The Smith Family of Stroudsburg

Sisters Florence V. Smith, left, and Laura B. Smith of Stroudsburg, late 1800s.

By Amy Leiser, Executive Director
Monroe County Historical Association

The Monroe County Historical Association is working with the
Center for Anti-Slavery Studies (CASS) as a Community Partner to document the history of African Americans in Northeast Pennsylvania. One of the projects on which CASS is working is the creation of traveling exhibit for this entire region. The exhibit will highlight notable people (of any race) who worked to promote African American activities and the Underground Railroad.

For the traveling exhibit, CASS asked its Community Partners to provide any relevant historical photographs of African Americans. The Monroe County Historical Association was eager to assist, but we had only a few photographs to contribute. Two of the images that we did find, and have submitted to CASS for their project, stand out.

In the archives of the Monroe County Historical Association are photographs of two African American sisters. One photograph is labeled “Laura B. Smith – 8 years old,” and the other is marked with “Florence V. Smith.” These two images have interested me for years, and through CASS’s inquiry for pictures, I was able to research who these two little girls were.

Using the resources available in the Monroe County Historical Association library, the staff, volunteers, and I were able to uncover the history and life of Laura and Florence Smith and their ancestors. There certainly was not a lot of information - all we had were names - so the staff and I had to be more resourceful. We first noted the girls’ clothing and dated the pictures to the 1880s or 1890s. The photograph was taken by Earnest W. Brown of Stroudsburg. The MCHA library has a book that lists all of the photographers in Pennsylvania. Earnest W. Brown worked for only two years: 1890 to 1891.

Using the 1900 U.S. Census, the MCHA staff found the Smith girls living on North 9th Street, Stroudsburg with their parents, Charles and Ann (Boddy) Smith. The census gave us the names of the parents and got us back one generation. We now turned to other resources available in the library, including obituaries, cemetery inscriptions, city directories, funeral home notices, newspaper articles, family files, and more.

According to the records in our holdings Laura and Florence Smith’s parents, Charles and Ann E. (Boddy) Smith, were well-known residents of Monroe County. Charles served in the military during the Civil War as a member of Company K, 8th Regiment of the United States Colored Troops. He served in the Navy on the battleships Saratoga and North Carolina as a Landsman. Landsman is a term used to describe a person with little experience at sea. Charles was born in 1843 in Pennsylvania and died November 11, 1916. When Charles died, the Rev. Dr. Coster, pastor of the Bethel A.M.E. Church officiated the funeral.

Ann Smith worked for
A. Mitchell Palmer, U.S. Attorney General under President Woodrow Wilson, a Stroudsburg resident. Ann was born in 1852 in Pennsylvania and died July 11, 1927.

We were not satisfied stopping there and continued to work back another generation. Unfortunately, we were unable to find additional information on Ann Smith. Charles Smith was the son of Robert and Mary Smith of Stroudsburg. It has been documented by CASS that both Robert and Mary Smith were runaway slaves.

According to early Census records, both Robert and Mary were from Maryland and were unable to read or write. It appears the couple had eight children with Charles being the 2nd oldest. (Their oldest son, William, also served in the United States Colored Troops Company K 8th Regiment.) Robert Smith was born about 1800 and died sometime between 1860 and 1870. Mary Smith was born about 1820 and died sometime between 1870 and 1880. Their burial location is unknown.

The two images of Laura and Florence had so much more to tell. They were the daughters of a Civil War soldier and the granddaughters of runaway slaves.

Laura Smith married a Mr. Bibbs, and Florence Smith married a Mr. Turner. According to their obituaries, neither sister had children. The Smith sisters, and their extended families, are buried in Stroudsburg cemetery.

The history of the Smith family began with photographs of two little girls and developed into an interesting story about a family’s multi-generational presence in and service to Monroe County and the nation.

If you have any additional information on Robert and Mary Smith, or their descendants, please contact the Monroe County Historical Association at (570) 421-7703 or email us. The Monroe County Historical Association library is open to the public for reference and genealogy inquiries. Members can used the library for free and non-members are charged a $5 per day reading fee.

The Center for Anti-Slavery Studies can be reached at 75 Church Street, Montrose PA (877) 772-6084.