Pictured above are members of Opelika’s Smith T family.
By Ann Cipperly
This, the second and final installment, picks up where the first piece ended and takes the reader to the present day Smith Ts.
Other members of the prominent Smith family included one of John’s brothers, Thomas Adams Smith, who graduated from West Point and became Brigadier General of the U.S. Army in Missouri during the War of 1812. He resigned his post to become a receiver in the land office in Franklin, Mo. Smithston, Mo. is named after him, and some say Ft. Smith, Ark. is also named in his honor.
Another of John’s brothers, William Wilkinson Smith, and his wife Judith were among the first settlers to come to Chambers County, Ala. soon after the county formed in 1833. They settled in a large log house about four and a half miles south of Cusseta. They had 10 children, and since John did not have a son to carry on his distinctive name, William named his youngest son John Smith T.
The first John Smith T , he of Missouri, died in 1836 at the home of a Mr. Hale, who had been an old friend of the family in Virginia. John was on a trip to Hale’s Point, Tenn. to establish a cotton plantation near Memphis, Tenn.
His only child, Ann, married James M. White, the grandson of the founder of Knoxville, Tenn.
With all his relatives named Smith, John’s name would have died with his death; but the distinctive “Smith T” was continued with William’s son, John Smith T.
This second John Smith T moved to Opelika and settled around the area of what is today Frederick Road and is listed on old maps as the Smith T survey.
He enlisted in the Civil War on March 1, 1861 in Company A, First Alabama Battalion of Artillery. He was captured after the bombardment of Fort Morgan on Aug. 24, 1864 and was taken to prison in Elmira, N.Y. where he died. Smith T II was buried in Woodlawn cemetery with thousands of other Confederate soldiers.
John Smith T II had two sons, John Smith T and Bartow Smith T, who never married.
The third John Smith T went into the farm supply business in Opelika and built the house at the corner of Sixth Street and Fourth Avenue around 1910. He had three children, F.B., Sara and Winston. The two sons went into the farm supply business with him.
John also owned and operated an opera house around 1900, which was located on 8th Street in Opelika. He had scheduled a performance that included ladies wearing tights. Although they were well covered, it was considered very risqué in those days. John was worried about losing money, but that night when they opened the box office, they had the biggest crowd ever. They didn’t have enough seats for everyone.
His son, Winston Smith T Sr., went into the building supply business and became very active in civic affairs in Opelika. He was an organizer of the Chamber of Commerce, first chairman of the hospital board when the hospital was being constructed and continuing for a number of years, director of the First National Bank, one of the founders of the First Federal Savings and Loan and chairman of the board for a number of years, one of the organizers of the Opelika Industrial Development Board and an elder of the First Presbyterian Church of Opelika.
His son, Winston Jr. continued the family business and was active in the community. Now Winston Jr.’s son Dozier is following in the family tradition, as he operates Winston Smith T Hardware and volunteers in civic affairs, serving as a member of the City Council. He is married to Dr. Sara Smith T, and they have six children.
Along with Dozier, Winston Jr. and his wife, Vera, had four other children, Vera, Edith, Alma and John Winston. The John Smith T name lives on in John Winston and his son, John Wilkinson Smith T, who is 16 years old.
Another outstanding member of the noted family is Winston’s sister, Dr. Joanne Smith T, who served as a missionary physician during the Vietnam War and was in practice at the Medical Arts Center in Opelika until she retired in December 2011. Dr. Smith T was the first woman to practice medicine in Lee County.
Although many historians and journalists have been intrigued by the incredible stories of John Smith T, very few know that his distinctive name is being carried on in a very honorable way in a small Alabama town.
The history of the Smith T family was researched by the late Martha Smith T Montgomery of Opelika, who was a historian. The daughter of F.B. Smith T, Martha had planned to assemble her records and research notes into a book. Unfortunately she died before this could be accomplished.