William H. Smith
William's parents owned and operated a successful farming operation in Tompkins County, New York. His father was a prominent horse dealer and cattle man who taught William and his brothers to love the equestrian part of their upbringing. When he was only 16 William successfully dealt in horses in the New York market.
After the death of their father in 1852, the brothers moved west. In the spring of 1861 they opened a livery and sale stable in Hillsdale,while continuing to operate through the New York market. The Civil War had just begun and there was a great demand for cavalry horses by the government. It was estimated that by war’s end the Union Army had gone through 650,000 horses, with a large percentage of those coming from Michigan.
The brothers owned a number of the trained animals exhibited by Professor Crocker. For many years John travelled with the troupe across two continents. Afterward, he went to North Dakota, where he spent the next 20 years. The Homestead Act of 1862 resulted in a great need for good horses and the settlers depended on traveling salesmen for horses, mules, etc. The New York Times wrote that horse sales were so active in some of the newer sections of North Dakota that the banks were adding horse departments!
The ornate, three-story Smith’s Hotel on the corner of Howell and Bacon was built in 1874 on the site of the old Western Hotel. Due to a fire, the building is now only two stories, but still reminds us that the Smith brothers were once an important part of the growth of Hillsdale. William's grave lies near his family monument and has no marker.
JoAnne P. Miller