, close enough together to form a sociable group, far enough apart to preserve their individuality. Indeed, “individuality” may be said to be the watchword of this community.

See the 1912 Sanborn map of the area showing the locations of the cottages, The Lodge, and The Home Club:

Sanborn Map showing "The Mary Smith Trust Orphanage"
(note that 4th Avenue is now Park Boulevard, and Cottage Ave. is now McKinley Ave.)

Meet Stagecoach Mary, the Daring Black Pioneer Who Protected Wild West Stagecoaches

Bandits beware: In 1890s Montana, would-be mail thieves didn’t stand a chance against Stagecoach Mary. The hard-drinking, quick-shooting mail carrier sported two guns, men’s clothing and a bad attitude. As the first African American woman to carry mail, she stood out on the trail𠅊nd became a Wild West legend. Rumor had it that she𠆝 fended off an angry pack of wolves with her rifle, had “the temperament of a grizzly bear,” and was not above a gunfight. But how much of Stagecoach Mary’s story is myth?

Born Mary Fields in around 1832, Fields was born into slavery, and like many other enslaved people, her exact date of birth is not known. Even the place of her birth is questionable, though historians have pinpointed Hickman County, Tennessee as the most likely location. At the time, enslaved people were treated like pieces of a property their numbers were recorded in record books, their names were not.

Her story becomes clearer after the end of the Civil War, when she was freed. Many formerly enslaved people headed north to friendlier territory. So did Fields, who seems to have gone up the Mississippi River working on riverboats and acting as a servant and laundress for families along the way. She ended up in Ohio, living a life that was well outside the norm—in a convent.

It’s not clear how Fields discovered the Ursuline Convent of the Sacred Heart in Toledo, Ohio. Some accounts say she accompanied a daughter of the Warner family to the convent. Others say she headed there with a family friend who was a nun.

The religious community, which still exists today, was serene and disciplined. There, Fields worked as a groundskeeper. Her gruff style and penchant for cursing raised eyebrows in the quiet convent. When asked how her journey to Toledo was, she reportedly told one of the nuns that she was ready for 𠇊 good cigar and a drink.” Historical records show that the nuns complained about her volatile temper and her 𠇍ifficult” nature.

Mother Mary Amadeus Dunne, 1884.

According to historian Dee Garceau-Hagen, one nun remembered Fields’ wrath when anyone disturbed her lovingly kept grounds, saying “God help anyone who walked on the lawn after Mary had cut it.” Fields also tussled with the nuns over her wages�havior that would have shocked white women who expected African Americans to be well behaved and subservient.

Though Fields struggled to adjust to the sheltered life of the convent, she did make a friend: Mother Amadeus Dunne, the convent’s Mother Superior. Known for her fearlessness and charisma, Dunne was called to missionary work by her bishop and headed to Montana where she founded an Ursuline convent there in 1884. There, she assisted Jesuit priests who were starting schools for the Blackfeet Nation. In 1885, Fields got word that the beloved nun was gravely ill, and headed to Montana to help her.

The West suited Fields, who nursed Dunne back to health and began working for her new convent near Cascade, Montana. But though she faithfully served the nuns in the harsh, sparsely populated community, news of her subversive behavior reached the bishop, who raised serious concerns about Fields’ habits of drinking, smoking, shooting guns and wearing men’s clothing. When Fields and the convent’s male janitor pointed guns at one another during an argument, it was the final straw.

Kicked out of the convent, Fields was on her own𠅊nd she set about living a life that was shocking by 19th-century standards. She took in laundry and did odd jobs, started businesses and became known for liking hard liquor and gunfights.

This tough reputation ended up paying off. In 1895, she got a contract from the postal service to become a star route carrier𠅊n independent contractor who carried mail using a stagecoach donated by Mother Amadeus. It suited Fields to a tee. As a star carrier, her job was to protect the mail on her route from thieves and bandits and to deliver mail. She was only the second woman in the United States (and the first African American woman) to serve in that role.

