Notes for Richard Halstead Smith
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Notes for Richard Halstead Smith

Richard H. Smith                Smith Bros. Envelope

From "History of Fayette County, Iowa" (1910)


          Among the business men of the thriving city of Oelwein, Fayette county, none are more highly esteemed generally than the gentlemen whose names appear above. Years of honest endeavor have brought to them a well-earned prosperity and today they are numbered among the representative citizens of the community.
          The Smith brothers are scions of honorable parentage. Their father, Samuel Smith, was born near Keighley, Yorkshire, England, in 1838, and was the son of Richard and Martha (Hanson) Smith. He married Hannah Park, a daughter of Thomas and Sarah Park, of Pateley Bridge, Yorkshire, England, and they became the parents of six children, namely: Alice, the wife of Edward E. Day, a well-known citizen of Oelwein, who is mentioned elsewhere in this work; Thomas, of Oelwein; Jane, the wife of G. A. Schneider, a farmer north of Oelwein; Sarah M. A. , the wife of W. S. Huntington, and expert draughtsman and successful foundryman; Richard H., of Oelwein; Mary Ellen, the wife of F. H. Martin, a contractor and builder at Oelwein. Samuel Smith was a machinist by trade and was part owner of a tool manufacturing plant in Keighley. In 1869 he came to Fayette county, followed in 1870 by his family, then consisting of wife and three children. For a year he lived with his uncle, Thomas Hanson. On June 1, 1870, they came to what later became Oelwein, he buying a farm located one and a half miles north and one-fourth mile west of where the city now is. He entered at once upon the cultivation of this farm, which he brought up to a high standard of agricultural excellence, and on which he resided until February, 1892. He then moved into Oelwein, and on November 14th, of the same year, he died, at the age of fifty-four years. His wife died July 21, 1901, at the age of sixty-six years.
          Of this family, the two sons, Thomas and Richard H., were reared on the home farm and received their education in the common schools of their neighborhood. In 1902 Thomas bought a quarter section of land in Dickinson county, and soon afterwards Thomas and Richard together bought another quarter section nearby, where they lived for a few months, returning to the city in December of that year. Richard was then for a time in the employ of the Oelwein Creamery, after which he entered the employ of W. H. Meyer & Company. In 1897 the two brothers formed a partnership and went into the grocery business in Oelwein, locating on the east side of Frederick street, where they remained until December 16, 1902, when they installed their business in a new building next door south, the new store having been built especially for them. They were prosperous in their business and conducted it successfully until June 8, 1904, when they sold out. In 1878 their father, Samuel Smith, had bought forty acres of land from William Niblock, lying north of Charles street and west of Sixth avenue North, now included in Oelwein. After their father's death, the brothers platted this ground, making four successive additions, and after retiring from the grocery business Thomas built several residences there during the summer of 1904.
          In January, 1905, Thomas and Richard Smith formed a partnership and went into the real estate business, in which they have continued ever since. Besides their residence properties, they own a large interest in the Syndicate block, which is owned in the name of the Oelwein Building and Investment Company and was built in 1907. It is a splendid property, being one of the best blocks in the city, the ground floor being devoted to business rooms and the upper part of the building being divided into flats. Thomas Smith is secretary of the company. Both of the subjects are notaries public and in addition to their real estate business, they also examine abstracts and take charge of rentals. Thomas Smith is a stockholder in the First National Bank and the Aetna State Bank, both of Oelwein, and Richard is interested in the Aetna State Bank and the Iowa Saving Bank at Oelwein, while both are stockholders in the Oran Savings Bank, at Oran, this state. They are also the owners of much farm land in Minnesota and the Dakotas, as well as in their home state. Progressive and energetic, and yet wisely conservative, they have always given their support to every movement which has promised to benefit the community or contribute to the development and upbuilding of the city in which they reside.
          Politically both of the Smith brothers are affiliated with the Prohibition party, in the success of which they are deeply interested. Religiously, Thomas is a member of the Christian church, in which he holds official relations, being treasurer, trustee and deacon; Richard is a member of the Methodist Episcopal church and is a member of the board of trustees. Both are earnest in their support of the churches, being liberal contributors to their support.
          Both of the Smith brothers are married, Thomas having wedded Aura C. Hadley, The daughter of B. H. Hadley, of Iowa Falls. Richard married Maud E. Sackville, the daughter of J. O. and Alice E. (Day) Sackville, the former a native of Canada and the latter of St. Lawrence county, New York. They have one child, a daughter, Dorothy Maude. The subjects of this sketch are genial in their social relations and enjoy a large acquaintance throughout the county, among whom they are held in the highest esteem.

