Smyth, Joseph Grigsby (1847–1915)

By: Aragorn Storm Miller

Type: Biography

Published: October 21, 2014


Joseph Grigsby Smyth, state representative, Confederate soldier, lumberman, and rancher, was born in Jasper County, Texas, on February 25, 1847. He was the son of George Washington Smyth and Frances Mitchell (Grigsby) Smyth. His father was an early pioneer who had participated in the Texas Revolution and played a prominent role in Texas politics throughout the Republic and early statehood periods. Smyth himself was raised in Jasper County and attended the common schools of the area. In 1863 he volunteered for service in the Confederate Army and enlisted in an artillery unit commanded by a Colonel Griffin (probably William Henry Griffin). Smyth served with this unit, near Sabine Pass, throughout the remainder of the war and was paroled at Jasper in the summer of 1865. He attended school until 1868, at which point he engaged as a farmer and married Ella Green in Jasper County. This couple had two daughters.

Smyth won election as representative for District 1—comprised of Chambers, Hardin, Jasper, Jefferson, Liberty, Newton, Orange, Polk, and Tyler counties—to the Twelfth Texas Legislature. He served from February 10, 1870, to January 14, 1873. In 1871 he began a long-running business relationship with his brother George W. Smyth, and the pair engaged in the lumber and saw milling business in and around Beaumont, Jefferson County. Following an 1883 through 1887 stint with a private logging firm, Smyth resumed business with his brother, now concerned with the operation of logging railroads in eastern Texas. In 1898 the brothers built a sawmill by the Sabine River at Deweyville, Texas, and in 1899 they bought a large sawmill and 25,000 acres of timberland near Juanita, Louisiana.

During this time Smyth also engaged in ranching in southern Uvalde County. He moved there in 1891 and invested in a 20,000-acre cattle ranch. By the mid-1890s he had ranch holdings of approximately 30,000 acres. In 1903 Smyth helped organize the Uvalde Commercial National Bank. He also held major interests in a hardware and furniture store in Uvalde, the county seat. He remained associated with the lumber business and was a vice president of the George W. Smyth Lumber Company after the death of his brother in 1910.

Following the 1883 death of his first wife, Smyth married Epsie Belle Miller on June 4, 1884. They had six sons and one daughter. Joseph Grigsby Smyth died in Uvalde County on June 8, 1915, and was buried in Uvalde Cemetery.

“George W. Smyth,” Find A Grave Memorial (http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=38332209), accessed October 21, 2014. “Joseph Grigsby Smyth,” Find A Grave Memorial (http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=61450576), accessed October 21, 2014. Legislative Reference Library of Texas: J. G. Smyth (http://www.lrl.state.tx.us/legeLeaders/members/memberDisplay.cfm?memberID=4482&searchparams=chamber=~city=~countyID=0~RcountyID=~district=~first=~gender=~last=smyth~leaderNote=~leg=~party=~roleDesc=~Committee=), accessed October 21, 2014. Members of the Legislature of the State of Texas from 1846 to 1939 (Austin: Texas Legislature, 1939). A Twentieth Century History of Southwest Texas (2 vols., Chicago: Lewis, 1907).

Categories:

  • Ranching and Cowboys
  • Landowners and Land Developers
  • Ranchers and Cattlemen
  • Twelfth Legislature (1870-1871)
  • House

Time Periods:

  • Late Nineteenth-Century Texas

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

Aragorn Storm Miller, “Smyth, Joseph Grigsby,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed January 17, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/smyth-joseph-grigsby.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

October 21, 2014

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