Asael Smith, Sr. (1744 - 1830)

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Birthplace: Topsfield, Essex, Massachusetts, USA
Death: Died in Stockholm, Saint Lawrence, New York, USA
Managed by: mi² Anderson, (c) ♥
Last Updated:

About Asael Smith, Sr.

Biographical Summary:

Asael Smith born in Topsfield Massachusetts, 7 March 1744 (New Style), passed his boyhood under care of his stepmother. At age twenty-three he married Mary Duty, "of Wenham (Windham) N. H." says the old Topsfield record, the marriage occurring on 12 February 1767. The department of vital statistics of the State of New Hampshire, carries a record of, this marriage as well as the Topsfield, Massachusetts, entries,which makes it seem likely that the ceremony was performed in Windham, her home. She was the daughter of Moses and Mary (Palmer) Duty, and was born in Rowley, Massachusetts, 16 October 1743.

They lived in Topsfield until after the birth of their third child, when, in 1772, they moved to Windham, New Hampshire. While living in this or a neighboring town, Asael gave his service iii the Revolutionary War, enlisting in July 1776 under Captain John Nesmith, in Colonel Joshua Wingate's Regiment of New Hampshire troops. They were mustered for Canada service, and marched to join the northern armies under Thornton and Bartlett. (New Hampshire Revolutionary Rolls 1; 342, 349.)

In 1779 Asael's name appears in the tax lists of Derryfield, New Hampshire. (Early Records of Derryfield 1: 291, 293, 295; 2: 100, 116.) This locality was first called Nutfield, in 1719. In 1742 the southern portion of the grant was set off and called Windham. Nine years later, another part was severed from the original body, and, joined with a tract from Chester and some ungranted lands about Amoskeag Falls, was incorporated under the name of Derryfield. (Manchester Historical Society's Collections 5: 15.) The name is not now in use, merging into the larger town of Manchesten A portion of Londonderry was annexed in 1778 to Nottingham West, now Hudson. Asael Smith and the various members of the Duty family into which he married, lived in those early years in several towns of this immediate locality.

In September 1779 Asael was elected town clerk of Derryfield, a position he occupied for over six years, leaving it in April 1786 to return to Topsfield, Massachusetts, to help adjust the family affairs following the death of his father, the November previous. He lived again on the paternal estate, in the old home about one mile north of the town, where a number of his children first saw the light of day.

He was a man of very liberal views, with thoughts in advance of his time. He was noted for having opinions of his own, which he would not yield, to bigotry nor opposition. Some of his children were baptized in the Congregational church at Topsfield, but in his own religious views he was somewhat of a Universalist, holding to the truth that in America all men should have free and equal religious liberty. . . .

He was open and explicit, and always expressed his honest opinions, whether they were in accord with prevailing views or not. . . . Fortunately some of his writings in which he expressed his views have been handed down to us, and although his religious opinions were not always in accord with public opinion or belief, yet he was honest in his convictions, and held aloof from all denominations simply because he could not reconcile their teachings with the Scriptures and his reason.-Topsfield Historical Society Collections 8: 89.

In the spring of 1791 he left Topsfield, taking up his residence temporarily in New Hampshire, and then moving to Tunbridge, Vermont. From this latter place he wrote a letter to an old friend in Topsfield, which has been preserved, --And which expresses some of the old gentleman's political and religious views, and is therefore of interest here. It was addressed to J. Perkins Towne, for many years town clerk of Topsfield, and is printed in Topsfield Historical Society Collections 10: 74-77.

TUNBRIDGE, Jan. 14, 1796.

Respected Sir:--Having a favorable opportunity, although on very short notice, I with joy and gratitude embrace it, returning herewith my most hearty thanks for your respect shown in your favor of the 30th of November, by Mr. Wiles, which I view as a singular specimen of friendship, which has very little been practiced by any of my friends in Topsfield, although often requested.

My family are all, through the goodness of the Divine Benediction, in a tolerably good state of health, and desire to be remembered to you and to all inquiring friends.

