A collection of bicentennial biographies from Chautauqua County, N.Y. featuring Walter Smith (Dunkirk), Sophia Williams (Fredonia), Clara Elizabeth Sackett (Westfield & Jamestown) , Grace Galloway (Jamestown) and Jennifer Stuczynski Suhr (Fredonia). Originally broadcast on local radio stations Aug. 15 – Aug. 19, 2011.
No. 156 – Walter Smith
Walter Smith was born in Wethersfield, Conn. on March 21, 1800. At the age of 15, he moved to Cazenova, N.Y., about ten miles southeast of Syracuse to work as a clerk. Four years later, in 1819, Smith came on horseback to Fredonia to work as a merchant under the name Walter Smith and Co. His partner was his former employer in Cazenova, who provided the capital to start the business.
The same year he opened his mercantile shop in Fredonia, Smith purchased a store and ashery from brothers Ralph Plumb and Joseph Plumb. His business sense was so good that it’s said that his sales exceeded $20,000 during his first year in Fredonia. By his sixth year in business, sales exceeded $75,000 although only 10 percent of that was actual cash, the rest was in trade – mostly pot and pearl ashes.
Smith said that of all the ashes exported from the county during his first six year, nearly 75 percent was handled by his business. Smith also helped to supply food for local settlers by working out deals with early farmers. Among the owners of the early farms he did business with were Hezekiah Barker, Zattu Cushing, and Seth Cole. Continue reading