“Stagecoach Mary” or 𠇋lack Mary,” as she was nicknamed, carried a rifle and a revolver. She met trains with mail, then drove her stagecoach over rocky, rough roads and through snow and inclement weather. And though she intimidated would-be thieves with her height and her tough demeanor, she became beloved by locals, who praised her generosity and her kindness to children.

For eight years, Fields protected and delivered the mail. Eventually age caught up to her and she retired. The community rallied to support her, despite occasional dust-ups with neighbors. Local restaurateurs gave her free meals saloon regulars chatted with her until bars became forbidden to woman due to a town ordinance. When she died on December 5, 1914, her funeral was one of the largest the town had ever seen.

Because of scant records and the temptation to create Wild West legends out of ordinary people, many facts about Field’s life are still fuzzy. What is clear is that her real-life persona was extraordinary enough to draw plenty of attention on its own. Mary Fields didn’t need to be a myth to stand out from the crowd𠅋ut she didn’t seem to mind her outsized reputation.


Samuel DENTON was born in 1631 in Halifax, Yorkshire, England. Christened on 29 May 1631 in Coley Chapel, Halifax, England. Died on 20 Mar 1713 in Hempstead, Long Island, NY. Samuel was listed on the 1673 Dutch Census at Hempstead, NY and owned property in Hempstead from 1662 and lived in the area most of his life. Transactions in 1703 show that he owned slaves. In 1685, he was reported to be owning 240 acres of land. The 1698 Census at Hempstead, NY lists six of his nine children.

Samuel Denton was born abt 1631 probably in Halifax, Yorkshire, England. Christened on 29 May 1631 in Coley Chapel, Halifax, England. Died on 20 Mar 1713 in Hempstead, Long Island, NY. He was a farmer in the Town of Hempstead, probably in the part that is now the Town of North Hempstead. Samuel was listed on the 1673 Dutch Census at Hempstead, NY and owned property in Hempstead from 1662 and lived in the area most of his life. Transactions in 1703 show that he owned slaves. In 1685, he was reported to be owning 240 acres of land. The 1698 Census at Hempstead, NY lists six of his nine children. “New York Surrogate 8-305: Adm. Samuel Denton, late of Hempstead, intestate March 20, 1713 to his sons Samuel and Jonas.” Papers filed with the clerk in Court of Appeals, Albany, NY named a daughter, “Hannah, wife of Thomas Treadwell,” also spelled Tredwell. From the “Tennessee Valley Historical Review:” Hempstead town records show that Samuel Denton and others took up land, 50 acres each, on the same terms as the first proprietors. In 1663, jointly with Thomas Rushmour, Samuel Denton obtained all rights and privileges upon Matthew Garrison’s Neck and at Mattinacock, from Jeremy Wood of Hempstead. On April 18, 1665, John Smith of Hempstead sold to “my son-in-law Samuel Denton” certain lands. In 1698 he was called Samuel Denton, Senior. A deed of gifts from Samuel Denton of Hempstead, Yeoman, in consideration of “paternal love and affection I have and do bear toward my well-beloved son James Denton of Hempstead, Yeoman” to land within the township of Hempstead. December 16, 1710. The date of Samuel’s inventory was March 15, 1713 and was taken by Obediah Volintine and James Serion. “March 10, 1713, Hempstead. Mary Denton ye widdow and Relict of Samuel Denton, late of Hempstead in Queens County, doth for divers good causes and consideration hereunto moving, refuses to administer upon the estate of her deceased husband, Samuel Denton.” So the administration was granted to Samuel and Jonas Denton, sons of said deceased.
The records pertaining to the administration of the estate clearly show receipts from the children calling each by name. Therefore we have a definite list of the children of Samuel and Mary Smith Denton. From Genelogical Data from Inventories of NY Estates 1666-1825 by Kenneth Scott and James Owne. “Denton, Samuel of Hempstead, Queens CO., yeoman – Renunciation (20 March 1713/4) of Mary Denton of her right to administer the estate of her dec’d husband in favor of his sons, Samuel and Jonas Denton. Her renunciation was witnessed by Jacob Smith and John Sprague. Inventory (15 March 1713/4) taken and appraised by Obadiah Volentine and James Searing, by order of Col. John. Jackson, J.P. The chief item was a negro boy and girl (90 Pounds) and a Negro man listed as ‘worth nothing.’ Account of Samuel and Jonas Denton, administrators, records the following payments to heirs of the dec’d.: to Mary Denton (Widow of the dec’d.) to Peter Smith (Son of Mary Ellison, dec’d who was a daughter of the intestate), to Joseph Robinson and Jane his wife (who was a daughter of the dec’d., to Jonathan Seaman and Elizabeth his wife (a daughter of the intestate), to Abraham Denton (son of the intestate, to James Denton (son of the intestate), to Thomas Beadwell and Hannah his wife (a daughter of the intestate), to Robert Mitchell and Phoebe his wife (a daughter of the intestate), to Ezekiel Smith and Martha his wife (a daughter of the intestate) and to Jonas Denton (a son of the intestate).” He married Mary “Rock” SMITH in 1654 in Hempstead, Long Island, NY. Mary “Rock” SMITH was born on 20 Jul 1630 in Dorchester, Suffolk, MA. Died on 15 Mar 1713 in after in Hempstead, Queens, N