I have set me up a new house since Mr. Wiles was here, and expect to remove into it next spring, and to begin again on an entire new farm (if this, that has been but four years occupied can be called old), and ,carry it on, at the halves, which half, I hope, will nearly furnish my family with food, whilst I, with my four youngest sons, shall endeavor to bring to another farm a state of productivity. . . .

As to news, I have nothing as I know of, worth noticing, except that grain has taken a sudden rise amongst us, about one-third. . . . As to the Jacobin party, they are not very numerous here, or if they are they are pretty still. There are some in this State, viz, at Bennington, who, like other children crying for a rattle, have blared out against their rulers, in hopes to wrest from them if possible, what they esteem the "plaything" of power and trust. But they have been pretty well whipt, and have become tolerably quiet again, and I am in hopes, if they live to arrive at the years of discretion when the empire of reason shall take place, that they will then become good members of society, notwithstanding their noisy, nucious behaviour in their childhood, for which they were neither capable of hearing or giving any reason.

For my part, I am so willing to trust the government of the world in the hand of the Supreme Ruler of Universal Nature, that I do not, at present, wish to try to wrest it out of His hands; and I have so much confidence in His ability to teach our Senators wisdom, that I do not think it worth while for me to interpose with the little stock of knowledge that He has favored me with, in the affair, either one, way or the other.

He has conducted us through a glorious Revolution, and has brought us into the promised land of peace and liberty; and I believe that He is about to bring all the world in the same beatitude in His own time and way, which, although His way may appear never so consistent to our blind reason, yet may be perfectly consistent with His designs.

And I believe that the stone is now cut out of the mountain, without hands, spoken of by Daniel, and has smitten the image upon his feet, by which the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver and the gold, (viz, all the monarchial and the ecclesiastical tyranny) will be broken to pieces and become as the chaff of the summer threshing floor; and the wind shall carry them away, and there shall be no place found for them.

Give my best regards to your parents, and tell them that I have taken up with the eleventh commandment, that the Negro taught to the minister, which was thus:--The minister asked the Negro how many commandments there were, and his answer was, "Eleben, Sir." "Aye," replied the other, "What is the eleventh? That is one I have never heard of!" "Why, sir, the Elebenth Commandment, sir, is MIND YO' OWN BUSINESS."

And so I choose to do, and give myself but little concern about what passes in the political world.

Give my best regards to Dr. Merriam, Mr. Wildes, Joseph Dorman, and Mr. Cree, and tell Mr. Cree I thank him for his respects, and hope he will accept of mine. Write to me as often and as large as you can, and oblige your sincere friend and well-wisher,

ASAEL SMITH

On the back of the first page of the letter, evidently in the nature of a postscript is found the following:

Give my hearty thanks to Mr. Charles Rogers for his respect, shown in writing me a few lines, and tell him that I should write to him now had I had time, but waive it for the present, as I have written a considerable part of what I intended to write, to you. If I should live and do well, I expect to come to Topsfield myself next winter, which, if I do, I shall come and pay you a visit. Farewell. Tell Mr. Joseph Cree that if he will come here and set up his trade, I will warrant him as much work as he can do, and good pay.

On the outside of the letter, besides the superscription: "To Mr. Jacob Town, Topsfield, Commonwealth of Massachusetts," is the notation; evidently by Mr. Towne: "Received Feb. 14, 1796, from Asael Smith." From this it would appear that the letter was one month. on the, journey from Tunbridge, Vermont, to Topsfield, Massachusetts, a distance of one hundred fifty miles. It was probably carried by a friend. On the second page of the letter, written along the margin, appear a few lines which are of special interest to the descendants of Asael through the son mentioned:

I expect my son Joseph will be married in a few days.

This letter is extremely interesting from several angles, amounting in some respects almost to prophecy, and manifesting as it does the writer's strong confidence in the then very new Government of the United States, and its ultimate triumph under the guiding hand of the Almighty.