From the Oelwein Daily Register, November 1901.

Richard and Maude Sackville Smith           Smith-Sackville -- Married last Wednesday evening at the home of the bride near this city Richard H. Smith to Miss Maude E. Sackville, Rev. Dilman Smith officiating. These young people are well and favorably known in Oelwein, both having been reared from childhood in this vicinity. The groom is a member of the firm of Smith Bros. carrying on an extensive grocery business, and is one of the leading men of the city. The bride has been a popular employee in the dry goods store of Wood Sisters. They commenced housekeeping at once in Mr. Smith's beautiful residence on North Frederick street, that he had prepared for his bride.

Smith Bros. General Store - before 1903
Smith Bros. General Store, Oelwein, Iowa - before 1903

From The Cedar Rapids Gazette, October 9, 1952

FOTO FACTS by John Reynolds

          Attempts to comply with too many government regulations and rules have made a lot of people a little less willing to keep their own word in everyday business transactions.
          That's the studied opinion of Richard H. Smith, veteran Oelwein real estate man.
          Dick Smith, who is 79 years old and still actively doing business daily in the firm of "Smith Brothers", came to Oelwein 60 years ago this month.
          For 46 years, "Smith Brothers" has been a real estate business. Before that Smith and his now-87-year-old brother, Thomas Smith, operated a grocery and general store in Oelwein.
          For 47 years the Smiths have occupied the same second-story offices in the Jamison block. And the office is still there today.
          Now the elder brother, in poor health, spends but little time at the office. In the years past, he was the office man, Dick Smith was the "outside" man--as he still is.
          Today Dick Smith, still active, agile and with a crystal clear mind, remembers well the day when a man's word was his bond.
          "You've got to be a pretty good student of human nature--or you can't belong in the real estate business," Dick Smith tells you with a wry smile.
          You ask him about ethics in business. He's bought, sold or handled the sale of literally hundreds of Oelwein houses, business properties, thousands of acres of farm land.
          "In some ways the ethics of business are just as good as they ever were," Dick Smith says. "But all these government regulations, this tax burden--they've made a lot of people just a little less willing to keep their word about a great many things.
          "The fellow who may cut a few corners on his income tax may be tempted to cut a few corners elsewhere."
          Born on a farm, Dick Smith and his brother--who came to this country as a boy--ran their grocery and general store five or six years. In June of 1904 they sold the store to devote their fulltime interest to the real estate business. In January of 1905 they moved into the offices the firm still occupies.
          "The town (Oelwein" is in good shape today," Smith will tell you. He should know. He's seen it through booms and recessions.
          His firm laid out five additions to the original town plat.
          That same firm also built 85 houses and sold them.
          Dick Smith can point out property after property in Oelwein, farm after farm in the nearby countryside, that he's handled, as buyer, seller, owner, agent.
          "I took a farm prospect out the other day and on the way I pointed to this farm and that one I'd sold. There were a lot of other I didn't mention. I got afraid he wouldn't believe me."
          There's one block of houses in Oelwein where Dick Smith has sold every house--but one. Some of them he has sold twice, some of them even three times in his 48 years as a real estate man.
          The firm once was in the insurance business. But that was disposed of some few years ago. Three years ago when Smith was Trying to "clean up" and get out from under so much responsibility, he disposed of 1,400 acres the firm had owned.
          "In addition to all of the property we've sold as agents for other people, we've bought a lot of property, owned it for six months or a year and sold it," Smith explains.
          Dick Smith has seen values do handstands and hurdles. He remembers well hearing his father tell his mother that he had paid $40 for a lot and that he was he was offered the adjoining one for $25. His mother discouraged the purchase of the adjoining lot, saying wisely to herself: "It'll never in the world be worth that."
          The $40 lot, which has a frontage of about 42 feet, is the one on which the Jamison block now stands. The location today--without the building--might well be worth $20,000. It's on a busy downtown business corner.
          Dick Smith has seen Iowa farm land in his neighborhood sell for as little as $40 an acre. He once bought a $5,000 farm on which--in lusher times--a mortgage of $13,00 had been allowed.
          That $40 land today is worth anywhere from $150 to $300 and acre. And just the other day a 40-acre piece sold for $400 an acre. But Smith says that isn't quite representative of the going prices. Smith Brothers did business by one principal rule: Dick Smith explains it this way: "If we couldn't make a square deal, we didn't want to make any deal. It's and old rule But it still pays off."