“Who Was the Reverend Richard Denton” by Dr. Walter C. Krumm New York Genealogical & Biographical Record Vol. 117, # 3 pp. 163-166 July 1986 Vol. 117, # 4 pp. 211- 218 October 1986 “Descendants of the Rev. Richard Denton” by Dr. Walter C. Krumm Vol. 120, # 1 pp. 10-12 January 1989

“Descendants of the Rev. Richard Denton” by Dr. Walter C. Krumm NYG&B Record Vol. 120, #1 pp. 12-14 January 1989

Lighthouse History

Built in 1874, the Point Fermin Lighthouse was the first navigational light into the San Pedro Bay. Phineas Banning, with the support of many local businessmen, petitioned the Federal Government and the US lighthouse Board to place a lighthouse on the point in 1854. Although the Lighthouse Board agreed funding and land disputes delayed its construction until 1874.

Paul J. Pelz, a draftsman for the US Lighthouse Board, designed the Stick Style Victorian lighthouse. The design was used for six lighthouses built between 1873 and 1874, of which three are still standing, East Brothers in San Francisco Bay, Hereford Light in New Jersey, and Point Fermin. The Stick Style is an early Victorian architectural style and is simpler in design and decoration than the later high Victorian period. It is characterized by its gabled roofs, horizontal siding, decorative cross beams and hand carved porch railings.

The lighthouse was staffed by federal employees under the Treasury Department and regulated by the US Lighthouse Board. These employees were called Lighthouse Keepers. It was their job to keep the light lit as a beacon for ships, maintain the lighthouse lens, and the general up-keep of the building. Point Fermin's first lighthouse keepers were women. Mary and Ella Smith came from a lighthouse family and their brother Victor, a Washington Territory customs officer, was no doubt influential in getting them their positions. Why they chose to come to Point Fermin is still a mystery, as the area was quite isolated and barren. In any event, they seemed to get along just fine in their positions for nearly eight years.

Captain George Shaw was hired for the lighthouse keeper position shortly after the Smith sister's resignation in 1882. Shaw was a retired sea captain but he refused to retire far from his beloved sea and was delighted by the opportunity to serve as the keeper at Point Fermin. His wife and daughter moved into the lighthouse with him, but by 1901, his wife had died and his daughter had gone away to school leaving him as the sole resident. Captain Shaw was the first keeper at Point Fermin to wear the US Lighthouse Service uniform, newly required of all employees in 1884 women were not required to wear the uniform.

