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Smith, Niles F. (1800–1858)

Thomas W. Cutrer, rev. by Brett J. Derbes Biography Entry

Niles F. Smith, soldier, farmer, doctor, and businessman, was born in New York in 1800. He grew up in West Chester and his college years included some amount of medical education, which led to later historical references as a doctor. Throughout the 1820s he worked as a merchant and traveled between Mexico, New York, and Boston on several voyages. He married Abigail Smith and they had four children by the early 1830s. Smith owned land in St. Joseph and Bronson, Michigan, before he moved to Texas, where he served as an engineer during the Texas Revolution. He was elected a delegate to the Convention of 1836 at Washington-on-the-Brazos and forged a lifelong friendship with Sam Houston. Smith returned to Michigan each fall for seven years to spend the winter with his family. Afterward he became a prosperous businessman in Houston. The offices of the secretary of state of the Republic of Texas were housed in a building belonging to him. On December 15, 1836, President Houston nominated Smith for commissioner of the proposed Bank of Agriculture and Commerce. The same month, Smith was confirmed as a notary public for Jefferson County, where he served until at least 1844. He was one of the founders of Sabine City Company in 1839 and served as land agent for the seven original stockholders. He was also appointed collector of revenue for the port of Sabine on February 4, 1842. His role in the Sabine City Company led to a feud with fellow proprietor William McGaffey, but the two settled the argument by 1844. On December 30,1847, he represented the state of Texas at the opening of the Bank of Agriculture and Commerce in Galveston, the first incorporated bank in state, where he verified that the vault contained $100,000 in specie. Smith was then appointed a U.S. Postmaster for Sabine City on June 22, 1848. In 1850 he was a prosperous farmer in Jefferson County with his wife, Abigail, and their five children. He died in October 1858 and was buried at the Sabine Pass Cemetery. His oldest son Niles H. Smith served in the Confederate Army during the Civil War in the Eleventh Texas Infantry Battalion and the Thirteenth Texas Volunteers.

Compiled Index to Elected and Appointed Officials of the Republic of Texas, 1835–1846(Austin: State Archives, Texas State Library, 1981). Houston Weekly Telegraph, March 17, 1838, June 5, 1839. Trinity Advocate, October 6, 1858. Amelia W. Williams and Eugene C. Barker, eds., The Writings of Sam Houston, 1813–1863 (8 vols., Austin: University of Texas Press, 1938–43; rpt., Austin and New York: Pemberton Press, 1970). Avery Luvere Carlson, A Banking History of Texas, 1835-1929 (Corpus Christi: Copano Bay Press, 2007).

Time Periods:

  • Republic of Texas

Places:

  • Houston
  • Upper Gulf Coast
  • East Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Thomas W. Cutrer, rev. by Brett J. Derbes, “Smith, Niles F.,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed October 31, 2020, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/smith-niles-f.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects:

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