In the Collections of the Topsfield Historical Society (8: 91-6) there is also a remarkable document written by Asael Smith in 1799, intended for his "dearly beloved wife and children" to view after his decease, but which was read, well understood, and appreciated by his family many years before that event occurred. Since this book is intended as a foundation for study and analysis of the character of a man, (internationally known as the founder of a new and in some ways singular religion), from the viewpoint of family influence and heredity, this interesting document written by that man's grandfather, is here presented:

A few words d advice which I leave to you, my dear wife and children, whom I expect ere long to leave:

My Dear Selfs--I know not what leisure I shall have at the hour of my death to speak to you, and as you all know that I am not free in speech, especially when sick or sad; and therefore do now speak my heart to you, and would wish you to hear me speaking to you as long as you live (when my tongue shall be mouldered to dust in the silent tomb) in this, my writing, which I divide among you all.

And first to you, my dear Wife, I do, with all the strength and power that is in me, thank you for your kindness and faithfulness to me, beseeching God who is the husband of the widow, to take care of you, and not to leave you nor forsake you, or ever suffer you to leave or forsake Him or His ways. Put your whole trust solely in Him; He never did, nor never will, forsake any that trust in Him. . . . I do resign you into the everlasting arms of the great Husband of husbands, the Lord Jesus Christ.

And. now, My dear Children, let me pour out my heart to you and speak first to you of immortality in your souls. Trifle not in this point; the soul is immortal; you have to deal with an infinite Majesty; you go upon life and death; therefore in this point be serious. Do all to God in a serious manner; when you think of Him, speak of Him, pray to Him, or in any way make your addresses to His great Majesty, be in good earnest. Trifle not with His name, nor with His attributes, nor call Him to witness anything but is absolute truth; nor then, but when sound reason on serious consideration requires it.

And as to Religion, I would not wish to point out any particular form to you; but first I would wish you to search the Scriptures and consult sound reason, and see if they (which I take to be two witnesses that stand by the God of the whole earth) are not sufficient to evince to you that religion is a necessary theme. Then I would wish you to study the nature of religion, and see whether it consists in outward formalities, or in the hidden man of the heart; whether you can, by outward forms, rites and ordinances save yourselves, or whether there is a necessity of your having help from any other hand than your own. If you find that you stand in need of a Savior, Christ saith: "Look unto me and be ye saved, all ye ends of the earth"; . . . but mind that you admit no others as evidences in your search, but the two that God hath appointed, viz, Scriptures and sound reason. And if these two witness that you are one whit better by nature than the worst heathen in the darkest corner of the deserts of Arabia, then conclude that God hath been partial towards you, and hath furnished you with a better nature than others, and that, consequently, He is not just to all mankind. . . .

But if these two witnesses testify to you that God is just to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works, then believe them. . . . There is no respect of persons with God, who will have all mankind to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth, viz, "that there is one God, and one Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time" . . . And having gotten this evidence that God is true, be still adding to your evidence, and enjoy your present assurance. Do all to your God as to your father, for His love is ten thousand times greater towards you than ever any earthly father's could be to his offspring.

In the next place, strive for those graces most which concern your places and conditions, and strive most against those failings which most threaten you. Above everything avoid a melancholy disposition; that is a humor that admits of any temptation, and is capable of any impression and distemper; shun as death this humor which will work you to all unthankfulness against God, unlovingness to men, and unnaturalness to yourselves and one another. Do not talk and make a noise to get the name of forward men, but DO THE THING, and do it in a way that is fair and honest, which you can live by and die by, and rise and reign by; therefore, my children, do MORE than you talk of, in point of religion; satisfy your own consciences in what you do; all men you shall never satisfy, nay, some will not be satisfied though they may be convinced.

As for Your Calling, Any honest calling will honor you if you honor that. It is better to be a rich cobbler than a poor merchant; a rich farmer than a poor preacher; and never be discouraged though sometimes your schemes should not succeed to your wishes.

Persevere in the way of well-doing, and you may hope for success. For myself (who had never your parts nor helps) I never found anything too hard for me in my calling but discouragement and unbelief. If I was discouraged and did not believe I could do a thing, I never could; therefore, when you think anything is too hard for you, do not undertake it.