Visiting the lighthouse during the years that Captain Shaw was in residence became a popular activity for the local residents as well as many from the greater Los Angeles areas. The US Lighthouse Board both required and encouraged keepers to allow the public access to the lighthouse and Captain Shaw gave many tours of the establishment and its workings. The point itself was a popular site for picnicking and social activities, especially as the town of San Pedro grew larger toward the late 1880s. Many visitors rode the Red Car to the end of Pacific Avenue and then walked the short distance to the lighthouse. Other modes of transportation to the lighthouse were by horse and buggy, and later by automobile.

The Austin family moved into the lighthouse in 1917 to become the last keepers of the Point Fermin Light. William Austin had served as keeper at two other California lighthouses, Point Arena and Point Conception, before coming to Point Fermin. For the first time, the lighthouse was filled with children. When the Austin family moved in they had seven children between the ages of 15 and 1 month old during their stay at Point Fermin, that number quickly grew to eight with the birth of another son. When both William and Martha Austin passed away in 1925, their daughter Thelma Austin, with the help of her sister Juanita, took over as keeper until 1927 when management of the light was turned over to the City of Los Angeles.

Between the years of 1927 and 1941, the light was electrified and managed by the city. On December 7th, 1941, Pearl Harbor was bombed and the coast was blacked out for fear of being a beacon to enemy ships and planes. Sadly, the light was never to be lit again. During WWII, the lighthouse served the US Navy as a lookout tower and signaling station for ships coming into the harbor. After WWII, the lighthouse was again turned over to the City of Los Angeles for use as a residence for park maintenance employees. It was during WWII that the lens and lantern room on top of the lighthouse tower was removed and a square room was set in its place. This unsightly addition was often referred to as the "chicken coop." In 1972, two devoted citizens, Bill Olesen and John Olguin, raised funds and worked diligently to replace the lantern room and the lighthouse to its original glory for her 100th birthday in 1974. Their efforts also placed the lighthouse on the National Register of Historic Places.

In 2002, the lighthouse was restored, retrofitted, and rehabilitated for public access with funds from the City of Los Angeles, the Port of Los Angeles, and the State of California. The lighthouse was opened to the public on November 1, 2003 under the management of the Department of Recreation and Parks for the City of Los Angeles. Volunteers from the Point Fermin Lighthouse Society serve as tour guides and help to keep the lighthouse open to the public.

The Secret History of Smith Island Cake

Along Route 50 from the Bay Bridge to the ocean, roadside stand after roadside stand proudly offers Smith Island Cake, as do restaurants from the D.C. suburbs to Annapolis to Baltimore to Cambridge. Today, it feels obvious that the dessert with eight to ten layers and equal parts cake and fudgy frosting should be the Maryland State Dessert. But before the 1990s, the cake was hardly anywhere other than Smith Island. Outside of the lower Eastern Shore, the cake most associated with Smith Island was the crab cake. With equal layers of lore and tradition, the cake’s greatness stems from the unique Smith Island community.

In 1981, Frances Kitching shone a spotlight on Smith Island cuisine with Mrs. Kitching’s Smith Island Cookbook, co-written with Susan Stiles Dowell. The book is full of recipes typical of Chesapeake Bay fishing communities: crab cakes, crab soup, clam chowder, crab imperial, and just about any other crab dish imaginable. Shockingly absent from the first edition is anything resembling Smith Island Cake. Reports of church camp meetings and other events on Smith Island mention the dessert of choice as pie, a dessert Mrs. Kitching enjoyed, too. In a profile of Mrs. Kitching in The Washington Post, she said, “Pies were my grandmother’s favorite, and I learned everything I know from her.”