From the Oelwein Daily Register, April 1966.

Richard H. Smith services Friday
          Richard H. Smith, 92, a resident of Oelwein for more than 75 years, died Saturday, April 23, at North District hospital in Deerfield Beach, Fla. He served as Oelwein mayor during the 1920's and was a former director of the First National Bank. For many years he operated a real estate firm in Oelwein with his brother.
          Funeral services will be Friday, April 29, 2 p.m. at the Brant Funeral Chapel. The Rev. E. Morris Egeland will officiate. Brant Funeral Home in charge of arrangements. Friends may call at the funeral home after Thursday forenoon until services. Burial will be in Woodlawn cemetery.
          Survivors include one son, Dick, Deerfield Beach, Fla; two daughters, Mrs. John Brooks, Deerfield Beach, Fla.; Mrs. B. J. Heatley, Sherman, Texas; five grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

From the Oelwein Daily Register, April 1966.


          Richard H. Smith was the next to the youngest of six children in the family of Samuel and Hannah Park Smith. He was born two miles north of Oelwein on Jan. 9, 1874, the same year that Oelwein became a city.
          He attended the rural schools north of Oelwein and Upper Iowa University for a short time. With his brother, Thomas, he left the farm, moved to Oelwein and operated a grocery and general store for about five years. They established themselves in the real estate business in January, 1905 and were associated as partners in Smith Brothers Real Estate until the death of Thomas in 1953.
          He was married to Maude E. Sackville in 1901. Three children were born, Dorothy (Mrs. John Brooks), Delpha (Mrs. Jack Heatley), and Richard Smith Jr. His wife preceded him in death in 1941.
          He was active in civic affairs in Oelwein. He was on the city council several times and served as mayor during the 1920's. He was a member of Grace Methodist church and was on the church board at the time of the construction of the present sanctuary building in the early 1900's. He was a member of Hebron Lodge of the Masonic order and had received his 50-year pin a few years ago.
          For the past five years he lived in Florida with his daughter and son-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. John Brooks.
          He died at North District hospital, Pompano Beach, Fla. on April 23, 1966. His brother, Thomas and four sisters, Alice (Mrs. E. E. Day), Sarah (Mrs. Spencer Huntington), Jane (Mrs. George Schneider), and Nellie (Mrs. Floyd Martin), all preceded him in death. Besides his children survivors include five grandchildren, one great-grandchild and nieces and nephews.
          Memorial services were conducted by the Rev. E. Morris Egeland on April 29, at the Brant Funeral Chapel. Honorary casket bearers were R. L. Jipson, Harry Flower, Edward McCarthy, Earl W. Moore, Dr. A. W. Harper and Richard Swan. Active casket bearers were Robert Kroeger, George Jamison, Pete Stebbins, Norman Mike, Duane Hanson and Harold Ziegler.
          Burial was in Woodlawn Cemetery.

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