As to Your Company--Abandon all infectious, self-serving companions; when once you have found them false, trust them no more. Sort with such as are able to do or receive good. Solomon gives you the best counsel for this, in many places. Read the Proverbs and remember him in this. Forsake not an old friend; be friendly and faithful to your friends. Never trouble nor trust friends unless there be a necessity, and, lastly, be long in closing with friends, and loth to lose them upon experience of them.

As to Your Marriages--I do not think it worth while to say much about them, for I believe God hath created the persons for each other, and that Nature will find its own.

But for Your Children--Make it your chiefest work to bring them up in the ways of virtue, that they may be useful in their generation. Give them, if possible, a good education; if Nature hath made no difference, do.you make none in your affections, countenances nor portions; partiality this Way begets strife and contention.

As for Yourselves within Yourselves-My desire hath been to carry an even hind towards you all, and I have labored to reduce you, as near as I could, all circumstances considered, to an equality; and therefore, my last request and charge is, that you will live together in an undivided bond of love. You are many of you, and if you join together as one man, you need not want anything. What counsel, what comfort, what money, what friends may you not help yourselves unto if you will all, as one, contribute your aids.

Wherefore, my dear children, I pray, beseech and adjure you, by all the relations and dearness that hath ever been betwixt us, and by the heartrending pangs of a dying father whose soul hath been ever bound in the bundle of life with yours, that you know one another. Visit as you may, each other. Comfort, counsel, relieve, succor, help and admonish one another; and while your mother lives, meet her if possible once every year. When she is dead, pitch on some other place, if it may be your elder brother's house; or, if you cannot meet, send to and hear from each other yearly and oftener if you can; and when you have neither father nor mother left, be so many fathers and mothers to each other, so you shall understand the blessings mentioned in the 133d Psalm.

As to Your Estates--Be not troubled that you are below your kindred; get more wisdom, humility and virtue, and you are above them only do this. Deal with your hearts to make them less; begin low; join together and help one another; rest upon the promises which are many and precious this way. Love mercy, and have mercy, on yourselves and one another, and I know, I KNOW, I say, and I am confident in it, that if you will trust God, in His own way He will make comfortable provisions for you. Make no more objections, but trust Him.

For the Public--Bless God that you live in a land of liberty, and bear yourselves dutifully and conscionably towards the authority under which you live.. See God's providence in the appointment of the Federal Constitution, and hold union and order precious jewels.

And for the Church of Christ--neither set her above her Husband, nor below her children; give her that honor, obedience and respect that is her due. And if you will be my children and heirs of my comfort in my dying age, be neither another's, nor factions of any party or faction or novelty. It is true that this is not a rising way, but it is a free, fair and comfortable way for a man to follow his own judgment without wavering to either hand. I make no doubt but you will hear divers opinions concerning me, both before and after I shall sleep in silence; but do not be troubled at that. I did what in my circumstances seemed best for me for the present; however, the event hath not, in some points, answered my expectations; yet I have learned to measure things by another rule than events, and satisfy myself in this, that I did all for the best as I thought, and if I had not so much foresight as some others, I cannot help it.

Sure I am that my Savior, Christ, is perfect, and never will fail in one circumstance. To Him I commit your souls, bodies, estates, names characters, lives, deaths and all, and myself,-waiting when He shall change my vile body and make it like His own most glorious body.

And I wish to leave to you everything I have in this world but my faults, and them, I take with me to the grave, there to be buried in everlasting oblivion; but leaving my virtues, if ever I had any, to revive and live in you. Amen. So come, Lord Jesus; come quickly. Amen.

The above was written April 10, 1799, and left for my dearly beloved wife and children to view after my decease.

Some unfriendly critic has made the statement that Asael Smith was as crooked in his views as he was in his neck. In his childhood he received a severe burn, which left the cords of his neck stiff, and he was compelled to carry his head a little to one side, which explains the peculiar habit. And we leave it to the reader to judge whether or not his views of life were distorted or ignoble, It is a trait of human nature to dislike that which is not understood, and no doubt some of Asael Smith's views were far above the comprehension of some of his neighbors, hence his occasional unpopularity.