One reason she didn’t include the cake might have been because Mrs. Kitching didn’t think it was unusual. In 1989, folklorist Elaine Eff traveled to Smith Island to interview Smith Islanders and help create the Smith Island Visitor’s Center. Everywhere she went, she found a cake with thin layers and equal parts icing and cake. When she asked, “What’s this?” she heard the answer, “It’s cake,” as if there wasn’t anything unique about it. She, however, knew that this was no ordinary cake this was uniquely Smith Island. Although Kitching later took credit for possibly having made the first Smith Island Cake, others on the island don’t substantiate that claim. Well-known bakers like Mary Ada Marshall say they learned it from their grandmothers, who in turn learned it from their grandmothers. Eff tried to figure out if the cake originated with one woman, but she found it was truly ubiquitous on the island, and each matriarch had her own variation of the recipe and number of layers in her cake.

Frosting cakes at the Smith Island Baking Company

Equally mysterious is where the thin layers originated. Eff points out that before the 1950s and 60s, the island didn’t have electricity and making thin layers in a wood-fired oven was easier than thick layers. Another theory says that the thick, fudge-like icing between thinner layers helps keep the cake fresh when watermen are out on their boats. But as Kara Mae Harris of the Old Line Plate cooking blog points out, “The rising fame of the cake only serves to further confuse the cake’s true origin or ‘purpose’—as if a cake ever needed a purpose.” Can’t the purpose of the cake’s design just be eating the highest cake-to-icing ratio possible?

The community origins made it a perfect candidate for a state food. In the mid-2000s, Smith Island’s economy was already dealing with a loss of population and jobs for watermen. Marylanders on the Lower Eastern Shore Heritage Council and those involved in the tourism industry thought that designating the cake as the Maryland State Dessert would not only provide an economic opportunity for women to sell the cakes, but help to make Smith Island a place that people cared about. They approached then-Delegate D. Page Elmore, who drafted legislation and introduced it in the 2008 session. Eff remembers people saying a bill like this would never pass the first time around. As with almost anything that gets designated representative of the state, people always seem to take issue with it. One 2008 article in the Baltimore Sun mentions Berger cookies, Hutzler’s fudge cake, or Haussner’s strawberry pie as alternatives. When you read through those options now, Smith Island Cake seems like the natural winner. Set aside the fact that Hutzler’s department store and Haussner’s Restaurant are now gone, those three desserts were born to be commercial, while the people of Smith Island baked theirs for weddings, picnics, funerals, church events, or just everyday consumption—it was a cake of the people. The Smith Islanders had more than argument, though they also had cakes. Eff says they delivered a slice of cake to every member of the general assembly that session. The bill passed.

National news outlets picked up the story, and before the year was out, people knew the name Smith Island. Brian Murphy, an entrepreneur with a commodities-trading background, immediately recognized what was special about the cake: the story. Within a year of the legislation passing, he opened Smith Island Baking Company in Ewell, and began delivering cakes across the country. The bakery employed local women, and the notoriety of the cake allowed women like Mary Ada Marshall to sell their cakes by mail too. Murphy moved his operation to Crisfield in 2015, after years of dealing with the logistics of shipping cakes from an island in the middle of the Chesapeake, accessible only by boat.

Smith Island residents felt the loss of the move. Women employed by the company lost their jobs and tourism suffered. “A lot of people come [to the island] just to come to the bakery,” says islander Darren Jones. In 2018, he and his wife Kathey decided to do something about that. They opened the Smith Island Bakery in Ewell, with the goal of helping the island economy and giving visitors a taste of authentic Smith Island, baked on-site. Today, they send cakes across the country and offer classes in cake baking. Darren says that the cake and its status as state dessert has “drawn a lot more attention over here,” and he hopes that attention will keep up Smith Island’s economy and population. So far, it’s been a sweet success.

Interview with Mary Levi Smith, July 24, 2008

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Smith, Mary Levi Interview by Erica N. Johnson. 24 Jul. 2008. Lexington, KY: Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.

Smith, M.L. (2008, July 24). Interview by E. N. Johnson. University of Kentucky Experiences of African American Women Oral History Project. Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries, Lexington.

Smith, Mary Levi, interview by Erica N. Johnson. July 24, 2008, University of Kentucky Experiences of African American Women Oral History Project, Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.

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