Asael Smith was devotedly attached to his wife, who was at his side through over sixty-three years of wedded life. He fell asleep on 30 October 1830, at the home of his son Silas, in Stockholm, St. Lawrence County, New York, where he had spent his declining years. He had been a strong, sturdy, independent character, and blessed with a body especially well-proportioned and powerful. It is said he was capable of handling with ease two ordinary men.

His widow survived him nearly six years. In the spring of 1836 she traveled the long distance. from Stockholm to Kirtland, Ohio, to visit her descendants there. A few days after her happy arrival in the home of. her grandson, Joseph Smith, she was taken ill, and on the 27 May 1836, in her ninety-third year, passed quietly to her long test, surrounded by stalwart and affectionate sons, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren. (Church History Latter Day Saints, published at Lamoni, Iowa, 1897, 2: 49.) She was buried in the churchyard of the little old village, where a stone (surrounded by others bearing Smith names) with an all but indecipherable "M. S.," doubtless marks her resting place.

CHILDREN: (Data gleaned from Topsfield Historical Society Collections 8: 97-101; 9: many pages; Five Colonial Families, Treman and Poole, 1: 649, 653-8; Joseph Smith and His Progenitors, Lucy Mack Smith.)

Jesse, born 20 April 1768, in Topsfield; married 20 January 1792, Hannah Peabody, of Middletown. Lived in Vermont and Stockholm, New York, where he died aged 80. Had five sons and five daughters.

Priscilla, born 21 October 1769, Topsfield; married 24 August 1796, John C. Waller. They had seven sons and two daughters.

JOSEPH, born 12 July 1771, Topsfield; married Lucy MACK.

Asael, born 21 May 1773, in Windham, Rockingham County, New Hampshire; married Elizabeth Sbellenger, 21 March 1802. Died 2 July 1848, in Wapello County, Iowa. There were three sons and five daughters.

Mary, born 4 June 1775, Windham; married Isaac (or Israel) Pierce, and had two sons and six daughters.

Samuel, born 15 September 1777; married February 1816, Frances Wilcox. Two sons, three daughters. Died 1834 in Potsdam, New York,

Silas, born 1 October 1779, in Derryfield, now Manchester, New Hampshire; married (1) 29 January 1805, Ruth Stevens; married (2) 4 March 1828, Mary Atkins. He had five sons and two daughters by first wife, and three sons by the second. He served during the war of 1812-1815 as a captain of militia. He died in Pittsfield, Illinois, 13 September 1839, whither he had removed the year previous.

John, born 16 July 1781, Derryfield; married 11 September 1815, Clarissa Lyman, who bore him two sons and one daughter. He crossed the plains by ox team in 1847, and died in Salt Lake City, Utah,. 23 May 1854.

Susanna, born 18 May 1783.

Stephen, born 23 April 1785; died 23 April 1802.

Sarah, born 16 May 1789; married 15 October 1809, Joseph Sanford, and bore three sons and one daughter. She died 27 May 1824.

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Asael Smith, Sr.'s Timeline

1744
March 7, 1744
Topsfield, Essex, Massachusetts, USA
1767
February 12, 1767
Age 22
Topsfield, Essex, Massachusetts, USA
September 27, 1767
Age 23
Springfield,Windsor,Vermont
1768
April 20, 1768
Age 24
Topsfield, Essex, Massachusetts, USA
1769
October 21, 1769
Age 25
Topsfield, Essex, Massachusetts, USA
1771
July 12, 1771
Age 27
Topsfield, MA, USA
1773
May 21, 1773
Age 29
Windham, Rockingham, New Hampshire, USA
1775
June 4, 1775
Age 31
Windham, Rockingham, New Hampshire, USA
1777
September 15, 1777
Age 33
Windham, Rockingham, New Hampshire, USA
1779
October 1, 1779
Age 35
Manchester, Hillsboro, New Hampshire, United States